‘I remember going to County and the Shaymen being 2-0 up at half-time’, announced the Greetland Shayman as he climbed into the car. ‘It got abandoned though’ he finished, thus setting the agenda for our 76 mile journey south to Nottinghamshire. Apparently, it was in the 1960’s and that lead to a discussion of football back in the good old days, Aston Villa, QPR, and an 8-0 home thrashing by Fulham, halcyon days indeed.
Having visited Notts County a number of times in the past, we’d never managed to find anywhere decent for lunch. This time we took a four-mile detour to find perhaps the best chippy outside of Brighouse. We were all cavalier when ordering a large portion of chips, which was actually served in an unused laminate flooring box, unwieldy and much heavier than expected. It kept all of us quiet for a good 10 minutes before we each gave up less than halfway through.
The remaining six-mile drive to the ground was interesting, it appears that the local authority wishes to show the best of the city to every visitor. There are no direct roads to the ground, everything appeared to be on an interlocking loop. We passed many ornate buildings, a castle, and a busy railway station before parking up in the old cattle market, just opposite the ground.
The ground was completely rebuilt back in the 1990’s and has a capacity of just over 20,000. It’s by far the most impressive ground in our league. Each side of the ground has an independent stand, each as good as any stand at any other club. It’s all seater with the club emblem of a magpie picked out in the main stand seats. The 302 travelling Shaymen were given an elevated block alongside the penalty box in an otherwise empty stand. It was a decent view with a glimpse of Notts Forest just a few hundred meters away across the nearby river Trent.
The first half started with County in full control and there was a clear gulf in the quality of players on the pitch. County passed the ball quickly and accurately and had a goal disallowed in the sixth minute for offside. That attempt had started moments earlier with a throw in by their own penalty area, and it developed into 20 slick passes up the field before a close range header was ruled out. The travelling Shaymen were making all the noise with a great atmosphere led by the sound of a beating drum. Many in the crowd recognised the challenge of taking on a team at the top of their form when a cross was caught by Sam Johnson on 20 minutes to rapturous cheers.
Before half time, County took the lead, an under-hit back-pass put County’s leading goal scorer clean through. Johnson did his best to delay the strike but the confidence of the striker was such that he delayed, went past Johnson, then around a Town defender. The impressive 7000 home fans came to life to celebrate their goal. It was unfortunate for Town who had grafted hard throughout the half to maintain the status quo.
The second half was again mainly County, they seemed happy with their one goal lead and perhaps were a little less ambitious than they would have been if the game was still goalless. County were on their way to breaking a 93 year old record of unbeaten results, Town were clearly not the first team they had played well against recently. The drum continued to beat with the travelling Shaymen making all the noise as the game played out to a conclusion.
Driving back and it seemed that a one goal defeat was a far better outcome than we had expected. The team had played perhaps the best team in the league, and the likely winners. For all the noise about Wrexham, County played football throughout and deserved their win.
Next up and we’ve got a midweek re-arranged game in the FA Trophy, a visit to London and a new ground to visit. C’mon Shaymen.
Miles on the road 5681, Goals on the road 13.
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