The pre-match headlines were all about the 33-year wait but by the end of the 90 minutes, Fleet fans would have quite happily waited another 33 as Maidstone United inflicted the first league defeat of the season and second reverse in a week on Daryl McMahon’s side.
There were few surprises in the line-up, with Fleet fielding their usual league XI and John-Paul Kissock replacing Robbie Willmott in a change from Tuesday night’s team.
Having scored in all the Kent derbies this season, Jordan Parkes wasted no time in eyeing up the goal and he had two shots in the opening minutes, the first from close-range after a low delivery into the box and the second wide after a pass from Kissock.
Fleet were their usual bright selves and their best chance fell to Matt Godden on 10 minutes when Stuart Lewis finished off a good passing move with a ball into the Fleet striker and Godden curled a shot on target that Lee Worgan saved.
Fleet kept probing and Joe Howe’s cross to Danny Kedwell was headed down into Matt Fish’s path and though his shot was true, it didn’t require Worgan to move to get in its way.
On 22 minutes Worgan wasn’t quite so assured when he fumbled another Kedwell header but the keeper snatched the ball out of Godden’s reach as the Fleet striker rushed in for the rebound. The Stones had a couple of corners in the first half but nothing that really troubled the Fleet and Jack Paxman was wasteful on occasion with a shot wide and a couple of deliveries over the defence that landed out of harm’s way.
Matt Bodkin down the right was their best outlet but the Stones’ wide men were unable to influence the game and the nearest the visitors came was a dipping Tom Mills effort that gave the Fleet some cause for alarm. Kissock had a run and shot that he bent the wrong side of the post but while the home midfield was on top, there was little inside the final 12 yards to upset the visitors’ defence.
Having weathered that pressure in the first half, Maidstone came out much more determined and forced a few more corners early on. Bonner headed an Adam Birchall effort behind and Jamie Coyle wasn’t far off when he met a corner with a powerful header.
In a second period reminiscent of the promotion final of 2014, Maidstone grabbed what proved to be the winner in very similar circumstances on 55 minutes. A free-kick was awarded 30 yards out on the right touchline much to the vexation of a few Fleet players and Bobby-Joe Taylor’s dipping delivery was headed past Brandon Hall by Joe Healy.
Fleet responded by picking up the pace and Lewis saw his cross forced over by Worgan but there wasn’t enough cutting edge and McMahon brought off Kissock and Parkes, to be replaced by Danny Haynes and Robbie Willmott.
The Fleet wide men struggled to see much of the ball, though twice Haynes ran through to provide for Fish and Willmott who both hit shots at Worgan. A Kedwell lay-off into Godden’s path on 80 minutes again saw Worgan stand up well to the threat.
Maidstone battled well and with the introduction of Alex Akrofi kept the Fleet defence busy when called upon and really only looked vulnerable in the closing stages when the home side came closest to an equaliser. Dean Rance planted a header on target with Worgan at a stretch to push it away with the help of his crossbar and from the corner, Godden raced into the clear but steered his header over the bar from a good position.
Akrofi almost caught Fleet on the break but thundered a shot high and wide when put through against Hall before late drama when Willmott’s low drive from the left of the box finally found the back of the net but the whistle had gone during the build-up for, presumably, an infringement though home fans howled their frustration at the referee.
The Stones held on to gain a measure of revenge for defeat earlier in the season and record their first league win at Stonebridge Road since 1980.
EUFC: Hall, Fish, Howe (Cunnington 86), S Lewis, Clark, Bonner, Rance, Parkes (Haynes 65), Kedwell, Godden, Kissock (Willmott 65). Subs not used: Acheampong, Miles.
MUFC: Worgan, Driver, Mills, Coyle, Parry, Paxman (Rogers 74), Bodkin, Healy, May, Birchall (Flisher 81), Taylor (Akrofi 63). Subs not used: Watt, Bridle-Card.