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.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Dead Wood

The slow but inevitable demise of Thurrock as the Conference South's purveyor of joyless efficient football witnessed by next to no one has left a vacancy, with two possible candidates to fill it, Maidenhead United and Boreham Wood. 
The contestants went into yesterday's game level on points, cut adrift with Thurrock at the bottom of the attendance table with the Wood stone last, a somewhat surprising statistic given their facilities and chairman's conceit for their marketing strategy.
The game promised to be a tight affair. With both sides looking to quickly move the ball forward into the final third to maximise opportunities for scoring, it was clear that defensive discipline would be paramount. So it proved that after holding out against Maidenhead's early attacking promise, two goals midway through the first half for Boreham Wood effectively decided a game tainted by an inept refereeing performance.
This early spell of dominance was as good as it got for Maidenhead, a Leon Solomon drive being tipped over the bar and in the Magpie move of the game Bobby Behzadi running the length of the pitch before being denied by a last ditch challenge.
This initial effort proved fruitless when David Bryant volleyed home the opening goal, despite being deemed offside by reporters from either side's local newspaper.With the Maidenhead defence still stung by conceding they afforded Omer Riza the time and the space to fashion a delightful chip to double the lead within three minutes.
As the game drew on the main feature became the woefully inconsistent performance by the referee who steadily crumbled in the face of constant berating by the Boreham Wood players. Matters came to a head in the second half when as Maidenhead showed the intent to get back into the game, Wood successfully broke the game up by fashioning a series of controversial incidents starting with a soft challenge to the chest by Alex Wall on goalkeeper Elvijs Putnins which saw the stopper roll around on the ground until Wall was booked. Later a more severe body check on Solomon saw no such sanction. Still the Maidenhead pressure at least started to rattle Wood when chief yahoos Charlie O'Loughlin and Mario Noto started arguing with their own bench.
The introduction of all three Maidenhead substitutes upped the pace a little but still the Magpies could not conjure up a chance to seriously test Putnins and with the points looking destined for Hertfordshire it was left to the referee to lead the game to its nadir.
With time ticking away O'Loughlin clearly tripped a Maidenhead player, a foul as deserving of a yellow card as any of the others in the game. As the referee called him over the penny dropped that this would be a second card for the defender and so with the help of Captain Noto he successfully hectored the weak official into giving him one more chance.
All there was left was for an all at sea Maidenhead defence to concede a third goal, Osei Sankofa taking advantage of the wide open spaces in the United penalty area to score.
The result leaves Maidenhead anxiously looking ahead at a seriously difficult fixture list for the rest of the season, an outcome of the ridiculous way it was planned in the summer. The unscheduled winter break was clearly unhelpful and a tricky seven days follows with trips to promotion chasing Chesham in the County Cup on Tuesday followed by table topping Woking next Saturday. 
The team is crying out for creativity in the midfield as the defence is unable to maintain the discipline and concentration required to regularly achieve the clean sheets which are necessary to complement the sides parsimonious forward play.
As for Boreham Wood, their ugly use of gamesmanship, particularly with regard to the treatment of officials is unlikely to lift them off the bottom of the attendance league despite being based in the middle of a housing estate. Still with his desire to constantly discuss the laws of the game, a career as a referee clearly beckons for Charlie O'Loughlin.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Magpies survive Fishtank

Much against my better judgement I found myself trudging across London at lunchtime, heading for the Hotel ground, Thurrock, a shoe in for one of the slots in a footballing Dante's Inferno. With hindsight I should perhaps be grateful that ITV's scheduling prevented me from contemplating a trip to Sunderland, and after three weeks without live football even the best efforts of London Transport to disrupt my journey by closing half the District line couldn't put me off heading for the Thames estuary.
Thus after ninety minutes of travelling I arrived in Fishtank country, so called after the award winning film which so beautifully captured the untamed fragility of the area. The mix of industry and wilderness twixt station and ground summed up by the plastic bags fluttering on fences confining feral horses on scrubland. As the bus headed down the hill from Aveley on the long descent to the ground, it overtook that rarest of sights, a couple of young home town scarfers en route to the game, before dropping me off at the Hotel.
Of course these days you can go for a pre match pint inside the ground, when previously supporters would  uncomfortably mix with guests in the Hotel bar, all surrounding a TV to watch Football Focus or Final Score.
Kick off necessitated the usual migration to the far end, our steps hastened by the onset of rain. Disappointing Thurrock seem to be ignoring the ground regulation that requires that supporters can access the entire perimeter  by shoving a bin in the way of the bit that goes in front of the changing rooms. I wonder if that will be wheeled away when the grading inspectors are on site?
A quick sprint around the back meant the first task of the afternoon was slightly delayed, the headcount, always a source of entertainment when the official attendance is revealed. Three tallies produced an average of 88, just over half the official number.
By now the game had started to take shape, Maidenhead taking the initiative and pushing hard for the opening goal. In the tenth minute a Reece Tison-Lascaris shot was spilled by youthful goalkeeper David Hughes, with further hope that he might be the source of a goal when he repeated the juggling act from an Alex Wall shot following good work from Martel Powell and Manny Williams. However after this promising start the game got progressively worse resembling the scruffy state of the weatherbeaten pitch.
Forward moves from both sides were comfortably dealt with but in the key moment of the half Maidenhead goalkeeper Billy Lumley suffered a head injury whilst cutting out a Thurrock attack. Initially he was able to continue but as the half drew to a close, a second consultation with Max Bangura saw the physio indicate that he would have to come off. With watching Sam Beasant nursing a dislocated finger, there was no specialist stopper on the bench and so captain Mark Nisbet made his return from injury in rather an unexpected fashion, coming off the bench wearing a blue goalkeeper's shirt.
The cumulative stoppages meant eight minutes were added to the first forty five, Thurrock taking the lead in the seventh of these when an Ahmed Deen free kick flew in to the top corner, an effort that Lumley would have done well to tip over the bar.
Nisbet soon had a chance to prove his aptitude between the sticks after the break, scrambling away a close range effort with his legs, and as the half went on, a game at York Road where Purfleet fielded an outfield defender in goal for the whole ninety minutes came to mind. A game which Purfleet won. Indeed Maidenhead started to increase the pressure on the home side, winning the game's first two corners, heralding an equaliser which arrived in the sixty third minute.
The goal came from a move which saw Tison-Lascaris drive into the penalty area, losing the ball to a defensive challenge. It was picked up by Wall who produced the save of the game from Hughes only for the ball to run free again, this time to Williams who fired the ball into the empty net to level the score.
With Thurrock seeing perhaps their best opportunity to break end their season long winless run at home fading fast, they pushed hard to retake the lead, but Nisbet was equal to everything that got through the defence. The final stage of the game was played in a rain shower of biblical proportions and although the players stuck to their task there seemed little chance of a winner for either side, as shown when Magpie away regular Steve King left early to beat the traffic.
So mission accomplished in part with a point secured despite playing for over fifty minutes without a recognised goalkeeper. Without this mitigation though it would have been two points dropped against a Thurrock side who look to be using their reprieve from relegation as well as Maidenhead did six seasons ago.