Sixth-tier minnows Maidstone pull off one of great FA Cup shocks at Ipswich

National League South side beat Championship high-fliers to reach fifth round

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Maidstone produced one of the great FA Cup upsets after Sam Corne downed Ipswich with a 66th-minute winner.

Corne had been the hero in round three against Stevenage and further etched his name into Stones' folklore with a fine second-half finish to send George Elokobi’s National League South side into the fifth round of the competition.

Maidstone were indebted to goalkeeper Lucas Covolan, who made a string of saves before Lamar Reynolds's excellent 43rd-minute lob dared the 4,472-travelling fans from Kent to dream.

Jeremy Sarmiento levelled for Ipswich at the start of the second half, but the Sky Bet Championship club were toppled when Corne rifled home with 24 minutes left at Portman Road to continue the fairytale run of the sixth tier side.

Maidstone had banked £231,375 in prize money on their way to the fourth round and, while they had already knocked out League Two and League One opposition, Ipswich were a step up in class.

Town boss Kieran McKenna made 10 changes from Monday’s draw at fellow promotion hopefuls Leicester, but it was still one-way traffic early on.

Brighton loanee Sarmiento hit the post from 25 yards and Omari Hutchinson’s follow-up effort was saved by Stones goalkeeper Covolan inside five minutes.

Hutchinson was in the thick of the action and struck the woodwork soon after before Brazilian stopper Covolan thwarted Cameron Humphreys.

An intriguing battle between Chelsea youngster Hutchinson and Covolan had already developed with his next left-footed effort parried wide.

This was all before the 15-minute mark and while Ipswich’s relentless waves of attack momentarily calmed, Sam Morsy, Hutchinson and George Edmundson all squandered opportunities before Maidstone’s strong support were able to get excited for the first time.

Liam Sole’s lively run eventually came to nothing before a Gavin Hoyte cross was easily cleared, but it gave the support of the National League South club something to shout about.

Chants of "Championship, you’re having a laugh" soon followed, although Sarmiento nearly silenced them in the 35th minute.

He glided past one challenge and then another before his long-range strike deflected off Paul Appiah and flicked the roof of the net.

Sone Aluko was the next guilty party for Ipswich when he scuffed wide after Dominic Ball’s mis-hit, but it still felt a matter of time before the opener arrived.

It duly did with 43 minutes played although astonishingly went to the non-league outfit.

Maidstone broke from a corner and Sole produced a wonderful lofted pass through to Reynolds, who collected and sumptuously scooped over Christian Walton with his left foot from 18 yards to spark pandemonium.

Stones boss Elokobi kept his cool, but the rest of his staff bundled Reynolds as the away fans jumped for joy.

Half-time followed and while Ipswich had enjoyed 78 per cent possession and were 18-1 up on the shot count, it was Maidstone who held the lead.

But Ipswich hit back in the 56th minute. After Stones centre-back Appiah had a pass intercepted, the hosts punished the visitors’ out-of-position defence with Jack Taylor finding Sarmiento, who curled into the corner for his second goal since arriving on loan this month.

All eyes were now on if the fairytale run of sixth-tier Maidstone would crash to juddering halt but third-round hero Corne had other ideas.

It was Sarmiento who gave away possession to Reynolds by the halfway line and Stones scorer turned creator with a pass into Corne, who impressively held off Edmundson and rifled home from 12-yards with 24 minutes left and the visitors then held out for a historic win.

Maidstone keeper Lucas told BBC One: "It means a lot. "It's a normal day at the office! I had a great game. I am so happy I could help my teammates. We are in the hat again and hopefully I can get a move now to the Championship.

"What we have achieved is something unbelievable. To be in the last 16 teams in England it's brilliant. We kept fighting until the end, bodies on the line and everything."

Manager Elokobi said: "This is what it means to our community, it is all about us being together on days like this. It was up to the players to go out and enjoy competing against a fantastic Championship side.

"We had to be lucky in the first half but then we had to be resilient. And we knew they played so high, so can we catch them on the break if we played the right passes and had the runners behind.

"I doff my cap to our community, this is for Maidstone and again it's the magic of the FA Cup. We had to believe. The magic of the FA Cup is very much alive."

Updated: January 27, 2024, 3:34 PM