"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 22 April 2024

Away Day Diary: Chesterfield 3-2 Maidenhead United (20/04/24)

Fancy Dresslemania XXII

Cheers, loud ones, from me and Macleod (M) as I nursed an ill-advised pint of bread and butter pudding-flavoured ale in the Maiden's Head before our safety-securing come-from-behind win over Gateshead (that prompted lusty celebrations during karaoke in the Portland Arms, reminiscent of the sing-song we enjoyed in the Schooner after surviving, despite a heavy defeat vs the Heed, on the final day of last season) when a legendary and long-standing Magpies supporter announced that he would be in costume for the first time at Fancy Dresslemania XXII because he "felt silly wearing everyday clothes" at the Gateshead International Stadium – proof that after more than twenty annual instalments, only interrupted (temporarily) by the COVID-19 pandemic, the tradition is as strong as its ever been; further evidenced by the sheer number of costume-clad MUFC fans who travelled on Saturday to the b2net Proact Technique SMH Group Stadium by car, supporters' coach, and train (Alf Garnett, Megatron, and Beetlejuice Humbug Macleod were among those on the 07:26 from Maidenhead, after a lift to the station with Wonka Taxis)

Hike, in glorious sunshine, along the Cuckoo Way following a McDonalds breakfast at King's Cross and an uneventful train journey (Megatron spent much of it trying and failing to locate the puncture affecting his inflatable gun; topics of discussion included favourite Prodigy songs); time for a swift pre-match pint and some photos, with other assembled fancy dressers, in the Lock-Keeper (Brewer's Fayre; needs must) before the 12:15 kick-off

Excellent vocal support from the travelling horde, but the Magpies looked dead and buried at half-time ("We're only here for the biscuits"); it seems we played 4-1-4-1, with Casey Pettit fighting a lonely and losing battle in midfield, and it looked like we would be on the receiving end of a cricket score

Superb scenes, however, as two goals in as many minutes from Tristan Abrahams and Kevin Lokko drew us level shortly after the break; we were suddenly all over them like a rash, and the runaway league champions were rattled (before, TBF, wrestling back some control of the game – hitting the bar and having a goal disallowed for offside)

Ten thousand one hundred and eight was the attendance – a stadium record – but plenty of bandwagon-jumping glory hunters amongst the home support and the 168 away fans (including ex-Magpie Paul Dadson and son dressed as the 118 118 guys) had no trouble collectively handling a couple of Neanderthals sat close to the divide ("What's it like to have no teeth?!") ... and Mr. Potato Head, who would later join us for a post-match photo in the pub!

Eventually, the home fans made themselves heard when Ollie Banks scored with a late, long-range effort; however, after a goal-mouth scramble featuring an inadvertent block from a Maidenhead player of his teammate's shot, it then required a tremendous save from the Spireites' keeper for them to take all three points (probably for the best, I mean, imagine the carnage if we'd scored a 93rd-minute equaliser!)

Reece Smith ("He's one of our own") got a notable post-match ovation from the travelling support  all the MUFC players did, and deservedly so, but Smith (and Alan Massey) in particular; Casey Pettit has been a revelation  to the extent that we might struggle to keep hold of him (I hope we can)  but it is a travesty of 'M People over Blur for the Mercury Music Prize in 1994' proportions, IMO, that the ex-Luton Town man beat Reece to the Supporters' Player of the Year award (Smith deserves a move to an EFL club, although, as with Pettit, I hope he stays)

Feet aching all around after the lengthy and, at times, steep walk to the Neptune, but it was worth it in the end: a top-tier pub and it was a lot of fun sitting in the sunshine out the back  albeit with the previously impressive view now blocked by a fence  supping on their reasonably-priced but extensive range of alcoholic beverages (as Wonka fretted about train cancellations)

Into the nearby SPAR for a supermarket sweep before a relatively leisurely walk back to the station to catch the 18:49 train; Megatron – arch villain that he is – got told off by a policeman at King's Cross for cartoonishly pretending to machine-gun people with his now significantly droopy weapon (jobsworth-voice: "Imagine if they were partially sighted and didn't realise it was an inflatable" *rolls eyes*)

Everyone – well, not everyone, but a load of us – headed, upon arrival into Maidenhead, to the Portland; good, of course, albeit not as spontaneously brilliant as the previous week's post-Gateshead celebrations (Megatron put his name down to do Push It by Salt-N-Pepa on karaoke, but was overlooked ... which, again, was probably for the best)

Lying if I said that I didn't have a headache on Sunday (there's footage of me fumbling for my front door key at 4am  whoever invented the Ring doorbell should be hung, drawn, and quartered); then again, if you don't have a hangover after a 'safe from relegation and playing in front of ten thousand people' fancy dress away day, are you even alive?!

Despite distressing off-field happenings, this has been a decent season from an on-field perspective, over and above the fact that we achieved the goal of staying up – in previous campaigns, our form at York Road has been a lifeline, and we've often had to rely on scraps away from home (e.g. in 2021/22, we went from Halifax on the opening day until King's Lynn at the end of February without an away win), yet this year we've had a talented if threadbare group of players (with, for too long, one glaring positional weakness) and have resultantly enjoyed several memorable victories – both home *and* away – including Dorking (twice), at Weston in the FA Cup (setting up a tie vs a League One club), Solihull (twice), Oxford City (A), Altrincham (A), thumping Aldershot on Good Friday, coming from two-down to beat Eastleigh, only our second win (in eight attempts) vs Gateshead, etc.; I readily admit to thinking we were goners after losing at Rochdale (three consecutive away defeats, vs mid-table opponents, by a combined score of 9-2), as I couldn't see us turning things around in the remaining games, but, thankfully, I was very wrong! (Reminder to self: never doubt Alan Dev.) 'Til August, when we go again ... still in the promised land, aka the National League!