"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

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')

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