"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 21 March 2022

Away Day Diary: Chesterfield 1-0 Maidenhead United (19/03/22)

Craig's face creasing with laughter and a father-son embrace – caught on camera by yours truly, after a Shwan Jalal howler had gifted us a third goal – encapsulated a memorable first visit to the Proact Technique Stadium (on a *Tuesday* in September 2018); it was very disappointing when, due to the initial lockdown, our first *Saturday* visit – the following season, 21st March 2020 – was postponed (never to be played)

Half six departure from Maidenhead for us as the 08:15 CrossCountry from Reading still hasn't been restored, and we've learnt the hard way that it's best to leave and come back earlier (see: Wrexham via Shrewsbury); a full moon (well, not quite) shone brightly, as I left the house to meet Macleod (M) for the walk to the station (during which we put the world to rights, as per)

Everything (Costa, Pret, Boots) was seemingly closed when we first arrived at Reading, and the platform was ominously busy with Arsenal fans en route to Villa Park, but there were carriages set aside for unreserved seats, and the train wasn't uncomfortably packed ... until Coventry, when the Stone Island/ Carlsberg/ British Transport Police ratio went through the roof (CCFC were playing a lunchtime KO at Derby)

Solihull Steve joined us as we changed at New Street (Kalvin Phillips to Aston Villa mentioned within a matter of seconds!); conversation topics thus far had included Nina Persson, Türkgücü München, and whether Maidenhead United would've finished in the play-offs last season if we'd supplemented the squad in March with more than just a midfielder from Ebbsfleet (who barely featured for us)

Thai restaurant-cum-pub the likely enforced destination for the Coventry fans, if mine and Macleod (M)'s previous experience of Bristol Rovers at Oxford is anything to go by, whereas we were unimpeded on the short walk to Brenda's café for a tasty – if slightly hurried – full English breakfast; we then joined a group of lads all dressed as Ali G, off to Leeds to celebrate a birthday, on the 10:45 train

Even though two years had passed since I'd first planned the pre-match pub crawl, it hadn't changed aside from the removal of two Wetherspoons: the first port of call – after a pleasant walk past the Church of St Mary and All Saints (and its famous crooked spire) – was the aptly-named Market pub, which had no fewer than nine hand pumps (serving decent ales from the likes of Dancing Duck and Kelham Island)

Re-jigged running order required after Craig noticed that the Chesterfield Alehouse didn't open until 2pm, so the Neptune Beer Emporium was next (rather than last): another dazzling array of beers (incl. a quaffable plum porter from Little Critters Brewing Company); a patio garden bathed in sunshine; talk of Vernon Pratt and TWS (the latter hitherto conspicuous by his absence); few if any updates from Solihull Steve re the Aston Villa score, which certainly boded well from an Arsenal fan's perspective!

From one 'Pub of the Season' contender to another, with the nearby Chesterfield Arms so good that we decided to remain there until taxis to the ground: I genuinely didn't know what to order – so wide-ranging was the choice – before the barmaid highlighted an offering from Tiny Rebel ('Press Start' is *the* best beer that I've tasted since Beartown's Crème Bearlee at Fancy Dresslemania XIX in Manchester), allowing me to join the others outside in the sunshine chatting with some locals and, bizarrely, a couple of Norwich City fans who were also going to the game

I half-joked about staying put after being notified of the Magpies starting XI as no De Havilland, no Upward, and no Kelly meant the best that we could realistically hope for was a goalless draw; that proved to be the case, as we worked hard and defended reasonably well but never looked like scoring (no goals in five; our worst run since not finding the net in the final EIGHT matches of the 1976/77 season), with this game ultimately settled by a decent 76th-minute strike from Akwasi Asante that the otherwise excellent Nathan Ashmore might've done better with

Embarrassingly few (55) Magpies in attendance? Yeah, maybe. But our vocal support – as evidenced by a 15-minute plus 'Olé, Die Super Maidenhead', at the end of the first half, and then the noise made while serenading Alan Dev, Remy, Massey, et al. long after the final whistle had sounded – cannot be questioned; well-earned and much-needed beers to soothe the vocal cords, in the Crown & Anchor, before a kindly home fan (the woman, above, holding up the MUFC scarf; she has eight grandchildren!) organised taxis for those of us that hadn't *cough* Solihull Steve *cough* caught a bus to the Alehouse

Like the night before Fancy Dresslemania XIX, we were deviating too far from the plan, IMO, and that made me apprehensive: a slightly earlier train from Chesterfield wasn't necessarily a problem, especially as it meant that we didn't have to change at Derby again, but the Peaky Blinder bar in Birmingham, which Solihull Steve lead us to, was (1) a bit of a schlep from New Street (at least the way that we went!), (2) packed, and (3) pretty rubbish

Disastrous news on the 20:04 to Bournemouth when – as we got stuck into the substandard (not our fault) supermarket sweep from Tesco Express – it became clear that a downed power cable meant no trains were running between Banbury and Oxford; after a conversation – Macleod (M)'s highlight of the day! – with an Oldham fan (of 70 years!), who was travelling back to Reading from the Latics' home game with Willie T's Exeter City, we got on the London-bound train from Banbury and disembarked at High Wycombe W@nky ... where Macleod (M) inadvertently walked into a cordoned-off crime scene before he and I, left behind by the others, went to the Flint Cottage to drown our sorrows with one final, pre-Uber round of drinks

(BBC report; match highlights)

Wednesday 2 March 2022

Away Day (sort of) Diary: Dagenham & Redbridge 3-0 Maidenhead United (01/03/22)

Didn't think I'd be attending this rearranged fixture until Macleod (M), on the morning of the game and in light of the tube strike, decided to drive and offered me a lift; we left Cox Green around 5pm and, after passing an Ibis Budget on the North Circular, were parked up – within sight of the host venue for #FDXVIII – just before half seven


Rather wish that I'd gone to the Barley Mow pub quiz, with my Dad, instead! An obvious case of after the Lord Mayor's Show King's Lynn Mart