"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 4 December 2023

Away Day Diary: Oxford City 1-4 Maidenhead United (02/12/23)

Our second visit in a month to a club representing the city of dreaming spires; I had been looking forward to this one more so than our FAC1RP tie in early November (which, I still can't quite believe, we travelled to by supporters' coach!), but, after (1) a busy week at work (incl. new starters and several more interviews), (2) staying awake until the early hours of Friday morning to enjoy the Dallas Cowboys' come-from-behind win over the Seattle Seahawks, and (3) a late night spent with Macleod (M) watching Senser supported by Collapsed Lung (who, for the first time since 1996, didn't play Eat My Goal) at the 100 Club (agreed to after our early season win at Dorking), I was tired out  and my enthusiasm levels had dwindled significantly  ahead our Saturday morning walk to the station

X:LVI train from Maidenhead – change at Reading; with Rainey and Shay – got us into Oxford shortly before midday; Rainey walked into town, while the rest of us took a taxi to the Victoria Arms in Old Marston – my photos of which were described by Fuzz on Facebook as resembling "a Black Sabbath album cover from 1970" – where we were soon joined, on the heated terrace, by the Batemans

Fingers and toes  I couldn't feel mine as, with the temperature dropping still further, we made our exit down a country lane, across a field, and past a couple of blue plaques, to the Red Lion (not bad, as Greene King pubs go); discussions about MUFC's glaring weakness ("Sign a striker, Devonshire!") and Skopje (with Libertine Ben, who was there recently to watch England), before we were witnesses to Launton Sports scoring at Marston Saints in the Oxfordshire Senior League Premier Division during our ten-minute walk to the RAW Charging Stadium

Overwhelming dominance by the Magpies, almost from kick-off  the home side couldn't handle our press and, after Sam Beckwith had opened the scoring with his first goal for the club, abysmal defending from Cole Kpekawa and company gifted us another two and it could/ should have been more; by some distance, the worst 45-minute performance I've seen from a National League side ("Imagine being three-nil down after 25 minutes at home to Maidenhead United!")

Rather than the joyous, party atmosphere of King's Lynn in February 2022 – the previous occasion we scored four goals away from home in the National League in the National League – there was an odd vibe amongst the travelling horde, gathered down the covered end in the second half: the ground is soul destroying; it was bitterly cold; the game resembled a training exercise; and an idiotic (Reading?) teenager let off a flare after Sam Barratt's second goal of the game, which worsened visibility already negatively impacted – to an increasingly worrying degree – by freezing fog

Dev surprised me by using all of his permitted substitutions, with Alan Massey's late appearance as a makeshift Centre Forward providing some additional excitement for the Black & White Army as we willed the team over the finishing line; then, after bidding farewell to Willie T. and family (in corporate hospitality with the spying Wealdstone manager and others), we caught the No. 14 bus into the city centre and, whilst sat on the back seats, honed new chants for Casey Pettit and Kane Ferdinand (to tunes by Salt-N-Pepa and Shakira, respectively)

Clinton, William Jefferson supposedly didn't inhale in the Turf Tavern, the historic pub where we started our celebratory post-match crawl (with Phil W. in tow), although I was more impressed to subsequently learn that it's also the place where, in 1954, future Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke set a Guinness World Record for consuming a yard glass of ale in 11 seconds; it was cramped, and our second Greene King pub of the day, but worth ticking off

Into the White Horse – dating from the 16th Century; Amber Aleman's student haunt; also crammed, evoking memories of Sonderbar in Heidelberg – before we made our way via a cash point and a Tesco's (for some sausage rolls), back to the Grapes (the bus stop was outside); some cracking pints in that Victorian establishment, and enjoyable conversation with birthday girl Belinda – Oxford City super fan – and her OCFC-mad family (her son hasn't missed a game, home or away, in nine years)

The Royal Blenheim  a Titanic Brewery pub and relative newbie on the scene (dating 'only' from 1889) – was next: a strong contender for 'GMOSC Pub of the Season', and we weren't too displeased when it transpired the Castle nearby was closing early ("on a Saturday night?!"), so we could return to whence we came (albeit different seats) and enjoy further pints of Plum Porter before the 23:00 direct train home

Yours truly spotted a twenty-something-year-old bloke wearing a Grimsby Town scarf in the same carriage as us and, before you could say "3-1 win in Fancy Dress," Macleod (M) had engaged him and his mate in conversation  they were Grimbarians living in London, who'd been at the Mariners' FA Cup defeat at the Kassam; they sat with us to reminisce about National League away days and, at one point, the fella next to me took a small plastic bag containing white powder from his coat pocket and snorted a couple of lines off a door key, before offering some to me, which I declined  the day had been strange enough as it was!

(BBC report; match highlights)

Monday 6 November 2023

Away Day Diary: Oxford United 2-0 Maidenhead United (04/11/23)

OK, so I admit that I was disappointed with this FA Cup draw from the get-go (second place in League One indicates they're a good side; the Kassam is a godforsaken out-of-town stadium that I've been to before), and I remained unenthusiastic about the fixture when it cropped up briefly in conversation during the car ride home from our undeserved defeat at Aldershot, but still a shock to learn – after messaging on Monday morning to suggest getting a train to Culham, and a taxi to the ground from a pub there (as I think the savvier Bristol Rovers fans had done, on my last visit) – that Craig, Macleod (M) and Scouse Mick had, sometime during our long overdue league win the preceding Saturday, booked seats on one of the supporters' coaches; I half-heartedly followed suit, despite protestations from Steve H, and began to wrack my brains for the last occasion I travelled to a game via that particular mode of transport ...

XVII years almost to the day, I reckon, since the big – at the time – FA Cup match at Stafford Rangers in 2006 (our first FAC1RP appearance since 1971; The U's our 14th FAC1RP opponents since WWII, half of which have come in the last nine years); anyway, the forecast was for heavy rain, so I was relieved – especially after an earlier soaking on my morning run – to learn that Macleod (M) had booked a taxi to take us to the Portland Arms ... although come the time, it was glorious sunshine!

Familiar scenes on the back row of Coach #2  Scouse Mick supping on *ahem* Coca Cola, then a can of Stella  as the driver sensibly diverted via Henley-on-Thames to avoid traffic on the M40; the pre-match ambience in the Hollywood Bowl, outside the Kassam, best summed up by Oxford United replica shirt-wearing supporters cheering loudly  momentarily drowning out noise from the arcade machines and children's birthday parties  as Manchester United scored a late winner on TV

Our line-up was an attacking one, so it was perhaps unsurprising to see us opened up like a can of beans after only 15 minutes, with Billy Bodin finishing off a slick but largely unopposed move; the Magpies had two or three half-decent chances after that and should really have gone in level at the break, but, as pointed out by Oxblogger, "they just weren't quite good enough"

Ryan Peters and or Dev (the latter down from his position in the director's box, as he's serving a touchline ban for a red card at Barnet) must've delivered a rocket at halftime, as we started the second 45 like men possessed, with Alan Massey (!) leading the charge; however, per usual, we ran out of steam, and our substitutions (bar Massey) didn't help, cue a second from Bodin towards the end that sealed the win but didn't quieten the 663 away fans

Departure of the coaches seemed unnecessarily belated, and our route to the M40 was haphazard, but we made it back to the Portland in time to witness the latest VAR fiasco (Arsenal robbed of a point at Newcastle); someone did Disco 2000 on karaoke, which went down a treat and prompted a quip that it might be 2000 years before Maidenhead United's next appearance in the second round of the FA Cup (137 years and counting)

Monday 30 October 2023

Away Day Diary: Munich, plus Aldershot Town 4-2 Maidenhead United (October 2023)

Following hot on the heels of our trip to Berlin in March 2020 came the first COVID-19 lockdown, with watching football in the flesh off limits, let alone travelling abroad to watch football in the flesh; despite this, the Macleods and I continued to pay monthly into our football travel fund and, more than three years later, a not inconsiderable sum was burning a proverbial hole in our collective pocket as we considered the autumnal candidates for, ideally, our first three-game weekender since the legendary jaunt to Heidelberg in 2013

Rebates suggested but summarily dismissed, we agreed on a date ("When is Maidenhead at Barnet?"), and, after much deliberation, complicated by the Germans not confirming the precise dates and kick-off times of their fixtures until much nearer the event, we settled on a trip to Munich; KD making up our minds by booking his flights from Edinburgh without any hesitation!

