About Me

My photo
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.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Great Expectations Miss Faversham

Something of a media frenzy surrounded Maidenhead United following the announcement late on Thursday night that DJ Campbell has signed for the Magpies. Therefore it was a pleasant contrast that the FA Cup tie against Faversham at York Road on Saturday, played in beautiful sunshine in front of a modest crowd, resulted dare I say it in an efficiently dull 4-0 win for the Magpies.
Campbell went straight into the team in his usual striking role, but in a change to formation Stefan Brown played alongside him as Drax reverted back to 4-4-2. More changes to the line up came in the form of Dave Tarpey who returned from suspension, with Danny Green, Eddie Hutchinson, Simon Downer and Mark Nisbet all back in the team after injury. Finally Harry Pritchard made his first start of the season, ably filling in at left back.
Maidenhead started the game cautiously, fully aware that their opponents came to York Road full of confidence. For much of the first hour, Faversham gave the appearance of possessing an attacking threat but failed to trouble Elvijs Putnins, Josh Stanford blazing their best chance wide when well placed.
At the other end Faversham naturally seemed preoccupied by Campbell, with ex Magpie Jon Scarborough given the task of man marking him but this in turn created more space and time for the rest of the forwards, Brown playing well before having to depart at half time after receiving a knock from a heavy challenge.
The game's opening goal came from the penalty spot in the twentieth minute after Tarpey had been pushed over by Aidan Sherlock. Despite a miss from his last opportunity against Eastbourne, Green remained the man on penalty duty and this time sent goalkeeper Simon Overland the wrong way to score.
The score remained 1-0 at the interval, reflecting Maidenhead's marginal superiority which had been far from convincing as United having scored at home for the first time since the opening day of the season, looked to close out the win.
Kicking down the slope in the second half Maidenhead gradually took control of the game as the visitors ran out of steam. Campbell put the ball in the net from a Tarpey cross eight minutes after the restart but was flagged offside. With Tashan Adeyinka coming on for Brown at the break, further fresh legs in the form of Ryan Upward and Reece Tison-Lascaris then gave United the pep they needed to accelerate into the next round by scoring three goals in the last twenty minutes.
The crucial second goal was rather fortunate as a shot across the box by Campbell struck a defender,  the ball looping over Overland's head into the back of the net in the sixty ninth minute. Ten minutes later Overland managed to push away a Tarpey shot, then had the woodwork to thank as from the resulting corner Tarpey fired the ball against the cross bar.
With both Tarpey in a conventional left midfield role, and Green playing with more freedom across the pitch, Maidenhead were beginning to torment their opponents, and with six minutes left Green found Adeyinka in space on the edge of the penalty area, the big forward thumping home his first goal for the club.
At 3-0 down, Faversham rallied slightly, forcing Putnins to scoop a corner to safety from under the bar and as injury time began Matthew Bourne hit the bar with a header. The £4,500 cheque for the winning team was soon signed, sealed and delivered though as Tison-Lascaris skipped through the defence in trademark fashion to score United's fourth.
Mission accomplished for the Magpies then with progress on the first of the three Cup fronts which will hopefully take up the lion's share of the autumn fixture schedule.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Super Hooper

In today's papers you will see pages of in depth analysis of Saturday's football. Primarily this will take the form of probing a welter of post match quotes, there'll be the odd chalk board and pop psychology on the mental state of some of the sport's more outlandish characters. All of this though is so much froth to a game whose appeal is it's simplicity, to whit scoring more goals than the other team. This crude reduction was reflected in cruel fashion at York Road yesterday where Havant & Waterlooville left with all three points thanks to the effectiveness of their finishing in contrast to the ineffectiveness of Maidenhead United in front of goal.
However with the Hawks starting the game on the back of a run of six wins in seven outings which had taken them to fourth place in the table, and scoring in the third minute, there was an immediate fear of a opposition goal deluge. The opening goal itself was well crafted, with a smart defence splitting pass from Bradley Bubb being collected on the edge of the penalty area by JJ Hooper who applied a fine finish to give Elvijs Putnins no chance of stopping his shot bound for the far corner. What was most impressive though was the Maidenhead response to conceding a goal, as they tore into their opponents and enjoyed their best spell of the game.
Soon after the restart, Adrian Clifton crossed into the penalty area to Reece Tison-Lascaris, only for the youngster's shot from close range to be blocked on the line by goalkeeper Ryan Young. The Magpies went onto pepper the penalty area with testing balls, Dave Tarpey and Ashley Nicholls both shooting wide.
This profligacy in front of goal was then shown up again by Hooper twenty five minutes into the first half. The striker picked up the ball in his own half, crossing the half way and running unchallenged towards the United goal before unleashing a shot from twenty five yards out which flew into the top corner. Hooper who only back in April had sealed what had been Maidenhead's bleakest defeat of last season, had essentially confirmed the destination of the points with this early brace of goals.
United continued to push for a goal in much the same vein as before and on the half hour mark Tashan Adeyinka received the ball in the clear inside the penalty area, but he was not able to beat Young who dived to his right to save one handed. Later in the half Leon Solomon cleared off the line from Josh Huggins and with the half time whistle came the end of any serious attempts on goal for the rest of the afternon.
In the second half, Havant were content to sit back and defend their lead, ably dealing with Maidenhead's attacking threat whilst Hooper and then substitute Shamir Mullings lurked up front to offer the promise of a third goal.
The final whistle signalled a defeat which became inevitable once Maidenhead were unable to take their chances, a fact all the more galling for the absence of a number of key players in defence and midfield. Ironically Havant, who have been perennial Conference South achievers, look like they might be able to sustain a promotion challenge this season having shipped in a contingent of players from Farnborough in the form of Hooper, Huggins, Bubb, Donnelly and Ciardini.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Bad Moon Rising

I've never seen Maidenhead beat Farnborough. I've managed to miss the few Magpie victories in recent years, and even though the visitors arrived at York Road on the back of a 5-0 defeat, the red moon shining like a beacon in the east for me did not suggest an omen of delight for the Stripes.
A quick glance at the opposition forum ahead of the game yielded little in the way of information tonight but an astonishing glimpse into their finances which to my untutored eye seemed to suggest they were £3 million in debt, and having repaid a lump sum of £10,000 to gain re-entry into the Conference South a year ago, had continued to pay down the debt at a grand total of £1 a month. Clearly one to watch in next summer's AGM Cup.
Maidenhead started the game in a similar mood to which they finished the one at Staines three days beforehand. However this time they found an implacable barrier to taking the lead in the form of on loan Leyton Orient goalkeeper, and ultimate man of the match Charlie Grainger. 
Follow the Hound
With eighteen minutes gone, Grainger denied the Magpies two full debutants in quick succession. Firstly he pushed a Tashan Adeyinka shot round the post, and then from the resulting corner tipped a Ryan Upward header onto the crossbar. Soon after Upward again went close with Grainger parrying his shot. Maidenhead continued to have the upper hand, with Mark Nisbet having an effort cleared off the line within two minutes of the restart after half time.
A substitution on the hour mark paid dividends for Farnborough as Dan Bennett came off the bench to fire home a loose ball after a Phil Page shot was blocked. 'Boro were then able to effectively stifle Maidenhead's attacking efforts and indeed for the remainder of the game looked most likely to score with Fey Okenbarmie drawing a couple of fine saves from Elvijs Putnins. 
One factor in the Magpies lack of threat was the substitution of effervescent Upward who suffered concussion following a blow to the head. This was part of a triple switch with twenty minutes left which had little effect on the game.
Deep into stoppage time a chance for an equaliser finally came when a ball into the box found Danny Green in space. The winger patiently waited to place his header wide of Grainger only for the keeper to keep his focus and pull off another excellent save to preserve his team's lead an ensured they took three points home.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Chappell leaves Maidenhead without a prayer

Not totally sure why, but I really enjoy a trip to Clarence Park, St. Albans. Easy to get to, nice walk through the park to the turnstile, and a few happy memories of Maidenhead wins. With the sun shining as well this afternoon all seemed set fair for a repeat of last Saturday's victorious trip to Staines. Initially everything went to plan. 
Passing through the turnstiles I met Peter Knock on the other side, exactly where he always was when I last went to Clarence Park before the Saints were relegated. Following Peter's customary warm welcome I took in the familiar scene of this neat little non league ground, only marginally spoiled by the grey metal fence which surrounds the perimeter.
In the lead up to kick off I learned that Drax had decided to tinker with his team, giving a full debut to Melchi Emmanuel-Williamson and Bobby Behzadi a rare start as a defensive midfielder. With Behzadi replacing Reece Tison-Lascaris, this looked like a move to bolster the defence, one which looked wise from the start as St. Albans looked to get on the front foot. In the early exchanges Maidenhead gave as good as they got though and took the lead in the seventh minute. A Danny Green free kick swung into the box. The defence were unable to clear it and the ball found its way to Adrian Clifton on the edge of the penalty area who fiercely struck the ball to score.
This did not deter St. Albans, with Elvijs Putnins soon saving well at the feet of Sean Shields. The home team were not backwards about coming forwards and their was an urgent directness to their play. It soon became clear that the touchlines had been brought in significantly to provide Lee Chappell with a long run up to unleash a throw in straight into the penalty area. This up and at 'em attitude extended throughout the team, which led to a niggly match, well controlled by referee Lloyd Wood. 
The Saints managed to get under the skin of the Magpies for much of the game, and this boiled over into a confrontation in the nineteenth minute between Tom Ward and Clifton. With Ward getting into Clifton's face, the midfielders response was to push the defender over, with the inevitable consequence of a red card. The dismissal hit Maidenhead harder than merely going down to ten men, as with the player whose strong running has done so much to link the midfield with attack missing, United retreated and then crumpled under a revitalised onslaught from St. Albans.
At first Putnins was able to stem the attacking tide with a flying save to deny John Frendo but within ten minutes Steve Wales had equalised with a goal remarkably similar to Clifton's.This was swiftly followed by a second when Putnins pushed a Chappell free kick from the halfway line into his own net. Chappell then completed the comeback by collecting a pinpoint crossfield long ball on the left hand side of the penalty area, beating Emmanuel-Williamson with his first touch then Putins with a fine finish.
Blown away by three goals in ten minutes, Maidenhead rallied slightly before half time and should have pulled a goal back when Stefan Brown hit the cross bar from close range. 
The interval provided time for reflection. On the pitch Maidenhead had failed to deal with St. Albans' direct approach and looked quite unsettled by the home team's aggressive approach. Off it City looked a resurgent club. The crowd was a season's best 707, significantly helped by free tickets distributed to local schools, with many youngsters enjoying half time on the pitch in their kit. I wasn't so sure about the mascot, supposedly a Roman which looked like it had the head of a lion, but liked the fine array of big flags being re-hung at the home end, even though some of the imagery was a little incongruous given the leafy suburban surroundings.
As the teams trotted out for the second half, Drax brought on Daniel Brown for Emmanuel-Williamson, moving Behazdi into the right back slot. Maidenhead made a better fist of the second half, with Ryan Upward in particular driving the team forward in midfield. With thirty minutes left, United then saw a way back into the game as Upward was brought down by Ward in sight of goal. With Ward already cautioned for the incident with Clifton he now followed him into the dressing room. However with a two goal cushion St. Albans were able to sit back and soak up Maidenhead's attacking endeavours which were now reinforced by Reece Tison-Lascaris and debutant Sam Barratt. 
Stepping up from the Hellenic League, the teenage Barratt showed no signs of being overawed with some nice touches on the left wing, whipping in a couple of decent cross. Yet it was St. Albans that looked most likely to score when they counter attacked and two minutes into stoppage time Chappell completed his hat trick. There was still time for Ashley Nicholls to test goalkeeper Joe Welch with a shot from distance but the die was cast for a comfortable win for St. Albans.
Once again the absence of key players Simon Downer and Dave Tarpey was keenly felt, whilst the unscheduled departure of Clifton showed his importance to the team.An apology from the latter was swiftly forthcoming, although he will now be suspended for the FA Cup tie in a fortnight's time, and probably the two games following that. Tarpey will be available next Saturday and its to be hoped that Downer will be fit enough to join him, with the Magpies being unbeaten in every game the defender has played so far.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Magpies headed onward by Upward

Rather brighter and more importantly drier weather accompanied Maidenhead's visit to Staines yesterday. Fortunately the Magpies' good 21st century record at Wheatsheaf Park persisted with a 2-1 win despite the absence of United talisman Dave Tarpey.
Of greater importance was evidence that lessons had been learned from last week's failure to beat ten men, as Maidenhead won more comfortably than the result suggested.
This outcome seemed far distant when Staines were gifted a lead in the third minute when Louie Theophanous took advantage of a defensive mix up to skip into the penalty area and score. The goal raised fears that Maidenhead's defensive frailty of last season had re-appeared but within four minutes the Magpies were back on level terms when an Adrian Clifton shot hit the back of a net helped by a deflection from a defender.
At the kick off I initially scoffed when someone asked if the game was a local derby but the niggly nature of the game suggested that this might be the case, perhaps reflecting the West London origins of a lot of the personnel from both clubs. The referee, who spent the afternoon distributing cards like a postman at Christmas, had already put a few Staines names into the book when the main talking point of the game occured with twenty minutes gone.
The incident which led to two red cards, appeared to start innocuously when Reece Tison-Lascaris chased  hard in vain to keep the ball in play. When his mission finished in front of the Maidenhead dug out, Drax went to retrieve the ball only for Sanchez Ming to wrestle it off him. Given the proximity of both dugouts the sterotypical bout of handbags was inevitable and when the pushing and shoving had stopped the referee dismissed Drax from the dug out. After much discussion and pointing to the tunnel it became clear that the referee was to be as merciless with Ming and so for the second weekend in a row Maidenhead's opposition was to be reduced to ten men for the majority of the match.
Initially the dismissal fired up the home team, Elvijs Putnins having to be a full stretch to paw away a Chris M'Bongou header. In the ten minutes ahead of the break though, Maidenhead gained the upperhand, thanks to someone lovely passing in the midfield around the fulcrum of Clifton. Time and again he combined with Tison-Lascaris to create a handful of chances before the break, although goalkeeper Jack Turner was not seriously tested.
Maidenhead continued in similar fashion after the interval, helped by Staines' manager Marcus Gayle's decision to ignore Ming's absence and go with three at the back. This enabled Tison-Lascaris, and later his replacement Lanre Azeez, to exploit his freedom on the left wing on a regular basis, but having danced their way into the penalty area, neither player could quite make the breakthrough to score. Another source of forward movement was Danny Green, whose performance approaching his form of last season.
All this was set against a rapidly deteriorating performance by the man in black who waved away two decent penalty shouts from Clifton and Green, and with his erratic decisions regarding the issue of cautions almost saw the game slip out of his control more than once in the second half.
Maidenhead came closest to taking the lead, just ahead of the hour mark when a Clifton shot from distance was spilled by Turner, Stefan Brown missing the opportunity to fire home the loose ball. 
The introduction of Ryan Upward provided some fresh legs in the Maidenhead midfield, helping United to wear down their opponents by keeping the ball, at one point encouraging a few shouts of "Ole" from the travelling support. Upward then reinforced his impact by heading in what proved to be the winner at the far post from a Green free kick eighteen minutes from full time.
Maidenhead then could and should have extended their lead to a more comfortable margin of victory. Substitute Tashan Adeyinka let fly with a spectacular shot  which Turner punched away, and then in stoppage time couldn't quite apply the finish to s swift counter attack. Sadly the only notes for the record books in the last ten minutes were yet more bookings.
