"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 22 November 2014

Torquay, or not Torquay

Not Torquay to be, unfortunately. :-(

In the build-up to this much anticipated tie it was noted that Maidenhead United had only reached the 2nd Round Proper of the FA Youth Cup on two previous occasions: losing heavily at Chelsea in 1989 and at Luton Town in 1999. It transpires, therefore, that our defeat at Bristol Rovers in 2011 was a round earlier than I remembered. Regardless, a congested Grove Road car park on Wednesday night was testament to the general excitement; the Magpies hosting a higher league side, with a trip to West Bromwich Albion a mouth-watering reward for the victor. I was late to arrive and the score was already 1-1. Maidenhead’s equaliser - a 30 yard volley from the highly-rated David Rogalski - was, apparently, a thing of rare beauty; one supporter describing the goal on twitter as the ‘best I’ve seen at York Road all season’.

I spent the rest of the half, alongside Steve H, on the Shelf. The great and good - Johnson Hippolyte, Dereck Brown, CWKHF, Mark Steward, Educated Left Foot, Bobby P - were watching further down the touchline. First team players Harry Pritchard and Jonathan Hippolyte were also in attendance. Lionel Strides, meanwhile, had been working the York Road turnstile upon my belated arrival. We would all witness a high tempo and exuberant first half display from the Magpies. Bayley Brown (any relation to Dereck/ Danny?) was head and shoulders above everyone else in midfield - literally - while our wide men were causing Torquay problems. It was little or no surprise when Rogalski put us deservedly ahead with a(nother) well-taken finish. The away side had barely made it outta their half since my arrival when, minutes before the break, they were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. The dead ball was curled, superbly, onto the bar and their imposing captain - O’Neil Odofin - smartly headed home the rebound. Maidenhead had dominated certain stats - possession, territory, shots - but the most important would be all-square at the half. That said, Torquay could - remarkably - have lead at the interval; a prolonged goalmouth scramble, just before the whistle, featured a goal line clearance and also a decent save from the home keeper (Sam ‘son of Peter’ Gray).

Steve H and I moved to the Puna Stand for the second period. Still looking good, IMO, although others would comment that it has clearly been built ‘on the cheap’. No sponsorship plaques on the floor - as Macleod (M) had noticed, on his most recent visit - but not all of them were properly secured to their seats (whilst I’d also like to note, at this point, that - contrary to what is stated on the Mothership - it wasn’t just Macleod (M) who contributed to the seat ‘in remembrance of Trevor Kingham’). Anyway, this half was more evenly balanced than the first. It was also increasingly niggly, not helped by another next-to-useless referee (Neil Davies). Maidenhead again showed the greater creativity and attacking intent - hitting the bar twice - but tired noticeably as the game wore on. They were also not helped by a nasty looking injury to number 7 - Olly McCoy - who was stretchered off after a crunching tackle. It was the other side of the pitch to where we were sat, so I’ll defer to the opinions of those who were much closer, but it looked like a strong and full-blooded challenge - rather than an ‘appalling’ one – to me. McCoy was in obvious pain and that was distressing to see. The referee was poor, as already indicated, so I think he should take his fair share of responsibility for the way the match disintegrated, somewhat, into needle. Maidenhead, it should perhaps be noted, were no shrinking violets; indeed several of their players were jawing - needlessly - with the opposition and the officials, throughout the game, whilst on numerous occasions they threw or kicked dead balls away (taking lessons from Ashley Nicholls?). No one - apart from Roy Keane - wants to see a player get hurt, though, and I sincerely hope that McCoy’s injury is not as serious as it looked (and if it is, then I hope that he recovers fully and swiftly).

Both teams, perhaps understandably, struggled with cramp (and nerves?) during extra time. Maidenhead dropped a little too deep, I thought, and - as Torquay (finally) began to exert pressure - required a couple of last ditch tackles to maintain the deadlock. The away side also hit the post with a hopeful shot from distance. No goals, though, during the additional half hour. Penalties. Down the Bell End. I was instantly reminded of another midweek, under-the-lights shoot-out at York Road: an eccentric performance from legendary former AFC Bournemouth custodian John Smeulders unable to prevent the Magpies losing on penalties to Basingstoke Town, after another 2-2 draw, in the 1991/92 Full Members Cup (the atmosphere, during that shoot-out, was electric and hugely entertaining; a formative experience for yours truly). Unfortunately, the result was no different this time around: Maidenhead missing two penalties, Torquay just the one. The away side celebrated as if they had won the cup; the scorer of the winning spot kick, plus their captain, running around the pitch with hands cupped to ears. More than a little classless, but hey ho. One suspects that the Gulls’ OTT reaction was borne out of a sense of relief, mainly, and so essentially a back-handed compliment. And, as aforementioned, Maidenhead had been rather chippy - both on and off the pitch - so little wonder that the Torquay youngsters felt obliged to give it the big ‘un (their coach, in their local rag, has since described the atmosphere as being ‘pretty hostile’). Credit, here, to the ‘Bell End Youth’; nine or ten in number, they were noisy throughout. It was VERY cold but a couple of them were bare chested, at one point, whilst belting out a ‘Shirts off, if you love Maidenhead’ chant! They also sang the Harry Pritchard ditty, ‘Come on, you black and whites’, ‘Shall we sing a song for you?’, ‘Wem-ber-ley, Wem-ber-ley, we’re the famous Maidenhead … ’ plus others. Some of the repertoire needs refinement, some needs dropping altogether (‘Oh Maidenhead, is wonderful … ), but their enthusiasm was impressive; certainly Macleod (M) - absent, at a Jesus & Mary Chain gig - would be justifiably proud.

Likewise, I’m sure that Sam Lock and his coaching staff will be very proud of their team’s performance. The Gulls can count themselves rather fortunate to have progressed; an alien visitor would have struggled to identity which was the higher-level side (at least until the one containing part-time players rather ran outta puff). There really wasn’t much between the teams - so headlines claiming Torquay had been ‘outclassed’ are, IMO, wide of the mark - but the Magpies certainly dominated the first half and their overall play was easier on the eye, compared to that of their more functional opponents. Indeed, I think the standout performers all wore black and white (standout, though, for reasons both good and bad). It is perhaps unfair to single out individuals for praise, but Rogalski’s performance was certainly notable: decent first touch and hold-up play, two excellent finishes, quicker and stronger than he looks. A real shame, then, that he missed his penalty in the shoot-out.

Will we ever see any of these players in the Magpies first team, though? Rogalski has, encouragingly, signed first team forms - and, as aforementioned, Drax was in attendance - but I was particularly impressed by Maidenhead’s tough tackling left back: Isaac Olorunfemi. In the aforementioned game at Bristol Rovers, coincidentally, the standout player (certainly from the Rovers fans perspective) was also ‘Maidenhead’s tough tackling left back’: Zac Martin, on that occasion. Where is Martin now? Holmer Green? He might still be (dual registered?) at York Road, for all I know; he might have been affected by injury, changing circumstance, a lack of ability and/ or application. Who knows? What I do know is that, whilst Martin was excelling at the Mem, the first team had the likes of Bobby ‘The Daddy’ Behzadi and Max Worsfold, playing out of position, at left back (Harry Pritchard has, on occasions, also played there this season). Indeed, Maidenhead United - despite a Youth setup of enviable quality, esp. recently - have, for more than a decade now, seen very few (if any?) home grown players establish themselves in the first team. (Brandon Baker-Timms, Ryan Debattista and Jason Belgrave were the standout performers in the last Youth team game that I attended; where are they now?)

My hope is this: fast forward a few years - to a midweek, first team league game at York Road - and several of the Maidenhead youngsters from Wednesday night, both on the field and on the Bell End, will again be actively involved in proceedings. Sadly, though, past experience would suggest that we shouldn’t hold our collective breath.

Hey ho. Let us end on a positive note: in excess of 225 were in attendance, more than the 171 that had witnessed the aforementioned Full Members Cup tie in January 1992. Well done all. Result aside, I enjoyed it. 

Click here for match highlights.


Monday 10 November 2014

Away Day Diary: Wealdstone 1-1 Maidenhead United (01/11/14)

^^^ Opponent-specific match tickets. And they didn't write 'Maidstone'. Massive respect.

^^^ I would also post the above message on Facebook. A couple of friends - both armchair fans of Premier League teams (nothing wrong with that, per se, BTW) - mentioned, in reply, the infamous Wealdstone Raider. I liked Will H's response that the Raider is 'almost as embarrassing as the MMS'. ;-)

09:30 meet in the Greyhound for breakfast. Macleods (M) and (P), Craig (who was missing Chelsea vs QPR for this) and Brian McK would join me (Nb. I was the only one on the beers). Incidentally, my parents were also there, although they had better things to do than catch the 10:42 to Ealing Broadway. After a couple of changes - as aforementioned, in at least one of the blog posts linked above, it takes almost as long to get from Ealing Broadway to Ruislip Manor as it does from Maidenhead to Ealing Broadway! - we were, - as planned, supping pints in J.J. Moon's shortly after midday (Moorhouse Brewery's Black Cat, BTW, was excellent). Here we would soon be joined by Les, Stef and friend(s), plus others. Also, Whitley Bay fan Northwood Mark South Ruislip Mark; Macleod (M) has bumped into Mark at some recent Snuff gigs. But I'd not seen him since, I think, the Battle of the Bays at Herne Bay in January 2011. All this made for a buzzing pre-match atmosphere. Indeed, as Educated Left Foot mentions on his blog, 'it made a change to enter a pub on a match day containing a dozen or more Maidenhead United fans'.

^^^ There was time for a quick pint in Ruislip Manor's Wealdstone's excellent clubhouse before, shortly after kick-off, we entered the ground.

^^^ Spot the ball (CLUE: NOT on the deck!)

^^^ First-half match action. Most of it took place down this end, as Maidenhead dominated (albeit with only a series of corners, the odd goalmouth scramble, and a goal-line clearance to show). It wasn't a great spectacle, indeed much of the first period was spent basking in the November sunshine, chatting to a couple of friendly stewards about what they think might happen to the vast playing fields behind the goal - and Grosvenor Vale itself, when the lease runs out (CLUE: Michael Shanly) - and admiring the impressive improvements to the ground (both covered ends extended) since the KSG's last visit. The half ended with a painful-looking injury to Danny Green. Thankfully, he was OK.

^^^ Why not? And who decides what is and isn't 'offensive'?

^^^ I love a good pin badge. Who doesn't? I own a few, although wouldn't class myself as a collector ... at least not yet! I was rocking the classic, IMO, Maidenhead United 1950s club emblem (with an incorrect formation date of 1869) at Wealdstone. As I'd noticed on previous visits, they have a guy who sells an impressive range of enamel badges. Nothing took my fancy on this occasion, although I did buy Macleod (P) an Atlético Madrid one; massive fan, as she is, of Los Colchoneros (The Mattress Makers).

^^^ Decent turnout from Maidenhead incl. Stuart with son and father-in-law; Will H, Dave M, and Sanjay from the LCG; John G and Diamond Lights; plus plenty of youngsters. A new flag as well; as small as its owners were youthful, but still fair play. And as you can hopefully tell from this photo, the latest part of this stand makes an almighty din when bashed!

^^^ Second-half match action. The Stones were more of an attacking force and took the lead around 70 mins. I didn't witness it live, as I had my back to the play trying to kick-start a 'Jonathan/ Johnson Hippolyte' chant à la 'Yaya/ Kolo Toure' (hands up for Jonathan/ Yaya, hands down for Johnson/ Kolo). The match highlights show it to be a decent strike, with Shaun Lucien (the scorer) increasingly problematic to Bobby 'The Daddy' Behzadi as the match continued (and before Behzadi was substituted). That said, the highlights package would also indicate that the game was a real good'un; end-to-end stuff. However, it certainly didn't seem as action-packed in the flesh, so it was 'make your own fun' time for much of the second half. And we made some NOISE. Dereck 'Grandad' Brown and Jon Urry were loudly serenaded, as usual, whilst I hope that Northwood Mark South Ruislip Mark enjoyed the 'We're the famous Maidenhead and we went to Whitley Bay'/ 'Oh Logic pulled, in Whitley Bay' medley. The Magpies' new physio, incidentally, is about as physically different to Jon Urry as you can get! 'Give Steve his hat back!' :-)

Maidenhead more than deserved their equaliser (Dave Tarpey tap-in, '86). It had been coming for a while. So much so that I'd instinctively made my way down the terrace; I was at the very front when the ball hit the net. I turned to jump on/ hug the person next to me, just about managing to hold back after realising that it was Ryan D - a recent recoveree from a broken knee! Wealdstone had one or two decent shouts for penalties in a frantic finish, but the Magpies looked the more likely winners as 'Johnson/ Jonathan Hippolyte's Black & Army' was belted out. The final whistle prompted a blast of 'We love you Maidenhead'. Meanwhile, the earlier attendance announcement as 722 met with disbelieving guffaws and 'You're only here cos it's Maidenhead'.  

'Nothing better than a point on the road' ~ Dennis Greene

^^^ Daniel Brown seemingly signed for Wealdstone, at the end of September, shortly after his release by Maidenhead. I've been a 'Brownman' fan since he caught the eye in a pre-season friendly at Holyport in July 2009. I was his kit sponsor for several seasons, and - whilst not the most technically gifted of footballers - I appreciated his physical presence and 100% commitment in the middle of the park for the Magpies. He came on as a second-half substitute for his new team at Grosvenor Vale and made an outstanding block to save a near-certain goal. He then applauded the travelling fans at the final whistle. We responded in kind: 'Brownman is a Magpie'. I would then chat with him, albeit briefly, in the clubhouse. Top lad. I wish him all the best. (P.S. You ain't gonna win any arm wrestling contests with Brownman!)

^^^ Ale o'clock. Arsenal and Bristol Rovers had both won. So yours truly was in an excitable mood as I supped on the first of many Piledrivers (which, I would later learn, have much to do with Status Quo and - sadly, but unsurprisingly - nothing to do with Brian Connor). Hillsy wasn't present (however, he WAS apparently at the match), but Sudhir and - as per the above photos - Megaphone Mick, Dave P, and Grim most certainly were. Heart of Midlothian came up in conversation - Dave P is a fan - and, lead by Brian, we would serenade the bar with a (near full-length) version of the truly excellent Hearts Song. I was reminded ('I remember the time') of Stones Aid II when we got our guests' anti- Harrow Borough juices flowing with a lusty rendition of 'A group of blokes from Marlow went to Rome to see the Pope' (which also had an airing, earlier this afternoon, during the second half). 'You lot are exactly as I expected,' said Grim, 'loud and boozy'. Compliment accepted!

^^^ As we prepared to head back into town - and after I had purchased a 'Magpies on Tour' t-shirt from Mr Logic (late as usual, BTW) - Les and I indulged in a game of 'headers and volleys' with some Stones Youth. Les went 'between the sticks' - as is his want - and, after one of the youngsters had nailed an absolute peach of a volley, took the ball full in the face as it rebounded off the fence-cum-goal. His glasses were smashed to smithereens, and his face cut (perilously close to his left eye). The youngsters were very apologetic but, in any case, it was a complete accident. The cut - as helpfully pointed out by me, above, back in J.J. Moon's - looked nasty but not too painful. That, though, probably had much to do with our not-insignificant alcohol intake (e.g. I would somehow lose the aforementioned t-shirt en route to the pub from the ground). Regardless, I am happy to report that Les subsequently found a replacement pair of glasses, and no long-term physical damage was done. A hard lesson, though, for all of us: never - EVER - voluntarily go in goal.

^^^ Further pints of Black Cat before the relatively tortuous journey home. A case, for me, of 'memory kinda hazy'. 'How was your head the next day?' several people would later ask. Well, nowhere near bad enough to prevent me from attending the second half of HAYU vs Sutton United at York Road, then accompanying the Gandermonium boys for a few post-match drinkies in the Greyhound. Dr Taz would diagnose 'stand-banging thumb', as I struggled to clasp pints of Devil's Backbone and Bingham's Space Hoppy, whilst Dukey would subsequently - and perhaps accurately - describe the general conversation as a 'dick comparing argument'. The Stones deserve the same treatment when they visit York Road in springtime (for their away fixture with us; they've already played 'at' HAYU). That will be the Saturday before Fancy Dresslemania XV; back at Sutton, where it all began. Without wanting to wish my life away, I cannot wait for April!


Away The Gas

Ever wished that you could buy GMOSC's Bristol Rovers related away day blog posts (up to the end of last season) in book form? Well, your prayers have been answered! Seriously.

Worth the £9.99 price alone for your own, hard copy of Macleod (M) photographed with Stewart Lee (the 'comedian's comedian') an unwell looking Eric Cantona photographed with a tramp at Oxford train station; you'll also be enlightened and entertained, in equal measure, by the many other tales covering '50 years of away game memories of Bristol Rovers fans'. 

As well as being a really good read - and don't take my word for it; see various testimonials on Gas Guzzler and Gas Works - purchasing a copy of the book will also help out a very worthwhile cause, with 10% of all profits donated to The Brain Tumour Charity. 

More details here. 

Willie ordered one and his copy arrived promptly, accompanied by a hand-written note from the man who put it all together (having correctly surmised that William from Maidenhead was Jenny from the block Willie from the blog). Such a gesture is typical of the man, if my dealings with him are anything to go by; it was certainly a real pleasure to contribute to his book and I sincerely hope that it is a success.