It was an idyllic Saturday morning; dawn had broken, the low sun was illuminating the tops of the nearby Yorkshire hills whilst the last few golden leaves were clinging onto the near skeletal trees alongside the motorway. “Just think,” said the Ripponden Shayman breaking a rare moment of silence in the car, “We’re all going to spend every single moment of daylight together today, and a good number of hours getting home too.” Tesco Pete didn’t have to say anything, but I think we all knew what he was thinking as he looked up from reading his Gary Barlow autobiography. You can’t beat a grand day out!
You can tell it’s a long trip when people in the back seats start rooting around your car and reading things out that they’ve found tucked away. “I’ve got some questions for you,” announced the Greetland Shayman. He’d found a few discarded copies of our interesting Match day Programme ‘Shayman Shout’ and before long we’d worked though several rounds of the FCHT quiz, progressed to the head to head round before finally taking on the ultimate challenge of how well do you know the club volunteers? To be honest, it’s one thing guessing Roger Bottomley’s hobbies but working out his first game was against Barnsley in 1965 took some real thinking! Anyway, Tesco Pete is all fired up and convinced he’ll beat anyone in the head to head quiz, we can’t wait to read how well he gets on in a future edition…!
Perhaps it’s familiarity, but as much as it feels like we have many long-distance trips, it also feels like we live in a small country as by 12:30 pm were parking up at Havant’s ground. This is on top of having spent a good hour eating our favourite Northamptonshire breakfast stop out of house and home and taking a slight detour past Eastleigh and Portsmouth too. We managed to bag one of the few free car parking spaces at the ground and were soon enjoying the warm welcome of the locals inside the clubhouse.
Havant and Waterlooville’s Westleigh ground is a great place to watch football with a capacity of just over 5000 and is neat and tidy. The main stand has 560 yellow and blue seats with plenty of leg room and elevated viewing areas for wheelchair users. Behind each goal there are covered terraces with the far side also having covered standing too. In each corner there are refreshment areas, clean toilet facilities and a decent club shop too. The grass pitch slopes from one end to the other but not as much as some grounds we’ve visited. Without segregation we were free to wander around the ground.
At half time it was goalless, the Shaymen were playing uphill with the low sun on their backs. Both teams created chances but perhaps the balance of play was with the away side. A couple of decent free kicks were saved by the Havant goalkeeper doing his best to see with sun directly in his face. The closest the Shaymen came to take the lead was a free header cleared off the line from only a few yards out.
The second half started with a bizarre goal for Havant. A high ball in the box seemed to take an age to come down; Sam Johnson appeared to have loads of time to deal with it but ended up in a heap in the back of the net. It was difficult to work out what had gone wrong watching from the other end of the pitch, but it seemed like the goal could have been prevented. The home side doubled their advantage soon after, again without too much intervention from the Shaymen’s defence. It was one of those open games though where it looked like a comeback could be on. Another goalkeeping mistake, this time from Havant gave us a goal back. It seemed like one of those halves hit long shots that my cat could have saved but somehow ended up in the back of the net. With time running out, the referee refused to award a penalty to the Shaymen for a clear hand ball but did send off a Havant player for violent conduct in the last few seconds.
Driving back and everyone was quiet. It seemed like one of those games we could have won but managed to lose without too much trouble. Tesco Pete talked us through the league table and suddenly the bottom four teams seem much closer than they did just a few weeks ago. Jacob Hanson was again voted our Man of the Match, and the referee only earned 5 points out of 10 for his inability to spot a handball from five yards away. With this being our first trip to Havant, we all agreed that it was still a good day out and arriving back in Halifax at 10:30 pm was well worth our time,
Next up it’s back to the FA Cup and a trip to Morecambe where we’re the underdogs with nothing to lose. Just imagine how much fun it would be to get a result there, can’t wait, c’mon Shaymen!
Total miles on the road this season: 3701, total league goals on the road: 8
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