"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

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!")