Fan’s View 23/24 – No.17: Maidenhead at home

Article by Paul Beasley Monday, November 6th, 2023  




Most years at this stage of the competition I pine for the old days when the FA Cup meant something much greater than it does now for each and every team that enters.

For Manchester City and the like it’s all about winning, or retaining, the Premier League title and the Champions League title. To be fair to Pep he does usually field a strong side wherever he goes but that’s a luxury he can afford more than any other manager. For other Premier League teams a slight level below the focus is all on Champions League qualification. Then a bit lower down, Europa League qualification for a few. At the bottom everything is about not getting relegated.

The FA Cup has become a distraction on the calendar for most of those at the top table. Perhaps a mid-table sort of side who know they’re never going to break into the top six or seven whilst at the same time having no worries about the drop will go for it with more intent but there are not many in that category.

The same kind of logic can be applied as one looks down the pyramid. The objective of most Championship clubs will be either to reach the Promised Land or avoid dropping further away and ending up in L1 – and let’s be truthful we’d take a top two finish, or even top six, over an FA Cup run wouldn’t we?

Can we have both? I hope so. Cup runs for some can spur a team on and maintain forward momentum. Also on the positive side, it gives the opportunity to rest some regulars and give squad players a run out. The Bristol Street Motors Trophy it is not but the option is there.

For all that no EFL club would want to be losing, let alone to a non-league outfit.

Friday night’s Barnsley 3 Horsham (of the seventh tier) 3 was a warning.

How serious are OUFC owners, management and fans taking it this early on?

The club didn’t do much of a marketing job for this match. I think they could have pushed it a lot more than they did particularly given the generous admission prices: early bird offers for season ticket holders of £7 for concessions and £12 for adults with it still being cheap all round. Our season ticket part of the SSU was not going to be open when tickets initially went on sale which tells me that there wasn’t much faith in loyal fans, let alone the public in general, buying heavily into this game.

Tickets in the remainder of the SSU were eventually released, but as we purchased early doors we ended up sat right next to the press corps. I could have leaned across the aisle and touched Jerome, Nick and company. Sat so close to the broadcasters meant that usual football behaviour had to be held back. Not that this game ever brought it on much but one bit of industrial language did slip out. This is a passionate sport not a Sunday school outing so it makes me laugh when time and again we hear “we’d like to apologise if you heard anything that might offend”. With all the evil and madness in the world at present I can’t understand why some get so irate about the occasional bit of effing and jeffing.

In the end just 3,431 home fans turned up along with 663 from Maidenhead. It’s much the same elsewhere. Peterborough had a marginally lower gate at London Road for their match against Salford. Swindon though love this competition. 6,372 attended the County Ground for their encounter with Aldershot, who themselves took a sizeable contingent to Wiltshire.

Travelling to our game and sitting through much of it I did indeed wonder if those who had reasoned “I can’t be bothered with this” had made the right call.

It took us a couple of minutes shy of an hour to get from Bicester to the Kassam. With the A34 closed the M40 Wheatley route was the most appealing. All fine until a mile from junction 8a where a queue to exit began. The cause: road works on the A418 meaning traffic was blocking the small roundabout.

Then the game itself didn’t set the pulse racing. Perhaps that was partly due to looking out on empty stands watching a match that we were expected to win. Whenever our boys are performing in front of me I have almost no interest in what is happening elsewhere. Some team down the other end of the A420 were conceding the odd goal here and there, apparently. Not interested, we had to get the job done here. That was what mattered.

The visitors, who are in the bottom four of the National League, two points better off than Oxford City, began the game as expected on a “big day out”.

We certainly didn’t grab the match by the scruff of the neck.

Most of our possession play was slow, slow, patient, slow stuff. We knocked the ball about neatly and found some great angles between the Maidenhead lines but not anywhere near their goal. Then on a quarter of an hour we sprang into life with our first penetrative attacking move at speed and went a goal up. All tactical and part of the game plan no doubt. We’re not a side that goes full pelt at the opposition from the first whistle.

Greg Leigh on the touch line facing backwards played the ball forwards to Tyler Goodrham whose one touch moved it into Cameron Brannagan’s path. Our number 8 had acres of space ahead of him. He drove into it then fed Stan Mills who also was un-pestered by any striped shirts. Another first time ball from the corner of the penalty area was met by the left foot of Billy Bodin who had timed his intelligent run perfectly. It was a quality goal.

