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FA Cup: History-makers Maidstone look ahead to fifth round draw

Maidstone United made history on Saturday, with their 2-1 victory over Ipswich Town taking them into the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The National League South side were able to bridge a gap of 98 places to defeat an Ipswich team pushing for promotion to the Premier League.

Now George Elokobi's side are the name to watch in Sunday's fifth round draw, so let's take a closer look at the overachievers who are surely the story of this season's FA Cup.


History-making run

Heading into the weekend, Maidstone were the first team outside the top five tiers of English football to make the FA Cup fourth round since Havant and Waterlooville in 2008. 

That run ended 16 years ago with a 5-2 loss to Liverpool at Anfield and Saturday's victory for the Stones has written them into FA Cup folklore.

Maidstone are just the sixth non-league side to reach the fifth round this century and are the first team from outside England's top five tiers to make it to this stage since Blyth Spartans in 1978. 

Maidstone's run to the fifth round

Something no team has done in the 21st century is reach the fifth round of the cup after entering at the second qualifying stage, the Kent club's journey beginning away at ninth-tier Steyning Town, winning 4-1 back in September.

After that, Maidstone won 2-0 at Winchester and 2-0 again against Torquay to make the first round proper. They were handed lower-league opposition, with a trip to seventh-tier Chesham United, which they won with another 2-0.

Since then, it's been getting progressively harder for the sixth-tier outfit. They beat League Two Barrow 2-1 in December before their third round 1-0 win over a Stevenage side who are chasing the League One play-offs.

Toppling Championship opposition on Saturday has been their biggest achievement yet. They'll be hoping for an even tougher test next time out, with the chance of a money-spinning tie at a Premier League outfit more than deserved. 

Maidstone's Portman Road heroes

One of the most impressive factors about Maidstone's win at Portman Road was the lack of fear they displayed.

They went to a side who have won 17 of 28 games in the Championship this season and calmly stuck to their gameplan, setting pressing traps for the Ipswich defenders and making the most of their pace on the break.

Sam Corne followed up his winner against Stevenage with the decisive goal at Ipswich. The midfielder also scored in their second round victory over Barrow, meaning he now has more goals in the cup (three) than across his 23 league starts (two).

Lamar Reynolds also produced an impressive display, scoring the opener before setting up Corne's winner. Credit also has to go to Manny Duku, who made his debut for the Stones on Tuesday before playing in this huge tie. His link-up play was vital to their chances on the break and he looked good without finding the net.

Goalkeeper Lucas Covolan also stood out, standing firm with Ipswich firing 13 shots on target in a game in which they dominated possession. 

Maidstone boss Elokobi - a former Wolves and Nottingham Forest full-back - also warrants praise for what is surely the peak performance of his coaching career so far. 

The 37-year-old is barely a year into his first managerial job, but he's already made history for the club he ended his playing career with.

Elokobi was quick to praise the travelling Maidstone supporters after the game. With the fans backing the club from the lowest levels of English football all the way to the last 16 of the FA Cup, they certainly deserve some credit after a win like this. 

Maidstone's rise up the leagues

This FA Cup run continues Maidstone's tradition of fighting against the odds. The club was only founded back in 1992, spun out of a youth team. They became the Phoenix Club for the original Maidstone United, who fell apart in 1992, 95 years after being founded.

The new outfit started life in the Kent County League in 1993, progressing through all four tiers on their climb back up the English pyramid. 

Maidstone returned to the Isthmian League in 2006 and they claimed another five promotions across the next 10 years to make it into the fifth tier.

They were relegated from the National League last term, but they've matched their cup success in the league this term. They're fourth in the National League South standings, putting them on course for the play-offs. 

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