Kingstonian 0-3 Maidstone United - I'll be surprised if we're not allowed to go up - Jay Saunders

Saturday 01st February 2014

Ryman Premier League
Saturday 1st February 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Kingsmeadow Stadium

MAIDSTONE UNITED boss Jay Saunders believes the club will be allowed to gain promotion into Conference South if they go on and win the Ryman Premier League title.

The Stones received a blow on Wednesday when Conference clubs voted against the use of artificial pitches in their three divisions.

Now that the Kent club have returned to the summit of the Ryman Premier League table, the question of whether the club could win promotion into the Skrill South next season popped up.

“I personally believe come the end of the season I think it will be allowed that we will be able to go up! That’s my honest opinion,” said Saunders.

“Having been in the meeting I’ll be surprised if we’re not allowed to go up – if we’re in that position.

“At the end of the day all we can do is get ourselves in that position. If we can’t that’s up to the League.

“Oliver, Bill and Terry (Ash, Williams and Casey) are working very hard behind the scenes. All we can do is do our part on the pitch and get ourselves in a position. If we can go up then great. If we don’t then it’s something that we have to address at the time.”

This game was the only one played in the Ryman Premier League today, as club’s suffered from the effects of the wettest January on record.

The game passed a pitch inspection five hours before kick-off and The Stones went on to leapfrog over Dulwich Hamlet to move two points clear in the title race, where six points separate the top five clubs.

Fourth-placed Kingstonian would have climbed to the top had they won, but there was a pot of gold at the bottom of the rainbow that appeared above Kingsmeadow an hour before kick-off for Maidstone United, as three goals in the final 27 minutes settled a rather disappointing game.

Striker Frannie Collin set-up the first two goals, which were converted by Kaine Woolery and Zac Attwood, before Attwood finished the game off with a penalty for his fifteenth-goal for the club since his move from Margate, where he scored on three occasions.

“When you’re coming up against top sides in the league you sort of know it’s going to be a tough one away from home,” said Saunders.

“But we’ve come here and I knew it was going to be hard first half against the wind, with the SUN in our eyes as well.  I think it was hard for us to judge things so it was important we kept it tight first half, to go with the wind second half and have a good go at them. I thought we did that.

“We scored three good goals and I’m really pleased with the boys. They worked ever so hard.”

Kingstonian manager Alan Dowson switched his formation to 5-4-2 to snuff out Maidstone United’s attacking threat and the first half was a dull stalemate below blue skies.

Saunders said: “I think that’s always going to be the case when you’re away from home against one of the top sides in the league.  You expect them to have spells in the game when they’re on top, certainly first 20-30 minutes they put us under pressure.

“They’ve changed their formation. They normally go 4-4-2, they went three at the back, sort of five at the back, put three in midfield so I knew it would be hard for our two in midfield, but I said to the lads before the game I don’t want to change our shape.  If we can get hold of the ball I think we can hurt them out wide. We stuck with it and it meant that we had to work hard for the first half but after the first 25 minutes we started to get good possession and I felt we went into half-time on top.”

Kingstonian enjoyed good possession and they were awarded a couple of free-kicks around 25-yards from goal but both Jack Clark and Tommy Kavanagh wasted the good opportunities to blast their free-kicks into the wall.

The first real chance of the game arrived half-way through the first half.

Central midfielder Kavanagh slipped the ball through to Daniel Sweeney, who played the ball back to Kavanagh, who stroked his left-footed drive just past the left-hand post from 22-yards.

A long ball out of the K’s defence from Matt Drage released pacy striker Andre McCollin and after twisting and turning last-defender Jerrome Sobers the striker drilled his left-footed shot into the side netting from an acute angle from eight-yards.

Maidstone United’s first opening arrived on the half-hour mark when Jack Parkison’s long ball out of defence released Attwood down the left channel and his drilled shot was pushed over the bar by goalkeeper Rob Tolfrey.

Maidstone United then called Tolfrey into action with two long-range free-kicks inside the last ten minutes of the half.

Collin unleashed a right-footed angled free-kick from 35-yards which dipped down at the near post for Tolfrey to make a comfortable low catch.

Alex Flisher – who hurled five long throws into the K’s box during the course of the game – curled his left-footed free-kick into the goalkeeper’s arms from 30-yards.

Saunders added: “Half chances. I thought the first 20 minutes they looked the more likely side to score but once we got on top we got on top without really causing them problems.”