Anyone who thought that from that point on we were going to go on and score a few more in similar fashion would have been wrong.

We went back to lacking sharpness and were quite sloppy. There were times when we just didn’t seem quick enough to the ball. Even Brannagan was guilty of that once. Josh McEachran can pass a ball and did so here but gave it away more than once. And I recall Jordan Thorniley nearly gifting Maidenhead something. Thankfully their finishing was poor.

After the break I expected us to be a bit more on it, but it was the lower league Magpies who were the more fired up ones.

They continued to have no cutting edge and weren’t putting any pressure of note on Simon Eastwood who was making a now rare appearance as our keeper.

At just 1-0 up however I did have some concern that if Maidenhead somehow equalised their tails would have gone up to such an extent that we would have been hard pushed to survive such was the nature of our display.

With seven minutes of the 90 to go that worry disappeared with Bodin’s second. We’d not looked that much like getting another but for the second time produced a really good footballing goal. Goodrham beat his man then it was all one and two touch with BB again finding space and finishing, this time after keeper Craig Ross had stopped his first effort. He was yards on side yet the dejected defenders looked in the linesman’s direction and waved their arms about.

The job was now done.

None of our players had particularly bad games. Most didn’t hit great heights but they didn’t need to in order to get the win. I didn’t think those who rarely start played in such a way as to demand inclusion in the league starting XI. Easty made one good save in the first half and in the second dealt very well with a barking mad back-pass from Marcus McGuane but earlier he’d got into a tangle with the ball at his feet and there was a spill that shouldn’t have happened at the fence end. However it was of course a clean sheet. Clean sheets breed confidence.

There are three players who I think deserve a special mention.

Game after game I have Elliott Moore down as if not man of the match then very much a contender. He’s got those “big and strong” centre half credentials. He rarely gets beaten. He leads by example. In his position he’s never required to make killer passes but his simple passes around the back line and deep midfield area never appear to go astray.

The Maidenhead defence won’t have been up to the standard of that which we face week in week out but Bodin’s movement and finishing ultimately made the score line what it was. If he could regularly replicate that in the EFL and Mark Harris could do likewise we’d take some stopping.

For a third tier club we’ve got some class in our squad but presently if I were asked who was the classiest of the lot I’d go for Ruben Rodrigues. He’s something very special, a joy to watch. When he starts adding regular goals to his game at this level he’ll be much sought after. With his arrival with about half an hour to go I thought we improved considerably.

With nothing to be angry about performance wise and being safely in the draw for round two we could relax and take a passing interest in what was happening elsewhere.

Sunday brings so much live football on TV, if you wanted it would be easy to put your feet up and remain in front of the screen almost all day. Top of the National League table Chesterfield were the better team against top of EFL div 1 Pompey and rightful winners.

That was followed by Charlton Athletic 1 Cray Valley Paper Mills 1. I knew nothing about CVPM until this. I’d assumed they were from the north. Turns out they’re based less than 4 miles from Charlton and have been around the area since 1919. They play in the South East Division of the Isthmian League which is five tiers below Charlton’s operating level. Their home ground’s capacity is about 1,000 and they average about a tenth of that for league fixtures. On Saturday the away attendance in the gate of 6,721 was 1,998. All this takes some explaining.

Amazingly this wasn’t the most talked about result of the weekend.

From the BBC website: “Jack Barham scored in the first minute for the Shots and went on to net a hat-trick as they became the first-ever non-league side to score seven goals against a Football League team in the competition.”

From the Radio Wiltshire commentary:

As the third goes in: “This is an absolute rout.”

“And Aldershot have a fourth before half-time. Swindon are being humiliated.”

At the end: “In the history of Swindon’s humblings by non-league sides this is the most damning, embarrassing and shaming of the lot”.

And this vlog is worth a watch

I’d have taken an interest in all this whatever football club it had befallen to. Just happens to be that team in red and fair play to the lad who posted this. Says so much about supporting a football team. There’s something very wrong there at the moment with rumours of non-payment of wages doing the rounds.

Never seen anything like this.

What a very special knock out competition the FA Cup still is. It’s totally unpredictable. Long may it continue. What’s not to like?

Anything for us to worry about?

Liam Manning to Bristol City paper talk.

Fin Stevens not being allowed to play by Brentford because they don’t want him cup tied.

I’ll leave that for another day.

With football you just don’t know what’s round the corner. Makes it interesting.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 6th, 2023 at 12:35 pm and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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