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.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Sporting Spirit

George Orwell's first published work is reputed to be a childhood letter written to the Henley Standard. He went onto be educated at Eton but despite his local origins I think its safe to say that unlike former Magpie and Etonian teacher Andy Jennings' pupils he never went to watch football at York Road. His opposition to organised competitive sport was later articulated in his essay entitled "The Sporting Spirit". The following passage sums up the article and contains one of his most famous phrases: 

"People want to see one side on top and the other side humiliated, and they forget that victory gained through cheating or through the intervention of the crowd is meaningless. Even when the spectators don't intervene physically they try to influence the game by cheering their own side and "rattling" opposing players with boos and insults. Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting."

Strong stuff indeed, but at a time when an individual deems it right to send Neil Lennon a parcel bomb, simply for being the manager of Celtic, does Orwell have a point? All too often something will happen during a televised game to move the commentator to say something along the lines of football being "put into perspective". Does the mere fact that we need reminding about the need for such perspective prove Orwell right, that we are all too eager to adopt "the lunatic modern habit of identifying oneself with large power units and seeing everything in terms of competitive prestige?". Maybe? Or maybe not?

With his impeccable upper class origins Orwell singularly failed to understand the function of sport, which is to escape the workaday worries of the nine to five grind and vent your frustrations for ninety minutes before going back to reality. It took the son of a miner, Bill Shankly, in one of the most misunderstood footballing quotes to perfectly capture the real meaning of the sporting spirit: "Someone said to me 'To you football is a matter of life or death!' and I said 'Listen, it's more important than that'." With his tongue firmly in his cheek Shanks conveys the power of the game to blank out all that really matters in life for the duration of the match you are watching so that when the final whistle goes your emotions are spent ready for you to leave planet football for planet earth.

Yet I feel this is only true for those of us who actually attend matches and therefore create real relationships with everyone else involved. This cannot be the same for those who confine themselves to the sphere of TV, radio and the internet. Here relations become detached giving rise to the demons that Orwell warned against. Many view non league as "real" football. In my mind all football watched live at the ground is real and to some extent I wish a replacement could be found for the non league tag. Certainly the best way to keep it real is close your mind to the rubbish spouted by the media to maintain perpetually overhyped headlines and instead stick to the genuine sporting spirit, that of bearing witness to the game in the flesh and enjoying the heady emotions created by those around you.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Not there yet

A glorious day was surely set fair to see Maidenhead complete their escape from relegation. It looked that way when at the start of the second half Jefferson Louis gave United the lead from a penalty which also saw Dorchester reduced to ten men. But the goal also heralded the arrival onto the field of play of Kyle Critchell. Rumour had it that the Dorset club had opted to save money by dispensing with the team coach only for Critchell's car to break down with his subsequent late arrival at York Road leading him to be relegated on the bench. His exuberant presence on joining the game more than made up for the loss of his teammate, not least with a thumping header to equalise. Other results, especially Lewes' late winner at Havant means what happens on Monday afternoon will dictate the level of tension next Saturday. 

Saturday, 23 April 2011

There and back again at the Lane

Taking the long miserable walk up from Seven Sisters Underground station along Tottenham High Road to White Hart Lane, a walk incidentally not brightened up the Easter sun, I pondered the status of the North London derby. Certainly in the English top three, probably bigger than City v United, on a par with Everton v Liverpool? Tonight though was about more than North London pride with three points essential for both sides. Add in the rivalry though and you get an exhilarating no holds barred contest which must have been thrilling to watch on TV. Stuck in the upper tier of the Park Lane though it was more of a harrowing emotional rollercoaster as Arsenal lived up to the music hall joke of being worse than a pet dog which can at least hold a lead.
So there was pandemonium when Theo Walcott gave the Gunners the lead, followed by an unbelievable crescendo of noise from the majority of those in the ground when Rafael Van Der Vaart equalised straightaway. Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie's goals at least meant there wouldn't be a repeat of the proceedings in the corresponding match at Arsenal last autumn, but Tom Huddlestone's goal just ahead of half time gave notice that the game wasn't over.
Tottenham's resilience bore fruit when they equalised again from Van Der Vaart's penalty, and they seemed to most likely to win at this point as Arsenal seemed to be running on empty, lacking the mental capacity if nothing else to create a fourth goal. Like two prizefighters who had been slugging punches at each other all evening, fatigue took away the goal scoring edge leaving the game a draw. In the short term a point was no good for either team, but surely the night will live long in the memory as the genuine El Classico on show on Wednesday. A point some of the Tottenham fans seemed to want to put to us as they waited impatiently on the corner of Park Lane as the Arsenal fans streamed out.

