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.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Here Comes The Yak Attack

As the best thing about Gander Green Lane is the name, I opted out of my annual trip to Sutton and decided to make the short trip up the Piccadilly Line to Rayners Lane this afternoon to watch the Reserves defend their 100% winning start to the season against the team above them in the table on goal difference. As the rain started to get heavy I turned into Rayners Lane and realised I was visiting a club named after the road it was located in, pleasingly small time enough for the Hellenic League Division One East, a division which seems to be offering Maidenhead United Reserves the required opportunity to play regular competitive football against mostly senior teams.
On arrival at Tithe Farm it appeared an honesty system was in place for admission with anyone free to walk into the ground with the gatewoman at the far end by the car park so after a brief look at the pitch I opted to walk round to the dressing rooms and hand over my £5 for a programme. Having copied down the team changes which included some interesting interpretations of the Maidenhead line up (Timi Shlako and JonathanYipriye), I headed for the only shelter, the two mega dugout style constructions appropriately positioned behind each dugout. Having been greeted by Sam Lock with the words "we've got  a bit of a defensive crisis", I was soon joined by the entire Maidenhead United squad as they sought refuge from the hailstorm for their pre match team talk.
The teams calmy warm up before the storm
As the hailstones gave way to thunder and lightning fears of a postponement were raised, but the rain stopped in time for the players to make their way back to the dressing room and put their shirts on whilst the official checked the playing surface was ready for play. A decent pitch took little time to drain and so the game kicked off just ten minutes late.
Fielding a makeshift back line with just one fully fit first choice defender on the pitch, Sam opted to play Ashan Holgate just in front of the back four, and Jonathan Hippolyte as a lone striker, but the Magpies fell behind in the eighth minute when who else but former Magpie Lawrence Yaku cut in from the right wing and fired home the opening goal from the edge of the box. Having had a sniff of first blood Rayners Lane sensed a chance to take advantage of United's defensive frailty but the Magpies held on, Joe Crook clearing when goalkeeper Michael Pearce was beaten, Pearce going onto parry a Yaku shot with the follow up finish ruled offside.
Maidenhead held on though and soon the hard work of Jamie Connor and Kyle Lucas in the midfield began to pay dividends, a great ball from the former putting the latter clear only for Lucas to fluff his shot wide. Lock was then forced into another defensive change as with ten minutes to go before the break Crook was unable to continue. This led to Holgate moving into Crook's central defensive role, whilst Marcus El-Azizi came on to supplement the attack. Maidenhead then had their best passage of play, ending the half strongly, a Lucas shot being saved by the outstretched hand of the Scott Tarr lookalike in the Lane goal, Dominic Cassells.
The interval provided the opportunity to complete a cheap afternoon out with a cup of tea in a proper mug with a hot sausage roll for the bargain price of £1.40. With the sun now shining I remained on the changing room side for the second half where I had the dubious pleasure of background chatter from a world authority on football, UK railways, the English exam system and middle distance running. Meanwhile the teams returned to the pitch with Rayners Lane clearly deciding to go for the jugular, Pearce pushing wide a Sullivan shot within three minutes of the restart, but left helpless to stop Yaku's second goal at almost exactly the same stage of the half as his first. Cutting in from the left this time, Yaku applied a delightful finish with the outside of his right foot to curve the ball around Pearce but inside the far post. The sprightly striker gave every indication that he could still play at a higher level, and a pleasant reminder of the form which saw him score 63 goals in three seasons at York Road.
Maidenhead continued to work hard to try and find a way back into the game but if they weren't frustrated by the resolute Rayner's Lane defence, they found themselves on the wrong end of some poor decisions from an inconsistent referee.
As the game drew to a close Rayners Lane sealed their win with two more goals, firstly through Ryan Upton who tapped in Liam Hinds' cross before inevitably Yaku completed his hat trick taking advantage of Pearce's tardiness in collecting a loose ball, to nip in and deliver the ball into an empty net. Maidenhead were denied a deserved consolation when El-Azizi's shot was pushed wide by Cassells.
The final whistle heralded the return of the rain and my swift exit. With their status as favourites to win the title Rayners Lane delivered in their first home game by clinically moving the ball forward quickly to expose Maidenhead's defensive shortcomings. To their credit United retained a solid sense of purpose and a commitment to good football, and I'm sure with a full strength team it would have been a different story. Aside from Connor and Lucas, other players to catch my eye were left back Jordan Chandler, and substitutes El-Azizi and Pederam. 

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