Maidenhead United 2-1 Sutton United (Att: 404)
After watching Bristol Rovers ‘must not lose’ Vanarama Conference opener with Grimsby Town on BT Sport (attendance at the Mem was higher than all the games in L2, plus five in L1, but yours truly was hiding behind the sofa), I decided on a walk down to York Road for Sutton United’s visit. The sun was shining after all (and Best Of albums by The Clash and Pixies were fresh on the iPod; new favourites ‘Police On My Back’ and ‘Gigantic’ joining old staples ‘Train In Vain’ and ‘Debaser’ as repeat plays).
I arrived after kick-off, thus missing the official opening of the new stand by long-standing (arf!) supporters Fred Bannister and Roy Hole, plus MUFC Hall of Famers Mick Chatterton and Brian Pitts (Dave Harrison, another Magpies legend, was also at the game). The stand looks good. It still doesn’t seem real – and makes estimating the crowd increasingly difficult – but it really does look good (unlike, it has to be said, the seemingly genetically-modified ‘Magpies’ painted onto the Shelf wall!). Fair play, obviously, to Chairman Who Knows His Football for making it happen. Props, also, to those at MUSA who were banging the drum about proper ground improvements five years ago (and more). CWKHF wasn’t listening then. Seemingly he is now. I’ve little doubt that the ring-fenced ground improvement fund is a major reason as to why. Well done all.
Perhaps I’m a lucky charm, as Sutton’s apparent early dominance – culminating in metalwork being rattled – subsided soon after my belated arrival, with Maidenhead subsequently taking control of proceedings. The Magpies were fielding what a Bell End regular described as a ‘typical Drax line-up’; a centre forward (Jacob Erskine) at centre half, a centre half (Mark Nisbet) in central midfield, and a central midfielder (Adrian Clifton) upfront. Erskine – a versatile player whom impressed last season – looked ill-at-ease in defence on Saturday (and not only because he was wearing #10, evoking bad memories of William Gallas at Arsenal). Nisbet, meanwhile, is not a midfielder and his ‘fish outta water’ performance in the middle of the park was typified by a wild, second-half hack for which he was rightly yellow-carded (possibly a red, however, on another day). Clifton, conversely, was excelling out of position; causing Sutton all sorts of problems with new signings Stefan Brown (ex-AFC Totton and Hungerford Town, deceptively quick) and Dave Tarpey (ex-Farnborough and Humpton, proven goal-getter at this level) flanking him. The latter opened the scoring with a well-taken finish after good work from Clifton and Brown. 1-0 at the break.
A proverbial rocket for Sutton at HT; they were outta the blocks quicker than a very quick thing (i.e. NOT a Maidenhead United defender). It was only a matter of time before they equalised ... and a Rwandan international striker duly obliged (I noted an unidentified national flag, hanging behind the Canal End in the first half, and wrongly assumed that it was a Rwandan one … regardless, I’ve long thought that we should get an Iranian tricolour in honour of Bobby ‘The Daddy’ Behzadi). The visitors now looked the most likely winners. But Drax had a plan. And it worked.
- Defensive line-up.
- Keep it tight.
- Unleash Lanre Azeez and Reece Tison-Lascaris from the bench.
- Nick a later winner.
- Brandy & Cigars.
With, it transpired, a little over five minutes remaining the ball was innocuously heading towards the Sutton by-line. A bit of RTL magic later, two neat one-touch passes inside the box, and the ball was at the feet of Tarpey. 2-1 and no mistake. Nisbet – thankfully restored to centre half – won countless headers as time wound down and, shortly afterwards, Drax was instructing the stragglers (there weren’t many) to applaud the fans as his name was chanted in glorious sunshine. Loud music would soon be booming out from the home dressing room. Am I right in thinking that Drax and Paul Doswell (Sutton boss) haven’t got much time for one another??
Tarpey looks some player. Aside from his goals (both well-taken), he had another couple of chances; one well-saved and the other a rasping drive that went just over the bar. On each occasion he got his shot off with the very minimum of fuss; chance, BANG. His dark hair and diminutive stature, gait and playing style (hard-working, frequently cutting in from the left-hand side onto his right foot) reminded me of Ashley Smith. High praise. Hopefully, unlike Smudger, we’ll afford him a decent chant. Perhaps, if we can’t think of anything more original, the necessary alteration to ‘SuperManny Williams’ would be appropriate? Regardless, he was a shoo-in for MOM on Saturday. Whether anyone was about in Stripes, to present him with the award, is another story. It was almost deserted when Mr Logic, Les and I stuck our heads round the door shortly after the final whistle. Over to the Anchor instead. Oh dear. Football scarves replaced by music posters (Green Day, Iron Maiden, Metallica etc) was the least of our worries; Kronenbourg off, the carpet in an even worse state than before (yes, really) and Beyoncé shakin’ her booty on TV (The Box seemingly their music channel of choice). Bad times.
Off to the Greyhound (or, as I’ve heard others refer to it recently, the Skinny Dog). Sky Sports News on TV and a more-than-decent choice of reasonably-priced ales. And Sutton fans to talk with! Our friends from Gandermonium, no less. I was able to confirm the identity of the red-faced, fully-kitted referee whom they had encountered – earlier in the day, in another town centre pub – enjoying a pint of Stella … BEFORE the game he was due to officiate! They, in turn, were able to re-assure (further) that Simon Downer will be a decent acquisition for us. TBF, I’ve no doubt that he is (not was) a top player, it’s just that we’ve signed others in the recent past who have come with sound reputations only for it to transpire that they were – to varying degrees – over the hill. Another ex-Sutton defender, John Scarborough, is a case in point. Other, more infamous, examples include Rocky Baptiste and Nathan Bunce.
It certainly didn’t escape my attention on Saturday that, whilst most of the Maidenhead players were celebrating Tarpey’s winner with the Youth, Downer was doing extensive stretching exercises (back problem?). Eddie Hutchinson, meanwhile, was largely anonymous before his substitution, early in the second half, and I’ve never been Ashley Nicholls biggest fan. Indeed, perhaps Nicholls’ most significant contribution on Saturday was his ‘clever’ time-wasting tactics; several times he kicked away a dead ball (often when the decision had gone in Maidenhead’s favour) and, at one point in the first half, he took turns with his opposite #6 (ex-Bristol Rovers youngster Charlie Clough) to go down – under minimal contact – screaming like a banshee. I suspect that our Dad’s Army generals – Downer, Hutchinson, Nicholls – are taking up a decent proportion of the budget. This might come back to bite us on the backside, if/when injuries and/or suspensions mount and a certain someone is whingeing about financial constraints.
Anyway, enough of the negativity! Into Bar Sport with the Sutton boys. Bobby P, Maurice, Nick B, Rich C and Payney were also there, the latter lamenting his decision to lump on Sutton at 6/5 (he didn’t do his homework; Sutton now haven’t won an opening day fixture since 2009, with no away win on the opening day since 2006). After Gandermonium’s departure for the train station – later than previously intended and following some ‘bitty’ Jam Doughnut-flavoured shots (for which I refuse to take full responsibility!) – I met the wife for dinner in nearby Noodle Nation (where the below photo was taken). Beef & mushrooms with rice, washed down by a bottle of Tsingtao; a delicious end to a
fantastic standtastic day.
Being a regular reader of their blog – and knowing, full well, their opinion of the Magpies Murder Squad – I knew that the Gandermonium crew were gonna meet with strong KSG approval, but it was nice to have it confirmed. They will, of course, have a second visit to Maidenhead this season when they match-up with HAYU on a Sunday (!) in November. I provisionally agreed to join them, but now note that it’s the day after we play at Wealdstone. Hmmm … failing that there’s always Fancy Dresslemania XV, of course, back where it all began. Fingers crossed that we’ll both be celebrating come April – us the title, them a play-off place! ;-) Seriously, I do hope that we’ll not get too carried away with this, admittedly excellent, result. We were, after all, top of the league following last season’s opening game …
“Let’s all do the Binnsy”
Former Magpie Dale Binns (whom, lest we forget, definitely didn’t sign on at York Road for monetary reasons; ignore the fact that he was the first to leave when the budget was subsequently slashed *rollseyes*) had been dancing like a t!t, in the ‘Directors Box’, when Sutton equalised. I invited him to repeat when Maidenhead went 2-1 up. And again, at the final whistle. He declined. “Binnsy, what’s the score?”, “Binnsy, give us a dance”, “You’re not dancing anymore”. #binnsymedley Haha! M.U.F.F.
Match highlights here.