About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For nine seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The original aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. In August 2010 I also decided to write posts about all the matches I have attended. At the end of the 2010-11 season I stood down from all my duties at Maidenhead United due to an exciting development in my teaching career, but remain a director of the club and will continue to blog as time allows and inclination demands.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Thamesmead feel the Magpie heat in Crossrail derby

As the World Cup draws to a close, the 2014/15 pre season begins, in somewhat inconspicuous fashion for Maidenhead United, with a behind closed doors friendly on the Wycombe Wanderers training ground on Thursday night being followed by a game at Thamesmead Town which almost took place in secret too. Alerted by Thamesmead secretary Dave Joy to the fixture on Friday night, I hastily confirmed that it was indeed taking place and waking up to a beautiful sunny day on Saturday, elected to make the arduous journey across London. For once Tfl's journey planner recommended travel time of almost two hours was overly pessimistic and I arrived at Bayliss Avenue with plenty of time to spare before kick off. As I drew close to the ground I saw the new Crossrail depot taking shape and realised with Abbey Wood set to be one of the polar terminals to Maidenhead, that any cup tie between the two clubs from 2018 onwards would make for a much easier trip.
Welcomed by friendly Thamesmead Town officials there was little to see until both squads traipsed into the ground following their warm up on the training pitches which surround Town's Sporting Club stadium.I was surprised to recognise one name in the Thamesmead line up, that of former Magpies Les Thompson. Thompson had put in a decent shift as a right back for United last autumn so it was something of a surprise to hear that he had arrived in Kent at the end of last season and quickly impressed by scoring four goals playing in the hole behind the front two. He reprised this role in the first half and looked the part, having his team's best chance on the stroke of half time when his shot from the edge of the penalty area was touched onto the post by Elvijs Putnins.
By this time Maidenhead had taken a two goal lead with a real mixture of a starting eleven. In front of Putnins, youth team player Marcos Ushiro-Lumb started at right back with Jacob Erskine and Mark Nisbet in the middle and Leon Solomon on the left. In midfield, a possible first choice pairing of Ashley Nicholls and Eddie Hutchinson was flanked by Danny Green and Lanre Azeez, whilst up front Jonathan Hippolyte partnered Dennis Oli.
Oli a striker with an excellent CV who was at Havant & Waterlooville last season following a career spent in the lower divisions of the Football League and the Conference, was touted by Drax as a possible signing earlier in the week but was replaced early on by Stefan Brown after the drinks break. Also entering the fray in the first half was Ryan Upward, a local player with experience at Burnham and Beaconsfield SYCOB. He initially replaced Lumb before moving up the pitch into midfield when Bobby Behzadi was given a run out after the break.
After Thamesmead had possibly had the better of the opening exchanges, Maidenhead gradually took control of the game, scoring twice in three minutes before the end of the half. Danny Green opened the scoring with one of his trademark free kicks from the edge of the box before Jonathan Hippolyte took advantage of a goalkeeper well out of his area as Maidenhead counterattacked, calmly rounding the keeper before slotting the ball into an empty net.
In the second half there was the usual deluge of substitutes for both teams. For Maidenhead this included in goal Sam Gray (watched by father Peter, right back in the 1991 promotion winning team), Tom Gilbey at left back, Behzadi as mentioned on the right with new signing Simon Downer and returning ex youth team player Jamish Holait in the middle. Adrian Clifton and Daniel Brown renewed their partnership in central midfield with reserve player Isaac Osei-Tutu on the left and new signing Dave Tarpey on the right. Up front Tashan Adeyinka from Harrow Borough via Finland looked lively, combining well with Osei-Tutu to split the Town defence to score twice early on in the second half to put the result beyond doubt.
Thamesmead hit the woodwork again midway through the second half but Maidenhead had the last word when Tarpey marked his debut in United colours with a goal.
All in all a good workout and dress rehearsal for the Beer Festival match against Slough and the Chauntry Challenge Cup Final on the next two Saturdays at York Road.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The One and Only North End

