Report | Maidstone United (a)
Vanarama National League | 22 April 2023
The title race was finally resolved, as the result at the Racecourse confirmed Notts would be entering the playoffs for the 4th consecutive season. However, no side has entered the playoffs with such a large points total, something underlined by a resounding 5-2 victory. To Maidstone’s credit, they gave Notts a 2nd half scare, but as has so often been the case this season, a gulf in class was evident.
Luke Williams opted to rotate slightly, perhaps with one eye on the playoffs, as both number one Sam Slocombe and top goalscorer Macaulay Langstaff dropped out of the side in place of Archie Mair and Cedwyn Scott. The club cited an illness in the case of Langstaff, and, slightly more bizarrely, wanting to avoid another adverse reaction to the artificial playing surface for Slocombe. Still, it’s great to see the club be so open about such proceedings. Other changes were made too, with Jim O’Brien, Richard Brindley and Frank Vincent also coming into the side.
It didn’t take long for the additions to make an impact, as Cedwyn Scott pounced on a Maidstone mistake to give Notts the lead after 5 minutes. The Stones passed the ball round the back from their own throw in, and under a little bit of pressure from Scott, central defender Zouma looked to play out to the left. However, he stood on the ball, causing him to trip, providing Scott an excellent chance in the process. Through on goal the striker made no mistake, coolly rolling the ball into the bottom corner with his left foot to score his 15th goal of the season.
It didn’t take Notts long to double their lead, this time through a move started by their own defence. Baldwin brought the ball out from the back, before a few quick passes found Rodrigues in space. He played a trademark ball into the channel, allowing Jones to run onto it, meeting it first time with a clipped right footed cross. Maidstone failed to clear their lines, allowing Jim O’Brien to capitalise. He ran into the ball, and with sumptuous technique volleyed into the top right hand corner. That was his 3rd of the season, and it looked like Notts were going to run out comfortable winners.
Another good chance fell Notts’ way, and once again it came from the right hand side. Jodi Jones picked up the ball out wide, and under no pressure was allowed to cut onto his favoured left to deliver an in swinging cross. This found Scott in space on the edge of the 6 yard box, but he was only able to get a glancing touch as it went behind for a goal kick.
Jones was proving himself to be a real livewire, and with around 10 minutes left to play in the half he drove forwards once more. With Maidstone defenders reluctant to commit, Jones found himself inside the area. He caught the ball square on, with the resulting effort going straight into Mersin’s palms.
The Turkish keeper was called into action soon after, as Notts turned on the style. A great team move from back to front found Rodrigues on the edge of the area. He dinked inside, before laying the ball off to Austin. He helped it on its way to Vincent, who was in plenty of space on the left hand side of the box. He got a shot away, although Mersin was more than equal to the low effort.
That was the last big chance of the half, and with Notts so clearly on top it was no surprise that Luke Williams made no changes after the half time interval. Maidstone did however, with Ryan Galvin replacing Mark Marshall, who had been ineffective up top.
Jones continued his excellent work from the first half, once again picking the ball up out on the right. He drove forwards, before cutting inside, and letting loose a cross-come-shot, which he caught extremely well. It found the head of Scott, who was lurking, but the pace on the ball meant he was unable to adjust, causing the header to fly wide.
Maidstone then had their first chance of the afternoon. A loose pass from Baldwin turned over possession in the middle of the park, allowing the Stones to counter. Sam Bone picked up the loose ball, and a lovely piece of skill allowed him to slide though Bivesh Gurung. He raced through, but in truth his effort was extremely tame, and straight at Mair, who surprisingly was forced to palm behind for a corner.
The Magpies responded, pouring forwards once more, with Jim O’Brien finishing off another good move from back to front to double his tally for the afternoon. Palmer twisted away from the Maidstone midfield, supplying Rodrigues, who then played in Vincent to the left of the area. The wing back let fly a venomous effort, one which crashed off the upright and back into the melee. Maidstone failed to clear, and a tame effort from O’Brien somehow squeezed its way in, seemingly wrapping up all 3 points for the visitors.
With Notts well and truly on top, Luke Williams opted to make a triple change, something very unusual for the boss. Scott, Jones and Palmer, 3 of the best performers on the afternoon, made way for Langstaff, Nemane and Morias.
