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Tonbridge Angels 1
Higgs (90')
1 Maidstone United
Rush (57')

Late Higgs strike earns a derby day point

An incredible Jordan Higgs strike in the last minute of time added brought a euphoric response from the vast majority of the record Longmead crowd of 2,806 as the Angels salvaged a point from their A26 neighbours, Maidstone United.

In order to accommodate the attendance, almost 400 in excess of the previous high of the 2011 play-off game against Lowestoft Town, the kick-off needed delaying for 15 minutes.

Jay Saunders, who was given a warm welcome from the travelling Stones support, made one enforced change from the side that took a point at Taunton, with skipper Scott Wagstaff failing to regain full fitness following a knock on Saturday.The Boxing Day crowd, full of noise and anticipation at the outset, became subdued during a first half in which the sides cancelled each other out, although Maidstone held a greater share of possession, forcing three corners in the opening minutes and eight before the break.

The first Angels incursion into Maidstone territory came on 12 minutes when Mo Dabre flashed in a cross but Jordan Greenidge was unable to rise high enough to meet it.

Despite having the majority of the ball, the visitors were not really troubling the Angels back line, but the closest either side came to scoring came on the half-hour when a long range strike from the visitors’ George Fowler was narrowly wide.

On 35 minutes, Maidstone’s goalkeeper, Lucas Covolan, was asked to make his first save, turning away a Greenidge shot at his near post.

That brought down the curtain on what had been a largely disappointing first period from both sides.

Maidstone opened the scoring on 57 minutes when Harry Kyprianou got free down the left hand side before driving a cross towards the far post that was met and bundled home by one-time Angels loanee, Matt Rush.

On 64 minutes, Mo Dabre put a Jernade Meade cross just over the bar and onto the roof of net as the Angels searched for an equaliser while the visitors put numbers behind the ball to protect their lead.

The clock was ticking down as Sean Shields and Tariq Hinds saw efforts blocked by sheer weight of numbers.

As the board was raised showing four additional minutes, Lewis Gard had a long range effort comfortably fielded by Covolan and when the Angels won a corner on the right, goalkeeper Jonny Henly was sent forward in one desperate last effort.

The corner was firstly headed clear to the edge of the box to Hinds who headed it forward once more for another headed clearance that fell to Higgs on the left hand side of the 18 yard box. His beautifully struck volley flew into top corner with Covolan grasping at thin air. 

The celebrations were brought to a halt in front of the visitor’s technical area and the melee that followed brought a flurry of yellow cards and a red card for a member of the Maidstone contingent.

Jay Saunders said after the game: “Obviously that late in the game, you take a point all day long, and that strike was probably worth the admission money alone. It wasn’t a great spectacle, a typical local derby but we are a little disappointed that with the crowd we didn’t give a proper account of ourselves.”

Picture: David Couldridge

Published Tuesday 26th December 2023