Always different, always the same

Staines - horrible name, lovely place. Taking a leisurely evening stroll along the Thames en route to Wheatsheaf Park I contemplated the thought that I was at last going to a Maidenhead United game in positive expectation. Winning breeds confidence in everybody, whether they be players, coaching staff, directors or supporters and it was wonderful to arrive at a game where every Magpie had a smile on their face. The reward for the optimism was to be a late winner courtesy of a Ashley Smith never mind the quality check the scoreline finish two minutes from time, delivering the three points which looked certain in the first half once Alex Wall had given United the lead with a bullet header but apparently were lost when Staines took charge after the break, equalising through Warren Harris and seeming most like to score again before Maidenhead ended the game the stronger.
All in all a good day's work which began when I travelled to Ealing library on behalf of Mark Smith who is putting the finishing touches to his book which will cover 140 years of the York Road club's history. I was searching for details of Maidenhead's encounters with Hanwell in the first decade of the twentieth century. Unfortunately there was little to add to the information Mark already had. Maidenhead won all the games under review but quite the opposite was true of my afternoon assignment at Hounslow library.
Here in the Middlesex Chronicle I found news of a Hounslow team that regularly beat Maidenhead but when for example Maidenhead turned up with only eight players and missed a penalty as they did in 1905 its hardly surprising!
What's striking about the research are the parallels with today, for example comments about the spirit the in which the game was played and the quality of the play. Above all though its good to have a reminder of how little has changed as is shown by the news that a game at York Road saw the home team lose the toss to face a glaring sun and having to play up a slope. 
At Staines it depends on where you look, wandering up from the river I imagine I'm taking in a scene similar to that seen by many over the decades until I arrive at the ground and find their impressive but incongruous health club come main stand plonked next to a ground hemmed in by houses. 
Then the game itself saw the usual mixture of goals, misses, fouls and questionable refereeing decisions all producing the usual reactions from the excitable crowd. That's football always the same script, rarely the same  outcome.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Two Wise Men

"There has to be more reality in life... Football is a very small part of the universe... Football is in great danger of people needing something to get them out of their humdrum lives and the worries they've got, and so they expect their team to deliver. Look at Bolton, who got beat fair and square at the weekend, and some of their fans left Wembley so early it was unreal. Yes, the M1 was blocked but they were leaving in the first half. What is that all about? FA Cup semi-final, they might not get there ever again, and because their team didn't give them what they wanted some of them left. Some did it here at the weekend. It's nonsense. We are all trying our best. I've never met a manager or a player who deliberately goes out to lose or doesn't try his best. They might be on a lot of money, a ridiculously obscene amount of money, but they are still trying. It's a funny old world and I just wish everyone health and happiness, but I am not going to lose mine over a game."

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Looking for Eric

Ken Loach is a director with form where football is concerned as anyone who has watched the painfully hilarious match from Kes will testify. Include his time on the board at Bath City and its clear he's someone who knows the game.

