About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For nine seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The original 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. In August 2010 I also decided to write posts about all the matches I have attended. At the end of the 2010-11 season I stood down from all my duties at Maidenhead United due to an exciting development in my teaching career, but remain a director of the club and will continue to blog as time allows and inclination demands.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Taxi for Orient


Waiting to hail a Tijuana Taxi
The pleasing familiar tune of Tijuana Taxi heralded the entry of the teams onto the pitch at Brisbane Road as I took my seat for last night's match between Leyton Orient and Preston North End. However, iconic crest on the East Stand aside, this was virtually the only feature which had persisted since my last visit to E10 over eighteen years ago towards the end of the 1995/96 season to see Preston win what even then was no longer called the fourth division title.
My return had once again seen North End on the up, and on current form the Os could well be headed back to the bottom division. Three quarters of the ground had been rebuilt and in my opinion the renovation is a great improvement, particularly by removing the two characterless open terraces at either end, replacing them with purpose built stands with a steep rake to ensure a decent view of the perennially excellent playing surface. The new West Stand, containing all the club facilities also looked impressive with the only real loss being the paddock which used to be in front of the stand opposite, which now housed the away fans in the south east corner. 
However courtesy of a friend's season ticket I would once again be in the part of the ground where I had previously stood as an away fan, this time with the benefit of a plastic seat and a roof which wasn't needed thanks to the surprisingly clement weather. What essentially makes the ground though is the closed in close to the pitch feel, which resembles Brentford only better, the flats in the corner being unobtrusive as they are set back from the pitch but still do their job of making the ground feel wholly enclosed.
The two teams started as polar opposites in terms of form. Preston had won all of their last six league games whilst Orient had won none over the same span of matches. Thus it was no surprise that Preston took the initiative from the start, taking the lead when Callum Robinson finished Chris Humphrey's cross from the right wing in the nineteenth minute. It was almost 2-0 within a minute of the restart but Orient managed to smother the attack and from this point on created enough chances to go into the break ahead.
That they didn't do so was down to the inevitable law of the ex which saw Preston goalkeeper Jamie Jones do enough in the remainder of the first half to merit a man of the match award. Playing the more attractive football through the midfield, Orient created a number of chances only to be denied by Jones. First up was Jay Simpson who burst clear but was unable to convince Jones to go to ground before he shot for goal, Jones maintaining enough balance to flail a hand strong enough to divert the ball wide. Then from a corner Simpson had a shot blocked on the line by David Buchanan. Finally with half time in sight a Shane Lowry cross from the left found Gianvito Plasmati whose shot was stopped at close range by Jones, the loose ball running to the hapless Simpson who completed a hat trick of misses by striking the ball straight at the stricken Jones.
Thus a breathtaking half ended with Preston still in front, with both teams fully committed to their clubs' cause as shown by a minor melee early in the game following a series of full blooded tackles which saw Buchanan booked.
The second half revealed more about the character of the two sides and suggested their prospective fates this season. Preston showed excellent commitment to defend their lead increasing their defensive line to five to crowd out the Orient attack, North End seeking respite by pumping long balls down either flank with the aim of playing in Joe Garner to buy a foul in a handy position for a set piece free kick, the striker evidently a past master at getting under the skin of opposition defenders. 
Orient were able to maintain periods of sustained pressure around the Preston penalty area, but were unable to manufacture a clear cut chance, new signing Gianvito Plasmati clearly a stranger to his team mates up front. The introduction of young midfielder Josh Wright added an injection of pace to Orient's endeavours but the three points were sealed when Preston doubled their lead with fifteen minutes remaining from inevitably a set piece.
Unsurprisingly it was Joe Garner who won the free kick which was swung in from the right by Neil Kilkenny. A trio of players from either team tumbled over like dominoes at the far post, but Tom Clarke remained on his feet to knock the ball back into the six yard box where Paul Huntington had returned to his feet to tap the ball into the empty net. 
The final whistle saw the Preston players go over to thank their tremendous away support led at the front by a Sikh fan complete with bushy white beard and a turban in the same colour as the away shirt, who had the spent the whole game vigorously waving a North End flag. However even though they have now extended their league run to seven straight wins, Preston look hard to beat rather than unbeatable, with a stereotypically dour northern approach to the game which eschews quality for percentage football.
Leyton Orient though look to be in a sorry state, their performance carrying the air of a team able to lift their game for challenging opponents which may not be the case when they play the teams they need to take points from to preserve their third division status. Twenty years of good work by former chairman Barry Hearn, the stadium being testament to the benefit of his tenure, looks like it could be undone in a matter of weeks thanks to the Italian owner he decided to sell to. When I looked over to the home dugout last night I thought it was comedian John Bishop on the touchline rather than as it turned out temporary new manager Mauro Milanese. This would be an apt symbol of the tragi-comic series of events which saw manager Russell Slade leave Brisbane Road. The end of the relatively settled nature of Slade's reign has seen the end of the kind of stability which is too often undervalued by trigger happy owners keen to stamp their mark on a club.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Double and drop?

The sun shone once again on York Road yesterday as two goals in three minutes early in the second half set up what was ultimately a comfortable victory for the Magpies over Staines Town to complete an early season double courtesy of the arcane method of compiling the Conference South fixture list.
Maidenhead's win at Wheatsheaf Park in September was a lot easier than the 2-1 scoreline suggested, with United passing up a number of opportunities to increase their lead against ten men. Yesterday saw the opposite as by clinically taking the best two chances on offer Maidenhead made light work of a Staines team which promised much in the first half but visibly wilted once they went behind.
Drax had made a few changes to the line up that earned a point in Essex last week, with loan signings Will Britt and Connor Waldon going straight into the team, and Harry Pritchard resuming his left back role.
The first half saw both sides promise much going forward but offer little in the way of clear cut chances. With twenty minutes gone Elliott Buchanan had the best opportunity of the half to open the scoring but his header went wide for a corner. It was unclear quite how the ball went wide so the credit goes to Britt. At the other end Pritchard went close from the unlikely position of in front of the right hand post which may explain why the shot from his weaker foot hit the side netting. In between Stephane Ngamvoulou was a mite fortunate to stay on the pitch when a very late challenge floored Ashley Nicholls, the referee opting for a yellow card.
After the restart, kicking down the hill with the sun in Swans goalkeeper Jack Turner's eyes, Maidenhead soon gained the upper hand. I know I'm biased in millinery matters but Turner really should have worn a hat. With the young Maidenhead fans behind the goal showing a fine appreciation of popular culture, asking about the whereabouts of Ali G., the force was very much with United and they pushed harder and harder until the Staines defence cracked twelve minutes into the second half.
A Dave Tarpey shot was saved by Turner but the ball ran loose with Nicholls springing into action to reach it first. He then calmly beat the stricken Turner with a cool finish, which was damning in its delicateness. Staines had barely kicked off when Maidenhead won a corner which Tarpey took and placed perfectly onto the head of Adrian Clifton who made no mistake to score.
The lack of any real response from Staines to this double blow meant the game was all but over as a contest. So far this season the Conference South has been marked by its competitiveness and the absence of a real whipping boy, but with seven consecutive league defeats Staines are fast fitting the bill.

Beating Gonzalo

Fifteen pounds to watch the visit to Gillingham by the one and only Preston North End seemed like a bargain when I bought the ticket, complete with original price overwritten in pen. The warm weather in September had persisted making midweek football a pleasant evening out to the extent that I wasn't troubled by the prospect of standing on the monstrous carbuncle on the face of legendary commentator Brian Moore, which is the permanently temporary open air stand named in his honour at Priestfield.
Monstrous Carbuncle
However as I joined the cavalry charge for a seat on the late running 17.57 from Victoria to Gillingham I was regretting not having a scarf to give me a modicum of protection from the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo blowing itself out over the British Isles. Still these thoughts remained at the back of my mind as I made the short anachronistic walk from the railway station to the ground along narrow terraced streets.
Delightfully amateurish
As I passed through the turnstile, witnessing yet more delightful amateurism as the gateman ticked off every entry with a pen on a tally chart, I was rewarded with the news that the away fans had been upgraded to the corner of the smaller stand which runs along one of the wings and thus was able to settle in to a sheltered spot to watch a game which saw both teams battle against the elements.
This was a stark contrast to my only other visit to Priestfield, on the opening day of the 1997/98 season, when the two teams ground out a goalless draw in sultry heat which had the airwaves bursting with cliches about mercury rising and thermometers bursting. That day Preston had given debuts to four close season signings from Manchester United in the form of Jon Macken, Colin Murdock, Michael Appleton and David Healy, and were well on the way to the brink of regularly failing to get to the Premier League thanks to the country's worst play off record.
Now North End were once again looking to bounce back from financial ruin, under the cautious stewardship of Simon Grayson who after 18 months in charge has seemingly got the knack of turning draws into a wins. Still a pre match warm up injury to Scott Wiseman  and the ongoing fitness concerns of Tom Clarke had seen the unpopular Paul Huntington drafted in to the line up at the back along with forcing Scott Laird to play out of position at right back.
Give us a G...
The Gillingham line up replete with some of Manish Bhasin's favourite names in the form of Leon Legge, Jermaine McGlashan and Cody McDonald took to the field in a stylish strip reminiscent of Phil Dwyer era Cardiff City. Unsurprisingly given the weather and live Champions League Football, the crowd was sparse and the game started with little atmosphere despite the game efforts of some weatherbeaten cheerleaders.
It was 7.45 the ground wasn't alive
As is the style at this level both teams set up with two banks of four, and tried their best to feed their couple of creative players. For Preston this meant Paul Gallagher and Villa loanee debutant Callum Robinson, with the Lancashire team trying to keep their attacking play channelled down the left wing to avoid exposing Laird's lack of a right foot on the opposite wing. Conversely Gillingham were eager to set right winger McGlashan free at every opportunity and throughout the first half he regularly disappeared in the twilight zone created by the pillar on my right. 
Where's Jermaine gone?
With the wind at their backs Gillingham had the better of the first half, but a frontline led by Danny Kedwell, who looked no different from when he was a regular at York Road with Welling United, could not find a way past goalkeeper Jamie Jones, ably supported by a resolute defence.
Jones made a super save at point blank range at close range from Kedwell, and when the striker later beat Jones, David Buchanan was able to clear off the line. At the other end Joe Garner was denied by the woodwork which also came into play when a Brennan Dickenson cross caught the wind to fox Jones who was then able to divert the ball to safety with the help of the crossbar.
The half time whistle signalled the end of Gillingham's advantage and after the restart Preston gave it the kitchen sink treatment to make the most of the wind. It was all North End and although Gillingham's defence initially resisted, twice clearing off the line and keeper Stuart Nelson tipping over the bar, they were broken just ahead of the hour mark when Huntington headed home the only goal of the game from close range.
From this point on Preston looked pretty secure for the three points but couldn't find the second goal which would have confirmed their superiority, again being denied by the woodwork in the dying minutes.
All in all a night to step back to the cheap, straightforward world of the lower divisions of the Football League which is becoming rarer due the steady growth of identikit out of town stadiums.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Tarpey or not Tarpey. Dave answers the question.

A trip to Concord carried echoes of Maidenhead's past in the Isthmian League where Essex clubs were predominant. With some seasons seeing up to nine clubs from the County in the same division as the Magpies, there were regular dull trips round the M25 to watch a game played at a drab but functional ground with little in the way of atmosphere against a powerful team bursting with pace and strength, with a draw being something of an achievement for United.
These thoughts came to mind as I stepped off the train at Benfleet, faced with a view of the bleak marshes beyond which lay Canvey Island, complementing their Dickensian equivalent on the other side of the Thames Estuary. 
