ONE more chapter in an infuriating story for United this season and another game decided by a failure to score when dominating proceedings.
The winning goal for Maidstone came via a fine free-kick from Joe Pigott in a dour first period. The Gulls woke up after the break and peppered the visiting box, but were unable to break through a stubborn defence.
United boss Gary Owers handed a debut to new loan signing Jazzi Barnum-Bobb in place of Ryan Higgins, who has been away from training all week. George Dowling and Liam Davis returned to the starting line-up, with Ruairi Keating and Jennison Myrie-Williams.
Maidstone arrived at Plainmoor with confidence flowing after a tremendous win at League 2 Cheltenham in the FA Cup but it was a result that came at a price, as a red card for the dangerous Delano Sam-Yorke forced manager Jay Saunders into shuffling his forward options.
The lone striker, Pigott, was little more than a spectator in a quiet start from both teams, who, along with the Yellow Army and an impressive following from Maidstone, impeccably observed the pre-match Remembrance Day commemoration.
The bright sparks from a United perspective were Davis and Michee Efete, both of whom carrying the ball forward with real purpose at times, although goalkeeper Vincent Dorel did have to get his angles right for a low shot dragged wide by Zavon Hines.
United conjured up their best chance of the opening 20 minutes from a familiar source, as a Luke Young set-piece was only half-cleared and Efete twice forced good saves from the legs of Maidstone ‘keeper and captain Lee Worgan.
From nowhere, the visitors snatched the lead via a delicious free-kick from Pigott. It was a sweetly-struck effort and no chance for Dorel leaping to his right-hand side, but a goal that signalled another big test of United’s ability to recover from a going a goal behind.
It was, however, difficult for the Gulls to find any sort of rhythm until Young pounced on a loose ball in midfield and surged into the left channel before feeding a pass inside for Jamie Reid, but his shot was comfortable for the well-positioned Worgan.
Half-time arrived and a massive injection of tempo required to lift what had been a tepid first period from both sides, but Maidstone had the luxury of that vital goal given to them in fine fashion.
Owers opted for a change of personnel to galvanise his troops, removing Dowling and Callum Evans for the different approach offered by Myrie-Williams and Damon Lathrope.
Within a minute, Young whipped over an inviting free-kick from the left and the presence of Sean McGinty set alarm bells ringing in the Maidstone defence, but the rebounding ball was eventually pawed to safety by Worgan.
The visiting custodian was soon back in action, as a long ball forward from Young was headed into the path of Reid bursting through the middle, and he took one touch before poking a low shot goalwards that Worgan did well to palm wide.
An all-action start to the second period continued with successive corners from Young forcing Worgan into some braved punched clearances, the second of which left the Maidstone stopper clearly in some distress after a blow to the ribs.
Maidstone turned to Jamar Loza for Ollie Muldoon in a bid to disrupt United’s flow and the frustration reality was Yellow impetus had seeped away as the game entered its final quarter.
United then had their best opportunity of the day, as a tremendous surge through the middle from Myrie-Williams allowed him to release Josh McQuoid, who was clear but credit to Worgan for narrowing the angle and making a good save with his body.
Momentum was back with the Gulls but a quick succession of crosses into the box were scrambled clear by the Maidstone defence, and then Worgan gobbled up a deflected low shot from Lathrope.
Keating for McQuoid was the final roll of the dice for Owers and United were laying siege on the visiting goal. The problem was a lack of clear-cut chances and when the ball did fall nicely from a Young corner, Pigott threw himself bravely forward to block a Keating shot.
The pressure was relentless in the dying minutes but the door refused to open, and another difficult defeat to digest.
United (3-4-1-2): 30 Vincent Dorel; 2 Michee Efete, 26 Josh Gowling (capt), 5 Sean McGinty; 16 Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, 8 Luke Young, 12 Callum Evans (4 Damon Lathrope H-T), 3 Liam Davis; 24 George Dowling (27 Jennison Myrie-Williams H-T); 13 Josh McQuoid (10 Ruairi Keating 78); 19 Jamie Reid. Substitutes (not used): 1 Ryan Clarke (GK), 18 Yan Klukowski.
Maidstone United (4-5-1): 1 Lee Worgan (capt); 16 Seth Nana Twumasi, 3 Alex Finney, 5 Alex Wynter, 13 Joe Anderson; 27 Zavon Hines (2 Josh Hare 87), 12 Ollie Muldoon (7 Jamar Loza 60), 8 Stuart Lewis, 4 Reece Prestedge, 14 Jai Reason; 32 Joe Pigott. Substitutes (not used): 6 Magnus Okuonghae, 21 Harry Phipps, 22 Johan Ter Horst.
Referee: Richard Hulme
Attendance: 1,799 (234 away)