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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, 10 August 2014

Sutton get fooled again

The opening game of the season tends to have something of the showpiece fixture about it, despite the outcome being relatively inconsequential. This was certainly true of Maidenhead's opening day win at Whitehawk last season so only time will tell if yesterday's tremendous result is more portentous. However regardless of the longer term effect, there was much to ponder at the final whistle.
Sutton had lost just the one league game in 2014 prior to yesterday's game, the solitary defeat coming on their last visit to York Road at the end of March when both teams were desperate for points in their respective promotion and relegation battles. The game played out to form with Sutton dominating but the pace at which Maidenhead counter attacked enabled the Magpies to take all three points.
History repeated itself yesterday as Sutton again had the lion's share of possession but could not convert this into goals, unlike the Magpies who counterattacked to full effect once in each half. To add irony to injury both goals were scored by Dave Tarpey, one year to the day since he had scored a brace for Farnborough against the Us, albeit in a friendly.
Both sides were missing key players, but perhaps it was the absence of Jamie Taylor which hurt Sutton more than that of Danny Green for the Magpies such is the array of wide attacking options which Johnson Hippolyte now possesses. Yesterday, prepped by a scouting report from Sam Lock, Drax opted for a hybrid of the formation which he had used to great effect in the successful fight against relegation last season, with forward players Tarpey and Stefan Brown pushing wide with Adrian Clifton playing just behind them at the apex of a midfield diamond. Ashley Nicholls and Eddie Hutchinson controlled the midfield with captain Mark Nisbet playing in the space between this pair and the central defenders Simon Downer and Jacob Erskine, the one firm link with last season's squad being full backs Leon Solomon and Bobby Behzadi.
Inevitably eager to avenge their previous defeat Sutton had much the better of the opening stages. This culminated in a Kane Haysman effort in the eighteenth minute from the edge of the penalty area which hit the post with Elvijs Putnins beaten. The rebound looked to fall to a yellow shirt but Haysman's teammates could not capitalise on the opportunity and this incident appeared to be a turning point as within two minutes Maidenhead themselves had taken the lead.
The persistence of Clifton on the edge of the Sutton penalty area saw him win the ball for Brown who fed Tarpey on the left hand side of the box, the debutant striker beating the keeper with a classy finish. In response Sutton continued to make good progress, particularly down the right wing through Jack Evans but it was Maidenhead who came closest to scoring again before the interval, a snapshot from Tarpey being pushed away by Lovelock deep in stoppage time.
After the break Sutton pushed hard for an equaliser and although Putnins managed to parry an Evans effort at the near post from Evans ten minutes into the second half, he was soon beaten when Jessy Rheindorf rolled the ball into the empty net. As in March, the introduction of fresh legs into the Maidenhead ranks in the form of Lanre Azeez and Reece Tison-Lascaris was to tip the game back into the Magpies favour. Azeez constantly threatened to hurt Sutton down the right wing but it was Tison-Lascaris who was to have the decisive input with six minutes remaining.
Tarpey picked the ball up deep in his own half and found Clifton with his pass. When the ball found its way to Tison-Lascaris on the byline it looked to be a lost cause but the young winger showed the tenacity to shrug off the attentions of defender and hook the ball back into the dangerzone where Clifton and Azeez combined to provide Tarpey with the opportunity to finish once again with aplomb.
With five minutes of stoppage time to negotiate Sutton had ample opportunity to take something from the game and Maidenhead had to dig deep to protect their lead with Clifton in particular urging his teammates on with words and gestures. 
The final result possibly revealed little to either manager. Sutton had a reminder that if they are unable to take make the most of their possession then they need to protect themselves more effectively against the counterattack whilst Maidenhead proved again they have what it takes to beat the best teams in the division. There was no doubt that Downer will be a great asset for the Magpies as much for his leadership ability as his defensive attributes, whilst Nicholls merely illustrated what the team had been missing in the midfield in his absence. However the true test for Maidenhead will come when they play those middling teams with more limited ambition than Sutton who will adopt a more cautious attitude and thus require more patience to break down. 

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