It was one of those days that never really got light; the rain on the motorway was relentless, visibility so poor you could hardly see the feint glow of the red lights of the car in front with all the murky spray filling the morning air. It was one of those days where you wondered if it really was a good idea to travel at all. No wonder the Cantankerous Shayman was late arriving at our rendezvous point in Northamptonshire with a few of the other usual suspects in tow. After an all-you-can-eat breakfast at the usual spot, we were soon back on the road sharing one car, confident that the free two-hour parking limit didn’t apply on a Saturday with just a single CCTV camera watching over…
With traffic relatively good, we made us over the Thames at Dartford and then upon leaving the M25 headed through the maze of bustling streets in Greater London towards our destination. The topic of conversation was dominated by our recent FA C1up exit and what might have been in the next round. Before too long we had turned off the main road and made our way down the tree-lined driveway of the ground and paid our £2 to park amongst the ever-increasing puddles in the car park.
With a match day admission fee of £18 or just £15 in advance, we made our way into Bromley’s Hayes Lane ground. The ground has been updated since our last visit with the opening of an impressive all seater stands behind the far goal with a capacity of just under 1500. It also provides facilities for the local community who make use of the relatively new 3G pitch throughout the week. The rest of the ground consists of a small main stand on the halfway line that includes changing rooms and 285 seats. Behind the other goal is a mainly open terrace with a small tin shed running the full width of the pitch only covering the top few rows. The 165 travelling Shaymen were segregated and given half of this open terrace, slightly set back down the side of the pitch which provided a reasonable view of most of the game. The far-left hand corner is obscured behind the dugouts regardless of where you choose to stand.
The first half was dominated by the wonderful weather; the floodlights were on; the corner flags were hanging on for dear life in the blustery wind whilst the scrawley rain was coming at you sideways. The Shaymen had the best of the possession and attacked with the wind at their backs. A Sam Johnson free kick just outside his own box gave us a moment of excitement as the ball flew almost the full length of the pitch and gave the home goalkeeper something to think about. Other than that, there were few scoring chances.
At half time it was goalless, with the main talking point being the unfortunate Cantankerous Shayman who had spent £3.50 on a pie only for the bottom to fall out at the first bite with the entire contents rolling down his front before landing with a splash on the yellow steps! With everyone soaked wet through it provided a moment of entertainment and set him off on a tirade of colourful and unrepeatable adjectives that went on for most of the break.
The second half was a disaster, Bromley scored a few minutes after the restart and it quickly became clear that it was game over. Further goals followed without too much resistance with the humorous Bromley fans singing “three goals down and a long way home” midway through the half. With a red card and two further goals conceded, the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for the linesman who finally raised his flag for an offside decision late on. Many of the travelling Shaymen had provided him with advice and guidance during the game and insisted that it was safe for him to raise his flag when players were offside regardless of the risk of him losing his flag in the strong winds.
Driving back and it was everything the Bromley fans had sung about with the Sat Nav taking us on a two-hour tour of the best traffic jams of East London to avoid probable queues at the Dartford Tunnel. The rain and wind continued as darkness fell and matched our gloomy spirits. The only bright spot was arriving back at Northampton and seeing the smile on the Cantankerous Shayman’s face when he approached his car. There was no parking ticket or wheel clamp, he had outwitted the system and saved a few quid sharing a car with us. That camera was still watching though….
Next up and we’re going to do it all again and only 13 miles away from Bromley as we head to Sutton United. It’s going to be another long day but with football you never know what’s going to happen. We could even return to the top of the league!
Total goals on the road 13, total miles 3100 – C’mon Shaymen!
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