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.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Piece of cake for the Cherries

The week began with high hopes of seeing the Magpies carrying on their resurgent run of form down at currently the hardest working club in football, Havant & Waterlooville. A smooth trip down on the train left plenty of time for a couple of pints of Seafarer in The Old House at Home, although as some of that time was spent watching a heavy shower through the window I might have guessed that this was to be the extent of my night's entertainment. Regardless of this winter's wet weather the Westleigh Park pitch has a long earned reputation for waterlogging and so it turned out that the only barrier to entering the club car park half an hour before kick off was a flood of traffic trying to get out. I can only hope that the rescheduled match turns out to be a meaningless one for both clubs with the Magpies already safe and the Hawks set for the play offs.
Match postponed
24 hours later and I was heading a bit further down the coast to the western fringes of Hampshire for the Championship play off clash at Dean Court. Steady but often slow moving traffic took us to the ground by 6, driving through the car park to find a side street that provided easy access to the suburb of Boscombe and a quick getaway. 
Walking into Boscombe it was clear that this is one of the poorer parts of the town, with the main street consisting of a string of low rent takeaways (Burger Logic anyone?) before we arrived at the only pub, the obligatory Wetherspoons, which are increasingly resembling Senior Citizen dining clubs. Still Amstel was on tap as we reminisced over our last visit to see AFC Bournemouth play, almost exactly twenty years ago to watch the newly crowned Division Two champions Reading take on Tony Pulis' Cherries. Bournemouth won that game 2-1 although Reading did but the ball in the net twice when a Royals fan jumped over the barrier to finish a Michael Gilkes cross which was disallowed by the linesman presumably for offside. I wonder if the phantom scorer was returning to this game too?
Pad Thai for your right to fight
Heading to the ground we spotted that the Public Enemy frontman Chuck D had taken time to invest in the local economy before crossing the railway line to see the small but functional stadium. Since our last visit the pitch had been rotated 90 degrees and all the spectator accommodation completely rebuilt with stands named after club stalwart Steve Fletcher and record breaking goalscorer Ted MacDougall.The small capacity at least had the advantage of making the game a sell out and you could see how far the club had come in recent seasons by the way the end of each stand was decorated by a large picture of games featuring the likes of Chester, Bury and Tranmere.
With both teams winning the previous Saturday it was very much game on from the kick off with Reading taking the early initiative with an attack which saw a Jordan Obita volley force Lee Camp into a full stretch save with Kaspar Gorkss going close with a header from the resulting corner. This opening proved to give a false impression of what lay ahead though and within minutes Bournemouth set out the pattern which would go on to see them win convincingly.
Reading's midfield had a makeshift look to it due to injury and the lack of anyone to sit in front of the deep lying defence left a gap which would be exploited by their Bournemouth counterparts all evening. This area was dominated by man of the match Matt Ritchie as twice in the opening twenty minutes striker Lewis Grabban forced the Royals defence back to the six yard line before cutting the ball back to the edge of the penalty area for Ritchie to finish.
It was only Grabban's impotence when presented with a chance that kept Reading in the game for the time being, McCarthy saving a header from point blank range and then with Ritchie turning provider with a quick exchange of passes inside the centre circle, Grabban shot narrowly wide when clear on goal. It was this moment which summed up the paucity of the Reading defence, for once pushing up then comically trying to retrieve the situation when Ritchie split them with his pass, the chasing Alex Pearce looking as though he was wading through treacle in pursuit of Grabban.
In terms of a response all Reading offered were direct balls to the forward three of Royston Drenthe, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Adam Le Fondre who were playing too far apart to plough anything but an individual furrow. With tiggerish Bournemouth hassling their opponents whenever they lost the ball, and showing no embarrassment at spoiling the play, it was no surprise when they sealed the win on the stroke of half time. This time Ritchie fed Simon Francis down the right flank. Francis beat full back Wayne Bridge then crossed perfectly for Yann Kermogant to head home.
This unleashed for the final time the pantomine at the Ted McDougall end as the fans behind the goal leapt to their feet and issued a salvo of wanker signs with a brave few making a throat cutting gesture. This odd display had been going on for much of the first half with stewards appearing to issue yellow cards to the miscreants. It was certainly a different world from a generation ago as there was nothing to stop either set of supporters wandering across the corner to engage in deeper discussion of the game bar the usual few puny stewards.
After the break Bournemouth settled for the win, with Reading salvaging a little pride when a Hal Robson-Kanu goal from nowhere sparked a late rally. There was no need for the extensive stoppage time as the die had been cast in the first 45 minutes and the final whistle was a welcome one. As we strolled back to the car there was the odd sight of a small group of likely lads being kettled by the police in the darkness of the unlit park whilst back over the bridge a similar group waited unescorted in the shadows either for their comrades or adversaries.
All in all a fair night out at the match which exposed Reading's tactical and technical shortcomings which will surely see any play off appearance as a misadventure. Bournemouth though have momentum on their side and could be a good outside bet to steal the play offs. It would certainly be amusing to see the reaction of the Premier League giants to a season of trips to Dean Court.
Ted MacDougall Stand

Main Stand

Steve Fletcher stand

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