Cardboard, scissors, string, sticky tape, tin foil, and a spot of leftover Christmas tinsel, it’s always exciting traveling with the whirlwind that is Shayman Jim. He’d already activated a full-scale discussion on the local neighbourhood watch forum by knocking on the wrong door before 7.30am, and then no sooner had we set off than he’d unveiled plans to build a life-size replica of the FA Trophy complete with ribbons and club badge. To say that the Ripponden Shaymen was underwhelmed is an understatement as he was hoping for some peace and quiet on our 212 mile journey south while he listened to a spot of Val Doonican on his headphones!
Breakfast at our usual Northamptonshire restaurant was top notch, and we now seemed to be forgiven for the early season mishap with Trainspotter John and the alleged unpaid bill. Nobody has mentioned it since our recent return, which is reassuring, not even the newly appointed weekend security staff on the front door!
Just after lunch time we had arrived in Maidenhead and were warmly welcomed into the ground by the very friendly staff. Shortly after displaying his array of Shaymen on Tour flags around the pitch, whirlwind Jim was soon triumphantly showing off his pint of ale, purchased for him by one of the directors of Maidenhead United in the club bar. We weren’t sure whether they had bought it for him due to his charm and charisma, or whether they wanted to contain him in the Fans’ Zone, where you can’t leave if you have a pint in your hand. Either way up, as the player’s and management arrived at the ground, one by one they were welcomed by Jim in his usual enthusiastic way.
The first half started with the Shaymen playing up the slope towards the famous black and white Maidenhead United stand. The pitch was dry and in reasonable condition, and there seemed to be plenty of bounce on the ball as both sides struggled to get any rhythm into their game. The Shaymen had a few shots as the half progressed, but each whistled high or wide of the goals. At the other end, Johnson wasn’t required to do anything out of the normal routine.
With a change of ends at half-time and an opportunity to visit one of the three food outlets at the ground, Tesco Pete’s dodgy burger looked slightly less exciting than the crinkle cut chips that were on offer. The 60 or so travelling Shaymen gathered at the canal end of the ground and watched the game against an ever-changing backdrop. There are numerous tower cranes busy transforming the local skyline bringing high rise living to a town just 20 minutes or so from the centre of London. The electrified main rail line from London sits high up, just behind the main stand at the ground.
As dusk fell and the floodlights took over, Town continued to look the better side and had the majority of the possession. For every wayward attempt Maidenhead had, the Shaymen were able to threaten more at our end of the ground. The only decent save of the second half was made by the home keeper, good chances were hard to find but our defence looked stronger.
The referee blew his final whistle with the game still goalless; this meant the game would be resolved by penalties. We headed back up the far end and stood amongst a vocal and enthusiastic home support. If anyone tells you that the result didn’t matter, just listen to their crowd during the spot kicks.
There are some things you can rely on in life, death, taxes and the Shaymen winning on penalties. It wasn’t a question of if Johnson would make a save, just a question of when. Each of our first four penalties were scored, without any fuss, Johnson then saved the home side’s fifth attempt to leave Slew with the chance to put us into the quarter finals. Regardless of the noise and distraction of the home fans behind the goal, Slew calmly scored leaving the crowd silent.
Driving back and Tesco Pete read out the results, it was pretty much north against south with the other games in the Trophy, each northern team drawn way. There are just eight teams left now and only three possible trips south in the next round. Could it be Farsley, York or Alty at home, or more likely Aldershot, Barnet or Maidstone away? We’ll take them all on. C’mon Shaymen!
Miles on the road 6550, Goals on the road 16.
Read more posts by Rob Brown