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 2 November 2014

United Colours of Football

Welcome to suburbia
That no one associated with either side would have gone home disappointed if not happy seemed apt on a day when the occasion itself overshadowed a so so match fairly reflected by the 1-1 result. The day saw football at its a best, a social context for bringing people together and enjoying a day off work, rather than the raging soccerist mania which wall to wall media eagerly whips up on a daily basis.
The source of the rosy tinted tinge to my reflection of yesterday was to be found in the pub opposite Ruislip Manor station which like the evocatively named Tropic of Ruislip bar at the ground served Amstel on tap. Certainly it made a change to enter a pub on a matchday containing a dozen or more Maidenhead United fans. It also provided a starting line for a joke that begins: a Scotsman, Welshman and an Englishman walk into a pub,  as I was only missing someone from Northern Ireland to make up a full UK set of Magpie supporters.
I joined the Welsh contingent, made up of 1927 club members who were sponsoring the matchball, for the short walk to Grosvenor Vale, former home of Ruislip Manor FC, who were the tenants on my last visit over 19 years ago. In between times I had seen Wealdstone play at Edgware and Northwood, as they resembled a non league Battlestar Galactica, a raggle taggle army on a nomadic trek to find a place called home.
At that time Wealdstone fans had something of a reputation as being "trouble" so it was pleasing to find that this could not be further than the truth, and as well as seeing them at games between the two clubs, I played in a supporters game and attended Stones Aid, which saw bands playing Wealdstone themed songs to help raise money for their abortive attempt to develop a ground in Canons Park which is now controversially Barnet's New Hive. In my role as programme editor I switched printers to Martin Lacey's Juma who had also produced the Elmslie Ender fanzine edited by Sudhir Rawal, who to neatly tie up this paragraph followed me through the turnstile at yesterday's game.
The dressing rooms were also full of links between the clubs which were best reflected by the comprehensive interview with Daniel Brown in the excellent match programme. Drax was a former Wealdstone player whilst one wonders how the history of both clubs might have changed had the rumours about Gordon Bartlett being offered the Maidenhead manager's job ten years ago following the departure of John Dreyer.
Pill Box
Bereft of a generous benefactor but blessed by a committed and sizeable support, Wealdstone replaced Ruislip Manor at Grosvenor Vale in 2008 and set about the not inconsiderable task of improving the ground sufficiently to move up the non league pyramid. To put this into perspective Ruislip Manor had been effectively forced to leave the Isthmian league in 1996 due to the state of the ground, with only one small stand and the odd piece of concrete terrace. There was a curio of a World War Two pill box and I was pleased that this remained whilst DIY improvements could be seen all around the ground.
Mind the poles
The blinding autumn sun prevented me from standing behind the goal in the first half which was just as well given the way multiple scaffold poles obscured the view. The ensuing game saw Maidenhead have the lion's share of the play but Wealdstone create the best chances. This trend began virtually from the kick off as Wealdstone stretched the Maidenhead defence with some quick wing play whilst United won the first of a series of corners which would number 15 by the final whistle. One of these was caused by a Danny Green effort which was blocked by goalkeeper Jonathan North and then cleared of the line by Sean Cronin. Later in the half North performed similarly heroics to block an Eddie Hutchinson shot whilst Devante McKain went close with a text book header into the ground which bounced up over the bar.
Whereas the feature of these chances was overbearing pressure, Wealdstone's goalscoring opportunities were marked by their quality. Luke O'Nien should have done better when he received a decent cross into the box from Connor Calcutt. United's on loan goalkeeper Will Britt then showed his prodigious talent with a superb save low down from a free kick expertly chipped over the wall by Matt Ball.
The second half saw more of the same as Wealdstone defended with depth and discipline to prevent Maidenhead finding their way through to goal. It was clear that patience would be the key to success for the Magpies, with a Wealdstone fan telling me at the interval that they had been plagued by late goals all season.
Midway through the half it was Ashley Nicholls' turn to have a shot blocked on the line and it began to look like one of those days for the Magpies as the youth of Shane Lucien on the left wing began to get the better of the experience of Bobby Behzadi at right back.
With seventeen minutes remaining Lucien took advantage of the space created by his pace on the left to cut inside and beat Britt with a delightful chip in to the far corner. Any thoughts that this would see Wealdstone shut up shop for their first win of the season, were dispelled when Lucien almost repeated the trick within two minutes of the restart. With the Magpies having nothing to lose the last part of the game resembled an enthralling cup tie, the play swinging from end to end.
The equaliser arrived with four minutes left as Maidenhead broke quickly, Adrian Clifton shrugging off the challenge of a defender and then finding Dave Tarpey free at the back post with his cross, Tarpey drilling the ball into the back of the net.
However rather like at Concord a fortnight ago, Maidenhead's relief at a late goal was soon replaced by panic as Wealdstone threw everything into attack to retrieve the lead. Fortunately Britt had been watching his counterpart North's last ditch blocks, and managed to save a Scott McGleish shot with his face to preserve the status quo. A couple of penalty shouts later the final whistle blew to end a game which either side could have won and therefore both would have been disappointed to lose.
Without the talimanic defender Simon Downer, Maidenhead will be happy to have earned a point, particularly in the way they carried on knocking on the door of the Wealdstone defence until it opened. This was in contrast to performances against similarly lowly opponents such as Hemel Hempstead and Farnborough. Wealdstone on the other must wonder when their luck will change although their work ethic shows them as better placed to survive than Weston-super-mare and Staines.

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