Little did I realise on my first visit to Deepdale on a chilly December Saturday in 1989, that the functional covered terraced that was to be my viewing point for a dull 1-0 win for North End over Reading, was to become a semi-regular perch within a few years. As my attention drifted away from the mediocrity on show on an artificial pitch glistening with frost, I admired the steepling Kop at the far end, and the unusual barrel roofed West stand which stretched along the left hand touchline. Both structures reflected the fading tradition of a club and ground where good times were long forgotten memories. North End's fortunes were to get worse before they got better but I was to bear witness to the first sparks in a revival which eventually saw the club re-established in what in 1989 was still known in Division Two, playing at a wholly rebuilt Deepdale.
This came about when I ended up in Higher Education at what was then known as Lancashire Polytechnic. Drifting through A Levels with little thought of what do next I set my sights low by only opting for the second tier of HE admissions known as PCAS, whilst the country's finest fought it out in the UCCA process. My academic profile was suitably unimpressive so that I was only accepted by what would become the University of Central Lancashire, introduced at the open day as having an average third division  football team. Having spent the past four seasons watching Reading I watched at first hand Preston's progress, or rather lack of, and thus didn't hurry down to Deepdale once I arrived in the town in September 1991. 
I first wandered up the Deepdale Road in March 1992 for a game against Brentford, opting to stand in the Paddock in front of the main Pavilion stand."Break the Southern bastard's legs" was the cry as the game began, although I had nothing to fear in a sparse crowd of three and a half thousand, indeed the first half was something of a commercial success personally as the bloke behind me was keen to buy my cigarettes for 20p each. 
Somewhat against the odds, Preston beat the champions elect by the odd goal in five, in a game entertaining enough to entice me to return the following Saturday for  the match against Chester. This game saw Preston show what appeared to be their true colours under beleaguered manager Les Chapman, losing 3-0. This reflected a depression which had engulfed a club mired in the bottom two divsions for over a decade. During the game a group of supporters nearby paraded a bed sheet bearing the legend "please don't let our club die", defiantly waving it at the directors box above our heads in the main stand, which sparked a round of heartfelt applause from around the ground.
Relegation was just about avoided with a 17th placed finish but the following season had hardly begun before Chapman was sacked, being temporarily replaced by Sam Allardyce, who had only recently arrived as Chapman's assistant.A student discount had tempted me to go along more regularly and I was rewarded by an autumn full of entertaining games at Deepdale. Allardyce's team, in stark contrast to the reputation he would acquire once his managerial career got going, played exciting football which stimulated the crowd into passionate support. Helped by what was often a large away following, there was a fair atmosphere round the ground that autumn, which suggested a latent potential was being tapped.
On the pitch striker Tony Ellis had returned from Stoke in the summer and regained his terrace hero status with a hat trick away at Blackpool. Midfielders Lee Cartwright and Lee Ashcroft provided dynamism and flair whilst centre back Mike Flynn was as forthright a defender as they come. Flynn typified the way the players seemed to enjoy playing for Allardyce turning to the Paddock with a broad grin after he had taken out an opponent. However performances came secondary to results for the board who after much consideration decided to look elsewhere for a permanent replacement for Chapman. 
In the meantime I enjoyed a masterclass from Peter Shilton to ensure Plymouth took home all three points, an afternoon of terrace banter aimed at Stoke's Graham Shaw whose swap deal with Ellis was rumoured to be the result of Mrs Shaw's off the pitch activities, and a cracking Lancashire derby with Bolton Wanderers which ended 2-2. Best of all though was an FA Cup 1st Round replay against Bradford which the Bantams won 5-4, a result which probably sealed Allardyce's fate.
His replacement was football pariah John Beck, which led me to temporarily elect to call a halt to my trips to Deepdale, a decision that appeared to be vindicated when North End ended the season by being relegated to Division Four.
With little to do of a Saturday afternoon in Preston, and being curious to see how bad basement football was, I returned to Deepdale the following autumn, and to my surprise soon got caught up in the fervour which Beck had created, following the team all the way to Wembley. Knowing it would take a while to turn the team round on the pitch with his radical methods, Beck had gone all out to reach the hearts and minds of the Preston support. Instrumental in this was the decision to return the Town End to the home supporters, pushing the away fans into the terrace in front of the west stand. The passion generated within the new home end, in spite of the often meagre away following made it the place to be, as Beck encouraged fans to do everything they could to get behind the team. Thus there were flags and banners (I particularly liked the Galatasary one after they had beaten Manchester United), and Dave the Trumpeter, who would sound the advance everytime the Preston keeper launched another ball forward.
The football was certainly ugly, a series of long balls pumped forward without mercy, whilst the youth team ringed the touchline with towels ready to dry the ball so it could be propelled forward with equal directness, but results followed with home games won week in week out, Preston topping the table as autumn turned into winter.
