Well that came around quickly; it only seems like five minutes since we were stuck in the middle of winter, nervously scrabbling around for points whilst constantly watching the results of numerous other teams. Now spring has sprung, the evenings are light once again and any possibility of being involved in the relegation is now just a distant memory. Where did that season go?
With the alarm clanging at 4.00 am, we were perhaps a touch over cautious with planning for our final grand day out of the season. It was still dark at 5.00 am as the usual suspects disturbed the morning neighbourhood peace, banging their car doors and greeting each other at the top of their voices as we set off on the 241-mile journey south. In truth, we all could have had an extra 15 minutes in bed as Tesco Pete completely misjudged the opening time of our breakfast stop in Dartford; you give him one job….
It’s fair to say the volunteer traffic steward outside Maidstone’s ground gave us a warm welcome. We’d only asked him where the parking ticket machine was, and we ended up with a detailed description of the town’s entertainments spots followed by everything we could possibly want to know about the match day arrangements for away fans. Best of all though, he kept look out for the traffic warden for us to ensure we could get the maximum time for our parking as of course, we were at the ground far too early.
With segregation in force, we entered the Gallagher Stadium down a flight of steps alongside the main stand. The ground was opened in 2012 and still feels new. The capacity of just over 4000 is made up of a good size shiny metal terrace behind one goal, allowing up to 1800 fans to watch the game with an elevated view. The main stand has 750 black and amber seats down the full length of the pitch, the opposite side is open with a dug out and electronic scoreboard. The picturesque River Medway runs behind the perimeter fence, and behind the far goal is a much smaller cover stand that provides plenty of space should the club look to increase the capacity in the future. The modern 3g pitch completes the ground.
You’ve got to admire the Greetland Shayman; having arrived early he bagged one of the three seats allocated to away fans in the corner of the main stand. It seemed rather strange to have so few seats available, but by kick off every other seat was occupied, his bobble hat the only sign of blue in a sea of black and amber…
By half time it was goalless, not much to shout about with Maidstone having much of the possession attacking the main terrace we shared with the home fans. An enthusiastic drummer in the home end had all the finesse of a delivery of a wagon load of bricks as he rattled out some interesting beats in an otherwise dull first half.
The second half started with the crowd announced at around 2800 with about 100 travelling Shaymen, I’m not sure who counted the away fans, but I guess at least 70 people must have climbed over the fence or something, there were easily 170 of us in the corner of the ground. The home fans were generous in their applause, recognising the distance we travelled and the early kick off time.
With five minutes to go, the dullest of dull end of season games sprang to life. A questionable penalty was awarded to the Shaymen and it’s fair to say it provided the spark the game needed. It was easily saved by the Maidstone goalkeeper, but it got the home fans rocking. Both sides were then hell bent on scoring a winner in the final few minutes, but time ran out and it was another goalless draw.
With club favourite Scott McManus being cheered to the rafters at the final whistle and shaking hands with many travelling fans, it looks like it may be the end of his time at the club. All the players deserved the prolonged applause; it wasn’t about the result on the day, just recognition of a successful season. It wasn’t spectacular by any means, but every single point was well earned and appreciated.
Driving back via a detour to watch Lordswood FC with the old boys on the back seat still chuntering about the penalty miss, we reminisced about our season. With 17 league goals on the road, driving a total of 7944 miles it worked out just under an average of 470 miles per goal scored. It’s not the best return on investment we’ve had but we’ve had lots of entertainment and we can’t wait for next season, c’mon Shaymen!
Total miles on the road this season: 7944, total goals on the road: 17.
Read more posts by Rob Brown