"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 25 March 2024

Away Day Diary: Rochdale 1-0 Maidenhead United (23/03/24)

Reluctantly but realistically resigned to relegation was my mindset after the Magpies lost heavily at Dagenham & Redbridge, our second consecutive 4-1 away defeat vs a National League also-ran; so, I viewed MUFC's debut trip to the Dale – my mother-in-law's team (well, she was born there, at least) – as bittersweet in the sense I was determined to make the most of it while thinking (1) we wouldn't win (probably lose 4-1) and (2) the only 'Roch' we'd likely visit next season would be Rochester (before and/ or after a National League South fixture at Maidstone United Chatham Town)

Our confidence in TfL being at an all-time low – a result of the lengthy wait to get a tube from Paddington to Euston Square en route to watch the Magpies' win at Altrincham last month – prompted me, Macleod (M) and the Batemans to get an earlier-than-suggested train from Maidenhead, so it was a 6am meet for Macleod (M) and I at the top o' the road (I'd been awake since 04:28, after going to bed almost immediately after finishing work on Friday, suffering with symptoms of the dreaded Man Flu); the Lizzy and Northern lines did their respective jobs, TBF, so we had plenty of time for meal deals at Sainsbury's (hot main + hot snack + hot drink = £3.50), before finding unreserved table seats on the relatively deserted train (no Man United game at Old Trafford, this time, thank goodness) ahead of its 08:13 departure time ... which was subsequently delayed by more than 15 minutes so staff could remove two stowaways ("I'm beginning to think those Sainsbury's meal deals are gonna be the highlight of the day!")

Chilly  and four seasons in one day 20 minutes  as I led us on a quick march from Piccadilly to Victoria for the 10:57 Northern line service to Leeds (the same service, albeit going in the opposite direction, that we've used many times before to get from Leeds to Halifax); after spotting geese and deer ("Look! It's Bambi!") in the flooded fields either side of the M62 motorway, arriving into Rochdale on schedule, and walking past a sizeable mosque, a garage with several badly-damaged cars parked on the forecourt, and down a steep(ish) cobbled street, we were in the Wetherspoons  a former cinema in the art deco style, much to Macleod (M)'s liking  supping our first pints of the day as news came through from Rainey that the supporters' coach was stuck in stationary traffic, adjacent to the Bescot Stadium, on the M6 (yes, of course, I messaged back with a photo of our beers!)

Having been joined by Chris Rad. (who'd been on the same train as us from Euston but had perhaps understandably kept himself to himself), we made our way – shortly after midday, and past a church with colourful primula displays and a stone memorial to victims of the Kobe earthquake in 1995to a former CAMRA national pub of the year; I had high expectations that were perhaps unrealistic, but it *was* good in here (Brightside's Flux Blonde was my beer of the day) and, as I'd planned, the group (supplemented by Stuart, Solihull Steve, and Phil W.) stayed put until Uber rides to Spotland around 14:30, with our topics of conversation having included Maidenhead United kits of yesteryear (prompted by some bloke sat at a nearby table – presumably, a member of the Nottingham Mags aka Alan Dev's Sombrero Boys – rocking a 2022/23 third; next season will be the 100th anniversary of MUFC wearing black and white quarters halves, BTW ... ), our karaoke staples ("'You Suffer' by Napalm Death" perhaps the most notable answer) and Stuart's favourite football clubs from various countries ('Luxembourg' was, I think, the only one fired at him that didn't elicit an immediate response)

Decent ground, albeit (1) the electronic turnstiles didn't work (or weren't easy to use) and (2) it was sad to see an entire stand – running the length of the pitch on the right-hand side as we looked – completely empty; the Magpies should've gone ahead only a few minutes after kick-off, but, somehow, no-one managed to get a touch on a ball across the six-yard box that was begging to become 'an assist' – TBH, the proverbial writing was already on the wall ... and my phone crashed, as it did before the FA Cup game at Weston-super-Mare, possibly in despair

