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, 27 January 2013

Revenge of Plastic Fan

A strange night at the Grove on Wednesday, a evenly contested first half, a spectacular opening to the second which decided the game, and a training style end following a long stoppage for a head injury.
It was eventful off the pitch too, at least in the section of the Upper tier of the Clock End where I was sitting where a boisterous young man a few seats along my row decided that his vocal support was not enough when West Ham took the lead. Indeed Arsenal's inability to only go into the break on level terms thanks to Lukas Podolski's equaliser hit like a kicking horse, was supposedly down to everyone's failure to match his volume and veracity of support. With no one rising to his bait, allegations that we were all plastic fans and responsible for Arsenal's demise in recent seasons soon turned into more personal abuse which crossed the line and he so he found himself put in his place by all around him.
The cameradarie engendered by the feeling that none of us were like him was boosted when he failed to return for the second half and thus missed the enthralling ten minute spell when Arsenal scored four times through Olivier Giroud (with two), Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott to make it game over.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A game of two thirds

I approached yesterday's game in Kent with some trepidation as the Magpies win in the corresponding match at York Road on the opening day of the season was although deserved somewhat flattering in its  final margin. So it turned out that the avenging Angels of Tonbridge won narrowly thanks to a penalty which sparked a rancorous end to the game.
Despite a 100% losing record for the Magpies, Longmead is a ground I've grown to like, I just wish it wasn't such a long walk from the station. Fortunately I managed to get there before the deluge which went on all afternoon. Nestling at the back of a housing estate, Longmead is a collection of small building projects offering cover on all four sides and most importantly a steepish covered terrace behind each goal.
The packed Christmas period was starting to take its toll on the Maidenhead line up with Joe Tabiri, Daniel Brown and Harry Pritchard all missing through injury, with the latter's presence in particular a big loss for a Maidenhead team who unlike Tonbridge failed to present enough of a threat in the final third of the pitch.
The Angels weren't lacking in this department as was shown as early as the third minute when Frannie Collin skipped into the clear only to be denied by the feet of Billy Lumley. As Patrick Kanyuka and Devante McKain began to acquaint themselves in the centre of the Maidenhead defence, United emerged from a shaky start to impose themselves on the game, bringing the ball forward with confidence. Thus it was disappointing to go behind ten minutes ahead of the interval when after Lumley parried a Matt Lovell shot from the edge of the penalty area, Lovell was first to fire home the loose ball.
Maidenhead levelled three minutes later, Alex Wall latching onto a penetrating through ball before unleashing a tremendous shot from the edge of the penalty to equalise. This meant the half time scoreline fairly reflected the half with Tonbridge's troublesome nippy attackers being matched by Maidenhead's more structured approach to goal.
A tight game continued after the break, the injured Kanyuka seeing Mark Nisbet return to the centre of defence whilst Derek Duncan returned to action at full back, Bobby Behzadi moving into midfield. The deadlock was broken seventeen minutes into the second half when Tonbridge won a penalty following a soft challenge by David Pratt on George Purcell who frustratingly went to ground running towards the corner flag.
Collin's penalty was well directed into the left hand corner, just eluding Lumley's outstretched hand. The aftermath led to Lumley being the butt of the Angels fans ire for the rest of the game, with the salient feature of the rest of the game being the long involved discussions between referee and everyone involved, and the Tonbridge players with any one in black and white.
Although Maidenhead worked hard for a second equaliser it was Tonbridge who improved most after the goal, going close to scoring enough times to ensure victory was deserved. Lumley had to be at his best to tip a Purcell shot over the bar, he was then beaten by a Collin shot which ricocheted off the post across the face of the goal.
Maidenhead's inability to overcome the experienced central defensive bulwark of Gary Elphick and Ollie Schulz to similarly test Lee Worgan meant there was little doubt about the final result, one I'm sure the home fans saw as payback for the opening day of the season.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Ash saves Wood

