Monday, 2 July 2012

Fixtures 2012/13



14/07 - Brighouse Town (A) SAT
21/07 - Stockport County (H) SAT
24/07 - Farsley (A) TUES
28/07 - Scunthorpe United (H) SAT
04/08 - Blackburn Rovers (H) SAT
08/08 - Bolton Wanderers (H) WED
11/08 - North Ferriby United (A) SAT

Full Conference (Nat/Nor/Sou) Fixtures

18/08 - Bishop's Stortford (A) SAT
21/08 - Colwyn Bay (H) TUES
25/08 - Workington (H) SAT
27/08 - Bradford PA (A) MON

01/09 - Oxford City (H) SAT
05/09 - Chester (A) WED
08/09 - Hinckley United (A) SAT
15/09 - Gloucester (H) SAT
29/09 - Histon (A) SAT

02/10 - Vauxhall Motors (H) TUES
13/10 - Boston United (H) SAT
20/10 - Altrincham (A) SAT
27/10 - Brackley Town (A) SAT
30/10 - Harrogate Town (H) TUES

03/11 - Guiseley (A) SAT
17/11 - Droylsden (H) SAT

01/12 - Solihull Moors (H) SAT
08/12 - Worcester City (A) SAT
15/12 - Bishop's Stortford (H) SAT
22/12 - Colwyn Bay (A) SAT
26/12 - Gainsborough Trinity (H) WED
29/12 - Corby Town (H) SAT

01/01 - Gainsborough Trinity (A) TUES
05/01 - Gloucester City (A) SAT
12/01 - Hinckley United (H) SAT
19/01 - Oxford City (A) SAT
26/01 - Chester (H) SAT

02/02 - Corby Town (A) SAT
09/02 - Histon (H) SAT
16/02 - Droylsden (A) SAT
23/02 - Stalybridge Celtic (H) SAT
26/02 - Vauxhall Motors (A) TUES

02/03 - Worcester City (H) SAT
09/03 - Solihull Moors (A) SAT
16/03 - Brackley Town (H) SAT
23/03 - Harrogate Town (A) SAT
30/03 - Workington (A) SAT

01/04 - Bradford PA (H) MON
06/04 - Altrincham (H) SAT
13/04 - Boston United (A) SAT
20/04 - Guiseley (H) SAT
27/04 - Stalybridge Celtic (A) SAT

All Bank Holiday/weekend fixtures kick-off 3pm
7:45pm otherwise

Thursday, 8 March 2012

A requiem for my dog Jesse, 28/02/2001 - 06/03/2012.


As I enter the porch a long, black but graying nose pokes out from the catflap. An eager whimper comes out, and she sticks her head through. I type in the door code and open it; Jess is there, practising a few small springs on her hind legs. The baggy skin over her eyes is pushed back to show the whites of her eyes and her chops wobble. She whimpers some more. Will she spring up to hug me around the pelvis, or will she roll on her back with her chest out? She's not bothered with leaping today and she rolls over. Her favourite stroke is on her chest and that's what she gets until I've taken off my shoes. Down my left is her leads, her bowl, her basket, her box, and a note reminding us to give her some eyedrops as she cannot produce tears anymore due to eyelid surgery. She went deaf at one point although she had long before decided that responding to us calling her name wasn't to her advantage anyway, but now it means she has no idea of the noise she makes. When she sees me she whimpers and gulps intensely and when we're eating she whimpers and gulps intensely. She's not going to get any of that gluten though lest she's temporarily blinded again and starts running into doors.

Dogs become so wretched in their old age and Jess started to lose it last summer. I started running mid-May last year and around a week later I took Jess on a fell run: our first and last. It was a little full-on to her and I appreciate that with age a lot of carrot is needed. Maybe I took her torch on as her health plummted. At the end of July an umpteenth childminded kid's parent left our gate open and Jess shot out. She was in the vets that night with pancreatitis.

A dog psychiatrist diagnosed her with OCD not too long ago, the point being that theoretically, faced with an infinite pile of bin waste, Jess would eat it all until she'd die of overeating. Food was there to be inside her, and if there wasn't food in sight it would be her imperative to find food. Food was one of the two things that properly motivated Jess. It was food and faith in her family that ran her. Mum was her own mother and best friend, but she would wait at the foot of the stairs for any of us. The smell of the air going down the lane to grandma's made her whine, and the smell of the Lake District air made her whine. As a dog, faith ran her. Rounding us up on walks and staying at our heels. Bounding into the lounge at 9pm as we sat down for tea and weaving around your legs as you toiled in the kitchen. Diving down for the bit of food you dropped and devouring it. Spitting it out again as she realises it's a bit of carrot or pepper or something else that would actually do her body some good.

A Saturday lunchtime spent feeding her emetics so she expelled all the rat poison she'd found in the porch. Sitting in the car back to the priory in Devon from East Prawle after she'd rolled on the bloated corpse of a beached porpoise. Watching her eat a dead, sand-covered fish when stood powerless in another rockpool. Scraping chewing gum from the Huddersfield pavement as a puppy. Practically all my chocolates accumulated from Christmas 2003, devoured. New Year's spent worrying over her liver afterwards. Her brief foray with hen crap.

Seeing her bound up and down the tussocks on her second-wind, curlews spurting out from the heather. Uprooting you downhill as she shoots through your legs. Letting her determine the path and letting her stop to sniff other dogs' marks of territory. Nearly giving me squits in fear as she leapt around at 20mph as I tried to scale Sharp Edge on Blencathra. Not stopping at the summit to admire anything at all, but instead darting after a sheep as that's her way of playing games. Quick drinks from muddy puddles and quick dips in troughs and the irrigation. If a run's enjoyability is determined by how muddy you are when you finish, then this applies a hundred times over to Jess, who remains unphased when lead into the stream to clean down.

In many ways a very healthy dog, it was her attitude to food that pulled her down. Arriving home as a box-shape, throwing up and going on a long run the next day was a perfect weekend to Jess, although most of her life was spent sniffing around the main room, retiring to a settee or her basket. I wonder if it bored her.

This Saturday, Jess escaped and found a bin. She came back and threw up. She threw up on her walk the next day. She threw up on her walk the day after that. She was taken to the vet, where she was diagnosed with pancreatitis again. This Tuesday the vet looked inside her and found a ball-like tumour in her pancreas that had begun to metastasise, and upon seeing that it was confirmed that she wouldn't be in any less pain than she'd already be if she woke up again. Thus, Jesse White died on the 6th March 2012 in her sleep: a post-binge nap she never woke up from, and a very sad house that she'll never know she ever left.


Thursday, 23 February 2012

Wall of Sound


Obviously, this really is a football blog of mine, and nearly as obviously, it's quite dormant at the moment due to a more hectic life. As with most people, things outside of football often stun, inspire and incense me at least as much as on/off-pitch shenanigans do, but for more personal reasons this matter catches my attention.

Last night I dreamt that I was in the area, so went to check out Wall of Sound again. I came to find it had shut down. I looked through the window to all the records I wouldn't see again and burst into tears (please let me continue here). As this was a dream, there were other inconsistencies such as Wall of Sound still being in the Piece Hall and the fact it had Edward Monkton cards on the window display, but those points are less relevant. When I woke up this morning, I trailed back to the first dream I had that night and realised what I dreamt. I loathe that Derren Brown nonsense, but this was the first time I wanted to double-check. I googled "wall of sound" and up it came:
After 25 years of trading, Wall of Sound has now closed.
A massive thank you to all who have supported me and shared my love of music.
Please continue to support those that care.
Like in the dream, I'll openly admit that this made me weep. If that sounds sad, imagine what I think of those who solely find their music through free downloads, HMV, supermarkets and sprawling Amazon warehouses. Now I'm forced to look at it in retrospect, Wall of Sound was one of the strongest elements of continuity in my growing up. My father took me a number of times when I was in primary school, and in year six I started going on my tod or with friends. As many may know, at the time Wall of Sound comprised two units in Halifax's Piece Hall, selling 40,000+ LPs, singles and cassettes on one side, with CDs and LPs on the other. The two units were increasingly packed with music in growing stacks of what was mainly cardboard boxes. Not long before leaving for Huddersfield, there were turrets of cassettes and 12" records and as a rite of passage I did accidentally knock one lot over.

How my love of music looked in 2008.

It was a wonderful place as it always was in year six. Back then, among the things I looked at were Korn CDs, but mostly the less common Nirvana records and bootlegs. The Outcesticide CDs, the In Bloom 12" picture disc, etc. As I entered secondary school my search became focused on punk of all stripes: from the most commonly-known '77 punk through to US hardcore, grunge and oi!, all the way up to the bland modern outfits. Through year nine my tastes expanded much more, often beyond the limits of most record shops, but my personal definition of what was relevant in the WoS vaults grew like nothing. Through secondary school it expanded still and towards end end of year eleven anything in there could garner my interests—apart from of course the ever-extensive classic rock/hair metal sections.