I got a surprise while finishing my morning cuppa ahead of the short walk to Macleod (M)'s for our 06:15 taxi ride when the doorbell rang (my initial reaction was to blame Macleod [C] for potentially waking up the kids) and an elderly neighbour – suffering with dementia, sadly, it would seem – shook my hand, asked after the family, and said he was always available on the telephone if we needed him; the rest of the morning was more predictable – a frisking for Macleod (M), expensive breakfasts and pints (Tiny Rebel's Florida Squeeze was enjoyable but eye-wateringly sharp!), ground move talk, a take-off delayed by 40 minutes, etc. – although there was also a Mariella Frostrup sighting

Down (or up?) Schillerstraße, a five-minute walk from the Hauptbahnhof, past several strip clubs and kebab shops (and Hotel Drei Löwen – "It's coming home," etc.) to our hotel (Astor), with me and the Macleods setting up shop in the Afghani café opposite – which sold Paulaner, and delicious flatbreads for a relative pittance – to wait for KD's arrival; time spent here, in the sunshine, discussing hot topics such as conflict in the Middle East (a young German woman on our flight had, incidentally, been reading The Satanic Verses), was good fun

After mistakenly getting the U-Bahn to Giesing, just about making it off another train at the correct stop (Silberhornstraße), a quick drink in Giesinger Bräustüberl, and KD signing up as a member of FC. Bayern München to purchase online tickets (as you couldn't pay at the gate or the – manned – ticket office), we took our seats at the iconic Grünwalder Stadion for the first match of the trip ... with Bayern II already one goal to the good vs Eintracht Bamburg; 4-0 at half-time and 6-3 the final score, we helped ourselves to a couple of eye-catching match posters from a wall and a tree, respectively, outside the ground – after initial resistance from one fella, who thought we were TSV 1860 fans planning to burn them and post the video to Tik Tok – and headed back into town, with our final round of the night as a foursome a relatively pricey one in the WXYZ Bar on Bayerstraße

You might be unsurprised to learn that Macleod (C) and I were the last men standing (or sitting), albeit in the unfamiliar surroundings of a shisha bar (around the corner from our hotel); as I would subsequently remark on Facebook, "smoking for the first time, aged 42 at a shisha bar in the arse end of Munich, is not  repeat, not  a recipe for success"

Songs from 2003 (including Mundian To Bach Ke by Panjabi MC) played on MTV as Macleod (C) and I supped on recovery cans of MiXery before breakfast (Omelette mit Käse, Schwarzer Tee) in the Iraqi café on the corner; KD and Macleod (M) fed and watered in the more salubrious surroundings opposite, then we headed to the Hauptbahnhof to catch a train to Augsburg

After passing through a lengthy road tunnel with eye-catching graffiti, we turned into a leafy park and walked alongside a clear-running stream (Thames Water has yet to make its way to Germany); Kiosk Sonnenglück was my intended destination, and sitting outside here – drinking pints of Dunkel and eating Schnitzel rolls (superb!) in fair weather and with fine scenery – was even better than I'd envisioned #bucolic

The away supporters' bus arrived at the nearby ground at the same time as us, albeit we didn't have countless vehicles with flashing lights and a truly astonishing number of riot police for company! EUR 8.00 each to get in  the same price as the previous night's game, in the same division, although this time you could buy at the ticket office