Concord are fast becoming the new Weston-super-mare, comfortably in the top half of the table on merit despite modest resources. A glance at the programme prompts an amendment to this neologism. A better epithet would be that of a new Thurrock, as it was Rangers vice Chairman Grant Beglan who played such an important role off the pitch in taking the Lakesiders from nothing to the brink of the Conference, and is now well on the way to almost repeating the trick with Concord. 
Maidenhead lost both games 3-1 to Concord at opposite ends of last season. The first meeting between the two clubs last September in Essex saw an injury to Richard Pacquette spelling the end of any points for United that day, and sparked an awful run of league run which had hardly picked up by the time of the return fixture in April, when despite playing their third match of the week, Rangers romped to victory at breathtaking pace, leaving United trailing in their wake.
Thus it was no surprise that Drax elected to tinker with his squad to turn out a team able to stifle Concord's attacking endeavours. He did this by fielding loan signing Devante McKain as a defensive midfielder (reportedly this is where Gillingham manager Peter Taylor sees his future), sacrificing the flair of Danny Green and Dave Tarpey, with Adrian Clifton playing in his false nine position, a concession to the more defence minded set up being the deployment of Lanre Azeez and Reece Tison-Lascaris to dovetail any attacking forays with their pace.
This plan worked to the extent that Maidenhead enjoyed the lion's share of the play in the first half but without a cutting edge in the final third, there was little to trouble former Magpie Aaron Lennox in the Rangers goal. By contrast Concord were more ruthless when they had the opportunity, United's player of the 2010-11 season Sam Collins showing how he has matured with age by leaving the left wing he patrolled when at York Road for an influential central midfield role. On this occasion, Rangers wide threat was provided on the right where full back Jeremy Walker had an impressive performance.
Offside?
It was his pass which started the move for the game's opening goal, with video evidence suggesting Gary Ogilvie was marginally offside when receiving Walker's ball down the right wing, however Lewis Taafe was then allowed to tap in the cross unchallenged at the far post.
The goal on fourteen minutes came slightly against the run of play but as half time approached there was little promise of an equaliser. Hope for Maidenhead came five minutes ahead of the interval when Taafe was sent off for striking Mark Nisbet with his elbow. The decision by the husband of watching official Sian Massey, wasn't contested by Rangers' players or bench, and although there seemed to be no premeditated malice in the incident it was difficult to believe Taafe's protestations as he walked off that he "didn't touch him".
At the start of the second half Drax sought to press home the one man advantage by introducing Green and Tarpey to the fray, sacrificing right back Behzadi for whom Ashley Nicholls filled in, and the more like for like substitution of Azeez.
Unsurprisingly it was Maidenhead who took the initiative from the restart but they faced determined opposition urged on by their manager Danny Cowley crying: "60 minutes gone: we're climbing the mountain". 
The equaliser came in fortuitous circumstances nineteen minutes into the second half. A trademark driving run by Clifton was halted just outside the penalty area. Green's free kick was cleared only a far as Leon Solomon who lofted the ball back into the box. Matt Fry's fluffed clearance found Tarpey whose shot firmly struck the post, again striking the hapless Fry to present Tarpey with a second chance to score which he duly took.
Just when it seemed though that Maidenhead had created a platform from which to push to victory, their advantage of manpower was removed when Tison-Lascaris was dismissed for pushing over Danny Glozier with play already halted for a McKain foul.
After a few minutes Maidenhead regained their rhythm and Tarpey had a good case for a penalty when he was brought down, the referee judging that the foul had taken place on the edge of the area although Tarpey was felled inside it.
The warhorse Clifton was replaced with Jacob Erskine whose physical presence was essential in creating the opportunity for Maidenhead to take the lead in the last minute of normal time. Nicholls combined with Green to send a ball in from the right wing. Tarpey's intial touch sent the ball skyward. At first glance it looked an elementary one for Lennox to catch or even punch clear but he found his path blocked not just by Erskine but two of his own defenders, and the ball bounced once more into Tarpey's path to fire home.
There were however the best part of five minutes of stoppage time remaining, and Concord sprang into life to retrieve the situation. It was Walker again who instigated his team's goal, hitting a long pass into the penalty area which substitute Tony Stokes collected then flicked up to score on the volley with a delightful strike.
