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A spectacular 90th minute winner from Darren Smith gave Folkestone Invicta victory over Maidstone United after a stirring second half performance amid heavy rain at the Buzzlines Stadium on Wednesday night.
Smith’s dramatic late winner from 25 yards came straight after the visitors had thought that they had saved the day with Shaun Welford’s 89th minute equaliser.
Welford had earlier opened the scoring for Maidstone before Stuart King put Invicta 2-1 up with goals either side of half time, the first from the penalty spot, and then had a second penalty saved by Maidstone goalkeeper Daren Hawkes.
On a very wet night, Invicta gave a debut to midfielder Darren Marsden, a new signing from Herne Bay who had interested several other clubs.
But it was Maidstone who dominated the early exchanges as Ellis Green got clear down the right hand side in the ninth minute and Invicta central defender Lim Friend sliced the ball out for the game’s first corner.
Green then put Welford clean through on the quarter of an hour mark but the centre forward poked the ball wide when given on-side to miss a clear chance.
But it was WELFORD who broke the deadlock in the 26th minute when his header went just underneath the crossbar after Alex Flisher’s cross from the left hand side had hung in the air.
Marsden dribbled the ball into the penalty area at the other end but shot just wide in the 33rd minute.
And Invicta were level in the 36th minute when KING blasted his penalty towards Hawkes who got a touch but could not prevent the ball from hitting the roof of the net.
The penalty had been awarded after Josh Burchell had gone down under challenge from centre half Danny Lye.
The first half corner count was 7-0 in the visitors’ favour and Maidstone were to pay for not going in ahead at half time as Invicta turned the game around after the interval.
KING put the home side ahead in the 54th minute with a great turn and strike that skidded across the wet surface and into the net. It brought King’s tally to ten goals in ten starting appearances for Invicta since he joined the club during the summer.
Invicta looked like increasing their lead two minutes later when Burchell met a Marsden cross from the right but the ball stayed out and was cleared.
James Everitt then hit a low 58th minute shot at Hawkes when King touched the ball back to him.
And Invicta had the chance to increase their lead when Hawkes brought King down after Burchell had also gone down when playing the ball through.
Hawkes escaped with just a yellow card when perhaps the conditions saved him and the Maidstone goalkeeper then saved King’s 59th minute penalty to deny the Invicta striker a hat-trick.
The ball somehow stayed out and was cleared off the line in the goal mouth melee that followed the penalty save.
Marsden shot wide on the hour mark after a Josh Vincent ball in from the right, while Sam Bewick hit a good strike over the crossbar at the other end nine minutes later.
Invicta goalkeeper Jack Delo saved at the expense of a corner in the 73rd minute to deny Green when Flisher played the ball across from left to right.
And Delo made another good save in the 76th minute to keep out substitute Alex Waugh’s shot after a Flisher free kick on the left following a foul by Vincent.
King showed more good control and turned well again in the 79th minute after a ball in from the left but Maidstone captain Tommy Osborne blocked his shot.
Maidstone were desperately close a minute later when Waugh’s shot rattled the post from the right hand side of the penalty area after a crossfield ball put him through.
Delo then denied Waugh again in the 87th minute when Welford played the ball across after Tom Mills and one-time Invicta captain Lee Gledhill had played the ball out of the Maidstone defence.
And it looked as though Invicta were to be denied victory when Maidstone’s top goalscorer WELFORD put the ball in again after a cross from Flisher who reacted quickly on the left hand side with Delo on the ground after a ball forward from left back Mills.
But SMITH had the final sensational say when he saw Hawkes slightly off his line and his chip dipped in under the crossbar.
As well as Hawkes, there were bookings for Maidstone’s Flisher and Lye.
The win takes Invicta above both Maidstone and Worthing into fourth place in the Ryman League Division One South table.
A fourth successive league defeat takes Maidstone out of the play-off places.
FOLKESTONE INVICTA: Delo, Vincent, Burchell, Friend, Chappell, Dickson, Smith, King (Atkins 90 mins), J. Everitt, Marsden, M. Everitt. Unused subs: Austin, Moreby, Mortimer, Hayward.
MAIDSTONE UNITED: Hawkes, Osborne, Mills, Gledhill, Lye (Phillips 87 mins), Bewick, Green, Saunders, Welford, Pinnock (Waugh 67 mins), Flisher. Unused subs: Groombridge, Addae, Powell.