A Devante Rodney goal  eminently preventable  meant the home side led at half-time (we coulda/ woulda/ shoulda equalised before the break, but WDH's header landed wide of the post), and they were slightly better/ not as bad in the second half  after a rocket from their manager, presumably, and assisted by a dislocated finger forcing off our star man (Reece Smith) with our best centre forward (Tristan Abrahams) moved out wide to accommodate the replacement (Shawn McCoulsky); we had something of a late rally, after belatedly switching to 4-4-2 (against mid-table opposition we should be looking to beat if we're going to avoid the drop), but Dev's other substitutions (taking off JML and then Casey Pettit, the latter arguably our best player on the day) were bewildering to me and ultimately counterproductive, and, unlike some other fans, neither Macleod (M) nor I wanted any part of the exchanges that took place after the manager had made his way over to the away section at the final whistle. (Loud and repeated praise of Charlee Adams  in the Dev doghouse since his red card vs Halifax in November  to the tune of a Belinda Carlisle chart-topper from 1988 was effectively public criticism of our legendary leader, hitherto unprecedented from a match-going Magpie contingent. *Not* initiated by me, I hasten to add.)

Light rain outside the ground – preferable to the torrential downpours the players had endured – as we ultimately decided against trying to order taxis, owing to the heavy traffic, and instead trekked back to the town centre (accompanied partway, as we were, by a group of local oiks whose taunts none of us could be bothered to engage with); a quick drink in the Flying Horse (arguably better than the Baum) – situated between the unbelievably spectacular town hall and the atmospheric St Chad's church – before the (slightly delayed) 18:19 from Rochdale, the (slightly delayed) 18:40 from Victoria, the 19:15 from Piccadilly (following a supermarket sweep ft. more Sainsbury's meal deals; conversations with fans of MK Dons, Aldershot Town, and Stockport County), and the 22:38 from Paddington – Macleod (M) and I then braved the cold winds and walked back to Cox Green from Maidenhead station, so I re-opened my front door at 23:40 ... almost 18 hours (and, according to my watch, 22,300 steps) after leaving! (Worth the exhaustion? Sadly not.)

Eagle-eyed and/ or long-standing readers of the blog (don't laugh!) might've noticed that I only started writing regular or semi-regular diary entries – for every match in 2017/18, whether I was in attendance or not, and for every League/ FA Cup/ Trophy away game I've attended thereafter (except, I think, for reasons unknown, the 0-0 draw at Aldershot on NYD in 2019) – since our Conference South title win, and I'd vowed to myself that I'd continue to do so until we were relegated back to the regionalised wastelands (always likely to happen at some point); as such, whilst I intend for there to be future entries covering our annual end-of-season tradition, e.g. #FDXXII at Chesterfield next month (which, judging by discussions on Saturday, not many are looking forward to), I think there's a good chance this will be the final semi-regular, bog-standard Away Day Diary, so, just in case, I shall take this opportunity to thank all of those who have contributed in some way (featured, mocked, read, liked, shared, or whatever) – it's been emotional. M.U.F.F.

Monday 26 February 2024

Away Day Diary: Altrincham 1-3 Maidenhead United (24/02/24)

After two undeserved away defeats (the second of which was to a 98th-minute winner!) followed by two *not* undeserved home defeats (Southend more disheartening than Oldham, despite the respective scores, as the Latics are  or were  in good form and looked half-decent), my enthusiasm levels ahead of a second Saturday trip to Moss Lane were low; not helped by heavy rainfall in the preceding days leading me to think that the Robins' notoriously poor pitch would result in a postponement and, essentially, more money wasted on advance, non-refundable train tickets (a la Halifax in January)

Looking out of my bedroom window before leaving home for the 07:15 meet with Macleod (M), I was somewhat surprised to see frost; there was also thick fog as we passed the Home of Football on the fast train to Paddington (with Ryan D. for company, albeit on his way to work), which preceded a double-digit-minute wait for a tube and therefore a more-hurried-than-should've-been-necessary walk from Euston Square to catch the 09:13 from Euston to Manchester Piccadilly (with carriages full of replica shirt-wearing Man United fans).

Two primary reasons for our quick round of drinks in the Wetherspoons upon arrival in sunny and relatively tropical Alty: (1) it was open before midday; (2) to meet TWS and co., who  as they'd told us they would be, in the Vine in the early hours of Wednesday morning (losing to Southend hit us hard!)  were on the 05:56 train from Maidenhead, and in the pub shortly after 9 am! (Steve H., Chris Rad. and Calum had joined us at Stockport, while Rainey happened to leave the Altrincham Central Travelodge as we walked past.)

