Maidenhead United v Boreham Wood
Tuesday 7th March 2023, 7.45pm
York Road, Vanarama National League
The Wood will be looking to make it four wins in a row when they make trip to Maidenhead United on Tuesday night.
IN FOCUS: MAIDENHEAD UNITED
Maidenhead United have spent their entire history in non-league, having been founding members of the Southern League in 1894, but have competed at the top level of non-league football since 2015. After spending most of the 2000’s in the Conference South, with 12 of their first 17 seasons since the turn of the century being in the sixth tier, the return of experienced manager Alan Devonshire proved to be a real spark for the Magpies, with the former Hampton & Richmond Borough manager guiding the club to promotion in his second season after his return to York Road, winning the renamed National League South title and subsequently seeing the club participate in the National League for the first time. They have since remained in the fifth tier with Devonshire establishing the club as a stable fixture in the National League table, with 12th, 19th, 21st, 13th and 17th place finishes over the last six seasons.
Another mid-table finish looks to be on the cards for the Magpies, with the club currently sitting 14th and just three points off the top half. This is something which is made more impressive with the knowledge that Devonshire has had to contend with a number of key departures last summer. The Magpies saw a large turnaround at the back, with defenders Manny Parry, Ryheem Sheckleford and George Wells all exiting York Road with the Magpies subsequently bringing in Cole Kpekawa and Zico Asare, while summer signing Alexis Andre has established himself as the club’s first choice goalkeeper in recent months. Additionally, top scorer Josh Kelly made the move to Solihull Moors after notching 15 goals in the league last term, while fellow striker Nathan Blissett joined Kelly in the departure lounge, meaning they had to strengthen up front with Koby Arthur and Ashley Nathaniel-George joining from Dover Athletic and Torquay United respectively, along with Harry Panayiotou who arrived at York Road on loan from Aldershot Town in February. The Magpies remain one of the lowest scoring teams in the division though, despite the form of current top scorer Emile Acquah who has contributed to 25% of his side’s goals this season, and they will be hoping they can be propelled into the top half come the end of the campaign.
LAST TIME OUT
Maidenhead United 2-2 Wrexham
Saturday 4th March 2023
Vanarama National League
Shawn McCoulsky’s last minute goal proved enough to steal a point from the grasp of title contenders Wrexham, ensuring the Magpies got a share of the spoils at York Road.
Alan Devonshire will have been delighted with how his side started the game controlling a lot of the ball, and even produced the first openings of the game with Emile Acquah having an effort well blocked before being denied by Mark Howard in the Red Dragons net. Despite the early pressure, it was Wrexham who opened the scoring with a goal against the run of play when Paul Mullin got on the end of a Jacob Mendy Mendy delivery to head into the bottom corner. This seemed to spark the visitors into life and they grew into it as the half progressed, with Mullin having multiple opportunities to extend the Welsh outfit’s lead with his first strike being well saved by Alexis Andre Jr before fizzing a shot just wide of the post, before the referee signalled for half time.
The second half started slowly with neither side creating any clear cut chances, but that all changed shortly before the hour-mark when Reece Smith scored a goal of the season contender, curling the ball into the top right corner from distance leaving Howard with no chance and putting Maidenhead level. Despite this, Phil Parkinson’s men restored their advantage just moments later when Mullin sent a looping header beyond Andre Jr, putting them ahead once again. In need of inspiration, Devonshire introduced Harry Panayiotou and McCoulsky as they looked to find an equaliser, and this proved to be an masterstroke of a call as it was the latter who levelled the score right at the death. An almost instant impact from McCoulsky saw him Howard to a long ball in stoppage time before slotting into an empty net to salvage a point in front of a sold-out York Road, making it four games unbeaten for the Magpies against all the odds.
Wrexham (H) D2-2
Dagenham & Redbridge (H) W2-1
FC Halifax Town (A) W0-1
Yeovil Town (H) W2-0
Eastleigh (A) L1-0
FC Halifax Town (H) L0-0 (4-5 on pens)
Maidenhead come into Tuesday night’s fixture in positive form, and they will be looking to continue their recent string of unbeaten results in their pursuit of a top half finish. After being knocked out of the FA Trophy on penalties against FC Halifax Town, the Magpies were unable to bounce back as a single Charlie Carter goal was enough to condemn Alan Devonshire’s men to defeat against promotion hopefuls Eastleigh, but they have since remained unbeaten with three straight victories, overcoming Yeovil Town, FC Halifax Town and Dagenham & Redbridge. An arguably even more impressive result came last time out though, with a last minute Shawn McCoulsky strike sealing a point against title contenders Wrexham, and they will buoyed by the draw as they can jump into the top half on goal difference with victory on Tuesday.
