"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!

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