"As for Maidenhead, the conga (which was amusing) aside, quite a strange bunch really – some the oddest chants I've ever heard at a football match" ~ localboy86, Amber Planet forum, 26th April 2015

Saturday 16 October 2010

Away Day Diary: Cinderford Town 0-4 Maidenhead United (09/10/10)

Maidenhead United were the last team out of the hat in the draw for the 3rd Qualifying Round of the 2010/11 FA Cup: an away tie at either Alton Town or Cinderford Town. While certain fans lamented the lack of a home fixture many, including myself, were delighted that sleeping/ gardening/ DIY'ing/ shopping would be taking a back seat on Saturday 9th October, as a train journey to a previously unknown and relatively far away place was too good an opportunity to miss. The replay would be at Cinderford and, as the higher-ranked of the two teams, they were favourites to win through. They did and, bearing in mind the small Gloucestershire town was further and trickier to get to, I was not displeased about this.

Advanced train tickets were purchased (£18.50 each for a return; not bad) and journeys planned. Cinderford's train station was a victim of Beeching's cuts in the 1960s and so the 10:04 from Maidenhead would be taking us as far as Gloucester. While some intended on sharing taxis to the ground, the KSG were adamant that they would be on the No 31 bus to Coleford, which would drop us off in Cinderford after an approximate 35 minute ride through the Gloucestershire countryside.

Texas Pete and his clan, Stefan, Stefan's daughter and the Anchor Crew (McKendrick, Woody and Kenny) joined the KSG on the early train. Those with children seated themselves away from us, presumably because they concur with the Yes-man of the Year - re the allegation we made a child cry at Ebbsfleet - that "where there's smoke, there's fire". 

Change at Reading (where an M&S sandwich and pint of milk were consumed to ensure that Callum and Murdo didn't have to carry me home from the game, unlike at Ebbsfleet!) preceded a 16-can carry-out, a brief chat about former Magpie Abdul Osman with a Northampton Town fan who was en route to their game at Cheltenham (the conversation ended rather suddenly when the Cobbler mentioned he was from H*rsh@m and was in attendance for our infamous capitulation there in November 2007) and discussions about various topics (including the recent MUSA committee meeting, Reserve team games we plan on attending and how/ where/ if to publicise this blog) before we arrived in Gloucester, just after midday, as scheduled.

I'd have been happy to experience a swift pint in the derelict-looking pub directly outside the train station (and opposite the bus station) - called, imaginatively, the Station - but the real ale connoisseurs among us had their heart set on the Famous Pint Pot, a five minute walk away (or two minute jog; I went to check on the bus times and, while attempting to catch the others up, tweaked a calf muscle that would keep me out of 6-a-side football the following Monday). While the parents/ Guardian-readers supped on their pints of Doom Bar (in what was a rather gloomy bar) and waited for their taxis (they'd have quite a wait, it transpired), the KSG polished off their Guinness & Blacks and headed back to the bus station. 

Now, admittedly, I don't spend much time at bus stations - and realise that not many are renowned for their architectural elegance - but Gloucester's was a truly abhorrent concoction of grey brick and dilapidated shops; easily the worst I'd had the misfortune of visiting since Newport several years ago. Anyway, after inspired purchases of sausage rolls and a six-pack from a Co-Op (that seemed to be doing a fine trade in selling spirits and tobacco to 'gentlemen of the road', as I think they are euphemistically termed), we were joined by Rainey, Bobby P and others off the 11:04 train from Maidenhead, in time for the 13:10 bus to Coleford.

The KSG sat at the front of the top deck and enjoyed unrestricted views of the Cotswold hills rolling by but, in truth, the weather - in stark contrast to previous days - was dank and grey; the scenery was as uninspiring as the A48 trunk road on which the bus spent much of the journey. This - plus the fact that the three cans of lager in addition to the carry-out were sitting heavy on my bladder - meant that I, for one, was delighted to arrive in Cinderford, despite it resembling more a 'seen-better-days' Welsh mining village than a quaint countryside town.

Still, time for a quick pint before kick off and so we headed straight into the pub opposite the bus stop (called, I think, The Swan). This establishment didn't have Guinness (what sort of pub doesn't have Guinness??) and wouldn't have looked out of place in The League of Gentlemen. One of us remarked that they were glad they hadn't come in alone! (An over-dramatic comment, for sure, but you get the drift.)

As we exited the pub and prepared ourselves for an unenviable walk up a steep hill towards the football club, a white van thundered past, honked it's horn and took a sharp left into the nearby rugby ground. It transpired that Coxy and his travelling companions had gotten lost. After confirming that we knew the way (well, sort of!) we were invited to clamber into the back for a lift. It was pitch black in there and difficult to remain standing but a novel way to travel to a game and actually great fun! Plus we made it in good time for kick off ...

… not that we saw much, if any, of the first half! Discussions with a blazer or two regards the fall out from Ebbsfleet, interrogating Callum's work colleague (below) who was attending her first ever football match (Cinderford Town vs Maidenhead United as your first football match; WTF??) and wondering why 'Jerusalem' is played instead of 'Land of Hope & Glory' at the medal ceremonies when England win Gold at the Commonwealth Games (CTFC, like MUFC Ltd, don't have satellite TV and so the final of the Men's Compound Archery, or something, was on) took precedence and, before we knew it, half time was upon us with Maidenhead two goals to the good.

As we were moved from the small bar into the large function room it became apparent that a good many United fans had made the journey, in addition to those that had come by train; Payney and Leicester Les among them. The Mothership estimates that 50-odd in total were there, which puts to shame the pitiful amount that went to Chelmsford for the league game the week before. After Murdo had chatted at length with the Chairman - and I had called the wife to confirm, much to her relief, that we wouldn't be making an impromptu stop-off at her Mum and Dad's, in nearby Monmouth, on the way home - it was finally time to venture outside to take in some match action. 

The Causeway - which the Foresters apparently plan to leave sometime soon - was a strange little ground. One half - the side that included the dressing rooms and social facilities - had a small grandstand positioned to the left (as you exited the bar) and narrow, covered terracing to the right. The covered terracing was actually below pitch level so your eye-line was approximately the same height as the players waists; almost like an extended dugout! One goal had a gravel walkway behind it and the other two sides of the ground were made up of steep grass banks from where, at the top, you almost had a birds eye view (I exaggerate, obviously); not just of the pitch, but also of the surrounding area (nondescript housing, mainly).

I took time out from the less-than-enthralling action (Maidenhead's second goal, just before half time, had seemingly ended the match as a contest) to tour the ground (making sure to avoid direct contact with a certain Director and his cronies); photos taken of the small band of home fans (complete with Union Handkerchief), Dereck Brown pacing the technical area - and David Gumbs doing his thing - before I re-joined the thronged mass of Magpie fans in the corner of the 'dugout' for a sing-song, as the final whistle approached.

A few of the old favourites - 'Soggy Sombrero', 'Dereck Brown's my Grandad' etc. - were belted out as Maidenhead scored two more goals to put a gloss finish on an efficient performance. A prolonged and admittedly somewhat ring-rusty 'Johnson Hippolyte's Black & White Army' (which some, bizarrely, tried to sabotage) saw us through to full time, when the players were applauded off as they exited the pitch directly in front of the travelling fans. A few choruses of 'We love you Maidenhead ... ', an inspired debut of 'There's only one Mark Steward' and Murdo taunted with 'You're banned and you know you are', as he took down the flag, ensued before everyone retreated to the bar.

Time started to fly at this point and, before we knew it, all the other Maidenhead fans had left in their return taxis and the relevant bus back had long since departed; the KSG were in real danger of missing the 19:17 train from Gloucester, as increasingly desperate calls to local taxi companies proved less than fruitful ("Ow bist thee awld butty? The next 'an fo yer be at noin"). Just as we were resigning ourselves for a very belated arrival home, a woman in her 60s, (who might've been knitting, if my memory serves, and was sat at a nearby table) said that she'd overheard about our plight and would get her husband to give us a lift to the station. Initially we politely refused but, after she insisted and her husband came over to say that it really wasn't a problem, we accepted their charitable offer and were soon in a car en route to Gloucester. 

It transpired that our chauffeur was called Ray and his wife (who didn't accompany us for the car journey, BTW) was called Beryl. They apparently follow the Foresters home and away and were keen for our experience of Cinderford - and Cinderford Town in particular - to be a favourable one. Catching our appointed train home (by a whisker) after a 30+ minute drive through, at times, winding country lanes certainly helped! We gave Ray £30 as way of payment (which he initially refused to accept) and all readily agreed to attend a Cinderford away game before the season is out, to re-enforce our gratitude at their humbling gesture of kindness. I suspect that Ray thought we were being facetious but we WILL keep our promise; Ray and Beryl are a credit to their club and non-league football in general.

The train journey home was a relatively good one (i.e. I can remember it and it passed rather quickly). One of us slept, some of us played Goldie Lookin' Chain - with added MUFC Ltd - top trumps (Strength of ten? Eleven!) ... 

... while another flirted with some peroxide-haired, tan-tastic grandmothers who were looking forward to a night out in Reading. As we approached the county town of Berkshire, we were joined by some Basingstoke Town fans on their way home from a 4-0 win at Didcot Town. It transpired that they had bumped into Texas Pete and the others in MUFC replica shirts further up the train and had immediately asked if the 'Ebbsfleet 3' were on board! 

They were pleased to meet with us and interested to hear the update of our (latest) run-in with the club. Talking (if not shaking hands; I'm sorry, I just couldn't!) with them, as we left the train at Reading, caused us to miss the first available connection to Maidenhead. But we weren't too bothered; we'd spent various parts of the day sitting away from other Maidenhead fans on trains (aside from when it suited them, of course) and it will be good to meet with the 'Stoke fans, as agreed, in the Anchor when we play the Dragons (what a stupid nickname!) over Xmas.

Back to Maidenhead, then, and into the aforementioned Anchor; the usual tunes on the jukebox and an argument between Steve H and Bobby P (unsurprising, after a day on the beers). The night should've probably ended there but, as it was, Noctor's (where my extremely grumpy woodwork/ metalwork teacher of yesteryear was jauntily playing bass guitar - badly - in a covers band) and then the Smoke beckoned (the latter for just Callum and I). The 'Bell End' t-shirt I was wearing brought nearly as much female attention as did the Superman costume after Fancy Dress VI @ Histon, much to my embarrassment when a teetotal colleague who was also in the Smoke asked, on Monday morning, which one of the harem was my wife! 

I woke up on Sunday morning with £35 in crumpled notes, another £25 in one-pound coins (suggesting my wallet had taken as much as a battering as my liver and throat) and a throbbing headache (that lasted for a good couple of days); getting too old for these train away days! This was, of course, our first outing since Ebbsfleet - nearly three months previous - and so we were out of practice, TBF. Fortunately, it won't be another three months before our next trip as we're off to Hamburg this coming weekend for games at HSV (hopefully), VfB Lubeck and Altona 93. 

On the Saturday we're in Germany, Maidenhead will back in the Cotswolds to take on Forest Green Rovers in the next round of the FA Cup. Despite the Conference National side being recently named, by The Ball Is Round blog, as one of the top five non-league away days in the country - and our day out at Cinderford being an excellent one - I know where I'd rather be ...

1 comment:

Lenny Baryea said...

Further to recent correspondence received from a high-ranking MUFC Ltd Director (attempting to justify their lies) I’d just like to clarify that the –

“Callum and Murdo didn’t have to carry me home from the game, unlike at Ebbsfleet!”

- line from the above post indicates that I was, admittedly, more than a little worse for wear, come the evening, at Ebbsfleet on the opening day (I suppose that’s what happens when you spend virtually the entire 90 minutes of the game in a pub opposite the ground, after being ejected for no valid reason by ar5ehole stewards)

Of course that doesn’t mean that I was in a similar state at 3pm...and doesn’t give MUFC Ltd Directors licence to make stuff up to suit their own personal agendas (yes, Mark Steward, I am talking about you here).

Post a Comment