Understandable guffaws as SV Wacker Burghausen equalised with a hilarious OG (reminiscent of the one that Paul Robinson conceded for England vs Croatia back in the day), but it was 2-1 at the interval and a deserved 3-1 win for Augsburg II at full time; I think we all liked Rosenaustadion, while KD commented that the referee was the fattest he'd seen since playing amateur football in Dumfries

Riegele WirtsHaus for post-match beers, watching open-mouthed as the thirty or so away fans  who looked less like football hooligans than us  were given a police escort to the station entrance opposite; Maidenhead were losing at Barnet when we entered but 2-1 up as we left, the sad news of Sir Bobby Charlton's passing mitigated by sublime pints of Dunkel and the attempted humour of the bar manager (who presented us with paper straws when, with a train to catch, our second round consisted of four half-measures)

Deutsche Bahn ist Scheiße is what I'd heard on the grapevine, a surprising assertion but one seemingly backed up by the fact that  as news filtered through of an equaliser for Barnet, and Macleod (M) bought us sweets from the vending machine on the platform  our train was late; things continued to unravel on the buffet car, as we learned that James Durkin had overruled an offside decision from his Assistant to award Barnet an injury-time winner, and my mobile phone's data stopped working ...

Arsenal's late goals vs Chelsea (or, perhaps more specifically, my reaction to them) – as we watched in Bridge Bar & More on Trappentreustraße, ending up in there by chance after mistakenly getting on a tram heading in the wrong direction – put KD in a similar funk to Macleod (M), who hadn't been cheered by Leeds' comeback win at Norwich; the general mood was subsequently not helped by an Uber ride to the wrong sports bar (i.e. not Stadion an der Schleissheimerstrasse) and an inexplicable drunken argument over *checks notes* Panathinaikos

Yours truly and Macleod (M) got separated from the others and, with my data still not working, headed in the wrong direction (again) to a restaurant/ bar on Schmellerstraße – drinking from ceramic tankards and chatting with a fella who used to work for Rolls Royce in Derby – rather than to the Paulaner Bräuhaus, as agreed; Macleod (C) was understandably irked, particularly as our arrival back at the hotel was delayed still further by a stop for dinner (chicken shawarma and chips – delectable – at the Iraqi place), but Macleod (M) was able to explain the genuine mistake/ lack of technological assistance, so the reconciled Macleod (C) and I headed back out ... and not to the shisha bar this time!

Songs from 2004 (including Numb/Encore by Jay-Z and Linkin Park) played on MTV as Macleod (C) and I supped on recovery cans of MiXery before breakfast in McDonald's on Karlsplatz, and, after meeting with KD and Macleod (M), heading to the Hauptbahnhof for our latest run-in with an unhelpful ticket machine – this one wouldn't accept payment for an eye-wateringly expensive journey on the ICE; so, as KD queued for a ticket to join a queue for human assistance, and the rest of us stood (slightly) hungover in the sunshine outside the ticket office, Macleod (M) took the executive decision to buy tickets for the regional train, saving us a whopping EUR 65.00 each!

Uncomfortable would best describe the journey that followed: cramped seats, no buffet car (we were all parched), patchy internet (as KD struggled but ultimately managed to buy match tickets), and we had to listen to some Finnish fella chat up a couple of German girls  hanging off his every (perfect English) word  with, as KD noted, seemingly killer lines such as "I shouldn't tell you this, but ... "

No option, upon our belated arrival in Nuremberg, but to get a taxi to the ground (although there did seem to be a surprising number of home and away fans lingering around the Hauptbahnhof as the 13:30 kick-off loomed); after an indirect route, more chicanery ensued when the QR codes on our match tickets didn't scan, and we were encouraged to enter by crawling underneath the barriers!

Disinterested shrugs from several of those wearing high-vis vests as we tried in vain to find Section 34 as required; we probably could've stayed where we were, close to the away fans, but ultimately circumnavigated almost the entire ground – and had to be let out and readmitted – before we made it to our EUR 51.00 seats ... with Hertha BSC already one up!