In summer '06 it turned out one of the assistants, Nick, a black-clad gent with hair halfway down his body who must have weighed in at about 6st., left. That day I spent three hours hanging out there. His choices were excellent and his stories were hilarious, from watching Boredoms support Shonen Knife, to throwing his friend's Gong records like frisbees. I saw him several months later as a guitar teacher for little kids, fingers covered in calluses and blisters, in high spirits as he'd always been.

That summer I had my first job, a suffocating second-life as a kitchen porter in the Millbank gastropub, a posh noshery which went bump the other year. Thirteen or fourteen hours a week there on top of GCSEs got me enough money to buy four or five records a week. I hadn't much spare time and a life of being belittled by teachers and staff was a drag. But I had music. It also granted me enough disposable to get to Manchester and spend a lot of time at Piccadilly Records. In contrast, Piccadilly was a spick'n'span affair filled with the latest releases and re-issues, more likely to sell you a £30 180-gram expanded edition of a 13th Floor Elevators vinyl or a £12 CD from another avant-garde luminary.

A year or so on they announced plans to leave for Huddersfield, to one whole unit with more space. Pre-recession, I'd lived a charmed life to find this news upsetting. No more failing to get there straight after a Halifax Town match; no more having a superlative record shop local to me for after schools or weekend pottering. The news unsettled me but it wasn't that hard to adapt; each time Town had an away game I would join my father and brother playing pitch and putt in Kirklees, with the reward of visiting Wall of Sound on the way back.

The vaults had gone with the stone walls and decorative graffiti, and with a large sign above the shopfront, Wall of Sound had established itself down the road from Huddersfield Train Station. CDs were on sale in a room on the ground floor, with an expansive basement below with enough space for vinyl to finally breathe. I left with a Negativland LP and a couple of others. Many more new releases seemed to be coming in and many of the deadwood albums that I'd flicked through since prepubescence were shifting. The members of staff who joined were just as welcoming. It was a rebirth.

Transferring from the North Halifax Grammar School to Greenhead College in Huddersfield for sixth form made things better. Wall of Sound was now less than a mile down the road. I could now drop in during free periods and before guitar lessons I took on the outskirts of the town. What stopped me going there every week was not having the money I'd had a couple of years back, but as always I would buy something every time I went in. The range of choice was immense as I could buy a Soul Jazz compilation with a heavy wallet, or a cheap old 12" with a handful of change. I loved my time at sixth form, and Wall of Sound remained part of it. Although I technically stopped growing age 14, I grew up with WoS and it benevolently dictated my formative years.

I'm now a second year in physics at the University of Leeds, but still taking guitar lessons in Huddersfield means I've still been an on-off visitor to WoS, buying records as I go. For half of my first year at university, the choice remained excellent. One time however, I found the shop had split in two. Below, all the records had been replaced by the Vinyl Warehouse, a place as crammed with records as the Piece Hall units were, but with nearly none of the character. Wall of Sound had contracted to the ground floor, with a fraction of their records moved up there and many of the singles on discount. Soon after many of the older CDs and records there went on discount. All of these changes were very disconcerting. I only went into Vinyl Warehouse once because the place depressed me like hell. I prefer not to flick through 150 copies of the same flopped Zutons single to find something unique. Literally the most interesting and individual thing I found there was the Human League's Dare! LP. And unlike the WoS environment, no-one acknowledged I'd come down those stairs. If the endless recession were to do anything to my favourite of all the vulnerable independents though, I'd take this over anything unspeakable. The last things I bought there were several Ride EPs in installments.

One of the last times I went there were a bunch of lower sixth-formers there flicking through every browser. One of them was raving about old blues records and it warmed my heart to see that I may not be a throwback from another decade. It felt like all the music fans to come were in safe keeping.