IN THE DUGOUT: ALAN DEVONSHIRE
As a player, Alan Devonshire was a much loved midfielder at West Ham United where he made over 400 appearances including the famous 1980 FA Cup Final win. Initially rejected as a youngster by Crystal Palace, the midfielder was then plucked by the Hammers from non-league Southall and went on to win eight England caps, but injury hampered his career from the mid-80’s and he finished his playing days at Watford in 1992, before opting to move into management. After success in junior football and women’s football with Osterley and Brentford Women respectively, Devonshire was appointed as joint-manager of Maidenhead United in the summer of 1996 alongside Martyn Busby before taking sole charge in March 1997, and he would return to York Road in May 2015 for his second spell in charge of the Magpies.
This had followed an eight-year stint at Hampton & Richmond Borough in which he guided the Beavers from the Isthmian League Division One South to the Conference South play-off-final, with a third place finish in their maiden campaign in the sixth tier, before a four-year spell at Braintree Town. After turning down a new contract at the Dunmow Group Stadium in 2015, he subsequently led Maidenhead to great success following his return to Berkshire, winning the National League South title and the Berks and Bucks Senior Cup in 2017 before guiding them to a top half finish in their inaugural National League season in 2018, winning the April Manager of the month award.
ONE TO WATCH: EMILE ACQUAH
Hackney-born striker Emile Acquah came through the ranks at Southend United and he gained experience out on loan at Harlow Town, where he scored eight goals in 28 appearances during the 2018/19 season. He would break into the first team at Roots Hall and played three times in League One during the remainder of the campaign, before going on to feature nearly 50 times in total for the Shrimpers after a personally successful 2020/21 campaign that saw him make 33 appearances in all competitions, while his first senior goal for the club was scored in a home defeat to Ipswich Town in October 2019. He was unable to help them avoid relegation though, and later re-joined Maidenhead United permanently having previously spent time on loan at York Road during a spell where he was unable to make an appearance for the Magpies, before being recalled due to injuries back at Roots Hall. He did finally get a crack at regular first team football in Berkshire though, and has developed into a crucial asset for Alan Devonshire having scored ten goals during the current campaign, an improvement on his tally of four goals in all competitions during the 2021/22 season.
LAST TIME WE MET
Boreham Wood 1-0 Maidenhead United
Tuesday 13th September 2022
Vanarama National League
Following four wins in a row on the road, Boreham Wood finally recorded their first win of the 2022/23 season at home in a tightly fought contest, with a second half own goal being enough to secure the three points for Wood.
Following an minute’s silence to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, it was the hosts who came out the blocks quickest with Lee Ndlovu going close after two minutes when his shot was deflected wide, with Will Evans testing Dan Gyollai shortly after. The Magpies reacted by producing a good chance of their own, with an excellent run and cross from Ashley Nathaniel-George teeing up Charlee Adams who shot wide. The visitors subsequently started to grow into the game with Ryan Upward seeing a shot deflected wide by David Stephens as they looked to take the lead in Hertfordshire, but they almost made their hard work redundant when they gifted the Wood a golden opportunity to take the lead. Dennon Lewis showed good skill to make his way into the penalty area before going down under a challenge from Remy Clerima, leaving the referee with no choice but to point to the spot, however the usually reliable Tyrone Marsh blazed his spot-kick over the bar to keep the score level. For the rest of the half, the Maidenhead centre back pairing off Alan Massey and Cole Kpekawa frustrated the Wood attack who were unable to create anything else, meaning it was goalless going into the break.
The visitors started the second period in the ascendancy and for the most part, they controlled much of the early possession. Koby Arthur went close five minutes after the restart, but Luke Garrard reacted by replacing Marsh with Danny Elliott and this decision proved to be a masterstroke. Just a minute later, Elliott created a chance for Josh Rees whose effort was well saved by Gyollai, but it didn’t take long for the former Boston United man to cement his status as a super sub when he caused havoc in the Magpies penalty area from deep. Elliott picked up the ball in midfield before attempting to thread it through to the onrushing Lewis who’s pass was cut out by Massey, but Rees picked up the pieces and sent a low cross towards Elliott which forced Will De Havilland to stick out a leg in a desperate attempt to get it away before it reached the striker who was waiting for a tap-in, but he could only divert it over the line to give the Wood the lead. As Maidenhead searched for an leveller, the rest of the match was played very much in the Wood half with Upward and Kane Ferdinand both going close for the visitors, with substitute Reece Smith also forcing Nathan Ashmore into a good save. In truth though, the visitors lacked the cutting edge to equalise and almost allowed Elliott to put the game to bed, but nonetheless the hosts were able to hold out comfortably in the end for all three points.
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