As the World Cup draws to a close, the 2014/15 pre season begins, in somewhat inconspicuous fashion for Maidenhead United, with a behind closed doors friendly on the Wycombe Wanderers training ground on Thursday night being followed by a game at Thamesmead Town which almost took place in secret too. Alerted by Thamesmead secretary Dave Joy to the fixture on Friday night, I hastily confirmed that it was indeed taking place and waking up to a beautiful sunny day on Saturday, elected to make the arduous journey across London. For once Tfl's journey planner recommended travel time of almost two hours was overly pessimistic and I arrived at Bayliss Avenue with plenty of time to spare before kick off. As I drew close to the ground I saw the new Crossrail depot taking shape and realised with Abbey Wood set to be one of the polar terminals to Maidenhead, that any cup tie between the two clubs from 2018 onwards would make for a much easier trip.
Welcomed by friendly Thamesmead Town officials there was little to see until both squads traipsed into the ground following their warm up on the training pitches which surround Town's Sporting Club stadium.I was surprised to recognise one name in the Thamesmead line up, that of former Magpies Les Thompson. Thompson had put in a decent shift as a right back for United last autumn so it was something of a surprise to hear that he had arrived in Kent at the end of last season and quickly impressed by scoring four goals playing in the hole behind the front two. He reprised this role in the first half and looked the part, having his team's best chance on the stroke of half time when his shot from the edge of the penalty area was touched onto the post by Elvijs Putnins.
By this time Maidenhead had taken a two goal lead with a real mixture of a starting eleven. In front of Putnins, youth team player Marcos Ushiro-Lumb started at right back with Jacob Erskine and Mark Nisbet in the middle and Leon Solomon on the left. In midfield, a possible first choice pairing of Ashley Nicholls and Eddie Hutchinson was flanked by Danny Green and Lanre Azeez, whilst up front Jonathan Hippolyte partnered Dennis Oli.
Oli a striker with an excellent CV who was at Havant & Waterlooville last season following a career spent in the lower divisions of the Football League and the Conference, was touted by Drax as a possible signing earlier in the week but was replaced early on by Stefan Brown after the drinks break. Also entering the fray in the first half was Ryan Upward, a local player with experience at Burnham and Beaconsfield SYCOB. He initially replaced Lumb before moving up the pitch into midfield when Bobby Behzadi was given a run out after the break.
After Thamesmead had possibly had the better of the opening exchanges, Maidenhead gradually took control of the game, scoring twice in three minutes before the end of the half. Danny Green opened the scoring with one of his trademark free kicks from the edge of the box before Jonathan Hippolyte took advantage of a goalkeeper well out of his area as Maidenhead counterattacked, calmly rounding the keeper before slotting the ball into an empty net.
In the second half there was the usual deluge of substitutes for both teams. For Maidenhead this included in goal Sam Gray (watched by father Peter, right back in the 1991 promotion winning team), Tom Gilbey at left back, Behzadi as mentioned on the right with new signing Simon Downer and returning ex youth team player Jamish Holait in the middle. Adrian Clifton and Daniel Brown renewed their partnership in central midfield with reserve player Isaac Osei-Tutu on the left and new signing Dave Tarpey on the right. Up front Tashan Adeyinka from Harrow Borough via Finland looked lively, combining well with Osei-Tutu to split the Town defence to score twice early on in the second half to put the result beyond doubt.
Thamesmead hit the woodwork again midway through the second half but Maidenhead had the last word when Tarpey marked his debut in United colours with a goal.
All in all a good workout and dress rehearsal for the Beer Festival match against Slough and the Chauntry Challenge Cup Final on the next two Saturdays at York Road.