Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Huddersfield Town 1 Carlisle United 1

My 61st and final football match of 2011 came at the Galpharm Stadium, where after an opportunistic heist which involved asking nicely, I’d scored a couple of free tickets to Huddersfield’s Friday Night Live with Carlisle. 
The generous donor was my colleague Andrew Robinson, who had been sent the tickets by Terriers chairman Dean Hoyle for bothering to turn up week-in week-out this year. Since he seemed enthused by the prospect of getting a mention in this blog post, the tickets were donated by ANDREW ROBINSON.
Excitingly, the tickets were golden, making them a Golden Ticket. And during 2011, the Galpharm has been largely a world of pure imagination in the Willy Wonka chocolate factory style, as Huddersfield remained unbeaten in league games until the end of November. The faithful have gorged like Augustus Gloop on the goals of Jordan Rhodes of late and the prospect of seeing the young Scot in action excited my mate and Press Association Sport wire jockey Liam.
A late finish at work unfortunately meant no time for the legendary Huddersfield welcome and by the time we’d found a parking space up the hill from the ground and far away there was nothing left to do but take up our seats. There wasn’t even time for another taste of the Galpharm’s ‘unique‘ cuisine, for which my digestive tract thanked me. 
The regulars in our section were bemused and irritated at all the Golden Ticket part-timers - one loudly exclaimed that he would complain to the club that his ticket for this game wasn’t free. I don’t think his model of running a football club had been given a great deal of thought to be honest. His mate flipped when the kiosk sold out of pies - all the phony fans had scoffed them. 
Personally, I thought Hoyle’s gesture was an exceedingly generous one and the stringers and their friends (or 90-year-old mothers in the case of the people sat next to me) swelled the attendance far beyond that expected on a wet Friday night two days before the New Year. If only a few of those come back on a regular basis, the promotion has been worth his while. 
I’d neglected to mention this to Andrew, but I’m a bit of a jinx on Huddersfield. At the Leyton Orient game, they’d tossed away a two-goal lead and at the Bradford match, they’d lost on penalties. And the Shergold curse was much in evidence early on, as Carlisle took the lead. Francois Zoko waltzed past Anthony Kay and cut back for Liam Noble to apply a straightforward finish, to the delight of the impressive following of 634 from Cumbria. 
Town responded brightly and, from our position, we had an excellent view of Danny Cadamarteri who, despite being played out of his natural position on the right wing, made full use of his experience to hold the ball up well. Cadamarteri aside, Huddersfield looked a little lazy and rusty in their passing, as though the exhausting festive schedule had already got to them. 
Golden Ticket to a world of pure imagination..
Kay saw an effort hacked off the line by James Berrett, before Cadamarteri raced in to fire the rebound wide, but the truth was that Carlisle looked the more likely to score and when they drove forward in the lashing rain, the home defence always seemed to back off. The former Leeds man mountain Lubo Michalik and Noble went close and the locals, already all-too-distressed about the pie situation, grew more and more fractious.
But, seven minutes before half-time, they equalised. Rhodes - who else? - found a yard of room in a claustrophobic penalty area and finished Tommy Miller’s centre. It was his 21st goal of the season already and doubtless made Lee Clark’s half-time chat a good deal more bearable. 
Town were rejuvenated in the second half and poured forward in search of the winning goal that would keep the pressure on the two Sheffield clubs ahead of them in the table. Adam Collin saved brilliantly from Lee Novak at point blank range and Peter Clarke shortly afterwards, as the crowd came to life and forlorn shouts of ‘Uddersfield became actual songs. 
The last ten minutes were spent bopping from seat to expectant standing as Town laid siege. It culminated when sub Scott Arfield fed Rhodes, who loomed down on goal. The entire ground to a man, woman, child, pensioner and Golden Ticket part-timer peered on expectantly, only for Rhodes to miss. Yes, he missed. He’s only human after all, and that crushing realisation had hands glued to heads in disbelief and hundreds heading for the exits. This was not a Roald Dahl script - there was no happy ending. 
Next Match: United back in action at Eastwood Town on New Year’s Day.