Lowestoft Town 2 Maidstone United 1
By Terry Bullen
Lowestoft Town put in a performance full of drive, heart and quality, as they overturn title contenders Maidstone United 2-1.
Lowestoft Town: Jones, Williams, Gaughran, Gleeson, Stuart Ainsley (Haynes-Brown 56 mins), Henderson, Jarvis, Fisk, Eagle, Frew (Jack Ainsley 78 mins), Reed
Subs; Jack Ainsley, Okay, Haynes-Brown, Smith, Jessup
Maidstone United: Worgan, Cox, Mills, Brown, Andrews, Sobers, Woolery (Robertson 67 mins), Jack Parkinson, Attwood, Rooney, Flisher
Subs; Robertson, Dan Parkinson, Sullivan, Swift, Godmon
Lowestoft Town put in a performance full of drive, heart and quality, as they overturn title contenders Maidstone United 2-1 with a last minute goal by leading goalscorer Jake Reed.
Prior to kick-off a number of matches were already falling foul of the weather conditions but due to some excellent work by the Lowestoft ground staff, the game went ahead.
Lowestoft had some excellent travelling support at Billericay on Tuesday and the team went into the game hoping to hear that support again. While Maidstone arrived with a large contingent of travelling supporters to set the atmosphere up perfectly.
On the playing front Lowestoft were unchanged, while Maidstone were missing Collin but still had their other goal scoring threat Atwood in their line-up.
The match got underway with a change of ends and Lowestoft starting the match kicking from the clubhouse end. Maidstone had made the long trip to Suffolk and in the first minutes of the match they played themselves into trouble, allowing Henderson to burst to the by-line but his squared ball was mishit and went straight into the grateful clutches of the keeper Worgan.
It was a confident start to the match by Lowestoft and they were already closing down Maidstone quickly and putting some good passing play together. Both sets of supporters were making plenty of noise and the first fifteen minutes flew by with both teams looking intent on delivering some good, high tempo football.
Henderson was already looking prominent for Lowestoft and the blues nearly snatched the lead with him playing a superb and perfectly weighted pass from inside his own half, to find Reed and send him in behind the Maidstone defence. It wasn't easy for Reed as he approached the goal from an angle and he very nearly finished what would have been a great footballing goal but with him beating the keeper with his shot, it agonisingly missed finding the inside of the far post.
Lowestoft were looking good and Henderson was winning plenty in the air, while also looking sharp and dangerous down the right wing. Up top, both Reed and Frew were putting themselves about and the blues had real drive and quality to their game, as the half hour mark approached.
Maidstone were mainly looking for long balls up to their lone striker Attwood and it was a long punt up field that was chased down by Flisher but with Jones coming out Flisher put in a very late tackle, leaving Jones in a heap and the referee giving him a stern talking to before showing the yellow card.
Every player was standing tall for Lowestoft, who were looking solid at the back, creative and controlling in midfield and hardworking up top.
A Williams header from an Eagle delivery flashed wide of the Maidstone goal as chants of 'Come on you blues' echoed out from the stands and behind the goal. All that was missing for Lowestoft was a deserved goal and with Frew and Reed combing well, seeing a close touch by Reed set Frew in on goal; that goal looked like it was about to arrive. However, Frew took a little too long to set himself and that allowed Cox to come steaming across from right back to make a fantastic saving tackle.
The forward pairing of Reed and Frew were certainly combining well and working very hard, as both teams left the pitch at half time with the game goalless but enjoyable for those watching.
The pitch had cut up in the first half and prior to the start of the second half, the ground staff were out in force to work the pitch during the break.
The second half started with Lowestoft coming out on the front foot and signalling their intent right away with Stuart Ainsley coming in from the left and going across the Maidstone defensive line before dragging an effort just wide of the post. Then moments later, a chipped cross come shot by Eagle left the keeper Worgan backpedalling to turn it over the bar. It was great stuff by the blues but as the half started to progress, Maidstone started to puff their chests out and were seeing spells of good possession in the Lowestoft half. A Rooney delivery saw Attwood head past the upright as the quality of Maidstone started to come to the fore. Maidstone continued to press and much like the reverse fixture at the Gallagher Stadium early in the season, it really was developing into a great tussle and an enthralling game of football.
Lowestoft made their first change with just over ten second half minutes gone, as Stuart Ainsley, who had played well was replaced at left back by Haynes-Brown. Immediately following the change a Maidstone corner went right through the Lowestoft box but luckily for Lowestoft it went straight out the other side without anybody getting a touch. The Stones were know cranking it up and with Jones trying to claim a ball amide a penalty box scramble, the ball fell to Sobers who shot into the ground and towards goal but Gleeson was at hand to clear the ball from off the line.
Only fifteen minutes of the half had gone but the game was being played at a frantic pace.
Maidstone then had their best chance of the game, as a lovely touch in the centre by Woolery released Attwood in on goal but Jones did brilliantly to get a touch on it and send it past the post.
Moments later an almost chipped effort by Brown came back of the Lowestoft bar, as Maidstone really started to up their game and show their title credentials. Lowestoft just needed to try and ride the storm and get hold of the ball again for a period, in order to allow players like Henderson to get back into the game for them.
Maidstone made their first change with Robertson replacing Woolery, as the final twenty minutes of the match approached. Frew was now being found on a number of occasions down the right channel and was retaining the ball for Lowestoft, who had now ridden the Maidstone storm. The game was delicately poised and it was hard to predict who was going to win the game, if anyone at all.
Sometimes games that are tight and evenly matched, needs something special to break the deadlock and that something special was exactly what arrived from the boot of Henderson. After some great work down the right by Williams; Henderson came in from the right touchline and sent an absolute peach of a shot bending into the far top corner of the net, giving the keeper no chance and sending Lowestoft 1-0 ahead (72 mins). It was a simply stunning strike and arguably the best goal Henderson has probably every scored.
The joy was short lived though, as literally sixty seconds from the restart, Maidstone poured forward and with Rooney creating an opening on the edge of the Lowestoft box, his effort took a fortunate deflection off Gleeson and with Jones left rooted to the spot as a result, the ball crept inside the net for 1-1 (73 mins). The game really was proving to be a fantastic advert for non-league football with the action unrelenting. Reed went down in the Maidstone box and the referee waved away the appeals, as both sets of supporters started to wonder if their team could grab a winner.
Frew had yet again put in a great shift up top, as Lowestoft went for some fresh legs and introduced Jack Ainsley in his place.
The final ten minutes passed with neither side able to carve out an opening and the game went into four minutes of stoppage time. It was deep into stoppage time when Lowestoft were presented a chance to send a delivery into the mix from a free-kick out on the left touchline. Jack Ainsley was the taker and with him sending it in at pace, Reed came from nowhere to get in front of the keeper and stab it home; sending the Crown Meadow into a frenzy of celebration and the blues 2-1 ahead (90+ mins). The frustrations were clear to see for the away side and no more so than for Mills, who was adjudged to have used his elbow in a coming together and was sent from the field with a straight red card just before the final whistle sounded.
It had been a superb advert for non-league football with both sides showing a great level of enjoyable and entertaining football. Credit also had to go to the match referee John Steel, who allowed the game to flow and was spot on with the large majority of his decisions.
Lowestoft had to ride out a Maidstone storm for a period in the second half but the defence held up well again, the midfield battled and the forward line ensured the Maidstone defence had to be strong and alert throughout.
All of the thirteen Lowestoft players involved were magnificent and every single one of them was worthy of the Man of the Match honours. Henderson scored one of the best goals of his career and surely one of the best to be seen at the Crown Meadow. While Frew continued his resurgence in a solid looking partnership with the consistently brilliant Reed. The Man of the Match was a very tough call but after bouncing back from an under par showing between the sticks against Carshalton; Ashlee Jones was my Man of the Match. He commanded his box well, claimed the ball regularly and showed solid kicking and decision making for his team.
The supporters were yet again superb and with three wins on the bounce, the team are looking confident, solid and hungry for the play-offs.
In past seasons it's been the bottom sides that Lowestoft have come unstuck against. So the team will head into the away match at Cray Wanderers on Saturday, looking to put that record to bed.