“What time are we setting off?” was the question on my phone from Tesco Pete. “We’re outside your house now”, I replied after parking up. In fairness, I expected Pete to take a good few minutes to do his hair, find something decent to wear, and look presentable, but credit to him, he was with us in a flash, regardless. We were setting off early, not because Altrincham is miles away, but because we were trying to grab one of the 30 or so spaces under cover at the ground. The drain cleaners were busy down the Ripponden Valley clearing the flooding from the night before, and the skies looked unpredictable, it was a race against time.
There was plenty of chatter from the usual suspects on our 59-mile journey across the Pennines. It was the Clayton Shayman’s first visit to Cheshire. So, as we left the motorway, we pointed out the houses of the famous footballers. Each with their own electronic gates, manicured driveways, and Christmas lights to die for. In truth, we made it all up, but when someone new joins us for the first time, we always share the sights… Whether it’s Boreham Wood, Southend, or Altrincham, we can always tell you exactly who lives where.
We arrived at Altrincham’s Moss Road ground and managed to park just outside Roy Keane’s house. Luckily for us, he wasn’t in, so we had no trouble when slightly blocking his driveway. Admission was £20 which gave us access to an open terrace behind the goal and a few seats alongside the pitch as far as the edge of the penalty area. There have been some significant changes since our last visit to the ground. The infamous eight feet high metal fence has been removed from the seating area, and away fans can now see past the halfway line without needing to stand on the back few rows for an uninterrupted view. They’ve replaced the fence with a small tarpaulin sheet which also allows you to chat to the corporate guests on the other side. Credit to the person made that happen, it’s a stoke genius and makes such a positive difference.
After a respectful roll call of the Altrincham supporters who have passed away in the last twelve months, the first half started with the Shaymen attacking the far end of the ground. The covered terracing behind the far goal looked packed with good vocal support for the home side. It was a good ten minutes into the game before we realised that Alty had not paid a single visit to our penalty area, all the possession and the game was held by Town. As the half continued, so did the possession, and Town took the lead. The Alty goalkeeper was beaten down low with perhaps the softest shot we’ve scored. It never looked like it was going in, it took ages to actually go in, only the team celebrating at the far end confirmed it was in. If you don’t shoot, you don’t score.
The second half started in similar fashion as darkness fell. The Shaymen looked in complete control, created chances, and entertained the 425 travelling fans mainly stood in the open. Whilst the Alty fans sang ‘It’s going to rain in a minute,’, the Town fans responded with good vocal support. Town scored again midway through the second half, the Greetland Shayman was lucky though, he set off to the conveniences, but as luck would have it, there was no door on the only working loo. He was able to watch the game at the same time and perhaps may not have cared the water wasn’t working either as he ran out of the block celebrating the goal.
With just ten seconds of injury time remaining, Alty pulled a goal back, it flattered the home team who looked a shadow of the team we’d expected. There was relief when the referee blew the whistle a minute later. Anything other than three points would have been a travesty, the team had once again taken on the local opposition, commanded the game, and richly deserved the three points along with the applause from the travelling Shaymen at full time.
Driving back, and we were all smiles. Each of us would have settled for a draw before kick-off but were treated to an excellent display of controlled football and a win. After a New Year’s Day return match at the Shay, we’re off to Southend, with covered accommodation, running water, working facilities and perhaps another three points. C’mon Shaymen.
Miles on the road 3546, Goals on the road 15.
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