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, 29 January 2012

Good Old Sussex By The Sea

Unlike Hampshire, Sussex is a favourite footballing county of mine, the disappointment of Lewes' relegation last season being salved by their replacement by Eastbourne Borough. My train journey down to the game reflected this county of contrasts: beginning with Gatwick Airport, then followed by the lush green fields and rolling hills best viewed from the Balcombe viaduct before arriving at bohemian Brighton. A change of trains saw me heading across the flatlands just behind the coast pausing at arty Lewes before arriving at Eastbourne a town that I can find no other adjective to use but nice.
A billboard near the station advertising the game was the only sign that it was taking place the busy shopping centre being devoid of any noticeable local football fans. A stop in Greggs for lunch brought a wry smile as the French couple behind me in the queue asked for some croissants. I wonder if Britain's national boulanger was up to scratch?
Eastbourne Borough's Priory Lane ground is at the very edge of the town and was reached after a long bus ride through a succession of pleasant valley Sunday housing estates. Maidenhead United's plans for an out of town relocation may be dead but if they had come to pass Eastbourne Borough had the template for success. A bustling social club  is bettered by a pretty much perfect ground for this level particularly considering its a new build. Covered terracing on three sides is complemented by a stand with unobstructed views. Corporate hospitality is neatly accommodated above one goal, tidied away from the throng.
At kick off, the strong low winter sun saw the teams switch ends, Maidenhead presumably winning the toss so that Borough keeper Clark Masters would be forced to squint for 45 minutes. The country end of the ground was far enough away from civilisation to have no trace of a phone signal which meant my tweets disappeared into the ether.
So the Twittersphere was unaware of Maidenhead's strong start to the game which led to the Magpies taking what turned out to be an unassailable two goal lead. With Eastbourne managerless and losing key central defender Gary Elphick to Eastleigh, they were a team ready for the taking and after ten minutes of stating their intent the Magpies struck twice before the quarter hour mark.
The first goal came from a free kick, the ball being swung over from the right flank to the edge of the six yard  box where it was met by the head of Leigh Henry whose firm contact guided the ball wide of Masters and into the back of the net. Little more than a minute had passed before Alex Wall made it two nil with a shot from the edge of the penalty area which scuttled in at the far post.
As both teams came to terms with the state of the match attentioned turned to the terraces where Maidenhead fans were sporting a splendid monochromatic flag and were joined behind the goal by a group of One Direction wannabes. They proved to be our companions throughout the game and although their vocabulary was largely limited to two words they provided good entertainment with their anthems of internecine Sussex rivalry. When questioned as to the fortunes of their beloved Borough though they revealed they were actually Crystal Palace fans as shown by their Eastbourne adapted renditions of the Holmesdale tifosi's songbook.
As the half drew on Eastbourne worked hard to get back into the game but the Magpies determination meant the score remained the same. Two events exemplified this attitude: a brave block by Reece Tison-Lascaris which saw him winded by a ball blasted at him at point blank range then disappointingly booed by the home fans for having the temerity to go to ground. Then as the clock was about to tick into stoppage time a superb last ditch challenge from Jon Scarborough prevented a good goal scoring opportunity.
After the break Eastbourne continued to push to get a toehold in the game, Billy Lumley dealing efficiently with anything that breached the backline in his customary no nonsense fashion. It was Maidenhead and specifically Alex Wall who came nearest to scoring, testing Masters enough to come close to a hat trick. Now joined by ex Lewes manager Steve King behind the goal, there was much food for thought if he is in the frame for the Eastbourne job as rumour and circumstance suggest. Deep into stoppage time Eastbourne almost scored a consolation, Carl Rook's effort rattling the wood work, but just like at Salisbury the electronic scoreboard remained at 2-0 throughout the second half to give Maidenhead a January double over the team from Sussex. There seem to be enough poor teams in the relegation places to buffer Eastbourne's worrying slide down the table, and Maidenhead's nine point advantage over the third bottom spot should cover the up coming double fixtures against promotion chasing Woking and Dartford in this season's bizarre fixture list.
So I was able to scurry off into the night across the fields to Pevensey & Westham station with Maurice to enjoy a journey home basking in the warm glow of another win on the road for the Magpies which should last until I see the Magpies play again in a month's time.

No comments: