Hope, expectation, anticipation, nervousness, apprehension, and tension, it’s amazing all the myriad of emotions that pass through you on the way to football. Tesco Pete spent the first few hours of the trip calming his nerves by selling some of our teams on the Supporters Club’s Big Football Card to the early risers. He called the team name out, I tried to remember if it was still available, and he brokered the deal. In the end, all our worries were unfounded, our favourite Northamptonshire breakfast stop did open on a Bank Holiday, what a relief.
After lots more wheeling and dealing with our wonderful fellow supporters over a hearty, healthy breakfast, we reminisced about our previous visits this season and our fortunes on the road; this was our last breakfast stop of the season. We’d visited many times and although anonymous with constantly changing staff and feeling our loyalty was unrequited, we nevertheless have a real feeling for the place. Then out of the blue as we left, the manager called across, “Good luck at Eastleigh and see you next season!” Gosh we were elated; they really did know who the Shaymen were and who we were playing. It’s a good job we didn’t try and leave without paying the bill…
The roads were exceptionally quiet as we continued South on our 250-mile journey. Everywhere the trees were in blossom, and it was warm and dry, a real contrast to the dark weekends of mid-winter. We were even a little confident about our prospects for the game, we’d had a few dodgy results at Eastleigh over the years but something was very different about this team.
Eastleigh’s Silverlake Stadium has steadily developed over the years we’ve been visiting. The main stand is three times its original size, and there are banqueting suites at the far end instead of a small metal terrace. The once open space behind the other goal was replaced by a big covered all-seater stand about seven or eight years ago. It was always fun in there; the seats were part of a massive network of scaffolding holding up MDF boards to walk on. It rattled and shook every time the fans got excited. This time we noticed that half the stand had been removed. “It was safe before,” said the helpful steward, “We’ve just made it safer now and we hope to get it back to full capacity next season.”
The first half wasn’t too exiting to start with. The pitch was perfect with both teams passing the ball about without too much of a threat to either keeper. The game came alive with around 15 minutes to go before the break. A top-quality corner resulted in a shot from distance from Spence that hit the back of the net, and the 160 odd travelling Shaymen had only just calmed down before Warburton made it two. It was a great atmosphere on the metal terracing, then rounded off with a good old-fashioned tackle with most of the players from both teams getting involved in the aftermath. There’s some real team spirit amongst the Shaymen.
Eastleigh pulled one back early in the second half then spent much of the remaining time whizzing crosses and shots across our crowded penalty area. It looked at one point as if they’d equalised from our view at the far end, but the ball went behind the goal and everyone looked at each other with a smile of relief. In the end, the Shaymen held out in a tense second half and a rousing reception from the travelling Shaymen greeted the players and management at the final whistle. Another really well earned three points.
Driving back, and it was again quiet on the roads. We’d had a great afternoon on the pitch and were also inundated with generous support from the fans with our Big Football Card. The Misterton Shayman was here, there, and everywhere all afternoon collecting people’s team preferences and reporting back. Fantastic stuff, thank you.
Next up it’s a small matter of a trip to Stockport for our last league game of the season. There’s a few twists and turns before then and anything is still possible.
Goals on the road 27, miles 8560, c’mon Shaymen!
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