A decent game of football finished 3-1 to Der Club  and featured a missed penalty, an OG, and two red cards (my first live experience of VAR)  before an unplanned and surreal post-match visit to Zeppelinfeld (people playing roller hockey and with remote control cars in front of the Zeppelinhaupttribüne), an absolutely heaving and delayed train back to the city centre ("Deutsche Bahn ist Scheiße"  or words to that effect  chanted en masse), a tasty meal in the quaint surroundings of Fränkische Weinstube im Handwerkerhof ("rustic Franconian hangout"), and, after checking that there were regional trains back to Munich, a beer in Bocksbeutel-Stube im Pillhofer (where I got told off, by an attractive barmaid, for some Hertha fans chanting loudly in the toilets); the return journey on the train was even more tortuous than the one earlier in the day, but at least we had (1) seats again and (2) a carryout on this occasion #ItsAMixery

Years ago, there was a cracking little pub – with a tree in the middle – near the Hofbräuhaus that I think all of us have been to at various times, but I couldn't find any reference to it online, and we couldn't locate it on our final night; instead, after an abortive visit to the aforementioned tourist trap, and a couple of rounds of nondescript beer in the near-deserted Irish pub opposite, a strange little fella resembling a leprechaun but supposedly from Warrington, directed us round the corner to another Irish pub that he said was packed with punters singing karaoke (badly) and watching the NFL ... it sounded too good to be true, but it wasn't! (OK, so it wasn't great, but our visit to Kilians prolonged and enlivened what would've otherwise been an early and relatively quiet night.)

Macleod (C) and I had packed, checked in with Lufthansa (my data was working again), and watched Mark Williams vs some Chinese fella in a replay of a match in the English Open snooker on Eurosport by the time KD and Macleod (M) had risen and made their way to a wasp-infested Café Maurener for breakfast; afterwards, we bade farewell to KD – whose (ultimately delayed) flight to Edinburgh wasn't until the evening – and caught a train to the airport

On our exit from the terminal on Friday, I'd noticed a food van aeroplane called Smokey Joe's, presumably named after the legendary Maidenhead nightspot; naturally, we headed there for final sausages and beers, as workmen nearby began to erect wooden stalls for the upcoming Christmas market ("That time of year already")

Nothing much to report about our journey from this point: I remembered to buy some duty-free chocolate for the kids, the flight was on time and not full up (allowing us to spread out, as invited, at the back of the plane), and the Bayern II vs Eintracht Bamburg match posters made it home unscathed – keep your eyes peeled for one of them, and a 1. FC Nürnberg scarf, in the bar at New York Road

Decent trip, in summary, although I think all of us were left somewhat underwhelmed by Munich; in its defence, I should note that our hotel – not located in the best part of town – was (1) chosen primarily for logistical reasons and (2) relatively inexpensive

Anyway, another #ThreeGameWeekender next year?

Yes, why not; whenever we're away to Barnet! ;-)

The urgent list of post-Munich chores for me included taking the car to get new tyres fitted and buying more dry food for the cat, so whilst someone at Maidenhead Tyres worked on the former, I walked to Pets at Home to sort the latter  said walk taking me through Braywick, the proposed site of New York Road; cue photos and a Twitter thread

Unusual train journey for me – changing at Ash rather than North Camp and Ash Vale – to Aldershot, but it only took an hour and ten minutes (or thereabouts); I was supping a can of Thatcher's Haze, as CJ – my old work buddy – busied himself at a computer station in his bedroom, ahead of his clock-off at 17:30

Enjoyable, chewing the fat with CJ over pints of Laines Brew Co.'s Source Pale Ale, sat outside the Crimea (about a minute's walk from his flat); later joined by a horde of Magpies off the supporters' coach organised by MUSA 3.0, which prompted me to seek out Chicago Mag for some photos

Scintillating attacking football from the away side saw us take a 2-0 lead inside 21 minutes (we had led by the same score in this fixture last season); "Zimba's on fire, your defence is terrified!" is not a chant that I expected to hear in 2023/24, if at all!

Doubts about both of Aldershot's first-half goals, within minutes of each other, with video technology required to conclusively prove whether either went over the line before being cleared; more obvious to everyone was the second yellow card not given to Coby Rowe  the fact that he was subbed shortly afterwards, at the break, probably tells you all you need to know about Matthew Russell's dereliction of duty #YourNameWillGoOnTheList

And again! Joe Haigh this time, subbed immediately after escaping a second yellow card for some inexplicable reason; make no mistake, Maidenhead United would've been down to nine men if the roles were reversed (see Barnet, the previous Saturday, for proof), and those extra players would've made a big difference as we began to tire, with only three outfield subs and having been the better side, IMO, up until the Shots going ahead for the first time thanks to a well-worked goal, finished by the impressive Lorent Tolaj

Yours truly was the first to recognise, on the walk to the MurdoMobile ahead of the drive home, that this loss, combined with results elsewhere, meant the Magpies now propped up the table; tough to take – after another generally positive display but undeserved defeat – and not helped by Tommy Widdrington's ("Who's the w*nker with the tie?") unnecessarily classless, post-match celebrations in front of the 103 noisy away fans #YourNameWillAlsoGoOnTheList

Monday 16 October 2023

Away Day Diary: Weston-super-Mare 0-3 Maidenhead United (14/10/23)

We became a bit blasé  familiarity breeds contempt and all that  about visits to Woodspring Stadium and Twerton Park despite them being comfortably the two best aways at the time in an otherwise dreary Conference South; however, they were always good days out (occasionally tainted, of course, by 90 minutes of football), and so it was a case of "could be better, could be worse" when the draw for the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round presented us with another trip to the location of Fancy Dresslemania XVI

Earworms of the day thus far (including 'Rip It Up' for me, 'La Vie en rose' for Craig, and 'I'm the Leader of the Gang' for Macleod [M]), Shay's #MoveUsOrLoseUs petition (specifically those signatories, e.g. Bernard Mensah, who might be ineligible), Scott McTominay's disallowed goal vs Spain ("not quite the Hand of God, was it?!"), and the weather in Munich (some of us are off to Germany next weekend) among the topics of conversation, with the Batemans for company, on the 08:30 from Maidenhead and then the 08:55 from Reading; it was sunny but with a chill in the air as we disembarked at Weston

Steve H aka Solihull Steve aka the Sweetie Blinder was waiting and joined three of us for breakfast  very good  in Central Perks before a pre-match pub crawl that went as follows: the Duke of Oxford (the Fork 'n' Ale wasn't open; the Batemans were in situ, fresh off the pier), the Brit Bar (top notch; Willie T and son joined us here as my phone battery crashed from 80-odd per cent to zero and I struggled to power up), and, finally, the Black Cat, with Viz wallpaper in the toilets, from where we got taxis to the ground

The hope, if not the expectation, was that our National League quality (don't laugh!) would shine through, and that's what transpired, at least in the first half, as Tobi Sho-Silva bagged himself a brace and the jubilant away fans serenaded substitute D. Omilabu  on for the injured Harry Parsons  to the tune of 'Insomnia' by Faithless; things got a bit nervy after the break as an already depleted Magpies XI lost further players to injury and we visibly tired  if the home side had pulled one back, I wouldn't have put it past them to have got more goals  but, as it was, almost immediately after the fourth official had indicated eight minutes of added time, Reece Smith indirectly set up Sho-Silva for MUFC's first FA Cup hat trick since Leon Solomon (a left-back!) at Godalming Town in October 2011, and the party atmosphere went up another level

One quick drink in the bar with kindred spirit @CasualSeagull  who had previously sought us out for conversation during the first half  ahead of a taxi back into town and a post-match pub crawl that started with an old favourite, the Criterion (with TVs showing Wales' defeat to Argentina in the egg-chasing); to the Regency (where Craig and I admitted to near constantly and deliberately winding each other up, which wasn't much of a surprise to anyone) and the Fork 'n' Ale (having passed not one but two busy Japanese restaurants, which seemed symptomatic of gentrification/ a town on the up) before a supermarket sweep at the giant Tesco's and then the 20:29 train home

Not every day that Maidenhead United fans get to celebrate an away win (or any win, thinking about it!), let alone one by such a convincing margin, so the triumphant drinking and loud singing after TWS et al. had joined the train at Temple Meads, was probably excusable; Que sera, sera, etc.

