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, 8 September 2013

Ferry Good

Hail the conquering heroes home
Anticipation was high yesterday as Maidenhead came as close to a trip into Europe as they're ever likely to get with a trip overseas from Portsmouth island to the Gosport peninsula. With the match conveniently scheduled for good weather in early season, it felt like a return to the days when United had to play in the earliest FA Cup qualifying rounds with lots of infrequent travellers joining the usual flock of Magpies away from home. Helped perhaps by the lack of any top flight football due to the interlull, and more likely by the prospect of a first ever visit to Privett Park, I knew that my time alone on the train down from Waterloo would be short.
The London terminus was jam packed with people off to sporting events at venues as august as Twickenham and Ascot, and the real meaning of non league day was brought home to me when police swooped on a group of England fans presumably heading home after a Friday night at Wembley. On face value the group looked guilty of nothing more than having criminally short haircuts. Maybe this was part of the clampdown on anti social behaviour on public transport announced at the start of the season, but it came across as another example of criminalising going to the match. The freedom to enjoy football as you wish, without advance tickets, police escorts, over zealous stewards and regulations is the real value of non league football. It is not as some would have it a different sport, it is a way of watching football that has been lost to the professional leagues, and that's why sometimes its a better way of spending your leisure time.
Getting on a fairly empty train felt a relief which grew as the train sped away from the capital. The second stop at Guildford saw one contingent of Magpies who had travelled from Maidenhead join me, John and Bob rather optimistically dressed for the seaside, whilst Maurice introduced everyone to a vital matchday accessory, a chiller bag for beer.
Correct change only
HMS Warrior
Where's the duty free?
Arriving at Portsmouth Harbour, we could see the Gosport ferry coming towards the Portsmouth shore giving us just enough time to wander down the gangway to purchase tickets (£2.90 return from a correct fare only machine - wonder how many people pay £3?) and take for many of us the first trip by boat to a Maidenhead game.
Goodbye Portsmouth
All aboard for the short trip which just about gave everyone time to sample the view, starting with the sight of HMS Warrior, before contemplating the game in prospect.
As we set foot on dry land, Andy proved to have the most effective beer antennae, spotting the Castle Tavern, just a short walk away. It was a perfectly friendly pub offering cheap food and beer, but the way all the tables were set for lunch meant it felt compulsory to stand, a brief attempt at sitting outside ending once the wind and rain began to bite.
Soon enough our numbers doubled as the second Maidenhead train party joined us, and the prematch stories started to circulate before taking a taxi from the rank handily placed between pub and ferry terminal.
Any worries that our presence would attract the attentions of the local constabulary were assuaged when it looked like all the boys in blue were busy looking after a tiny animal rights march, and we sped through the nondescript peninsula town swiftly arriving at our destination, Privett Park.
The ground was pleasant enough, belying its recent county league origins, one club official confessing that two promotions in a row were something of a surprise to all concern. They clearly have some work to do to, due to the Conference's irrational dislike of grass anywhere other than the pitch, but the two stands stretching alongside each touchline were impressive enough, the more modern of the two giving a glimpse of what will be built at York Road in the coming months.
View from the clubhouse end
The one downside was the complete absence of terraces, covered or otherwise which did little for my view of the game, stood as I was on the level behind each goal.In the first half there was also the distraction of a steward insisting everyone who had a drink in their hand, return inside, something of a mixed message considering alcohol was served in plastic glasses. However there was no doubting the outcome, with the home team being the weakest I have seen at this level for sometime, which is not surprising considering that they were in the Southern League Division One eighteen months ago.
Maidenhead's most fruitful line of attack came down the left wing with Reece Tison-Lascaris leading full back Dan Woodward a merry dance all afternoon.United should have opened the scoring in the fourteenth minute when Michael Malcolm received a gift of an opportunity only for his far post header to hit the post.
In reply Maidenhead seemed happy to give Gosport ground to attack, but the home team could find no way through the defence to effectively test goalkeeper Elvijs Putnins. Any thought that this might be the day when Gosport would win their first Conference south match was dismissed when Tison-Lascaris skipped through the defence as he had done at Ebbsfleet, calmly rounding the keeper to score.
Maidenhead remained on top for the rest of the first half, with former player Steve Claridge having seen enough with ten minutes remaining, leaving his seat in the stand to head for the bar.
Boardroom art
After the break brightened up by a fine painting in the boardroom, the Magpies made a concerted effort to make sure of the three points. This time it was right winger Danny Green's turn to shine, having a shot blocked by goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore. Minutes later Bobby Behzadi set up Richard Pacquette to fire home the second goal from just inside the penalty area with typical aplomb.
This proved to be the most entertaining passage of play with Green again denied by an Ashmore parry before Putnins took his chance to impress, flying across his goal like an orange flash to stop an Andy Forbes header, repeating the trick a minute later.
Borough worked hard in the time remaining to find a way back into the game but could create no chances of note and there was little danger of the points heading anywhere else other than back on the ferry.
The final whistle is about to blow
Thus the post mortem saw a happy Magpie band wend their way back north via a pub on either side of the ferry reflecting that awaydays don't get much better than this, and even looking forward to the visit of league leaders Eastleigh to York Road next Saturday. Gosport however look like they've got a lot to do to avoid sharing the fate of Hornchurch and Billericay, by having the briefest of stays in the Conference South.

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