Ipswich Town exited the FA Cup with a 2-1 home defeat to Maidstone United yesterday afternoon. Stuart Watson reflects on the action. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Sam Corne (third right) celebrates after restoring Maidstone United's lead at Portman Road.Sam Corne (third right) celebrates after restoring Maidstone United's lead at Portman Road. (Image: Steve Waller)


Carlisle, Stevenage (twice), Preston, Portsmouth, Stevenage, Lincoln, Exeter, Accrington, Barrow, Newport and Colchester... 

Ipswich Town have suffered their fair share of cup exits at the hands of lower league opposition over the last decade or so. 

That was then though and this is now. Or so we all thought going into this fixture. 

Kieran McKenna’s men comfortably dealt with non-league sides Bracknell and Buxton in the FA Cup last season. Surely Maidstone United would also be despatched with relative ease to secure a place in the last 16? Wrong. 

We’ll come on to how this result happened in a moment. First, let’s deal with the uncomfortable fact that, on paper at least, this is one of the worst results in the club’s proud history. Arguably the worst. 

Maidstone United are fourth in the National League South. They sit 98 places lower than the Blues in the football pyramid. 

The Kent side are the first non-league outfit to win at Portman Road since Peterborough way back in 1960. 

Ipswich have missed out on a golden chance to play in the last 16 of the FA Cup for the first time since 2007.  

They suffered this embarrassment in front of a live BBC One audience and a close to capacity Portman Road.

This result will now be referenced in 'greatest FA Cup upsets' lists for years to come. Ouch.

East Anglian Daily Times: Sam Morsy was part of an experienced Ipswich Town line-up.Sam Morsy was part of an experienced Ipswich Town line-up. (Image: Steve Waller)


Team selection is often the first thing people bemoan after a shock result like this. 

Kieran McKenna made 10 changes to the team that started the Monday night 1-1 draw at Championship leaders Leicester City. Centre-back George Edmundson was the only one to keep his place. 

Too much? I think it’s important to remember here that the Blues boss also made 10 changes to his league side back in September when Premier League visitors Wolves were beaten 3-2 in the League Cup. No-one was complaining then. 

Skipper Sam Morsy and forward Nathan Broadhead have been key men over an incredible last 12 months, keeper Christian Walton was the undisputed No.1 last season, Axel Tuanzebe has played in the Champions League, Jack Taylor cost £1.5m last summer, exciting young wingers Omari Hutchinson and Jeremy Sarmiento are on loan from Premier League clubs, while Sone Aluko and Dominic Ball have bags of Championship experience. 

This was in no way shape or form a weak line-up.  

East Anglian Daily Times: George Edmundson heads a glorious chance wide for Ipswich Town in the first half.George Edmundson heads a glorious chance wide for Ipswich Town in the first half. (Image: Steve Waller)


Ultimately, every ingredient you need for an FA Cup upset of this magnitude all came together. 

The favourites wasted some glorious chances during a dominant opening spell, most notably through Aluko and Edmundson. 

The underdogs also got the bit of fortune they needed when shots from Sarmiento and Hutchinson both came back off the woodwork inside the opening 10 minutes. 

Maidstone, by contrast, were ultra clinical on their rare breakaways. Lamar Reynolds’ dinked finish to break the deadlock just before half-time was sublime, while Sam Corne was equally ice cool when picking his spot to restore the lead in the 66th minute.  

The Kent side’s keeper, Lucas Covolan, had the game of his life, making several outstanding saves. 

And the visitors also got the rub of the green from the referee too. Anthony Taylor failed to spot a clear shirt pull on Sarmiento in the build-up to the winner and could easily have given a penalty to Ipswich when Edmundson went to ground (perhaps a little dramatically) in the box. 

Ipswich had 78% possession. The shot count was 38-2. The corner count was 11-0.  

Play this game 100 times over and Ipswich win it 99 times. This, frustratingly, was just one of those days.  

East Anglian Daily Times: Jeremy Sarmiento celebrates after his goal got Ipswich Town all square against Maidstone United.Jeremy Sarmiento celebrates after his goal got Ipswich Town all square against Maidstone United. (Image: Steve Waller)


This really highlighted the two areas that Ipswich look really light in – striker and full-back. 

Ball and Humphreys, central midfielders by trade, played at right-back and left-back respectively, while Broadhead, who has played as an inside left forward for the entirety of his time at Town, filled in as the central striker. 

Those roles may not be completely alien to the versatile trio, but neither do they get the best out of their attributes. Town lacked forward thrust from full-back and physicality/pace up top.

The January transfer window closes at 11pm on Thursday. It’s absolutely vital that the club adds a couple of front men and, ideally, a versatile full-back to the mix. 

This game probably confirms that Ball and Aluko, who have played key roles off the field over the last 18-24 months, are coming towards the end of their time at the club. Both are out of contract in the summer. 

East Anglian Daily Times: George Edmundson was controversially booked for 'simulation' after going down under this challenge in the box.George Edmundson was controversially booked for 'simulation' after going down under this challenge in the box. (Image: Steve Waller)


An embarrassing result, but (and some may not want to hear this) by no means an embarrassing performance. This, to me, didn’t have the same feel of the Lincoln and Barrow debacles. Those games highlighted far deeper issues. That’s not the case now.   

The magic of the FA Cup was simply in the air. This was Maidstone United’s day. This is their year. Fair play to them.  

Well done to the Ipswich fans who applauded George Elokobi and his players from the field. That was a classy gesture that won’t have gone unnoticed by a national audience. 

The Kent side have now progressed through seven rounds. They’ve knocked out high-flying teams from League Two, League One and the Championship. I hope they get the big Premier League away day they deserve in the draw. 

What next for Ipswich? That’s two wins in nine games across all competitions now. This result only adds to a growing external narrative that it’s only a matter of time before Southampton or Leeds replace Town in the top two.

Will this prove a psychological blow that is looked back on as a negative turning point in the season? 

Or might it, in a strange way, act as a blessing in disguise? Might it force chief executive Mark Ashton to push the boat out a little further on a significant striker signing? Might one less game in a busy schedule help? Might the noise that comes with a result like this fire up the players into a response?  

This time last year, Town were in the middle of a run that saw them win two games in 11 across all competitions. They strengthened. They adapted. Can the same happen again? Let’s find out. Next stop, Preston away.