Concord then almost had another last word with a shot which flew across the face of Elvijs Putnins goal before the final whistle blew to end a game which neither team deserved to lose nor win.
Celebrating taking the lead in the last minute

Sunday, 12 October 2014

That's All Right Elvijs

Much of the focus in recent weeks at York Road has been on the forwards, whether that be for their lack of goals, the signing of DJ Campbell or in the last fortnight their goal glut, but yesterday it was time for the defence to step up and dig in to ensure the Magpies would be in the draw for the fourth and final qualifying round on Monday.
Gosport have come along way as a club since they joined the Conference South in the summer of 2013, working their way through a transfer embargo, storm damage to the ground and the theft of their pitch to stand now as a formidable outfit. As United found out at the start of the season Borough play with strength, and discipline at a high tempo. They do the simple things well, and with the Magpies returning to top form a cracking cup tie was in prospect. Add in a heavy pitch freshened up by torrential rain at kick off and the bumper Cup crowd got exactly that in a game that although short on goals lived up to expectations as a tense affair with both sides happy to fight again on Tuesday for a place in the next round.
Attendance: 519+1 bear
The Gosport supporters however showed they were yet to adjust to life at a higher level, standing at the same end for the whole game, their flag somewhat dwarfing their surprisingly small travelling support given their home crowds.Their error was then compounded by the banging of a drum.
Drax had the luxury of being able to name an unchanged team and as on Tuesday the Magpies started brightly but without an end product. Twice within the first quarter of an hour DJ Campbell had chances to open the scoring, firstly with a free header from the edge of the six yard box and then later, having caught Brett Poate in possession, burst clear into the penalty area opting to square the ball to Adrian Clifton when he might have been more selfish and gone for goal himself with keeper Nathan Ashmore collecting the pass before it reached Clifton.
From this point on it was Gosport who had the upper hand until the final whistle. Their uncomplicated approach of defence in depth and direct early balls unsettling Maidenhead throughout. Winning the 50/50 balls in their half Borough were able to keep the United attack in check which enabled them to ratchet up the pressure on the opposition defence. 
The impressive Steven Ramsay served notice of Gosport's intentions with a dipping shot from distance which was superbly tipped over the bar by Elvijs Putnins. Maidenhead were then unable to clear their lines and within sixty seconds Justin Bennett headed in at the far post from a Ramsey corner in the nineteenth minute. Borough continued to press for a second goal, firing a number of crosses across the face of the United six yard box, with Andrew Forbes coming closest, his header being scrambled off the line by Putnins and Simon Downer.
Downer, protecting his unbeaten record in United colours was having another fine game, making some judicious tackles to hold the Magpie line which brought enough respite to create an opportunity to equalise nine minutes ahead of the break. A Campbell effort was blocked on the line by a collection of Borough defenders which typified their will to win spirit, but fortunately the loose ball fell to Harry Pritchard who thumped the ball into the top of the net.
Within a minute of the restart, Ashmore was given the opportunity to show his talent with an astonishing save to divert a rocket of a Clifton shot but from this point on the focus switched to the other end as Gosport gave it the kitchen sink treatment to try and force a winner.
With a succession of Gosport corners, the Maidenhead had to be at their absolute best to protect Putnins goal, with Downer and Mark Nisbet thriving under the pressure. Downer was required again to head off the line from a Forbes header whilst once more Putnins saved at full stretch from Ramsey, pushing his free kick round the post. To almost complete the repeat of the first half Bennett looked set to score with a shot only for Putnins to save one handed, diving along the ground to ensure the loose ball was also pushed out of the way of the opposition players following up.
The introduction of Reece Tison-Lascaris, Jacob Erskine and Lanre Azeez, provided the glimmer of a threat on the break, but despite some deft touches from Erskine, Gosport capably dealt with these attacks and understandably on a heavy pitch the action faded in the dying minutes to end the game in a draw.
