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.

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.

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