Bright sunshine, a kaleidoscope of colours of trees on the side of the roads and 243 miles to travel to the game. What’s not to like on a Saturday morning in October? Last week’s entertaining victory against York City had us all fired up and enthused about our prospects for the day and the league table in general. It’s fair to say there was plenty of positive chatter about team selections, formations, and predictions for the day.
With the recent misunderstanding about the bill at our favourite breakfast stop fresh in our minds, we felt an alternative was more prudent, just to avoid any sticky conversations. It seemed the word had got round though, the normal good quality breakfast choice was available, but the breakfast service was unusually slow. When the food finally arrived, much of it was cold, the unlimited tea was served in a pot, but the next round was just a top up of hot water on already exhausted tea bags. This time nobody left until everyone saw the bill being receipted, and we all agreed that on our next trip we’d return to our usual spot, just as long as Trainspotter John wasn’t with us.
After a good run on the motorways, we arrived in a bright and warm Maidstone at about 12.30. We’d remembered some parking bays just outside the turnstiles from our previous visit and as luck would have it, there were some free spots still available. The Misterton Shayman was already parked up in one and was patrolling the streets. ‘It’s a maximum of four hours,’ he informed us, ‘that means we can’t park here unless we leave with 20 minutes to go”. Suddenly, everyone’s Yorkshire spirit kicked in and we hatched a plan to wait and see if a traffic warden appeared. It was tense as the minutes ticked by but at 12.55 on the dot, and without any sign of a warden, everyone dashed to the meter and bought their four-hour ticket.
Maidstone’s Gallagher Stadium was opened just ten years ago, it’s set into the banks of the River Medway and accessed via a good number of steps down from the roadside. The main stand has already been extended since its original design and now holds 650 seats located along the natural slope next to the road. There’s a decent elevated, covered terrace behind one of the goals that houses up to 1700 fans. The far end has a small, covered terrace with an open side along the river. The pitch is artificial, soft to walk on and the whole stadium has the underlying aroma of rubber, used as part of the playing surface. The travelling 63 Shaymen were given a third of the main terrace which has a few seats installed at the bottom and gave us a decent view of a very shiny looking pitch.
It was goalless at half time, and it wasn’t the quality of the recent York City game. There were not too many chances for either team, but on balance the Shaymen looked to have best of the possession. The referee was perhaps the busiest person on the pitch, keen to blow his whistle at every opportunity and where possible, brandish his yellow card. Throughout the game he managed to deliver six cards without there being a serious challenge.
The second half was similar without much quality football but in the distance at the far end, the Shaymen scored. It seemed to take an age to hit the net but perhaps reflected the play to that point in the game. After that, Maidstone came alive, they were far more interested in the game and had all the possession from that moment. It seemed like we might pinch an unlikely win as the clock ticked down, but just as the board went up for injury time, Maidstone equalised. The goal followed a block from a shot, Sam Johnson was wrong footed but almost managed to scramble across the goal line to save the day but couldn’t quite make it.
Driving back and as we left the ground, it seemed like a missed opportunity and a bad result, but the further north we travelled, and as the day turned to night, we reflected more and agreed that it was after all, a good point in a game we never looked like losing.
Next up and it’s the magic of the FA Cup with a visit to St Ives in Cambridgeshire, can’t wait C’mon Shaymen!
Miles on the road 2803, Goals on the road 5.
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