NO excuses, this was very poor from the Gull and particularly disappointing after the improved performances of recent weeks.
Maidstone were allowed to cruise into the second round of the FA Trophy with goals from Magnus Okuonghae, Reece Prestedge, Joe Pigott and Tom Wraight. A dismal day further summed up by a straight red card for Jazzi Barnum-Bobb ruling him out of the Christmas schedule.
United boss Gary Owers took the opportunity to shuffle his squad, restoring Ryan Clarke to goalkeeping duty. Jennison Myrie-Williams started on the left and fit-again George Dowling took the midfield berth of Damon Lathrope.
A brand new strike-force of Jon-Paul Pittman and Guy Gnabouyou were given the chance to impress, and there was also the pleasing sight of Jake Gosling back on the bench after a long lay-off through injury.
Maidstone were back at Plainmoor just a month after recording a battling 1-0 win on a day when the Gulls laid siege on their opponents, but could find no answer to the first-half free-kick expertly scored by Joe Piggot.
United came flying out of the blocks with a surging run from Myrie-Williams and his delivery only just evaded the run of Pittman. The Maidstone response was a cross from the left headed narrowly over by Pigott.
The visitors took the lead with their next meaningful attack, as a corner from the right was headed goalwards by Alex Wynter. United scrambled the ball off the line but Okuonghae neatly adjusted his body to steer home the rebound.
It was a soft goal from United’s perspective and fired the forward players into a slick move down the right involving Luke Young, Jamie Reid and the dancing feet of Gnabouyou, who earned a corner with his low cross.
The deep delivery from Young then picked out Axel Andrésson lingering at the back-post and he was denied a first goal for United when his close-range half-volley was bravely turned over by goalkeeper Lee Worgan.
Pigott warmed the hands of Clarke at the other end with a low curler but it was soon back to United on the attack, and Pittman did a great job in creating space for a shot from the left channel that again forced Worgan into a decent block.
Maidstone opened up a two-goal lead four minutes before the break and it all stemmed from a spell of pinball in United’s box, with the opportunity looping to Prestedge for a well-executed volley into the roof of the net.
A big second-half for United commenced with Ruairi Keating replacing Pittman but it was Maidstone first to threaten with a free-kick from Pigott curled over the wall and gobbled up by the well-positioned Clarke.
A bad day got even worse when Barnum-Bobb was shown a straight red card for a wild lunge on Prestedge in front of the Popside. Despite the Yellow Army grumbles, it was clearly a reckless tackle and irresponsible from the United wing-back.
Owers reacted by withdrawing Gnabouyou for Callum Evans and the black clouds over Plainmoor darkened even further with a weak third. An innocuous free-kick from the right allowed Pigott to climb above his man and nod home with ease.
Josh McQuoid replaced Dowling for the final 20 minutes but the harsh reality was the visitors were now strolling around TQ1 in their frustrating saunter to a place in the next round of the Trophy. The gloom somehow found another turn for the worse, as Wraight added a fourth in stoppage time.
United will need something very different for the Boxing Day trip to Eastleigh.
United (3-4-1-2): 1 Ryan Clarke; 21 Alex Davey, 5 Sean McGinty (capt), 26 Axel Andrésson; 16 Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, 8 Luke Young, 24 George Dowling (13 Josh McQuoid 69), 27 Jennison Myrie-Williams; 19 Jamie Reid; 9 Jon-Paul Pittman (10 Ruairi Keating H-T), 22 Guy Gnabouyou (12 Callum Evans 52). Substitutes (not used): 11 Jake Gosling, 30 Vincent Dorel.
Booked: Myrie-Williams 40
Sent-Off: Barnum-Bobb 50
Maidstone United (4-5-1): 1 Lee Worgan (capt); 16 Seth Nana Twumasi, 3 Alex Finney, 5 Alex Wynter, 13 Joe Anderson; 14 Jai Reason (11 Tom Wraight 76) 6 Magnus Okuonghae, 8 Stuart Lewis, 4 Reece Prestedge, 7 Jamar Loza (39 Aaron Collins 81); 32 Joe Pigott (9 Delano Sam-Yorke 76). Substitutes (not used): 2 Josh Hare, 27 Zavon Hines.
Booked: Reason 71
Referee: Richard Hulme
Attendance: 804 (23 away).