^^^ The Bear, showing Maidenhead United how a 'Hall of Fame' can/ should look; I made it there shortly before midday, following breakfast with my parents in the Greyhound (where groups of Maidonians, both Arsenal and Reading fans, were congregating en route to Wembley). Already sat/ stood outside the Bear, soaking up the sunshine, were Scouse Mick (who no longer works on Saturdays - yay!), Steve H, Craig (en route to Chelsea vs Man Utd), Dickie W, (Ex) Landlord Joe, Macleod (M), Payney and a group of Stones fans (incl. Megaphone Mick; Sudhir and son). Will H, Will H Jnr (@therealmax) and Sanjay - plus Grim and his better half - would soon join us. Cold refreshments and conversation flowed, as balloons (white, blue and yellow) and hoverflies jostled for position above our heads. The Grenfell Arms was mooted but eventually we decided to head up the High St - past a Paul Bearer lookalike canvassing for UKIP - to the Rose.
^^^ Willie T met us there and took the above photo. Lincoln City vs Eastleigh was live on TV (probably influencing our decision to sit outside). I reckon there were as many Stones, in this relatively small Maidenhead pub, as there were away fans at Sincil Bank! As aforementioned, plenty of times on this blog, we love the Wealdstone lot; I had been looking forward to their visit since before our 1-1 draw in Ruislip Manor at the start of November. A much-needed warm up, as well, ahead of next Saturday's 'FDXV: Back Where It All Began'.
^^^ This, believe it or not, was their supporters coach!
^^^ Three - count em - three Oxford United stickers on this car. Can't think who it might belong to ...
^^^ Hands up if you're the only competent goalkeeper on the pitch. First half match action. We, presumably, lost the toss and so were down the Bell End. Made the best of it; heroes were praised (my girlfriend Belinda, John Urry, Bobby Behzadi, Chico Ramos, Garry Attrell, Barry Rake/ Steve Hale/ Rickey Ibe), villains were scorned (Martin O'Neill, Dennis Greene), rivals were mocked (Marlow, Slough Town, Windsor et al). Despite going a goal behind, the players did alright as well; I thought we shaded a fairly even half. 1-1 at the break; Jacob Erskine with our equaliser.
^^^ Halftime. Macleod (M) chatting with Lee Dev, top left. I don't think I'm giving too much away when I write that Alan Dev - having recently left Braintree Town - has had offers from a (magic) number of clubs; one is a no go (he's a West Ham legend, not a Wrexham one) and so, assuming no others are forthcoming, it sounds as if he has to decide whether he fancies another Shot at the Conference National or whether he fancies showing Drax exactly how it is done.
^^^ Basingstoke Elite?? Haha! Soon rectified. Nb. jacket on the pitch! Rather surprised that I didn't get threatened with another lifetime ban.
^^^ Good photo. And only the other day I was wondering whether we should replace the one of us, in front of the Union flag at Dartford, that adorns the top of this page (and is our profile pic on tw@tter) ...
^^^ I spent much of the second half sat, like this, with my back to play. Why? The home side's performance was ABYSMAL. How bad? 'Maidenhead played their part as lovely hosts by laying down and letting us have a great send off to a satisfying first season back in Conference football' writes Pinner Stones on the Conference South forum. Yes, TBF, the referee killed us. The first Wealdstone goal came directly from a soft free kick; their left back should've walked after clearly handling on the line before we equalised; their second goal would, most days, have been disallowed for a foul on the keeper (although maybe the ref has seen Elvijs drop them unchallenged before?). That said, there is no excuse - or there shouldn't be - for the way our heads went down. There is no excuse - or there shouldn't be - for our inept defending, particularly for their third goal (a free header at the far post #maidenheadispy). There is no excuse - or there shouldn't be - for having to rely on the incompetence of others (Salisbury, Staines, Farnborough, HAYU) to avoid relegation. I suppose the second-rate display was rather apt, though, what with it being Drax's final home match as Maidenhead manager! It was summed up near the end, in any case, by a couple of wayward shots which almost cleared the stand and evoked memories of Rocky Baptiste; by ex-Magpie Daniel Brown showing more fight, during an unsightly melee, than virtually the whole Maidenhead team put together. Dave Tarpey, for one, emerged with credit; Mr Logic was reluctant to permit me a Supporters' Player of the Year voting slip but I insisted on one and nominated Tarpey (ahead of B Laryea and J Lambie). It was no surprise to learn that he was the runaway winner and, indeed, swept the board at the presentation night (De'Reece Vanderhyde as Young Player, though, chosen by Drax??). Tarpey stood out right from the very first game of the season and his remarkable tally of more than 20 goals was rather wasted on this lacklustre team.
