The windows were steaming up, the rain was lashing down and the car was rocking, just how much fun can you have parked up on Saturday lunchtime in Barrow? To be fair, our molten hot chips and curry sauce were so good we hardly noticed the strong chilly winds and torrential rain battering the car as we killed time waiting for kick-off in the club car park. In all honesty we wondered whether Tesco Pete had had the best idea, he’d decided his broken flask was enough of a reason to stop at home but with the Strictly Come Dancing Final on television at tea time, we all knew the real reason he’d decided to give the game a miss!
Barrow have a wonderful club house called the Crossbar, it’s located behind one of the goals and is part of a two-story flat-roofed building that also accommodates a well-stocked club shop, a ticket office, and the player’s changing rooms. The bar is situated on the top floor with windows that look out above one of the goals (hence the name), there are leather sofas, shirts of former players on the walls and a warm welcome for visiting fans too. We were lucky enough to engage a club official who allowed us to purchase our tickets at the home end and take a short cut into the main stand to avoid the worsening weather.
Inside Barrow’s Holker Street ground, it was wet, wet. Three hardy stewards had the unenviable task of guarding no man’s land on the deserted open concrete terrace behind the far goal. The main stand, with rows upon row of covered bright blue seats was guarded like a military operation. The stewards were under strict instructions to check every ticket to ensure nobody passed without showing proof of their entitlement to shelter from the wintry elements. The other side of the ground had partially covered terraces designated for the home fans and a few enclosed press boxes for the media teams.
The first half was amazing, the driving rain and wind was relentless. The floodlights illuminated the pitch and seemed to amplify the conditions. It was as if Barrow were playing up a 30 feet slope with almost all the action pinned at one end of the ground. Goal kicks got nowhere near the halfway line; puddles appeared in various spots around the pitch whilst the referee looked like he was shivering to death. In truth, the officials were great; they earned their money and let the game flow in the exceptional conditions. A Matty Brown header gave the Shaymen the lead but with the teams changing ends at half time, it was a slim lead.
The second half was more entertaining; Barrow had all the action with only an occasional flurry from the Shaymen. As the half wore on, the 30 or so travelling Shaymen made their presence felt dotted in and around the home fans as darkness gathered and the monsoon continued. There was some great banter amongst the different fans as Barrow equalised, again from a Matty Brown header. Barrow then seemed destined to score a winner in the closing stages as the Shaymen held on for dear life. They rattled the woodwork numerous times as we continued to cheer their misfortune.
The best part of watching football is never knowing when the best moments will arrive; with just a few minutes of the game remaining the Shaymen scored the winner right against the run of play, oh what fun! Every one of the travelling Shaymen were on their feet, even the Real Ale Brigade were giving it plenty in the closing moments. At the full-time whistle, half the players rushed at full pelt down the tunnel for some well-earned shelter whilst the other half acknowledged the fans, either way every single Halifax player gave their all for the team and shirt. A great performance and a cracking result.
Driving back and it was apparent just how bad the conditions were. Big puddles appeared from nowhere in the pitch dark along the roads and impacted on the stability of the car. The car continued to rock in the wind along the M6 whilst the temperature indicated just above freezing. On refection the Barrow grounds man must have done some great work to ensure the game went ahead.
With the next round of the FA Trophy drawn on Monday, we reviewed the other results of the day’s first round ties with interest. We thought the whole team deserved the Man of the Match award and we gave the officials’ 10 out of 10. It would have been easy for them to postpone the game for another drier day, but they gave us the opportunity for a day to remember.
Next up we’re off to Harrogate on Boxing Day; Merry Christmas to everyone but let’s hope Tesco Pete gets a new flask from Santa, it’s not the same without him! C’mon Shaymen!
Total miles on the road this season: 4827, total league goals on the road: 9, Total Trophy Goals 2
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