Non League Day, officially better than Christmas
Maidenhead United 0-2 Bromley (04:10:10)
September 4th 2010. A surprisingly enjoyable and successful England fixture the night before provided football fans around the country with an empty Saturday in the football calendar, free from the distractions of the Premier League and the Championship. James Doe, football supporter extraordinaire, called on fans across the land to attend the inaugural Non League Day, and support the clubs in their local vicinity who most need our hard-earned cash. Gripped by the cause, I decided to take part.
I visited Hayes Lane, the home of the Bromley FC, many times during my youth, but never did my support of the Lillywhites extend to an away fixture. Imagine my excitement when, on Non League Day of all days, I found my hometown club would be playing away at Maidenhead United, a fifteen minute train journey from my adopted home of Reading. A match made in heaven, the cosmos colliding to create a fixture sent from above. Like my beloved Chelsea drawing Leeds in the Cup, or England facing Germany in the...well, you get my drift. So me and the missus headed on down to York Road to partake in our own little part of non-league history.
Carefree, wherever you may be, we are the famous C....sorry BFC.
Mrs Dave in Bromley ultra action.
Before setting off, I had a quick peruse of EFW's previous visit to Maidenhead, and my experience mirrored that of the lads, more or less to the letter (excluding, perhaps, their visit to The Honeypot). Upon finding little to do in the main shopping area of the town, we decided to take in a couple of beers in The Bell, a comfortable sports bar on the corner of York Road itself, filled with pool tables and Sky Sports, with a well-priced food menu. In a nice touch, and as a sign of the local reach of the club, a collection jar behind the bar implored us to donate to a new scoreboard in the ground. Well, less a 'new' scoreboard, more 'a' scoreboard.
As part of my eagerness to take in the atmosphere of the day (coupled with a completely irrational fear that the game might sell out!), we decided to make our way into the ground an hour before kick-off...
One hour early. And relax.
Of course, we were early. Very early. One of the first to arrive in fact. In a show of solidarity with the day, the club were offering a half-price adult ticket to anyone producing a ticket from the Football League this season. Despite an AFC Bournemouth ticket from the previous week residing in my wallet, I decided against taking advantage, feeling that every penny would count on a day such as this. Glowing with the feeling of my own generosity, we headed to the club bar, and found a comfortable and enjoyable environment. Whilst the pricing was not exactly competitive, the personal and smiley service which extended throughout the day stood in stark contrast to the machine-pulled pints of Stamford Bridge, and kept us coming back right up until full-time. Various club members began to arrive, the bar soon filled up, and we moved out for a well-earned (and extremely well-cooked!) burger and chips from the food bar. Fried goodness consumed, we were ready for action.
Confidence supplied by Fosters, I decided to show my support for the away side by pulling my Bromley scarf from the handbag of Mrs Dave, such is the hardcore football hooligan that I am. We experienced a key-part of any non-league game, in the excitement that the coin toss brings in its deciding of which end you will meander to before the first whistle. Setting up camp in the less attractive of the two stands, we experienced a first fifteen minutes of Bromley domination, with little to show for it. Several chances hurtled in our direction, slapping the corrugated iron behind us with venomous force, but threatening to back of the net less so. Tony Finn and the amusingly-monikered Harrison Dunk dominated the flanks for the Lillywhites as the half petered out, the game remaining goalless going into the break.
After another visit to the clubhouse, we exchanged ends with the fans of the Magpies, forcing them to drag their enormous Maidenhead United Union Jack, as seen in Italia 90, a hundred yards to the other end of the ground. Not long into the second period, the kind of form that has propelled Bromley to the top of the Blue Square South with a perfect record began to shine through, and on 58 minutes, the breakthrough came. Diminutive midfielder Wes Daly exchanged passes with Finn, before superbly crossing for striker Warren McBean to nod in the opener at the back-post. A goal worthy of any level of football to put Bromley 1-0 up.
An edgy period followed, with Maidenhead winning several corners in trying to make the home advantage conjure an equaliser. However, on seventy-seven minutes, the home team were hit with a sucker-punch. A corner from Tony Finn, a key provider throughout the game, caused a scramble in the box, with club captain John Scarborough leading by example in firing home a left-foot shot to put Bromley 2-0 up with little time left on the clock. The usual substitutions and over-exaggerated injuries followed, and the remaining thirteen minutes were swallowed with Bromley in complete control, securing a seven-out-of-seven record to remain atop the division. The players trotted to our end to extend their thanks, we re-paid them in kind, and our day at York Road came to a successful end.
Man with comedy hair looks on.
Good points well made for the Bromley Boys.
A crowd of 410 attended the game, double a typical attendance and a hundred higher than the previous highest of the season. Non League Day had succeeded in this part of the country, and on returning home, I found we weren't alone in this success. The day engaged me with a different side of football, filling me with the feeling that my voice on the terrace mattered and that the game could indeed be fun. York Road may become a regular fixture on my football calendar, Non League Day or not, and Mr Doe and everyone involved should be extremely proud of their outstanding achievement and contribution to local football in the last few weeks. Without them, I may have missed out on an incredible part of the game.
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