There aren't many footballing spectacles that are less appealing than a midweek trip to Boreham Wood on a freezing January evening but the lingering buzz of the win against Chelmsford coupled with a convenient journey direct from Elephant & Castle to Elstree meant I was Hertfordshire bound.
The Wood have continued to develop what must be the best non league facility off the pitch particularly for the players, which when coupled with audacious plans for a second large seated stand with a TV gantry it is clear they are building for the future, but still despite the ground's location in the middle of a residential area, the fans do not come. This is even more puzzling given the team's excellent form, with the 200 who did go on Wednesday night treated to an entertaining incident packed match.
With the pitch already white with frost the game kicked off at a frenetic pace, the play oscillating from end to end. Maidenhead took an early in the sixteenth minute when Daniel Brown jinked his way into the penalty area and fired home from a tight angle.With the Magpies losing Harry Pritchard to injury soon after the goal, the home team gradually took control of the game as the pace slackened a little. Wood looked the more comfortable team on the ball whilst the Magpies seemed a little too hasty to get rid of it particularly when under pressure.
At the rare times the action subsided entertainment was provided by Boreham Wood coach Luke Garrard (above left) who kept up a steady stream of tragi comic shouts from the dugouts. The equaliser arrived eight minutes ahead of half time when Luke Norris tapped in an inswinging corner. Wood had the ball in the net again before the interval but the goal was disallowed for offside.
After the break Maidenhead looked to be getting back into the game when Boreham Wood scored what proved to be the winner, a long ball straight down the middle of the pitch finding Norris who nonchalantly lobbed Billy Lumley to score.
Maidenhead still looked like they had a goal in them though, an Alex Wall shot being deflected wide after a great move. A triple Wood substitution revealed that the Cliff Akurang fan club was sitting on my right when the veteran striker entered the fray and the Magpies were then given hope when one of the Wood centre
back continued to play despite being in apparent distress from an injury.
With seven minutes left though the game was nearly over for both teams when the referee pulled up but after a short delay it was revealed that United's favourite referee Ash Denagrin was in the crowd and he quickly changed to run the line. Unfortunately he wasn't able to inspire the Magpies to another goal and in the eleven minutes that remained it was Wood who came nearest to adding to the score when they caught Lumley up the pitch for a corner only to Akurang to miss an open goal.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Fire Wall stops Chelmsford

The Bell Street End looks on nervously as Chelmsford take a corner
Chelmsford fans seem to love travelling to York Road, such are the numbers in which they travel to Berkshire every season. I guess it must be the attraction of easy accessibility, watching a game at a proper ground (as opposed to an athletics stadium), and until a last minute equaliser last season a 100% winning record.
In the absence of a genuine big club in the division, yesterday also presented the best annual opportunity for the Magpies to upset the odds in front of a hostile crowd, the time of year and heavy pitch calling to mind the legendary victory over Aldershot twelve years ago this weekend.
With Chelmsford again looking for promotion, a tough game was in prospect for a Maidenhead team with  one enforced change. On loan goalkeeper Jesse Joronen had been called up by Finland, so Billy Lumley returned to the number one shirt giving England Schoolboy squad member Mikey Pearce a place on the bench. Up front Dave Pratt got the nod in front of Reece Tison-Lascaris to give the starting line up a more solid look. Michael Pook and Lee Barney returned to the bench from injury and loan respectively.
The game started with Chelmsford fielding a lone striker in Jamie Slabber with a clear strategy of using the pace of Anthony Cook to expose the Maidenhead defence on the counter attack. This paid dividends when Slabber went clear in the thirteenth minute, winning a penalty as he went over Lumley. The spot kick award generated contrasting opinions from those close to the action and it was certainly a surprise when Lumley was only shown a yellow card with Pearce looking set for an unexpected debut. Slabber made no mistake with the penalty leaving Maidenhead with an uphill task to get back into the game.
Happy with their goal, Chelmsford sat back and allowed Maidenhead to attack them, when perhaps if the Clarets had upped the tempo they could have won the game. Particularly as United had lost Joe Tabiri to injury just ahead of the goal. Instead the Magpies accepted the invitation to attack and deservedly equalised ahead of the half hour mark when Harry Pritchard shrugged off Richard Brindley's interest in swapping shirts, to deliver a pinpoint cross from the left wing onto the head of Alex Wall to score. Maidenhead almost went into the break ahead only for a glancing Mark Nisbet header to be deflected to safety.
One man and his non league dog
The second half saw the character of the game reversed as Chelmsford firmly set their stall out to win the game, exerting great pressure on the Maidenhead penalty area particularly from set pieces throughout the half. They came close to scoring just once though when Donovan Simmonds went clear, Lumley saving well with his feet. It was a real team performance from the Magpies to consistently clear their lines, with everyone pitching in from 1 to 11 to keep the score level. 
On turning over possession Maidenhead broke quickly, moving the ball effectively between each other to create goalscoring opportunities, Pratt, Pritchard and Tison-Lascaris alll missing the target when well placed whilst Daniel Brown had a searing effort from twenty yards pushed wide by goalkeeper Stuart Searle. As United sallied forth up the slope time and time again they were roared on by the Bell Street End throng which included for the first time, Charlie the Collie who was eager to add to the noise when the ball reached the penalty box. 
The game was so open that a late winner was inevitable, although it would have been a brave person to predict with any confidence which end it would be scored at. With the game deep into stoppage time Maidenhead won a free kick well outside the penalty area. As Wall stepped up to take it hopes were limited to a deflection for a corner and another goal scoring opportunity, but after the hard work of last Saturday, today was the striker's day as he pulled the trigger and fired an unstoppable shot into the back of the net. This was one of those moments which are very rare at this level when the quality of the strike makes the hair on the back of the neck stand up. A goal that would be impressive on any occasion and the best I can recall from a Maidenhead free kick since Mark Harrison beat Gary Phillips from the half way line in the 1995 County Cup semi-final.
Cue pandemonium on the terraces which was soon replaced by heartfelt appreciation at the final whistle at a fine performance of great character, long overdue for those fans who can only go to home games, and most welcome for all favouring the black and white stripes. One of those occasions where every player stood up to be counted but head and shoulders above them all was man of the match Alex Wall.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Out with the new in with the old

