Maidenhead United 4 Woking 1 (15/10/2012)
Maidenhead’s York Road is the longest continually used football ground in the world, being Maidenhead’s home since 1871. There are one or two other claims about, but Maidenhead’s is recognised officially by FIFA. Given that the club doesn’t exactly possess Qatar-like riches, FIFA’s decison on this score at least, does look fully above board.
In those early days Maidenhead were one of the country’s top clubs, reaching the FA Cup Quarter-finals three years running in the 1870s. Their ambitions have become rather more modest since then, but today’s game again saw them of the FA Cup trail, looking to beat near neighbours Woking to be one game away from the 1st Round Proper.
The terracing at York Road might not any longer look like it dates back to 1871, but it’s still quite an unusual ground. In the past it used to have a quiant little main stand, but this burned down in the 1970s, and the flat expanse that’s there now doesn’t have the same appeal. To one side of this gap is a baffling structure, looking like somebody was trying to build a new branch of Matalan, but ran out of money with only the roof and supporting beams completed. It’s currently used as a covered car park because it has no other obvious function. On the other side of the gap is what passes for a substantial chunk of terrace at this level, which not only offers a decent view, but usually also the chance to sneek a beer in during the game.
A decent few steps of covered terrace await those squeezing past the tea bar in the corner. This terrace is split by a gap in the middle like Georgia Jagger’s smile, although Georgia doesn’t have the extra benefit of an extra turnstile in hers.
Further round from here is a curious mural painted on a back wall. Old style monochrome football scenes perhaps hark back to some Maidenhead glory days, even if sepia or etchings would seem more appropriate, while the slab next to it unfathomably features Slash from Guns n Roses, an alcoholic swigging from a hip flask, a baby in a pram being pushed by what looks like a transvestite Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen, two men in turbans, the second of whom has a turban which looks like it is made from a generously proportioned bra, an old man, a dog…..if Banksy had taken drugs as a teenager, he could have painted that wall.
Rather more conventionally, down the other side of the pitch, is a rustic, if at least not rusting, covered stand for maybe 200 seats. This forms the only banking on this side until beyond the boundary fence, where an embankment rears up sharply to reach the Great Western railway InterCity line to London.
The final end is a rather ordinary few steps of terrace with bike-shed style roof, covering the penalty area. It was this end that Maidenhead kicked towards in the first half.
While clear blue October skies might have been doing a good impression of late summer this afternoon, the long shadows even at 3 pm hinted that winter is just round the corner. Woking clearly though the sun would be blindingly low in the second half, and upon winning the toss chose to defend that end first. It was about the only thing they won all afternoon.
Woking may be top of the Blue Square South, facing an erractic Maidenhead who’ve conceded four goals four times already this season, but they just had no answer to the Magpies’ energetic start. Every time Maidenhead got forward they caused confusing in the back line. The only shock was that it took as long as 17 minutes for Maidenhead to score. A shot from the left looked destined for the far corner, but bounced back off the upright. If Woking thought they’d got lucky, they were wrong. Another shot came in through a crowded box. This one was rather less cleanly struck, but nobody complains about that when it sneaks in the bottom corner. 1-0, and a deserved lead.
It didn’t last long though. Woking were pressing, without really looking like achieving, until a shout for a foul resulted in a generous looking penalty. Whacked low and hard into the bottom corner, it was back to 1-1.
Parity only lasted around 5 minutes. Once again Woking were slow to react to a rebound, and the wonderfully named Reece Tison-Lascaris thumped in a low back post effort to put Maidenhead back in front.
And it just got better, with the lead stretching to 3-1 just a few minutes later. Listening to a few Maidenhead fans before the game, they didn’t have a huge amount of faith before the game, but were certainly believing now.
If they had belief at 3-1, by half-time they were practically evangelical. On 44 minutes that man Tison-Lascaris had the Woking keeper looking down the wrong end of a double-barred name, as he was beaten to a loose ball, and Tison-Lascaris delivered a composed finish for a 4-1 lead.
Sometimes teams don’t really want half-time to come, and Maidenhead probably fell into that category. After a half where almost nothing could go wrong, the prospect of a half where it all could, suddenly seemed to play on their minds. The team talk seemed to consist of the desire to not chuck away a 3 goal lead, as Maidenhead would do very little to add to the 4 goal tally in the 2nd half.
Almost the whole half was spent on the back foot, with Woking camped in Maidenhead territory so much that siege engines and the odd battering ram wouldn’t have been out of place. With no vats of molten lead to pour over the Woking attackers, they repelled the yellow hoardes with a combination of good goalkeeping, and the benefit of some terrible finishing. Maybe the Woking players had been watching the rugby earlier on, as they seemed determing to try and win the game with conversions.
You did feel that if Woking pulled one back it would be a different game, but at the same time, it was hard to see where they would get that goal from. Even when they did get a shot on target, Jordan Clement in the Maidenhead goal was equal to everything. He made at least four top-notch saves to make sure the game was safe for Maidenhead, and leaving Woking wondering how they only managed the one goal. When it comes to magpies, one really is for sorrow, especially if you let in four at the other end.