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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.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United

Part 20: 2013/14
A typical Drax season with some Cup excitement and a last day escape provides ample material for this weeks chapter but the long term consequences of what happened during the calendar year of 2014 were to be some of the most significant in the club’s recent history.
On the pitch, Drax’s annual midsummer foray into player recruitment produced varying results. There were a couple of players on the slide in Michael Malcolm and Elvijs Putnins, two competent but injury prone defenders in Matt Ruby and Curtis Ujah, promise for the future in Wada Ahmidi, and two erstwhile hidden gems in the shape of Danny Green and Adrian Clifton.
The latter two made their presence felt on debut at Whitehawk on the opening day of the season, winning 3-0 in Sussex to upset the bookies. This was followed by two more wins and two draws in the first five matches of the season, as once again, fired by the goals of Richard Pacquette, the Magpies promised much for the season to come.

Sailing home with three points from Gosport in the last of these matches, confidence was high for the visit of hot title favourites Eastleigh. United went toe to toe with the full time Spitfires but eventually lost 3-1 and that first defeat followed by Pacquette limping off injured a week later at Concord, signalled the end of any pretensions at a top half finish.
The lack of firepower saw an FA Cup exit at the first opportunity at hitherto winless Oxford City, ex Magpie Jamie Cook scoring from virtually the game’s only goal attempt in the last minute.
This was followed by embarrassing home defeats to Slough in the County Cup, and bottom of the table Dorchester, as for the first time, Drax’s tenure at York Road was thrown into serious jeopardy.
An eventful afternoon at home to Bromley proved there was still life in the Magpies, who fought back after a delay in play caused by an injury to one of the match officials. Pacquette had returned as a make shift centre back, reportedly losing two teeth for the cause, only for new signing Jacob Erskine to miss a penalty which would have rescued a rare point.
The season’s salvation was to be found in the FA Trophy. The squad was revitalised by a number of temporary signings, in defence in the form of Leslie Thompson and future England star Alfie Mawson, along with attacking midfielder Harry Grant.
All three travelled down to  Eastbourne for the first Trophy tie of the season as part of a squad that had gone eleven matches without a win, including a sound defeat at Priory Lane just two weeks previously.
Watched by literally a handful of United fans, a second half goal from Grant was enough for a shock result and place in the first round proper.
The draw produced a visit to Daventry Town, two divisions lower than United, but boasting a proud home record which had seen every game end in victory bar one draw. Yet again though, a single goal for the Magpies, this time from the unlikely source of Malcolm was enough to secure passage to the next round and the exotic prospect of a pre Christmas trip to Barrow. 

As the fog descended in the midweek match at home to Chelmsford prior to the trip to Cumbria, the away support looked set to increase to the full eleven with substitutes.
On a never to be forgotten dank day at Holker Street (pictured top), second half goals from Green and Pacquette won a memorable match and the reward of a trip to Grimsby Town in the last sixteen of the competition.
In between these ties, the first league wins since Gosport arrived as a Christmas gift with all six points taken over the festive period.

At Blundell Park, the Mariners looked good for their 2-0 half time lead but a goal just after the break from Reece Tison-Lascaris inspired a fight back which could not quite produce an equaliser.
Longer term hope for the future was kindled at the start of 2014 by the finalising of plans for the Magpies in the Community scheme, and over 27 years since arson destroyed the old one, a permanent new stand. Building works for this would start as the season drew to a close, a visual reminder that regardless of what was happening on the pitch they was much progress going on off it.
This was particularly true with that age old bugbear of home form holding back the fight against relegation. Away from home there was something to cheer, Adrian Clifton revelling in a new deep lying forward role, driving his team on to a 3-0 win at Chelmsford, whilst on a wet Tuesday night at Tonbridge, Danny Green scored all the United goals in a thrilling 4-2 win. Green’s performance reflected a season which saw him thoroughly deserve his player of the year award. His darting bursts inside from his right wing berth, full of elan, entertained and delighted United fans when there was little else to cheer.
Any remaining faith in Drax departed for good with five consecutive home defeats lost by late goals, split only by a 6-1 thrashing at Bromley.
The arrival of Reading goalkeeper Jonathan Henly on loan shored up the defence and set up three wins in a week, two of which were at home. The latter against promotion chasing Sutton suggested survival would soon be confirmed but a goalless draw in a vital home match against Tonbridge saw Green sent off and banned for the final match of the season.
United utterly collapsed at moribund Farnborough on Easter Saturday and now found themselves requiring seven points from the remaining three matches to stay up.
Against all the odds the Magpies rose again on Easter Monday against Ebbsfleet in their first season of new found oil money riches, a Green goal winning a tense match against a team bound for the play off final.
Next up was an away trip to another team in the play off hunt, Havant. Thanks in no small part to the electric pace of winger Lanre Azeez, Green and Clifton scored the goals in an unlikely 3-1 win which meant Maidenhead would travel to Bishops Stortford on the final day of the season with their destiny still in their hands.
A win would secure safety, and an Erskine goal in the first half eased the nerves. With Hayes and Whitehawk both losing all that was needed was the final whistle to blow. In the second half though both drew level, and when Stortford did the same deep in stoppage time, survival hopes were hanging by a thread, the final whistle leading to an agonising wait for the other results to be confirmed before a final finish of eighteenth could be celebrated.
This time round though celebrations were tinged by a healthy dose of realism as chairman Peter Griffin discreetly canvassed opinion on the manager’s position. Drax got a stay of execution and within weeks of the end of the season had made one of the most important signings in the club’s history.

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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