Maidstone United: George Elokobi says FA Cup win over Ipswich ‘binds us for life’

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Maidstone United manager George Elokobi said the shock FA Cup away victory over Championship side Ipswich Town will bind his team “for life”.

The National League South team overcame a club 98 places above them in the football pyramid, scoring with their only attempts as they won 2-1..

Speaking on BBC One, Elokobi said: “There were a few tears.

“I doff my cap to our community. This is for Maidstone and it’s the magic of the FA Cup. We had to believe.”

The Stones, who play in the sixth tier of English football, had already beaten EFL sides Barrow and Stevenage to reach the fourth round and are now in the fifth round for the first time in their history.

In doing so, they have also become the first club outside the top five tiers of English football to reach the FA Cup fifth round since Blyth Spartans in 1978.

“Always believe there is hope and fate,” added Elokobi, whose side started their cup run in the second qualifying round and have so far earned more than £350,000 in prize money.

“Always stay humble and respectful and if you do that, you can create a group like we have done.

“This binds us for life, what our boys are achieving right now. What our boys are achieving has not been done over 100 years. The magic of the FA Cup is very much alive.”

‘Hopefully I can get a move to the Championship’

Elokobi, 37, who took over as Stones boss in March 2023, had special praise for 32-year-old Brazilian goalkeeper Lucas Covolan.

The much-travelled summer signing, a stoppage-time goalscorer for Torquay in the 2021 National League promotion final, made a number of excellent saves against the Tractor Boys.

“Lucas was one of my last signings 48 hours before the league started,” Elokobi said.

“In games like this, big games, he commands the box and leads by example. He has kept us in so many games this season and that was exceptional. Amazing from him but exceptional performances from the entire group of players.”

Lucas, speaking on BBC One, added: “It means a lot. My career in the last few years was not very good and (…) now we produce this. It’s unreal.

“It’s a normal day at the office. I had a great game. I am so happy I could help my team-mates. We are in the hat again and hopefully I can get a move now to the Championship.”

Maidstone United goalkeeper Lucas Covolan
Stones keeper Lucas was named man of the match having been beaten only once from 13 attempts on target

“What we have achieved is something unbelievable. To be in the last 16 teams in England – it’s brilliant. We kept fighting until the end, bodies on the line and everything,” he added.

Defender George Fowler, who started his career at Ipswich Town, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I can’t believe we’ve done it.

“Everyone would have said we were the underdogs today but we dug in, stayed organised, rode our luck, which you have to at times when you come up against such class opposition. But, yes, we’re over the moon.

“I was here at Ipswich from 12 to 19 but never got to walk out in a first-team fixture, I was incredibly proud to do that here today. My friends and family all still live around here, so it was a nice moment. It will be nice to celebrate with them all later on.”

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Maidstone ‘deserve their brilliant day’

Ipswich have now been eliminated in nine of their previous 10 FA Cup fourth-round ties, progressing only in 2006-07 against Swansea City, the only time they’ve featured in the fifth round this century.

Boss Kieran McKenna told BBC Radio Suffolk: “It hurts. We’re playing in front of a full stadium. We wanted to go through in the cup and we’re playing a team several divisions below.

“We’re not the first team in football to go out to a lower league team in the cup but we didn’t want to be on the end of this result.

“We prepared the game well, we started the game really well but we didn’t take our chances and a team we should be more clinical than were more clinical than us and therefore deserve the brilliant day they’ve had.”

Maidstone United players celebrate the FA Cup win over Ipswich Town
Maidstone are in fourth place in National League South and pushing for promotion

One of the biggest FA Cup upsets?

But where does Maidstone’s victory come in the long list of memorable FA Cup upsets in the competition’s history?

That’s a subjective decision but here’s a list of famous shocks it now surely joins:

Hereford 2-1 Newcastle, third-round replay, 1972

Non-league Hereford United produced one of the greatest FA Cup upsets ever when they beat First Division Newcastle 2-1 in a much delayed third round replay in 1972 with Ronnie Radford’s iconic long-range strike before substitute Ricky George’s stunning winner and equally spectacular celebration.

Stoke 2-3 Blyth Spartans, fourth round, 1978

Northern League Blyth Spartans saw off a Potters team only just relegated from the top flight – a monumental shock.

Sutton United 2-1 Coventry City, third round, 1989

A Sky Blues who had won the FA Cup two years before seemed to be back on track after levelling at a muddy Gander Green Lane but bricklayer Matthew Hanlan scored a memorable winner from a well-constructed corner.

Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal, third round, 1992

Second in the Premiership against 24th in the Third Division. Reigning league champions Arsenal made the trip to Racecourse Ground full of confidence but weren’t counting on the evergreen Micky Thomas having other thoughts.

Leicester 1-2 Wycombe, quarter-final, 2001

Roy Essandoh – who had come in on a short-term deal because of an injury crisis – headed the winner as Premier League Leicester City were beaten at Filbert Street.

Norwich 0-1 Luton, fourth round, 2013

The Hatters, now back in the Premier League, were the first non-league team to knock out a top-flight opponent since Sutton United when they beat the Canaries 1-0 at Carrow Road thanks to a Scott Rendell goal.

Chelsea 2-4 Bradford, fourth round, 2015

Jose Mourinho’s Premier League giants led 2-0. Bradford, inspired by Jon Stead, turned it around in astonishing fashion at Stamford Bridge.

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