Maidstone United U19 won themselves a place in the FA Youth Cup first round after beating Edgeware & Kingsbury 3-1 on a cold evening at the Gallagher Stadium.
It was another chance for this stones side to impress, after overcoming Dartford 4-3 in the last round, with Josh Arnold (2), Joe Terry and Elliott Wenham getting on the scoresheet for the stones.
A lot was riding on the game as Maidstone have made round one of the FA Youth Cup on just 3 occasions before, in 2009, 2013 and 2016. The attendance for the game was 293.
Maidstone started the first half the better side, dominating the first 20 minutes. Nathan Jeche was clearly the biggest threat, getting fouled 3 times in the first 5 minutes and testing the opposition defence on numorous occasions.
Maidstone created a lot of half-chances, notably Munn’s header going close from a Terry free kick, and Jeche’s shot blocked after he beat the defender with a drop of the shoulder.
With 25 minutes on the clock, Maidstone came inches away from taking the lead. Elliott Wenham and Nathan Jeche combined well which left Wenham’s shot rattling the post.
The wares had some chances of their own, with tricky winger Nana Kafour causing the most problems, however they were ultimately unsuccessful.
37 minutes in, a mistake from Tyler Jackson-Hunt gifted Maidstone a penalty. The centre back tried to shield the ball out but was pick-pocketed from Jeche, who travelled into the box and was brought down cynically.
Jeche calmly dispatched the penalty. He slotted the ball into the bottom right corner from the spot, before wheeling away to the camera for his trademark celebration.
Just five minutes later, Maidstone doubled their lead and Jeche got his brace. A long throw from Josh Arnold was flicked on by towering centre back Richard Munn, before Jeche was there again to nod it into the top corner.
Maidstone went into the half time break with 2 goals to their name after a dominant first half performance. Maidstone showed a lot more quality in the first half than Edgeware & Kingsbury, who resulted to showing more physicality.
Despite this, Edgeware and Kingsbury had the dream start to the second period, winning a penalty within 5 minutes of the restart. It was controversial whether the contact was enough, and whether the foul was inside or outside the box, but the wares had a chance to get back into the game, nonetheless.
Matthew Nwanekezie showed great composure for the penalty, blasting it into the top right corner and leaving stones keeper Kieron Pougoue no chance.
Maidstone almost instantly replied with Joe Terry’s stunning half volley, but the Edgeware & Kingsbury goalkeeper was equal to it with a remarkable save.
The wares started to get into the game more into the second half. Most chances flowed through Nana Kafour, but none of his efforts resulted in goals.
The pressure was somewhat released by Edgeware & Kingsbury’s number 10, Jack Low, who got a second yellow card for a late challenge on stones winger Jack Vine.
It then went from bad to worse for the wares, as in the 87th minute, Jeche sealed the win and his hat-trick! It was another long throw, headed on again from Munn, and after a scramble in the box Jeche prodded it home.
Maidstone could’ve had four, making numerous chances after Jeche’s third goal, against a tired, stretched and outnumbered Edgeware & Kingsbury side.
One of these chances was a slick counterattack, in which Riley Court surged forward before lending the ball to Terry. Joe Terry spayed a superb ball into substitute Will Barber, who couldn’t beat the goalkeeper.
The match ended 3-1 to Maidstone and Nathan Jeche picked up match ball. Despite him stealing the show, there were several outstanding Maidstone performances, by the likes of Joe Terry and Riley Court.
Regan Booty was pleased his side “did the job,”. He was “immensely proud,” of his sides “outstanding” performance.
Looking ahead, Maidstone are in the hat for round 1 of the FA Youth Cup. They have never gone past round 1, so this young group have a chance of making history next time out for the stones in this competition.
How closely knit a group is can play a major factor in a cup run. Nathan Jeche said, “We are like family in there, when we go out there, we all know that we would die for each other,” after the game.
Jeche also went on to explain how training with the first team helps to mature young players, suggesting that was one reason behind the U19’s exceptionally professional performance.
Booty, Jeche, and the rest of the team are hoping Maidstone can go as far as possible in the FA Youth Cup from now on.