Research/ nosiness had led me to peruse the Google Images of Libero in the days preceding  I'm glad I did, as it meant I recognised the owner (?) on his way to belatedly open up as we were walking in the other direction after reluctantly accepting that it was closed: this football-themed bar is small but mighty; laughs all around as Wilson ordered a grapefruit Radler and confirmed he liked it before realising it was only 2.5% proof!

Into SWIG next, even smaller than Libero; a warm welcome from the joint-owner, who played The Smiths' self-titled debut album on Spotify as requested by Macleod (M) and supplied us with some moreish and interestingly-shaped jalapeño-flavoured crisps ... as well as more beers, obvs., with Macleod (M) and I drinking Factotum by Pomona Island.

NEW CENTRE FORWARD ALERT! Confirmation of Tristan Abrahams arriving to save our season  trust Maidenhead United to (1) sign someone whose debut had to be delayed by a suspension and (2) officially announce the transfer only *after* he's appeared on a team sheet!  offset our collective disappointment with the Beacon: a much better beer selection in 2021, when it was called Pi.

Certifiably insane is how I would've described someone predicting anything other than an Alty win, especially after we'd gone one-nil down early on (they had the second-best recent home record in the league; as mentioned, we'd lost four on the bounce), but the Magpies stunned me and most others by rallying to take all three points, and deservedly so! Remy Clerima – 13 years on from scoring against the Robins in a 3-0 away win for Histon, as seen by 71.98% fewer people than were at Moss Lane on Saturday! – was the best player on the pitch (two great blocks to go with the assist for Reece Smith's goal and a towering leap for our game-killing third); Kevin Lokko won countless defensive headers and scored again (two in two now); both all three dogs of war fought tirelessly in midfield ("Ah Pettit, Pettit good!"), the wide men were dangerous (Smith back amongst the goals is potentially huge for us); and last but by no means least, Abrahams – the scorer of Grimsby's consolation at Fancy Dresslemania XX, which Willie T. informs me is the last time we won 3-1 away – was lively and seemed to cover more ground in 88 minutes than our other centre forwards, so far this season, put together!

Hiking to the alcohol section of the massive Tesco's Extra for a carry-out (including four bottles of Plum Porter for £7), we passed an eye-catching collection of garden ornaments and then a cat dozing atop a Timpson's key-cutting machine; we then headed to the Unicorn again ("What's more surprising – Maidenhead winning 3-1 away or us going to the same Wetherspoons twice in one day?!"), because (1) the Cheshire Tap was extremely busy with those watching the egg-chasing and (2) the beers – I liked the Cheshire Gold – were decent enough.

Avanti West Coast awarded a new long-term contract is one of the government's biggest cock-ups of recent times, which is obviously saying something! The train operator's service (or lack thereof) is utterly appalling, and I already regret booking with them for next month's trip to Rochdale.

Match of the Day was showing in the pub on the platform at Paddington as we waited for the last leg of our train journey home (on which it would transpire, we sat alongside Alan Massey's centre-back partner from Penn & Tylers Green Juniors!); we loudly serenaded the replay of Fulham's 97th-minute winner at Old Trafford with a fresh ditty to the tune of Saturday Night by Whigfield, and, of course, "Theres only one MUFC!"  this was undoubtedly one of those away days that acts as a timely reminder of why we make the effort.

(BBC report; match highlights  ft. some noteworthy goal celebrations, and footage of me at 1-1 with my head in my hands that my boys probably aren't alone in finding funny)

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Saturday 14th February 2004

Today is the twentieth anniversary of one of my all-time favourite MUFC games. On Valentine's Day 2004, in the 5th Round of the FA Trophy, we won 2-0 at Halifax – an away day for the ages. Memories of Willie T. – the longest-serving Halifax employee? – helping Jon Urry put out the kit, Phil Wilson's performance between the sticks, Hale and Yaku's goals, the away fans making a din (on the terrace behind one of the goals that they subsequently haven't let us stand on), and, after the minibus ride back, Macleod (C) and I dancing and singing along in Smokey Joe's to a UK hit single (#4) from October 1982 ...

