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22 April 2023 Venue Gallagher Stadium Attendance

Kick off 15:00 (UK)

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Match Reports

Maidstone 2-5 Notts

O'Brien hits hat-trick but title evades us

22 April 2023

Jim O'Brien hit a hat-trick in a remarkable win at Maidstone - although it wasn't enough to prevent Wrexham from clinching the title with a 3-1 win over Boreham Wood.

The game looked dead and buried midway through the second half after two goals from O'Brien and another from Cedwyn Scott had put us comfortably ahead.

A quickfire double from the hosts made it nervy before Ruben Rodrigues won and scored a free-kick, before being tripped in the area and handing the ball to O'Brien to score his third from the spot.

Luke Williams made a number of changes to his XI, starting in goal – Archie Mair being favoured over Sam Slocombe, who suffered an adverse reaction when he last trained and played on an artificial surface.

In defence, Connell Rawlinson was also left out as Richard Brindley lined up alongside Aden Baldwin and Kyle Cameron in the back three.

Adam Chicksen made way for Frank Vincent at left wing back and Jodi Jones took the opposite slot over Aaron Nemane.

O’Brien claimed the place of bench-bound John Bostock in the deeper midfield area, with Rodrigues and Sam Austin slightly ahead of them.

Up front, Macaulay Langstaff was among the substitutes after suffering from illness earlier in the week. Scott was given the nod to replace him ahead of Junior Morias, who was also named on the bench.

Despite the changes, we clicked straight into gear and had the lead on five minutes when Yoan Zouma tripped over the ball on the edge of his own area, allowing Scott to capitalise by finishing calmly in front of a packed away end.

And, 10 minutes later, our lead was doubled when Rodrigues and Jones linked up brilliantly to work a dangerous cross into the box which bounced nicely for O’Brien to lash home.

Scott should probably have made it three on 25 minutes, glancing a header wide from Jones’ cross before the wide player supplied him once again shortly afterwards – a defender this time denying Scott with a good block.

Jones was proving a thorn in Maidstone’s side and sent an effort straight at Yusuf Mersin four minutes before the keeper made a good save with his feet to keep Vincent’s shot out.

There was concern for Scott towards the end of the half after he was sandwiched between two defenders – but after lengthy treatment he was straight back into the action, brilliantly supplying Austin who saw two shots blocked in quick succession.

We emerged for the second half unchanged and, after Mair had pushed away Bivesh Gurung’s shot, we extended our lead as O’Brien found the bottom corner with a good finish on the follow-up from a Vincent shot which had crashed off the underside of the bar.

Rodrigues then twice went close, seeing a low shot brilliantly pushed behind before sending a left-footed volley wide after Cameron had nodded down the resultant corner.

Moments later, and with the game seemingly all but over, Williams sent on Langstaff, Nemane and Morias for the impressive trio of Scott, Jones and Palmer.

But, five minutes later, the hosts gave us something to think about as the ball fell kindly for Roarie Deacon to lash home following a cross from the left.

Moments after the restart, the pressure was on as the hosts bagged another – this time George Fowler finding an unlikely finish under close attention from Vincent.

And it was so nearly 3-3 seconds later as Sam Bone's sweetly-struck 20-yard effort crashed off the bar.

We managed to regain our composure thereafter, however, and had a good opportunity to make our lead more comfortable when Rodrigues did well to win a free-kick inside the ‘D’.

And the Portuguese produced the perfect strike, which was too hot to handle for Mersin, to make it 4-2.

Rodrigues was then pivotal once again as we wrapped the game up once and for all, running on to a well-weighted pass from Morias and drawing a foul in the area. Selflessly, he gifted the ball to O’Brien who made no mistake in stroking the ball home for the second hat-trick of his career.

The hosts should have pulled another goal back in what had been a crazy second half when Perri Iandolo escaped into the area, only for Mair to save his effort low down.

And that proved to be the final action of note on yet another memorable away day.

STARTING XI: Mair; Cameron, Baldwin, Brindley; Vincent, Jones (Nemane 65'); O'Brien, Palmer (Morias 66'), Austin, Rodrigues; Scott (Langstaff 65')

UNUSED SUBS: Chicksen, Bostock

BOOKINGS: Cameron (29'), O'Brien (80')

ATTENDANCE: 2,391 (781)

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