Maidstone made it a Kent derby brace as an early penalty conversion and three second-half goals sent the Fleet to defeat, writes Katie Humphris. Both teams were reduced to 10 men when Sefa Kahraman was given a second yellow for a push, Stones guard Tom Hadler quickly sent him walking after him for his involvement in the ensuing meltdown.
With injuries to Sido Jombati and Rakish Bingham, changes were inevitable for the visitors and Joe Martin returned from his own injury, along with Greg Cundle, Christian N’Guessan, Jack Paxman and Lee Martin.
There was a lot of drama early on as it took just two minutes for the home side to take the lead through the penalty spot. Roarie Deacon came forward for Maidstone’s first attack of the game, tangling with Joe Martin who went to the ground but was then judged for taking Deacon down as the fleet defender got back to his feet to challenge.
Despite vehement protests from the visitors, Joan Luque rose to take Chris Haigh’s left-handed penalty and although the goalkeeper guessed the correct path, it was simply out of reach.
The ref was busy early on showing yellow cards to Paxman and Lee Martin and he awarded the Stones a free kick when Deacon was brought down again by Joe Martin, but Regan Booty couldn’t get the upper hand on the fleet wall.
The visitors couldn’t quite find the pace they needed to get back to level and although Cundle and Paxman were willing runners as they struggled to make inroads into the Maidstone half there was a struggle for create something too threatening.
Paxman sent a free kick into the box from a promising position but it was cleared and Cundle and Lee Martin both had shots blocked by a wall of amber and gold. Dominic Poleon’s solid run in the 29th minute freed Craig Tanner who then carried the ball into midfield before passing it to Cundle and he curled a low shot into Hadler’s arms.
Cundle – running down the left or attempting a snappy bike kick from Lee Martin’s delivery seemed the most likely source of attack, but he couldn’t get power on the last chance and Hadler didn’t not been troubled.
Maidstone looked comfortable in midfield but seemed content to protect their lead and only Barham’s effort which was saved by Haigh caused any real anxiety at the back for the visitors.
Like Saturday, Fleet came into the break one-goal ahead with 45 minutes to remedy the situation, but the second half proved to be a painful watch for the 300 away supporters parked in one corner of the pitch. Paxman, who had earned a stern talk from the referee shortly before the break, was replaced by Ben Chapman and Kahraman followed Paxman into the referee’s bad books, receiving a warning four minutes later for a foul on Deacon.
Booty’s free-kick ultimately came to nothing and Haigh counter-attacked, sending a long kick to Poleon who evaded the attention of three Maidstone players to find Tanner – he had the goal in sight but shot to the side.
It was a full 15 minutes to open the second half, with Fleet otherwise stuck in his own half and trying to free the leading runners to no avail. At the other end, Chapman had to step in on the line to save Ellul’s header to make it 2-0.
The visitors appeared to step up their efforts on the hour mark, earning a number of corners, but there was little to trouble the Stones defence. And moments later, in the 66th minute, a corner alone gave the home side the lead. Booty swung it and as it bounced into the six-yard box, George Fowler was able to convert from close range.
Two-nil hard work was made all the more onerous when Maidstone made it 3-0 three minutes later. A cross from the right flank found Sam Corne in space to direct and propel his header well out of Haigh’s reach.
Elliott Romain and Will Wood were dispatched but couldn’t prevent the fleet from falling even further behind in the 75th minute. It was Corne again, like at Kuflink Stadium, catching a brace on the night a delivery from the right sat again as he came in to drive a soft-striked effort into the far corner.
With 12 minutes remaining, the two teams clashed in the far corner when Kahraman lunged at Deacon and pushed him into the palisades. Other players got involved and Hadler sprinted from his box to crash heavily into Kahraman, earning a straight red, quickly followed by a second yellow for the fleet defender for his initial foul.
Maidstone brought in substitute keeper Yusuf Mersin but the game was well won by then and the three points went to the Gallagher.
CFEU: Haigh, Solly, Kahraman, J.Martin (Wood 73), Adebayo-Rowling, Cundle, N’Guessan (Romain 67), Paxman (Chapman 46), Tanner, L.Martin, Poleon. Unused submarines: Firth, Mekki
MUF: Hadler, Hoyte, Ellul, Fowler, Horn (Gallagher 88), Barham, Luque (Pattison 86), Booty, Phillips, Binnom-Williams, Deacon (Mersin 81). Unused subtitles: Gurung, Bettamer