Maidenhead showed when we travelled to York Road at the start of the season that they are a versatile side, capable of coping with life in a higher division, and that versatility was clearly illustrated in their last game, when they altered their strategy successfully against Macclesfield Town.
Maidenhead have regrouped well considering the loss on deadline day of their main forward, Dave Tarpey, who scored against Wrexham earlier this season and impressed with his movement and threat around the box. Adrian Clifton has stepped up to the challenge of replacing him, and is level with Tarpey as top scorer on five goals, with Harry Pritchard having contributed usefully with five from the flank.
Although they haven’t won in six games, Maidenhead are unbeaten in three, and were more than worth the point against high-flying Macclesfield, having made a significant change to their approach with a double substitution on the hour.
Against Macclesfield on Saturday Maidenhead started with a 4-4-2 which encouraged the wide players to get ahead of the ball when they were in possession while ex-Wrexham midfielder Christian Smith performed a holding role in the centre of midfield. His central partner, Harold Odametey, looked to take advantage of the cover Smith provided by pushing forward too, which will come as no surprise to anyone who saw his enterprising performance against Wrexham last August, when he was very progressive from his starting position on the wing.
One of Maidenhead’s main attacking strategies was for Odametey to look to run beyond his strikers when the ball was won in midfield, or if the target man Clifton had a chance to win the ball in the air and flick it on, at which point the other forward, Ademola Moses, would look to run in behind the defence either to offer himself as a target or to create space for Odametey to run into. This can lead to them being open to the counter attack as Odametey has left Smith isolated in the middle of the pitch.
An injury to Sam Barrett at the end of the first half forced a change to this tactic, with the energetic and physical Ryan Upward replacing him and slotting into the centre of midfield, with Odametey going over onto the right flank, but he returned to the centre when Smith and Moses were replaced early in the second half. Upward is more dynamic than Smith, and tended to be more progressive than Odametey, who found himself playing as the deeper member of the pair, although the more exaggerated roles which he and Smith took on in the first half were not replicated: Upward wasn’t looking to break in behind the striker and Odametey wasn’t tied to the job of holding midfielder.
With less thrust from the centre of midfield, Maidenhead went longer, looking to take advantage of the fact that they had brought on two big strikers, Sean Marks and Jake Hyde, in the double substitution, with Marks the main target. They also had attacking height through Clifton, who now shifted to the left flank.
However, this formation didn’t last long: half way through the second half they shifted again, to a lop-sided 4-2-3-1. Hyde and Clifton swapped over, with Hyde on the left flank and Clifton in the hole behind Marks, where he became the primary aerial target. Hyde looked to come narrow to support the striker, and Maidenhead left more players up the pitch, with Upward now curbing his desire to get forwards to form a double pivot with Odametey. On the right, Pritchard didn’t push up as far as Hyde on the left.
The change of approach paid off when Hyde scored an 88th minute equaliser, a header from a Pritchard free kick. Pritchard’s left-footed delivery from set pieces on the edge of the area, either shooting or crossing, is a threat, especially when Maidenhead have loaded their team with height as they did in the last half hour of this game.
In each of these configurations, Maidenhead didn’t really look to bring the full backs, Ryan Peters and Rene Steer, into play in wide positions, relying on the wide midfielders to give width.
In the centre of defence, Alan Massey is the stopper while Remy Clerima, who played as a full back against Wrexham in August, provides more mobility and cover. Massey’s passing was erratic, and he looked like he could be forced into mistakes, or at the very least rushed into releasing it too quickly, when he had the ball. Even when playing long balls to the strikers, he often didn’t put it into an area where one of them could attack the ball.
While Massey is strong and good in the air, he lacks pace and picked up a yellow card when he was exposed by Macclesfield on the break.