November 8th 2015. Alan Devonshire is three months into his second tenure as Magpies manager.
Our Conference South form has immediately improved after several seasons of struggle under Johnson Hippolyte and the team embark on somewhat of an FA Cup run, something perhaps rather missing from Dev’s successful first spell at York Road.
In typical Maidenhead fashion however, we struggle past lower league opposition Winchester City and Blackfield & Langley in the qualifying rounds before raising our game to thrash higher division Woking to clinch our place in the First Round draw for only the fourth time in 55 years.
Listen to Steve Jinman discuss the Devonshire Years Part 1 on the Berkshire Football Stories podcast:
With all due respect to the Potteries, not many sets of supporters would cheer drawing a tie at Port Vale out of the hat but this would be our first FA Cup tie on a league ground since the outing to Layer Road, Colchester in 1960.
The game is switched to Sunday for BBC in-game coverage, perhaps Auntie sniffs an upset at the home of the EFL League 1 strugglers? Around 400 Maidenhead fans – around as many as who attended home Conference South fixtures at the time – made the journey north and supped the local Titanic Plumb Porter which put us in fine voice for the afternoon.
For much of a scrappy game we are behind to a well-worked goal. We come close in the first half when Ryan Upward’s backward header from a Tarpey free-kick comes back off the post but deep into injury time I am stood at the front of the away stand taking pictures of our wonderful travelling support for the website and the programme as we bravely bow out of the competition.
The following paragraph describes 40 seconds of chaos and the best worst goal I have ever seen Maidenhead score (we’ve posted the video at the bottom of the article)…
94 minutes, last chance. Massey has the ball in his own half and lumps it desperately forward. It is hoofed comfortably away by his opposite number McGivern but only as far as Upward, 20-25 yards from goal with seemingly every Vale man back.
Upward squares it to Tarpey who tries a through pass to Gavin James, the man who rescued us at the death just six weeks ago in that Second Qualifying Round tie at Winchester.
Duffy easily blocks the pass but the ball rebounds to Josh Huggins. Upward has now made a run to the right of Huggins and is fed a square ball, running away from goal towards the corner of the 18 yard box.
Upward goes down perhaps rather easily under the attention of substitute Remi Streete and referee Mr Holmes awards a soft freekick. Groans around most of Vale Park. Last chance. ‘Keeper Pentney is up to join in the 18 yard box crowd scene.
Taken by Tarpey, the set piece is rather over-hit and Upward gets ahead of Dean Inman at the back stick to head the ball back and keep the ball in play. Purkiss clears as far as left back Rene Steer, 35 yards from goal.
The home crowd are whistling furiously. Steer hits it first time, last chance, to the far post where Foley heads diagonally away but his clearance only reaches James who nods the ball down to Upward just inside the box. Upward hooks the ball back in right footed, last chance.
Tarpey ghosts in at the back and beats the dozing Foley to the ball. Alnwick instinctively saves with his right arm. The rebound falls to 76th minute substitute James Mulley, twelve yards out right right-footed and leaning back. The shot is going well wide but it takes a nick off Dickinson and squirms into the net.
PAN. DE. MONIUM.
11 players plus substitutes sprint the length of the pitch to us. On the YouTube clips of the ensuing reaction I can clearly be seen absolutely losing the plot amongst the arm-pumping mosh pit masses at the front.
Winger Harry Pritchard can be seen leaping over the advertising hoardings to hug supporters. Magpies fan Daniel Brumpton can be seen hurdling seats, only to miss his step and disappear completely out of view.
Timmy Mallett’s tin foil cup can be seen reflecting off the floodlights. After what feels like hours of chest-busting celebrations, the ball is on the centre-spot. Uche Ikpeazu runs towards our goal and is tackled by Upward who tries to feed Gavin James. The ball is cleared by Vale, the whistle is blown by Holmes.
Maidenhead lost the replay in front of the BT Sport cameras, but for my mind this remains one of the most important goals we have ever scored. It reinforced the belief that the fan base had in this new crop of players brought in by the messiah himself, Alan Devonshire.
It secured us a replay and gave the Football Club the confidence that dear old York Road could host the demands of live television and a large travelling support that would become the norm if promoted to the National League. Which just eighteen months later we were.