Beck was equally ruthless with his selection policy. Players either complied or they were out. Ellis and Cartwright remained. Fringe player Ryan Kidd came to the fore with some wholehearted performances in defence. Youngster Gareth Ainsworth impressed on the right wing, with the experience of David Moyes, Paul Raynor and Ian Bryson all used to good effect. Much of the squad flew out of favour as quickly as they had come in and it was this intolerance of anyone deemed to have diverted from the method, which ultimately saw Beck's team fall just short of promotion.
Notice that the side needed a little extra was served in November when Football League rookies Wycombe Wanderers came to Deepdale. Under the leadership of Martin O'Neill Wanderers were looking for back to back promotions following their Conference title win the previous season. The match was duly built up by the local media, O'Neill rattling me at least when he responded to a reporter's question about turning down the Notttingham Forest job with a patronising reply about it being his fault if he ended up in charge at Maidenhead United, a put down he used with annoying regularity throughout his managerial career.
Wycombe won the game 3-2 thanks to a late goal from Tony Hemmings. The fervour generated by the game was infectious enough to outlive this disappointment and I was hooked by the passion on display. Off the pitch I remember a man sitting in the West Stand baby on one arm rising to shake his fist at the away fans below him. On it, as North End tried in vain to equalise in stoppage time, Paul Raynor responded to an injured opponent by picking him up off the ground and planting him firmly back on his feet.
Despite this setback Preston's promotion challenge continued through the winter and spring as I watched from the Town End, my favourite moment coming when one of Tom Finney's youngest relatives was introduced to the crowd before a game, and then cheered as he toddled from the centre circle, ball at his feet, towards the Town End goal.
As the business end of the season arrived, any hopes of automatic promotion were extinguished on the last day in April, when Carlisle United won 3-0 in the sunshine, the final whistle seeing home and away supporters streaming out across the road into Moor Park to settle their differences.
So Preston provided my first experience of the play offs. They lost the first leg of their semi final tie at Torquay 2-0, and when United, lent support by some Blackpool fans I knew, restored their two goal advantage fifteen minutes into the second leg, the season looked to be over for North End. The crowd who had seen their roars of support at kick off rewarded by an early goal from Tony Ellis, were stunned when Gregory Goodridge waltzed through the defence to equalise, but the relentless in your face attitude of the Preston team sparked the game's turning point ten minutes ahead of the interval. The ever fiery Raynor was decked by Torquay defender Darren Moore sparking an inevitable melee which was followed by Moore's dismissal. This ignited the atmosphere once more and Moyes had put Preston back in the lead by half time. A Stuart Hicks goal soon after the break levelled the aggregate score but in an ever more tense game Preston could not force a winner meaning the tie went into extra time. The tension was reflected by my cigarette consumption and as I sucked on the last one, the winning goal finally arrived from Raynor with four minutes to go. The final whistle saw the fans stream onto the pitch, myself included, many taking the opportunity to rip up a piece of the plastic pitch, the match being the last to be played on an artificial surface in England to date.
A friend in London providing accommodation meant I was able to take the opportunity to go down south for the play off and so having bought my ticket I could enjoying the experience of living in a town preparing for a Wembley final. In pleasingly traditional style, shop fronts were decorated and Football special trains were organised. As well as the usual charms being displayed, fragments of the plastic pitch were also a frequent sight. 
Wycombe were to provide the final opposition to promotion, so surely this would lead to appropriate revenge for the game earlier in the season. It looked that way when a spectacular overhead kick from Bryson gave North End the lead, which despite being equalised within a minute, was restored by Raynor before half time. The second half though saw Wycombe sweep away Preston with three goals to romp to promotion, Beck's bold move in effectively sacking Hicks after the Torquay game and replacing him with teenager Jamie Squires backfiring as the youngster's inexperience was targeted by Wycombe.
My time in Preston soon ended with graduation and Beck didn't last much longer as his hubris refused to countenance any change in tactics despite a decline in results the following season. The historical allure of this old school club based in a declining northern industrial town meant there would always be a place in my heart for Preston North End and I have continued to go once or twice a season ever since. Ironically these have exclusively been away games bar one visit to the new Deepdale, naturally taking advantage of a free Saturday or midweek evening to see Preston play down south. Thus I was at Orient when Preston eventually won Division Four under the management of Gary Peter in 1996, and then in the best example of Beck's legacy saw David Moyes team triumph by a single Michael Appleton goal at Craven Cottage in 2000, with Paul McKenna outstanding in the midfield against Jean Tigana's Fulham who had won all eleven league games from the start of the season to that point.
Their failure to make the final step into the Premier League despite a long stay in the division below has seen Preston fall back to where I found them, only in much better shape with a rebuilt Deepdale and crowds to match. Fortunately they seem to be over the worst of their financial struggles and not only thanks to their unique appendage will always remain to me the one and only North End.

