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.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Darts double finish sees off battling Magpies

On the face of it Saturday’s game at Dartford had much in common with Maidenhead’s first visit to Princes Park twelve months previously, the Magpies initially showing great spirit and enterprise in the face of an expectant home crowd before the pressure told midway through the second half. However a dismissal for either side following the goals gave this game a rather different complexion to the depressing inevitability of last season’s collapse with many positive aspects for Maidenhead’s fans to take into Easter Saturday’s climactic clash at Staines.
Off the field Dartford Football Club is a place where everything feels right. Judging by several pitchside hoardings this appears to be the result of a productive relationship with the Tory Council who, in stark contrast to recent decisions made by their central government comrades, have shown real leadership to ensure the Darts home is a real community hub. Although I preferred a brisk walk up the hill to the ground, I could have taken the Fast track bus which follows a road barred to all other traffic, stopping next to Princes Park. On arrival I was greeted at reception by club representatives who couldn’t do enough to help me despite their apologies that I wouldn’t be allowed in the boardroom because “I wasn’t wearing trousers”. Rest assured I hadn’t taken a leaf out of Mike Payne’s fashion bible and turned up in shorts but was clad in denim. Not a problem as I was only there for the football so hastily made my way pitchside where I ate a first class hot dog from the well-appointed tea bar behind the goal.

As kick off drew near the theme from 633 squadron blasted out of the PA, presumably to herald the aerial blitz about to be launched on the Maidenhead defence. This proved to be an accurate reflection of Dartford’s approach to the game as for the first hour they sought to get the ball forward as quickly as possible, switching to 4-2-4 when they had the ball in an attempt to swamp the Maidenhead defence. This tactic was doubtless behind their impressive strike rate of 48 goals in 18 home league games but centre back pair Jon Scarborough and Mark Nisbet were well up for the battle, snuffing out the early threat.
Instead it was Maidenhead who drew the first save, with a neat passing move which was to prove a template for their attacking play throughout the game, Martel Powell being switched into the centre of midfield at least in the first instance enhanced this style, although it was the unlikely figure of Bobby Behzadi who cut inside to shoot from the edge of the penalty area.
Dartford soon found a reply when a Tom Bonner volley was tipped over the bar by Billy Lumley and the first half continued in much the same vein with the home team having the lion’s share of chances with Maidenhead nevertheless showing much attacking promise.
The Dartford frontline was led by the lumbering Jacob Erskine who tested Lumley on more than one occasion, the Maidenhead keeper having a great half, also saving well from Lee Burns. All in all Maidenhead were good value for their first half clean sheet, Dartford wasting the talent of James Rogers in the centre of midfield whose passing ability may well have exposed the lack of pace in the Maidenhead defence if he had been given permission to keep the ball on the deck.
Going forward Maidenhead’s lack of confidence in front of goal was plain to see as frequently good approach play on the flanks was not finished with a strike.  A defence marshalled by the impressive centre back Bonner was always going to be a tough nut to crack but when presented with an opportunity to go for goal the Maidenhead players appeared to be too careful for fear of fluffing a chance. This difference in mental approach was the real difference between the two teams, one flying high, the other scrambling for form and led to the decisive action at the start of the second half.
Although Maidenhead started brightly, after five minutes Dartford took the game by the scruff of the neck and set up camp in the Magpie half. Initially Maidenhead were able to resist, Lumley pushing a Lee Noble free kick round the post whilst one effort which did find the back of the net was disallowed. However it was not long before Erskine broke the deadlock with a shot from the edge of the penalty area which beat Lumley at full stretch.
With Dartford lifted on and off the pitch, the goal only increased the pressure on Maidenhead and the lead was doubled just after the hour mark when Lumley failed to deal effectively with a free kick allowing Luke Wilkinson to poke the ball into an empty net. Just when it looked like game over Maidenhead gained a toe hold in the game when a powerful run by Paul Semakula saw him follow the ball through the Dartford defence and finish from close range. Hopes of a point were then raised when the running battle between Mark Nisbet and Danny Harris ended when the attacker was shown a second yellow card.
Going down to ten men changed the nature of the game with Dartford taking the obvious option of leaving just one man up front and paring back their attacking ambition. Any chance of making the extra man count though was removed with twenty minutes to go when, within two minutes of entering the fray Jermaine Hinds was sent off for a challenge which left two Dartford players sprawling across the turf.
Maidenhead continued to push for an equaliser but could not find the composure to create a chance allowing the Darts to edge home. The fact that Maidenhead left Kent pointless was not a surprise given the clubs relative positions at the start of play but the nature of the United performance gives rise to the expectation that the points required to ensure safety can be won over Easter.

No comments: