TT MATCH VERDICT
Matty Hayward – @mattyhayward96
A vibrant and competitive fixture at York Road left fans purring at the spectacle. The result was unexpected and the game high-scoring, sealed with an 87th minute winner from Second Half Trains, leaving First Half Trains in the dust. Their buffer was extended with a late flurry but the game was won before injury time: FHT 16 SHT 19 the final score.
Both teams experimented with an intriguing tactical mixture of passenger trains (TFL – some slow-moving stoppers, some rapid and direct, some underground, some over, even two instances of crossovers) and freight trains (including an insanely long Train Of The Match in the second half, see below). Most trainspotters do it for free, but I felt like wasting a tenner on this pastime made it a more prestigious experience, like being in a box at Wembley rather than mucking in with the plebs. The people I feel sorry for are those on the trains who had paid through the nose to get to Paddington and were forced to watch a few seconds of the on-pitch shambles.
This was, truly, a battering. Maidenhead could’ve had double their final tally. They showed more quality, more commitment, more interest, more confidence. They defended better than us, they attacked better, their midfield was markedly better, they passed better, dribbled better, tackled better. They were better, and they’re not especially good.
The Magpies took the lead within the first ten minutes. Lewis (I think) gave the ball away cheaply. James Comley dinked the ball in behind United’s defence and Josh Coley finished with aplomb. It’s possible to argue that Randell and/or Wynter should have been better positioned, but the charge sheet for last night is so extensive that we can probably forget that. It was a fine goal, in fairness.
After a bollocking from Downesy (“Midfielders? Any fucking danger? Asa!! Get ‘em fucking going!!”) and an apology from the commentator for “fruity language” (which was unnecessary; it was actually a highlight), United got going a bit. Waters met Little’s cross, but his finish was wild.
The second goal was too easy. Randell was skinned by left back Twumasi, whose clipped ball was met at the back post and nodded into Blissett’s path. He had all the time in the world, but the finish was emphatic.
Half-time changes briefly improved matters, but in an attempt to lay siege to the opposition goal, the Yellow defence was left frighteningly scarce, with the co-commentator twice remarking “they are so open!” This didn’t prove fatal, though. The third and fourth goals both came from positions where all our defenders were back in shape, which is probably worse than getting stung on the counter.
Blissett’s second came after the left back made a muggery of both Connor Lemonheigh-Evans and Ben Wynter. He danced along the goal line as if the Gulls weren’t there, before slipping the ball to the ex-Torquay forward who finished well again. I can see why the injured Maidenhead player behind the mic described Twumasi’s run as “disgusting”. I’d be proud if my mate had done that, too, but the defending was as terrible as the dribble was good.
Minutes later, the same thing happened on the other side of the box. This time Sherring was embarrassed by Orsi who danced along the goal line from the right and scored from a tight angle. It could have been five within moments as MacDonald made an excellent save from a Bliss header.
Perhaps Maidenhead ran out of steam, perhaps they started having fun, perhaps they were just content with a thrashing of a supposedly good team, but their goalscoring stopped. Indeed, as the game drew to a close, the Gulls got themselves on the scoresheet. A clever header from the fairly lively Josh Umerah found Boden with a shooting opportunity. He passed up that opportunity, but squeezed every ounce out of a small nudge in the back and “earned” a penalty. He belted it down the middle with all the anger of a man who regrets giving up 80% of his Chesterfield wage for this shower.
Shaun MacDonald 6 – Absurd to say in a 4-1 defeat, but he didn’t put a foot wrong. None of the goals were his fault and he made a couple of good saves. If anyone deserves better than the rating I’ve given them, it’s Shaun.
Adam Randell 3 – He knows how bad he was. At fault for the second goal and maybe the first. Offered nothing. Useless today.
Ben Wynter 3 – He knows how bad he was. At fault for the third and maybe the first. Offered nothing. Useless today.
Joe Lewis 3 – He knows. Gave the ball away so much and was lucky to only be punished once. Useless today.
Sam Sherring 3 – He knows. At fault for the fourth. Useless today.
Jake Andrews 4 – He knows. Gets an extra point for not being directly at fault for a goal. The bar is so low. Poor.
Asa Hall 4 – He knows. Poor.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans 4 – Was our only mildly good player going forward throughout the game and had one absolutely ridiculous run, but was at fault for the third goal.
Armani Little 4 – He knows. Poor.
Billy Waters 3 – I hope he knows. Useless today.
Scott Boden 4 – Got no service but also offered nothing. Extra point for scoring the penalty, I suppose. Still poor.
Ryan Law N/A – I’m giving him a week’s grace. Hard to be thrown in to that situation, and he did fine.
Josh Umerah 5 – Did very well in the build-up to the penalty and did OK outside of that.
Olaf Koszela 5 – Did alright, looked sharp. I’d start him on Saturday, but he’s not the answer to this capitulation that some fans insist he is.
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Man Of The Match
Train Of The Match
A 76th minute freight train. Mostly red, at least one of the containers had “HYUNDAI” printed on its side. Was absolutely enormous. Felt like it took days to get from one end of the pitch to the other, and it was moving at some speed. Massive, it is.
We started in the same shape as we did at the weekend, but with Andrews replacing the injured Whitfield at left wing-back. It didn’t really work, with Randell out of position at right wing-back, Wynter out of position at centre back, and Lemonheigh-Evans misused in the middle of midfield.
Two half-time subs turned it into a 4-4-2. Law took up position at left back, while Andrews and Randell moved into midfield and Umerah replaced Waters up top. After the fourth goal, Asa was – presumably – rested and replaced by Koszela who went out to the right wing. This didn’t work either, and we were so over-committed throughout the second-half in an understandable but reckless and ineffective bid to get back in the game.
Err? To be honest, we looked shot as soon as we conceded. Then again when the third went in.
Maidenhead played quite well tonight, but they’re pretty ordinary. The lad Josh Coley is decent, Comley was good, Blissett is a very capable striker at this level who was up front by himself and completely dominated three centre backs in the first half, and the Devonshire Brothers are an experienced cockney family duo who are good at what they do.
We’ve developed a bad habit of making bad teams look quality, and we did that again tonight. They’re not a 4-goals-past-a-top-team good side, that’s for sure.
Didn’t affect the game, though the penalty looked soft.
There was a time, in our darker days, when it was more fun to write about defeats than wins because there was more to say, and because I fundamentally didn’t like the manager or trust (m)any of the players. Sticking the boot in was easier than begrudgingly praising a turgid victory over some shit club and giving someone called “Tommy O’Sullivan” (presumably a made-up name and person) six out of ten. It’s different, now, because I like this manager and these players, and because even a complete pumping at the hands of some shit club leaves us third in the table after just over half of the season, and because I believe this lot have it in them to be quite good.
It’s important not to look for excuses, though. We’ve been embarrassed by an average team. That was a relegation result, and those players aren’t relegation players, so something’s gone badly wrong with the setup or mentality or quality or all three and that’s not good enough.
I’ve tried not to stick the boot in here: I’m more disappointed than angry at this stage. It was a dreadful performance; the players know it was a dreadful performance; and I’m not sure that going into detail about all the ways we were dreadful is entirely helpful. This is no crisis, nor is it time for rash remarks or hurried judgements.
I hope I’m right to keep looking at the league table and seeing reasons to be positive. I hope I’m right to be glad we’re in the top three, rather than furious that we’re not in the top one. I hope that this can be a watershed moment. I hope that the lads are still in the dressing room being put in their place, and that they’ll emerge with renewed hunger, vowing never to put in a performance that bad again. I hope that this season isn’t another case of the hope killing us.
COYY – Matty
Next Up: Kings Lynn (h) – 20th March