(Advertiser report; match highlights)

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Away Day (sort of) Diary: Southend United 2-0 Maidenhead United (19/09/23)

Sadly, my father-in-law hasn't been in the rudest health of late, so I was sitting in the living room of his house in Monmouthshire as my wife visited him in the nearby hospital when news came through Charlee Adams had missed a 95th-minute penalty that would've earned the Magpies a draw at home to Boreham Wood, and the Shrimpers  their squad already down to the bare bones due to injuries and an ongoing transfer embargo  had two men sent off in a 3-0 defeat at York, setting up an intriguing game at Roots Hall on the following Tuesday night; I initially replied to Macleod (M) that I wouldn't be available to travel to Essex, but that changed when my wife returned home on Monday afternoon after a week away to relieve me from babysitting duty and allowing me to join him and Rainey on the train from Maidenhead, shortly before 5pm

Our thoughts, as we passed Rayleigh on the (initially packed) train from Stratford, turned to Essex nightclubs, with Rayleigh's own Pink Toothbrush, the Pink Cockatoo next door to Barking FC's ground, and TOTS (Talk of the South) in Southend, all getting a mention; time for a quick drink in the Railway close to Prittlewell station, where TWS et al. were playing pool on a table overlooked by some choice replica shirts from yesteryear, before ticket collection and kick-off

Understandable anticipation ahead of the home supporters' planned protest in the 25th minute, which ultimately consisted of some objects (including plastic toy rats) thrown onto the pitch and chants of "We want Martin out"; "I've seen worse protests in the toilets at Stripes," "Those drink breaks at Bromley, the other week, lasted longer," and "Get on the f**kin' pitch, you cowards!" just some of the feedback from the away fans, who collectively seemed the angrier set of supporters!

The referee (Stephen Parkinson) was not – repeat, not – the reason why we lost this game, but I will still mention that he was shite; every 50/50 decision seemingly went against us, and I'd like to have another look at (1) the tackle for which their player only got a yellow card, and (2) a possible foul on ANG, in and around their penalty area in the first half

Huff and puff from the away side  the Magpies worked hard and defended reasonably well, if a little desperately at times  but we lacked quality on the ball, barely managing to string more than three or four passes together and squandering possession with annoying regularity, often with a hurried punt forward to no one in particular; we were well-beaten by the better team, simple as that, with the goalkeeper our best player by some distance and theirs having little or nothing to do

Even though the Shrimpers were only able to name two substitutes  with the aid of two players registered on the day (including a keeper whose most recent start was in the Premier League and reportedly had players playing out of position, they're still a full-time, ex-Football League club able to call upon the likes of Jack Bridge (who opened the scoring, effectively ending the contest, with a 72nd-minute penalty), Harry Cardwell, Cav Miley, and Wesley Fonguck – quality players at this level who would walk into the Maidenhead XI; the pervading thought that this was some kinda miracle win is, IMO, as off-target as the first-half protest

Nice to see the eminent Sean Marks stood amongst the 33 (embarrassingly few) away fans  talking with Alan Massey at halftime and, at the final whistle, with Alan Devonshire (who made some interesting, largely unprompted comments)  although, as someone half-joked, it would've been preferable to have seen him on the pitch wearing black and white stripes; we've now managed just seven goals in ten games, a problem  not solely a striker problem, BTW  that will inevitably result in a soul-destroying relegation unless remedied sooner rather than later

Diagnosis of a rare and aggressive form of cancer affecting ex-Magpie captain Darti Brown – not my favourite player, but part of our fondly-remembered 2006/07 promotion-winning side and scorer of a memorable consolation strike during a resounding B&B Cup defeat at MK Dons – puts football, if not everything else, into perspective