Autumn has arrived, the motorway verges are a sea of vibrant colour as the trees begin to shed their leaves. The skies are grey, and it’s only just light when we set off. It’s one of those days when you don’t know whether to wear a jumper, fleece, or coat, or go plain daft in just a football shirt with no protection from the untrustworthy weather. With the Positive Shayman for company, our four-hour journey south passed by in no time as he reported back on his outing to cheer on the Under 19’s team at Huddersfield Town. It sounded like an impressive venue, a competitive first half but an honourable defeat to a team that had more strength in depth. We only wish he’d described the game in one sentence, gosh the Positive Shayman can talk and talk and talk……!
Arriving at the ground and there are always a few familiar faces that can you spot at southern games such as the Brighton Shayman who was in good form sharing memories of past games. His first memory of watching the Shaymen was way back in 1948 and he was quick to tell us about the Stoke City (twice), Tottenham Hotspur games in the 1950’s with real excitement in his eyes. It sounded as if the games had been played only last week, his descriptions were so clear. With all these stories from the past there is a common theme, there’s always someone who played truant from school to make their way to a midweek away game. Perhaps if you don’t go to school or do as you’re told, you’ll spend a lifetime watching Halifax Town!
There’s a good friendly feeling at Maidenhead United with the team of volunteers running the match day operations. The guy persuading you to buy a half time draw ticket as you come through the turnstiles also turns out to be the same guy who is looking after the pitch just before kick-off. He’s also the same guy who painted the impressive black and white giant letters of the club’s name on the corrugated iron wall at the back of the stand behind the goal. Each summer gallons of paint are used to ensure the iconic wall is at its best, even the local celebrity Timothy Mallet comes down to help with the painting.
We arrived at the ground a full two hours before kick-off, watched the team get off the coach, and wandered around the ground a few times. We even caught up with the engaging Chris Millington who came over to tell us about the latest team news; we had loads of time on our hands. Without segregation we gathered at the bottom end of the ground and found ourselves at the wrong end once the referee made the coin toss. “We’ve scored!” someone shouted as we weaved our way through the crowds down the side of the pitch to change ends. In truth I could see the build-up intermittently in the distance between the people watching at the side of the pitch but just for a second I looked away as McAlinden hit his shot. The ball was still moving but it was in the back of the net as I looked across; the players were celebrating so it was 1-0 to the Shaymen!
The first half was good; after last season’s mauling at York Road it was a relief to see the Shaymen in command and playing well up the steep slope. It was perhaps the worst performance of the entire season last year and the difference in quality compared to that game is remarkable. There were plenty of attacking opportunities and with a good 100 or so travelling Shaymen in attendance, a great atmosphere too.
The second half was equally as comfortable as the first. The Shaymen had good possession, looked solid and created further scoring opportunities. The Ripponden Shayman was keen to point out that the team seemed to manage the game so much better than they had in previous seasons by retaining the ball in the opposition’s half. The final whistle was greeted with a great cheer and the now familiar celebration from the manager in front of the travelling fans.
Driving back and it didn’t take Tesco Pete long to find coverage of the winning goal online. It appears that even though we got to the ground two hours before kick-off, only Tesco Pete saw the decisive goal first-hand (or so he says!). The Positive Shayman now has a second tale of misfortune to tell, having also driven to Dover a few years ago only to miss Scott McManus’s winning goal whilst he was in the gents! I guess these things happen over the years… The win saw us go top of the league with 15 games played and we’ve only just reached October. It’s been a marvellous start to the season.
Next up in the league and we’re off to Bromley, they’ve made a great start too and it’s our first match of the season on an artificial surface. It’s going to be a big game and I’m certain the Shaymen will travel in force.
Total goals on the road 13, total miles 2606 – C’mon Shaymen!
Read more posts by Rob Brown