A gallery of my Preston North End memorabilia can be see here: http://prestonpause.tumblr.com/

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Staying Up

I dislike relegation matches more than anything else in football. Being a Maidenhead United fan I've seen more than my fair share in recent years and there is nothing worse than the utter despair felt at that the final whistle which confirms that there are no more chances left to beat the drop.
I accept I'd given up the ghost of Maidenhead United surviving after the Farnborough defeat. I was however correct in my assertion that at least seven points would be required from the final three games of the season. Two amazing wins against the odds over Ebbsfleet and Havant had set up the possibility of a great escape on the final day at Bishop Stortford, if anything the easiest of the three games particularly as the Blues had played their County Cup Final on Wednesday, a game which went to extra time and penalties.
Nothing of course is ever easy for Maidenhead United though and a pitch showing the wear and tear of the wet season, and a strong wind meant it was going to be a real battle from every angle. The influence of the wind was shown early on when Jonathan Henly uncharacteristically dropped a cross under pressure from Cliff Akurang only for Sean Francis to shoot wide.
The Magpies soon settled with the central defensive midfield bulwark of Bobby Behzadi and Mark Nisbet helping to soak up the attacking threat. With 27 minutes gone Maidenhead won a free kick about ten yards outside the penalty area. With my usual foresight I confidently advised Advertiser journalist Dan Darlington that Maidenhead never make anything of set pieces. So Harry Pritchard swung the ball in from the right and Jacob Erskine rose highest to direct a glancing header into the back of the net to put the Magpies ahead. With Hayes and Whitehawk both losing all we needed was the final whistle to blow.
In the ubiquitous words of Manish Bhasin though, there were plenty more twists and turns in this relegation battle yet to come. Henly was again beaten by a cross, this time from a corner, Callum McNaughton heading the ball over the bar. News then emerged that Whitehawk were leading and Hayes were drawing. No panic though as Maidenhead looked pretty comfortable leaders and now sat fifth bottom.
The half time break was interrupted by the confirmation that Sutton had once more taken the lead down in Sussex, the game seeming to be five minutes behind everyone else (sharp practice by the home team?) meaning United kicked off with even more security.
Anyone thinking that Stortford would take it easy on their opponents were swiftly denuded of their misconception as within minutes of the restart Akurang twice went close to an equaliser, squandering two golden chances to seriously test Henly. As the half drew on both teams went close to scoring. With the Magpies now kicking into the wind, Reece Prestedge headed against his own crossbar from a United corner whilst Harry Grant had an effort cleared off the line whilst Henly was forced to push away a Sam Cutler free kick.
Off the pitch events took a surreal turn as some Maidenhead fans in fancy dress embarked on lap of honour in conga formation. As they approached the home end, panicking stewards rushed to form a human barrier to stop the two sets of fans meeting. Only for, in the style of Paul MacCartney's Pipes of Peace, the Stortford fans to reach across and then breach the divide to shake hands and dance with their comrades. The procession was then allowed to continue untrammelled, receiving a well deserved round of applause as they danced along the front of the main stand, the noise rippling along like a Mexican Wave.
As many as ten minutes remained when the Magpies started to try and keep the ball in the corner to waste time as it became clear that Stortford would finish the stronger team. With two minutes left Leon Solomon cleared off the line whilst Whitehawk equalised again. It was a relief to see that only three minutes of stoppage time were indicated but in the second of these an Akurang shot looped goalward, dipping late to force Henly to tip the ball over the bar. As the clock ticked into that deadly 93rd minute two Magpies conspired to divert the corner over their own line to gift the home team an equaliser from which there was no time to respond.
At this point I'd had enough and disappeared into the bar on my own as everyone else waited outside to hear what fate would bring. In a supreme twist of irony, Whitehawk could not force a win, whilst Hayes lost to a late penalty to leave Maidenhead safe in eighteenth position. I say ironic as just two years ago a last minute winner for the Magpies proved to be in vain as Havant went on to score in their game to save themselves.
So United had completed their greatest of escapes with an unbelievable set of results in the last week of the season. Personally I was pleased Erskine had scored the vital goal, as for all but a couple of games since he arrived in October, he had played out of position in central defence, acquitting himself admirably for a striker.
Speculation then inevitably shifted to the manager's position but that news will wait for another day...

