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, 12 January 2014

Magpies have their chips

"Planning a trip to Cleethorpes tomorrow: 
Endless Lincolnshire skies,
Sea like a friendly stain,
Fish, chips, mushy peas,
Onto the pier again.

Following the epic trek to Barrow before Christmas I couldn't have been happier that the FA Trophy draw produced another trip to a former league club particularly one like Grimsby Town. For me they still counted as a proper football league club, endlessly flitting between Divisions Two and Four throughout my childhood to a commentary of fishy puns such as "Sing when we're Fishing" or "Cod Almighty". Grimsby presented Maidenhead United's first opportunity to play a competitive fixture against a club which had previously played at the top level of English football (the scoundrels from Milton Keynes don't count), with minutiae of information well known from regular perusals of countless big books about football.
Thus I knew I was going to Blundell Park to see the Mariners, the only club to play in a town that does not bear its name. Regardless of the fact that this was only the FA Trophy, this trumped the 1st Round FA Cup tie with Aldershot, a club whose familiarity through their years in non league football bred contempt for their briefly Football League recovered status.
Having fought my way through the stress of the Underground, ticket machines and jobsworth staff I was delighted to discover my reserved seat on the 9.48 train north saw me share a table with two other Maidenhead United fans so well done to Hull Trains for sorting that out.
Doncaster in the sun
A quick change at suitably sunny Donny saw us head out through what was left of the South Riding and into the flat lands of Lincolnshire. The change of county was confirmed by the sight of Scunthorpe United's matchbox stadium, an Eastbourne Borough of the north, whilst the realisation that we were in a very different England which had been signalled by the tower blocks of Doncaster, was proved by the sprawling steel works passed as we left the home of the Iron. Despite the sunshine the black residue covering the earth and the flames flickering in the background revealed why Ted Lewis had set his novel Jack's Return Home here before director Mike Hodges changed its name and location to Get Carter and Newcastle.
Arriving in Grimsby and the industrial focus switched to fish, a ubiquitous theme for the rest of the day. The train looped past the fish dock and into New Clee, past Blundell Park before arriving at our final destination of Cleethorpes, a fading resort still vainly trying to offer a glamorous day out. There was a big wheel on the front which if stood next to London's millennium one would have suggested a giant penny farthing. The walkway leading from the station presented a shed offering Barcelona nightlife, which couldn't have looked further from the Ramblas before we found the town's true highlight the plentiful supply of Fish and Chip shops.
Little appealed about any of the pubs so we settled on the Fiddler on the basis that it was next to bookies, was showing all the football and offered three pints of lager for under £8. The number of Magpies inside slowly grew although those on the supporters coach were delayed after the driver got stuck in one of the side streets near the ground.
View from the Findus stand
Heading up the Grimsby Road there was a virtually unique sight for a Maidenhead fan of an ever increasing number of people in black and white favours parking up in side streets and walking towards the towering floodlights, before a right turn brought the Findus stand into view. Entering the stadium I was directed to McMenemy suite for a great view of the ground and some magnificent hospitality with no one complaining about the single item on the menu presumably provided by sponsors Youngs.
Venturing out into the stand the other three sides of the ground were rather pale in comparision, with tell tale signs of seats having been hastily placed on terraces when Town played in the post Taylor report Division Two. Indeed part of me hankered for those of us in the away end to be placed in the triangular corner section confined by nets and fences 80s style.
I can see the sea
The game kicked off with Grimsby big favourites starting with six of the eleven who had almost shocked Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup seven days earlier. With the Magpies missing top scorer Richard Pacquette through suspension, Reece Tison-Lascaris replaced him in something of a false nine role. It was clear that Maidenhead's main threat was going to come through wingers Harry Pritchard and Danny Green and the early signs were promising despite Grimsby naturally having the upper hand but as the half drew on the home team took complete control scoring twice.
Alex Rodman, the substitute whose cross set up the goal to deny Maidenhead a famous Cup win over Aldershot a few years back, was given the space and freedom to torment the Magpies, unleashing a terrific shot which Elvijs Putnins did well to tip onto the crossbar. Two minutes later Lennell John-Lewis hit the post after connecting with an Aswad "don't turn around" Thomas cross.
Just at this point, with fifteen minutes to go to half time, Maidenhead appeared to have rode their luck well, but they seemed to cowed by the Mariners' superiority and it was disappointing that this was translated into two soft goals.
In the 35th minute a John-Lewis cross was collected on the right side of the penalty area by Jack Colbeck who turned left back Leon Solomon inside out before squirting his shot inside Putnins' near post. Six minutes later the lead was doubled when Shaun Pearson rose at the far post unchallenged to head home a Paddy McLaughlin corner from the right with Putnins stuck in no mans land.
Two good saves from Putnins in stoppage time kept the game alive but the writing looked to be on the wall for United.
View from the away end
Walking round to the away section at the start of the second half it soon became clear that something had happened in the Maidenhead dressing room at the interval as the Magpies started with much verve and positive intention. This produced results within three minutes when Tison-Lascaris halved the deficit with a shot drilled into the corner from outside the penalty area. Now with their tails up the Magpies sensed the opportunity for an equaliser and an exciting cup tie ensued for the rest of the second half, the game opening up to produce chances at either end.
As it turned out the next one proved to be the crucial one. A Tison-Lascaris cross was volleyed goal bound by Harry Grant. Despite taking a deflection en route goalkeeper Jonathan Hedge managed to get a hand on the ball before a team mate put the ball behind for one of many second half Maidenhead corners.
Putnins did his part to keep United in the game by saving well from Jack Colbeck before the Magpies again took the initiative,
A Pritchard cross flashed across the face of the goal with Green inches away from tapping it into the net, Green then went on to test Hedge with a shot but despite substitutions and twenty three minutes remaining Maidenhead couldn't manage to turn any further pressure into chances and the Mariners ran out stoppage time fairly comfortable winners.
Now was the time to exchange mutual thanks with the players and officials for a wonderful FA Trophy run of which I had seen every minute despite completely dismissing any chance of even getting past the first tie at Eastbourne. The run was put into perspective by Keith Jackson, making a rare visit to a game now he lives in Hull, but a regular home and away in the 80s and 90s. "I'm just amazed we're playing a cup match in the New Year" illustrates how valuable this competition is for bringing light to the often mundane bread and butter of league football. Days like this and Barrow will last in the memory long after all the league matches this season have been forgotten, and that's why managers like Richard Money need to start respecting this competition to give those who spend their time and money watching non league football week in week out something to cheer. Football is an entertainment business and the FA Trophy entertains like nothing else apart from the FA Cup.
Wandering back down the Grimsby Road, we arrived back in Cleethorpes where we stopped for a couple of pints in the Swashbuckle, an amusingly constructed pirate theme bar, before heading for Seaway to finish the day with fish, chips and peas. Getting back on the train the day was summed up by a comment from a fellow passenger who as I tucked in to possibly the most delicious haddock I have ever eaten, informed me that at £5.95 I'd been ripped off, although this was nothing in comparison to the day out which was priceless.

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