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.

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.

No comments: