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Maidenhead United flashback: The day the Magpies soared into the National League as champions

In this new Maidenhead United flashback feature, we’ll take a look back at some of the key games and moments that have shaped the club’s more recent history.

We’ll begin with the side’s most famous match in recent times. Saturday, April 29, 2017. Margate 0, Maidenhead United 3. A day bathed in sunshine on the south east coast that Magpies fans will still look back on fondly decades from now.

The day saw Maidenhead promoted as champions to the National League. Harry Pritchard netted twice and Dave Tarpey popped up with his customary strike, a 44th of a quite incredible season.

Captain Alan Massey celebrated by lifting an inflatable cup. The real one – unbelievably - was at the home of runners up Ebbsfleet United just a few dozen miles away. It didn’t matter. Alan Devonshire swigged champagne from the bottle as he and chairman Peter Griffin were slapped on the back and hugged by Maidenhead fans in fancy dress. It was some day.

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Margate FC 0, Maidenhead United 3

SECONDS after the referee brought the curtain down on Maidenhead United’s championship winning season, the Magpies players were submerged by their fans in the centre circle.

Championes! Championes! they chorused as the champagne corks were finally popped on their side’s deserved title win.

If the Magpies flight to the National League had been temporarily checked by Ebbs-fleet seven days previously, they confirmed promotion with a calm assurance at Margate.

The only disappointment was the National League weren’t able to get the trophy to Hartsdown Park for captain Alan Massey to hold aloft. He used his initiative, hois-ting an inflatable cup to raucous cheers from the Magpies fans who had swarmed onto the pitch from all corners.

Harry Pritchard, the Magpies’ man-of-the-match at Hartsdown Park, bookended this title clinching display with two fine goals while sandwiched in between was another strike from Dave Tarpey, his 44th goal of the season.

Any nerves the Magpies might have had coming into their final fixture, knowing they must win or match Ebbsfleet’s result, dissipated in the 14th minute when Pritchard sized up his options from a free-kick just outside the Margate box and cunningly bent the ball low around the wall into the bottom corner.

Tarpey had already twice gone close from set-pieces from a similar range and was denied by Valery Pajetat, the Margate keeper after cutting inside his man and firing toward the near post.

Pritchard’s lead should have been added to in a dominant first half display. Jack Parkinson and Remy Clerima both went close with efforts that shaved the Gate crossbar, while Tarpey would have expected to score when he scampered through on Pajetat’s goal minutes before half-time only to be foiled by the keeper.

Margate offered little resistance, barring a dreadful high tackle from Jack Evans on James Mulley which earned the midfielder a yellow. On another afternoon he may well have seen red.

United’s lead at the break wasn’t a decisive one, and with Ebbsfleet ahead against Oxford City, it was also a precarious one.

However, all doubts were cast aside in six memorable minutes.

Having seen a 50th minute effort cleared off the line, Tarpey all but confirmed United’s title a minute later when he swivelled in the area and blasted home, via a deflection, his 44th of the season. He eventually emerged from beneath a pile of black and white bodies and it was fitting that he, the club’s talisman all season, should get the decisive goal.

A third followed just before the hour mark when Pritchard cut in off the right flank and arrowed in a shot that found the back of the net.

The final whistle brought fans – including a giddy looking chairman Peter Griffin – swarming onto the field and confirmed what most have known all season – that Maidenhead United are the best side in the league.

Maidenhead United: Pentney, Clerima, Steer, Parkinson (Upward 84), Massey, Inman, Tarpey, Comley, Marks (Cox 71) Mulley, Pritchard (Smith 86).

Attendance: 1,186.

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