“Enfield Town are at home,” announced the Ripponden Shayman from the back seat has he trawled through last week’s Non League Newspaper, “but let’s make a final decision when we reach Junction 13.” Tesco Pete was looking gloomy but the reality was that we’d travelled five miles in just under 90 minutes. The Sat Nav was indicating we’d arrive at 2:55 and every lane on the M1 South was stationary. It’s fair to say we always set off at stupid o’clock in case we get caught in traffic, but for once it looked like our planning had failed. Then, as if by magic, the traffic began to roll, we were back in with a chance of making the game.
We’d not had the best of days in all honesty; Tesco Pete had just come off the night shift from work and was less than his usual chirpy self, and the Greetland Shayman had had a row with the manager at our usual Northamptonshire breakfast stop over a lack of hot water for his tea. The Ripponden Shayman was also a little cantankerous having spent the first two hours of the day playing down our FA Cup win on Tuesday night. He’d missed the game but thought we were pulling his leg when we explained just how well the Shaymen had played. Then to cap it all, we left the breakfast stop and quickly found ourselves at the back of the queue on the M1. Happy days!
Ebbsfleet United’s Stonebridge Road is part way through a major transformation. The new main stand was opened just over a year ago with eight rows of bright red seats running the full length of the pitch. There are corporate facilities, new changing rooms and accessible viewing areas for disabled fans. The old main stand on the opposite side is much smaller with numerous white wooden pillars, corrugated red iron walls and the old player’s tunnel in the middle. Behind one goal there are a few rows of temporary seating in front of the out of bounds old decaying terracing with a low iron roof. The other end is an open terrace dominated by a huge electricity pylon lifting cables on their way to cross the nearby river Thames. There are plans to extend the new developments but the timescales have started to drift.
At half time Ebbsfleet were two goals up. The home fans were enthusiastic with a drummer and a megaphone blasting out a range of songs under the low roof. They’d not won at home for ages and were enjoying every minute of it. On the pitch, the first goal looked a little dodgy and there were lots of protests from the Shaymen claiming hand-ball. The second goal was a decent free-kick into the top corner. The referee awarded the opportunity to Ebbsfleet for a free kick for a 50/50 challenge.
Looking around in the darkness of the cold open terrace in the second half, it seemed there were around 40 travelling Shaymen who had made the trip. The usually quiet brothers who go everywhere watching the Shaymen were getting frustrated with the referee and were making themselves heard. The real ale brigade were doing their best to get a bite out of the Ebbsfleet goalkeeper after his venture into the crowd last weekend. In truth, all the action took place at the other end in the semi-misty gloom. Ebbsfleet looked up for the battle, every tackle was hard and their players were all encouraging each other. It mattered to them and they looked good for their eventual 4-0 win. To give credit to the Shaymen, every single player came to acknowledge the travelling fans, it was a disappointing result but it seemed to be just one of those days.
Driving back and everyone had their opinions about how the team could play so well in one game and look so far off the pace in the next. It was difficult to decide on the Man of the Match, everyone thought Ryan Sellers did well but the stand out player for me was Niall Maher. He wasn’t happy with the score at 3-0 with 20 minutes to go and could be heard telling every player to lift things during an injury break. It mattered to him and that’s a real positive on a cold November evening on the banks of the river Thames.
Next up on our travels we’re heading south again with a visit to Dagenham and Redbridge but it’s our real chance of glory first with the FA Cup 2nd round. I wouldn’t mind a replay if I’m honest. C’mon Shaymen!
Total miles on the road this season: 4149, total league goals on the road: 8
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