"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

Monday 30 April 2018

2017/18 Diary ~ April

Alex Wall's transfer to Luton Town in 2013 included a pre-season friendly the following year which, it transpired, coincided with the Maidenhead Beer Festival at York Road; my colleague CJ - who I've worked with, on and off (mostly on), since 2009 - is fond of both the Hatters and beer, so regrettable that he was unavailable

Last year he moved to Aldershot, close to the Recreation Ground, and so this seasons visit - our first league game there for 15 years - was earmarked instead as his Maidenhead United debut and, after an invitation was thrown out to a wider audience, we were to be joined by other workmates similarly keen to sample a bit of Magpies action: Craig Ma. ("He's not a Slough Town fan is he?!"), Hannah and Matt R ("They're married AND they're in the same team at work?!"; the former an ex-HBOS colleague of Willie T), plus - all the way from Somalia, via London's stand-up comedy circuit - the much missed G

Did warn them that watching Maidenhead is often 'a good day out slightly stained by 90 minutes of football', and so it proved!

Each of our last two away days has featured a chance meet with someone that Craig Mc. knows: this time a home fan called Ian, whom I'd first got chatting to in the toilets of the Victoria (while an entire platoon of riot police were milling around on the street outside)

Rather predictable result - and scorer - and a real shame to see us fighting (James Comley with the skipper) and arguing (Carl Pentney with the manager) amongst ourselves at the final whistle

Seen our performance described as 'brave', which I don't really get: the home side weren't all that ("You're staying down with the Maidenhead"; only Bobby-Joe Taylor stood out) but Gary Waddock was positive with his changes and I think that they deserved to win, whereas our starting line-up seemed disjointed and our substitutions were head-scratching (e.g. Comley, on for Jake Hyde, ended up playing right wing!)

Have to commend the Shots for letting the away fans (175) in the East Bank - not a given, apparently - and for eventually allowing us to hang the flags down the side (in hindsight, we should've brought the big black and white one); as I mentioned on twitter, the East Bank acoustics are great - certainly no need for a sodding drum - and, IMO, it's up there with the Bell End (pre-segregation) as the best covered terrace in the division, if not non-league

One pint in La Fontaine (strange location for a baby shower!) before visits to the George (disappointed but not surprised that the place erupted when the other MUFC came back from 2-0 down, after belatedly deciding to play like a team which cost over £3bn, or whatever, to assemble), the Queen Hotel (17-year-old Sam P - not drinking but still made to go outside, by the bouncers, whilst we finished our beers, because "No children are allowed in after 9pm" - witness to a bus catching fire; cue a road closure and more police), and finally the Trafalgar (pick of the bunch, in a town centre which is perhaps best summed up by an amusement arcade - called Cashino - with a padlocked drain cover outside)

The contrast with this time last year - our 2-1 home win vs East Thurrock, in sweltering conditions on 8th April 2017, was our seventh victory in a row and put us five points clear at the top of the table - is stark; Woking, at York Road on Tuesday, is massive (only already-relegated Chester are below us both in the six-game form guide)

(Match highlights here)

Worse teams than us, in poorer form had been the oft-used reassurance during our recent slide down the table; well, the Cards were one of those teams and so it felt a bit 'now or never' re the win that would finally see us break 50 points

Out went Remy Clerima (ominous, as someone mentioned that we'd yet to win without him this season; he was on the pitch at the end, BTW, so presumably injured rather than unavailable), Christian Smith (bit harsh, as I thought he did well - as he often does - when called upon at Aldershot) and Jake Hyde; in came Jake Goodman, James Comley (indicating that his recent post-match bust-up with Alan Massey had blown over) and Moses Emmanuel (law of the ex)

Kiss's Crazy Crazy Nights played on the PA system at the interval (which turned out to be rather prophetic); I agreed with Craig's assessment that "this seems reminiscent of Eastleigh away," i.e. we should've been - but, worryingly, weren't - several goals to the good at half-time, as opposed to Dan Darlington's  'Goalless at the break. Probably about right' tweet

I greeted ex-Magpie James Mulley, as we passed each other by the Cage, and would definitely have asked for a photo if I'd realised at the time that he was accompanied by Charlie Wassmer; 'Surf Dud' - now earning rave reviews at Humpton - was the 2016/17 GMOSC Player of the Season (after topping a poll ahead of Benny Laryea and John Lambie)

Nightmarish defensive howler gifted Woking the lead after 76 minutes - they'd have never scored otherwise, despite having perennial Magpie menace Louie Theodopolopodous among their ranks - and things were looking rather bleak for the hosts, as Dev threw on Adrian 'Yaya' Clifton and Sam Barratt, while Ryan Upward prepared to swing over a free kick …

GET IN THERE! Yaya's emphatic header immediately hauled us level and then, with two minutes of normal time remaining, Sean Marks - my Man of the Match - bundled home Barratt's left-wing cross to spark wild Canal End celebrations (borne out of relief, as much as anything; I felt sure that my jacket had been ripped!); a great fight back - even allowing for the ineptness of the opposition - that was reminiscent of Jordan Cox's heroics vs Eastbourne Borough last season and, crucially, all but ensures another National League campaign for Alan Devonshire's black and white army #brandyandcigars

(Match highlights here)

Decent weather - finally - so I donned my Alan Dev t-shirt from Cult Zeros, in honour of the great man's recent birth(at the end of the)day, to mow the lawn (sweat was soon dripping - literally - from my forehead!); here's hoping for similar temperatures at #FDXVIII next Saturday, particularly as my outfit is primed for sunshine

Other 'football free weekend' chores done and dusted, it was time for some al fresco Soccer Saturday (with the little man sat alongside me, in the garden, watching CBeebies on his mother's iPhone); enjoyable enough even before news of Max Kilman's 94th-minute winner, which mathematically secured our National League status!

Virgilio - who apparently fell at the sixth - one of seven horses that the wife and I had backed, £2.50 each way, in the Grand National; only one was placed … but that was Tiger Roll, the winner! (£47 back from Paddy Power; better than a kick in the wotsits.)

Eleventh place still a (remote) possibility for the Magpies: faltering Sutton at York Road on Tuesday, before we face a Dagenham & Redbridge side who [1.] currently occupy that spot, [2.] play on Tuesday AND Thursday this week, and [3.] are apparently facing an uncertain future

Remember when it was said that Drax keeping us in the division BELOW, often by the skinniest of margins, was 'a great achievement'? In the immortal words of Mick 'Crocodile' Dundee: "That's not a knife … THAT'S a knife!"

(Match highlights here)

Supposed to meet with Gandermonium in the Maiden's Head but, sadly, they were a no-show (much like their team, it would transpire!); Craig, Macleod (M) and I instead enjoyed pre-match pints of Rebellion (incl. Impressionist) with Stef, Phil the Gorilla and co.

Upraised eyebrows when we heard that Adrian Clifton and Sean Marks were starting together upfront, but both were in the thick of the action from the outset - as Maidenhead dominated - and performed well throughout

Treemendous (#payney) strike from Harry Pritchard - in from the very moment that it left his right (wrong) foot - gave the Magpies a deserved lead; reinforced, before half-time, by Jake Goodman's header

Third just wouldn't come, though, after the break - goal disallowed, penalty saved, shot came back off the bar - and only a great save from Carl Pentney, right at the death, secured the three points; much to the delight of all but 332 of the 2,201 crowd

Old boys Paul McKinnon (Sutton's record goal scorer; seven for Maidenhead in 1995/96) and Vernon Pratt (teammate of McKinnon - and Trevor Roffey - during Sutton's famous FA Cup run in 1988/89; Maidenhead's top scorer - he was a centre half! - in the 1994/95 season) photographed, post-match in Stripes, alongside Craig Dundas (#epicfail from yours truly), Bob Hussey, and Kevin Brown ('Sarge' played with McKinnon and Pratt, under John Watt, at York Road); Macleod (M), though, inadvertently cropped out!

Next stop for me and Macleod (M) was the Barley Mow, where my sister - visiting from Sydney - had been partaking in the pub quiz trivia night with my parents; it seems like only yesterday that my Dad and I were among those sat outside the Barley in August, drowning sorrows after our home defeat to Wrexham, contemplating the prospect of a long, tough season ahead #timeflies

(Match highlights here)

Devonshire '86 and Johnny Lawrence from The Karate Kid met with Gandermonium in the Euston Flyer, post-match, before ending the night in Smokey's


Radioactive Man, in stark contrast, was home in a flash! ;-)

(Match highlights here)

(Scouse Snapper Mick's photos here)

Last time that the final away game of a season came in midweek was at Staines Town in 2010/11; Fancy Dresslemania XI should actually have taken place at Thurrock but, further to the bans which followed events on the opening day, the KSG instead decided to walk to Binfield to support the Reserves (raising money for Parkinson's UK in the process)

Embarrassing for the 'mighty' O's that this fixture hadn't taken place, on Easter Monday, as originally scheduled; one of their fans, who'd labelled us 'tin pot' on social media, in the immediate aftermath of our Good Friday game with Sutton being abandoned at half-time, was very quick to delete his tweet!

Yours truly not one of the countless Magpies - Macleod (M) estimates that there were hundreds - who'd journeyed, fruitlessly, into London on the Bank Holiday (BCA's latest Family Zoo Day, cancelled due to the snow in mid-March, had been re-scheduled for the morning, while my sister was also back from Oz); I wouldn't be at the rearranged game either - 67 Magpies in attendance - due to a pre-booked holiday

Told that it was raining at home, but the weather in Majorca - on Tuesday, at least - was lovely

Our apartment had WiFi and I did consider listening to the game on BBC Radio Berkshire; instead I watched the Spanish TV coverage of Liverpool vs Roma in the Champions League (the commentators clearly very excited by Mohamed Salah; presumably less so re the defending, or lack thereof)

Not overly bothered about missing out on seeing Maidenhead play at Brisbane Road: I've been there several times before to watch other teams - notably Exeter (incl. a Friday night fixture when Willie T and I sat alongside Barry McConnell) and Hull (Third Division play-offs in 2000/01; the same night that Liverpool beat Alaves in the UEFA Cup final) - while the 'novelty' of the Magpies playing at stadiums with more seats than Gandermonium have sticker designs has, TBH, worn a bit thin

Once per season - e.g. Port Vale in the FA Cup, or Grimsby Town in the Trophy - was enough for me: spending >£15 to stand, amongst rows of seating, in an (oft- poorly positioned) Away End, is not really my cup of tea

Ryan Upward with the early winner; controversially sent off late on

Insider at the club had predicted, during Mark Nisbet's pre-season testimonial, that 'some players, who you don't necessarily expect, will make the step'; he specifically mentioned Uppy, and he was proved right

Enjoyable - as always, but particularly so - to read the 'beaten by a pub team' tweets #suckitup

Nice for Carl Pentney to keep a clean sheet on his 150th appearance; it's been reassuring to have him between the sticks, as opposed to some of the clowns that Drax picked (and, as I mentioned on twitter, he's another who has really stepped up this season)

Twelfth - top half - confirmed; ¡Estupendo!

(Match highlights here)

Birthday celebrations for Macleod (C) - 40 isn't old if you're a tree! - meant that we were in the Alan Devonshire Suite for this one; "Doesn't anyone like my melons?" asked Mrs Dev, at one point, as the fruit went largely untouched

Referee was a Mr Bromley but he showed no favouritism in allowing our second goal, from Christian Smith (who would later head the ball - one bounce - over the Canal End, from about a yard!), to stand despite it looking - excellent view from the seats, BTW - very much like their keeper had been fouled; 2-0 up after only five minutes and, thanks to a superb left-footed strike from the impressive Nana Owusu, 3-1 at the break

Our next goal - Sam Barratt's second - came so soon after the restart that the KSG were still finishing half-time pints; not to worry, though, as we saw it on BT Sport only a few moments later! #surreal

Marks, Sean added a fifth (it definitely wasn't an own goal, honest!) before being substituted, to a rousing reception, on what Dev later confirmed was his farewell appearance; as I said to him afterwards, #9 has been an absolutely vital part of our recent success and, although the reasons are completely understandable, it is sad to see him depart … Do you remember the time we saw a goal from Marks?/ Three of them versus Ebbsfleet/ Flying header down at the Bell End/ David Tarpey his best friend/ Never forget his name/ Still love me a goal from Marks

Less said the better re Jake Hyde getting the Goal of the Season nod - and the scaffolding backdrop - but otherwise the End of Season awards were pretty much spot on: typical of Dev - who confirmed to me that he did see himself in the Daily Mail last Monday! - to thank the fans, right and proper that there was public recognition for the efforts of Messrs Pritchard (another, sadly, making his farewell appearance?), Clerima and Massey, while Scouse Snapper Mick getting Clubman of the Year is a redemption story worthy of a Hollywood movie!

Everyone - or so it seemed - headed to Stripes (no Rebellion!) and then to Off The Tap; those present in the latter included the bar staff from the former, plus the man previously known as Landlord Joe (rather apt, as so many Magpies fans in the same pub, post-match on a Saturday, was reminiscent of the Anchor in its pomp)

You may or may not be relieved to learn that, for 2018/19 and beyond, I'll be reverting to a more sporadic approach re the blogging; I'm pleased, though, that this season - another truly remarkable one - has been recorded in such detail … thanks to everyone involved with Maidenhead United, obviously, and to my wife for tolerating the waste of so much time and energy on this self-indulgent waffle!

(Match highlights here)

(FCVideo's excellent season montage here)

< insert video here of Dev dancing > 

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