In retrospect, we’re unlikely to have another away day as exciting as our grand day out to Morecambe. Setting off at 11:30 am was a real luxury too. The drive up the M6 is always a lottery; it’s usually nose to tail but for once we breezed through and found a chippy near the ground just before it closed for lunch. “We’ve had Halifax fans all day,” said the lady behind the counter, “you’ll be outnumbering us at this rate.” We met a car full of boisterous Shaymen from Blackpool at the chippy too; they were in for an interesting day, one of their passengers had unwittingly left his crutches on the car park as they drove off… With the chippy closing and being locked up we had a dilemma, should we try and locate the Blackpool brigade or leave the crutches for safe keeping for when the shop reopened? Decisions, decisions!
Morecambe’s Globe Arena is a relatively new ground, opened in 2010 with a capacity of just under 6500. They moved from their previous home Christie Park after 89 years and paid £12 million for their new home. The ground is dominated by the main stand; it has more than 2000 seats, executive boxes and a banqueting suite. It feels just like home in all honesty. Behind each goal there are covered terraces, one for the home fans, the other away fans. The far side is open and under developed accommodating an electronic scoreboard, an area for TV cameras and a tea hut with perhaps the best view in football – bang on the halfway line with an unobstructed view of the pitch. To cap it all, there are few fans to serve; there can’t be many warmer places to watch football over a cold winter with an endless supply for warm drinks and food!
With an admission price of £15 for a seat in the main stand or just £12 for the terrace, it seemed that as many travelling Shaymen chose to sit down as stood behind the goal. It must be the magic of the FA cup that did the trick, 531 fans made the trip which is about four times as many usual for a league game.
It was clear from the first half that Morecambe’s team were faster, fitter and had more technical ability than the Shaymen. The home side had much more of the possession without really creating many chances. Sam Johnson dealt well with their best chance, a shot from distance tipped over the bar with the ball ending up amongst the noisy blue and white army. The tension increased though with the Shaymen intermittently playing with 10 men whilst Nathan Clarke had a cut to the head dealt with by the bench.
The second half was much tenser as daylight faded and the floodlights illuminated the action. Morecambe looked dangerous attacking the end where most of their fans stood. There were countless last-ditch blocks and clearances from the resolute Halifax defence that kept the score goalless. The first shot on target from the Shaymen on 66 minutes had many of the fans on their feet in the main stand. It seemed to be a moment that galvanised the crowd into cheering every bit of possession and every tackle from then onwards for the men in white shirts
Moments before the final whistle, the linesman’s flag ruled out an unlikely winner for the Shaymen. It seemed a close but fair decision. In the end the players and management team were loudly applauded for their grit and determination to get a result. It was a real transformation from recent games and much appreciated.
With the Police taking crowd safety precautions seriously, all 531 travelling Shaymen were prevented from leaving the car park for what seemed ages. Many fans were chatting about the disallowed goal and what might have been. Talk also focused on the draw for the next round, who’s the biggest team left, who would be the best opposition to face with a chance to progress? Nobody seemed worried about the prospects of a difficult replay.
Driving back and as the Ripponden Shayman read out all the scores everyone was chirpy once again. We unanimously voted Matty Brown our Man of the Match; his powerful clearance off the line in the second half was a real highlight of the afternoon. The referee didn’t impress us much, but we found Morecambe to be a friendly club with decent facilities for away fans.
Next up on our travels we’re heading south again for more league action with a visit to Ebbsfleet. It’s going to be another early morning start with three points up for grabs; we’re well up for it, c’mon Shaymen!
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