His films typically shine a searing spotlight on human injustice laced with a healthy dose of humour but in Looking for Eric he steps into the realm of the surreal to brilliant effect.
Set in Manchester in the first decade of the twenty first century, Looking for Eric tells the story of Eric Bishop (played by Steve Evets), a Manchester United fan with a complicated personal life. Bishop is a postman, struggling to cope with looking after two teenage step sons on his own. He is also looking after his baby granddaughter which brings him into contact with his first wife who he deserted whilst pregnant after their wedding.
Realising the mess he has made of  his life, and yearning after his first love he falls into a heap of self pity only to be confronted in a dream by his hero Eric Cantona (playing himself). Cantona urges Bishop to take inspiration from his expolits on the football field and take control of his life. Following his advice Bishop starts to do just that, with Cantona now a permanent presence in his self conscious. He's thrown off course though when one of his sons gets involved with a local gangster, a problem he is unable to solve alone and offering him the  prospect of leaving him in a worse situation than ever. However with the help of his fellow United fans Bishop is able to find a way to save his son with a plan he calls "Operation Cantona" in a thrilling, heartwarming climax to a wonderful film.

This film is more than a good story though as it deals with universal themes which are well known if not openly acknowledged by football supporters. There is the solidarity of joint purpose, forged by shared experience which leads to the happy ending. The banter of mates well honed after years of practice to border on the mean without crossing the line into nastiness provides humour throughout. Finally the need for heroes to inspire and challenge everyone not to settle for second best and instead to live out their dreams rather than sit and wonder what might have been is an example for all to follow.
Add in footage to remind you of the fantastic impact Cantona himself had on the English game in the 90s and you have a great couple of hours entertainment for the seasoned football fan with even a hint of topicality with a pub debate about the FC United of Manchester project. In short whatever your prejudice towards any of Loach's other films, drop it and take a fresh look with Eric.

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Only Way Is Essex

It's no big secret that Essex is scarcely my favourite football county, however this is primarily down to envy as some of the best non league teams have come from the region in the last 20 years.  From memory at one time the Magpies had as many as nine league trips to Essex with all guaranteed to be a tough encounter with odds against black and white success. Visits to Thurrock, or Purfleet as they used to be known, lived up to this stereotype, and this was very much the case on Saturday with the twist that the game turned into a smash and grab raid by the Magpies to leave their hosts in despair.  Maidenhead goals at either end of the game with Thurrock dominating much of the rest of proceedings outlined the perfect outcome for the away fans.
This felt like a just reward after an arduous journey across London which took longer than the trip to Lewes two weeks previously. Still there was plenty to amuse en route starting with the Manchester City fans who filled the District line train pointing in bewildered fashion at the tube map, thus giving the lie to their lack of recent visits to Wembley. Light blue changed to claret and blue as I arrived in West Ham country at the Stratford building site readying itself for next year's Olympics. A quick train trip through the industrial sprawl of East London ended at Rainham where I got on a packed bus to the ground. Inevitably these were shoppers on the way to Lakeside and I was the only passenger to alight at the Hotel for this key relegation clash.
On the way I was pleasantly surprised by the scenery of rural cottages with views of Kent. After tracking the A13 for a while we left Billy Bragg's gateway to the sea for a detour around the village of Aveley passing the entrance to Mill Field, home of the local football club which can just about be seen from Thurrock's ground. As we did so I wondered what might have been for the Millers who last season reached the Isthmian league play offs under Rod Stringer before he departed with some of the squad for Braintree taking them to the cusp of the Alliance Premier whilst Aveley fight against relegation. I also mused whether the only fanzine that paid the reader to take it was still going. Called "There's only one Reggie Harris" the Aveley zine came with a penny attached to every copy. The team behind it mined a rich seam of surrealism, one of their number once watching a game at York Road dressed as the Pink Panther in protest at the recent sacking of the manager.
Anyway back to the present day and the glorious sunshine seemed to reflect the disposition of the travelling Magpies buoyed by Tuesday night's home win. Pre match talk was full of the possibility that a win could lift United up to fifth bottom and all was going to plan when Anthony Thomas converted a fourth minute penalty.
Thurrock though soon took command with Maidenhead having to dig deep to hang onto their coat tails at 1-1. Their spirit was personified by chairman Tommy South who was at the game in a wheelchair after sustaining serious injuries in an accident whilst carrying out ground maintenance. However once midfield talisman Matt Bodkin departed with cramp their challenge faded, leaving Maidenhead to deliver a killer punchline with a goal from Max Worsfold worthy of a promotion rather than a relegation battle. Still with eight minutes of stoppage time there was plenty of cup style tension but as with the Eastleigh win this was just about dealt with to redeem the pre match hopes of the Maidenhead fans.
Ten points out of the last twelve suggest the force is now very much with United to escape but Thurrock are definitely the best of the other strugglers and I've a feeling that despite the body language on display at the final whistle the season is not over yet for either.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Calypso Collapso

