"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 13 January 2020

Away Day Diary: Halesowen Town 2-2 Maidenhead United (11/01/20)

Happy birthday (25) to me, on the first and hitherto last time that Maidenhead played at The Grove, back in September 2006 (the wife - girlfriend at the time - and I stayed over afterwards, in Birmingham, if memory serves); Saturday was Alan Massey's birthday (31), and so we bought him a beer after the game (reluctantly accepted, so embarrassed was he by the Magpies performance)

Although we'd been there before - and I completely understand the appeal of Bradford (Park Avenue) - I was relieved that Halesowen had won their First Round replay, because I couldn't face another trek up to Yorkshire; not with the trains still busted, out of King's Cross, and so soon after Harrogate away

Left Reading on the 09:45 (Clive Connor - brother of Brian 'MUFC Hall of Famer' Connor - was sat in our carriage and, remarkably, was also on the same return train as us; we had a brief chat and a photo); then New Street to Snow Hill, a meet with Steve H Solihull Steve aka 'the Sweetie Blinder' on the 11:43 to Rowley Regis (which, IMO, sounds like a West Indian cricketer of '80s vintage), and a soaking on the walk to the Fixed Wheel brewery tap

Early contender, this, for GMOSC Pub of the Year; the meal deal ("better than Tesco's"), the beers (Tornado Tom was the near-unanimous favourite), the cheeseboard (intended, I think, for brewery tour participants, but we got stuck in regardless), the decor (I'm a big fan of these industrial unit/ warehouse-type places, a la Dhillon's in Coventry), and the conversation (jovial recollections, with two couples from Worcestershire, about our various attempts at the Tything pub crawl) were all on point

Short taxi ride - G.M. was with us, and I said to his Reading-supporting mate, attending his first Maidenhead away game, that we'd probably just experienced the most enjoyable part of the day - to the Waggon & Horses, Islington (not that one), close to the ground; it would be understandable to think that we were back in Harrogate, judging by the almost mind-boggling choice of ales

Only one covered terrace, and it was cold, wet and windy as the Magpies attacked the open end of the ground in the first half; Joe Ellul scored with an early header, though, to warm the cockles

We re-took the lead through Josh Smile's neat finish just before half-time/ immediately after they had equalised with a screamer from outside the box; things seemed relatively rosy at the break, as we queued for the bogs and posed for a photo with John G, although Chris Dunn's injured hamstring - Ellul was taking goal kicks - was cause for some concern (what's TAH doing these days?)

Equaliser number two came early in the second half - an almost carbon copy of Ellul's opener (free header, at the near post, from a corner) - and, despite their keeper having to make a decent save to deny Jake Cassidy, the Yeltz (three divisions below us; the same level as M@rl*w) were unarguably the better team overall; their players were applauded from the pitch at the final whistle, by both sets of supporters, and deservedly so

Not my preference to go in the crowded clubhouse but go in the crowded clubhouse we did (more Fixed Wheel beers; plus a chat and a photo with N.O'G. - Maidenhead fan and groundhopper royalty - on his way to Torino vs Bologna) before a taxi to Brum and a pub crawl (as per the 2018 edition of the Good Beer Guide) back to New Street station: the Gunmakers Arms (pints so bad that the Macleods didn't come close to finishing theirs), Pint Shop (crowded; loads of decent ales on), the Wellington (crowded; loads of decent ales on), and the Post Office Vaults (not so crowded; loads of decent ales on) #yougetthedrift, #memorykindahazy

(Match highlights)

Thursday 9 January 2020

Away Day Diary: Harrogate Town 1-0 Maidenhead United (04/01/20)

Hadn't for one moment expected a GMOSC tweet about Notts County fans to blow up quite as much as it did; the fact that I was still receiving notifications concerning yet more incredulous replies as the MurdoMobile left Maidenhead at 08:30 on Saturday morning only hammered home the general point about BELTs

After a clear run on the motorways - and finally getting the ticket machine to work in the car park next to our accommodation - we were supping our first pints of the day, in the excellent Coach & Horses, before 12:30

Rather than get a taxi to the football club from there, as planned, we decided to walk - via a cash point - to the Harrogate Tap; Tiny Rebel's Stay Puft one of twelve (!) changing ales

Redeeming features? The ground has very few, IMO, so it wasn't the end of the world that, due to 'police intelligence' (*cough* oxymoron *cough*), the match was segregated. (However, spare a thought for those who spent hours on the Supporters' Coach only to find out, upon arrival, that they weren't allowed in the bar for a drink!)

One defensive lapse cost us a deserved share of the spoils last season and the same again this, with the only new wrinkle being two debatable red cards late on, which reduced the Magpies to nine men and left Dev absolutely FEWMIN at full-time; they're a good side, with Chief Midget capable of out-Comley'ing Comley, but their style of play - on their plastic pitch, at least - can best be described as 'functional' … basically, they're a better, more expensively-assembled version of us!

Games in 2020 have so far yielded us one point out of six when it really should've been four; a testament to the fact that, despite remaining five points clear of the relegation zone, no one in the division has lost more times than us (15) and only table-toppers Barrow - 7-0 winners over Ebbsfleet - have drawn fewer matches (four vs five)

An awful round of drinks in the Empress did little to lift the mood (Macleod [M] was almost as exasperated as Dev had been), but it did break up the walk back to the Travelodge, and there were plenty of decent watering holes to come: Disappearing Chin ('long, narrow bar' is right), North Bar (pints of mango & guava pale ale really hit the spot; tasting, as they did, like an alcoholic Um Bongo), the Little Ale House (Macleod [M] chatted with a bearded home fan, while Macleod [C] and I noticed two brunettes drinking - one very quickly, the other very slowly - gigantic goblets of gin & tonic), Cold Bath Brewing (some confusion about whether I ordered two *thirds* or one *two-thirds*; however, both the sour cherry ale and the pork pies were delicious), the Winter Gardens (an ale selection to match the surroundings, unlike last time), Montey's Rock Café (meh), and Manahatta (some reasonably decent sing-along tunes, but no ales or alcopops and the clientele more Stacy than Stacy's Mom; most of those on the makeshift dance floor were twenty years younger than me, and so it was perfectly understandable that Macleod [M] 'Grandad' was the first to depart)

The time it took for my meat and chips to arrive, in the Harrogate equivalent of Kebab Elite, suggested that they'd journeyed by foot to a nearby farm to capture and slaughter the unfortunate lamb animal before cooking; TBF, our walk back to the hotel was similarly lethargic

End of the holidays - both Macleod (M) and I would be back to work on the Monday, having been off since Christmas Eve - lent a melancholy feel to the drive home … that, my hangover, and the dawning realisation our next liver and wallet zapping away day extravaganza would be on Saturday, vs Halesowen Town in the Trophy, rather than next month (or beyond) #marriedwithchildren, #gettingtoooldforthis

(BBC report; match highlights)