Ground Hopper: Maidstone United 1 St Albans 0 (Malcolm Stephenson)

Maidstone United 1 St Albans 0 (17/10/15).

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This place is North Kent and at one time it took ages to get there with having to go through London. These days it is a lot easier with trains going from St Pancras which is just across the road from Kings Cross. Another change at Strood and we were in Maidstone not long after 1pm.

Today I was travelling with a fellow Blyth fan from Blyth itself and we met another (Nick) on the train at York. Nick works from British rail and to me is the ‘Patron Saint of rail passes‘. He selfishly wants to retire soon and that will be the end of taking any companions. I am working hard to encourage him to work until he as at least 75 years old. Me and the lad from Blyth have bought one of those 2 for 1 cards and you get good rates on advance tickets.

 

Maidstone Utd hold the unfortunate distinction of being the last Football league club to go bankrupt. Other former football league clubs have folded since them but they were non league at the time eg Halifax and Chester. The original club was formed in 1897 and closed down in 1992 after going bust. It seems that the pinnacle of their success was also there demise as they had been in the Football league for just three seasons.

 

Originally Maidstone played at the Athletic ground on London Road. The land was sold and currently an MFI stands on the old site. The club moved in a ground sharing agreement (1988-92) with Dartford who played at Watling Street. Eventually Watling Street was also sold. Amazingly the club tried to form plans to relocate and merge with Newcastle Blue Star which was over 300 miles away. I believe the football league put a stop to that although it is interesting to see just s few years later they would allow Wimbledon to move 75 miles up the road to Milton Keynes.

 

After the demise of the old club a new one was quickly formed and called Maidstone Invicta. Life started at the bottom of the pyramid system in the Kent league. They eventually ground shared at  Sittingbourne (12 miles away) and Ashford Town (21 miles) after the local pitch they were playing on was unsuitable, on level with success on the pitch.

 

By 2013 things had improved on and off the pitch when they eventually were back in Maidstone with a new ground. On my recent visit to the Gallagher stadium the club were back to Conference South level, doing well in the league and commanding excellent attendances.

 

There are one or two names associated with the old club. Namely David Sadler (Manchester Utd start from the 1970.s), Newcastle’s Warren Barton who was bought by them from Wimbledon for £4,000,000 and a certain Roy Hodgson (England manager).

 

The ground  is at the bottom of a small valley close to the centre of Town. It is very close to the site of the old ground in Maidstone. There is one main stand with 750 seats and the capacity of the Gallagher Stadium is 2,363. Both ends of the pitch has covered, metal terraces. There is only hard standing on the far side opposite the main stand. Their 3G pitch earns the club over £120.000 a year although could be a stumbling block if they wanted to go into the football league. Last season the club were on live TV when they beat Stevenage in the first round proper. They lost away to Wrexham in the next round backed by about 1,500 travelling fans.

 

Today’s match was against St Albans who are struggling at the other end of the table. From the start Maidstone appeared in the driving seat and St Albans were hard pressed to be level on the break. On 71 minutes Maidstone brought on a sub- Alex Flisher. Four minutes later he made his mark on the game by scoring the only goal. There were a few more chances by either side towards the end of the game. The small but vociferous At Albans fans were unable to cheer their team on to an equalizer.

 

There were more fans attending this game than there were at the Dagenham and Barnet matches also played that day.

 

This season St Albans could be facing relegation back to the Southern league while Maidstone should be close contenders for promotion to the National league. One step away from where they left 27 years ago. Maidstone Utd. A team and club that’s possibly going somewhere once again.

 

Gate- £12

Prog-£2

Att-2,103

 

 

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