When I started Yorkshire Football Weekends I thought it would be nice to get out to grounds around the county and see the best and the worst of what Yorkshire had to offer. It would be inevitable that some days would be excellent, others would have their issues.
Before the Halifax game Kelly Gilchrist the clubs web manager was kind enough to spare me a few minutes of her time. We discussed the feeling around the club when they reformed in the Evo-Stik First Division North.
“The first season, I think the fans thought they would walk it, you’re going in to pub football. That was the impression.”
It was going to be an interesting day.
It was late on Thursday night when I decided that I would take the short trip to Halifax at the weekend. Their win against Whitby Town days previously had secured the league title so I decided to join in the festivities and head down to the Shay Stadium for the home game against Marine AFC.
I was amazed when less than twelve hours after sending the email request for press access I had a reply saying yes. The press pass would be waiting for me at turnstile #18.
My levels of excitement shot up 100% this was my first proper press pass, quite a few emotions took over…I felt nerves, why? Well I am just a football blogger, not a real journalist, they might find me out and disgrace me as the imposter that I am.
Definite twangs of anticipation, the levels of press pass of course vary up and down the country, what would Halifax Town have in store? And of course excitement, I would be “the press” for a day at least.
Only four days had passed since I was laughing at the Leeds business folk engrossed in their laptops, and there was me on my way to Halifax….with my laptop out, the shame. Of course I was doing some important research and website work. Well putting the predictions into an excel spread sheet.
Arriving at the station instantly a large police presence was very noticeable. I didn’t think it could be for the football, less than 2000 fans were expected at the game, having 10 policemen standing outside the station seemed overkill but I carried on my merry way. Next stop…the pub, or so I thought.
The first building I passed on the way to the ground had a big sign on the side “The Shay Bar – Halifax’s best kept secret!” That will do for me. On my way down the round I passed two perfectly good looking pubs, with only time for one pint I had my sights set.
Floodlights were in my sights, closer and closer they came. The pub can’t be far, just before the stadium I found it; there it was in all its glory……closed. Shut down. Thirsty.
Already at the ground I wandered on, a quick nip into the club shop for my usual nosey around the merchandise…closed. Great. Finding turnstile #18 I collected my pass and went inside. “£3 for a program” bloody hell!!!” Perhaps they’ll give one out to the press for information. Nope.
Once inside the Shay Stadium I whipped the trusty camera out to take the mandatory pictures of the stadium, with the panoramic shot done and I made my way up to the press box. I say box I mean a row of seats with little table and plug sockets. I liked it…if only there was some kind of Wi-Fi to do match updates…wasn’t working.
In the row of about 15 seats the only people there apart from myself were two people including Kelly from the website and to my left there was a vacant laptop, perhaps from the Evo-Stik site or local paper I presumed.
After introducing myself to Kelly she generously gave me her time to talk about the club she had supported for 22 years. Reformed back in 2008 the plan was to gain promotion from the Evo-Stik First Division North in the first season and hopefully be back in the Conference North in two seasons.
It didn’t go according to plan and the team failed to move up in their first year. The club then brought in new manager Neil Aspin, a veteran of football in the north the ex-Harrogate Town boss brought success to the Shaymen. Promotion was achieved with the club picking up 100 points in the process.
That success has continued this season with the club running away with the Northern Premier Division title. The target again to reach 100 points. Before the Marine AFC game they sat on 90 points with four games to go, almost there.
When asked what the clubs plan was for the next 2-3 years, even Kelly laughed a little when she said that after two straight promotions, two more promotions were the goal. Although they would take it through the play-offs and hopefully find themselves in League Two by 2013. It was nice to see a club with ambitions. Personally if they were in the Conference by 2013 I would deem that a fantastic success. In the clubs 100 year history before 2010 they had only ever seen two other promotions.
Sunshine covered Shay Stadium just as the game kicked off. Halifax started in a 3-5-2 formation the two wing backs given license to get up the flanks at will. Marine set up in a 4-5-1 with pacey striker Neil Harvey leading the lonely line.
Fifteen minutes passed and not much had happen. Scott Phelan went close when he pounced on a loose header to fire the shot wide. The owner of the vacant laptop had taken his place before kick-off and with not much to write down he seemed to be typing an awful lot. Half an hour in I was going to ask him what the final score was. He must have sent his copy off long before the interval.
Half-time is when I sample the local delicacies. While standing in the lengthy pie queue I managed to get a glimpse of the selection and the prices. £2.90 for a pie!!!! Eh no you’re ok. One bottle of Pepsi later I was back in my seat for the second half.
Halifax had struggled to find the back of the net in the first half, the two strikers Lee Gregory and Danny Holland each had a few chances to open the scoring but failed to hit the target. Aspin obviously didn’t like what he saw, two half time changes saw the formation change to 4-4-2 substitute Scott Hogan came on with it seemed the sole intention of bombing down the right flank. He was causing havoc the opening goal wasn’t far away.
Hogan got clear down the right on the 68th minutes, playing the ball in early the Marine defence couldn’t cope and Danny Holland was there to apply the finish. 1-0 and well deserved. Overall Halifax were far the better side, without Marine goalkeeper Ryan McMahon in superb form it could have easily been four or five.
Holland’s goal was the only one of the match and Halifax had another three points in the bag. I finished up my notes, said thank you again to Kelly. Some more pictures were taken before leaving the ground. Now I could go to one of the many pubs I had passed earlier.
The Ring O’Bells near the station had been recommended to me earlier in the week so I hunted it down for a well-deserved pint. Grolsch Blonde. Walking past the station I had noticed the police were still hanging around. Everyone in the ground had also noticed a helicopter hovering in the sky. Not near the station but in the town centre.
When I got in the pub and ordered my beer I asked the barman what was with the large police presence. “EDL” he replied. Oh great. So this was the fourth in the Yorkshire Football Weekend series and the second one that the EDL had turned up for. I hope they don’t think I want to join.