There’s always one game every season where it really doesn’t make any sense to go and watch. It’s not necessarily about how the team is playing or what the expected result may be, it’s more about how all the little things added together mean it’s probably best to sit at home and watch Emmerdale Farm. Maidstone away on a Saturday afternoon is an easy proposition, the traffic is lighter, you’ll be home before Match of the Day and you get to view the delights of the Kent countryside in daylight. On the other hand, a rearranged fixture on a dark Tuesday night in the middle of February, competing with the rush hour traffic on the M25 and getting home at silly o’clock is a completely different prospect. With all that it minds, it wasn’t much of a shock when the Ripponden Shaymen told us he was unavailable, washing his hair apparently!
“Anyone want to buy any tickets for the end of season draw?” said Cricketer Phil from the Supporters’ Club as he made himself comfortable on the back seat of the car, “First prize is £150 cash,” he continued. It’s fair to say it was an interesting journey down the A1 as Phil shared all the current opportunities the Supporters’ Club are working on, race nights, Goal O’ Meter, bucket collections, sponsored walks and you can also win tickets to the Solihull game. Most interesting though was his tale of batting for Northamptonshire’s 2nd team back in the 1960’s. Apparently he made 172 not out, luckily for us he recalled each run-in fine detail too, it’s amazing how quickly a four-hour journey can pass by!
Maidstone’s Gallagher Stadium is an impressive non-league venue. It’s a new ground, opened in 2012 and has a capacity of just over 4000. The pitch is an artificial 3g surface but looks much better than many other similar pitches. The main stand was recently extended and has 750 seats running almost the full length of the pitch. The opposite side runs alongside the river and is open with the main feature being a large colourful electronic scoreboard. Behind the far goal there is a small covered terrace but the best feature within the ground is a very neat decent sized covered terrace at the North end. The stand accommodates around 1700 fans and it’s where the 51 travelling Shaymen (Tesco Pete always forgets to count himself), were segregated into one side. The stand is steep with a great panoramic view of the pitch and with home fans alongside, it has a great atmosphere helped by a low roof.
The Biggin Hill Shayman is an interesting chap we met in the terrace behind the goal; he’s a part time Bromley supporter but watches Halifax whenever they’re down south. He lived in Northowram as a youngster but moved away around 40 years ago; he’s now a season ticket holder at the Shay but has not attended a single home game all season or likely to for the remaining games. His philosophy is that his season ticket supports the club regardless of whether he can attend or not. You’ve got to give him credit and he’s also lucky enough to have missed a few goalless draws at the Shay this season too!
At half time it was goalless, the Shaymen started well and played with a much-improved tempo from the previous game against Aldershot. How the referee didn’t award a penalty for a foul on Dayle Southwell will become one of life’s great mysteries. The goalkeeper was slow to clear the ball from a back pass when Southwell nipped in pinching the ball from his toes. As the ball rolled across the six-yard box the keeper continued his clearance kicking Southwell with full power instead of the ball. No wonder both players were unable to continue. It was completely unintentional but anywhere else on the field, perhaps a red card too?
The second half was much better for Maidstone; their noisy fans rocked the metal stand we shared with the beat of a drum and some good songs. It only seemed a matter of time before they took advantage and held the lion’s share of the possession for much of the time. There were some opportunities for the Shaymen, attacking the goal at the far end; a 1 on 1 was well saved by the home keeper and what looked like another decent penalty shout was again turned down by the referee. With just a few minutes remaining the Shaymen scored from a simple ball from midfield to Quigley upfront. Sam Johnson turned to the travelling fans and celebrated arms aloft. What a relief, and what noise from just 51 fans. The final whistle went soon after, a win on the road!
Driving back seemed like a never-ending nightmare, road works, lane closures, speed restrictions, closed motorways but we didn’t care. Tesco Pete was soon reading out the scores and reviewing the league tables, everything sounded so much brighter. The hours ticked by, the distance to home never seemed to reduce whilst the rest of the traffic disappeared. Just before 3.00 am we arrived back in Halifax. Matty Brown was our man of the match and Cricketer Phil had sold us more tickets for the end of season draw, what a result! It’s amazing what happens when you go and watch a game that you really shouldn’t…
Next up it’s another trip down south, this time to sunny Eastleigh; we’re due a win there too, C’mon Shaymen!
Total miles on the road this season: 5939, total league goals on the road: 13
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