Upward For Maidenhead… But Not Onward, As Hatters Earn Replay
County will this Monday feature in the draw for the FA Trophy Quarter-finals for the first time – although whether the Hatters actually get to play in the last eight depends on the outcome of a replay at Edgeley Park the following evening.
In their first-ever match against the ‘Magpies’ of Maidenhead United – and their first south of the River Thames in five years – they took a lead in the opening stages through Matty Warburton, only to be pegged back by Ryan Upward’s similarly-early second-half strike.
County took to the field on a cold, dank afternoon in Berkshire showing two changes from the starting line-up against York at EP seven days earlier. Jimmy Ball was unwell, and loanee Jamie Stott ineligible – so Scott Duxbury and Gary Stopforth were recalled in their places, as part of a 3-4-1-2 formation.
And the club’s inaugural appearance in the Third Round began perfectly – courtesy of a goal after just seven minutes. Ben Hinchliffe’s clearance led to a neat one-two exchange between Stopforth and Darren Stephenson, before Stopforth delivered a low cross from the left that Warburton converted, with the help of a deflection, for his 16th strike in all competitions.
Warburton almost doubled his and County’s tallies a dozen minutes later, when his free kick from 25 yards out was tipped over by home goalkeeper Carl Pentney. But the hosts, sitting comfortably around mid-table in their first campaign as a National League outfit, were beginning to press – and Hinchliffe had to be at his best in tipping past the right post James Comley’s shot from distance.
Maidenhead’s leading scorer Harry Pritchard then headed over the consequential corner, before a goal-bound shot from Sean Marks was inadvertently blocked by team-mate Sam Barratt, and, just over 10 minutes ahead of the break, Jake Goodman headed wide of the left upright following a free kick that had brought Hinchliffe out of position.
HALF-TIME: Maidenhead 0, County 1 (Warburton, 7).
Warburton was replaced by Michael Clarke prior to the resumption, as the Hatters returned to the fray with a back four. And, as if to sound an early declaration of intent towards the bolstered County defence, Pritchard curled a shot shy of the right post with four second-half minutes gone.
Within another eight, the Magpies had drawn level. A free kick from the left was headed wide of the far post by Remy Clerima, but kept in play by Maidenhead – and, despite Hinchliffe’s one-handed save from Goodman’s subsequent header across goal, County could not repel Upward’s equalising volley from close range.
The Hatters responded well – with Adam Thomas lofting a cross from the right narrowly beyond the far post, and Stephenson drilling just wide of the opposite upright. And later, Jason Oswell got a touch to Dan Cowan’s low cross from the right – only for Pentney to save with his boot.
But with the hosts now kicking down the pronounced York Road slope, much of the play in the final half-hour was concentrated in the County half. Thanks in part to resolute defending, clear-cut scoring opportunities for Maidenhead remained at a premium – until the final minutes, that is, when a whole host presented themselves!
Hinchliffe first denied substitute Adrian Clifton, before standing tall at point-blank range to keep out Upward. Three corners were awarded to Maidenhead in the course of five very long minutes added on – and one, taken by Upward, grazed the crossbar, before Pritchard’s follow-up shot was blocked. But the Hatters deservedly survived for what will, this Tuesday night, be their third replay in the current season’s competition.
FULL-TIME: Maidenhead 1 (Upward, 57), County 1 (Warburton, 7).
Team: Hinchliffe, Cowan, Duxbury, Winter (Capt.), Smalley, O’Halloran, Thomas, Stopforth (Dixon, 74), Oswell, Warburton (Clarke, 46), Stephenson (west, 85).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Brazel.
Matty’s goal video
Harry’s post-match interview
Jim’s post-match interview