An absolutely herculean effort by Jason Stewart and his grounds team both on New Years Eve and at dawn on New Years Day meant that a sunny winter's day would see football at York Road. It was an effort not just to capitalise on the prospect of a better than normal crowd but also to take advantage of some splendid away form which had seen seven points taken from the last nine. 
This would be the first time new signings Alfie Mawson, Patrick Kanyuka and Joe Tabiri were on show to the York Road public but once again when presented with a great opportunity to impress the long suffering home support the Magpies fell short in a tight match which for once reflected its local derby status.
Maidenhead lined up as at Staines with only Michael Pook missing having been injured late on in the six goal win. Unlike their Middlesex counterparts though Hayes were quite able to deal with the United formation, deep lying centre back Pedro "Pele" Monteiro often dropping back into a virtual sweeper role to use the ability that Southampton reputedly paid £6 million for in 2006 to snuff out most of  the Magpies attacking endeavours.
Nevertheless the confidence gained from Saturday's win was on show early doors, Alfie Mawson's drive being tipped over the bar by Hayes' keeper Brandon Hall in the sixth minute. Unfortunately this was the closest the Magpies came to scoring and just one minute later they fell behind when Kudus Oyenuga neatly passed from the left to Coskun Ekim to fire the ball home from the middle of the penalty area.
These 120 seconds of end to end action proved to be unique in a tight game where the heavy going underfoot meant chances were few and far between. As the half went on Maidenhead played the role of home team well by having the lion's share of the play but could only fashion one clear cut goal scoring opportunity when a cross found Alex Wall with the goal at his mercy only for the striker to fluff his chance. Instead the best reflection of what was to come derived from a niggly exchange just before half time between Reece Tison-Lascaris and Jamie Hand which saw both players booked.
After the break Drax attempted to break the deadlock by bringing on David Pratt to partner wall up front, and use a midfield diamond with Chris Flood at the apex. This ensured the game remained open, with Maidenhead's pressure matched by the constant threat of a Hayes breakaway. Wall's departure then saw Flood pushed up front and he had a great chance to equalise when Pratt played him in on the left side of the penalty area only for the Eastleigh loanee to put the ball into the side netting with his weaker left foot.
This all went on against a background of constant gamesmanship from the visitors which had little influence on the game but reached comedic proportions when the subs board raised Oyenuga's number. The striker attmpeted to dash off to the touchline furthest from the dugouts but found a black and white shirt checking his move. He then suffered  a tragic loss of athleticism and walked off at snails pace to the bench.
In the corresponding fixture on Boxing Day, a last minute goal sealed the points and for a moment it looked like it would be Maidenhead who snatched a draw only for Harry Pritchard's header from Flood's corner to be disallowed for off side. It was then left to Hayes to have the last word when substitute Jamel Lowe broke away down the left wing before cutting inside to score and confirm the destination of the three points. A fair result given the Middlesex men were more clinical in front of goal and disappointing that in view of the effort given by the Magpies on and off the pitch that they had nothing to show for it in front of the biggest crowd of the season.