"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)