Wednesday, 11 April 2012

FC Halifax Town 3 Boston United 2

The great Pete Townshend of The Who once penned a B-side called ‘Instant Party Mixture.’ It’s not an especially memorable song, especially in the context of the golden 1960s, but the title summarises this away trip perfectly. 
Of course, back then, young manhood would great a Bank Holiday by popping a couple of ‘Blues,’ ironing the creases out of their zoot suits, flooring their Vespa all the way to Brighton and having a ruck on the beach with some Rockers. 
Nowadays, you neck a couple of cans of supermarket lager, pile into the back of a minibus, drive to a non-descript northern town, pile out into the nearest boozer, neck a couple of pints of marginally better lager. Then you go to the football, meet your mates, unhinge your vocal chords and let rip for 90 minutes in belly-wrenching support of your team. Instant. Party. Mixture. 
I had a solitary pint all day and spent nine lonely and miserable hours on trains, but I’d have no hesitation in ranking Halifax Away ’12 up there with the very best trips pursuing United across the country. 
The result was incidental. We had nothing to play for - we can’t go up, we can’t go down - but every single one of the lads gathered at the back of the Skircoat Stand sang their hearts out like we were chasing the Treble. We haven’t seen it as much this season, but this was the rare hair-brained, absent-minded loyalism that reminds me why Boston United means so much. 
Of the 165 travelling supporters housed in this vacuous, all-seater stand - seemingly a million miles away from the woefully silent home fans - only about 60 were actually studying the game. The remainder - the ever-presents, the regulars, the hardcore, the Ultras, the Yoof Ultras, the exiles and a few assorted extras - paid little attention, too busy bouncing, standing on the seats and singing the Darts song for reasons long since forgotten. Oi Oi Oi. 
Lo and behold, the Yoof managed to get Depeche Mode’s Can’t Get Enough going, something I’d been trying and singularly failing to do since Solihull last March. It sounded tremendous echoing off the rust-covered roof, as did everything else that left our lips. Lawson Jr wasn’t allowed his drum in - the gulf in decibel levels between the two sets of supporters was enormous as it was. With a thudding drum as well, it would have been embarrassing. 
The singing started in the back room of The Three Pigeons beforehand - with pints of the divine Yorkshire Blonde ale sloshing all over the place - and continued unabated until the squad completed their warm-down at ten past five. No wonder I was struggling to speak at work the following morning. 
FC Halifax did well to cling on to the grand old Shay stadium after their reformation, but for now it is comfortably bigger than their needs. The crowd was just shy of 1,600, a few hundred more than average but empty space was evident on all four sides. 
The newish main stand is a fine example of what can be built, but it didn’t help the atmosphere that the home fans were in a terrace 100 yards away from us. Even the blue and white bunting in the other terrace was missing. 
On the pitch, in classic Yorkshire wet, United started with the desire of a someone wanting to spend his Bank Holiday weekend watching all the James Bond films back-to-back but has been ordered to box in the pipes in the bathroom, hoe the garden and grout the kitchen tiles. 
In the first few minutes, Bradford City loanee Ross Hannah slithered past Tom Ward and Gareth Jellyman to finish past Ricky Drury in net. Bazza remains sidelined with bronchitis, which wouldn’t have been helped by the teeming rain. 
James Dean (no, not that one) had a goal disallowed from a corner, to our great delight, but Halifax continued to stream forward and gained an inevitable second when Hannah finished from close range after some more powderpuff defending. 
We briefly entered stunned silence when Dean scored a third, moments after Lee Gregory had rattled the post, and with Halifax making us look amateurish, there were very real flashbacks to Altrincham back in October
There had been absolutely no evidence that we would get anything out of the game, but when goal machine Marc Newsham pulled one back just before the break, hope sprung eternal. The hinge on my seat strained as I stood on it to conduct everyone in the 36th rendition of Ring of Fire. It was Newsham’s 20th goal of the campaign and secured him my vote for Player of the Year. 
Chastened but encouraged, United were a different proposition in the second-half. The nightmare of Altrincham was replaced by memories of glorious comebacks, made all the more vivid when Josh Burge pulled another back when goalkeeper Simon Eastwood failed to grasp Ben Milnes’ low shot. 
With every sweeping United counter-attack, we raised another guttural roar, but an equaliser wasn’t to be. Ian Ross came within inches, striking the crossbar from wide on the right. Everyone gasped for breath as the curling cross-cum-shot flew in, exhaling in exasperation as it grazed the woodwork. Halifax had just done enough to keep their promotion bid on track. 
But there was no shame in this defeat, on what was a superlative and unforgettable away day. 
Next match: The sun is setting on the Scottish football season, but I hope to get to some post-split SPL fixtures and some new grounds soon.