So three deserved points for the Magpies against a Staines team which surprisingly seems to have lost the steely discipline which saw them emerge as play off dark horses last season.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Maidenhead can't quite wing it

I finished my summary of the previous weekend's football with a suggestion that a first clean sheet of the season should be a priority for the Magpies. That this came to pass against the early season pace setters Eastbourne on Saturday shouldn't be dismissed but was overshadowed by the literal missed opportunity to take all three points courtesy of a penalty early on in the game.
Likewise a watching crowd, perhaps as much as three time what was expected due to the offer of free admission, would have been suitably entertained despite the result stating a goalless draw.
With Drax fielding what perhaps is his strongest eleven, Maidenhead started the game strongly and with Eastbourne naturally confident following their good start to the season, it looked like a open game would ensue. 
For my money Borough were the best footballing team in the division last season but lacked a cutting edge up front. In the summer, manager Tommy Widdrington had remedied this by signing Richard Pacquette, Elliott Charles and Gavin McCallum, all attacking players with a good pedigree at this level. Pacquette looked a mite unfortunate to be adjudged offside as he sought to breakthrough the defence early on, and regardless or maybe because of what was soon to happen at the other end, the trio proved to be a handful for the United defence all afternoon.
The game's crucial incident occurred in the eighth minute. Adrian Clifton drove into the box only to be brought down by Marvin Hamilton. The only matter of conjecture appeared to be the location of contact so with Hamilton the last man a red card was produced. The referee concluded that it was also a penalty and after a little discussion Danny Green stepped up to take the spot kick. Goalkeeper Lewis Carey guessed right by diving to his right, and with Green's kick lacking pace and height, Carey was able to push the ball to safety.
Green almost made amends for his penalty miss five minutes later when his curling shot from the edge of the box beat Carey, only to hit the post. By this time Widdrington had reorganised his team, welding two midfielders to the front of the defence, virtually sacrificing midfield by keeping his three front men well up front. The result of this move led to a frustrating afternoon for Maidenhead as they struggled to find a way through the defence, whilst Eastbourne maintained an attacking threat which only grew as the game went on.
On the stroke of half time both Pacquette and Dave Tarpey were denied only by saves at full stretch from Elvijs Putnins and Carey respectively to preserve both teams' clean sheets and set up an intriguing second half.
What followed after the break set out the Maidenhead United conundrum which Drax has not consistently been able to solve for over twelve months now, that is how to mould a fine array of attacking wide players into a formation which will produce a steady stream of goals. Last season Green, Harry Pritchard, Reece Tison-Lascaris and towards the end Lanre Azeez all showed in varying quantities their ability to breakdown defences and score. In the close season they were joined by Tarpey and Stefan Brown who already have proved to be real assets to the team. Naturally this type of player tends to exploit his talent in a counterattacking style which maybe reflects the fact that Maidenhead have achieved better results away from home over the last season. Certainly this contributed to the win at home to Sutton, who went all out to win the game on the opening day of the season. In contrast when confronted with the resolute defences of Hemel and Eastbourne, United were unable to maintain a goalscoring threat after early promise. Some people see a big centre forward in the style of Tashan Adeyinka as the answer. Personally I think you need to play to the strengths of the wide players and utilise a passing game with the emphasis on keeping the ball to wear the opposition down. Even at this level the pitches have improved to allow this, all you need to add is the superior fitness to complement the approach.
Thus the second half saw the defence earn their stripes as they soaked up increasing pressure from the visitors which was enhanced by the introduction of Darren Lok and culminated in a Sam Beale free kick in stoppage time which hit the woodwork.
So a hard won point for the Magpies. As they say if you don't concede you won't lose, but unfortunately the early penalty miss and red card will lead to the game being seen as a missed opportunity although on this evidence I fully expect Eastbourne to sustain a title challenge this season.