National League South side Maidstone United pulled off one of the great FA Cup shocks to knock Championship high-flyers Ipswich Town out of the fourth round at Portman Road.
Superb counter-attack strikes from Lamar Reynolds and Sam Corne – Maidstone’s only attempts on target – earned the non-leaguers an astonishing victory over a side 98 places above them in the football pyramid.
A much-changed Ipswich side, who are second in the second tier and pushing for promotion to the Premier League, battered their opponents in the first half, hitting the woodwork three times and wasting numerous chances, but they somehow trailed to an exquisite dinked finish by Reynolds.
The stubborn resistance was finally broken when Jeremy Sarmiento’s low shot took a tiny, but telling, deflection to beat Stones keeper Lucas Covolan.
But Sam Corne’s composed finish restored the lead and Maidstone survived the inevitable frantic finish and eight minutes of stoppage time to become the first side from National League North or South to reach the last 16 since the regional split was introduced in 2004 and sparked joyous scenes.
Stones display grit
Boss George Elokobi led those celebrations in front of around 4,600 travelling fans as the lowest ranked team left in this season’s competition revelled in their achievement and contemplated a place in the last 16.
Ipswich will argue the second Stones goal should have been ruled out for a foul in the build up and that George Edmundson was fouled in the penalty area after Corne’s strike.
And they will point to their utter first-half dominance, a total of 38 attempts on goal and an inspired display by Brazilian keeper Lucas.
But no one could argue with the character, grit and sheer resilience of Elokobi’s side who were so outclassed before the break.
Stones, who were already playing in the FA Cup fourth round for the first time in their history, are the first team to win their first match in the competition against a side from the top-two leagues since Kidderminster Harriers beat Birmingham City in January 1994.
But there seemed almost no possibility of matching that feat early on.
Ipswich pay for missed chances
Any thoughts Town’s fringe players would struggle to gel were instantly dispelled as they monopolised possession, teasing, probing and creating a hatful of chances from the off.
On-loan Brighton midfielder Sarmiento struck the inside of the post from distance, Chelsea forward Omari Hutchinson’s deflected effort also came back off the upright and Nathan Broadhead, Hutchinson, and Sam Morsy all saw shots saved by the overworked Lucas.
Maidstone could barely get a touch and had no answer to the quality, pace and movement of a side brimming with confidence.
Centre-back Edmundson, the only survivor from the side that drew 1-1 with fellow promotion-chasers Leicester City on Monday, somehow made a hash of a free header from six yards, Hutchinson went close again, the outstanding Sarmiento had another long-range shot loop off a defender and skim the crossbar, and veteran striker Sone Aluko scuffed a shot wide from 10 yards.
The visitors had only managed 22 competed passes in the first 20 minutes and seemed likely to end the half without an attempt on goal, although a couple of long balls and pacey counter-attacks had brought some brief respite and a glimmer of hope.
But incredibly they went in ahead and the goal was an absolute beauty, both in the making and taking. Stones stayed calm defending a set-piece and Liam Sole’s delightful crossfield ball into space picked out Reynolds, who raced on to chip keeper Christian Walton after a perfect first touch.
The Ipswich onslaught calmed slightly after the interval but the equaliser seemed just a matter of time and Sarmiento obliged with a clever strike after cutting in from the left.
But Corne ensured Maidstone’s 100% conversion rate continued when Sarmiento was controversially dispossessed in midfield and he held off Edmundson and coolly finished inside the near post after being expertly teed up by Reynolds.
Stones, who have now knocked out three EFL sides in seven matches in this season’s competition, once again showed remarkable grit and withstood increasing Ipswich pressure, with Lucas making save after save – although many were regulation.
His most notable stop kept out a header from substitute Wes Burns as an increasingly riled Ipswich failed to salvage a draw despite finishing the game with 78% possession.
12BallSubstituted forClarkeat 57′minutes
4EdmundsonBooked at 76mins
30HumphreysSubstituted forDavisat 57′minutes
20HutchinsonSubstituted forBurnsat 68′minutes
23AlukoSubstituted forChaplinat 57′minutes
21SarmientoSubstituted forBuaboat 69′minutes
2HoyteBooked at 58mins
7Berkeley-AgyepongSubstituted forGurungat 63′minutes
15BoneSubstituted forIandoloat 74′minutes