^^^ Highest avg. home crowd for a generation, apparently. I suppose it is to be expected when you let people in for free (Eastbourne Borough game), when Wealdstone bring 300-odd to York Road and - more importantly - when improving the ground finally becomes as much of a priority as the size of the playing budget and the length of the manager's contract extension (I said they'd come!) Spectators not supporters, though? That's a conversation for another day. Regardless, there weren't many left down the Canal End as the Wealdstone players and management celebrated with their fans at the final whistle (shirts, boots etc. flung into the crowd). 'Alan Devonshire's Black & White Army' and 'We want Dev! We want Dev!' were chanted by those Magpies who remained. Ouch! While 'Eight years and you've done f##k all' may have been a little harsh, 'It's the toughest Conference South there's ever been ... is it f##k' was not. Wealdstone are, historically, a massive non league club but this was their first season back at this level and losing at home to them in this fashion - and possibly finishing more than ten points behind them in the league - is rather embarrassing; a miserable failure. End of.
^^^ Most of the Stones lot were travelling back on the double decker bus and so we headed to the nearby Corner House to watch the start of Arsenal vs Reading. At least one other gentleman, in addition to yours truly, was loudly cheering on North London's finest! I was in a bit of a grump, actually, with Dover's last gasp equaliser against Bristol Rovers - to hand Barnet, Wealdstone's hated rivals, the Conference title? - doing nothing to quell my footballing frustration. #3CW
^^^ I nearly went wet myself laughing, though, when John G broke a bar stool by sitting on it ...
^^^ ... and then subsequently spilled most of his pint! No wonder Jennie G is seemingly trying to escape this photo!
^^^ After watching the second half and then extra time in the Bell - where the pizza was good but, apparently, the ales not much better than in the Corner House - we headed to the Greyhound (with the Suttons, Bobby P and the O'Meara Boy in tow). Adam Federici's howler - 'he learnt that at Maidenhead' - and the pints of
Rebellion Relegation Brewery's Zebedee (which Stripes had run out of, shortly after halftime #noddy) significantly improved my mood. As such, I was able to helpfully point out which one of us had missed the sun lotion rather more than the rest! #hellboy
^^^ Fanfreundshaft. Grim, incidentally, had managed to get hold of one of Scott McGleish's boots. The 41-year-old, 5ft 9in sometime Colchester United, Northampton Town and Bristol Rovers striker had spent the afternoon playing centre half. Yes, you read that correctly: Maidenhead United had been thumped 4-1 at home by a side with a 41-year-old, 5ft 9in striker playing centre half.
^^^ Bobby P, Willie T and Macleod (M) discussing, in all likelihood, whether they think Alan Dev will take the job ... and whether that would be a good thing. Other names doing the rounds, incidentally, included Terry Brown, Dean Holdsworth, Graham Rix and Keith Scott. BP also suggested that Hungerford Town's young manager could be worth keeping an eye on. Not a bad shout. Players that the new boss would likely want to keep? The consensus was three: Tarpey (who played under Dev at Humpton?), Harry Pritchard (albeit not as a left back) and Adrian 'Yaya' Clifton.
^^^ Scouse down!
^^^ It was a 'Hula Hoop nose ring' kinda day, really.
^^^ Maidenhead Raider.
^^^ Chris Rad. and Sanjay were among those who sought a photo with the Wealdstone Raider. Not me; I was more than content with our own version. Finger jabbing who??
^^^ Probably should've gone home, as people began to leave the Greyhound. Instead, Scouse and I asked ourselves - rhetorically - 'what would Merthyr do?' and headed to the Anchor. The above photos were taken by a Design & Technology teacher at a local comprehensive school. She and her husband were among only a handful of others present. Sad to think that the good times, for us in there, are long gone.
^^^ After a visit to Kebab Elite, Scouse got a taxi back to Cookham and I walked home. Arrived later than I would've liked but in a relatively decent state (stayed on one drink - Guinness - for much of the day and was well fed throughout). I was supposed to be in spare room - as the better half doesn't like being woken - but ultimately beaten to the punch! Moorhouse Brewery's Black Cat went down a treat, incidentally, in the Wetherspoons opposite Ruislip Manor station back in November. I look forward to sharing more pints of it with Grim, Megaphone Mick, Sudhir et al next season. We owe them one ... a game, that is, not a drink!