All in all a fair outcome with all the plaudits being directed to the Maidenhead defence, and in particular Putnins whose string of saves under pressure ensured the hard work of his team mate was not wasted and gives everyone the chance to fight another day.
No bear left behind


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Weston's super 'mare

Weston-super-mare's annual visit to York Road is not one I look forward to. At one stage there were three goalless draws in a row, one of which literally saw bad play stop light as darkness descended briefly 'til someone found another penny for the meter. This run was broken in 2010 when Lee Barney scored a stoppage time winner, the only goal of the game, and since Weston have had the upper hand, as under the guidance of Craig Laird they defied the odds to take root in the top half of the Conference South.
I missed last season's defeat courtesy of the usual trainmaggedon from First Great Western and the way this week started on the mainline out of Paddington, a repeat seemed likely, something I wasn't overly troubled by given the likely outcome of the match.
Nevertheless I made it to York Road in good time for kick off, to see the evening's events follow the script for the first half hour. With Leon Solomon and Adrian Clifton returning for selection, Drax was able to field perhaps his strongest eleven. The Magpies started brightly but as was hitherto the case at home in the league, without an end product. Clifton couldn't capitalise from slipping the offside trap, manfully staying on his feet under a heavy challenge from a defender, whilst Dave Tarpey signalled his intentions with a stinging shot which was parried by the goalkeeper. 
Weston, who had lost the experienced Clayton Fortune to injury in the pre match warm up, took heart from staying on level terms and began to exert their influence on the game. It was thus no surprise when Jamie Lucas skipped through the Maidenhead defence to score the opening goal with a fine finish in the 24th minute.Cue the usual feeling of emptiness as yet again Maidenhead failed to take advantage of their early supremacy, and were punished by a more clinical opposition. The only conclusion could be that the rest of the evening would follow the trend set previously this season and over a decade of contests against the Seagulls.
By half time though Maidenhead had not only equalised, but had turned over the deficit and accelerated into a two goal lead. It all started to go right for the Magpies just after the half hour mark when Eddie Hutchinson had a header tipped over the bar by Luke Purnell. Nothing came of the resulting corner but from the next attack Tarpey drove into the box in trademark style, drawing the foul from Sam Teale to win a penalty.
The return of Clifton from suspension meant he now could take over penalty duty from Danny Green, and he began his new job in some style, keeping his back turned to the keeper until the whistle was blown, when he ran up to strike the ball into the back of the net. A minute later Tarpey had another shot deflected wide and once again Maidenhead's attacks were full of promise, which as half time loomed turned into the goals which would put United out of reach.
With six minutes to go until half time Green won the champagne moment of the match with a superb challenge to win a loose ball just outside the penalty area. His commitment resonated with a will to win, and almost by virtue of winning the ball appeared to take himself away from the Weston defence with typical elan. Heading towards the left wing, Green checked his run then with his pass found Hutchinson in the space the winger had vacated, the central midfielder drilling the ball home to put United ahead.
Tarpey then finally found the target on the stroke of half time to cap a stunning quarter of an hour for the Magpies. Within minutes of the restart they showed they hadn't finished for the evening as Clifton had a header scooped out from under the bar by Purnell who was fast becoming Weston's man of the match. Midway through the second half Tarpey beat him once more, and although Ryan Bath pulled a goal back for the visitors this only encouraged United to redouble their efforts with the dying minute seeing them threaten to turn the game into a rout.
Firstly Harry Pritchard, quietly efficient in his new role at left back, popped up in the opposing six yard box to tap in a cross from Clifton, and then Tarpey bagged a well deserved hat trick in stoppage time to leave the scoreline at a humbling 6-2.
The aftermath saw my head buzzing with statistics, 18 goals in the last 4 games, 10 goals in the last 2 home games when the previous four had produced none, 16 out of 18 points available won with Simon Downer in the team, and most importantly 6 points in October for the first time since 2009.
