Wheeler hails Maidstone after victory over probable National League winners
- Credit: Archant
The new boss at Gallagher Stadium reflected on the FA Cup victory and backed Saturday’s opposition, the O’s, to secure promotion
Harry Wheeler believes his Maidstone United team defeated the future winners of the National League on Saturday as they saw off high-flying Leyton Orient 2-0 in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup.
After a goalless first 45, where the O’s had the better of the play, the Stones took the lead in the 54th minute through Blair Turgott.
It was 2-0 with 77 gone when Elliott Romain, who had only signed from Dagenham & Redbridge a day earlier, fired beyond Dean Brill to wrap up the result in Kent.
While it was frustration for Orient, the hosts were happy to get their hands on £25,000 prize money and reach the FA Cup first round proper.
“I have said before, I think Leyton Orient will win the National League because they are a very, very good team,” Wheeler told Stones TV.
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“We know how tough the division is, every game is tough and so it is brilliant to get through to the first round as a club.
“My biggest pleasure is that was for the owners because they have been fantastic since I come in and they have allowed me to bring people in, so the prize money is massive for them – the win was for the owners.”
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O’s boss Justin Edinburgh made six changes for the trip to Maidstone and switched to a 5-3-2 formation, which did seem to work in the first half.
The visitors dominated, but Matt Harrold missed a good headed chance and Sam Ling saw a shot saved as it ended goalless at the break.
Orient were then made to pay for their profligacy when former player Turgott raced almost the full length of the pitch to score a stunner.
It gave Maidstone a lead to hold onto and although Josh Coulson almost equalised for the away side, the next goal went to the Stones as Romain nipped in ahead of Marvin Ekpiteta and netted to wrap up the victory.
Wheeler added: “We have worked so hard and I always believe if you work hard you will get your rewards in the end.
“I thought we worked really hard against AFC Fylde and we didn’t get the rewards (2-0 defeat), but on Saturday we got everything right.
“We looked at ourselves after the previous weekend and felt we had done everything we could, but when we looked at it again on Monday, we felt we could have done more, so we left no stone unturned for Leyton Orient and it paid off.”
The result means the O’s will fail to play in the ‘proper rounds’ of the FA Cup for the first time since 1907 – when they also exited the competition in the fourth qualifying round.