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, 30 December 2012

Floody Hell

I was grateful enough to watch some live football yesterday after suffering a drought of twelve days for various reasons, but to see Maidenhead United achieve their biggest away league win for over 30 years made it a match to stick in the memory.
After a morning reading about endless postponements coupled with messages of assurance that the Staines Town pitch was perfectly playable (with the caveat, "at the moment"), I set out at 1 pm fully expecting to make a wasted journey.
This feeling grew on arrival in the town when I found my usual route to Wheatsheaf Park along the Thames path flooded out (right). Then approaching the ground a judiciously placed temporary flood sign outside the entrance to Wheatsheaf Park seemed to confirm my worst fears (top). As stewards huddled under any cover they could find I made my way into the ground and was pleasantly surprised to see a fine looking pitch, a tangible gain from the Swans decision to exile themselves from their own ground for a few years in the 90s, the new surface light years away from the dust bowl of old.
So to kick off, and for me a chance to run my eye over the three new Magpie signings brought into give the team a more solid look. With Mark Nisbet absent with a cold, and Daniel Brown suspended, one of the new men, Patrick Kanyuka, was given the captain's armband in only his third start on his return to the club he had only left in November.

Beneath broken clouds the match kicked off, with the tone of the game set by the formations adopted by either side. As they say in boxing, styles make fights, and the way Staines set themselves up played right into the hands of the Magpies with a solid back four fronted by central midfield pair Michael Pook and Joe Taibiri snuffing out the threat of the Staines front three. More importantly Drax's decision to play two out and out wingers gave United a competitive advantage throughout as Staines' centralised midfield three meant Harry Pritchard and Chris Flood had no need to protect their full back or face being penned back by an opposing wide midfielder. Meanwhile man of the match Alex Wall gave his best performance to date as a lone centre forward, calling to mind Craig O'Connor's immaculate display in another memorable away win, at Cambridge City in 2005.
Maidenhead took the lead within the first five minutes of the match, a Flood cross from the right being met by the salmon like leap of Pritchard to head into the back of the net. From this point on United never looked back but survived a couple of testing spells from their hosts before scoring again. Both spells centred on set pieces, the first saw three successive corners defended, the second challenge came from a free kick. On both occasions, Kanyuka's ability to get his head to the ball at the right time, and Taibiri's calm distribution was enough to alleviate the pressure and set up a counter attack. The second of these just ahead of the half hour mark produced a corner and the second Maidenhead goal, this time it was Pritchard's turn to deliver the cross which swung over to the far post where Flood was free to head home.
With Maidenhead now in their pomp they scored their third goal six minutes ahead of the break to seal the win. It proved to be the goal of the game, Harry Pritchard drifting inside with the ball from his left wing position before unleashing a screaming drive with his right foot from twenty yards that flew into the back of the net, which must have impressed the watching former Magpie managerial duo Alan Devonshire and Carl Taylor.

Job done then, now the most serious opponent was the weather with the second half beginning in torrential rain. Maidenhead continued to dominate, Alex Wall seeing his free kick being pushed over the bar by goalkeeper Jack Turner eight minutes after the restart. Wall then won the most significant battle of the day when pacy centre back Jerel Ifil was sent off for persistent foul play despite several warnings from match referee Ash Degnarain.
With over half an hour still to play there was only going to be one conclusion to the match even though a second torrential shower did raise the spectre of an abandonment. The introduction of fresh legs gave Maidenhead fresh impetus and so the Staines goal came under increasing pressure, veteran Swan Scott Taylor clearing off his line to prevent an own goal whilst Turner again foiled Wall with a superb reaction save.
The pressure finally told in the dying minutes, David Pratt collecting a defence splitting pass from Flood to make it four, then making it two goals in three minutes by netting the rebound after a Kanyuka header was saved by Turner.
Deep into stoppage time, Wall finally got his reward for a tireless performance having again been denied by the resilient Turner from a free kick, and then seeing a long shot spilled, the striker collected a pass from Paul Semakula and at last beat Turner with virtually the last kick of the game.
A great Christmas present then for everyone at Maidenhead United with the return of early season form in devastating fashion on an afternoon where everything went right for the Magpies. Certainly everyone will be looking for the name of Degnarain on the officials list, with his aggregate score for the season now standing at 14-0 in United's favour, the referee having been in charge of the annihilation of Truro City at York Road back in September.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Santi the Red decapitates Royals

