^^^ Maidenhead United played at Cinderford Town in the 2010/11 FA Cup. The KSG would have missed the last train home - and, quite likely, would still be stuck in the Forest of Dean - if a home fan called Beryl hadn't overheard our predicament and her husband, Ray, hadn't taxied us to Gloucester. As described in the relevant blog post - the very first 'Away Day Diary', as it happens - we promised to attend a Foresters' away game, as a show of our gratitude. Macleod (M) and I actually went to North Leigh, in February 2011, but the game was postponed! We couldn't make the dates work in recent seasons - and, admittedly, I did suggest taking the easy way out (Burnham or M@rl*w) - before train tickets to Winchester were booked after a recommendation from our friends at Gandermonium.
Winchester away in the FA Cup? Decent draw. So good, in fact, that I don't think I can wait until 26th and will go there this Sat instead.— GMOSC (@gomadstopcaring) September 14, 2015
^^^ FA Cup draw, some weeks after we'd arranged our trip. Winchester City vs Maidenhead United. Why, of course! We told Lee Dev, before our lamentable 2-0 home defeat against Maidstone on Tuesday night, that there was no need for him to watch the Citizens; we'd gladly assume dossier duty. #scoutingfordev
^^^ Macleod (M) would post the above status update, on Facebook, shortly after the 10:23 from Maido had left the station. TK Maxx, in case you were wondering. Original Penguin. And - I feel I should add - she butted in on our conversation (about the clothing brand); I'm not that much of a weirdo!
^^^ The pub outside Winchester station (the Albion) was closed - it wasn't yet midday, TBF - so we followed signs for the town centre and, walking away from the football ground, soon came across the Westgate Inn. Not bad at all; reminded me a bit of the Sussex Yeoman in Brighton. The train from Reading had been absolutely packed and the two old dears sat next to me were droning on about recipes for damson jam and kale soup, so I was gagging for a drink; Mash Brewery's Amber Ale, in a Westgate Inn pint glass, hit the spot. Georgia vs Tonga, in the egg chasing World Cup, was kicking off on the TV as we left. #onepintstrategy
^^^ Westgate. #yeractualcultureinnit Reminded me of Canterbury. As you can see, the sunshine was glorious.
^^^ Macleod (M) about to enter the jail house. #rasherswetdream The local Wetherspoons. Meh. Decent array of ales but nothing that I hadn't tried before (apart from the strong dark wheat beer, which was obviously avoided like the plague).
^^^ Gandermonium had kindly provided us with a shortlist of recommended pubs. We tried to find the Eclipse, next, but instead entered the Exchange. It was showing the Chelsea vs Arsenal game - which I'd have liked to have given a wide berth - and had Leeds graffiti in the toilets (#rasherswritingletters), but was saved by a superlative outside area.
^^^ On the subject of decking, Diego Costa manhandled Laurent Koscielny IN THE FACE. Mike Dean didn't send him off. Then Gabriel flicked back his heel and made minimal contact with the Chelsea striker. Diego Costa whined to the referee. Mike Dean sent off the Arsenal player. Obvs.
^^^ The spectacular cathedral (resting place, fact fans, of Jane Austen). This photo doesn't do it justice.
^^^ Tractor outside Guildhall wedding.
^^^ Alfred the Great statue. Photo taken as we waited for a taxi.
^^^ Elcome. We arrived late, albeit only ten minutes or so, and were charged half price entry. Top tip for Maidenhead fans next week: spend more time in the pub, and miss kick off, to save yourselves a fiver.
^^^ Interesting that Winchester beat Swindon Supermarine, to earn the glamour FA Cup tie with Berkshire's finest, as their set up reminded me of the Wiltshire-based club; specifically the time, ahead of our infamous 3-3 draw there in the 2003/04 FA Trophy, when McKendrick - first game back after breaking his leg in a scooter accident - hobbled into the clubhouse on crutches and the travelling Magpie hordes bust into a thunderous rendition of Soggy Sombrero. The look on their faces suggested that they'd never seen or heard anything like it!
^^^ U R M Y B E L L E N D
(didn't last long)
^^^ Football club pennants on display in a football club bar? It'll never catch on.
^^^ Macleod (M), with El Presidente, trying to point out an Altona 93 pennant. But instead getting closer to the St Pauli one. Tut, tut.
^^^ These ladies later admitted that the tickets they sold us for the half time draw weren't added to the hat. Refreshing honesty.
^^^ Flag. One of several dotted around the place. I'm not a big fan, personally, of semi-permanent flags. Trying a bit too hard to create some character? Maybe it's me.
^^^ Local drop. Thumbs up from me, if not from Macleod (M). Not sure who else was drinking it, but we only had a pint each before it ran out. The travelling hordes will be left disappointed, next week, unless they get in a lot more stock.
^^^ Modern technology, eh?
^^^ Line ups. The home side's #7 - Taz (after the Sutton fan?) to his mates - is a fleet-footed right winger, while top scorer Warren Bentley showed some nice touches and the #12 put himself about upfront.
