By reaching the fourth round of the FA Cup, Maidstone have enjoyed their best ever cup run, eclipsing their run to the second round in 2014-15. They eventually succumbed to a defeat to Wrexham, but George Elokobi has managed to lead his side a couple round furthers. The Stones are the lowest ranked side still left in the prestigious competition and have been rewarded with a trip to Portman Road to take on Ipswich Town, who sit second in the Championship, a whopping 96 places above Maidstone in the English football pyramid.
It has been a solid, yet unspectacular start to the National League South for Maidstone after relegation from the National League last season. Elokobi's side currently fourth after a mini blip that has seen them fail to win in three games. After a disastrous National League campaign that saw them finish bottom on 25 points and conceding 104 goals, Stones fans will be delighted to have restored some pride and clarity this campaign. Currently sitting just three points inside the playoff spaces, Elokobi will be keen to ensure his side remain professional and don't let cup fever deter from a potential promotion.
Trinbagonian international Gavin Hoyte signed for the Stones in 2019, and has been a mainstay in the side ever since. The 32-year-old captain brings great experience and leadership to the back-line. Coming through the youth ranks at Arsenal, Hoyte has floated around the lower league scene, and seems to have found a home in Kent as he enters his fifth year at the club. His experience will be crucial as Maidstone look to halt a strong Ipswich attack.
Since the prolific Muhammadu Faal is cup-tied, Manny Duku has been brought in to plug a sizeable gap in attack. The 31-year-old has enjoyed a stellar career in non-league - most notably with Hayes and Yeading, with his 33 goals in the 2017-2018 season attracting the attention of League 2 Cheltenham Town. While it didn't work out, Duku has had a few successful spells since. He is signed off the back of six goals in as many games in Gibraltar for Manchester 62. The 31-year-old is a strong, versatile striker who will look to throw the cat among the pigeons against Ipswich.
The 2023/24 FA Cup campaign started way back in September for Maidstone as they entered at the Second Qualifying round, where they made the trip to Sussex side Steyning Town. Braces from Solomon Wanjau-Smith and the now departed Levi Amantchi.
They were drawn away again to face Southern League South Winchester. A professional display and another brace from Amantchi saw the Stones through to the fourth qualifying round.
They were drawn away AGAIN, this time with a long trip to Devon to face fellow National League Side Torquay. It was deja-vu for Maidstone, as another Amantchi brace saw them run out 0-2 winners again to progress to the first round.
In the first round proper, to the surprise of nobody, they were drawn away, this time to Southern League South side Chesham. It was a third 0-2 win in a row, with Devonte Aransibia opening the scoring, before Levi Amantchi continued his record of scoring in every round, securing the victory in the 73rd minute.
Maidstone were finally rewarded with a home tie in the second round, with League 2 promotion hopefuls Barrow making the long journey to Gallagher Stadium. Ben Whitefield put the visitors into the ascendancy with a goal in the 20th minute. Sam Corne pulled the hosts level just before half time, before a Levi Amantchi injury dented the Stones' hopes. However, Nepali Bivesh Gurung stepped up to be the hero, bagging the winner in the 74th minute to seal a historic victory for Maidstone.
An excited crowd gathered at Gallagher Stadium to watch the momentous draw, with Stones' fans eager for a Premier League side away. However, League One Stevenage were drawn to travel to the Gallagher Stadium. With Steve Evans' side challenging at the top of the third division table, Maidstone were tasked with their toughest challenge yet. After scoring the winner in the last round, Sam Corne was the hero once more, slotting a penalty past Taye Ashby-Hammond on the stroke of half time. Elokobi's side showed great resilience to hold on and progress to the fourth round for the first time in their history.
Ipswich was the prize for Maidstone in the fourth round, and the Town is swept with cup fever. Maidstone have sold out their 4,250 allocation, for what is sure to be a momentous day for the Stones. This cup run has been historic for the club, and Elokobi and his side will be looking to create even more history in front of the BBC cameras on Saturday afternoon.
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