CONFERENCE LEAGUE CUP 2nd ROUND
MAIDENHEAD UNITED – 2 [Smith 13. Cook p83.]
SUTTON UNITED – 4 [Akuamouah 45.54. Fear 62. Gray 68.]
Back in August, we visited York Road on a slightly warmer evening than this and after going behind early on, looked to be heading for our first win until the last minute when the ref & linesman construed to award a penalty for an offence only they saw and we left feeling just a little more than hard done by.
‘Fucking livid’ would be closer to the point!
Since then, neither side has managed to set the league alight and both of us currently languish in the bottom 3 with 15 points and the Magpies have recently relieved their manager of his position.
Should be a cracker then……
Initially, I was quite pleased with this fixture as I was working just the other side of the M4. Sadly, problems with company supplied transportation meant I was on the train with all the other plebs.
Still, there’s a bright spot. It means I can have a bevvy now!
My close proximity means I’m in Maidenhead by 6 and with the rest of the mob still a good half hour away, I decide to go looking for some wonga and some munch. Locating a cash machine, I find coach Mickey Cooke strolling along with a cup of coffee. He reveals that because of the low key nature of the game, the management and team have had to make their own way tonight. I head into a branch of a certain large fast food chain (who’ll remain unamed as they’re not paying me for any advertising!) and find the rest of our management currently waiting on some chips to go with the rest of their munch.
Seems their food is proving to be anything but fast!
They soon disappear off back to the ground and having scoffed, I’m not far behind them myself. Entering the clubhouse and about to order a beer, my timing proves fatal as Windy, Chalmers & Mrs C walk in.
Bugger. S’pose you’d like a drink then?
Still, my disappointment at getting collared for the round soon disappears when I spot the cracking looking barmaid behind the bar. Very nice! She sounds French too!
The low importance of the game and current injuries mean we’re once more looking at a changing line up. Joff’s injury from sunday has kept him sidelined. Andy Martin drops in to partner Eddie up front. The match itself statrs and to be honest, is rather dull.
It’s not until 13 minutes in that anything happens and typically, it’s the home side who strike first to take the lead. A corner is conceeded and played in from our right, picking out a relatively unmarked figure on the penalty spot, his header looping in off the underside of the bar next to the far post.
Naturally, this goes down well in our part of the ground!
Still, the lads manage to shake off their sluggish start and exert some pressure on the hosts. The Magpies defence is also helping our cause somewhat by giving away a number of free-kicks around their 18 yard box. 3 of the 4 are in ‘action’, but bizarrely only the no6 ends up in the refs book for his first challenge despite his colleagues constant offending. One Peter Fear delivery from the left picks out the run of Quinton, but his header is straight at the ‘keeper. The U’s skipper has another go from the right a few minutes later, again finding the figure of Quinton, this time the Magpies ‘keeper is forced to tip the defenders looping header over the bar.
But these incidents are few and far between, with little real action to help stave off the cold. So, we stand, look on and freeze slowly.
Brake supplies one opportunity after 32 minutes, beating his man on the left and putting in a low cross. The ‘keeper fumbles the initial take, but with Martin slow to react, he gathers at the second time of asking.
Just as we’re starting to check our watches to find out how much more of this tedium we have to endure before the break, the previously misfiring U’s finally find the mark. Another Fear free-kick is the catalyst, but maybe not quite how he’d hoped. His disappointing effort to the near post is seemingly dealt with in a simple manner and hoofed clear. But the ball finds Stuart Booth in midfield and he clips the ball back in over the advancing defence. Akuamouah times his darting run off the shoulder of his marker just right and controlling, he sweeps a shot beyond the now exposed keeper to level the scores.
It proves to be the final act of the half and we feel a little warmer now, knowing we’re back in the game. I decide against heading into the bar for the break as it has earlier proved only marginally warmer than outside. Besides, I’ve got some flag raising aerobics to keep me warm!
The rest of the crew return from the bar and once again in tow is our now almost resident Thurrock fan. Not again! Bloody hell, you must be really bored mate, thats all I can say!
The second half starts as sluggishly as the first, with only a 20 yard curling effort just wind from the home side meriting any note.
Then, 10 mins after the restart, the game is turned on it’s head. Honey wins a tackle about 25-30 yards out & chases the loose ball. Being clearly held back by an opponent, he’s stretching a little when he goes in to challenge a defender. He wins the challenge and the ball spins loose to Eddie on the right corner of the box and he smartly turns his marker and skips into the box before rounding the ‘keeper and slotting Sutton into the lead.
Our hosts protest somewhat over the tackle between Honey and their man, who ends up leaving the field and taking no further part in proceedings, but the ref takes no action. Although it has to be said, if Ug hadn’t been impeded in the first place, he’d have made the ball well before matey arrived.
The goal seems to knock the stuffing out of the home side and for the next 10 minutes or so, they’re really all over the place. Just past the hour mark and the ball is played from midfield up to Martin in the centre. He turns & feeds Gray out on the right, who beats his man and drops a perfect cross to the near post for Fear, arching his back and placing a deft little header between the ‘keeper and his near post.
6 minutes further down the line, a rare piece of quality flowing football really opens up the Magpies. Eddie takes his man on down the left and sweeps the ball across to the centre for the supporting Martin. He holds the play long enough to slip a pass into the right hand channel for Matt Gray, arriving like a train. Without breaking stride, Matty thumps a rising drive beyond the desperate dive of the ‘keeper and into the top far corner. Certainly a contender for goal of the season.
Although, lets face it, we’re not exactly swamped in that category so far!!
Mr Gray gets another chance to rack up a second contender a couple of minutes later, sent clear by a pass from Honey after he’s left his man for dead with a lovely turn. Matt cracks another fierce drive in that stings the palms of the ‘keeper and spins up into the air, it then bounces off the top of the bar and Fear follows in to try & nod in the rebound, but the ‘keeper recovers and manages to push the effort over the bar.
There’s one further chance to extend the lead going into the last 10 minutes when a Fear free-kick from thje left is played into the box. Martin challenges the ‘keeper for the ball and he succeeds in punching it towards his own goal. But fortunately for him, a defender spares his blushes and hooks the ball off the line for a corner.
Understandably, as you tend to when 4-1 up with 10 minutes to play, we take our foot off the gas and ease out the last few minutes comfortably…………conceeding a penalty and then trying our damnedest to chuck away the remaining 2 goal cushion!
First a deep cross from the left tempts Wilson off his line at the far post, but an apponent gets there first. But his header drops agonisingly the wrong side of the near post. Then 4 minutes later, that penalty.
Another ball in from the left finds a striped shirt just on the near corner of the box, where Brake intervenes a little clumsily and upends his man. The ref has little choice other than to point to the spot. Matey takes no chances and thrashes the spot kick high & down the middle into the roof of the net.
With our foot not so much off the gas, more full on the bloody anchors whilst tugging furiously at the handbrake, our hosts sense a possible way back into the contest. And despite that 2 goal cushion, it’s a nervy last 5 minutes.
A deep free-kick from our right finds a Magpie sneaking in beyond the back post, but his 1st time effort from an angle is straight at Wilson. Then on time, a corner from the right is cleared to just only outside the box. It’s lobbed back in and with our stopper backpedalling like crazy, he just manages to fingertip the effort over the bar before ending up in a heap in the corner of his net!
The resulting corner also causes plenty of problems, with Wilson again venturing off his line to meet it. And again, he never makes it. The header loops towards goal, but Quinton is on hand to nod off the line and into his ‘keepers arms.
Fortunately, we see out the last few moments without incident and it’s the usual dash to the car to head back home for a cheeky pint before last orders.
As a performance, it wasn’t great. But a wins a win and that 10 minute killer spell shows that attack is not our problem.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Eddie Akuamouah. Another good showing and another brace!
ENTERTAINMENT – 6. Awful 1st half. Much much better 2nd half. A wins a win.
TEAM : Wilson, Scarborough, Quinton, Booth, Gonsalves, Honey, Fear, Gray, Brake, Akuamouah, Martin. SUBS : Howard, Boosey, Tydeman
THE REFEREE’S………looked as if he didn’t want to be there really. Did little to combat some rather agricultural challenges from the hosts defence.