We were first in the queue at the chippy, or to be more realistic, we were the queue. The chippy opposite Altrincham’s Moss Lane ground is probably the most efficient in Europe. There’s no chit-chat, just a member of staff politely taking orders equipped with a rickety old table on the doorstep and shouting instructions, military style back into the shop. Within seconds our lunch appeared, almost as if they were expecting us and we were directed to a lonely park bench well away from any potential new customers. The weather was warm, it was dry, and it was still over two hours before kick-off. You can never be too careful with Bank Holiday traffic, and we’d made the 45-mile journey with lots of time to spare.
Altrincham is perhaps the friendliest club within our league. We arrived at the wrong turnstile, well in advance of them opening, chatted to the stewards, told them of our allegiances and they still welcomed us into the home end without any question. We wandered about the old wooden stand where you must climb up several rows to cross over the player’s tunnel area and then down the other side. It seemed cosy in there with big windshields at either end astride the halfway line. The home end, adjacent to the giant transmitter tower, is a small, covered terrace with a string of red and white Alty flags along the back wall. The far side, the popular side, is another covered terrace with a raised roof on halfway to accommodate media facilities above the fans.
After considering all of our options, we opted for the comfort and perhaps the best view from the small block of covered seating allocated to the away fans on a first come, first served basis. The majority of the 750 travelling Shaymen stood on the famous open terrace behind the other goal. It’s one of those grounds where you’re right on top of the action, and with an entrance price of £17 for adults, it’s one of the best value grounds in the league too. Credit to Alty too, they handed out some Easter eggs to some of the younger travelling Shaymen whilst the adults were given team sheets. There were a few attempts at an exchange but the youngsters were having none of it.
The first half started well for the Shaymen, backed by noisy travelling support and the occasional blue and white smoke clouds. It was very competitive, but we seemed to have the measure of the game and took the lead scoring at the far end of the ground. Alty came close to an equaliser, forcing Johnson into a decent save but many of the fans around us were keen to explain the offside rule to the linesman who seemed to miss something in the build-up. It’s those sorts of conversations that really capture what watching live football is all about; it’s funny, well mannered, and I’m sure, really helps the officials develop their knowledge of the game…
The second half started with Alty grabbing an equaliser, again at the far end of the ground. It seemed like a free header, perhaps a little too generous but the home fans appreciated it nevertheless. The rest of the game was played out with few clear-cut chances, there were cards from the referee, some good defending and a good few nerves amongst the crowd. Not losing seemed to be the minimum expectation, anything else would have been a bonus.
Driving back and after reading the other scores, all the usual suspects seemed happy with a point on the road. It was a tricky game against a team on a good run of results at home. The games left in the season are starting to run out and we’ve already surpassed last year’s final total. We will certainly improve on last season’s position in the league, just how high we finish is still in the balance.
Next up it’s an early start with a grand day out to seaside at Southend, there’s a decent chippy opposite the ground, I hope they’re ready for us!
Goals on the road 25, miles 7580, c’mon Shaymen!
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