Preview | Maidstone United (a)
Artificial pitches haven’t agreed with Notts so far this season, so they’ll be hoping it will be third time lucky as they visit Maidstone’s Gallagher Stadium this weekend. It’s a must win game too, as anything less than a win would effectively hand Wrexham the title before they’ve even kicked a ball.
Notts will be confident, and while they cannot overlook the Stones, they will certainly be overwhelming favourites. You have to go all the way back to November 2022 for a Maidstone win in the league, a stark statistic, with the Kent based side rooted to the foot of the table. They’ve picked up just 25 points, 9 fewer than 23rd placed Scunthorpe, and under a quarter of the points Luke Williams’ side has amassed. The Stones also have the 2nd worst goalscoring record in the league, and have also conceded the most goals, 95, all of which points to a comfortable afternoon for the visitors.
However, Maidstone are considerably stronger at home than they are on the road. 17 of their 25 points have been picked up at the Gallagher Stadium, suggesting they will at least be a much tougher proposition than the one Notts faced earlier in the season. They’ve also only conceded 39 goals at home, which, while not a great record, is certainly an improvement upon their overall record.
Maidstone also have the advantage of having nothing to play for. They will be able to play with freedom, and with immense pressure on the other side, Maidstone may relish their roles as spoilers. Their result against Wrexham suggests that this will be the case; they looked like they would hold the Welsh side to a 2-2 draw before conceding in stoppage time. They were tough to beat that day, showed great fight and worked hard too. That work ethic has been a constant of their play since George Elokobi took over as boss, and the young manager will be hoping for the most surprising of first wins.
Five defeats and a goalless draw writes it's own story for Maidstone who find themselves preparing for another assault on the NL South.
5 Points dropped in the last 6 for Notts and 2 of their 3 defeats coming in the last 10 games probably shapes a second place finish behind Wrexham who need to win one of their last two games to finish as champions.
If you're looking at form to help decide a winner then it would be difficult to look beyond an away win.
Despite being bottom of the pile it's clear from the match action radars below that Maidstone have at least given it a good go scoring highly in challenge intensity and territory. However, this might be more indicative of a team that plays a lot of long balls into the final third, probably more out of defensive relief than progressive incisiveness.
Tactics & Players:
In 5 of their last 6 games Elokobi has set his team up in a variation of the 5-3-2, with a narrow midfield 3 which often involves a more attacking midfield option to support the front 2.
Maidstone have failed to score in their last 4 games, through a combination of lack of quality, but also having their forwards too isolated. Maidstone are a side that look to sit back and soak up pressure, while hitting their opposition on the break. They certainly have the pace to do so, which Notts will have to guard against with their high line. That is one thing that has remained consistent from last season; they are a physically strong side, with athletic players throughout their squad.
One such player who has impressed since arriving in Kent is Josh Shonibare. The 24 year old is naturally a winger, but he has been used in a variety of roles since his arrival earlier this year, featuring prominently at right back and up front. He combines pace with a real clinical edge, with Shonibare being involved in 5 of Maidstone’s last 7 goals, 4 goals and 1 assist. This really underlines what a threat he is going forward, and if Maidstone are to cause Notts issues it’s likely to come from the former Derby County man. It’ll be interesting to see where Shonibare is used, whether up front or as a wing back, but he is certainly a player to keep an eye on on Saturday.
Shonibare has certainly been Maidstone’s most threatening player of late, but over the course of the season Roarie Deacon has been their main outlet. Similarly to Shonibare, Deacon is naturally a winger, but he too has shown versatility in this campaign, playing both as a wing back, attacking midfielder or even as a striker. Deacon has carried out all 3 roles with real quality, showing the pedigree he earned at Arsenal over a decade ago.
Deacon has been, to his credit, always looking to create. He ranks 7th for Expected Assists, showing the quality of chances he creates with his passing. Deacon has 14 goal contributions, more than any other Maidstone player, 10 of which are assists. In fact, only 3 players have more assists than the wide man, underlining how effective he has been for Maidstone this season.
Former Magpie Regan Booty will likely looking to impress potential suitors this weekend, as the 25 year old midfielder has impressed this season despite his team’s poor fortune. Booty is Maidstone’s top scorer (of players still at the club), mainly by virtue of the fact he takes penalties. Still, he’s been a big player for them, sitting at the base of midfield and using his progressive passing to dictate play.
Blessed with a wonderful left foot, Booty also impressed while on international duty for England C, putting in a controlled performance, once again at the base of midfield. Booty plays 47.26 passes per 90, far more than any other Maidstone player, highlighting that the majority of their game comes through them. If the Stones are to have a chance of getting anything from the game, they’ll need to get Booty on the ball and as involved as possible.
Maidstone currently sit rock bottom of the table on 25 points from 44 games, some 9 points behind a hapless Scunthorpe United in 23rd.
That said and as previously mentioned despite their dreadful season they have fared better at home with 3 wins and 8 draws from 22 games seeing them accrue 17 points. However, this still represents the worst home form in the league.
In attack they are averaging 0.98 goals per game compared to an xG of 1.11 so performing pretty much as expected.
Defensively they are conceding 2.16 goals per game with an xCG of 1.80 highlighting their defensive frailties.
Maidstone Home Form:
P 2 | W 3 | D 8 | L 11 | F 22 | A 39 | GD -17 | PTS 17
Macaulay Langstaff - 41 (xG 34.86)
Regan Booty - 7 (xG 6.22)
As fully expected and despite the plastic pitch and being away from home in a critical game the bookies again have Notts as firm favourites with 1/5 currently the best available from a number of outlets.
You can get 12/1 for the home win with Coral and Midnite are offering 6/1 for the draw.
Based on these odds there is a 83% chance of a Notts win and 8% chance of a Maidstone win.
Unfortunately the title race is essentially out of Notts' hands, however, they can't afford to sit back and take it easy because any kind of result for Boreham Wood at Wrexham will see the title race going to the last game assuming Notts win at Maidstone.
Knowing Luke Williams as we do now it's obvious he won't let standards drop and fully expect him to field a strong attacking starting 11. Maidstone have their threats but in reality it is difficult to look beyond an away win, fingers crossed for the same at the Racecourse!
For Notts County Stats:
Richard Ogando - @notts_stats
Tom Williams - @tomhwilliams23
Colin Sisson - @colin_sisson
Analysts Bar Podcast - @analysts_bar
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