If we can’t stick our scarves out of the windows, dig out our blue wigs and turn up the volume when the Shaymen are top of the National League when can we do it? It’s fair to say we were full of beans at 7:30 am as we left Halifax on a bright, sunny September morning. It seemed only last week since we were heading South down the M1 watching our team. This time we even acknowledged the best wishes of a Huddersfield Town fan driving past us. It’s good to see in this technological age that sign language still works!
Athens, Moscow and Sofia; it’s amazing to think that we could have reached any of those three European cities faster than the time it took us to reach Sutton with all the traffic problems. Over six hours of mind blowing queues, road closures and frustration, who’d be a football fan these days? At least we had one moment of excitement when a white transit van pulled out suddenly in front of us. Everyone stayed calm except the Ripponden Shayman, you’d have thought it was the end of the world, gosh he made us all jump with his high-pitched scream from the back seat!
Having crawled our way around the M25 it was strangely comforting that the rest of the 120 or so travelling Shaymen had endured the same arduous journey. Arriving at the famous Gander Green Lane, shortly after 2.00 pm, it was surprising to see so few fans wearing blue and white shirts, but as time progressed one by one they began to appear and looking like they’d had a journey just as good as ours…
Without segregation in force we were warmly welcomed into Sutton’s ground based in the leafy suburbs of South West London for just £15. The ground has a surprising capacity of just over 5000. Just short of 800 seats are available in the old wooden main stand which is full of character set back from the pitch behind the dug outs with supporting pillars to enhance the viewing experience. The rest of the ground is made up of modern metal covered terracing behind each goal, and a small shed sits on the half way line opposite the main stand. In yesteryear an athletics track ran around the perimeter of the pitch and it’s still possible to see where it was as the old concrete terracing remains on the bends in certain places.
By half time it was goalless and rather warm. The Shaymen had kicked into the bright sunshine on the 3G pitch and had come closest to opening the scoring with a well hit shot that crashed back off the post. Sutton seemed less of a threat than they did last season but it’s fair to say the first half was competitive.
The second half was a far livelier affair. A free kick was conceded at the far end just outside the box and Sutton made the most of the opportunity scoring with the aid of a deflection into the top left-hand corner. The Shaymen equalised soon after with a with a well taken Southwell goal in front of the noisy travelling fans. By full time there were no more goals but it’s fair to say the Shaymen had given a good account of themselves, looking more likely to pinch a late winner than the home side.
As we left the ground it was good to overhear both the Brighton and Bournemouth Shaymen talking, both had watched the team for the first time this season and both were impressed with the quality of the players, performance and result. With the other results we’d relinquished the top spot and were down to 4th but just a single point off the new league leaders, exciting times!
Driving back and we gave Matty Brown our Man of the Match, the referee a unanimous 4 out of 10 for being too pedantic and encountered more traffic queues but in truth, we weren’t bothered. All in all, our grand day out had lasted almost 15 hours; we’d earned a point and had got the longest trip of the season out of the way. There are of course, other games with more mileage but surely no other journey this season will ever take as long as Sutton United!
Next up it’s a Tuesday night local(ish) bonanza under the floodlights against the league leaders. Passports ready? We’re off to Wrexham. C’mon Shayman!
Total miles on the road this season: 1324, total goals on the road: 5
Photo used courtesy of Paul Loughlin – Sutton United
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