Maidstone United’s FA Cup dream ends in heavy defeat to Coventry City

Ellis Simms scoring Coventry's second goal against Maidstone
Ellis Simms scored a first-half hat-trick for Coventry against Maidstone - Reuters/Andrew Boyers

They have provided the most enthralling story of this season’s FA Cup but the fairytale had to end at one point, and for Maidstone United the adventure was finished by two players of Premier League quality.

George Elokobi’s side, of the sixth-tier, fully deserved to reach the last 16 of this year’s tournament. Sadly for the neutrals, though, they did not deserve to go any further. In the face of Coventry City’s Ellis Simms and Kasey Palmer, they were undone three times in just 35 minutes.

Maidstone United manager George Elokobi before the match against Coventry
Maidstone United manager George Elokobi gees up the travelling fans before the match - Reuters/Molly Darlington

Simms and Palmer have both played top-flight football before, for Everton and Huddersfield Town. Their first-half flourish was a reminder of the difference between good players and very good players, as Simms converted a hat-trick of chances created by Palmer.

As the lowest-ranked side to reach this round since Blyth Spartans in 1978, Maidstone will still be proud of what they have achieved. There was no shame in losing to a Championship team that sits 95 places above them. After the final whistle, they celebrated with their supporters as if they had won – and why not?

“I am immensely proud,” said Elokobi. “The magic of the FA Cup is still alive. When we began this journey we knew we weren’t going to win it. It was about showcasing our talent. We have done that.”

Around 5,000 fans had travelled from Maidstone in search of yet more FA Cup magic, or at least in hope that some magic remained after their thrilling victory at Ipswich Town. This was a chance to dream, and an occasion that some teams of this size might never have.

Maidstone United fans before the Emirates FA Cup fifth round match against Coventry
Around 5,000 Maidstone fans made the trip to Coventry - PA/Nick Potts

Before Monday night, the FA Cup run had earned Maidstone around £500,000. Welcome funds for an organisation that went bankrupt in 1992 and knows the importance of balancing the books.

It was welcome fun, too, for a town that has evidently enjoyed this season’s exploits: a local brewery created a special beer for the occasion, named the “Cheeky Chip” in honour of the goal scored by Lamar Reynolds at Ipswich.

That victory at Portman Road marked a suspension of the usual realities of football. A second meeting with a Championship team was always going to be challenging, though, and those realities kicked back in shortly after kick-off.

Simms had his first after nine minutes, converting Palmer’s pass. After 14 minutes, it happened again. Palmer between the lines, Simms between the defenders. Same move, same outcome.

Maidstone had a few moments of promise but Palmer and Simms were not finished yet. For the third, Simms tapped in after Palmer’s long-range effort bounced out to him. Maidstone battled on but they eventually tired, allowing Fabio Tavares to convert the fourth and fifth.

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