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, 4 March 2012

Magpies Strutton to victory

One of the upsides of being a Maidenhead fan in recent years has been the regular league "cup finals" for the Magpies when we make an annual trip to the one genuine big club in the division. This year Woking play that role, filled in the past by the likes of Aldershot, Newport and Wimbledon, and its always a fixture to look forward to because as often as not United take something from the game. Even if the game ends in defeat it tends to be of the heroic failure kind in the face of a promotion chasing team backed by a four figure crowd.
Thus I travelled to Kingfield in optimistic mood yesterday despite last week's depressing defeat. The sunny weather and pleasant walk through the park to the ground continued the positive theme. En route I was surprised by the development taking place near the leisure centre which included a floodlit football pitch suitable for the Hellenic League or similar, certainly it looked as if could accommodate some of Hayes and Yeading United's Alliance Premier games if Woking got fed up with the groundshare.
On arrival at Kingfield it had the buzz of a club chasing the title. A packed club house watch the end of the lunchtime TV game, the Albanian broadcaster providing a unique view of the crucial climax when it froze on Dirk Kuyt's angry face for several minutes, the screen jolting back into action to reveal Robin Van Persie peeling away in celebration at his winning strike.
An away win against the odds for Arsenal was a good start to the day and appeared to reflect a local meme, with a tangible sense of nervousness about the home club's chances despite their clear superiority against all comers with only three defeats all season and a nine point advantage at the top of the table. These fears were only reinforced by a programme article revealing that Maidenhead had lost just once in twenty two games at Kingfield in a period covering over a century.
Certainly the opening stages of the game showed Maidenhead had little to worry about as the hosts sat deep and relied on launching long balls aimless balls forward, a tactic which must have been meat and drink to Hampton trained centre back Alan Inns. A lack of any vocal encouragement from the home terraces hardly created the febrile atmosphere necessary to create the pressure for this simple but often effective plan to work although the number of goals scored by Woking in the latter stages of the game suggested that manager Garry Hill was happy to play an attritional game.
Maidenhead were understandably cautious given the hosts lofty status,so despite forward runs from debutant left winger Harry Pritchard showing promise, and an early Ashan Holgate effort from distance being deflected wide there was a natural resistance to fully testing a Woking defence whose lack of pace looked ripe for exposing.
So for the most part the first half descended into a game of cat and mouse save for the odd Woking hoof which found its target on the wing and enabled the plan of an incisive ball into the six yard box to be executed. When it did, any chance created went begging, a prime example being Kieran Murtagh's header over the bar with the ball at his mercy.
However with an early visit to the bar looking a safe bet, with two minutes to go before the break the game erupted in controversy when United goalkeeper Aaron Lennox was booked for a last ditch challenge on Paris Cowan-Hall at the edge of the penalty area. The referee then doubly defied the convictions of most spectators by awarding Lennox a yellow card and Woking a penalty. This gave rise to a prisoner's dilemma of a problem. Would Maidenhead have preferred a free kick and a red card which with Billy Lumley on the bench would have probably led to a goalless first half and uphill struggle with ten men in the second, or a penalty and the opportunity to fight for the points with a full complement of players? Game theory suggested the former option to be most favourable but for once the longer odds of the latter proved to be the better option as Lennox saved Jack King's spot kick.
The second half began with both sides showing more forward enterprise, Woking encouraged by kicking towards the one quarter of their ground which is Football League standard, the Leslie Gosden stand. As the game entered its last half an hour Woking's pressure tactics looked that they might pay dividends, Giuseppe Sole going round Lennox, only for his shot to hit the side netting. The half's turning point then came as King proved more effective a goal threat from long range than the penalty spot, his thumping drive parried well by Lennox. The ball remained live in the penalty area and found its way to Cowan-Hall on the left but his shot hit the post. Maidenhead then counter-attacked, Harry Pritchard's shot going narrowly wide and the scene seemed set for the opening goal.
Maidenhead manager Johnson Hippolyte then made his key intervention, sending new loan signing Charlie Strutton into the fray. The young striker who has spent his career at county level with Chalfont St. Peter, was totally unphased by the big stage he now found himself on and with the ball at his feet started to make the first of several runs which stretched the Woking defence to breaking point.
The first of these saw Inns stretch out an almost fatherly hand to the youngster's shoulder, almost a gesture by the veteran to the young pup to slow down, but downward pressure was applied as Strutton entered the penalty area and sent him to ground. The resulting penalty kick saw the referee aim to make two wrongs a right by awarding Inns a yellow card, but this time Bobby Behzadi made no mistake with his penalty kick to put Maidenhead into the lead with nineteen minutes to go. 
Two minutes later Strutton again burst clear, but this time the only problem he faced heading for goal was competition from Wall for the chance to shoot, but there was no stopping him as he fired home the second Maidenhead goal. 
Woking fought hard to get back into the game, although either side now looked likely to add to the score, and despite several goalmouth scrambles in the Maidenhead penalty area the score remained at 2-0, a visual symbol of the home side's frustration coming late in the game when Dale Binns was sent off for kicking an opponent off the ball.
So a return to winning ways for Maidenhead who have now taken eighteen out of the last thirty available points, whilst Woking seem to be a club willing themselves to fail. With everything going for them all that's needed is a positive mindset to secure the league title, which must be inspired by vocal support from the crowd which was markedly absent yesterday.

1 comment:

Lenny Baryea said...

"it froze on Dirk Kuyt's angry face for several minutes"