the real fa cup

Maidenhead Lack Bite

Oxford City 1-0 Maidenhead
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round 2013/14

Remember that classic FA Cup moment when Havant & Waterlooville took the lead at Anfield? Richard Pacquette, who scored that goal, was in front of us in the queue for pre-match refreshments, and bought a bacon & egg butty. The injured Maidenhead striker’s inspired food purchase was one of few highlights in this second qualifying round clash at Court Place Farm.

I thought this would be as an intriguing clash: teams separated by little more than 30 miles, which at the same time play in the Conference North and Conference South respectively. A sort of derby between teams which play the same standard of football, but in different leagues. But what ensued was a match of few incidents and little excitement.

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I was excited about a first visit to Oxford City: on a superficial level, I’ve always liked the club’s striking blue & white hooped kits, while the multi-faceted, community-orientated nature of the club is also something to be admired. As it says in the matchday programme, this club is about ‘more than playing football’. Over the summer I heard Bashley FC’s joint-manager and chairman making noises along these lines and I think this model is one which all non league clubs should strive for. Boys and girls who had just finished representing the club’s various youth teams showed their faces at this game, all proudly sporting their club shirts and tracksuits. This is what it should be like.

While the club’s home ground is functional, it lacks the charm that is a fundamental building block in my love of non league. Cold corrugated iron structures, built at right angles and painted in bland colours, are plonked around the edge of the immaculate surface, and the shallow covered terracing and seated areas on either side of the pitch both contain pillars, which restrict views unnecessarily.

City’s fans were a characterful bunch however – we stood near a gang of old gents who were having a laugh and enjoying the game in the right spirit. There was also chanting from behind the goal from both sets of fans. The game itself was a drab affair, with neither side able to get a firm grip on proceedings. Like a seaside cuddly toy grabbing machine, the City midfield promised much but their claws could not be trusted to hold onto the teddy for long.

With clinical finisher Pacquette limited to sideline butty-chomping duty, Maidenhead have struggled in recent weeks, their sensational early season form eluding them. They played some enterprising football at times, with Danny Green and Reece Tison-Lascaris doing exciting things on the wings. But when the strikers seemed reluctant to pull the trigger (just shoot!), you thought it might not be their day.

I was hoping for a replay – Maidenhead’s York Road ground, the longest continually used ground by one team in the world, is an absolute beaut. Terraces, murals, wonky concrete, what’s not to love? I had tweeted their celebrity fan Timmy Mallet the day before the game and he was up for attending the potential replay.

Unfortunately for Timmy & I, the hosts pieced together a delightful sweeping move in the 86th minute and after a cross drifted his way, Jamie Cook crashed a header into the bottom corner of the net. Full credit to the home side – it was a goal that deserved to win a cup tie. I won’t be back at Court Palace Farm, but wish the side all the best in the next round

Words & Pictures: Andy Lloyd-Williams
Andy is a lapsed AFC Bournemouth fan, who’s recently returned to his non-league roots. Andy wrote Robin van Persie’s biography, which is available here.
Twitter: @A_LloydWilliams

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