In August 2010 three Maidenhead United fans were banned from attending home games, by a kangaroo court, for crimes they didn't commit.
These men promptly encountered a jobsworth security blockade, and so escaped to the non-league underground.
Today, still stigmatised by the MUFC Ltd hierarchy, they survive as supporters of fancy.
If you enjoy a train away day - and if you can find them - then maybe you can share a drink with ... the K-team!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

2017/18 Diary ~ August

Macleod (M) had family visiting from Inverness, while Craig - thinking that the season didn't start until the following weekend - was at the Berlin Beer Festival, so yours truly (resplendent in new Alan Devonshire t-shirt from Cult Zeros, an early birthday present from the wife) would be the sole KSG representative at Maidenhead's debut National League fixture

Apparently I'd have to re-join MUSA in order to be allowed on the supporters' coach - league rules, according to Mr Logic - so instead decided to drive (and offered a lift to Rhys from the Youth)

Inclement weather meant that the journey took longer than I'd hoped; no time for a pre-match ale in the highly-recommended Flower Pot :(

Drunk as a skunk! One of the Youth, immediately ahead of us in the queue at the turnstiles, could barely walk straight and would be thrown out before kick-off

Stadium will be nice ... when it's finished! The covered ends behind the goals were both absolutely packed, so the travelling contingent had to make do with an uncovered and unterraced side-line (I'm not sure Macleod (M) would've put up with that!)

Thought we looked unsure of the artificial pitch and a bit nervy ... unlike their #3 - Alex Finney - who was an absolute colossus, despite only signing on loan from QPR in the preceding days

One-nil down, early in the second half, to a direct free kick (which the press and TV raved about but looked eminently saveable to me)

No complaints if we'd gone further behind; we were uneasy at the back, especially under the high ball

Euphoric celebrations - in pouring rain - after impact sub Sam Barratt powered home a header with two minutes remaining, much to the annoyance of the Maidstone wrong enders (who got my travelling companion ejected after falsely claiming that he'd punched one of their children!); one can only imagine their reaction - and ours - if Dave Tarpey had hit the net rather than the bar, from a yard out, in added time

(Match highlights here)

Willie T gave me and my Dad a lift into town for this; my Dad's first Maidenhead game since the televised FA Cup replay with Port Vale

Really not happy to discover that the away fans - decent in number and loud in voice - had been given a bit of the Bell End (only a bit, admittedly, but still)

Early pressure from the Magpies; performance was much better - from the off - than on Saturday

X-rated defending, though, allowed Manny Smith to head the Welsh side in front

Happily, United levelled almost immediately; a deflected shot fell to Tarpey and he made no mistake

Another defensive lapse, from a cross, accounted for Smith's second of the game

Massey's header was well-saved late on and so we were left to reflect upon an undeserved defeat, over pints of Rebellion Rocket, in the Barley Mow

(Match highlights here)

Harrison - Pool's new manager - looks like Richard Herring and his pre-match comments were worthy of a Chortle Award-winning comic

An early kick-off; sun shining as Macleod (M) and I walked into town #chewinthefat

Rose was shut and so, after meeting with Craig at the top of the High Street, we headed to the Bear (drinks with Mickey Creighton and his son, Joe)

TV cameras present for a minute's applause in honour of the recently deceased Bert Randall; second on the all-time appearances list (531) and, by all accounts, THE class act during a golden era for the club

Light grey away kit for Hartlepool - yuk!

Even Maidenhead Boys Under 9s would've been embarrassed to have conceded the opening goal in the manner that Hartlepool did: long punt from Pentney, flick on by Marks (who, after not managing to lay a glove on the Maidstone and Wrexham centre halves, was bullying those from Hartlepool), and Tarpey did the rest

Photos with Creighton and Obi Ulasi - just the 500+ appearances between them - at half time

Only Scott Loach impressed for the away side; he saved well from Tarpey on a couple of occasions but was powerless to prevent the striker from doubling our lead with a thunderous shot off the crossbar

Oh shit! James Comley blotted an otherwise impeccable display (his third in a row) with a clumsy challenge that gave Hartlepool a late penalty - converted by the otherwise anonymous Padraig Amond - but, thankfully, it was merely a consolation

Long journey home (and, one suspects, a long season) for the Hartlepool fans ... not that we cared too much as we stalked James Richardson, laughed at Chelsea, and supped pints in Stripes, the Hand & Trousers, and also in the patio garden of the Maiden's Head

(Match highlights here)

An away game not to be missed; this season's 'I was there' moment - so said Macleod (M) when the fixtures were released

Feel particularly sorry for him, therefore, that work commitments meant he wasn't able to attend as initially planned

Craig picked me up at 1pm and we made good time up the M40, M6 etc.

First to Blackpool: strolls along the front (the tide, sadly, was in) and on the Central Pier (Craig: "I bet I'm the only person on here who didn't vote for Brexit!") before an enjoyable pint of Three B's Doff Cocker on a Wetherspoons roof terrace

You cannot help but be impressed by the set-up at AFC Fylde: free car parking, main stand and bar (complete with match specific betting coupons on the tables - Maidenhead United to win 4-1 was 75/1; Maidenhead United to win 4-1 with Tarpey scoring first was 175/1) worthy of a much higher division, glossy programme (featuring a thoroughly-researched article on some 'well known' former Maidenhead players), just £13 to get in (I thought £15 was the league minimum?), friendly and knowledgeable fans - I wish them all the best

Luck wasn't on their side: they hit the woodwork on multiple occasions and played well with ten men, particularly after manager Dave Challinor - who, in stark contrast to the Hartlepool boss, spoke a lot of sense in his pre-match interview - made a couple of subs at half time (one of these - #7 James Hardy - really caused us problems)

David Tarpey did for them, though, with yet another four-goal haul: two penalties (a long wait before the first, although not long enough for me to win the golden goal competition!) and two exquisite second-half strikes (incl. a breathtakingly-good free kick)

Early hours before we got home, but I'm sure that every one of the 43 travelling fans were glad they'd made the long midweek trip; REM's The Great Beyond was playing in the car, as Craig dropped me off at approx. 01:30, which was kinda apt

(Match highlights here)

Every husband knows that he needs to try and keep his wife happy

Back-to-back-to-back-to-back Maidenhead games meant that I had little or no credit in the bank, as it were

Binfield (the Jack O'Newbury) - via a shopping trip to Slough - for pub lunch then, rather than to York Road

Shearing our wildflower meadow and cleaning the garage door - in preparation for a new coat of paint - were also on my list of chores, before I could settle down in front of the TV

Final Score on the BBC would be my usual choice - we don't have Sky - but for some reason I found myself watching the BT Sport equivalent of Soccer Saturday; how annoying is Chris Sutton?!

Left-winger Harry Pritchard has, for several seasons now, been one of our most important players and so I was delighted to see that, after a somewhat inauspicious start to the season (by his usual high standards), he'd put us ahead

Excellent goalkeeping from Nathan 'Mel Capleton' Ashmore kept the score line close, before an equaliser - soft - came early in the second half

Expect some Ebbsfleet fans to bang on about how Tarpey failed, once again, to score against them - and how they're unbeaten in the league since the dawn of time - as if the National League South 2016/17 CHAMPIONS give a shit about that!

Top ten (9th in fact, with eight points) after five games - I'd have snapped your hands off for that start

(Match highlights here)

Been there, done that (me, re Barrow away)

As such, I wouldn't be joining Craig and Macleod (M) on the 06:40 train from Maido

Rail replacement, due to the Bank Holiday weekend, and so they'd be going via Reading rather than London (their train tickets - not incl. seat reservations - apparently resembled a pack of playing cards)

Reserve team an inaccurate description, but Alan Devonshire wasn't bluffing when he said "It's going to be time to use the squad": multiple changes, with Comley, Upward and Marks on the bench, plus Pritchard and Tarpey (and Clerima) missing out altogether

One jibe after another from the BBC Radio Cumbria commentators re Carl Pentney ("He couldn't keep pigeons"), especially after the home side had equalised early in the second half (they were, however, very complimentary towards Sam Barratt)

Would probably have taken a draw before kick-off; it sounded as if we should've been more than one up at the break, and could've nicked it at the death (great save, then goal disallowed), but both Craig and Macleod (M) seemed happy enough with the point (if not the referee)

(Match highlights here)

League club alert! (Proper League club as well: 112 years, albeit only one season - 1962/63 - in the top flight.)

Eighty-seven points Orient had managed in 2013/14, good enough for third in League One; Maidenhead got 46 points that season, 'good enough' for 18th in the Conference South (another 'great achievement' by Drax)

You'd have gotten long odds, as recently as last season, on me giving up a Bank Holiday Monday in August to attend a Maidenhead United home game but I wasn't going to miss this, even if it meant cutting (slightly) short a long weekend at the in-laws; we left Monmouthshire after breakfast and had navigated the Second Severn Crossing before half ten

Tartan Army duty for Craig (#vilniusvacation), while Macleod (M) said that he'd meet me at the ground, so I walked into town on my own and had a pre-match lager in the new 'beer patio' area down the Canal End (benches required)

Our 'Kop' - the Bell End - was unsurprisingly, but no less irritatingly, allocated to away fans; the club prioritising expected gate receipts over the match day experience of Magpie supporters

NOT happy - any dispute with the Spiritualist Church, re an entrance down the Canal End (see the above photo), could/ should have been resolved YEARS ago if we'd bothered to build and use a turnstile down there when it was first suggested by MUSA and the original Supporter-Director (and, I'm sure, by others; hardly rocket surgery)

One-nil down early on; ANOTHER header, this time after Rene Steer - in his first appearance of the season - had been turned inside out

Reasonably safe to assume that Jake Hyde would've started if he wasn't injured (don't laugh!); Tarps didn't look anywhere near 100%

It was always going to be difficult in the second half - against full timers, in sweltering conditions, playing up the slope towards the away fans (only 734 in actuality; could've stuck them in the corner) - but we made a decent fist of it

End-to-end stuff, with both Carl Pentney and his opposite number kept on their toes; it just wouldn't fall for us, though, in their box 

No disgrace losing to an Orient side who are probably the best that we've played against so far this season; they were certainly hanging on at the end and I think that a draw would've been fair

Tranmere, Aldershot - or whoever - get the whole of the Bell End, moving forward, and I'll think twice about going

(Match highlights here)

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Marking the occasion

My reaction upon being asked to contribute to the Mark Nisbet testimonial programme? Delighted.

My reaction upon being asked not to dwell on THAT team, season and career-defining goal from 1st May 2007, covered in detail elsewhere in the programme? Not so delighted!

Like another goal that is writ large in Magpies folklore – 'Royals rocked by Connor strike' – it is not so much the quality of the King's Lynn effort, nor the importance of the game, that makes it so special, more so that the scorer was such an unlikely source. Mark Nisbet – like Brian Connor before him – had many playing attributes, but a penchant for the spectacular wasn't one of them!

Nis made over 300 appearances for the club and so it was rather embarrassing that I struggled, initially, to think of many other stand out on-field moments. But then it was pointed out to me, by another Magpies fan, that the best defenders are often the ones you rarely notice. The same goes for captains. Rather sound positional play than having to rely on a last ditch tackle to prevent a goal. Rather leading by example than having to rely on fist-pumping histrionics to rally the troops.

That's not to say Nis didn't have his showy moments, both on-pitch (donning the gloves, following an injury to Billy Lumley, in a 1-1 draw at Thurrock in 2011/12) and off (a pink shirt and tie combo worn, as an injured spectator, when we beat Bromley in April 2013 to secure Conference South status for another year) but, more often than not, 'Nisbet won countless headers as time wound down' – as I wrote on the blog following an opening day win over Sutton United in 2014 – typified his work as a Maidenhead player.

He was good, though, very good. I remember a heated post-match debate in October 2008 with a Hampton & Richmond Borough employee (a steward or groundsman?) over who was the better centre half: Nisbet or Dean Wells, their captain. Wells would go on to be included in the Conference Premier Team of the Year 2013/14 (during his time with Braintree Town), command a five-figure transfer fee, and play nearly 100 games for Stevenage in League Two. I wouldn't have swapped him, however, for Nis. For a time, before injuries took their toll, our skipper was as good as you got in the Conference South.

And 'Nisbet the man' is seemingly as impressive as 'Nisbet the player'. Two examples:

Basingstoke Town, April 2008. Post-match beers in the sunshine following Fancy Dresslemania VIII. Magpie supporters were on tenterhooks waiting for news as to whether star striker Manny Williams would re-sign for next season, with financial negotiations ongoing. "I've already signed," Nisbet told us. "Signed before checking how much I'm going to get paid!" Now, this may or may not have been true. But the fact that it wasn't dismissed outright, by those who were there, says a lot.

Dartford, March 2011. An away day for the ages. The photo of us, stood in front of the Union flag that day, remains the Go Mad or Stop Caring avatar on twitter. A lamentable Magpies performance, though, which wasn't uncommon at the time; we lost 3-0 and were flattered by the scoreline. Only three players came over, at the end, to acknowledge the vociferous – and highly commended by Dartford – travelling support. Ashley Nicholls and Bobby Behzadi were two. The other, of course, was Mark Nisbet.

Things such as this explain why, when Nis decided to leave York Road in search of more playing time, he went with everyone's very best wishes … even allowing for the fact that he was joining Slough Town! They're lucky to have him. And not only because you-know-who play in the same division!