Returned as planned for the morning session to see the mouthwatering prospect of Finn and Collymore v. Cook and Bopara. This was to be a day for the bowlers though with sixteen wickets falling before my departure shortly before tea. With all ten of the Essex first innings wickets either bowled, lbw or caught behind, the grey overcast clouds seemed to be doing their work producing more swing than a 70s suburban dinner party. Focusing on Cook it was insightful to see the influence of his mentor Gooch on his fidgety awkward wait for the delivery before issuing a stroke.  Not that there were many of those though in a brief innings of 19 in which he was also dropped at slip. His dismissal was the first of two in two balls for Collymore who surprising bowled a bouncer for the hat trick ball to Westley (maybe known as a hooker?). Westley went onto top score with 36 as his team mates fell around him with Murtagh and Berg wrapped up the tail just after lunch sending the scoreboard into meltdown. This remarkably gave Middlesex the opportunity to follow on something that must have seemed a remote prospect when just 24 hours earlier they were 115-5.
By this time I had returned to my favoured spectating position of the Warner upper. I had spent the morning on the pavilion middle balcony but couldn't take any more of the tortuous wooden seats. Can't they find some kind of leather/rubber substitute which looks aesthetically pleasing?
Meanwhile Billy Godleman completed a nightmare return to his alma mater by again falling for a low score as Gooch looked on from the away balcony with an even more hangdog expression than usual if that's possible. Cook and Mickleburgh looked to be on the road to recovery, particularly when Cook stroked two fluid cover drives in one over to take the score past 50. However once the Ashes hero had fallen to a brilliant caught and bowled effort from Finn it was calypso collapso time again as the score swiftly fell to 90-6 offering Middlesex the opportunity to wrap up the win in two days.
By the time I had got home Essex had avoided this possibility and that of an embarrassing innings defeat but with Middlesex needing just 53 for victory I'm left to mull over whether its worth popping into see the inevitable denouement before going onto the Magpies relegation play off at Thurrock.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Good Immigration?

As David Cameron delivered his immigration speech, presumably direct from the set of Midsomer Murders, the Middle Saxons were taking on the East Saxons in the home team's opening County Championship match of the season at Lords. I wondered what his views are on the Saxon invasion are, good immigration or bad?
Despite the chilly air I steeled myself to go along to the afternoon session on Day One armed with a large flask of tea and a somewhat smaller one of rum. Arriving at the lunchtime score of 111-2 I settled down in the Warner stand upper tier to see David Masters and Reece Topley finish off the Middlesex top five. 
Eventually discovered Topley is the scion of Don, former Essex player who had his fifteen minutes of fame at Lords when used as a substitute by England in 1984 in the Blackwash series against the West Indies.  Seem to remember he made a catch which was then nullified by a no ball call but my new Playfair annual had no details of Topley senior or junior.
Finding the warming results of tea laced with rum to be beneficial I then sat back to watch Berg and Simpson repair the damage with a stand of 66 before in typical fashion both fell just ahead of the tea interval, when I left too, hopefully to return tomorrow morning to salute Ashes hero Alistair Cook as he walks to the crease to continue Essex's innings which overnight stood at a 0-0 in response to Middlesex's 277 all out.

