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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.

Monday, 12 February 2018


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United

Part 18a: 2011/12
The narrow escape from relegation the previous April meant a rebuilding job was required by Drax in the final year of his current contract. Most of the players drafted in for the successful battle against the drop left although Anthony Thomas, Jon Scarborough and Leon Solomon remained to play a significant role in the campaign ahead along with  youngsters Alex Wall, Martel Powell and Reece Tison-Lascaris. The exciting talent of the latter was complemented by more experienced new blood from the previously untapped source of the West Country. Goalkeeper Steve Williams encouraged former teammates Leigh Henry, Chris Taylor and Ashan Holgate to try their luck at York Road, and they were followed later in the season by Michael Pook. Ironically Williams was unable to agree a new deal and left before the season started, Billy Lumley taking the gloves for the lion’s share of the season. The squad was completed by the return of striker Manny WIlliams, and although he made it into the Sierra Leone national squad, he did not recapture his prior free scoring form from his first spell at York Road.
A long hard season appeared to be in prospect when the first two games were both lost 4-0 but this was followed by a run of five wins in the next seven outings to settle the team in mid table. Sadly one of these wins at Farnborough on August Bank Holiday Monday ended the season of creative midfielder Taylor who was stretchered off with a broken leg. He was followed onto the casualty list by captain Mark Nisbet, whose presence in the centre of defence was much missed as United went onto ship four goals in a game a further five times before the season was over.
For the second season in a row, league form slipped as interest in the FA Cup took hold. The run that followed secured Drax a two year extension to his contract thanks to performances which turned out to be his highpoint in the competition at the club.
First up were Farnborough, who took the Magpies back to Cherrywood Road for a replay, but were left ruing the chance to win the tie at the first time of asking when they had a man advantage after goalkeeper Sam Beasant was sent off in the first half. The ten men of United actually finished the match the stronger team, and won the replay by a more comfortable margin than the 3-2 scoreline suggested.
This win led to the daunting prospect of a visit from Woking  to York Road. The Cards were already well set on a course to win the Conference South but were blown away in the first half of the Cup tie thanks to some breathtaking attacking play from Thomas, Holgate (right) and Tison-Lascaris. In what was probably the best 45 minutes of Drax’s ten years in charge of the Magpies, his team went into the break 4-1 and the tie all but won.
The final scoreline was unchanged to set up a final qualifying round trip to Godalming Town, who despite their lowly status were having an invincible season. This proved to be no cause for concern for the Magpies who romped home 5-0 thanks in part to a hat trick from the unlikely source of full back Leon Solomon.
For the first time in the club’s history Football League opposition were drawn to play an FA Cup tie at York Road in the First Round Proper. That it was Aldershot took the sheen off the glamour of the tie a little given the frequency of the Shots recent visits to York Road since they had reformed, but all this was forgotten once the tie kicked off before a packed house of over 2,281.
The majority roared with joy when Thomas put United ahead with an audacious chip from distance in the sixth minute. Maidenhead more than held their own and as time drew on a place in the second round for the first time since the nineteenth century became a distinct possibility.
However Shots manager Dean Holdsworth decisively introduced winger Alex Rodman from the bench, and he managed to get around the back of the United defence to square the ball to Michael Rankine to equalise with thirteen minutes left.
The match ended 1-1 but the Magpies’ chance was gone as they were easily beaten 2-0 in the replay.
Back in the league a relegation battle loomed despite a brief rally over Christmas when ten points were taken over four games including a win at Salisbury. This change in form was inspired by the brief return of Richard Pacquette whose three goals in his five appearances earned him a move to Lincoln City.
United continued their dalliance with the relegation zone but a tremendous 2-0 win at the start of March at champions elect Woking thanks to a superb intervention on his debut by sub Charlie Strutton suggested that there would be a somewhat less stressful end to the season this time round with eleven matches left to play.
However no further wins followed in the next ten games, with even a visit to the wooden spoon contenders Hampton only returning a point. The nadir was reached over the Easter weekend against fellow strugglers Staines and Farnborough.
On the Saturday at Wheatsheaf Park, combative midfielder Jermaine Hinds was sent off minutes after coming on as a second half sub for the second consecutive match, as a dire game ended goalless.
Easter Monday brought initial joy as the Magpies raced into a 2-0 lead against Farnborough at York Road only for the visitors to retrieve the match after the break and eventually run out 4-3 winners.
Next up were Woking, who sealed the title at York Road with a 1-0 win from the penalty spot in front of a large away following.
A point at Dover in the penultimate match denied them a playoff spot but this meant that even a win in the final match against Eastleigh at York Road would require other results to go the Magpies way if they were to stay up.                                       To be continued...

With thanks to Mark Smith’s book One For Sorrow Two For Joy for the statistical content of this series.
To read more about this season visit www.mufcheritage.com

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