Slough Town moved into the top half of the table for the first time this season with a deserved victory over promotion-chasing FA Cup heroes Maidstone United at Arbour Park on Saturday.
This match – in front of the second biggest National League South crowd at Arbour Park this season, with many local games being called off during to frozen pitches – was rather a slow burner which did not really take off until the dramatic final twenty-five minutes.
Slough Town led early. Josh Jackman’s accurate low strike into the bottom corner was the only goal of the first half. Matt Lench glanced a header wide for the hosts before Jackman’s looping header from a David Agbonna cross was gathered by Lucas Covolan. Jephte Tanga hit a tame effort straight at Slough goalkeeper and Berkshire wicket-keeper Dan Lincoln after showing good footwork in the box but the Stones were hugely unimpressive in the first period and there were loud shouts at the other end for a Slough penalty before the break.
There was a big moment early in the second period when a foul by Raphe Brown for the visitors was punished by the award of a yellow card and a free-kick. Player-manager Scott Davies went viral back in November for his set-piece effort against Grimsby Town in the FA Cup and he was inches away from pulling off more magic this time, his shot coming back off the post. The Rebels looked well in control as the hour mark came and went before Temi Eweka committed an innocuous-looking foul in the box and Muhammadu Faal hit his penalty kick with such power that it went under the body of Lincoln, as frustrating for the goalkeeper as Byes conceded on the cricket field.
This prompted Maidstone – belatedly – to show some of the form which has seen them defeat EFL sides Barrow and Stevenage this season in the FA Cup. They’d hitherto looked like a side which was saving itself for an FA Cup Fourth Round tie at Ipswich Town the following weekend, but the barely deserved equaliser prompted their best spell.
The lively Tanga forced an excellent save from Lincoln, before Faal had the chance of the match. Beating the offside trap, the forward raced towards goal with only Lincoln to beat but he clumsily stumbled when about to pull the trigger and Lincoln was able to smother.
By that point the visitors were down to ten men as Brown was shown a second yellow, but there was almost an astonishing goal when a free-kick taken from inside the Maidstone had had to parried over the top of the Slough goal by Lincoln. From that corner, Slough counter-attacked down the right against a depleted defence and the ball was worked across to Johnny Goddard who stepped inside to coolly score the winner with seven minutes of normal time and a further seven minutes of stoppages remaining. There were no further scares for the rampaging Rebels.
The win extended Slough’s unbeaten home run in all competitions to an impressive fifteen games, moving the Rebels within three points of a play off spot with a game in hand over seventh place Aveley. A splendid turnaround for a side which lost six of its first seven league games.