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.

Monday 19 August 2013

White Hawk Down

A good start to the new season with a trip to my favourite footballing county of Sussex to Whitehawk, the Brighton suburb whose football club steamrollered their way to the Isthmian League title last season thanks to their owner's largesse.
A quick dash to the sea by train is followed by a walk along the front in weather far removed from the heatwave in which the country found itself when I went on holiday in late July. With Whitehawk's ground being a good hike from the centre I was glad that the weather was not so bad as to stop the operation of the Volk's Electric Railway which sped me along the coastline to the Marina from which it was a ten minute walk to the ground.
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
Whilst walking up the interminable drive which led from Wilson Avenue to Whitehawk’s enclosed ground I considered there would be two possible outcomes to the opening day of the season: either the home team’s galacticos would play the Magpies off the park, or Maidenhead would catch the new boys cold and come away with an unexpected three points.
Fortunately it was the latter scenario which came to pass. This was pleasantly unexpected as reflected by pre match odds of 7/2, a gamble that would only have been greater had the bookies heard the team news which saw both stalwart full backs Bobby Behzadi and Leon Solomon withdraw through illness and injury respectively, and striker Michael Malcolm ruled out after failing a late fitness test.
However virtually from the kick off it was clear Maidenhead had the capacity to upset the odds when a Reece Tison-Lascaris through ball set up Richard Pacquette only for the striker to pull his shot wide. It wasn’t long before Whitehawk replied in kind and an entertaining game ensued, the crucial difference being United’s ability to hit the back of the net.
Land of a thousand scaffolding poles
In contrast to the excitement on the pitch the surroundings were quite desperate with the only change to the ground since United’s last visit in 1999 for an FA Cup tie being two temporary stands at either end, with one having a half finished roof and innumerable scaffolding poles. At least the addition of a white hawk on the hill above drew attention away from chalk bank which ran the length of one touchline and was off limits to supporters. Incidentally this was the bank (then covered with grass) where Lee Channell was christened “Porno” back on that sunny summer’s day at the end of the last century.
The White Hawk and Porno's bank
Back to the football, and an intriguing contest was developing with each side taking a different route to goal. The home side exploited the wings, whilst Maidenhead with impressive debutant Adrian Clifton to the fore, passed their way through the centre of the midfield. This approach saw Clifton emulate Pacquette’s miss in the opening minute whilst up the other end Elvijs Putnins did well to tip a Jake Robinson shot around the post.
My view of the first half
Maidenhead then opened the scoring in fortuitous circumstances when a Pacquette cross from the right was met by Danny Green. His effort struck defender Tom Cadmore so the ball looped over the hapless keeper and into the back of the net midway through the first half.
The game continued as before with United still looking dangerous whilst Whitehawk hit the woodwork twice by the interval. The second occasion seeing Tommy Fraser rattle Putnins crossbar with a free kick.
After the break Whitehawk laid siege to the Maidenhead penalty area, but the Magpies responded in kind, showing a great unity of purpose, literally barring the way to goal with black and white shirts. With Clifton moving to right back to replace the injured Mark Nisbet, the Hawks ramped up the pressure but could not quite fashion an equaliser, coming closest when a diving header found its way through a forest of legs only to be met by a tremendous save at full stretch by Putnins.
Inevitably gaps began to open in the home team defence as they committed more and more men forward, giving Maidenhead the opportunity to seal the win. This became a reality with fifteen minutes remaining when Green returned the favour for his goal by swinging a corner from the right to the far post to Pacquette to head home.
Ten minutes later Harry Pritchard applied the coup de grace with the goal of the game, a typically classy strike with his right foot from the edge of the box which curled its way into the far corner.
Thus the final whistle signalled the end to a great opening day performance by the Magpies which by virtue of the margin of victory sent them to the top of the league to provide an opportunity for much celebration in the countless pubs of Brighton.
As for Whitehawk I'm sure this will be a wake up call as to the nature of the standard of Conference South football. The quality of their squad suggests they will be a top half side and surely their aim will be to consolidate on the pitch so they can bring their ground up to standard. Their neighbours Brighton & Hove Albion are the best supported club in the Football League, whilst just up the road Lewes have attracted two 500+ crowds to their opening home games despite being relegated last season. With clearly a keen appetite for football in the area Whitehawk must be embarrassed by a crowd of 150, with Brighton playing up north and Maidenhead providing 20% of the crowd. Surely some covered terracing would help although I guess they are a bit stuck with the currently closed chalk bank along one touchline.I just hope they don't turn into the new Truro.
The original stand set well back from the touchline

No comments: