About Me

My photo
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.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

No Doubting Thomas

The last word on yesterday's momentous cup tie went to the referee. At the end of the game he turned to one of my fellow directors and said "this club is a credit to non league football". A comment no doubt reflecting the smooth running of what was the most challenging matchday at York Road for five years.
I had no role in this so can only pass on my thanks and admiration to those off the pitch who gave their time freely to sell tickets, attend meetings and generally prepare the ground for the two thousand and more guests at the game. 
My day began at five to nine with a bizarre interview with Radio Berkshire, who's breakfast show presenter was from the Partridge school of broadcasting asking me how I'd slept and whether I liked curry?! Dead batting her best efforts at patronising me I marvelled at the picture she was painting of Maidenhead High Street which supposedly was full of people with black and white scarves. Still I was miles away in Hackney, spending the morning at work.
As the afternoon arrived I began my arduous trek across London to Paddington which is no easy task at the weekend as London Transport were playing their usual trick on the thousands of day trippers by closing half the underground network. Still I made in time to catch a train which got me to Maidenhead just after two o'clock.
As usual I glimpsed at York Road as the train pulled into the station to see a crowd building nicely with some supporters already staking out their territory behind the goal. Leaving the station I was confronted by several police including two on horses, a sad consequence of intelligence received by the local constabulary that a number of known hooligans from outside the town were planning on going to the game. Later I discovered police spotters inside the ground had identified as many as thirty of these faces but the show of strength outside the ground seemed to have the desired effect and the game passed without incident off the pitch. Full credit to Thames Valley Police who showed a keen desire to help the club in any way shape or form to ensure the day passed peacefully without any threat of the associated crippling costs.
The spirit of non league football was alive and well when I got to the ground and found Fixture Secretary Roy Bannister hand writing the team sheets. As I bought my pre match pint I had a long wait for my change as the till remained shut due to a power cut caused by a small electrical fire. Fortunately supporter and electrician Dino "The Hat" Borge was on hand to sort everything out and I could join the throng in Stripes discussing the prospects for play. 
I was certain Maidenhead would score and felt we had a good chance of getting something from the game. The sight of an Aldershot team always seems to bring the best out of the team regardless of who the manager and players are. Many of my most memorable moments watching the Magpies had come against the Shots and I was confident this would be another one.
One of the great aspects of a big game like this is the way you bump into people you haven't seen for a while and so I spent some time before the game with Magpie great Mick Creighton listening to his stories of attending the infamous Slough v Millwall FA Cup tie in the 80s and how he still turns out for his son's Sunday team.
For the first half I decided to stand in the media centre which for once was being used for its proper purpose of accommodating supporters in wheelchairs. With plenty of room behind them I was greeted Hawaiian style as Mike Payne placed a black and white scarf around my neck.As the teams took their places for the kick off I fully expected an early Aldershot blitz, with the ability of Maidenhead to weather the early storm being crucial to their hopes of a result. Yet what transpired was a rather subdued opening which gave the game the feeling of a pre season friendly rather than a high octane Cup tie. This seemed to be the result of Aldershot's inability to deal with Maidenhead's game plan to sit deep and stifle the Shots attempts to find League Two topscorer Danny Hylton. The game was played at a much slower tempo than usual Alliance South affairs at York Road and so Jon Scarborough was imperious at the heart of the Maidenhead defence.
Yet the Magpies defensive endeavour would have been nothing without a lead to hold on and this came in the sixth minute when Anthony Thomas scored with yet another superb strike chipping Shots' reserve keeper Jamie Young from the edge of the area. It was a goal fit for the occasion and it was a good job it hit the back of the net as the game was bereft of goalmouth action for the most part as Ashan Holgate cut a lone figure up front for United whilst the Shots got continuously swamped in the Maidenhead defence.
As the second half began I joined the Twyford Royals on the shelf, watching an unchanging game, the belief in a Maidenhead victory growing with every minute. With Drax looking to have trumped his Aldershot counterpart Dean Holdsworth, the ex Newport manager played his last hand by making three substitutions. This opened the game up and remarkably looked like offering the chance for a second Maidenhead goal, FA Cup warrior of old Bobby Behzadi drawing on all his experience when he moved into the midfield from right back to keep the United engine going.
With thirteen minutes to go Aldershot finally found Maidenhead's achilles heel, a vulnerability to defend against pace. Alex Rodman sprinted down the right wing, riding two tackles sucking defenders towards him so that his pass found Michael Rankine unmarked and able to comfortably sweep the ball home for the equaliser.Still this did not prove to the shot that loosened Maidenhead's foundations and a fairytale finish was set up for the Magpies with a free kick deep into stoppage time. Alex Wall's blast came to naught though and the game finished all square both sides deserving to fight another day in what should be a great replay with the prize of a trip to Hillsborough for the winners.
Regardless of what happens at the Rec in ten days time though this day will join the likes of famous York Road Cup ties against West Auckland and Bath City, proving the late great Stan Payne's adage: "Maidenhead United, it's a great club".

No comments: