"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

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Away Day (sort of) Diary: Hemel Hempstead Town 2-3 Maidenhead United (20/12/22)

Having made his 199th start (and Sam Barratt his 100th) in our plucky home defeat to Notts County, Remy Clerima – our fantastique Frenchman – would have to wait to become the 39th man since 1919 to join the MUFC 200 Club due to the postponements of both our midweek NL trip to Altrincham and originally scheduled Trophy tie vs the Tudors

Even though Remy's potential landmark appearance was the main reason for me making the relatively short journey to Vauxhall Road (for the first time since a soporific 1-0 defeat under Drax on New Year's Day 2007), I was also pleased to be willing and able to take in a final game of 2022, and a pre-Christmas one to boot (with all that this entails); after collecting Chris Rad. from the train station, then pumping up my car's tyres at the Esso on Cookham Road before getting Craig, we were motoring up the back roads to the M40 (and ultimately the M25 and M1) while covering topics such as Outnumbered, an embarrassing Berks & Bucks Cup defeat, and favourite songs by The Specials (RIP, Terry Hall)

Maidenhead took an early lead, but Hemel (featuring former MUFC Youth teamer Bayley 'son of Dereck' Brown  "legs up to Will De Havilland's nipples"  in midfield) equalized when a long-range effort inexplicably beat a static Alexis Andre Jnr. (Phil W condemned our Tik Tok superstar by likening the goal to one he had carelessly conceded while donning the gloves for a Ministry of Justice team in a Civil Service six-a-side tournament at Barnes rec in 2011.)

Exceptional – in the unusual sense – ground (small pitch surrounds with dangerously large drop-offs in places, AstroTurf on the terracing by the sizeable scoreboard, etc.), and it was something of a relief that we were attacking the decent bit of covered terracing in the second half; two quick-fire goals from Kane Ferdinand (his second) and Ashley Nathaniel-George put the game to bed (Hemel's consolation came deep into added time), meaning we could work our way through McKendrick's Twelve Days of Christmas and concentrate on serenading le modèle masculin

Less said, the better about the shouting match between Stacey the Steward and Macleod (M) shortly – the critical point – after the final whistle (in Carneyesque darkness); neither that nor the fact we now face Dagenham and Redbridge (AGAIN) in the last 32 could spoil a night featuring ticks for most, if not all, boxes (including photos with Remy ... taken by Rene!)

(Advertiser report; match highlights)

Sunday 27 November 2022

Away Day Diary: Maidstone United 3-2 Maidenhead United (26/11/22)

My heart sank when I initially read there was another rail strike scheduled for Saturday 26th November (although not as much as when I learnt that Chesterfield [A] would be affected by one  I'm becoming desensitised); however, Phil W was quick to point out on Twitter and helpfully reconfirm in the South East stand at Aldershot that an alternative public transport route was conceivable ...

Although we'd achieved decent results on my previous visits to the Gallagher Stadium (a draw in our first-ever NL game and a convincing midweek win in January 2019), the match-day experience has been unpleasant (only three sides, wrong enders, a drum); the car was my mode of transport on those occasions, though, and, as I'd heard some good things about the town's pubs, I was keen to travel again by train and, if need be, by bus!

Interrailing in Italy, favourite Father Ted episodes, and superior cover versions (Happy Mondays, Dinosaur Jnr) among the topics of conversation as we travelled the entire length of the Elizabeth Line to Abbey Wood ("not The Beatles' best album"); we passed Canary Wharf precisely one hour after the tube train had left Maidenhead

Doppelgänger alert! There was an absolute spit of Bruno Fernandes standing alongside us waiting for the 11:36 bus from Chatham station; not getting a photo with him was, in hindsight, the point when the day started to go pear-shaped! #buswankers

Souness vs Roy Keane was among the debates as Pretty Girls Make Graves by The Smiths played in the courtyard of Ye Olde Thirsty Pig on Knightrider Street (Craig and I loved the Rum Porter from Bexley Brewery) before a pleasant walk over the Medway and a couple of rounds in the excellent Cellars Alehouse (my two-thirds of Exale's Oona were eminently quaffable)

Two down inside twenty minutes – to a side captained by the fattest footballer I've seen in some time – understandably deflated the previously optimistic away support; their second goal was a penalty, awarded after Charlee Adams' arm was blasted with the ball from close range ("Harsh" the unprompted verdict of the match observer at half-time, according to club officials)

Our complaints about the referee were valid (a Maidstone defender handled without punishment a goal-bound shot from Reece Smith), but they don't explain Emile Acquah's wasteful first-half finishing, woeful defending for their killer third goal (just after the break), and bewildering substitutions; Adams' sublime strike to halve the deficit deserved better (Steve J would later recall a Sam Collins wonder goal in a 4-1 defeat at Newport County in April 2010), while Smith's well-worked injury-time consolation was the most unenthusiastically celebrated Maidenhead goal that anyone could remember

Needs must, and so we headed to pubs on Rochester's astonishingly lively High Street: the Dead Pigeon (a mistake), then 12Degrees (significantly better; rhubarb cider was my favourite) and Three Sheets To The Wind (conversation with a couple of Chatham Town fans, plus a strange woman who  she showed me – had badly bruised boobs after falling into a lake; my lemon ciders, as recommended by Craig's Norn Iron friend in 12Degrees, were delicious)

Every person in London seemed to pile onto the tube train at Ealing Broadway and then Paddington, which didn't help our collective mood (Macleod [M] was "fuming" after "our worst performance of the season"); you know things are bad when the highlight of the return journey is a Clayton Whittle -lookalike in a three-piece suit using the hanging straps to perform somersaults!

Monday 14 November 2022

Away Day Diary: Aldershot Town 1-2 Maidenhead United (12/11/22)

An away day per month is ideal for me, so I was pleased with singular scheduled trips in August (Notts County), September (Wrexham, the day after my birthday), and October (Chesterfield), only for the passing of QEII to put a spanner in the works: Wrexham got postponed (nice one, FA!), while a delayed rail strike affected my plans for Chesterfield

Life in the way  e.g. I missed MUFC's 13th post-war FAC1RP exit as I had to help clear out our garage (in heavy rain!) ahead of the impending delivery of new kitchen units  also contributed to a return to levels of non-attendance not seen since the Drax years: Aldershot (A) would be my first game since Oldham (H) on 8th October; my second away game of the season (and the first since the opening day); and only my fifth game in total thus far

Decidedly unappealing destination as well – especially bearing in mind our dismal record at the Wreck and the fact that they've seemingly stopped letting us have half of the excellent East Bank – but I was pleased to reacquaint myself with Macleod (M) at the top of the road ahead of our walk to catch the 10:29 train and looked forward to post-match beers with CJ, my old workmate and an Aldershot resident

England rugby union fans en route to Twickenham packed out the train from Reading, but, fortunately for us, and unlike in previous years, we changed at Ascot; topics of conversion included bus journeys to football matches (Cinderford; Herne Bay; Daventry; Maidstone?) and Exeter City's new(ish) manager (can you guess who was travelling with us?!)

Remarkable change in the weather compared to the previous Saturday: pleasant sunshine as we walked to the Wetherspoons (where Craig's CAMRA vouchers resulted in three decent pints costing just £5.37) and then to the George (where Tucker Junior was pleased to be able to watch Man City vs Brentford and I was pleased to catch-up with John G for the first time since his move to Bletchley)

Superb  utterly dominant  first-half performance from the Magpies: two goals to the good ("Alexa, play Modern Romance"), and it could have been more if the inept officials (terrible, even by National League standards) had spotted a blatant penalty box handball by an Aldershot defender

Half-time rocket (and two subs) from caretaker manager Terry Brown had the home side on the front foot, only one goal behind after the astonishingly smug referee ignored a push on Alan Massey that would've resulted in a whistle and a yellow card if roles reversed; the Magpies were on the ropes for a while but managed to ride it out, with the vociferous away support (136) helping them over the line

On the beers! Regardless of the result, we would've gone drinking in the Crimea (much better options than before, e.g. Laines Brew's Fader) and the Garden Gate, with CJ plus Ian and the other Aldershot fans we've become friendly with over time. (But, seeing as this was our first win at the Wreck in 13 attempts spanning 25 years, it *was* a special occasion!)

The train journey back wasn't as seamless as one would like, but that didn't dampen our spirits; a beer in Pub Formerly Known As The Bell with Scouse Mick (on his way from seeing a Pink Floyd tribute act in Basingstoke), conversation with our Pakistani taxi driver about the upcoming T20 World Cup final ("revenge for '92") and then a celebratory cheese omelette at home as The Champs played on repeat ("Clerima!")

Monday 8 August 2022

Away Day Diary: Notts County 3-0 Maidenhead United (06/08/22)

Night outs  stopovers  during the 2022/23 season were a hot topic throughout the last campaign and were discussed at length during the Lord Grenfell beer festival in late June, with Manchester (Oldham Athletic), Newcastle (Gateshead), and Nottingham earmarked as three definites; the fixture computer abacus subsequently handed us Gateshead (A) on the final day (#FDXXI), Oldham (A) two weeks before that, and Notts County (A) as the first game of the season!

Our original plan was to stay in Nottingham on the Saturday night before hotel prices ultimately dictated we would go up on Friday and back after the match, especially as I was the only one that had to worry about booking time off

Taxied to Maidenhead station by Macleod (P) in good time for the 13:54 departure; news that Craig had forgotten his CAMRA discount vouchers was the first of many 'bad juju' moments that clearly indicated there would be no repeat of last season's opening day win at Halifax (after which we made our debut on Tik Tok!)

The Parcel Yard at King's Cross for a swift drink before the train to Nottingham; £7.05 for a pint of Neck Oil is, Macleod (M) thinks, the most expensive he's ever bought (at least in the U.K.) #badjuju

Stag parties galore, checking in at the Travelodge; only one tiny lift was working, and our room was on the seventh floor #badjuju

Chris N  Craig's Clydebank-supporting mate; long-time Nottingham resident – and the Smiths (nearing the end of a two-week holiday spent visiting places such as York, Durham, Whitley Bay, and Lincoln) joined us in the Kean's Head (as Murdo and I enjoyed chicken chorizo dopiazas for dinner), before a bar crawl that went as follows: Kilpin Beer Cafe (pints of Kriek Boon as Arsenal won at Crystal Pauli), Curious Tavern (incl. half a pint of a 12% ABV Navigation ale that tasted like tabasco sauce and served by a barman from Savannah, Georgia), Lost Property ('a dimly lit penny-top bar & cocktail speakeasy decorated with parrots, glitter balls and suitcases'), and Mojo (#memorykindahazy)

Off to the intriguingly-named Lady Bay, specifically the Poppy & Pint, for breakfast on Saturday morning (after meeting with Steve H and jumping into a taxi at the station); decent beer and food, sat in a sun-drenched car park overlooking tennis courts

Unless you like Castle Rock Brewery, you might go thirsty in these parts: Stratford Haven is another of their pubs  reached after a pleasant stroll through Bridgford Park  and is perhaps my favourite of the lot (so far)

Next stop, after walking past and then over Trent Bridge  against the flow of cricket fans (or not, as the case may be) heading in the opposite direction  was the Embankment, where my delight at spotting a black and white striped Vandanel shirt was soon tempered by news of our starting XI (if your takeaway from last season was that we needed to bench Alan Massey and name Kane Ferdinand as captain, then I don't know what to tell you)

The less said regards the football, the better, as it was over as a contest as soon as the home side took a 22nd-minute lead; our squad looks weaker to me than last season, and, without reinforcements (a striker and a CM), I can't see anything other than a long and possibly fruitless battle to avoid relegation finishing bottom

You should think twice before jokingly ordering "the strongest beer they've got" in the otherwise excellent Vat & Fiddle! A quick half of an 8.5% fruit sour in the BeerHeadZ micropub next to the station was more agreeable, though, ahead of the journey home (which included a brief chat on the tube with a couple of replica shirt-wearing Leeds fans who were travelling from Elland Road back to Weymouth!)

Sunday 10 July 2022

Away Day Diary: Holyport 0-7 Maidenhead United (09/07/22)

Half-eleven kick-off at Craig's local club; the first MUFC pre-season friendly covered in much/ any detail on here, I think, since Luton Town came to York Road in July 2013 for a fixture that, like this one, coincided with the Maidenhead Beer Festival

On my most recent visit to Summerleaze village (nb. four miles from Holyport village) in July 2009, I remember that trialist Daniel 'son of Dereck' Brown – who would go on to make 166 starts and score ten goals for the Magpies – caught the eye with a high-octane performance as two goals apiece from Alex Wall and Mark Nisbet secured a comfortable 4-1 win

Long and sweaty walk, but Macleod (M) and I made decent headway – stopping for photos in front and behind the Lobster Pot, where Craig and his Holyport mates were supposed to meet us for a pre-match rumble – before arriving at the ground as the teams were waiting to enter the pitch; Macleod (M) had booked our tickets – £10 for entry, a beer and a burger, and a free pint at the festival; so no wonder there was a record crowd (301) in advance and put my name down as 'Johnson Hippolyte'!

You might be unsurprised to learn a strong Maidenhead lineup – Andre; Chitepo, Eweka, Massey, Beckwith; Esan, Upward, Trialist, Barratt; Acquah (Hoath), McCoulsky (Johnson) – was several levels above the opposition in terms of quality and fitness, and, although the home side should've taken an early lead, a 2-0 deficit flattered them at the break: wayward finishing/ crossing from those in red shirts resulted in me and others regularly risking twisted ankles fetching balls from the ploughed field behind the goal

Port made ten changes in the second half compared to just two late on from the Magpies – yet we still looked like the significantly more energetic group: Shawn McCoulsky completed his hat-trick (eventually), youth team forward Christian Johnson grabbed a brace (celebrating the first – against the side that he will join on loan for the forthcoming season – as if he'd notched the winner in a World Cup Final, which was good to see!), and Eddie Trialist capped a tidy display by getting himself on the scoresheet

Over (pun intended) to the adjoining cricket club (where I used to play as a teenager), straight after the final whistle, for the ninth Maidenhead Beer & Cider Festival: Rainey, Mo Khan, the opposition manager (who I'd bumped into at a petrol station earlier in the day), my Dad, and various other familiar faces would sit and chat with us over the course of the next nine-and-a-half hours (!), as I supped on several decent beverages including By The Horns' Tropika ('inspired by the Pina Colada cocktail, brewed with pineapple puree and coconut flakes'), Bumblebee's Strawberry Mojito cider, and Vault City Brewing's Strawberry Sundae

Rainey getting tear-gassed in Turin during Euro '80 ("there was a Euro '80?!"), and pulled over by the police on the way back from an away game in Essex whilst a passenger in a Ford Escort Mexico, among the more interesting conversation topics before, much later, in front of a sizeable number of people (it was busy throughout the day), a ska covers band performed the worst version of Wonderwall that I've ever heard (yes, even worse than Willie T on karaoke!) – it should, presumably, have sounded something like this:

The quotes for taxis were extortionate – Uber wanted 25 quid! – and so it was another long walk home, but at least (1) the heat had subsided by then and (2) it had been an enjoyable day; time to start planning our trip to Nottingham!

Tuesday 10 May 2022

Away Day Diary: Grimsby Town 1-3 Maidenhead United (07/05/22)

 Fancy Dresslemania XX

Given that (1) Macleod (M) and I had already stayed over in Cleethorpes (with Will H, after the Magpies' narrow FA Trophy defeat to the Mariners in January 2014), and (2) it's a pain in the backside to get to, this would *not* have been my handpicked location for the twentieth instalment of our storied end-of-season tradition; Chorley (scheduled for 2020; ultimately cancelled) would have been preferable, if not Boreham Wood (scheduled for 2021; ultimately home fans only)

Rather than walk into town  on Friday afternoon  and catch the 12:54 (as suggested by Trainline), Macleod (M) and I got a lift from Macleod (P) and met with Macleod (C) in time for the 12:25; after a couple of eye-wateringly expensive rounds in the Parcel Yard at King's Cross, we were seated expectantly on the 14:30 (to Edinburgh), trying to work out the Magpies' overall Fancy Dresslemania record

Into Newark Northgate on time (15:44), we met outside the station with Shay (who'd been on the same train as us) and walked the 15 or so minutes to the Castle Barge; after a couple of pints there (Lincoln Green; meh), we made our way to nearby Newark Castle station – only stopping for some quick #yeractualcultureinnit photos of, erm, Newark Castle – to catch the 17:01 to Grimsby, which consisted of two carriages and was packed (including – partway through the journey – inebriated Market Rasen racegoers singing Sweet Caroline on repeat)

Marked difference in the weather – drizzling and cold – as we disembarked and made our way to check-in at the Holiday Inn Express (bumping into Emile Acquah and his brother, who were staying on the same floor as us!); after a quick drink in our second barge of the day, wolfing down a McDonald's (needs must) on the station platform, a meet-up with Mushroom and – because of a cancelled train – a couple of rounds in Wetherspoons, we hit the bright lights of Cleethorpes
Shay brought the average age down significantly in No. 2, immediately off the train, before a subsequent pub crawl that went as follows: No. 1 (once we'd worked out how to get in ... there were no handles on the main door! [Paulo Dybala on the scoresheet for Juventus in their 2-1 defeat at Genoa reminded me of an interesting bit of trivia, which Shay later put to good use]); Willy's (a nudge that Willie T had swerved this trip  the first Fancy Dresslemania he'd missed  in the [ultimately forlorn] hope/ expectation of seeing Exeter City win their first league title since 1990); Studio (after deciding against the Nottingham House; lots of silly-coloured drinks for £2 a pop; no girl-on-girl head-butt on this occasion); Swashbuckle Tavern (great fun, like last time, despite the DJ not playing 'You Win Again' by the Bee Gees); and an unnecessary final round  at 'stupid o' clock'  for Macleod (C) and I in the Dolphin & Beach Bar (from where yours truly thought it would be a good idea to walk back to Grimsby ... )

By happy coincidence, I made it to the hotel just as the Macleods were eating breakfast! After two helpings of bacon and scrambled eggs, the briefest of lie-downs on the bed, and a shower, it was on with our costumes (Carlos Valderrama, Homer Simpson, and Lieutenant Colonel Kojak Slaphead III [on the shoulders of Boris Johnson]), some quick photos (uploaded to various social media sites), and off to catch the 10:42 train to the seaside (again)

You might be unsurprised to learn that we didn't make it past No. 2 (decent, but most importantly nearest), where we stayed (despite having two other designated away pubs, according to the police officers who said hello!), joined by a whole host of other characters (including but not limited to): Evel Knievel David Bowie Elvis Presley, Moscow from Money Heist, Luke the Leprechaun, Logic the Lobster, Roman Emperor Rainey, Section Commander Maurice of the Home Guard, Cardinal Les, Scooby-Doo, a Maidenhead United legend Shrek, Aquaman, Del Boy, an extravagantly-coiffured cheerleader, Hiawatha, two Mexicans, and Solihull Steve dressed as Solihull Steve

The walk to the ground was a memorable one (along the beach and then across a railway bridge), and not even Lieutenant Colonel Kojak Slaphead III (on the shoulders of Boris Johnson)'s flags denied entry (because the away end is kindling or summat) could scupper a party atmosphere (yet more fancy dressers, various inflatables, etc.) that went up several notches still further when Luke Waterfall had two minutes (if that  11 seconds of playing time, according to the highlights on BT Sport) to forget: an own goal (his second in as many games, apparently), then sent off for a professional foul (with the subsequent penalty duly dispatched by Sam Barratt)

Our voices were already hoarse (and stomachs likely permanently creased with laughter) when Ryan Upward added a 68th-minute third for the Magpies to compound the misery for a shell-shocked home crowd; after saying goodbyes at the final whistle to the friendly police officers (happy keen to pose for photos), we walked the way we had come and made ourselves comfortable again outside No. 2 (more photos; more pints of Carling Black [Fruits] Cider; more fool anyone who doubted Bristol Rovers!)

We eventually went our separate ways from there: Carlos Valderrama, Homer Simpson, Lieutenant Colonel Kojak Slaphead III (on the shoulders of Boris Johnson), and Evel Knievel David Bowie Elvis Presley were on the 18:39 train from Grimsby to Lincoln (ft. a supermarket sweep in Tesco Express, where an elderly lady was adamant that Valderrama's head of hair was real ... but that his moustache was definitely fake!) and made it back to Maidenhead shortly after midnight  it had been a very long and tiring but enjoyable day (with my watch indicating that I'd walked nearly 21 miles!)

Not gonna lie  this season has been a grind at times (expensive and time-consuming), but days like Saturday (and King's Lynn in February) help you forget about all of that; well done to Alan Devonshire (I love the smile on his face and his reply when asked about the fans in the on-field post-match interview), the players and the coaching staff/ match-day team, plus all of those supporters who made any number of long trips to cheer on the Magpies, not least those who went to #FDXX in North East Lincolnshire ('Bonus points if you're a fancy dresser')

Sunday 1 May 2022

Away Day Diary: Torquay United 1-1 Maidenhead United (30/04/22)

Three previous MUFC visits to Plainmoor – two for which away supporters were admitted (October 2017 and August 2019) – and all three had been on Tuesday nights; this was to be our long-awaited Saturday debut, but, despite it being a bank holiday weekend and so perhaps an obvious contender for a stopover, Fancy Dresslemania XX at Grimsby the following week meant we would be travelling there and back on the day (with beers in Newton Abbot)

Ouch! The left side of my mouth was inflamed, extremely sore, and had kept me awake for much of the night, hence the swallowing of painkillers with coffee on the 09:30 from Reading (*not* the 08:15 from Manchester); I was sitting next to a Brentford fan (an EV Consultant from Southall on her way to visit family in Barnstaple), and  bearing in mind the big MUFC-related news this week  it was interesting to talk with her about the Bees' move from Griffin Park (plus Len Townsend and Ivan Toney)

Railway Brewhouse was the first stop on our pre-match pub crawl (conversation included Craig telling us about the time that he saw Kirsten Scott Thomas in a bar in Paris), followed by visits to Maltings Taphouse (surroundings reminiscent of the Neptune Beer Emporium in Chesterfield; a decent beer selection, but overall I much prefer Dhillon's in Coventry and Fixed Wheel in Halesowen), and Teign Cellars' sun-drenched patio garden

Quick drink and group photo in the clubhouse after our taxi ride to the ground before purchasing match tickets from a box office because Torquay is one of those clubs; indeed, the worst yet, as they were insistent on people providing names and addresses! ("Thanks, Mr Hippolyte, that wasn't so hard, was it?")

Unbelievably good goal from Sam Barratt, which opened the scoring in the second half, stood out like a sore thumb in an end-of-season game otherwise totally devoid of quality; a late equaliser (conceded during a rendition of 'Alan Devonshire's Black and White Army'  the second time that has happened this season), and substitute Reece Smith creating a golden opportunity for a winner that any half-decent (if not half-fit) centre forward would've gobbled up, was disappointing but not earth-shattering for the noisy travelling support (well, some of us were noisy)

Aldi  complete with an eye-catching signal gantry  back in Newton Abbot, for a supermarket sweep, before an entertaining second visit to the Railway: Macleod (M) chatted at the bar with some random bloke former Slough Town ("staying down") player and Beaconsfield SYCOB manager Simon Delahunty (who now lives down that way and who'd been at Argyle's 5-0 home shellacking by MK Dons); Craig and I sat outside as Plymouth and Exeter fans bawled the same songs ("One team in Devon," etc.)

Yours truly – returning from the toilet, not long into our journey on the 18:55 train – would find Craig and Macleod (M) in conversation with a couple of crusties who'd moved to sit alongside us; these twentysomething blokes (from Derby and Bracknell, originally) were on their way to the Beltane (May Day) celebrations at Glastonbury, and it was a relief when they left the train at Castle Cary (we made sure that they didn't miss their stop this time!) as they didn't half spout some absolute horseshit ... much to the amusement of Ruth and Pete, a couple from Winnipeg – en route to Heathrow after a three-week holiday that'd featured visits to Cornwall, London, and Bourne Town vs Blackstones in the United Counties League Division One (!) – who were significantly less irritating travelling companions worthy of several photos and a spare beer (and not just because Ruth likened Macleod [M] to Vinnie Jones!)

Wednesday 6 April 2022

Away Day (sort of) Diary: Wealdstone 0-0 Maidenhead United (05/04/22)

When Mark Steward asked us in Stripes – I think it was after the win vs Bromley over Christmas – whether we thought the upcoming home game with the Stones should be unsegregated, our answer was a firm 'yes': OK, so their yoof has an unruly reputation, and the MUFC kids (usually seen at York Road on Tuesday nights, albeit only when Reading aren't playing at the Madejski) are no angels, but we'd make sure to keep ours in check – change Ends, don't be knobheads, etc. – and would naturally expect the Stones lot to do the same ...

Even though we'd discussed and quickly concluded that supporters shouldn't be held accountable for the actions of their clubs, WFC subsequently crying off with COVID-19 – not for the first time  had left a sour taste and, IMO, put our long-standing Fanfreundschaft under hitherto unprecedented strain

A situation made worse when WFC (1) postponed their rearranged home fixture at short notice (waterlogged pitch, despite no inspection required earlier in the day) and then (2) won 2-0 against the Magpies  we were missing Dan Goalie, Remy, and WDH  in the rearranged game at York Road

Limp defeat at Solihull Moors on Saturday had left me questioning whether I could be bothered to attend the re-rearranged Ruislip Manor game, but one or two of their fans seemingly love nothing more than to mock our away supporter numbers (quality, not quantity, as my old Maths teacher used to say), so I duly rescheduled some work meetings and sorted out childcare

Direct, 16:42 train to Paddington – following a lift to the station from the kindly Macleod (P) – saw us supping pints of Salopian's Oracle and Harvey's Sussex Best in the Thornbury Castle, just over an hour after finishing work; talking points on the journey up and then in the pub included whether we'd sacrifice National League status for a winning appearance at Wembley Stadium ('no'), countries prefixed by 'The' (officially there are two), Fred Armisen (aka Russ Nightlife in Toast of Tinseltown), and favourite songs by The Pogues ('Fairytale of New York' was met with short shrift)

Stop-start journey on the Met line  we dashed onto the wrong tube train at Harrow-on-the-Hill; had to change and double-back at North Harrow  but still time for a couple of pre-match liveners (Vale Brewery's Jekyll & Hyde was decent) in the J.J. Moon's close to Ruislip Manor station; a sizeable number of Magpies in attendance, including birthday boy Scunthorpe Dan Cornwall Dan

The ground  "they've made a shit one even worse"  layout being what it is and 'newbies' unaware of Non-League etiquette might be justifiable excuses for the sheer number of Wrong Enders, in which case WFC should've segregated ... from the start rather than at half-time! #noddy (If either side had scored in the first half  Kane Ferdinand hit the bar from a tight angle; Nathan Ashmore made a great save  then there would've been carnage, and no doubt people would've been moaning once again about crying children à la Ebbsfleet in 2010 and Maidstone in 2017.)

Our previous visit  albeit without fans in attendance  resulted in a 6-0 away win, and we almost had enough chances to score that many again: Sam Barratt hit the woodwork twice after the break  the second one apparently a fine fingertip save by their keeper Beaker from the Muppets  and the ball generally wouldn't fall for us in front of goal (their six-yard boxes are in a worse state than ours, believe it or not)

Not one but two Magpie supporters featured in the programme, which helped pass the time on the return journey; as did responding to some of their yoof on Twitter (including one 'L7 referee'  a tool, but clearly not the sharpest  who opined that Ruislip to Maidenhead is a 'long trip' and York Road is a 'shithole of a place' LOL)

Eleven points clear of the final relegation spot after King's Lynn Town's latest win, with our next two games against the bottom two (Dover away; Weymouth at home)  what could possibly go wrong?!