About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The 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. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Magpies lost in the forest

As the seasons go by and your footballing wisdom matures, the contrasting emotions experienced by victories and defeat tend to dim as a "seen it all before" mindset takes hold.  Yet for all sagacity of experience there comes a time when you are transported back to impetuous youth and hang your hat on the fortunes of your football team.  The FA Cup always has this effect on me as the dream of seeing Maidenhead United have a taste of the glory so often tasted by so many of our non league becomes all consuming as the first round proper gets tantalisingly closer.
For the fifth time in my life Maidenhead had an opportunity to make it into the big time.  Two of those previous attempts had been successful and although Saturday's opposition had home advantage and a higher status I travelled to Gloucestershire full of confidence.
I was joined on my journey by a train full of Harlequins fans en route to their game at Gloucester, some of whose supporters also board en route to reinforce my confidence of a United triumph in this rugby hotbed.  Alighting at Stroud, a culture clash was provided by Cameron's country set sharing the cobbles with ageing busking hippies  singing Woody Guthrie songs.  The Cotswolds as theme park image continued as I made the bus journey to Nailsworth through Tolkienesque countryside, then up the hill to the New Lawns.
The stadium is a surprising sight.  A modern, sleek construction, ideal for the needs of Forest Green Rovers, its overlooked by a hill presenting the benign gaze of a flock of sheep, with an amazing view north of the wayback to Stroud.  A pint of Marston's EPA was shared by a gathering group of United fans and who for once hugely outnumbered the home fans in the Green Man pub which is part of the stadium complex.  Forest Green's Alliance Premier status meant the travelling Magpies were ushered into an all seater stand behind one goal for the game.  A fine stand containing all the social and administrative facilities ran the length of the pitch, with the Forest Green faithful standing behind the other goal under a covered terrace. The other side was open terracing but housing the cameraman whose view would have avoided the only ugly aspect of the ground.
Hopes were high as the players emerged from the dressing room complex in the far corner but what ensued was a desperate game of football which reflected Forest Green's dire start to the season and Maidenhead's inability to create goal scoring opportunities.  The game was appropriately decided by a controversial penalty in a non threatening position in stoppage time ahead of the break.
Following the restart Maidenhead at least stopped punishing lone striker Alex Wall, who had been forced to chase countless lost causes flying over his head in the first half, and gave it the kitchen sink treatment.  For their part Rovers were so grateful for something to hang onto that they frequently packed their penalty area with all eleven men to stop an equaliser.  
With United cheered on by magnificent support they huffed and puffed but could not find a way through the Rovers defence, buoyed by the Darby and Joan singalong in the main stand.  The referee provided ample stoppage time but even the presence of goalkeeper Steve Williams in the opposing penalty area could not create the chance for an equaliser, so it was that the home team made it through to host Northampton Town in the next round.  Maidenhead United were left to the bitter disappointment of defeat with no chance of redemption for twelve months, one that left me glad that I would have three weeks to the next game to get over it.

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