Both sets of supporters hoped the second half would be better.

When asked his thoughts at the break, Saunders said: “Just to keep going! I felt with the wind it was hard in the first half. The sun was in their eyes and the boys were saying it was hard to get out.  They’ve got a bit of pace up front and I thought first half when they were playing balls in behind it was quite hard to deal with so I felt second half it would hang up and they wouldn’t be able to do that as well and hopefully it would work in our favour and I felt as it went on it did.

“I just said at half-time, we need that little bit of magic, that little bit of a chance. That one chance and when we got that we sort of got better and better.”

Kingstonian created the first chance of the second half when Josh Casey whipped in a free-kick from the left and Kavanagh planted his header across goal and harmlessly wide of the far post after 52 minutes.

But Maidstone United should have broken the stalemate when Flisher played the ball inside to left-back Tom Mills, who teed up an unmarked Collin, who blasted his right-footed drive over the roof of the empty stand from 25-yards.

There was, however, controversy in the 56th minute when Maidstone United should have been reduced to ten-men.

Drage clipped the ball over the top to release McCollin through on goal, who was chopped down by last-defender Parkinson.

Referee Matt Eva brandished the former Woking player a yellow card and the ball was placed on the white line of the penalty box, on the curve of the D.

McCollin stepped up to drill a low shot towards goal, which was blocked by Parkinson inside a crowded penalty area.

When asked whether Parkinson should have been red-carded for the tackle, Saunders replied: “I didn’t think he would because when the balls kicked he’s quite a long way away from goal so I can’t see the forward getting it and being a goalscoring opportunity but then some of the decisions, we didn’t get a lot today so it wouldn’t surprise me if it was given to be honest.”

But Maidstone United broke the stalemate in the 63rd minute when Woolery scored his first goal for the club since his return from Skrill (Conference) Premier Tamworth.

It was a fine team goal. Mills played the ball into Alex Brown and the central midfielder played the ball inside to an unmarked Collin.

Instead of shooting, the former Tonbridge Angels striker laid the ball off to Woolery to his right, the winger cut inside and drove his left-footed shot into the bottom near corner from fifteen-yards.

Saunders said: “Delighted for Kaiyne, he’s come back, a lot of people were saying has he improved? I thought as the game went on, again he started slowly, but he got himself in the game and I thought he caused them a lot of problems. It was a good strike on his weak foot.

“We’ve brought him back. We didn’t want to lose Kaiyne in the summer but he wanted to go full-time football and I completely understand that.

“It was a great finish to be fair, left-footed, he’s cut inside and you think the chance might have half gone but he’s hit it with his left-foot and its gone bottom corner.

“I’m delighted for him. He’s come back and he’s shown a great attitude, he’s a very likeable lad.”

Kingstonian made a double substitution but they couldn’t get past a resolute central defensive partnership of Parkinson and Sobers.

In fact, both defences were on top and it took 81 minutes for the first offside to be awarded when Collin broke free from the shackles only to be pegged back.

Saunders remained loyal to his trusted 4-4-2 formation.

He said: “When I saw the line-up, I thought it was going to be very tight so we kind of expected them to go 4-4-2 and they changed it.  I know they’ve watched us a few times lately and I know Met Police went that way against us and they thought it would work.

“It was tempting to change (our formation) to match them up but you think we’re doing well. We had a good result playing that way, we had to stick with it.

“They defended very well, they sat very deep and it was hard to get any room.”

But Collin did beat the offside trap leading up to Maidstone United’s second goal in the 84th minute.

Parkinson pumped a long ball out of defence down the right channel and Collin broke the offside trap before he cut into the penalty area before rolling the ball to the near post where Attwood ghosted in to stab the ball into the net from four-yards.

Saunders said: “Was it Zac? I don’t know who got the final touch! Zac’s claiming it. We’ll give it to Zac!

“Jack’s played a great ball in the channel. We’ve caught them on the break at the time. I thought the chance had gone but Frannie’s stopped it and I thought he was going to take it himself but he unselfishly rolled it across. Zac’s got across well and got himself in there for a tap-in.”

Maidstone United keeper Lee Worgan made his first real save of the game with three minutes remaining when he dived low at his near post to prevent Casey drilling in a powerful angled drive.

The Stones wrapped up the scoring with a flattering third with 47:02 on the clock from the penalty spot.

