Sutton United 2-2 Maidstone United
Despite looking on course for a convincing victory with a quarter of the game played, Sutton were forced to settle for a share of the points as Maidstone came back to level before half time, and neither side was able to find a winner in the second half as Maidstone goalkeeper Lee Worgan denied U’s much as Ross Worner had frustrated Southport on Saturday.
With Craig Eastmond and Roarie Deacon back from suspension U’s were far more fluent than on Saturday, and, after Maidstone had had the better of the early exchanges, seemed to have taken control of the game with a burst of two goals in six minutes. The first will be among those discussed at the end of the season in a goal of the season competition,started with Dean Beckwith’s cushioned header to Nicky Bailey on the edge of his own area, and continued by an exchange of passes between Eastmond and Ross Stearn before Eastmond delivered a superb cross from the right which was met at the near post by Dan Fitchett’s firm glancing header.
Fitchett nearly had a second when Jamie Collins headed on Bailey’s free kick but he delayed his shot just long enough to allow Worgan to save. With U’s well on top both Stearn and Deacon also had shots blocked, but the second goal soon came as Maidstone failed to track Bailey’s run as Stearn crossed following a short corner and were punished by a powerful downward header. At that point U’s fans could have been forgiven for thinking back to the same date five years earlier when they had swept Salisbury aside, but within two minutes the game had changed as Beckwith’s rash challenge on Jamar Loza sent the Maidstone striker flying and gave referee Dean Treleaven his easiest decision of the night, Bobby-Joe Taylor netting from the penalty spot.
Beckwith came close to atoning for his error with a low shot which was well saved low down by Worgan, who then made a superb flying save to keep out Deacon’s powerful 20-yard volley, while both Bailey and Maidstone’s James Rogers picked up needless bookings for continuing a dispute after the referee had warned them following an off the ball clash between Bailey and Dan Sweeney which had left Bailey on the ground. Just before half time Worgan’s efforts were rewarded as Beckwith’s clearance was blocked to Tom Murphy, whose excellent cross was guided inside the far post by Loza’s header.
With the goal coming just before half time it was the visitors who will have felt the better at half time, but they failed to capitalise after the break, and in a second half that didn’t quite match the first for excitement it was Sutton who had the better chances and but for Worgan would probably have gone on to win. Stearn sent a 30-yard shot dipping just over the bar before Maidstone switched off again at a set piece as Adam May arrived unmarked to meet Deacon’s low corner and would have marked his debut on loan from Portsmouth with a goal but for Worgan’s legs.
Worgan made another good save to keep out Kevin Amankwaah’s header from Deacon’s cross, although the defender will have been disappointed to have given him a chance, while the biggest threat to U’s was self inflicted as Worner and Beckwith got themselves in a muddle and Worner’s clearance went straight to Taylor, who immediately returned the ball goalwards but saw it fly just wide with Worner a spectator. The visitors could have snatched victory right at the end, though, when substitute Yemi Odubade burst through and was dragged back by Collins, who will have been as happy to take the booking as Tom Mills was for an equally cynical trip on Deacon earlier in the half, especially when Ben Greenhalgh’s free kick flew harmlessly over the bar.
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