Vanarama National League South February 26th 2022
Dorking were victorious in the battle of the top two in front of a record crowd at Meadowbank. Josh Taylor's first goal for the club just past the hour mark secured all three points in a hard fought contest, ending Maidstone's unbeaten league run which stretched back to November.
Marc White made one change to the team which started against Chelmsford last Saturday. Wes Fogden returned to the side in place of Nicky Wheeler who dropped to the bench, the switch meaning Niall McManus would start out wide left. James McShane retained the captaincy as Barry Fuller served the last game of his three match ban.
The visitors flew out the traps in the opening minutes, Gavin Hoyte's dangerous cross from the right well cleared at the near post, ahead of Jack Barham finishing Roarie Deacon's measured through ball from close range, but the former Wanderers player was deemed to be in an offside position.
Having weathered the very early storm, Wanderers started to get their foot on the ball and push forward. Fogden showed quick feet to retain the ball in midfield and create space, teeing up Briggs who took aim for the top left corner of goal, just aiming the shot too high. McManus then chipped the ball into the area from the left to find McShane, who was unlucky to see his glancing header drift just beyond the far post. Rutherford would then squander a golden chance as we approached the mid-point of the half; McShane sliding a neat pass into Briggs who then drove to the byline, cutting back for the Wanderers top scorer who's effort was diverted just wide by a 'Stones defender covering on the goal line.
Unfortunately in the aftermath of the attacking move, Briggs went down next to the advertising hoardings behind the goal. Initially looking like the winger had collided with the boards, it was made apparent later than he had in fact caught his foot in the turf and felt immediate discomfort in that leg, falling towards the fencing as he came off the pitch. Stretchered off the field of play, Marc White confirmed after the match that Briggs had likely picked up an ACL injury. A devastating moment for Briggs, we wish him a speedy recovery in the weeks and months ahead. Bobby-Joe Taylor would come on in his place, switching flanks with McManus.
A rapid counter attack following a Maidstone corner breaking down saw McShane swiftly send Rutherford away into the left channel, on arrival into the area the striker took on the shot too early though, ultimately leading to a comfortable save for Yusuf Mersin.
Approaching half-time 'The Stones' regained their early momentum as the dynamic front-men caused problems. Lincoln had to be commanding in the air to deal with a couple of dangerous corner ball deliveries, amidst Barham having back to back efforts closed down with timely blocks inside the area. 'Stones top scorer Joan Luque then forced Lincoln into consecutive saves, firstly at the back post from a header, and then with a direct free kick struck from 30 yards out.
Half-Time: Dorking 0 Maidstone 0
Hakan Heyrettin's side remained in the ascendancy after the restart, as both set's of players were now kicking towards their packed out supporters behind each goal end. Luque volleyed narrowly wide from the right side of the box, Barham then not able to fashion a good enough contact as the ball sat up for him at the near post, scuffing his effort wide. 'The Stones' players and management alike were then aggrieved as Deacon closed in on goal, the former Havant & Waterlooville man fouled at the edge of the area by Oldaker. The card selection from the referee was questioned by the visitors as a yellow rather than red card was produced, but ultimately the resulting free kick was swiftly dealt with by the Wanderers back line.
Marc White made a double change on the hour as Wanderers sought to regain control, switching to a back four and deploying an extra central midfielder with the introduction of Ed Harris and Luke Moore, replacing Oldaker and McShane.
Shortly after the changes, a moment of quality from Josh Taylor broke the deadlock. Cutting in from the left flank with a drop of the shoulder and quick feet to open up space ahead, the midfielder struck low and hard from just inside the box, finding the back of the net via a slight deflection. A wall of noise reverberated around Meadowbank, particularly raucous from the fans behind the goal, in excellent voice throughout the afternoon.
Maidstone immediately responded; for the second time in the afternoon Barham had a goal chalked off by the linesman's flag as he knocked the ball in from close range after meeting an aerial flick on at the near post.
Spearheaded by Dan Gallagher, the Wanderers back line remained resolute as they had done throughout the game, continuing to stand up to what was thrown at them, set piece deliveries from wide becoming the pertinent threat through the final quarter hour of the contest. Save for Odusanya striking over the bar, this was as close as the visitors came to levelling up, and Wanderers could have made absolutely sure of the three points in the final minute of regulation time. With bodies committed upfield, Rutherford broke down the right and was unlucky not to see his ball across goal met by the arriving McManus, a solid contact on the ball going begging as it flew across.
Wanderers held out to get over the line and secure a big three points, a hard-fought, resilient display not dissimilar to the home defeats over Dartford and Oxford City earlier in the campaign sending Wanderers six points clear at the top of the table, with a visit to Dartford up next. Daniel Stobbart
Dorking Wanderers: 34 Dan Lincoln, 2 Isaac Philpot, 20 Dan Gallagher, 12 Callum Kennedy, 8 Matt Briggs (3 Bobby-Joe Taylor 21'), 26 Darren Oldaker (5 Ed Harris 59'), 17 Josh Taylor, 23 Wes Fogden, 8 Niall McManus, 11 James McShane (c) (18 Luke Moore 59'), 10 Alfie Rutherford
Unused Subs: 4 Sami El-Abd, 16 Nicky Wheeler
Goals: J Taylor 65'
Yellow Cards: Oldaker 57', Moore 69'
Maidstone United: 13 Yusuf Mersin, 2 Gavin Hoyte (c), 4 Joe Ellul, 6 George Fowler, 18 Jerome Binnon-Williams, 14 Dominic Odusanya, 8 Sam Corne (17 Christie Pattisson 46'), 16 Michael Phillips (12 Bivesh Gurung 78'), 20 Roarie Deacon (9 Mo Bettamer 86'), 10 Jack Barham, 14 Joan Luque
Unused Subs: 1 Tom Hadler, 6 Raphe Brown
Yellow Cards: Oldaker 57', Moore 69'
Referee: Jack Packman
Sponsors Man Of The Match: Josh Taylor
Stats (with thanks to Aaron Fidler)
Dorking: Shots On 3, Shots Off 4, Corners 3, Offside 1, Fouls 13, Yellow Cards 2, Red Cards 0
Maidstone: Shots On 4, Shots Off 5, Corners 6, Offside 3, Fouls 16, Yellow Cards 2, Red Cards 0