Off to Reading after a football free weekend to watch an important game for both the Royals and their visitors from North London, with the home team having hit the bottom of the table and the Gunners reeling from their humiliating League Cup defeat at Bradford City.
Despite the fact that the two clubs have spent the majority of their history in different leagues the fixture has a rich history as detailed in the excellent match programme. It even has a place in popular culture as the scene of Nick Hornby's unmasking as fake Londoner when he attended the clubs' FA Cup tie at Elm Park in 1972. Currently though it is Brian McDermott who is the prime link between the two clubs, the programme featuring cuttings from the Arsenal programme when McDermott was still a Gunner. Although too kind to mention it, these cuttings came from the 1983-84 season when Arsenal last suffered a League Cup defeat to a team from the lower reaches of the Football League when Walsall won at Highbury. This bona fide shock led to the demise of manager Terry Neill and the lead up to last night's game was not shy of predicting a similar fate for both managers, though once again the programme was replete with statistics to argue against such a drastic option.
So plenty to ponder on the trip to that most loathsome of locations, the out of town football ground. With Reading station quickly reached, and plenty of help at hand to direct me to the waiting football special buses, a lengthy queue caused by the driver having to deal with cash was followed by a slow half an hour crawl through the rush hour traffic to Small Mead. Fortunately it was quite easy to locate my seat in the unofficial neutral section next to the Arsenal fans, which afforded me a magnificent view of a sold out ground which nevertheless seemed to have plenty of Emirates style paid for but empty seats.
Earlier in the season I had seen Reading do all but beat QPR at Loftus Road as the well organised Royals comfortably dealt with Rangers' attacks, yet this fortitude was mysteriously absent as the home team offered up an odd strategy of sitting back and allowing Mikel Arteta to bring the ball forward from deep in his own half. By the time a challenge arrived the mercurial Santi Cazorla had inevitably moved into a position which allowed him to cause havoc in the Reading defence all night. By the time Arsenal opened the scoring with a great finish by Lukas Podolski, the Spaniard was already giving the best live performance I had seen of his. With Kieran Gibbs also looking good on the left wing the stage seemed set for Theo Walcott to back up his claim that the central attacking role should be his, but he fluffed his lines on several occasions before scoring what proved to be the final goal of the game ten minutes from the end.
In between Arsenal seemed to have won the game before allowing Reading some late hope. Cazorla embodied the Gunners domination for the best part of the game by scoring a hat trick even show boating in the penalty area early in the second half. 
Just in case anyone had forgotten Arsenal's defensive malaise this season, they conceded two quick goals to halve the lead and hint at a repeat of the epic league cup tie here at the end of October. There was no danger of lightning striking twice though and the game ended comfortably enough for Arsenal no matter how frustrating it is that the clean sheet is fast becoming an anachronism in the Premier League.
Reading Buses were on top form to get me back to the station in time for the early train home after a match which was enjoyable in isolation and changed little long term. In a poor Premier League, Arsenal can go third if they win their Saturday lunchtime match at Wigan, but the background noise about Wenger's future will remain for the foreseeable future. In contrast Reading will travel to Eastlands at the weekend with little hope never mind expectation, but surely they must see the long term value in McDermott's management and back him to use what will almost certainly be a budget boosted by a parachute payment next season to build a stronger squad better able to sustain a Premier League place should promotion be won once more.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Eastbourne find late Finnish salvation