Overall though the numbers were nothing compared to the aesthetic pleasure to be gained from the dashing attacking performance by the Magpies. Danny Green had his best game of the season so far, Adrian Clifton proved his importance to the team is as big as his frame, and Dave Tarpey set off echoes of the legendary Garry Attrell with his wing play.
It is Attrell and his famed left foot which gives this blog its title and you can see him dribbling down the left hand side of this page. Tarpey reflects Garry's best abilities: his metronomic runs down the left wing providing a reliable outlet for his teammates, his clinical finishing in front of a goal, and most pleasing of all the way he drives into the penalty area and buys a foul from the defender. Attrell lives!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A stroll in the Meadow

Heading west out of Paddington in the Indian Summer sun, I contemplated a first ever trip to a County Cup tie in September. At last it seems the Berks & Bucks FA are moving towards my ideal of an early season tournament. Their website states that the semi finals will be played in January, surely meaning an end to the traditional final date of May Day Bank Holiday Monday, a time of year which is now filled with non league play offs.
On arrival at Loop Meadow though I was reminded of how the County FA is often arcane in its bureaucracy as it became clear that neither DJ Campbell or Louis Morrison-Derbyshire would be able to play as a seven day notice period is required for new registrations. This is in contrast of course with the FA Cup where DJ was able to play at little more than 24 hours notice. I understand that league forms can be signed up to midday on the day of the game! It seems that they are still using the pigeon post at County HQ which to be fair is somewhat remotely located in Faringdon, the quirk of the now redundant 1974 County Council boundaries, meaning that this address and indeed tonight's cup tie would be played in Oxfordshire.
Loop Meadow continues to be a curious ground. There is a maze of rooms and bars, which if you follow the correct path can end up with you entering the playing area for nothing, Barking style. To add to the air of magic, at first glance the kits used for last night's match looked like Arsenal home and away. Since my last visit they have place two tiny seated stands at opposing corners behind one goal, presumably to increase the seated capacity for ground grading reasons, whilst the covered standing behind the same goal is currently fenced off with some more building work apparent.
Didcot had risen to second in the Southern League Division One South & West on Saturday, and like our opponents in the previous cup tie at the weekend, Faversham Town offered much in the way of hard work, but ultimately were unable to threaten the Magpie goal. Thus with United again being gifted an opening first half goal, once Town ran out of steam, the goals were rattled in to give the score a rather lopsided look.
All things considered this was a pleasing outcome in view of the players Drax was able to rest. Traffic delays for Jacob Erskine meant Harry Pritchard continued in the left back slot, with Melchi Emmanuel-Williamson playing alongside Mark Nisbet in the centre of defence. Ryan Upward returned to the midfield to partner Ashley Nicholls, behind a full hand of wingers in Danny Green, Lanre Azeez, Tashan Adeyinka and Reece Tison-Lascaris.
The latter two players combined to open the scoring in the fifteenth minute. A cross from the left by Tison-Lascaris looked it would be comfortably collected by Didcot goalkeeper Alex Williams but he could not hold on to the ball which was scrambled into the net by Adeyinka.
This proved to be the only difference between the sides at the interval and the Didcot manager clearly got stuck into his team at half time as they came out fizzing with energy to enjoy their best spell of the match. They were unable to unduly trouble Elvijs Putnins and the introduction of Dave Tarpey with twenty five minutes left enabled the Magpies to go up a gear, creating countless chances of which three were taken in the last ten minutes.
Firstly an Azeez pass found Green in plenty of space in the penalty area, having time to pick his spot with a delightful finish. Good work by Jonathan Hippolyte again found Green, making it two goals in two minutes, before Hippolyte finished the scoring with the goal of the evening, firing home from just outside the penalty area.
An exciting end to the evening then but what it will lead to looks to be in some doubt as the page containing the draw details has changed radically. It appears that Wycombe Wanderers have withdrawn following the decision to fold their reserve team, whilst Reading having apparently returned to the competition are now nowhere to be seen. As of course MK Dons are not a real club, this leaves Maidenhead United as the biggest club in the competition, waiting for details of the quarterfinal draw, ties to be played by mid November.

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.