Maidstone make FA Cup history , despite exit

The main stand at Maidstone United. The stand contains black and yellow seats

MAIDSTONE United of the National League South’s cup run may have ended at the hands of Coventry on Monday, but their historic journey to the fifth round has etched itself into FA Cup folklore.

The Stones smashed their FA cup record, with their run lasting eight matches and 163 days since their 4-1 victory over ninth tier side Steyning Town in the Second Qualification Round.

The subsequent weeks saw clean sheet victories away at Winchester City and Torquay United, to seal their place in the first round, where they were given a friendly draw to Southern League Chesham United.

Goals from Devonte Aransibia and Levi Amantchi would be enough ensure their place in the second round for the first time since 2020.

The second round would see them face league opposition for the first team, as Barrow made the 342 mile trip from Cumbria to Maidstone.

The opening minutes were cagey, with Ben Whitfield opening the scoring from three yards following a defensive blunder in the Maidstone ranks.

The Stones would strike back just before half time, with Sam Corne netting when put through one on one against the Bluebird’s goalkeeper.

The magic moment would come with just 15 minutes left on the clock, when Bivesh Gurung placed a first time drive into the top corner.

The stones had now knocked League opposition out of the cup for the first time since their 2018 victory over Macclesfield.

Round three of the cup, where the behemoths of English football fall into the tournament. Maidstone had the chance to welcome the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool or treble-winners Manchester City.

The fairy-tale fixture would not happen however, as Stevenage would make the visit with the prize being a trip to the fourth round, and history for the Stones having equalled their best cup record to reach round three.

Almost every year there seems to be a big cup upset, with part-timers knocking out full time professionals. It has happened with Lincoln City and Sutton United in the same season, but seldom does a side win back-to-back games against higher league opposition.

The Stones slinked in Stevenage’s shadow, with 69 rungs of the English ladder separating the sides.

Again Maidstone weathered a Stevenage shaped storm in the opening minutes, until just before the break Sol Wanjau-Smith burst into the area before being taken down and winning a penalty.

Sam Corne, the Maidstone captain, would take and subsequently score the penalty high to the goalkeepers left.

George Elokobi’s saw out the final 45 minutes to make Maidstone history, and etch themselves into FA Cup writings for some time to come.

Maidstone had yet to appear on live television in any of their matches, with some discontent arising on social media at the fact that their story had yet to be properly platformed to the nation.

Their wish would soon be granted, as they reached the final 32 of the competition, and being the only team from the Non-League structure left in the tournament, despite operating the the second step.

They were drawn to play against Ipswich, a side that look almost destined to reach the Premier League this season, and Maidstone would travel to Suffolk with recent memories of an away loss to Slough to avenge.

For the first time in their run the Television cameras would be there, and a 12:30 fixture at Portman Road, looking to become only the second ever team from outside the top step on the Non-League structure to reach round five.

Across the 90 minutes, Maidstone would only go on to have two shots at goal, but those shots will be replayed in sections of Kent for years to come.

Once again just before half-time Maidstone struck the undercut, through Lamar Reynolds as he executed a delicate lob into the net.

Elokbi’s side would be under pressure for the second half, and they would succumb to it, as Ipswich’s Sarmineto would find the net to level the tie.

10 short minutes later Maidstone’s midfielder Corne would put them in front, and give the sold out away end a reason to celebrate and believe once more .

Ipswich missed the chance to score again. 37 times.

The fairy-tale surpassed what any Maidstone fan could have dreamed of, and remarkably they were just 2 more wins away from a Wembley semi-final.

The dream would halt in round five, with a comprehensive loss away to Coventry, who were less complacent against Maidstone’s men, with the gulf in class was evident of 93 places across five divisons.

What Maidstone achieved was remarkable, and their names should be held high with the likes of Lincoln and Sutton in recent years, as well as Wrexham and Blyth who’s stories have also stood the test of time.