It was one of those bright Autumn mornings, watery sunshine tinged with a menacing breeze, the type that would gnaw away at your bones given half the chance. It wasn’t a day for high fashion, just a question of selecting a woolly hat and grabbing your big coat. It was shortly after 8.00am, the usual suspects had arrived, equally as fashionable, and we were off on a 222-mile adventure.
Traffic was reasonable as we left West Yorkshire and headed to our favourite Northamptonshire breakfast stop. Panic ensued when, on our arrival, we found the doors locked up. Each one of us had to try the doors ourselves, just because of our inherent mistrust of each other. Once we all agreed the restaurant was really closed, we reluctantly headed to our last resort – Milton Keynes.
After only 23 roundabouts in two miles, we reached an alternative location with an identical menu. I don’t know why we worried so much, but we’d been here once before and had a disastrous experience. This time though they were clearly expecting us, the eggs had been keeping warm since last Tuesday, whilst the sausages were a more recently addition to the grill on Thursday. Still the hash browns were fresh out of the freezer, they could have just done with an extra 20 minutes in the fryer. Next time, its’ definitely a packed lunch!
Traffic was steadily building on our journey south. We’d already encountered a short delay through a lane closure, but it soon became clear that with significant numbers of people heading to the capital, we were not going to have much spare time. Traffic was stop-start from well before Luton, but luckily for us the Warley Shayman piped up with those infamous few words. “Come off here, I know a shortcut though Buckinghamshire”. To be fair, after a detour around Woburn Safari Park, a wrong turn into the grounds of Aylesbury Prison, and a trip though villages guarded by posh people with community speed traps, we reached High Wycombe in only a matter of a few additional hours. Legend has it that Wycombe is an ideal place to catch a train to watch England at Wembley. At least, the traffic was moving there.
It’s always a relaxed welcome at Maidenhead United’s York Road. It’s a ground full of character and history. Every side of the ground is different, there’s some old concrete terracing alongside parts of the pitch, and a reasonably modern stand on halfway with covered standing at either end of the pitch. There’s a food kiosk on three of the four corners, but the pitch is the most interesting, sloping from one end to the other whilst also having a slant towards the main stand for good measure too.
After a lone bugler had played the Last Post to a silent and respectful crowd, the Shaymen started the game kicking uphill. It was a competitive half, but Maidenhead pinched the lead with a close-range touch at the bottom end as dusk began to fall. It’s one of those places where you would always be happy with parity at half-time playing up hill, but it wasn’t to be.
As the second half progressed, it became clear that Maidenhead were only going to defend their lead, nothing much happened beyond halfway for the hosts. A blatant penalty claim was ignored by the referee right in front of a healthy 130 or so travelling Shaymen. The noise went up a factor or two with a red card for the home side shortly afterwards. It was all Town all the time, with Maidenhead hanging on through good fortune, decent goal keeping and some serious commitment from the home defence. In injury time, Johnson appeared to bolster the attack with everyone up for set pieces, but somehow the home side hung on. The final whistle was greeted with well-deserved applause for the Shaymen, they’d given it a real go, it was well worth a point for their efforts.
Driving back and we reflected on a commanding second half, a penalty shout that would be given nine times out of ten, and the willingness to risk losing 2-0 attempting get an equaliser. It was just one of those days but we felt like we’d seen a proper battle.
Next up and we’re off back down South for a visit to Aldershot, it’s always a fun place to visit.
Miles on the road 2716, Goals on the road 11.
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