^^^ Drinking area. No plastics, so no pints on the terraces. Not sure how those who cannot last 90 minutes without a beer are gonna cope next week.
^^^ Mobile home-cum-club shop. I wonder if Club Shop Guy will soon be angling for one of these at York Road, seeing as the Magpies Megastore has been engulfed by the Black Curtain.
^^^ Food. Mine. Not bad. Macleod (M) waited until after half time before ordering and was surprised to find the tea bar closed. He did eventually get something from them, although his stomach apparently rather wished that he hadn't. Don't hang around, next week, if you're hungry!
^^^ First half match action. Chance! Missed. Rather sums things up. Cinderford were reduced to ten men, after a professional foul (me and Murdo both initially failing to notice the red card), but saved the resultant penalty kick. 0-0 at the break.
^^^ We met with Ray and Beryl at the interval. A Basingstoke Town fan ("They're rubbish this season; I'm not watching them any more") made himself useful by taking this photo. They remembered us ... or at least they said that they did! As aforementioned, they're a credit to their club and to non league football in general. Good to see them and we wish them all the very best.
^^^ If it rains next week then the travelling Magpie hordes might be forced to congregate together in close proximity. Imagine that! Should be able to generate some decent noise, though, as attempted on Saturday by the seven youths pictured. "We take over a hundred to some away games," claimed El Presidente. Attendance vs Cinderford (fourth vs second, incidentally, with North Leigh top)? 155.
^^^ More flags.
^^^ Wheelbarrow randomness (should've been the b-side to Motorcycle Emptiness).
^^^ More covering; I suppose that, if it is raining next week, some of the Maidenhead fans can stand under here if they don't like/ don't wanna talk to those Maidenhead fans behind the goal. #unhappyfamilies
Assistant Referee Linesman about to flounce past the away dugout. Macleod (M) stood behind the Cinderford management team for much of the second half; apparently they moaned constantly.
^^^ Floodlight Fancy
^^^ #nonleaguebins Trending yet? Thought not.
^^^ Corner flag fancy.
^^^ Main stand. Without wishing - genuinely - to sound disrespectful and/ or patronising, Winchester's ground made me realise that in recent years I may have overstated York Road's general state of disrepair. Soz.
^^^ Second half match action. Winchester huffed and puffed but Cinderford looked reasonably comfortable; in fact, the Foresters would have taken all three points it if wasn't for a near miraculous goal-saving block from a set piece play near the end. Perhaps the home side had one eye on next weekend? Regardless, there is no need for a dossier; the pitch is a little bumpy but by no means a cabbage patch, while Winchester will surely appreciate that the odds are against them. The Magpies should have no problems. And yet ... Drax's Maidenhead teams put in some truly abysmal performances against lower division sides (Horsham; Bashley; Didcot Town) while Dev's FA Cup record, during his first spell in charge, was poor. You never know.
^^^ After saying our our goodbyes to Ray and Beryl ("You'll stuff em next week") plus El Presidente (I didn't have the heart to mention that we wouldn't be back the following Saturday), we crossed the River Itchen and headed towards town. The Mucky Duck was our next stop, after walking for less than ten minutes. The courtyard reminded us of the Robin Hood in Sutton, while their Mucky Bitter was decent enough. Close to the station, as well, so Rainey and co. might want to take note.
^^^ Photos with the Winchester buttercross, after drinks in the Royal Oak (which claims to be the oldest pub in England; certainly an unusual layout). The ale we tried in there - the topically named Scrum Down - was good. Japan vs South Africa was on the TV as we entered; the underdogs were three points behind, with seconds remaining, as they prepared for a scrum close to the Springbok line. I implored them to take the easy drop goal and a very creditable draw. Shows what I know! In the immortal words of S Club 7: reach for the stars! Even more earth-shattering than the World Cup upset, though, was the subsequent revelation that Macleod (M) not only watches Through The Keyhole, presented by Keith Lemon, but he also pauses it in order to better work out the clues! What. The. Actual. Fcuk. Apparently he got three outta three last week so, again, shows what I know!
^^^ Re the other pubs on the Gandermonium shortlist: the 'ace' Black Boy was seemingly too far away from the station; the William Walker was shut (as above); the Old Vine - which was our final stop before the return train journey - rather swanky. Winchester, though, has a great many other boozers and is undeniably an ideal away day; we were home in next to no time. To the Greyhound (as the Bell didn't have any decent ales on); pints of
Rebellion Relegation Mutiny. We got chatting to some Maidenhead Nomads players; a couple shook our hands after recognising us as those who 'started the songs and abused the refs' when they frequented York Road as youngsters. Made me feel rather old! Anyway, others will have to start the songs and abuse the ref at Winchester next Saturday. Regardless, I'm sure that the travelling hordes will enjoy themselves. Here's hoping they get to toast a Maidenhead win and that the subsequent draw is another good one.