Howling winds, driving rain, pitch dark and 216 tricky miles to our destination. “I’ve brought my Lily Savage Christmas Carols music,” announced Tesco Pete before we’d even reached the M62. “Perhaps, we’ll save them for later?” replied the Ripponden Shayman in an instant from the back seat. It was one of those definitive responses you used to get as a child. Are there any better ways of spending a Saturday in December I wondered?
In fairness, we had a reasonable trip down the A1, darkness gave way eventually, the rain relented, and the sun even appeared for long periods. In fact, if it wasn’t for the Greetland Shayman knocking over his half empty carton of almond milk housed precariously in a carrier bag by his feet, there’d be nothing much to worry about. As it was, his mobile phone got soaked, his newspaper was a soggy mess and to cap it all, he managed to pour the remainder over his lap in the panic. It’s funny how much laughter can be generated by someone else’s misfortune!
Dagenham is a friendly community club; we were warmly welcomed by the programme sellers in the car park. They showed a real interest in our journey down and invited us to make use of the club house with the options of different live TV football games being shown in the bars. There were numerous football shirts and team photos dotted around the walls and you could even reduce the number of times you needed to queue at the bar by buying beer served by the bucket! (4 pints at once).
Inside the ground we had the option of paying £15 for a full price terrace ticket or £21 for the privilege of sitting high up behind the goal in a modern stand housing 1200 seats. The view from the back of the stand gives you a panoramic vista of the East London suburbs, heavy industry, tower blocks, and row upon row of terraced housing. The far end of the ground is a small open terrace with an electronic scoreboard and little else. Down the left side of the pitch is a good old bright red corrugated iron covered terrace complete with the name of the club spelled out in big letters along the roof. On the other side is the main stand with just a few rows of covered seats, an executive area and plenty of mobile phone aerials providing the club with a little additional income.
The Real Ale Brigade are an interesting bunch of travelling Shaymen, they have intricated and well organised plans to ensure they rendezvous with the Shaymen down South in the correct pub and at the right time whilst taking the cheapest route even if it means going out of their way. The Man in Shorts wasn’t happy though, all the plans had gone out of the window with a cancelled train at Doncaster. Their day had started with a drive to Hull, a train to Doncaster, an alternative rail replacement bus to Peterborough then further trains and tubes to the ground. He was spitting feathers having had to purchase additional tickets to avoid the rail replacement, and to cap it all many of the Brigade arrived late, though perhaps this was related to real ale sampling rather than public transport…
At half time it was goalless; the Shaymen had started brightly, forced a few corners and free-kicks and looked comfortable. A red card for the Shaymen midway through the first half changed the complexion of the game though. Some travelling fans thought it looked harsh whilst the Real Ale Brigade was convinced the referee had applied the laws of the game correctly. It certainly gave us that familiar sinking feeling though.
Early pressure from Dagenham paid off in the second half with a goal right under our noses. The home fans on the other side of our stand came to life and their recent run of good results looked certain to continue. There were mutterings of discontent from the 60-odd travelling Shaymen but as the half wore on, it’s fair to say the encouragement from the stands increased too. With around 10 minutes of time left the Shaymen equalised at the far end with a great header from a corner; oh, what fun! The noisy home fans were silent whist loud and prolonged chants of encouragement filled the air in the away end. As every moment passed, the Shaymen looked stronger and stronger. Even the electronic scoreboard couldn’t believe the Shaymen had equalised playing with just 10 men as it proudly displayed Dagenham 1 Halifax 0 until the final whistle.
Walking back to the car and the Dagenham fans were magnanimous, congratulating us on our well-earned point and wishing us a safe journey home. Tesco Pete was soon back on his tunes too, he once again offered his Izzy Savage Christmas Carols but this time the Ripponden Shayman heard him correctly. Three hours of high-volume heavy rock made the journey pass in no time. Some may wish it could be Christmas every day, but we’ll just settle for Saturdays!
Next up we’re off to Barrow for the start of our FA trophy adventure, can’t wait, C’mon Shaymen!
Total miles on the road this season: 4585, total league goals on the road: 9
Read more posts by Rob Brown