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, 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.

No comments: