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.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Aylesbury Fail

Pre season friendlies are a curious animal. The result certainly isn't important and the impact of the performance can only be felt in lessons learned for the future. They certainly are nothing more than an extended training session and supporters should rightly grumble if they are expected to pay full whack for the privilege of watching. Thus my attendance at such games tends to be confined to days like Saturday when I really have nothing better to do. Extra impetus was given by some rare seasonal sunny weather and so I found myself on a train out of Marylebone heading through metroland to Aylesbury.
In a little over an hour I reached the end of the line and what looked on first impression to be the end of the world at Aylesbury Vale Parkway. Leaving the station it became clear why it was there as a turn of the corner revealed a burgeoning housing estate in the middle of being built. The main road quickly took me to the Welcome to Aylesbury sign with the tell tale lure of floodlights on the edge of what will no longer be the edge of town.
Turning into Haywood Way, the main entrance to the ground came into view, the address revealing the club's origins as Haywood United, under which name they played Maidenhead United Reserves in local cup competitions. Following the departure to Leighton Buzzard of the town's main club Aylesbury United, today's opponents changed their name to Aylesbury Vale and then simply Aylesbury with attempts to merge the clubs coming to naught.
As United went on a slow and inevitable slide into county league football, Aylesbury travelled in the opposite direction and have now reached the lower reaches of the Southern League. The ground is functional ticking the admittedly few boxes of the Southern League ground grading but rather let down by my bete noire of a poor quality pitch which is not helped by the presence of moles and its location on a flood plain.
Managed by former Magpie Craig "The Tree" Faulconbridge, Aylesbury featured former United striker Brian Haule in their starting line up along with his non league veteran brother Davis. Maidenhead's line up was a curate's egg with some of last season's first choice players such as Billy Lumley, Bobby Behzadi, Leon Solomon, Leigh Henry, and Reece Tison-Lascaris, new signings David Pratt and Michael Pook, fringe players like Ashley Watson, Marcus Rose and Lee Barney, and an unknown trialist on the right wing who I believe was called Kamal.
Maidenhead started brightly, Pook showing someone of his trademark quality distribution whilst Pratt's aggressive running produced the opening chance of the game in the eighth minute. The summer signing drove into the right hand side of the penalty area and cut the ball back to Barney only to have the ball returned to him by a defender, Pratt's shot hitting the post. From this point on Aylesbury tended to have the better of things, taking advantage of a Maidenhead midfield lacking in bite, going into a deserved lead in the seventeenth minute when Brian Haule rose unchallenged to head a free kick home from close range. Rose almost matched this effort minutes later only for his header to be cleared off the line by an Aylesbury head.
Half time arrived and it was time to make a contribution to the Non League Chips blog by buying a freshly cooked crunchy portion which at a cost of a £1 was a welcome 40p cheaper than the advertised price.
The second half saw the inevitable onset of regular substitutions for both teams as each manager took the opportunity to give both established players and trialists some game time. For Maidenhead these included Daniel Brown, Mark Nisbet, youth team goalkeeper Michael Pearce, Devante McKain, Richard Pacquette, Anthony Thomas, Jonathan Hippolyte, Aryan Tajbakhsh and some unknown to me, one combative midfielder being billed as highly rated.
The influx of what amounted to a complete change of personnel did little to change the pattern of the game, Aylesbury missing an open goal on the hour mark before one of their trialists, the ungainly Geoff Mitchell doubling the lead with sixteen minutes left with a surprisingly clean strike from the left hand side of the penalty area.
As the match came to a close Maidenhead Reserve keeper Rhys Marshall, who spent the second half playing for Aylesbury, found himself in the thick of things, being rounded by Hippolyte only for the youngster's effort to hit the post, then watching a Thomas header hit the post and the aforementioned midfielder hitting the underside of the crossbar with a volley on the stroke of full time.
The final whistle left both managers with much to ponder, Faulconbridge's men receiving a welcome morale boosting win over lofty opposition after losing to tiny Chinnor the previous week.

Newport's Blight

Was sad to hear last week that Newport Chairman Chris Blight had decided to stand down after he received abusive phone calls at home.
Regardless of the issue which had evidently stirred up so much acrimony its a sad day when someone as fundamentally decent as Chris finds themselves hounded out of the game. Having visited many non league boardrooms the overriding memory is one of exchanging pleasantries with opposite numbers, with one party doing so through gritted teeth after the game. Three encounters with Chris stand out though.
I first met him in April 2005 in the final day relegation shoot out at Spytty Park between Newport and the Magpies, with the winner staying up at the expense of the loser. Newport won comfortably having raced into a 2 goal league courtesy of Jason Bowen with Maidenhead offering nothing in reply except a late consolation penalty from Craig O'Connor. At the final whistle the ground was a bleak place to be for the Magpies surrounded by celebrating Exiles but my salient post match memory was Chris individually shaking the hand of everyone in the boardroom associated with Maidenhead United, offering his sincere commiserations at our relegation when inside he must have been itching to celebrate.
Three seasons later Newport was the scene of our first away trip back in the Conference South following promotion from the Southern League. The game ended in a 1-1 draw and our first ever point at Spytty Park but was spoiled for some of the travelling Magpies by the behaviour of some of the Newport fans and the subsequent lack of a response by stewards. An email from one of those affected following the game produced a swift response from Blight, an apology being bolstered by condemnatory comments in the next match programme.
Maidenhead's final game to date against Newport was towards the end of Exiles Conference South Championship winning season. They had just secured the title when we arrived in April 2010 and celebrated with a comprehensive 4-1 win although Sam Collins' consolation was the goal of the game, a preview of his long distance strike in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup Final a month later. Before the game Chris regaled us with an anecdote about the club's title celebrations at the famous Celtic Manor hotel the previous weekend. He revealed that as he got into a taxi in the small hours he accused the driver of fiddling the fare as the meter already read £4, only for the weary driver to respond "that is the clock sir, the time is 4 am"!
A true football man, I hope Chris feels able to continue to attend County games as they move to Rodney Parade which might just provide the boost to help them regain their Football League status.