Two substitutes combined in the build-up which saw Charley Robertson – a product of the club’s successful Academy which is based on the club’s 3G pitch – release Jack Harris into the penalty area and he was brought down in the box by K’s frustrated striker McCollin.

Attwood stepped up and stroked his left-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner.

“I thought there should have been a penalty just before that when Zac’s cut into the area,” said Saunders.

“I thought Charley Robertson’s weighted pass to Jack Harris was superb and Jack did very well doing what all good strikers do, he got across the defender and once you get across there if he does any attempt to win the ball it’s going to be a penalty and that was what it was. Zac’s tucked it away confidently.”

Saunders admitted Harris’ chances in the starting line-up are limited due to Collin and Attwood being first-choice.

“I’ve got a lot of time for Jack,” said Saunders.

“He’s been very unfortunate.  His first start for us, he done his knee ligaments, which meant he missed a month. He’s come back and he was sick the other week when he probably would have got a start. I had to throw him in against Hendon but in hindsight he probably wasn’t fit enough to do it but he gets better and better. He’s working hard in training.

“We’ve got a quarter-final of the League Cup (at home to Burgess Hill Town) on Tuesday night and he’ll get his chance (so will Charley Robertson and Dan Parkinson).

“It does take time. He’s making a jump up two divisions and he’s not making the jump (from Tunbridge Wells) to a Ryman Premier club that are struggling at the bottom. He’s come into a squad with people like Frannie and Zac and those two are scoring goals and doing well so it has been hard for him and a bit frustrating but if he keeps working hard and shows his attitude he will get his chance.”

Worgan maintained his clean sheet when he tipped over a shot from Kingstonian substitute Charlie Knight at the death, as the K’s suffered back-to-back defeats, which puts them now five points behind Saunders’ side.

The Stones boss added: “It was hard for centre halves of both teams in the air. The wind was so strong. We’ve been shipping sloppy goals lately so to get a clean sheet against a side that’s got two very good centre forwards was pleasing.”

Maidstone United have seventeen more league games left to play, with 12 Saturday’s of the season remaining.

“I’m not going to get excited. I was delighted to still be in this position with the injuries we’ve had. At one time we had nine players out and we managed to stay within touching distance of top.

“We’re getting towards the end of the season now – the last bit – and it’s important we get a run together.

“I said after (our 4-1 defeat at) Thamesmead we just have to go on another run. To be fair to the lads people have looked at our last two games and other teams thought we would might come a cropper in those two games and rightly so.

“We’re new to this league and Kingstonian are one of the favouries and have been up there all season. Hampton (who we beat 7-2 in our last game at home) were the form side and we’ve gone out there and we’ve put on two good performances.

“Hopefully we can carry on a little run. I’m not getting excited. We’ve been here before ain’t we and we’ve slipped up and quite a few teams have done that this season so we just have to keep plugging away and that’s all we can do.”

Should Maidstone United finish the season in the top five – which they should do – then the football authorities will face a big decision.

However, opinion on 3G/4G playing surfaces around the county is divided but if clubs can find the £350,000 needed to install artificial pitches at their grounds - or a grass playing surface like the one here at Kingsmeadow - then calling off games for waterlogged pitches will be a thing of the past.

Kingstonian: Rob Tolfrey, Aaron Goode, Jack Clark (Charlie Knight 67), Matt Drage, Sam Page (Iffeanyi Allen 66), Sean Ray, Daniel Sweeney, Tommy Kavanagh, Ryan Moss, Andre McCollin, Josh Casey.
Subs: Dee Okojie, Charles Ofusu-Hene, Adam Faith

Booked: Tommy Kavanagh 32

Maidstone United: Lee Worgan, Elliott Cox, Tom Mills, Alex Brown, Jerrome Sobers, Michael Phillips (Nathan Campbell 69), Kaiyne Woolery (Charley Robertson 81), Jack Parkinson, Zac Attwood, Frannie Collin (Jack Harris 87), Alex Flisher.
Subs: Dan Parkinson, Will Godmon

Goals: Kaiyne Woolery 63, Zac Attwood 84, 90 (penalty)

Booked: Jack Parkinson 56, Michael Phillips 62

Attendance: 687
Referee: Mr Matt Eva (Tongham, Farnham, Surrey)
Assistants: Mr Mike Coen (Worcester Park, Surrey) & Mr Nicholas Brown (Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey)