It was like herding cats; trying to organise a car full of Shaymen is one thing but co-ordinating a second carload was almost impossible. The impatient Cantankerous Shayman who was picking up the Positive Shayman was on the phone “He’s not here, I’m going without him!”, yet it was a good 20 minutes before our agreed departure and the Positive Shayman already texted to say he had arrived at the postcode he was given. “Just open your front door and look for him,” I suggested calmly, “he’s where you asked him to be!” Without any further complaints the next thing was the sound of his car horn, and it was all smiles and waves as he passed us at high speed in the outside lane of the M1 and disappeared off into the distance. After days of planning, he’d clearly forgotten we had the only voucher for a big discount at our favourite restaurant. “That will be a table for four now not seven” said Tesco Pete with a grin.
Traffic on the motorway is always a lottery, last year it took us well over six hours to reach Sutton, so this year we weren’t taking any chances and were sat at our table for tea just a mile from the ground by 3.00 pm. With time on our side and an all-you-can-eat menu, it’s fair to say we got our money’s worth (and a discount) and we headed back to the car a few hours later. The Cantankerous Shaymen was still 11 miles away, held up on the motorway after stopping elsewhere for a full price meal and bizarrely, he wasn’t very happy…
The ground was already illuminated by the numerous floodlights as we arrived soon after dusk. Junior football teams were making the most of the 3G pitch as we were welcomed into the clubhouse via the player’s entrance. The walls inside proudly displayed large colourful images of recent FA Cup exploits, and the Wall of Fame contained photos and descriptions of players and staff who had served the club well across a history spanning 120 years. There were multiple bars and numerous facilities under a dark brown sloping ceiling beneath the main stand. We watched the Halifax team arrive as they passed us in the corridors, and we shook hands with the management team as they made their way to the changing rooms; the Greetland Shayman was beaming.
Without segregation, our online tickets provided us with a £2 discount and the freedom to wander around the ground. The main stand has stood since 1951 and provides wooden seating astride the halfway line for just under 800 people for an additional cost of £3. The ground once accommodated a running track with parts of the concrete terracing still reflecting the curves of the bends, and there are small modern covered terraces at either end of the pitch. There is a modern colourful scoreboard perched high above a portacabin in the corner of the ground, whilst another cabin provides a well-stocked club shop complete with 1000’s of non-league pin badges for every club you could possible imagine including Todmorden Borough FC.
Around 120 travelling Shaymen gathered at the scoreboard end of the ground in the first half, some arriving a few minutes into the game having encountered a few travel issues, but all providing encouragement for the team. At the break it was goalless and to be honest there hadn’t been much action. Sutton looked like a shadow of the teams we have played on recent visits to Gander Green Lane. The Carshalton Shay(wo)man provided us with a loud running commentary on every tackle and pass, and even the Sutton goalkeeper was given a few words of advice. It was one those times where we wondered why we were all there, miles from home on a cold Tuesday night. The Sutton tall fury mascots cheered us all up by bringing round a bucket of sweets, it was a nice touch and very welcome.
The second half was much improved as we all moved to the other end of the ground. The team had more possession and looked more adventurous going forward. A Josh McDonald low cross was only just missed at the near post as we all groaned in disappointment and then instantly cheered as Michael Duckworth appeared at the far post and calmly wacked the ball low into the net from a tight angle. The excitement and relief on the terraces made the long trip worthwhile. The rest of the game seemed comfortable, although there was some serious Key Stone Cops attacking and desperate defending at the far end. Sutton hit the bar and then it seemed to take ages with the ball being cleared numerous times before being returned by the home side. Eventually Sam Johnson gathered the ball and we all relaxed again. The final whistle sounded, and everyone stayed behind to applaud the team off the pitch.
Driving back was a doddle, traffic, what traffic? We zoomed around the M25 up the M1 and were back in Halifax for 2.00 am. Sam Johnson was voted our Man of the Match for his assurance under pressure, and Tesco Pete was soon checking the tables whilst the Cantankerous Shaymen was parking up at Watford Gap service station to meet us for a tea beak, I knew I forgot to do something….
Next up we’re off to Woking, another long journey but our away form is great this season. Can’t wait!!!
Total goals on the road 14, total miles 3574 C’mon Shaymen!
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