On Tuesday 28th January Maidenhead United will host Marlow in the Berks & Bucks County FA Cup, a mere 54,402 days after the two clubs met in the very first ever soccer fixture played at York Road on 16th February 1871.
To put that into context, William Gladstone was the Liberal Prime Minister of the UK. The first ever Rugby Union international would be played the following month and March 1871 would also see the Royal Albert Hall opened. Neither the Football League nor the FA Challenge Cup yet existed. The Challenge Cup would be proposed by FA Secretary Mr Charles Alcock in the summer of 1871 and one of the very first four ties played on November 11th 1871 paired (drum role) Maidenhead with Marlow at York Road.
This is a fixture laced with history. Stalwart Magpies fan Matthew Foster gave his thoughts on this age-old rivalry: “AC-Inter, Boca-River, Celtic-Rangers, Maidenhead-Marlow have been going at it – at the oldest senior football ground in the world continually used by the same club – since 1871.
This though is the first competitive meeting at York Road since 31st March 1998. ‘The nearly season’; Maidenhead finished fourth in Isthmian League Division 1, one point off second place. Marlow had been relegated the previous campaign. The match was a Berks & Bucks Semi-Final that Maidenhead won 2-0 thanks to Creighton and Evans en route to a first County Cup success in 28 years. 420 saw it. Attendance for the preceding home league game? 193.
The last meeting between the two sides took place at The Alfred Davis Memorial Ground in November 2016. Sam Barratt – now at EFL League One side Southend United – and future Northern Ireland Under 21 international Josh Kelly scored the goals in front of a season’s best attendance of 222 at Oak Tree Road to give a much-changed line-up for the then National League South leaders a 2-1 victory with former Magpie Callum Ferguson on the score-sheet for the Blues.
7,973 days since the Blues last trip South of the Thames to York Road, the Magpies have announced 1998-esque admission prices for this heritage fixture. Adults will pay £5, Concessions (Senior Citizen/UB40/NUS) £2, Under 16s will go FREE.
Battling to retain National League status, manager Alan Devonshire is likely to select a youthful side for this tie [albeit Maidenhead fielded a near full strength team in the previous round against Binfield – TC]. Given that the likes of Academy products Josh Kelly, Fred Chapman, Bradley Keetch and Reece Smith have featured in Alan Devonshire’s matchday squads in recent weeks and considering that the Magpies Academy side reached the Third Round of the prestigious FA Youth Cup for the second season running, Blues manager Mark Bartley will not be taking any Maidenhead side lightly as his Isthmian Division 1 South Central outfit seek a first County Cup success since 1993/94.
If you’re looking for omens, that February 1871 fixture, that inaugural FA Cup tie and that most recent York Road meeting all ended in a 2-0 victory for Maidenhead over their rivals. Alan Devonshire would settle for a repeat of that score line tomorrow but Bartley’s boys will have other ideas.