05:50PM, Wednesday 01 January 2020
Photo: Josh Kelly sees his flick saved by Sam Slocombe. Credit: Darren Woolley.
Maidenhead United 0, Notts County 0
Maidenhead United picked up a hard-earned point from this afternoon’s goalless draw with in-form Notts County, but manager Alan Devonshire will feel it should have been all three after watching his side dominate the second half.
For all but the first 20 minutes United were the superior side, and they carved out the game’s best chances with James Akintunde squandering the best of them moments before the break when he found the side-netting with all of the goal to aim at.
United continued to press forward after the interval and came agonisingly close to netting an 87th minute winner when Josh Kelly lifted the ball over County keeper Sam Slocombe only for Dion Kelly-Evans to divert it over the bar from pretty much on the goalline. Akintunde was lurking behind him expecting to nod the ball home before the defender came flying in to prevent the visitors from falling behind.
For United this is another much-improved performance on home soil, following Saturday’s 2-0 win over Wrexham AFC, and it’s another useful point in their battle to beat the drop. It keeps them five points above the drop zone heading into Saturday's clash at fourth-placed Harrogate Town.
Against all but a handful of clubs their performance today would probably have merited a victory, but Notts County are one of the division’s in-form sides and this was their third clean sheet on the spin.
Neal Ardley’s men came flying out of the traps, looking to build on their 1-0 win over Solihull Moors at the weekend, and took the game to their hosts in the first 20 minutes.
Connell Rawlinson was left unmarked at the far post in the seventh minute but his volley from Enzio Boldewijn’s cross flew well over the bar.
Boldewijn looked to be in the mood for a good game in the first half and threatened again down the right in the 23rd minute, his searching cross missing a raft of green-shirted players in the Magpies’ area. The impressive Alan Massey held off one of them to divert the ball behind.
However, by this stage Maidenhead had asserted themselves on their opponents and were starting to carve out chances of their own. Danny Whitehall’s speculative lob beat the County crossbar and landed on the top of the stand in the 27th minute and a grass-cutter from Rene Steer was deflected behind for a corner. Steer was also busy at his own end, diving in to block when it seemed Boldewijn might finish off a swift counter attack from the visitors.
United really got on top at the end of the half though and should have made it count. in the 41st minute Kelly did well down the right to whip in a low ball that just deflected off a County heel and deceived Akintunde who shot into the side-netting. The player admitted afterwards he should have done better with the chance.
Most of the play was in the Notts County half after the interval, as Maidenhead pressed for a winning goal that just wouldn’t come. Whitehall tested Slocombe at his near post in the 57th minute before Kelly got in front of his man to flick James Comley’s free-kick goalward, however, Slocombe again made an instinctive save to tip the ball over.
With 20 minutes to play Maidenhead very nearly profited from a corner when Akintunde’s shot was parried only as far as Massey, whose header on the rebound looped up and over the bar.
County had some moments of their own on the counter attack but none that were worthy of note, before Maidenhead sliced through their backline in the 87th minute.
Man-of-the-match James Comley created the chance, sliding the ball through for Kelly who’s chip seemed to be heading for the bottom corner before Kelly-Evans’ flung himself in the way and somehow managed to deflect it over the crossbar.
It was a match-saving intervention from the right back and earned Ardley’s side a share of the spoils on a day when they weren’t allowed to be at their best by the pressing nature of Maidenhead’s play.
Afterwards Devonshire said: “We’ve had back-to-back good performances and that’s the main thing at the moment.
“We’ve also kept two clean sheets so I’ll take that.
“We played well against a good side. I’m happy with that. I’d have taken a point before the game, but yeah, I’m a little bit disappointed we didn’t nick all three.
“We let ourselves in the first half of the game on Boxing Day (which Maidenhead lost 3-0). We weren’t at the races first half. So we owed the fans a performance from that. We weren’t very good for the fans that travelled to Notts.
“They also owed themselves a performance as well. I’m pleased with it. The way we’ve come out and played and they’ve given me back to back performances.
“We’ve had better chances than them throughout the whole game and we seem to be back to our old selves, we’re working hard again without the ball. For 10 games we didn’t do that. But hopefully the mojos back and we’ve got some difficult games to come. None more so than going to Harrogate Town on Saturday.
Maidenhead United: Dunn, Steer, Ellul, Massey, Twumasi, Clerima, Comley, Upward, Akintunde, Kelly, Whitehall (Cassidy 83).
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