Wombling free

The joy of the previous night led me to seek out some more football on Wednesday with the formality of Real Madrid's victory over Tottenham Hotspur not appealing as I had already seen Joe Jordan on the losing side watching his son Tom's Eastleigh team crash to defeat at York Road.
I elected to travel to the wonderfully named Wibbandune, home of Colliers Wood United, which I am informed is the nearest non league club to my Hammersmith home. I find this hard to believe as its not the easiest place to get to but I guess as the crow flies this might be correct. 
Despite their lowly Combined Counties status the Wood have their own bus stop for their ground on the edge of Wimbledon Common. Bordered by the busy A3 which drones away throughout the evening the green surroundings make up for any of the ground's shortcomings. A dusty pitch is bordered by a brick clubhouse which contains the home dressing room (the away team make do with a Portakabin) and a small seated veranda flanked by the dug outs. There is a small all seater stand opposite and a shelter on the club house side containing a park bench (wonder if this counts towards the ground grading?).
I wandered into the ground straight into the clubhouse where a small crowd awaited teams.  An enquiry for a programme saw the gateman arrive so I could pay my £5 admission as well as receive the £1 issue produced specially for the game despite it being a replay of a previously abandoned game.
For me clubs like this are proper non league which probably now ends at the top of the Alliance North/South. Certainly if anyone wants to really experience non league football they could do worse than visit Wibbandune. 
The game pitched mid table United against bottom club Bookham desperately fighting relegation. An entertaining game ensued offering value for money at £1 a goal.  Four of these went to the home team but after they had taken an early lead through  Emmanuel Quarshie, Bookham fought back well having two efforts cleared off the line.
Despite some impressive switch play from Wood particularly from left to right where Mark Stein lookalike Nathan Mottley was the recipient, they doubled their lead with a direct ball down the middle which was finished again by Quarshie. Still as their Uncle Albert of a manager screamed "Don't even think you deserve it" although they should have punished Bookham's defensive frailties again before half time.
The interval saw me return to the clubhouse for a mug of tea, which with its china vessel reminded me of Maidenhead's trips to Ruislip Manor in the mid 90s.
After the break Wood seemed to put the result beyond doubt with a well worked free kick which saw energetic Dan Hammond's strike too powerful for the keeper, Quarshie poaching his third with the loose ball. Three Bookham substitutions gave them hope when one of them, Daniel Carnota scored the goal of the game and further pressure almost brought them a second from successive corners to set up what would have been a thrilling finish.
With one minute to go though Mario Embalo assuaged Uncle Albert's vociferous fears with another goal set up on the right by Mottley to make it a successful night for the team in black and blue stripes unlike the more famous ones worn in Milan.

A Different Kind of Tension

A relegation struggle is a very different animal from a promotion chase and thus provides a subtly different range  of emotions. A promotion chase is built on good form throughout the season, thus the end of season games are entered into with an expectation of success making failure hard to bear.  Conversely teams facing relegation have generally performed poorly so even when opportunities for points present themselves the fatalist feeling persists that it can't last. 
These emotions were present in full on Tuesday night as promotion chasing Eastleigh visited relegation threatened Maidenhead. In pleasing contrast to the bore draw on Saturday Maidenhead always looked like they had a goal in them due to the width created by a change of formation which saw several dangerous crosses launched into the box.  This flew in the face of Eastleigh's York Road record which has seen them thump the Magpies year in year out with their powerful style of play.  However tonight they could not break the Maidenhead rearguard marshalled by the experienced Jon Scarborough, with even their trusty set pieces letting them down.
When Maidenhead took the lead just after half time as Will Hendry headed in Anthony Thomas' cross, the immediate reaction was that this can't last with memories of the three minute lead at Hampton a fortnight ago still fresh in the mind. Yet as the half drew on the panic was palpable in the Eastleigh ranks as substitutes were thrown on and the ball launched forward with ever increasing haste.  The pressure of having to beat a team which had not won at home since August saw the Spitfires crack as they could not find a way through what at times was an eight man defence with the unusual task of defending a lead. Six minutes of stoppage time came and went with Maidenhead having the best chance to double their lead.  Then the final whistle came.  Relief to be sure but of a kind of delirious I can't quite believe it release which left Magpies grinning at the prospect of a great escape.  Meanwhile the Eastleigh fans muttered darkly about players not being fit to wear the shirt and of mysterious dressing room events. 

