Maidstone United v Boreham Wood
Saturday 1st April 2023, 3.00pm
Gallagher Stadium, Vanarama National League
The Wood enter the final two months of the season with a four-point gap to those outside the play-off places, and they will be looking to increase it with a trip to bottom-placed side Maidstone United on Saturday.
IN FOCUS: MAIDSTONE UNITED
Maidstone United finally made it to the fifth tier of English football in 2016 after achieving back-to-back promotions, lasting three years in the National League before a 24th place finish in the 2018/19 season saw them relegated. The arrival of Hakan Hayrettin as Head Coach had turned things around for the Kent-based outfit though, and the Stones’ impressive performances in the sixth tier culminated in a title-winning campaign in 2021/22, with promotion secured with two games to spare. Unfortunately, it seems as if their stay in non-league’s top division is limited, with their days evidently numbered as they currently sit 16 points away from safety having won just five games all season, and they haven’t taken all three points since a 3-2 victory over Maidenhead United all the way back in November.
It was this form that saw Hayrettin dismissed from his role in January, and former United defender George Elokobi took on his first managerial role as he looked to steady the ship, initially taking over as caretaker before being offered the job on a permanent basis last week. The 37-year old did actually win his first game in charge as the Stones overcame National League title contenders Notts County in the FA Trophy via a penalty shootout, but unfortunately the rest of his time in charge at the Gallagher Stadium hasn’t been quite as plain sailing. The Stones have lost 11 of the 16 games played in all competitions under his guidance, and with a number of their summer signings failing to make the desired impact, they opted to bring a number of players in the winter window in an attempt to freshen up, bringing Daniel Barden, Mamadou Jobe, Yoan Zouma and Sha’mar Lawson to the Gallagher Stadium along with Kevin Berkoe, Ryan Viggers and Ezio Touray in March, adding to the likes of James Alabi and Ryan Galvin who arrived last summer. These recent acquisitions will hope to have a better impression on this Maidstone side, but with a 16 point gap and 18 left to play for this season the Wood could actually relegate the Stones subject to results elsewhere. It seems as if it is too little, too late.
LAST TIME OUT
Maidstone United 2-3 Bromley
Saturday 28th March 2023
Vanarama National League
Maidstone United’s dreadful run of form showed no sign of coming to an end, with the Stones tasting defeat for a fifth successive match to stretch their dismal run to 20 league matches without a win.
The Stones got off to a good start, and took the lead after just nine minutes when some good work from Regan Booty and Josh Shonibare saw the two exchange passes before the former slipped the latter through on goal with a delightful through ball, which Shonibare neatly finished past Reice Charles-Cook in the Bromley goal. The visitors quickly grew into it though and enjoyed the better chances throughout the first half, notably seeing a throw-in from Omar Sowunmi fall to Louis Dennis who saw his shot blocked, before James Vennings headed wide a cross from Billy Bingham. The Ravens soon punished the hosts though, as Bromley drew level five minutes before the break when Michael Cheek squared the ball across the box to put it on a plate for Dennis who had the simple task of finishing from close range. This wouldn’t be all though, as the game was completely turned on its head in first half stoppage time as Maidstone’s defence couldn’t stop Deji Elerewere from stealing in and tapping home to complete the turnaround.
Luckily, it didn’t take long for the Stones to equalise with a corner from Booty meeting Sam Bone who reacted the quickest to drill in his second goal for Maidstone. The Stones then thought they had taken the lead on the hour-mark when Kevin Berkoe teed up Shonibare who knocked the ball in from inside the six yard box, but the goal was ruled out for offside. Bromley hit back and went close when Harry Forster picked out Dennis who’s effort was deflected inches wide by Cheek, but the hosts were handed a lifeline to gain a vital three points when the Ravens were reduced to ten men with ten minutes to go, as Charley Kendall clattered into Booty and was shown a straight red card just 18 minutes after he entered the field of play. However George Elokobi’s men couldn’t take advantage, and as the game entered stoppage time Bromley grabbed the winner when a Forster effort on the edge of the box was blocked into the path of Corey Whitely who pounced to get a shot away, and unfortunately Tom Hadler couldn’t hold onto the ball allowing Dennis to react quickly to score from the rebound. Maidstone’s misery was compounded seven minutes into stoppage time as Raphe Brown was shown a straight red card for going through Ryan Silk in midfield, as both sides finished with ten men and Maidstone finding themselves coming closer and closer to relegation.
Bromley (H) L2-3
Woking (H) L1-2
Maidenhead United (A) L2-1
Barnet (H) L2-2 (3-4 on pens)
Wealdstone (A) L2-1
Solihull Moors (A) L2-0
Having won just five games all season, things are looking bleak for Maidstone United and they are facing a mountain to climb with six defeats from their last six games seeing the gap to safety increasing to 16 points. While two draws in as many games against relegation rivals Gateshead and Scunthorpe United signalled hope that things may have been about to change, they were quickly brought back down to earth when strikes from Jamey Osborne and Joe Sbarra condemned the Stones to a loss against Solihull Moors, kicking off another string of defeats. This would be followed up by coming away empty-handed against Wealdstone, before being eliminated from the FA Trophy as even a switch in competition wasn’t enough to see them end their poor run of form, with Barnet coming out on top. This would be followed by three more defeats in a row at the hands of Maidenhead United, Woking and Bromley, and they come into Saturday’s fixture low in confidence, even with a recent change in the dugout permanently following Hakan Hayrettin’s departure three months ago.
