Maidenhead United 2 East Thurrock 1 (8th April 2017)
Just a small report from York Road, where I’ve been to several times before, with the ground being about 10 miles from where I live.
“About 10 miles” isn’t that far away from the more precise (according to Google) 8.7 miles I walked to get to this game though, starting from Marlow, on the other side of The Thames. The only time I can recall walking as far non-stop was one evening when I was a bit drunk, and decided to walk home from Reading to Bracknell – a walk that included falling into a ditch and somehow landing on my feet, completely upright, and getting home to find that it actually was so cold that my hair had frozen.
Before I pat myself on the back for managing to get that far again without any such calamity, I should point out that I only did it to join a friend who was completing the last leg of a 109 mile charity walk along the canals and rivers, from Maidenhead’s match at Bath City the previous Saturday, to this game today.
He is raising money for MacMillan Cancer Support, and the final push also involved walking through Maidenhead town centre with some volunteers from Maidenhead United, who’d been hugely supportive of the whole venture, along with Yorkie the Magpie, the Maidenhead United club mascot. I say “magpie” – there was one woman who was convinced Yorkie was actually a penguin, and was telling people quite excitedly about needing photographic proof that there was a large penguin walking through the town, after texting a relative with the news. As it happens she was only about 30 yards from the Maidenhead branch of Specsavers at the time, but presumably didn’t see it.
After an enjoyable walk along the Thames on a beautiful spring day, past the gardens of some of the most expensive houses I’ve ever seen (one proclaimed that it was “protected by lasers”, as if intruders would be zapped out of existence by a personal army of stormtroopers) the game was partially about resting grumbling limbs, but there was also something of an edge to it, with Maidenhead battling to win the title, and promotion, from a league they’ve led all season. Three points clear of Ebbsfleet, but with a worse goal difference, and due to play them at York Road in two weeks, every point at this stage is vital.
East Thurrock, mid-table, nothing to play for, and backed by a travelling “army” of just six, looked the ideal team to play, but it didn’t really work out like that. Maidenhead looked a little nervy, while East Thurrock were hard-working and organised, even if they didn’t strike terror into the Maidenhead defence with their attacking play.
With it looking a bit of a struggle, it took until nine minutes before half time before the breakthrough came. Dave Tarpey, scorer of 41 league goals before this game, got in behind the defence and delicately lobbed the keeper to get his 42nd.
If the home side thought that was enough to see them on their way to victory, they were wrong. Nine minutes on the other side of half time, an East Thurrock corner was hit low to the edge of the box, and out of character with everything that had gone before, a shot flew like a guided missile into the far top corner of the Maidenhead net. The six fans behind the goal went as wild as six people could go outside the privacy of their own homes. Well, they were quite happy, anyway.
From there though, Maidenhead dominated, and it was no surprise when they went back ahead midway through the half, with a shot fired in through a crowd of players. After that it was a case of seeing if Maidenhead could make their dominance count with a third goal, or if maybe East Thurrock could put another spanner in the works.
The answer was no on both counts, although Dave Tarpey did come very close to his 43rd league goal of the season with a shot that hit the inside of the post. All in the ground though, with six exceptions, happily settled for 2-1, especially with news of Ebbsfleet being held by Truro too.
With the in-ground bucket collection probably raising the MacMillan total to well over £1200, and my mate’s first team of Tranmere Rovers scraping past Sutton United by a slender 9-0 margin, it was a thoroughly good day. News of Reading’s 1-7 loss at Norwich, however, was brushed aside to not tarnish the day. At least they didn’t confuse a 7 foot magpie for a penguin. That really would have been embarrassing.