Fleet’s first Kent derby of the season and Dennis Kutrieb’s first one ever ended all square at the Kuflink Stadium, with both sides having chances to win the game.
The home side were also convinced they deserved a second-half penalty when substitute Adam Mekki appeared to have his heels clipped cutting into the box but the referee waved away vociferous Fleet protests.
There were four changes to the Fleet lineup, Jordan Holmes returning in goal in place of Tom Hadler, while Iffy Allen earned his first start against his old club with Will Wood and Charlie Rowan, back from suspension, also starting. That meant Ben Frempah and Jake Goodman dropped to the bench, with Reece Grant out injured.
A derby game behind closed doors certainly lacked the usual raucous atmosphere and that perhaps aided a fairly pedestrian start by both sides.
Fleet burst into life on 15 minutes, Lee Martin’s jinking right-flank run beating George Elokobi not once but twice. The Fleet skipper slid a pass into Rakish Bingham whose close range shot was blocked by Ravan Constable. Bingham got a second attempt as the ball headed for the far post, angling it across the six-yard box and agonisingly wide of the target.
Charlie Seaman sent a couple of free-kicks into the Fleet box but nothing came of those though the wide man was getting into some good positions for the visitors.
Allen enjoyed a good run into the box on 28 minutes from his wide berth but ultimately met a wall of purple shirts and could find no way through with that one. Another former Stone, Bobby-Joe Taylor, tried a similar route to goal down the opposite flank three minutes later but Kresni Krasniqi cut that one out.
And it was Krasniqi who had Maidstone’s best chance of the half shortly before half-time as the visitors closed out the first period very strongly. Turning and belting off a snap shot following a throw-in, Krasniqi forced Holmes into a reaction save, the Fleet keeper pushing it behind for a corner.
Maidstone rained in a few more crosses before the half-time whistle, Rowan sending another attack from Gavin Hoyte behind for a corner. From that set-piece, Scott Rendell sent a header into Holmes’ arms.
It was the same story in time added on. Seaman sent in a fine dipping shot from distance that Holmes again beat away at the expense of another corner. And there was still time for one more set piece to cause some damage. Seaman’s free-kick found Justin Amaluzor and he chipped a ball into George Porter who headed it on for Krasniqi in turn to head it goalwards from close range but Holmes scooped that one out of the air.
Fleet opened the second half with some neat football and their best move came on 50 minutes, Tobi Adebayo-Rowling breaking down the right and finding Allen with a good ball inside. Allen’s first-time cross into the box was met by the onrushing Martin but Corne did just enough to lessen the power the Fleet skipper could get on the ball and Constable saved it.
The home side defended a Maidstone free-kick launched towards Rendell a few minutes later but the visitors best opportunity of the second-half to that point came on 64 minutes. Seaman was afforded too much time and space down the left to slip in behind the home defence from an Amaluzor pass and he got a shot away by the near post that was blocked by Holmes.
Back came the Fleet two minutes after that and Adebayo-Rowling in an unaccustomed central position skipped a pass to Martin. He threaded a ball into the box that Bingham was on to with a lightning-quick reaction shot but Constable smothered it.
Kutrieb sent Mekki on in the 67th minute and the former Bromley winger soon made his impact felt in the game’s main talking point. That came on 70 minutes, Paxman on the break starting a move and Taylor’s searching long ball upfield allowing Bingham to find space.
Bingham pulled the ball back inside to Mekki who advanced into the box and was clearly felled from behind by Noah Chesmain but both the referee and linesman remained somehow oblivious.
Will Wood’s effort from the left was taken by Constable two minutes later and another fine flowing move on 75 saw Egan exchange three passes as he made his way from midfield into the box, the No.18 then cannoning a shot off Elokobi for a corner.
The Stones had an eye-catching move of their own moments later, Amaluzor playing a one-two on the edge of the Fleet box before racing inside and he really should have got his effort on target. In the end, Taylor did enough to put the Stones man off and he fired wide.
The Stones applied some late pressure with a Joan Luque free-kick and Holmes had to be quick to catch Ibrahim Olutade’s header from a corner.
And one last corner in time added on almost won it for Maidstone, Holmes blocking the cross in his six-yard box and Olutade somehow hooking the rebound backwards instead of forwards, allowing Fleet to clear.
That was it for the opening Kent derby of Fleet’s season, with clean sheets the dominant factor as the points were shared.
EUFC: Holmes, Adebayo-Rowling, Taylor, Kahraman, Rowan, Wood, Allen (Mekki 67), Paxman, Egan (Chapman 86), Martin, Bingham (Goodman 90). Subs not used: Hadler, Frempah
MUFC: Constable, Hoyte, Chesmain, Ellul, Elokobi, Seaman (Olutade 77), Amaluzor, Krasniqi, Corne, Porter, Rendell (Luque 77). Subs not used: Temelci, Odusanya, Lewington