Monday, 21 April 2014

EU Referendum sees Magpies stay in

My despair at the result at Farnborough on Saturday looked set to influence my view of the game at York Road this afternoon, until a few cocky tweets from Ebbsfleet fans en route to the game stirred the blood enough to hope for a result to upset their promotion applecart.
Drax threw the dice one last time with his team selection, recalling Lanre Azeez, Reece Tison-Lascaris and Brett Longden in place of Harrys Grant and Pritchard, and Richard Pacquette. The impact of fresh legs into the team worked a treat from the kick off as Maidenhead took advantage of Ebbsfleet's initial strategy to sit back and attempt to hit the Magpies on the break. 
The opening stages saw Maidenhead take the upper hand with Lanre Azeez forcing goalkeeper Preston Edwards into early action but a sign of things to come came in the sixteenth minute when the United custodian Jonathan Henly made the first of a string of good saves.
An open game then ensued with Danny Green forcing Edwards to push a shot wide, then Henly spilled a long range effort only to safely gather the loose ball before Ebbsfleet could capitalise. Henly was then at his best to save a flicked header from a free kick, Maidenhead going onto cash in on their goalkeeper's good form by taking the lead with three minutes of the half remaining when Green converted an Azeez cross.
Within seconds of the restart Henly was again called into action as Maidenhead began their task of holding onto their hard earned lead. However United retained an attacking threat throughout the game, having three good penalty shouts being turned down. The lion's share of the goal mouth action remained in the Magpies' penalty area though, Ebbsfleet's day being summed up by a shot that was turned onto the crossbar by Henly, who collected the rebound cleanly only to be flattened for his trouble.
With twenty minutes left, it seemed the day belonged to Maidenhead when a shot from Anthony Cook hit the post and rebounded across the face of the goal, Henly was beaten a couple more times before the end, only for his defence to sweep up behind him. 
As the referee indicated an extra five minutes to be played Pritchard tested Edwards once more, with the introduction of Pacquette ensuring there was the experience on show to run the clock down near the corner flag.
As news came through that Dover had pegged back Whitehawk with a late equaliser, the final whistle sounded to confirm that Maidenhead would live to fight another day. Indeed regardless of what happens in midweek at Havant there will be something to play for at Bishops' Stortford next week, a testament to the unity of purpose shown by the players today to shut out a team destined for the play offs.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Magpies sunk by Colmer & co., I know its serious

My antipathy to the football clubs of Hampshire has been well explored on this blog.  Following the evidence of today's match at Farnborough and the Southern League Premier Division table, it looks like I won't be seeing Maidenhead United playing any league matches in the county next season.
In a match that seemed to reflect much of what had gone before it since mid September, Maidenhead arguably had the better of the game for the first hour or so before a failure to take a commanding lead, and then the concession of a soft goal led to an abject collapse in the final stages.
This set up was given a dry run in the first half when Maidenhead looked the better team going forward, particularly Harry Pritchard down the left wing but none of the balls into the penalty area led to a goal attempt of note. Instead it was goalkeeper Jonathan Henly who was called into action to ensure the score remained goalless at half time when in the last minute of the half a Mark Nisbet slip let in Phillip Page only for the Reading loanee to successfully shepherd the striker wide and the ball into touch.
After the break United came out of the blocks with renewed purpose. Within three minutes of the restart Danny Green forced a corner with a shot that was pushed behind by goalkeeper Ross Fitzsimons. The corner kick found its way to the far post where Richard Pacquette lashed the ball goalbound from close range only for Fitzsimons to throw himself across the face of his goal to block the shot.
Soon after the game began to turn the home team's way with the introduction of substitute JJ Hooper. As Maidenhead ran out of ideas, the Magpies defence lost its discipline Josh Huggins finding a way through it to deliver a pass to the unmarked Fraser Colmer at the far post who completed the elementary task of tapping the ball into an empty net. With only twenty two minutes remaining to retrieve the situation United had little option but to attack at all costs, and in the dying minutes Farnborough exploited this to put the result beyond doubt as firstly Huggins converted a similar chance to the one he had created earlier, and then Hooper struck the third and final goal with a shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Do you really think we'll pull through? My well of hope is dry. I was even denied a peaceful trip home in the company of Gregory Porter by the unnecessarily cheerful babbling of my fellow passengers. The end of the season cannot come soon enough.

