Flippers, snorkel and wetsuit, the rain was falling that hard it seemed appropriate attire. We were only 12 miles into our 293-mile journey south when our day almost ended. Still dark, another car had lost control in the wet weather and was sideways, stationary across lane one of the M62 as we headed west. We only spotted it when a lorry in front suddenly pulled out into lane two in front of us. It was too close for us to stop but luckily, we were able to dodge into the next lane to avoid hitting it. We missed it by only a second or two, and to say it woke the old boys up on the back seat was an understatement. From that point on it was like driving three meerkats to the seaside, I’ve never has so much driving advice, they didn’t miss a thing!
The rain was incessant all the way down to our breakfast stop in Worcestershire. We spent more time looking out of the windows as the rain lashed down than we did worrying about what to eat. We were still around 200 miles from our destination and aware that the weather can be very different on the south coast; last season’s trip to Torquay started with deep snow in Halifax and a bright dry day in Torquay, we were hopeful it would be game on and pressed on regardless.
We arrived in a damp, dull Torquay just around 1.00pm, parked on a local street for free and made our way to the ground. With advanced adult tickets at just £17 and £15 for meerkats, we were afforded one of the best views of the game at any away ground in our league. Bristow’s Bench Stand was opened in 2012 and runs alongside the pitch at Plainmoor. It has around 1700 bright yellow seats with some blue seats spelling out the letters of the club. It’s steep and well elevated, so that you can see the surrounding rooftops, church spires and hills of the Devon countryside.
The rest of the ground has covered terracing for the home fans and some posh seats behind the far goal.
The playing surface was tricky with puddles galore for the assistant referee to wade through just off our side of the pitch. There was little grass on it down the wing, and the mud glistened through the floodlights with the water. The rain was intermittent with just enough breaks to ensure the game went ahead. The warm-ups turned the nearside into a vegetable patch, and the grassy area behind the goal and towards the corner flag looked like a swamp. ‘It’s just like the old days’ said the Greetland Shayman.
The first half must have been entertaining for the neutral, it was all blood and thunder stuff with little chance of any skilful football. The referee booked a few for sliding challenges, the bounce was a lottery and bizarrely most of the play seemed to happen amongst the carrots and potatoes on our side of the pitch. Although there seemed to be a much better surface everywhere else, all the action happened beneath us. The referee awarded a penalty to Torquay, only to be overturned by a very popular linesman down below. Perhaps the best move of the half was by the 20 or so travelling Shaymen in the cheap seats below us when a monster rain shower, backed up by a strong wind had them scurrying up the top of the stand to keep dry with the rest of us. We’ve never been so popular, 55 fans all in one place!
The second half started with a much-improved Town performance, and Osawe had us all out of our seats as he took on and outran the Torquay defence. His shot was put behind for a corner, but it was a real moment of inspiration. The sun came out for a few seconds as a last hurrah before it set, brightening up the colourful stormy skies. There were further attempts on goal, the Shaymen had the balance of the play right up until Torquay took the lead with 20 minutes remaining. From then on, Torquay did their best to kill the game and managed it well. There were few opportunities for an equaliser as the home side held on for only their second win of the season (both against us).
Back at the car and the old boys were quick to cancel their booking for our FA Trophy game away at Harrow Borough next week, but before we reached Bristol they were mellowing. Dropping them off around 10.00pm they were asking about what time we would be setting off. It’s all part of the fun of watching the team, far more exciting than shopping on a Saturday afternoon, I’m sure.
Miles on the road 5529, Goals on the road 13.
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