With the club’s Chief Executive Bill Williams looking on, Maidstone United staged a remarkable second half comeback to win the Kent Reliance under 16 Kent Cup after Folkestone Invicta seemed to have one hand on the Trophy.
It was rough on an Invicta side that raced into a two goal lead following early strikes from Jamie Lyden and Callum Smith, before the Stones staged a remarkable second half fight-back inspired by substitute James Jeffrey.
A half time change of formation along with Jeffrey’s introduction allowed Maidstone to build on Beau Landau’s goal just before the break, and they were soon level courtesy of Oliver Ferris’ towering header, before taking the lead courtesy of George Robinson’s penalty.
The comeback was sealed and topped off by Carlo Gonzalez’s late strike leaving the Stones worthy winners and coach Steve Pritchard a very happy manager.
He told KSN, “They came out very quickly and I knew they were a strong side as they’ve got some players back and they gave us what I expected – a really tough game!”
“We were trying to play the long ball game because we didn’t think the pitch was too great and they flew out of the traps with their two goals. But as soon as we got one back, I thought we would have a chance especially as the one came just before half time.”
“It must have changed their team talk as mine did. We changed format and brought another striker on and it changed the game. Credit to everyone at Folkestone – they’ve a great management team who we’ve known for a long time and they’re top of their League so hopefully they will go on and win it.”
“We’re all so pleased and proud of them and I hope we put a smile on Bill’s (Williams) face too!”
Folkestone boss Terry Marsh put a brave face on the afternoon. “Disappointed is the best word to describe it I think,” he told KSN after the game.
“The boys started the game very well in the first half, but the goal just before half time absolutely killed us. The atmosphere in our dressing room was all very downbeat, but we still managed to start the second half well I thought.”
“We’ve been undone by corners – again – and a penalty which was one 100 % no doubt at all and unfortunately we ran out of steam at the other end.”
“We needed to get to half time at two-nil – we were comfortable and that goal just lifted them and gave Steve a different team talk and it gave us a different one too!”
Reflecting on his side’s opening though the Folkestone boss admitted, “We scored two very good football goals, but it’s so disappointing to concede from corners when you’ve two central defenders and a keeper who are six foot tall.”
“I hope we’ll learn from it as the boys are gutted. I just hope that they use today’s disappointment to spur them on to win the League.”
A hugely enjoyable first half saw the Stones rattle the Folkestone bar early on through Kieran White’s curler. Yet it was Folkestone who scored first when Lyden did really well to hold off a defender to score.
The lead was doubled shortly after as Smith this time raced clear to give keeper Billy King no chance. The Stones though gave themselves an all-important life line just before half time when Landau was on hand to sweep the ball home to give them a lifeline.
And boy did they grab it with both hands. The introduction of Jeffrey up front for the Stones and a change of formation saw them up the tempo still further and soon Jeffrey was forcing Invicta keeper Parag Limbu into a fine scrambling save.
Limbu indeed was to have an eventful half as a short time later he was extremely fortunate to “only” receive a yellow card for handling outside his box before being completely caught out by the flight of a corner allowing Ferris to jump highest to head home.
Within minutes the comeback was complete as Jeffrey was felled in full flight and Robinson made no mistake from the spot.
The Trophy was sealed when Jeffrey brilliantly played in Gonzalez who made no mistake, and the Trophy was heading for the Gallagher Stadium – a result that after half an hour looked extremely unlikely.
Folkestone Invicta – Parag Limbu, Oliver James, Owen Stewart, Lewis Parker, Keiron Jones, Jordan Small, Jamie Lyden, Brad Baker, Ethan Madden, Oliver Marsh
Subs – Lewis Thornby, Oliver Robinson, Luca Corbo, Mathew Childs, Harry Smith
Maidstone United – Billy King, Kieran White, Oliver Debnam, George Robinson, Matthew Weller, Jamie O’Connor, Ethan Rutherford, Oliver Ferris, Beau Landau, Johnny Phillips, Isaac Bignell
Subs – Owen Matthews, Carlo Gonzalez, Leo Mabbs, James Jeffrey, Isaac Iandolo
Referee – Dan Barauch
Assistants – Steve Hodgson, Sam Eyre, Charles Campey
Kent Reliance under 16s Cup Final
Folkestone Invicta 2-4 Maidstone United
Pictures supplied by PSP Images