Christmas was in the air at York Road yesterday, the air was clean and crisp, the Salvation Army band was playing on the shelf, and Maidenhead United thought it better to give than receive by gifting visitors Eastbourne Borough the three points after dominating the game.
Despite the traditional autumnal slump after a promising start to the season, hopes were high of a much needed win yesterday with the Magpies having got the better of their Sussex opponents since the Sports relegation from the Premier.
These hopes were raised by a bright start from Maidenhead with a team eager to take the initiative, Harry Pritchard and Bobby Behzadi pinging over several probing crosses, one of which goalkeeper Craig Ross punched goal-ward only for a defensive colleague to clear off the line. 
The early blitz launched up the slope paid dividends in the sixteenth minute when after Alex Wall and Pritchard has shots blocked the latter got another bite of the cherry, and deftly fired home with his right foot. Having taken the lead Maidenhead dealt comfortably with any Eastbourne threat, remaining in control for the rest of the half, Leon Solomon almost doubling the lead with a longshot that Ross could only push round the post. The Magpie attack really rattled Eastbourne reducing the Sports defence and management team to frequent but groundless whinges to the referee. Indeed manager Tommy Widdrington, like the Salisbury coaching team seems to have been on the Ron Manager coaching course, such was the drama with which he regularly shot out of his dug out and gesticulated wildly throughout the game.
As the first half closed Maidenhead fashioned a great opportunity to double their lead with the move of the game as Chris Flood, Pritchard and David Pratt combined to put Wall through with just the keeper to beat only for the striker to blast the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Eastbourne instantly stated their intent to get back into the game when within a minute of the second half they entered the Maidenhead penalty area en masse. James Smith went to ground but the referee judged that he had dived and awarded a yellow card. A good open game ensued and Maidenhead continued to look good value for their lead as the game entered the closing stages. 
The introduction of the powerful Kelvin Bossman kept the Magpies momentum for a second goal going, the striker powering in a shot from a tight angle which Ross touched behind only for the referee to award a goal kick. With sixteen minutes remaining a Maidenhead corner produced the chance which should have sealed the points. Pritchard swung the ball in from the right deep into the six yard box where Mark Nisbet rose to meet the cross heading goalward from point blank range. Ross stood up well to keep the ball out initially but somehow Maidenhead could not get the rebound over the line and after a quick bout of pinball Eastbourne managed to clear.
This incident proved to the game's turning point as within four minutes Eastbourne were level and went on to win in rampant fashion. The equaliser came as when Chris Shepherd got behind the Maidenhead defence on the left for the first time to cross to the far post where Elliot Charles, who up to this moment seemed only to contribute as a long throw  specialist, rose at the far post to head in the equaliser. The goal was the spark the Sports needed and sensing the chance of an unlikely win, they poured forward. Yet they owed their winner, three minutes from time, largely to defensive errors. A ball launched into the box was missed by goalkeeper Jesse Joronen, fortunately a defender picked the ball up but possession was returned to Eastbourne, Darren Lok shooting quickly from the edge of the box as Joronen raced back into position. Although the Finn was able to get down to the shot he somehow managed to squeeze the ball under his body and over the line to the delight of everyone from Sussex who in smash and grab style had rescued victory from the jaws of defeat. It was a sad end to the game for Joronen who had impressed throughout with his handling of crosses and fast distribution using his big throw, but like the Dorchester game three weeks ago, Maidenhead's profligacy going forward when dominant had cost them dear, meaning a defensive error was enough to gift the visitors all three points.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Letter to the Advertiser

This is the letter that I sent to the Maidenhead Advertiser that was published in the Thursday 6th December edition:

Dear Sir,
Pleased as I was to see P Brennen carry on the debate about a new stand at Maidenhead United FC (Letters, November 29th), I must write to correct the errors and misconceptions in his letter.
Firstly the reason why the original stand wasn't rebuilt straight away was because it was a case of arson and therefore there was no insurance payout. Hence the temporary replacement built on the railway side of the ground remains to this day.
Secondly crowds are not at their lowest ever. Indeed since the club's promotion to the Conference South crowds have consistently averaged over 300, which although not as high as the 60s is the highest since then (details attached) and a big improvement since the club's nadir in the late 80s.
Admission is not £15 but £10 for adults and £6 for concessions which judging by P Brennen's comments about following the club for 60 years he/she would qualify for. Incidentally I am mystified by the comment about not having to listen to foul language by watching a game on TV as this is clearly audible with the added facility to lip read what the players are saying.
As for listening to locals, the Maidenhead United Supporters Association has been doing plenty of that in recent years by running a stall in the town centre on matchdays and at the Maidenhead carnival. In addition the club has regularly run promotions in conjunction with this paper to give people the opportunity to sample a game at a much reduced price.
Finally while P Brennen is right that we cannot turn the clock back the town does have the opportunity to support what, when you consider the global socio-cultural influence of football, is the town's most important historic asset after Brunel's bridge and the Great Western Railway. Unlike the rugby club we may not have the benefit of half a million pound handout from the council, but we can offer the people of Maidenhead an opportunity to support, share and sustain a small but significant part of the beautiful game.
Yours faithfully