Judge ment day for Brentford

Good Friday presented an ideal opportunity for some afternoon entertainment with Brentford taking on Preston North End at Griffin Park, a short bus ride from my home. At start of play both sides had a chance of automatic promotion, although Brentford's was far more viable, with Preston guaranteed a play off place anyway, the system for which was explained to some young fans by an elder relative sat in front of me on the 237 en route to the game. 
A carnival atmosphere was guaranteed whatever the result due to the game being allocated as "Gentry Day" by Preston fans, a new tradition instituted a handful of years ago whereby anyone associated with the club who had passed away in the previous twelve months is remembered. Taking place towards the end of the season at an away game the Preston fans dress up to reflect their reputation as football's gentry as judged by former manager Alan Ball. Typically the only concession to dressing up is to wear a bowler hat and there were plenty on display as of course this year Tom Finney's memory was being honoured. Over 1500 supporters travelled down from Lancashire to boost the crowd to a figure just shy of 11,000, with little space available anywhere around this tight little ground.
I've always liked travelling to Griffin Park where a good atmosphere is virtually guaranteed due to the proximity of spectators to the pitch. Hemmed in by houses and its famous pub on every corner, it will be a sad loss if Brentford move to a new ground at the nearby Lionel Road site. It also presented a rare opportunity to stand on a proper terrace at the now covered Ealing Road end, packed to boot due to the possibility of Brentford winning promotion.
View from Ealing Road before the game
The Bees would go up if Rotherham failed to win at champions elect Wolves (quite likely) and Orient lost at Crawley (quite unlikely as the Os had only lost twice on the road all season). Preston could still get promoted automatically if they won all their remaining games.
Thus there was plenty to play for although this seemed to have a suffocating effect on the game which was scrappy to say the least. Both teams revealed an unquenchable desire to win but when either created a promising attacking position neither was able to do much with it. 
The first half saw the only goal of the game but was fairly even. Preston tended to sit back with the midfield and defence seeming to merge into a line of eight players looking to launch quick counter attacks, whilst Brentford aimed to make inroads down either wing.
Preston's approach was the first to bear fruit when Craig Davies and Neil Kilkenny had shots blocked at the last ditch in quick succession. This was to be the closest that North End came to scoring though and Brentford scored the decisive goal on the half hour mark. 
In a penalty area scramble which reflected the match Preston missed several chances to clear their lines before George Saville was brought down and a penalty awarded, much to the anger of the North Enders. Alan Judge despatched the spot kick in rather fortunate circumstances, his weak shot hitting the middle of the net as Declan Rudd dived to his left.
Brentford held onto their lead until half time, Preston re-emerging for the second half some time after their opponents to little effect as the Bees totally dominated the rest of the game and should have won rather comfortably than the scoreline suggests.The most impressive aspect of the Bees performance was the will to win and tenacity of the whole team which was exemplified by James Tarkowski and Alan McCormack. They were first to every loose ball and regularly looked on the verge of a second goal but a lack of a decent striker meant the only time a goal came close in open play came soon after the break when a Clayton Donaldson shot hit the post and struck the back of Rudd's head only for the rebound to go harmlessly wide.
Late in the game Brentford should have made sure of the result when Jack King needlessly wrestled Donaldson to the ground for a second penalty. On this occasion Judge slipped in his run up and farcically ballooned the ball over the crossbar.
With other results now going Brentford's way, the Bees lay second in the table but the penalty miss set alight memories of the amazing turnaround against Doncaster at the end of last season, with three Preston substitutes boosting their hopes of an equaliser. Despite a few nervy moments though this did not come, the final whistle eventually sounding just before 5 pm to signal the pitch invasion to celebrate promotion.
Some people are on the pitch
Nobody would begrudge Brentford a return to Division Two after a 21 year absence and it will be good to see Griffin Park host the likes of QPR again although their squad will need an injection of quality if they are to emulate Bournemouth rather than Yeovil next season.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Two bald men fighting over a comb