IN THE DUGOUT: GEORGE ELOKOBI
George Elokobi needed no introduction to Maidstone United fans, with the former Stones centre back taking on his first managerial role following the dismissal of Hakan Hayrettin in January. The Cameroonian made his name as a player at Wolverhampton Wanderers, where he played for the Black Country club in both the Premier League and the Championship after receiving his breakout at Colchester United, where he would later return after winning promotion to the second tier during his first spell at the club, and he established himself as a cult hero while at the Colchester Community Stadium. The Dulwich Hamlet academy product would also notably turn out for Nottingham Forest, Bristol City, Oldham Athletic and Leyton Orient, before dropping into the non-league on a permanent basis following two previous loans spells at Chester City and Braintree Town, making the switch to Aldershot Town.
He later made his first introduction to Maidstone fans when he joined the club in 2019, and went on to enjoy a successful stint at the Gallagher Stadium which included a crucial role in their 2021/22 promotion-winning campaign as he captained the club to the National League South title before opting to hang up his boots. He would remain in Kent by taking over a role in the club’s academy, but found himself promoted less than a year later as he was put in charge of a Maidstone first team struggling at the wrong end of the table, initially as caretaker manager, with his temporary stint lasting two months before being offered the job on a permanent basis.
ONE TO WATCH: REGAN BOOTY
Yorkshireman Regan Booty began his career in the Huddersfield Town youth setup, rising through the age groups where he made his debut for the Under-18’s at the age of just 15. He continued to impress and was part of the Terriers’ Under-21 side that won the Professional Development League in 2016, before a move into men’s football came in 2018 with a loan spell at Aldershot Town, making 42 appearances in the National League. A permanent switch to Notts County preceded further stints with Bradford (Park Avenue) and Chorley, before making the move to Maidstone United in 2021. The 24-year old played a key role in the Stones’ promotion as champions last season with 32 appearances in the centre of the park, and has followed it up by being a bright spark in an otherwise dismal campaign for the Kent-based outfit, contributing seven goals from midfield to make him their highest current scorer following the departure of Jack Barham to Aldershot Town.
LAST TIME WE MET
Boreham Wood 3-1 Maidstone United
Saturday 1st October 2022
Vanarama National League
George Broadbent marked his full debut with a goal as the Wood ran out 3-1 winners over Maidstone United, with the BT Sport cameras there to capture the newly promoted side surrendering a first half lead.
The hosts certainly had the better of things and attacked with intent with Tyrone Marsh testing Tom Hadler early on, but were unable to produce any other clear openings shortly before the visitors had their first chance of the game. A golden opportunity for Maidstone saw Jack Payne get outmuscled by Sam Corne which allowed the ball to fall perfectly into the path of Christie Pattisson with a clear sight on goal, but the winger dragged his effort inches past the post. The Wood immediately hit back and some added pressure at the other end, with George Williams delivering an inch-perfect cross that Lee Ndlovu headed over the crossbar via a deflection, with George Fowler clearing the subsequent corner off the line. It was the visitors who drew first blood though against the run of play, as Roarie Deacon’s effort came off David Stephens to wrong-foot Nathan Ashmore and find the bottom corner, opening the scoring in fortuitous fashion. Unfortunately for the Stones, they were pegged back just minutes later as Hadler was caught in no man’s land to allow Williams’ cross to beat him via some help from the woodwork, seeing the two sides go into the break level.
The Wood almost took an instant lead after getting the ball rolling for the second half as Zak Brunt threaded a lovely ball through to Ndlovu who’s touch let him down, but similarly to the first half, the hosts bossed possession without carving out a clear chance, although they did go ever so close shortly before the hour-mark as Broadbent who was unable to keep his effort down under pressure. Broadbent would combine with Dennon Lewis once more though and it soon paid off though and the Sheffield United loanee soon had his moment, heading the Wood in front to open his account. It got even better moments later, as Brunt played a fabulous through ball to Ndlovu who tapped the ball past Hadler to extend the Wood’s lead, and without a doubt put them in the ascendancy. This prevented their opponents from getting a rhythm going, and the hosts went close to a fourth with a little under 15 minutes to go when three chances in quick succession saw substitute Danny Newton twice denied, before Brunt’s follow-up was deflected out for a corner. As if it couldn’t get much worse for the Stones, they were reduced to ten men when Deacon turned villain following his earlier goal, seeing red in stoppage time for a late challenge, and this more or less wrapped up the victory for the Wood. There was just enough time for Josh Rees to see a fourth goal denied by the assistant’s flag after slotting past Hadler, but they were well-placed to earn all three points nonetheless.
OUR CLUB. OUR TOWN. OUR COMMUNITY.