Steve Jinman
Maidenhead United FC

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Another cup match, another sub standard performance from Maidenhead United to leave the Magpie fans as frozen as the pitch at the final whistle. The scoreline may have only been 1-0 but it could have been a lot more with the Magpies offering little or no hope of even salvaging a replay. Once again David Pratt was absent from a key Cup tie and his replacement in the lone forward role Alex Wall was left to chase hopeless causes all night as the ball was fruitlessly pumped high and long in his direction, a tactic which was meat and drink to a Suttton defence well marshalled by Simon Downer. Thus attacking wingers Lee Barney and Harry Pritchard saw little of the ball leaving most of the play to take place in the Maidenhead half with the Magpies clearing off the line, and Jesse Joronen pushing a shot wide from the impressive Stefan Payne before Sutton took a deserved lead. Harry Ottaway was the scorer, applying a deft touch to a cross from Simon Rents which split the Maidenhead defence.
For their part Maidenhead had one good chance, a Wall drive being parried by goalkeeper Kevin Scrivens, whilst the Magpies were forced to rearrange their defence when Joe Crook departed injured just before the goal, James Regis coming on, which led to captain Mark Nisbet moving forward into the midfield with neither Daniel Brown on Bobby Behzadi on the bench.
One consolation of the half time scoreline was that Maidenhead were still in the game with the powerful weapons of Reece Tison-Lascaris and Pratt on the bench. Yet their introduction midway through the half did little to raise hopes of a goal and Sutton ran out comfortable winners. Both sides came close to scoring on one occasion, Nisbet having a header cleared off the line by Stuart, whilst Joronen made a last ditch save to deny Craig Dundas, however even with four minutes of stoppage time the end result was in little doubt, leaving Maidenhead with only their league future to play for this season. The two games to be played before Sutton United return on 22nd December need to yield points to keep the Magpies' heads above the relegation mire.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

City Slicker

One of the constant facets of league football is the ability of lowly teams to up their game when the top of the table side comes to town. Some may feel frustration at the way sides can display hitherto rarely seen depths of energy and creativity but in truth this is purely a natural reaction to the challenge of playing the current number one.
The simple motivation of trying to knock the top boys off their perch is usually enough to produce a tight contest, and yesterday was no different, undoubtedly helped by the usual Conference fixture quirk of the corresponding match in Wiltshire taking place less than a month ago. That game ended in Maidenhead successfully holding out under great pressure to earn a point, meaning both teams had something to prove at York Road.
For once Drax had more than one choice in his attacking options, choosing the re-signed loanee Chris Flood and Reece Tison-Lascaris on the flanks ahead of Lee Barney and Harry Pritchard, whilst Alex Wall got the nod to start alongside David Pratt in the middle. However it was the defence which came under the spotlight in the opening stages with an early Salisbury blitz on the Maidenhead goal. This showed the Magpies had lost none of their resolve from the first game, withstanding the pressure to keep the scoresheet blank, Jesse Joronen making one fantastic fingertip save to deny James White.
As the half went on Maidenhead began to develop an attacking threat of their own exploiting the space behind the right side of City defence but the Magpies could not quite set themselves to challenge goalkeeper Will Puddy to emulate his doppelganger Joe Hart from several promising positions. When the fresh faced Puddy was called into action though he supported his side's title winning ambition with a superb save to tip a shot from distance by Michael Pook around the post five minutes ahead of the break. A save all the more creditable after the ball took a slight deflection off Wall en route to goal.
This effort seemed to boost United's confidence and they started the second half boldly pushing forward only for Salisbury to score the only goal of the game six minutes after the kick off. For all the impressive play of both sides, the goal was a simple affair, a whipped in cross from the left by James Clarke being met by captain Brian Dutton at the far post to power a header home. This had the effect of rousing the sizeable Salisbury support from their impeccably observed first half silence.
The goal did not change an open game, both sides giving their all for another. Both sides enjoyed spells of attacking pressure but with Maidenhead unable to capitalise on a series of corners, the closest to an equaliser was a Pritchard effort from close range which Puddy managed to get just enough of his body on to stop the ball trickling over the line.
At the other end the speed with which Salisbury counter attacked was a constant threat to the Maidenhead defence but the one golden chance which presented itself to City was volleyed over by White with the goal at his mercy.
Thus the final result reflected the teams' relative league positions and confirmed Salisbury's status as the team to beat this season. Their decision to train full time seems to be paying off this season as the speed and quality of the passing and movement means they are the best team I have seen in the division this season. As they are out of both national cup competitions I see no reason why they won't regain their Alliance Premier status which they lost for financial irregularities not so long ago. Maidenhead now hover precariously one place above the relegation zone, as with the previous two seasons their fate will lie in their ability to take points from the teams around them by displaying the hard work and desire that was in plentiful evidence yesterday afternoon.