A desperate game contested at York Road yesterday by two teams who needed to win and certainly couldn't lose. Thus there was no lack of competitive spirit and perhaps a little too much at times, like the pair of follically challenged combatants, as soon as either team got what they wanted. i.e. a decent attacking position, they had little idea about what to do with it. Neither keeper was required to make a significant save all afternoon. Maybe Maidenhead had the lion's share of possession, maybe Tonbridge looked more threatening in the final third, but the main talking point was the fracas that exploded in the dressing room area following the double dismissal of Ryan Watts and Danny Green with about twenty minutes remaining.
Already the tension had led to a confrontation between the dugout personnel over a foul just the other side of the line which saw Bobby Behzadi end up on the deck. Following the break down of an attack Green threw the ball at Watts who responded by throwing it back at Green as the winger turned his back, the ball hitting his head. The referee saw the last part of the exchange and immediately dismissed Watts. Cue outrage from his teammates which led to the referee to consult the linesman who had a perfect view of the incident and thus left no option but to send off Green too. In all honesty it all could have been settled by the two players shaking hands as the ball was thrown with little venom by either party, but unfortunately the pair continued their conversation when they reached the dressing room leading to the bizarre sight of everyone rushing off the pitch to get involved whilst the spectators could see nothing of it.
This proved to be the only real talking of a goalless deadlock which on the part of Maidenhead only Richard Pacquette had the chances to break, at either end of the game, but both shots sailed over the bar.
So now Maidenhead have a week off to recharge their batteries before the final assault to break back into the Conference South for next season with four games in the last eight days of the season.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Supersonic Concord leave Maidenhead for dust

Life watching Maidenhead United used to be very different in the 90s. Crowds at York Road were about half of what they are now, and a significant part of the Isthmian League season involved playing clubs from Essex.
Essex clubs were always of a type, hard working, ultra competitive and often as a consequence over achieving. Concord Rangers provided a reminder of these times on Thursday night, playing at a high tempo which appeared to be unsustainable but which they managed to maintain throughout, effectively spoiling any attempts by Maidenhead to get a toehold in the game, and operating as a tag team to continuously bark at the referee.
As with Saturday, Maidenhead threatened early on when Harry Pritchard cut in from the left and had a shot which was pushed round the post by Jamie Butler. Thereafter Rangers doubled up their marking of Pritchard to largely nullify his influence.
In the eighteenth minute man of the match Seedy Njie went over Brett Longden's leg on the byline to win a penalty which Danny Glozier converted. Maidenhead worked hard to retrieve the situation and if they had gone into the interval only one goal down I had hopes that they would overtake a tiring Rangers in the second half. Neither part of that equation came to pass though as firstly Mark Nisbet repeated Longden's foul. This took place outside the penalty area but former Magpie Sam Collins struck the kick fiercely and unfortunately a couple of deflections saw it land at the feet of an unmarked Steve King who finished from close range to double the lead.
Any hopes of a Maidenhead revival were quashed within five minutes of the restart when in the best move of the game, Njie went through on goal and beat Henly with a neat finish. With the game all but over, it became a frustrating affair to watch as Concord's continual spoiling tactics sucked Maidenhead into earning a string of yellow cards, Daniel Brown getting two and an early bath with 15 minutes left.
Five minutes earlier, Danny Green had forced Butler to push his shot from distance wide. From the resulting corner a Brown shot appeared to be heading goalward, Richard Pacquette helping it over the line, only for the linesman's flag to be raised for offside. Despite going down to ten men, Maidenhead continued to enjoy their best part of the game and eventually pulled a goal back when Leon Solomon headed in a Pritchard free kick.
With Concord harbouring play off ambitions the result was not unexpected and fortunately with Tonbridge only taking one out of six midweek points on offer, Saturday's game remains as much must not lose as must win.