…The start of the season was something of an anti-climax for the blues as their long-awaited debut at the Alfred Davis for their scheduled opening league fixture v Wokingham & Emmbrook was scrapped due to administrative misfortune for the visitors who unfortunately found that they had failed to affiliate to the Berks & Bucks FA in time for the match to be played. United were awarded the three points and these are yet to be added to United’s league points tally.
If the management team of Pritchard, Romeo, Dickens and Kelleher had doubts, if any, as to the tenacity of the Thames Valley Premier League (TVPL) they were quickly dispelled as United opened their campaign on a Wednesday evening in front of around 100 spectators against Berks County. Despite United winning 4-1 County acquitted themselves well for sustained periods of the match and it’s a bit of a shock, to me at least, that they find themselves at the foot of the table with just two points at this current time, but it’s still early days.
United were without a fixture the following Saturday so it was off to Iver for a successive Wednesday evening fixture against newly promoted Richings Park and United prevailed by 4-0 in what could be a significant victory as Park find their feet in the higher division.
Six points gained from two Wednesday evening fixtures was quite a triumph in itself due to the early 6pm kick offs that are required as these games are banana skins due to work commitments and player availability, but it’s all about the management team ensuring the squad is large enough and capable of dealing with such situations and Pritchard clearly has by retaining key players from last season and adding quality to an already capable squad.
It was then back to the Alfred Davis and a home fixture with the unbeaten champions Reading YMCA, a quality match was played out in front of 150 spectators who saw United race into a 2-0 lead and squander a number of chances to ‘kill’ the game before half time. If you provide an opportunity for the champions to sneak back into the game they will take it and this was the case as they fought back to draw 2-2.
A further home fixture saw United overcome Westwood United 3-2 again in front of a three-figure crowd, a game that probably confirmed, for those not in the know, of the strength in depth the TVPL offers.
Yet another free Saturday was followed by a visit from high scoring Wraysbury but perhaps United’s best performance to date saw the blues home by 2-0.
A visit to First Division Hurst in the BTC Senior Cup saw United return with a scrappy but nevertheless valuable 2-0 win to set themselves on the road to the Madejski Stadium.
Yesterday saw United complete their first league double in difficult conditions away to Westwood United by 3-0 but the victory was hard earned, keeping in sway with expectations.
The management team has reduced to three due to Sean ‘Kel’ Kelleher moving, amicably, to Southern League Egham Town to take up the position of Assistant Manager an opportunity he couldn’t refuse. ‘Kel’ leaves with our best wishes pursuing him.
Pritchard, Romeo and Dickens can be pleased with themselves in what is clearly a solid start. Players have bought into their policies and ideas and there is an all-round discipline to the team which at times the team has lacked in previous seasons. Not every performance has been of excellent quality but football doesn’t work like that as sometimes you have to grind them out and win as well as with a swagger and United have produced both and importantly continue to bear fruit. The league table looks healthy currently but its still early season and nobody at United will take anything for granted, confidence is high and we will see where that takes us over the coming months. For now we congratulate Darren Rockall for receiving the September player of the month award.
The reserves have made a chequered start to their Division Two campaign having picked up just one point in three games but games have been tight and there is plenty of time for Manager Kevin Draper to improve on results, something I am convinced will happen once they return to Gossmore Lane following the flood alleviation works. The fact is the reserves will have the best pitch and changing facilities at Gossmore Lane, barring a few, in the whole league. However, that isn’t likely until the 2019/20 season so for now they will prevail at Derehams Lane.
Around the league yesterday Mortimer maintained top spot with an emphatic 4-1 win over Wokingham & Emmbrook TVPL while United sit just 3 points behind with 3 games in hand, 3 points which are pending for United’s early season cancellation against Wokingham. Richings Park travelled to one of the title favourites Woodcote Stoke Row and came away with a credible 0-0 draw as Wraysbury continued their goalscoring spree with an 8-3 home win over Woodley United Royals. Most teams were involved in the Berks & Bucks FA Senior Trophy with standout wins for Wrightchoice & Unity who conquered Hellenic League Wokingham by 4-0 as Newbury Town now of Division One hammered Hellenic League Abingdon Town 3-0.
Which brings me nicely to next week when we return to the Alfred Davis in an attempt to reach our third successive Berks & Bucks FA Senior Trophy Final, a tall ask indeed! The road to the final reduces to a round of 32 with a visit from our neighbours and local rivals from across the river, Cookham Dean. Cookham will cross the Thames intent on being the first team to beat United outside of the final since the 2015/16 season. Last seasons winners and cup final conquerors Saxton Rovers are already out losing 3-0 to Wallingford Town.
If United are to reach the round of 16 then they really will need to be on top of their game in a match where the form book usually goes out of the window. United will not need reminding that Cookham enjoyed a rare league ‘double’ over Marlow last season!
The match v Cookham Dean kicks off at 2pm at the Alfred Davis Memorial Ground while the reserves are also in County cup action when they entertain Chalfont Wasps at Derehams Lane KO 2pm.
Updated 22:24 - 7 Oct 2018 by Alan Turner