Maidenhead United 2 Hartlepool United 1
The phone call was somewhat out of the blue, it was my mate Mark, he had a question for me.
“How do you fancy a once in a lifetime opportunity?”
Intriguing, and knowing Mark as I do, it wouldn’t be an over exaggeration, it was clearly something worth listening to.
To cut a long story short, Mark had acquired an unlimited travel railcard via a cushy little job he’s landed, and consequently he didn’t need to use it the following Saturday. Did I fancy it?
He didn’t need to ask twice, of course I’d take advantage, I mean, anywhere in the UK free of charge? Who wouldn’t want a piece of that? It did have a couple of proviso’s though, I would have to collect it late on Friday night, but also, I had to somehow get it back to him on the Saturday.
Like a kid in sweetshop, I’d got the Non-League Paper on the table and National Rail Enquiries up on the screen, the possibilities were endless, but then I spotted that Maidenhead United had got a 12.30 kick off against Hartlepool United due to live TV. So, the question was, could I do a double, but more importantly, could I do it via train?
The answer was an unequivocal ‘yes’, Slough Town were at home to Kettering Town, and due to the proximity of the station to the ground in Maidenhead, it could be done. The plan was hatched, the ticket was duly collected late on Friday and it was time to set the alarm for silly o’clock the following morning.
With ticket secured safely in the wallet, it was the 6.43 from Belper and then the 7.06 from Derby to Reading. Arriving in Reading at 9.40, it was pleasing to see that the Three Guineas was open nice and early, in fact it was pretty busy due to racing at nearby Ascot which had clearly drawn the crowds out for the day.
|Bell Street End|
A short hop to Maidenhead saw me entering the turnstiles at the Bell Street End (it doesn’t get shortened to the Bell End so it seems), into what is recognised as the oldest football ground n continuous use in the Country. It’s a charming ground as well, the Bell (Street) End has a covered terrace on it with the rear wall painted black and white with the clubs name picked out. Opposite is another small covered terrace, and then to the right on the railway line side is a smart new seated stand. To the left is a small area of terracing, the dressing rooms and clubhouse, and also the undercover all weather pitch.
|When Alan Met James|
It was in this general direction I wandered to find the Stripes Bar and acquaint myself with the local delicacies. Sat in the bar was James Richardson from BT Sport, along with Adam Virgo and Chris Hargreaves who were doing the expert summarising. It was in here that we had to stay silent for a brief while so Richardson and his team could film an interview with Maidenhead boss Alan Devonshire.
Maidenhead United is a great success story. We saw them at the start of last season when they won at Whitehawk, and to be honest they never really looked back, winning the National South, largely helped by the goalscoring form of the classy Dave Tarpey.
They have started the season with a draw at Maidstone United and a defeat at home to Wrexham, but with the TV cameras in town and a Hartlepool United side that have found going tough in their inaugural season after being relegated for the first time to Non-League football, Maidenhead really fancied this one.
|The Main Stand|
A crowd of just under 1,500 pitched up and saw a determined home side take the lead in the 40th minute when Tarpey himself latched onto a through ball and found the back of the net.
Hartlepool, with around 250 followers, hoped for better in the second period, but a mistake at the back let in Tarpey who finished with a thunderous shot off the crossbar. With Hartlepool heads dropping, it was time for the Maidenhead support to gleefully taunt the visiting fans across the segregation divide, it was all good humoured and their version of ‘My Sister Belinda…’ brought a smile to my face.
|A Mixture Of Things|
In the 86th minute Padraig Amond put a penalty away to reduce the deficit, and as the game moved into injury time I made my exit and jogged the couple of hundred yards for the train to Slough, which I just made.
As the train passed the ground I could see the players leaving the pitch, it had been a historic day for the men from York Road, and as for Tarpey, the question is I guess, can they hold on to such a special talent?
“All Over My Soggy Sombrero….” – I was still chuckling as the train pulled into my next destination, and not many people can say that when they arrive in Slough!
|Opposite The Bell End|