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.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Style council crushed by the wheels of industry

Merstham take a corner from the Albury End
Back in the UK from my holiday I found that the football season was in full swing in plenty of divisions so I selected a hors d'oeuvre last Wednesday night ahead of  Maidenhead United's opener at the weekend.
An Isthmian League Division One South clash between Merstham and Ramsgate offered the right combination of accessibility and a new ground with a hint of a Magpie connection in the shape of new Merstham captain Lee Newman or as he used to be known during my tenure as programme editor "the diminutive blonde striker". Merstham is also the setting for former Maidenhead United Chairman (and current President) Jim Parsons' oft repeated anecdote about it being the venue where he came closest to sacking a manager on the spot. The occasion was an FA Vase defeat in the autumn of 1989 and it was a good job he he didn't as within twelve months Martyn Spong was leading the Magpies on a record breaking run of wins which would ultimately lead to promotion.
TU Tea
Alighting from the train I found the expected leafy suburban Surrey stockbroker town so it was a surprise to find that the ground was located on the other side of the tracks in the middle of a council estate.The first person I met after I went through the turnstile was programme seller Bob McGillivray with whom I share the pages of For The Love of the Game (pic 3 on link). After a brief discussion about the new club captain I assured him I would be rooting for Merstham. Judging by the crowd of 119 which contained a fair contingent from Ramsgate, they needed my support but I didn't much persuading to favour the home team with their well appointed ground (excellent surface with both ends named cricket style), stylish Adidas strip and tea served in a trade union mug!
My support was secured soon after kick off when it became apparent that the game would be a real clash of styles with Merstham determined to pass their way to goal in the face a physical approach from the visitors. With Newman on the bench, ironically the home team's weak link was striker Aaron Stone who wasn't quite able to capitalise from the excellent right flank combination of Jordan Wilson (full back) and Troy Williams (winger) and the mercurial talent of Aaron Rhule on the opposite side.
However Merstham's style proved to be their downfall. After the portly goalkeeper from Kent Darren Hawkes had shown surprisingly agility and ingenuity to deal with a couple of attacks, Ramsgate started to expose a shaky defence exemplified by the poor handling of Hawkes opposite number Brannon Daly. Sadly it was centre back Liam Harwood who was guilty of the error which led to the opening goal, giving the ball away minutes after hitting a couple of tremendous pass forward, Darren Pilcher applying a neat finish to score. 
Ramsgate then gained the upperhand with their up and at 'em approach demonstrated when centre back Ollie Schulz ran the length of the pitch to confront an opponent after the referee had given the away team a free kick on the edge of the penalty area. A further incident of handbags before half team suggested the match might turn ugly before the interval.
Put your handbags away boys
After the break Merstham pushed hard for an equaliser and did everything but score, Hawkes again denying them a goal with two superb last ditch stops on the line. Ramsgate then scored a killer second goal when Andrew Miller was first to the loose ball to score after an initial shot from Ian Pulman had hit the post. Merstham continued to stick to their principles with Newman coming on to demonstrate he still has the knack of creating space in the penalty area with a short burst of pace. However this time they were continuously foiled by a well sprung offside trap which held itself together deep into the Ramsgate half. So the final score finished 2-0 to the visitors who depressingly will probably prosper this season. I hope Merstham carry on with their footballing experiment and get their just reward in due course.

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