York Road, Maidenhead
Match Rating: 4
For my second match of the day, at the conclusion of the Holyport v Flackwell Heath game, I walked back into Maidenhead to visit a ground with a rather surprising claim to fame, being the oldest continuously used senior football ground in the world by the same club, having opened in 1871.
York Road certainly enjoys a very convenient location, less than a five minute walk from both the town centre and the town's railway station and indeed is located adjacent to and beneath the London - Reading train line. The ground is somewhat of a hotchpotch of facilities, exuding plenty of character and individuality. Straddling the halfway line on the touchline closest to the railway line is an old fashioned all-seater stand, the only seating available in the ground, although views are not ideal, being set rather low and with plenty of obstructing pillars. About eight terrace steps stretch out to each corner and across both ends of the ground. Two stands cover the terracing behind one goal, whilst a more modern stand covers the middle third of the end behind the other goal. Along the remaining touchline, from one corner, is a tear bar building, a bank of uncovered terracing, a large building housing the changing rooms and clubhouse, and a very small covered area which actually provided a good view of the action, perched above the pitch. There is also a shell of a very large building, an abandoned ambitious attempt to construct a new clubhouse a couple of decades ago, but is now used for contract parking. The 40 page programme was what I would expect at this level of football these days, overpriced at £2.00, printed in black and white, with enough information to inform the reader of the background to the match, but more than half of the pages are purely advertising.
Coming into this game, there appeared to be much more at stake for the hosts, with a real struggle to stay in the division in prospect. They found themselves fourth from bottom, and only above the relegation places on goal difference, having picked up just two points from their last six games. Farnborough were in fourteenth place, apparently stuck firmly in mid table. However, if they lose an appeal against a five point deduction for financial irregularities, they would be just three points clear of the relegation zone. They too have been in poor recent form, picking up just one point from their last six games. Maidenhead certainly had the upper hand in previous encounters between the two clubs this season. Maidenhead won 3-0 at Cherrywood Road back in August, and were victorious again in the FA Cup Second Qualifying Round in a replay.
With the weather remaining wet and windy, this proved to be very much a game of two halves. Farnborough should have opened the scoring in a move straight from the kick off, when Michael Charles fired wide 8 yards out when he really should have at least hit the target, and they had the better of the opening exchanges. However, it was Maidenhead who opened the scoring on 15 minutes, when Paul Semakula fired home at the far post. Three minutes later and Maidenhead doubled their advantage when Martel Powell fired home the rebound from a tight angle after the keeper had made a good save. Maidenhead seemed to be on their way to a vital three points already, and that feeling did not diminish throughout the rest of the first half, as they had all the chances and Farnborough already looked a beaten side.
In the early stages of the second half, Maidenhead continued to play on the front foot, although suddenly on 57 minutes, Farnborough were back in the game when Nic Ciardini fired in a low cross shot into the net. This proved to be the turning point, as suddenly it was Farnborough in the ascendancy, and it felt only a matter of time before they would get back on level terms. Maidenhead should have restored their lead though when a fast break ended with the ball being struck tamely at the keeper. On 67 minutes, Farnborough were back on level terms, when Phil Page fired in after an initial shot was blocked and fell at his feet. Disaster for the home side struck on 75 minutes, when a low shot across the goal was turned into his own net by Bobby Behzadi. Things got even worse for Maidenhead in the game they really needed to win seven minutes from time, when Page fired home a glorious free kick into the top left corner from 22 yards. As the game entered added on time, Maidenhead reduced the arrears to set up a grandstand finish, when Behzadi made up for his earlier own goal by slotting home a penalty low inside the right hand post just out of the reach of the keeper. In the little time that was left, they had a couple of chances to snatch a sensational equaliser, including having a goal bound shot blocked. The result meant that Maidenhead drop into the relegation zone for the first time this season and one fears that their chances of survival are slim with three games to come, including a visit from leaders Woking and a trip to play-off chasing Dover. As things stand, the result was probably neither here nor there for Farnborough apart from claiming local bragging rights, however if they are to lose their appeal against the points deduction, this could prove to be a very important three points.
Video highlights at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eI6rhTkMqls