Full time: Maidstone United 2-0 Chelmsford City.

Chelmsford City fell to a late defeat at the hands of Maidstone United on Tuesday night, with goals in the latter stages of the second half scored by Sam Corne and Matt Rush helping the Stones to victory over the National League South’s strongest away team.

George Elokobi’s side took maximum points in dramatic fashion, with captain Corne converting an 80th minute penalty which was awarded to the hosts after referee Olly Mackey deemed Cameron James to have committed a handball offence.

Mackey was further involved in a fraught climax to proceedings at the Gallagher Stadium when he showed Clarets defender Finley Barbrook a late red card, after he judged the Ipswich loanee to have committed a last-man foul on Matt Rush. Rush then sealed victory for his side in added time, with the Clarets’ backline becoming stretched as Simpson’s men searched for an equaliser.

An end-to-end first half saw both goalkeepers make multiple saves to keep the game level. An early effort hit from a tight angle by City captain for the night Jazzi Barnum-Bobb forced Maidstone shot-stopper Lucas Covolan into his first save of the game during the opening 10 minutes. Ben Brookes was the next City player to test Covolan, who comfortably caught a free kick struck on target by the left back.

Henry Gray made his first notable action of the night just before the half hour mark, when a corner taken short by the hosts set up Jephte Tanga to curl a strike towards the top corner of the Clarets’ goal, which Gray guided over the crossbar. Maidstone thought they had gone one better moments later when Raphe Brown bundled a cross delivered from the Stones’ right-hand side into the back of the net, however referee Mackey judged Brown to have handballed the cross which he converted.

Covolan made his best stop of the evening in the 32nd minute, when George Alexander stepped forward to take a free kick won by Josh Castiglione who drew a foul on the edge of the Stones’ penalty area. Alexander’s strike across goal looked destined to find the top corner, but a strong hand by the Brazilian tipped the ball over the crossbar.

The first half ended with Gray making another important save, with the New Zealander’s hand guiding a rising strike by Bivesh Gurung over the crossbar.

For long periods, the second half proved to be less action-packed than the opening forty-five minutes of proceedings, with neither side looking like they would find a breakthrough. Mackey’s decision to award the hosts an 80th minute penalty proved to be the turning point though. Jephte Tanga was able to prevent substitute Lamar Reynolds’ cross from going out of play for a goal kick by quickly cutting the ball back towards goal. Tanga’s cutback was followed by Maidstone appeals for a handball by Cameron James, which Mackey was in agreement with after he pointed to the spot. Stones skipper Sam Corne stepped up from 12-yards and sent Gray the wrong way to put his side ahead.

Three minutes later, Mackey made another big call when he showed a red card to Finley Barbrook. Mackey judged Barbrook to have committed a last-man foul on Matt Rush, after the forward went down under pressure from the Ipswich-loanee once he had been fed the ball in a dangerous position on the edge of the penalty area.

Despite going a man down, City pushed as hard as possible to find an equaliser, but it was to no avail, with Rush cementing his team’s win late on in added time. In one of the final kicks of the game, Rush accurately found the bottom left-hand corner of the goal in the sixth minute of added time, striking the ball in space from the edge of the penalty area.

The Clarets remain 2nd in the National League South standings despite falling to a disappointing defeat on Tuesday night, and return to action on Saturday for a home clash against another fellow promotion chasing side in Bath City.

Maidstone United XI: Covolan (GK); Greenidge, Fowler, Brown (Appiah 46’), Berkeley-Agyepong, Corne ©, Faal (Bentley 72’), Sole (Reynolds 67’), Tanga, Gurung, Rush.

Unused substitutes: Ezennolim, Earle.

Yellow cards: Tanga, Rush, Corne.

Chelmsford City XI: Gray (GK); Barnum-Bobb ©, Barbrook, Jenkins, Brookes; Ochieng, Wordsworth (Carruthers 84’); Francis, Castiglione, Alfa (Ruff 74’); Alexander (Hockey 74’).

Unused substitutes: Marsden, Watts.

Yellow cards: Barnum-Bobb, Carruthers.

Red card: Barbrook

Match Officials: Olly Mackey (Referee), Sam Olhausen (1st Assistant), Joseph Karram (2nd Assistant).

Attendance: 1720

Report by Jake Dixon

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