The changes seemed to turn the game on its head, as Maidstone began to turn on the style. A brilliant team move, which started with a Regan Booty progressive pass into the channel, ultimately punished the Magpies. Some intricate play high up on the left saw a cross to the back post, where skipper Fowler was able to head back across goal. This found Roarie Deacon, a man we highlighted in our preview as a threat. He showed exactly that, with a lovely deft turn inside the box opening up the chance to shoot. He prodded the ball into the roof of the net to give Maidstone some hope.
Moments later this hope turned to belief, as Maidstone once again got in down the left, punishing Notts to put themselves just 1 goal behind. Some more good work down the left flank eventually saw Booty pick the ball up on the edge of the area. As we highlighted in the preview, he possesses a wonderful left foot, and he used this to clip a delightful ball to the back post. Fowler dominated Vincent, beating him to the ball, bundling it home to bring the score to 3-2.
With just under 20 minutes left Maidstone came extremely close to making it 3 goals in 3 minutes. Once again coming down the left, Jeche looked to cut in and shoot, but a block meant Regan Booty once again had the ball on the left of the area. Another deep cross caused Notts issues, and they failed to really clear their lines. The ball fell to Sam Bone, who from some way out lined up a strike. He caught the ball sweetly, and with Mair stranded he could only watch his effort cannon off of the crossbar and behind for a goal kick. A crazy 3 minute turnaround was almost complete for the Stones.
Maidstone remained on top, and with 10 to play a set piece from Booty almost unlocked the Notts defence. His curling ball found Raphe Brown free in the centre of the box, but much like Scott did for Notts in the first half, he was only able to glance his header wide.
It was another set piece which would deliver the decisive blow, this time in favour of the visitors. On the edge of the area, just inside the left of the 'D', both Rodrigues and Vincent stood over the ball. It was to be the Portuguese midfielder who tried his luck, opting to go to the far side, curling the ball towards the top corner. Mersin was able to spring across and get a hand to it, but he only pushed the ball further into the corner as Rodrigues ensured all 3 points would go back to Nottingham. The relief was evident in his celebration, with Notts weathering the storm and coming out on top.
The misery would be compounded for the hosts, as a ball into the right of the box saw Rodrigues race free. He nicked the ball past Zouma, and the defender made his 2nd catastrophic mistake of the game, hacking the midfielder down to concede the penalty. Already on a hat trick, up stepped Jim O’Brien, who made no mistake. He attacked the spot kick with conviction, sending Mersin the wrong way to rubber stamp his own performance.
Maidstone youngster Perri Landolo had the final chance of the game, as the Notts high line was exposed once again. A ball in behind allowed the 20 year old to race clear, but he looked devoid of confidence, sending a tame effort straight at Mair. Notts were able to clear, for the final action of the game. The scoreline was certainly flattering, with Notts facing a real 2nd half scare. However, one the balance of play, Notts deserved all 3 points, taking their tally to an astounding 106. A good confidence building exercise for Luke Williams’ men as they now head towards the playoffs.
A fairly typical looking match stats dashboard for this season. Loads of possession, coming out on top in nearly every metric except long passes and plenty of shots on goal.
Maidstone saw a surge in xG with two goals shortly after the Notts substitutions but once the players got to grips with a slight change to shape they were soon back in control.
Another healthy looking win% and xPTS in the xG analysis and Jim O'Brien with 100% goal conversion from his 3 attempts including the penalty.
Really strange stat being that their was really only one assist for Jodi Jones for O'Brien's first goal but even then there was some help from a Maidstone defender so depending on how you assess things it's 50/50 whether that assist stands.
The other two goals from open play came from a defensive error for Scott's goal and there were a couple of touches after Vincent struck the bar for O'Brien's second.
Season stats updated below.
The win means Notts finish the season with the best away record in the league with 51 points from a possible 69, that's a 74% points return and scoring 63 goals in the process, 2.74 goals per game.
Player Stats - National League:
Matty Palmer has featured in all 45 league games this season accruing 4,175 minutes. In fact he also featured in all 3 cup games so Saturday was his 48th game this season.
Last game of the regular season at home to York City on Saturday. Despite Wrexham securing the title their is still an opportunity for Notts to finish the season on an amazing 109 points. A win and good performance will keep the momentum going into the play-off's and although missing out on the title still hurts this game represents an opportunity for fans to celebrate and applaud what has been a quite remarkable season so far.
As always thanks for reading.
For Notts County Stats:
Richard - @notts_stats
Tom - @tomhwilliams23
Colin - @Colin_Sisson