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, 29 September 2013

KO at the OC

Mind the gap between the dugouts
Oxford is a city of two halves: the dreaming spires of academia, and the local working population some of whom will have been dreaming of Wembley yesterday. Alighting the train with what turned about to be for the third week in a row a sizeable but different Magpie contingent, the long walk into town to find a pub felt anything but like going to a football match as we waded through the hordes of tourists in the city centre. It was some consolation that Oxford seems to be the Amstel capital of England but being a football supporter in a pub here felt weird, unsurprisingly very much like Cambridge which also keeps the proletarian pursuit of football at arms length.
On first reflection this is strange given the leading role the Universities played in developing the sport in the 19th century, but is better understood given that this was the FA Cup with its corinthian amateur roots, rather than the professional league competition which was to take over the game.
My first visit to Court Place Farm was in the mid 90s. I distinctly remember watching Maidenhead play against a backdrop of the Manor Ground floodlights hovering above the John Radcliffe Hospital at the top of the hill. The illumination has long since been banished to another unloved corner of the City, leaving little to note in a functional ground hugging the bypass.
Notwithstanding Oxford City's current status is a fine achievement. They faced extinction in the 80s after being evicted from the White House ground by their University landlords, but responded by building a club that is as good example as any of one fully bonded to the local community with a plethora of different teams, some of whom were in evidence in the clubhouse yesterday, although Maidenhead United Reserves' Hellenic League rivals the Oxford City Nomads seem to have a dodgy status of a club within a club. 
Top of the tree are the City first team who due to the vagaries of the geography of Non League football ply their trade in the Conference North, so what used to be an Isthmian League clash today was a north v south battle.
On paper Maidenhead United looked like favourites going into this game as the home team had yet to win a game, however with injuries to key players like Matt Ruby, Mark Nisbet and in particular Richard Pacquette, the longer the game went on a replay looked like the Magpies best outcome. This was in spite of the boost following the draw for this round of the news that midfielder Michael Pook had turned down a lucrative move to City, money aside maybe he decided to remain at York Road to protect his neck such was the route one nature of the bidders.
For an hour or so this was to be a tale of two left wingers with City sticking to a plan which saw everything fired directly to Tom Winters on the left flank with the aim of delivering a cross into the penalty area, whilst Maidenhead aspired to finding Winters' counterpart Reece Tison-Lascaris to dance through the defence. The latter promised much but was unable to successfully meet the twin challenge of a bobbly pitch and a determined defence. The Magpie's impotence was compounded by the absence of the wily Pacquette with his raw replacement Tony Mendy lacking the nous to translate a pass into an assist.
Thus although Maidenhead looked the better team in the first half it was Oxford who looked more likely to score, with headers connecting with crosses on more than one occasion. These were comfortably dealt with by Elvijs Putnins aside from one which was cleared off the line by Wada Ahmidi.
After the break though it was Oxford that took command of the game with Maidenhead's forward line stuttering to a stop. Tison-Lasacris and Danny Green managed to conjure up the odd tantalising cross but the absence of someone to apply a finish was conspicuous.
For their part Oxford stuck with their method of launching the ball up to Winters. This was mystifying given as it not only effectively cut the talented ex Magpie Jamie Cook out of the game on the right flank, but also did little to exploit the introduction of former Southampton striker Steve Basham at half time. Oxford persistence was to pay off in the end though as with four minutes remaining a ball to Winters finally eluded Bobby Behzadi with the cross being met at the far post by the head of Cook.
Despite the introduction of Harry Pritchard Maidenhead had no response to the goal meaning Oxford were soon celebrating their first win of the season and a place in the FA Cup third qualifying round.
The result leaves Drax with a headache of how to balance an injury hit squad with the need to firstly secure the defence and then create chances. Oxford look doomed to a season of desperate struggle. I won't be in a hurry to go back to their ground, reached by expensive taxis and not a good place to watch football despite the warm welcome and decent facilities.All in all this was a reverse of the cliche of a "good advert for non league football". I'm sure Conference Chairman Brian Lee would have preferred to watch a more entertaining game elsewhere.

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