Monday, 11 April 2011

No fun in the sun

On a beautifully sunny Spring afternoon twenty two gladiators took to the field.  Perhaps the ball should have been mounted on a plinth in World Cup 2010 style so it could have been welcomed with a for those about to die we salute you introduction. As with the corresponding fixture downstream in Middlesex ten days earlier the match quickly turned into an attempt to restart the British space by the unconventional method of dispatching the ball skyward at every opportunity. With both teams in such a long desperate spell of form you could see the logic in getting rid of the ball from defence with alacrity and patron saint of the long ball Charles Hughes must have been beaming at the number of goal scoring opportunities created in the first ten minutes. Once these had been spurned or denied though there was precious little to enjoy and with so much to lose, particularly for the Magpies it was time for teeth to be gritted at the prospect of enduring a goalless draw which at least brought to an end a run of six consecutive league defeats.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

New Year's Eve

Oh To Be In England In The Summertime
A silver lining to the cloud of the defeat at Lewes last weekend was the thought that within seven days time the English cricket season would have started. Disregarding the football equivalent of the Charity Shield (MCC v Champion County) as its now played in Dubai (how soon before EPL follows suit?) the County Championship season starts tomorrow, a fact timely marked by the arrival of the 64th edition of the Playfair Cricket Annual through my letterbox today. This will be well thumbed before it joins its 63 predecessors on my bookshelf. So its off to Lords next week to watch Middlesex's first match (membership/season ticket still as cheap as one for York Road) whilst also dusting off my kit ready for the start of my 25th season playing for Pinkneys Green, where for the first time ever we have a shirt sponsor.

Magpies 'Stoked

Strange football county Hampshire.  Never had anything resembling a soft spot for any of their clubs.  Didn't buy into the whole small club in a big league phenomenon that was Southampton in the 80s and although Fratton Park initially appeals that bloke with the bell spoils it.  Aldershot were fine as a non league club but ruined it for me by getting promoted.  Would happily never visit Farnborough, Eastleigh, Havant and Bashley again. On the other hand Brockenhurst was a great day out but one hardly likely to be repeated due to their lowly status.
As for Basingstoke they would comfortably share the company of Eastleigh and Havant in my affections.  No real reason just not my cup of tea despite the Magpies great form at the Camrose this century.  Probably down to the town sharing the county's penchant for dual carriageways and out of the way grounds contributing to an atmosphere of anti pedestrian hostility.
This continued on Monday night despite the fact that midway through the first half the highlight of my evening looked likely to be two pints of London Pride and a hotdog after Greg Draper had rammed home Basingstoke's early superiority by scoring after pouncing on a sloppy back pass.  Then something strange happened, Maidenhead equalised from the penalty spot through Anthony Thomas, and despite Basingstoke swiftly regaining the lead thanks to a super strike from Sam Delano Yorke, the Magpies seemed to really believe they could win the game. Perhaps the Lewes defeat had created an air of shit or bust, or maybe they realised Basingstoke weren't that good but United's tenacity was at last sprinkled with a touch of class as shown by Max Worsfold's delightful stoppage time equaliser ahead of the interval.
Within fifteen minutes of the restart goals from Craig Faulconbridge and Leon Soloman led to a feeling that 85 days of hurt could be over, a first league win in 2011 was in sight but hang on there was still half an hour to go.
That win on the horizon started to look a bit fuzzy when some Pratt (David) pulled one back and when the referee pointed to the penalty spot with seven minutes left that well worn feeling of blown it again started to descend.  Fortunately Steve Williams completed the team performance with a great save and the Magpies went onto see out the victory. Unfortunately 24 hours later results negated any benefit the win brought to the relegation battle but still gave watching Hampton manager Alan Devonshire food for thought!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Is This The Way to Zamaretto?

Desperate match yesterday not surprisingly due to it being contested by two teams desperate for points to stay up. My day seemed to be reflected by the changing weather.  Beautiful Spring sunshine on the train down to the coast, a slight detour via Brighton due to engineering works having the benefit of going through Falmer and seeing Albion's impressive new ground.  Reports say that season ticket sales for next season are well into five figures which must have non league clubs across Sussex worried about losing their floating support to the Seagulls who have timed their title season well.
Not that Lewes will be too worried as their location is attractive enough to lure supporters from beyond the county line. Despite their ongoing struggle to stay up the Rooks have undergone a renaissance off it since becoming a community owned club last summer.  The list of patrons in the impressive programme is peppered with names from the media and arts which with its egalitarian ethos resembles the way football clubs in the former Eastern bloc were set up in the name of certain professions or industries. Perhaps they should twin with Polonia Warsaw, the Polish capital's club originally set up by white collar intellectuals, and who have lived long in the shadow of larger neighbour Legia. Anyway the changes had not stopped the Harveys flowing in the bar so as far as I was concerned it was business as usual.
The game itself was instantly forgettable but will be remembered by all present for the significance of the result.  For the record Lewes' winner came in stoppage time from the penalty spot and that was about it in terms of goalscoring opportunities as the sun went in and the chilly wind got stronger.  The two clubs have the two worst scoring records in the division which signals why both are struggling.  On the evidence of this afternoon little will change this season.  Lewes though will live to fight another day, whilst the Magpies are looking for the sort of revival led by Dennis Greene six years ago to have any hope of going into the final game with the chance to stay up. Otherwise its back to weekends visiting nice places and watching poor football in the Zamaretto League.  Like the Harveys the journey home left a bitter taste.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

That's the point

A point at last at Hampton on Tuesday night to stop the run of defeats, whether this will be a pitstop on the race to the bottom or a veritable turning point will be made clear by the time Hampton make the return trip to York Road on April 9th.
I always enjoy the trip to Hampton.  Although London based I consider them a village team.  This is not a derogatory label merely a nod to their pleasant riverside hamlet location which comes as a relief after travelling through miles of middle class suburban homes in Hounslow and Hanworth. The village feel continues with the friendly welcome by faces which are generally familiar due to the Magpies longstanding rivalry with the Beavers. Not sure what message the barmaid was trying to pass on though with the obscene stencil she made in the top of  my pint of Guinness.  Certainly wasn't a shamrock.
The ground itself is an architecturally curious collection of structures which reflect the steady development of the Beveree.  The absence of a thematic look to the stadium is no bad thing and is a pleasing contrast to the smooth antiseptic lines which are increasingly common at grounds at this level such as Ten Acres or Ship Lane.  A broken printer and PA system are hardly a disaster and a reminder that this is a match between two clubs run by amateurs, again no bad thing.
The game itself was not one for the purist, perhaps a bad advert for non league football, with the key influence being shared between Wimbledon FC and Wimbledon tennis as the ball pinged back and forth through the air.  Then again the dry bobbly surface meant any attempt to avoid playing on it was definitely excusable.
A tactical switch by Johnson Hippolyte to 4-3-3 proved very effective in increasing the number of chances for the Magpies and they deservedly took the lead through Jefferson Louis. Hampton's swift equaliser reflected their committed performance and the influence of the impressive David Tarpey on the right side of midfield. It was inevitably scored by ex Magpie Lawrence Yaku.  Both sides had very good chances to win the game so a draw was the fairest result, the 1-1 scoreline neatly trailing my journey back into London on the 111 bus. With St. Albans' points deduction being confirmed its now up to United to try and get some momentum from this result by turning this into a full blown recovery in the six pointer at Lewes this afternoon.