Advertiser report ~ there's a colour copy of the accompanying photo at my Mum and Dad's house, as they are in the background between Messrs Wilson and Dugdale.

Extended highlights ~ well worth a watch, if only for the commentary!

MUFC: Wilson; Dugdale, Connor, McIntosh, Jennings, Gallen, Lee, Ashe, Yaku, Hale, Farley; SUBS: Boyce, Durrant, Gray, Hart, Jenkins; ATT: 1,345

Who was Halifax's manager back then, I hear you ask. Chris Wilder. Whatever happened to him?!

Anyway, I'm off to play Best Years of Our Lives on a loop for the rest of the day!

Oh oh oh oh, makes me wanna dance ...

Away Day (sort of) Diary: Halifax Town 2-1 Maidenhead United (13/02/24)

Having watched a live stream of the Magpies' undeserved yet entirely predictable 1-0 defeat at Boreham Wood on Saturday in a room at Wexham Park Hospital (the patient is making steady progress on a long road  thanks to all those who have sent well wishes), Willie T., Macleod (M) and I were joined by Chris Rad. and Jamie on the mammoth midweek drive to West Yorkshire for this rearranged fixture; we left Maidenhead at approximately 15:20 and topics of conversation on the four-hour-plus, often treacherous journey up the M40/ A43/ M1/ M62 included an imminent 20th anniversary, memories of other FA Trophy opponents of yesteryear, and Macleod (M)'s problems with The Jam's Down in the Tube Station at Midnight ("He was planning on having a takeaway curry with his wife at that time?!")

After not one but two circuits of The Shay's car park, hanging up the flags, and yours truly going for a chicken pie (pretty good), the Magpies were behind early on to – upon reflection – a decent strike; we were poor in the first 45, seemingly unsure of our footing while defending the worst half of a pudding of a pitch, and those wearing black and white stripes could count themselves fortunate to be only 1-0 down at the interval

LOLs all around as one of the Halifax players inadvertently booted his teammate right in front of us; there was even more for the travelling hordes to smile about as, with Reece Smith's increasingly effective dribbles and substitute Shawn McCoulsky's pace to the fore, Maidenhead grew into the game, culminating in a scrappy goal (!) – credited to Tobi Sho-Silva but perhaps an OG  after 78 minutes (celebrations in the away end were on a considerable delay, as I think we were all in shock!)

I would argue we then looked the most likely winner until, with Alan Massey on for the injured Zico Asare as our final change and Bradley Keetch (another sub) hobbling about the pitch after a clobbering, livewire McCoulsky had to go off after being on the receiving end of an innocuous-looking but cynical foul (worthy of a blue card); with the Magpies down to nine and a half weeks men, the home side smelt blood as the Assistant Referee held up a board indicating seven additional minutes ...

Following another lung-busting run from Smith (who dallied a split second too long before shooting), we had ourselves a corner deep into injury time; ANG seemingly contemplated trying to hold onto the ball (which he should've done), but we lost it, and Kevin Lokko had to take one for the team on the halfway line ("another blue card")  cue everyone except the Halifax keeper in and around our box, several balls crossed into the danger zone that we failed to clear properly, and, ultimately, a 98th-minute winner that silenced the away fans (partway through "Alan Dev's Black and White Army") and sent the hitherto mute Shaymen into raptures

A proper kick in the wotsits and no mistake  one that undoubtedly put a dampener on the drive home, which, thankfully, was quicker and more straightforward (at least from a weather perspective: closure of the M62 meant the SatNav took us on the A-roads, over the hills and far away past the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, to join the M1 at Junction 38); Macleod (M)'s unflattering vocal impersonation of Cerys Matthews, best Born & Bred bits ("Watt's the story, bugger all glory"), and possible future opponents in the Berks & Bucks Cup (Winslow United, anyone?!) kept us entertained awake, either side of a brief stop at Leicester Forest, before arrival back home at 2 am

XIVth in the table still, and still V points from XXIst place, but results elsewhere (Dorking's late winner at York; in-form Flyde beneficiaries of a red card at Aldershot  wouldn't that be nice?!) mean that the bottom half of the National League table is tighter than a tight thing (with all of those sides below MUFC, except the bottom two, having at least one game in hand); worryingly, two extremely harsh and tough-to-take defeats in quick succession will surely test the mental fortitude of a threadbare, part-time squad that now features several walking wounded, as a potentially significant six-pointer at home to Southend looms large on the horizon (after Micky Mellon's Tranmere Oldham visits York Road on Saturday)

