No sooner had we rounded up the usual suspects, than we were there. Oldham is just 24 miles from the Shay, it’s by far our nearest away game of the season. We barely had time to report back on the exciting mid-week FA Trophy game away at Harrow Borough; the clever free-kick that gave us a 2-1 lead late in the second half, followed by a last minute equaliser from a corner. The tension of the penalty shoot-out, even though we never lose on penalties, and the long drive home, leaving London in January and arriving back in Yorkshire in February. The Shaymen took on an enthusiastic and hardworking team, away from home, and got us into the next round. Job done.
Parking at Oldham is tricky, finding a space to park the car was the easy bit, the tricky bit was the pathway from the car park at the top end of the ground down to the away turnstiles at the bottom. The polite steward in the car park provided us with a map and compass. ‘Down this pathway,’ he began, ‘careful though, it’s very steep, over the fence, through the river, down the steps, past the new stand on your left, down the muddy track, watch out for the bend it can be slippery, then my colleagues will welcome you at the turnstiles.” He wasn’t joking, it’s a good job it wasn’t raining or icy, the CCTV brigade at the club must have a right laugh each week.
With advanced tickets £4.00 cheaper than on matchday, we took advantage and made our way into the ground at the Chaddy End behind the goal. The ground has a capacity of around 13,500 with all four sides of the stadium in use. The travelling 565 Shaymen had the pleasure of accommodation in the traditional home end of the ground with over 3500 seats available under a good old-fashioned roof. The opposite end is now exclusively for home fans with several thousand seats, it’s situated on the steep bank that we’d just encountered on our way to the turnstiles. The traditional main stand and changing rooms sit on halfway, unusual as the players have steps up to the changing rooms. An impressive new stand was added back in 2015 which includes a club shop and bar facilities for fans. There are proper floodlights in each corner of the ground too.
The first half started well, the Shaymen attacked the far end of the ground and were in control from the start. It was difficult to see the ball at times with the electronic advertising flashing away like a 1980’s disco. The ball became a silhouette and the pitch was tinted with different colours as dusk fell. This setup is understandable with premier league TV audiences, but it really detracts from the paying spectators view of the game at non-league level. The Shaymen created all the chances throughout the half with Oldham rarely bringing the game to our end of the pitch.
The second half was a much easier watch. The Shaymen were playing well and had the home team on the back foot, attacking our end of the ground. A red card was shown to an Oldham player for an off the ball incident soon after the break which only increased the possession stats for the Shaymen. The referee awarded Town a penalty for a handball. The already noisy travelling support increased the volume further awaiting the outcome. The keeper saved but the rebound was put away giving the Shaymen the lead. In the end, the victory could have been by a much higher scoreline. Other chances came and went as Oldham hung on for a 1-0 defeat.
Whilst navigating our way back up the mountainous pathway to the car, a fellow home supporter was reporting back the Oldham viewpoint to a friend of his on the phone, “They were much better than us,” he started speaking really loudly as you do with a mobile, “they ran the game from start to finish, they’re only 17th in the league too.” We interrupted him and corrected him with a shout of 15th which he acknowledged. “What chance have we got if we get beat at home by Halifax Town.” he continued. We interrupted him again with another correction of “Home and away!” This time he smiled and told his friend that he was being hustled by some dodgy Halifax fans. “It’s important to get the story right,” we replied, “getting the little things wrong is how forum’s start.”
Next up and we’re off back down South for the next round of the FA Trophy with a visit to Maidenhead. Win that and we’ll be getting close to Wembley again. C’mon Shaymen!
Miles on the road 6126, Goals on the road 16.
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