Rocks Review: Maidstone 2 Rocks 4 - home play-off awaits

Terry Dodd celebrates his second with team-mates and fans  Picture by Tommy McMillan
Terry Dodd celebrates his second with team-mates and fans Picture by Tommy McMillan

The Rocks missed out on the Ryman one south title for the second year running - but played themselves into prime position for the play-off campaign with a stunning second-half comeback against Maidstone.

After a first half in which they’d been playing into the rain and strong wind they trailed 2-0 and they looked like the end of the season couldn’t come soon enough for them.

But substitutions, tactical changes and having the weather in their favour all contributed to a terrific fightback and goals from Terry Dodd (2), Ben Johnson and Steve Harper clinched a 4-2 win.

Whitehawk beat Chipstead 4-0 to make sure of the title but the Rocks’ win, coupled with a shock defeat at Burgess Hill for Dulwich Hamlet, meant the Rocks moved back up to second.

They means they will host Godalming instead of Folkestone in Tuesday’s play-off semi-final - which is arguably a better draw - and will be at home in the final if they get through, whereas finishing third could have left them going to Dulwich in the final if both sides had got through.

But it was the stirring second-half comeback that really lifted players and fans alike and put them in good spirits for the play-offs.

The Rocks kicked off knowing that to take the Ryman one south title, they needed to win and required both leaders Whitehawk and second-placed Dulwich Hamlet to fail to win their games.

They made a number of changes with one eye on the play-offs, leaving Johnson, Robinson, Jon Marzetti and Darryl Wollers on the bench.

Conditions were horrendous in Kent and the Rocks were playing against a strong wind in the first half.

Maidstone had already gone close through Alex Fisher - denied by a last-gasp bit of defending - before they took the lead in the ninth minute.

Sonny Cobbs was judged to have fouled Shaun Welford just outside the box and when Sam Bewick sent in a low inswinging free-kick, Welford touched it past Craig Stoner to leave the Rocks with a mountain to climb.

The Rocks did their best to get the ball down and pass it about but a couple of hopeful balls forward which the Stones defence belted clear were the best they had to offer.

Ben Andrews failed to get enough on a header from a Kane Wills free-kick from the right wing and Dodd made space for himself on the edge of the box but saw his shot blocked - with some half-hearted shouts that a hand was used falling on deaf ears.

At the other end Bewick caught a cross into the box sweetly on the volley but Stoner got everything behind it.

Dodd was involved again when he picked up a pass down the left and weaved into the box, but he was eventually crowded out.

Jay Saunders’ 22-yard effort for the Stones was almost deflected past Stoner but it drifted wide.

Welford dealt what looked a fatal blow to the Rocks’ title hopes with a second for Maidstone on 44 minutes - nodding in from close range after the visitors twice failed to clear dangerous balls across the face of goal.

Dan Beck and Karl Murray were both booked in first-half stoppage time for an ugly encounter after a 50-50 challenge.

HT 2-0

The Rocks introduced Robinson for the start of the second half and he was soon involved, firing a free-kick into the Stones wall.

Maidstone should have gone three up when Bewick ran through with only Stoner to beat after Ben Andrews stumbled, but in taking the ball past the keeper, Bewick over-ran it.

Wollers replaced Callum Sheriff for the Rocks allowing James Crane to switch to the right - and within a minute the change had paid dividends as Crane’s cross was poked in by Dodd.

That was in the 58th minute and five minutes later the Rocks were level after Dodd held the ball up and rolled a pass for Johnson, who curled a lovely shot into the top corner from just inside the box.

Maidstone were rattled and te Rocks’ incredible turnaround continued when Dodd put them 3-2 up on 71 minutes, firing low past the keeper from what looked an impossible angle after Robinson sent him scurrying away down the right but with a lot to do.

Harper made it 4-2 to the Rocks with 11 minutes left, rifling in a loose ball from 10 yards after Maidstone failed to clear a series of corners.

The Rocks poured forward in search of a fifth while the closest the Stones could come to a third as they marked their final game away from their home town - where they will return next season - was a swirling shot from 20 yards that was almost carried in by the strong wind.

Maidstone: Whitehouse, Osborne, Mills, Groombridge, G Andrews, Saunders, Green, Bewick, Welford, Murray, Fisher. Subs: Addae, Waugh, James, Davison, Northwood.

Rocks: Stoner, Sheriff, Crane, Gonnella, Cobbs, B Andrews, Beck, Wills, Harper, Dodd, Whyte. Subs: Robinson, Johnson, Marzetti, Wollers, Boyle.

Ref: A Parker

STEVE BONE