The wind was howling, the rain was intermittent, and the roads were deserted. I could see a strange ghostly figure at the side of the road in the distance illuminated by an orange streetlamp and it appeared to be staggering around in the darkness as if carrying a very heavy weight. As I got closer, I began to make out the detail, it was Tesco Pete and he was carrying his big flag. “They’ll never let us put it up,” he moaned as he got into the car. “I don’t know why we bother, it’s too heavy anyway,” he continued. I’m only pleased the Club has signed Devante Rodney this week because it provided a new topic of conversation once the old boys had joined us… If anyone wants to know, I really do now know how many straps it takes to hold the flag down, how much it weighs, how big it is, how difficult it is to put back in a handbag etc etc…
By 9.00 am we were in Worcester and it had finally got light; the Cantankerous Shayman had joined us at our breakfast stop and was soon charming the staff in his usual manner. It wasn’t that he was being difficult; it was more to do with his lack of hearing. It took a good few goes for him to order his breakfast at very high volume and we weren’t going to hang around with him to discuss his bill. He’s a proper Yorkshire man and is very keen on going through the bill in detail… We had a game to get to so left him and his entourage to follow on for the remaining 150-mile journey south.
It’s funny but within two minutes of arriving at the turnstiles at Torquay, all the usual suspects had disappeared and left me guarding Pete’s big flag and in charge of negotiations with the stewards. In truth it was it little like the hokey cokey, one steward said yes, and the other thought no. The discussions that were conducted either side of the bright yellow wire fence, were so interesting that even the guy from the food van came to join the conversation and enquire how many burgers he should cook for the away fans! To be fair to the stewards, they were great and once permission was granted the usual suspects reappeared to help display the flag. All this before the ground was even open for business. I told Pete all along not to worry!
Torquay’s ground is great; it’s at the top of a hill high above the town and is open to the elements. They have a capacity of 6500 with just under 3000 seats. A new stand opened in 2012 which runs the full length of the pitch and provides a scenic view of the pitch and surrounding area. The letters of the club’s name are picked out in giant blue letters amongst the sea of yellow seats. The travelling Shaymen were allocated the seats around the letter T for Torquay. The rest of the ground is mainly covered terracing with the only exception being behind the far goal. That stand is all seater but has some rather posh looking executive leather seats directly behind the goals and some accompanying executive boxes too.
At half time it was goalless; Torquay had the strong wind and horizontal rain in their favour and had dominated proceedings. Sam Johnson was in good form and rather too busy for us to get comfortable high up in the stand. The Shaymen had created a couple of chances but nothing to bother the home goalkeeper at the far end of the ground.
The second half was much better, the wind and rain had relented slightly and before long we had the lead. The 29 travelling Shaymen were ecstatic as Sho-Silva scored at our end of the pitch. Not long after and the lead was doubled as the Real Ale Brigade started to sing about Wembley. Torquay really went for it and forced a goal back with around 15 minutes to go, it was all action and very entertaining. The referee kept the Man in Shorts entertained by booking five Halifax players without any clear reason. In the end the 2-1 victory was well celebrated by players and fans alike.
Driving back took ages and ages, and a good hour after leaving the ground we were still only 60 miles south of Bristol. Tesco Pete soon had the scores from the other FA Trophy games, and we worked out who we would like to play in the next round. Our favourite choices would be Yeovil or Harrogate Town away – only joking, we don’t ever get these predictions right anyway, do we? It’s fair to say that the six-hour drive home though the torrential rain and darkness was well worth it, Sam Johnson was our man of the match, but others had also impressed.
Next up and it’s a local one at one of our favourite away grounds in the country, a trip to Chorley and of course the famous Chorley Chippy.
Total goals on the road 20, total miles 5723 C’mon Shaymen!
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