Maidenhead United and Yeovil Town renew acquintances on Saturday, nearly 35 years after their first clash. Steve Jinman takes a look back at the Magqpies ‘unbeaten’ record against the Somerset club.
Last weekend the National League aka Conference celebrated its 40th birthday.
Originally known as the Alliance Premier League, it was founded to further the ambitions of non league clubs to reach the Football League.
One of the leading contenders for promotion was Yeovil Town, who had become the definitive non league giant killers following their defeat of Sunderland’s Bank of England team in 1949 on their infamous Huish slope.
However the route to the 92 was not straightforward, with the Glovers waiting until 2003 until they won the Conference title. Steady progress was then made to reach the Championship in 2013 but so far this has proved to be the high point in their history as they now find themselves back in non league football.
On Saturday they face Maidenhead United who will be looking to extend an unbeaten run against Yeovil which dates back to the clubs’ first meeting in 1985.
At the start of the 1985/86 season Yeovil found themselves in the Vauxhall-Opel Isthmian League Premier Division for the first time following relegation. The AC Delco Isthmian League Cup saw the Magpies draw the plum tie of a trip to Huish. This was more than a little daunting as United had earned only seven points in the first nine Vauxhall-Opel Isthmian League Division One matches of the season to put pressure on management duo Brian Caterer and Colin Lippiatt.
Before a crowd of 951, United held their own in the first half but the tie looked to be going to form when John McGinlay (yes that one) gave the home team the lead soon after the interval. Maidenhead hit back straight away equalising when Nevada Phillips tapped in following good work by Garry Attrell and Eggie James. The Magpies then stunned the Glovers faithful with twenty minutes left when Chris Parkes chipped the keeper to take the lead. McGinlay combined with former Bristol City star Tom Ritchie to create an equaliser for Smith to force extra time when Phillips almost returned the lead to Maidenhead not once but twice, having one chance cleared off the line and a second hitting the post.
The final score of 2-2 meant a replay back in Berkshire the following Tuesday. In the meantime, a defeat at Leytonstone-Ilford saw the Magpies sink to the foot of the table. Nevertheless a bumper crowd of 300 turned up to welcome Yeovil to York Road for the first time. Lead on the pitch by player manager Gerry Gow, who had played for Manchester City in the 1981 FA Cup final, Town again took the lead early in the second half and looked to be going through. However with only six minutes left, defender Mark Harris, who would go on to have a long Football League career mainly with Swansea City, headed an equaliser which meant more extra time.
Parsons gave Maidenhead the lead with an astonishing free kick from 25 yards and then appropriately it was Phillips who applied the coup de grace with a third goal to seal United’s biggest cupset of the 80s.
The next round saw Maidenhead again score three at York Road against superior opposition but this time Sutton United hit five in response to end a brief respite from the league struggles which within eighteen months would see the Magpies almost fold before a first ever relegation.
A baker’s dozen of Maidenhead supporters travelled down to Somerset full of hope, boldly stating their right to be there by insisting that the away end at the new Huish Park stadium was opened despite a paltry crowd of 434.
Eleven years later, the club was back on its feet and back in the Isthmian League Division One under new joint managers Martyn Busby and Alan Devonshire. By March, Devonshire elected to go it alone after Busby stepped down, and his first challenge was to prepare his squad for a quarter-final tie in the Isthmian Full Members Cup at Yeovil Town.
Having returned to the Conference in the late 80s, the Glovers again faced a setback to their Football League ambition when they were relegated in 1995. By the time of United’s visit, manager and former Spurs defender Graham Roberts had fashioned a team that were hot favourites to win the Isthmian League title, and were thus expected to swat the Magpies away like an irritating bug, as they prepared for their biggest match of the season against promotion rivals Enfield.
A baker’s dozen of Maidenhead supporters travelled down to Somerset full of hope, boldly stating their right to be there by insisting that the away end at the new Huish Park stadium was opened despite a paltry crowd of 434. They were rewarded with the first example of Devonshire’s cup pedigree as a player translated to the dugout. A solitary Chuk Agudosi strike in the second half won the game and set up a semi final tie at York Road against Sutton. This time Maidenhead won 3-1 on the way to a first trophy in 27 years and the start of the golden Devonshire era.
Meanwhile a few days later in Yeovil the Huish Park gates were locked as a sell out crowd turned up to see the Glovers beat Enfield to confirm their title credentials to set up a summer return to the Conference.
Both Maidenhead United and Yeovil Town have enjoyed some of their most glorious seasons in the intervening years but on Saturday it will be the Magpie fans who will be hoping to create more fond memories whilst the Glovers attempt to slay their Berkshire bogey team.