(BBC report; match highlights)

Monday 5 February 2024

Away Day Diary: York City 1-1 Maidenhead United (03/02/24)

Year 2024 was supposed to have been kicked off here with a report of our stopover at a perennial KSG favourite ... but the Magpies' 20th January match at Halifax (and Bradford City vs Doncaster Rovers ... and Farsley Celtic vs Rushall Olympic) fell victim to freezing weather, so the honour instead goes to our second visit to the cathedral city that is the birthplace of Frankie Howerd, Rowntree's, and Shed Seven  we considered another stopover but ultimately deemed it too expensive, so the day started with an early morning lift to the station in the WillieMobile; there were as many as twelve MUFC fans, including some inevitably armed with alcohol, on the 07:26 to Paddington ...

Our journey on the 09:06 from King's X, after a lengthy wait for breakfast at McDonald's ("not-so-fast food"), was largely unremarkable; conversations about whether Kevin Lokko and other players signing contract extensions suggest Dev will remain as manager beyond this season (the clues are there ... ), the Early Doors live show on YouTube, and David Bowie's best albums and songs (I had 'Up the Hill Backwards' stuck in my head for some reason), while Willie T. helpfully pointed out the Mallard Speed Record Sign flashing past, before arrival into York on schedule ... accompanied as we were by an elderly gentleman (of the road?) wearing pyjama bottoms and wraparound sunglasses with neon green frames ("Timmy Mallett has let himself go"), and hordes of middle-aged women seemingly pissed on Prosecco

Rendezvous with Sandeep and his Uni mate Andy  a Scunthorpe United fan from *checks notes* Scunthorpe; long-time local resident  was arranged for the York Tap, but it transpired they were running late; after quick pints (Macleod [M]'s chocolate stout sounded better than it tasted) and an enjoyable walk in bright sunshine along part of the city walls (#yeractualcultueinnit), we met them in pub #2, the Golden Ball

Knowing  having done the research  that the Golden Ball and the Swan were going to be good ("Three Pigeons-esque"), it was still something of a relief to have it confirmed; Andy said they were among his favourites, with the nearby Slip Inn probably his number one, so we added that to the list ... and I'm glad we did as the beers in there, before catching the No. 9 bus to the football, were the best of the day

Comparatively tranquil was the bus journey to the unsightly, out-of-town LNER Community Stadium  we didn't have to change vehicles due to a brake failure this time, and I didn't very nearly wet myself, which was good; the electronic turnstiles were working, although the jumped up and impolite Chief Steward wouldn't let Macleod (M) hang the flags  he wouldn't even let him take them in, initially  because of RULES

I'd predicted "first goal wins" before the game and was therefore particularly delighted when JML and ANG ("Been dreaming all day of our number eight ..." #nicked) combined to put us ahead; however, the home side equalised before half-time thanks to some comical defending, and they were more deserving of three points ... but a shot from the lively Dipo Akinyemi smacked against the post and the Magpies escaped with a draw (72 away fans saw it)

The frustratingly long wait for the bus after last season's win was, regrettably, not a one-off  it wasn't until gone six that we made it back to civilisation and, as we were running out of time, headed straight to the York Tap; we had a quick chat and photo with Aldershot Ian (on his way home to Northumberland after seeing the Shots win at Halifax) and said our goodbyes to Sandeep and Andy (the latter has promised to attend a game at York Road, especially if we play Scunthorpe again) before the 19:02 direct train to London

York and Maidenhead continue to look over their shoulders begins the succinct match report on the BBC, and, sadly for us, it's true – as has been said countless times this season, we have a shortage of National League-quality options up front, so I worry that our lack of goals (31 in 30 games; only Woking and in-form Kidderminster, with 29, have fewer) will ultimately cost us dearly; if the Magpies and the Minstermen do survive relegation, though, I doubt I'll return for this fixture in 2024/25 – while the city is great (with a plethora of excellent pubs), the Hollywood Bowl add-on, and the post-match bus journey from it, is not