I haven't been back to Huddersfield for a few months, so I was nearly two months late to discover this morning that WoS was no more (symptomatic of why I'm no journalist). To me, it went today and I'm quite devastated. The old shop has been absorbed by Vinyl Tap. Saying that's OK is beside the point. Wall of Sound had everything that makes a great place. Good music begets belonging and friendship. It accesses you and doesn't talk down to you. Wall of Sound had that to it in its people and stock, and even if there's an already-running shop in its place, it'll slowly consume Wall of Sound's identity and there will be two more empty units gathering mold in the mausoleum that the Piece Hall now is. Vinyl Tap was already established in Huddersfield, so Huddersfield now has one independent left. Halifax has Revo. When I begun my collection it had Revo but it also had Bradley's Records, Andy's Records, and the great Wall of Sound. Some shops concentrate on speciality, like Piccadilly Records. Some are huge discount bins, like Vinyl Warehouse. The majority occupy the wide middle ground. Wall of Sound had all of it. The closest I've seen to it was a vast, sprawling, specialised and unique place in Seattle, but even that doesn't come close.

Elliot Smaje ran Wall of Sound and working on losses in a beastly climate even affected his health towards the end. WoS's closure had to be felt the most by him. For a short, sociology-type project on music consumption I did in between the sciences at Greenhead, I interviewed an assistant, Mark. This was in May '09 and despite it being challenging, he described how record shops as bedrocks of local music helped them through the modern age. Local acts could find rely on them and they could even put on gigs. Guest musicians could come in to host evenings there for fans. He added that a delight of buying music in person is how you can walk in with little in mind, and come out with an empty wallet and a bag being torn by the weight of your purchases. It's a social opportunity to discover, listen and be tempted; you can even branch out a bit. Live as is human by putting the stylus on the shellac you've been told is worth a listen, rather than hopping through audio on YouTube on your tod.

Going back to a record shop from an online environment makes you wonder why you left it. Good, often expensive, but hardly addictive, fun. Remaining indies, I'm sure, have never been of such high quality, with their will to appeal more than ever. How WoS still did this but couldn't avoid shutting down makes me crestfallen, and I wish other consumers would move back to this. Though I haven't in a long while, I've bought many things online that I'd probably never find elsewhere, and I've even bought a few .mp3s from Bandcamp. That versus the surprise of finding a gem in the middle of a stack though? No comparison. If the financial woes of the common man ever end, I hope record shops come back en masse. The online cultural shift is near completion in this country. Once the proverbial dust settles I wish shoppers could take to the streets again. When indies survive in distinctive small towns like Whitby and Hebden Bridge, they should in sprawling boroughs.

There concludes my eulogy for Wall of Sound. I wish I could do more.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Vauxhall Motors 1 – 3 Halifax Town; 21/01/12.


£3 student. Excellent!

It's been a little while since I last saw the Shaymen, a much longer while since I last followed The Brotherhood away, and longer still since I last wrote about The Brotherhood. To be specific, my last away game was Colwyn Bay in our dismal attempt to advance in the Trophy, and my last report, the Guiseley one, comes from a time when we were only beating relegation candidates, flying in with kamikaze tackles and shipping far too many goals in the opening minutes. FTS returns as the Shaymen win their seventh consecutive game and sixth consecutive away game. Whatever has changed our fortune, the biggest addition we've made since that Guiseley game was impact substitute Jason St Juste, a light-footed left-winger who runs at an acute angle to the ground. As a second-half utility man he is a great asset.

One of the two clubhouses at Rivacre Park, this being the dry (and therefore deserted) one with '70s caravan décor. I somehow doubt this TV blasts out Soccer Saturday but it's worth remembering your roots sometimes.

Obviously, it was heartbreaking for a 10-man Vauxhall to put five past us earlier in the season. It's the fact they're seemingly anonymous too. A works team based outside Ellesmere Port, by the Astra factory and the motorway. But all that does for me right now though is respect the fans: far from Mammon-loving brand-worshipers, they're all sound men of the Merseyside. My burning ears singed my flat cap as I read the kind words they had to say of us in their programme. "Forget the Telford and Kettering pretenders," I paraphrase, "FC Halifax Town are probably the biggest team we've faced in the league," also adding that Halifax was "part of the glorious North where rugby league [FTS edit: ahem!], bitter, and Northern Soul reigns supreme." They kindly acknowledged our respect for their performance in the reverse fixture and fed us the nicest chips I've had at a ground yet. If we're to progress up the leagues I hope we won't be missing the hospitality of places like Rivacre Park.

The main stand at Rivacre Park, complete with badly-placed dugouts. The Rivacre is an OK place that reflects the size of the club and is definitely better than Nethermoor.

The chill of the easterly wind wasn't as welcoming though, and neither was the referee. The first talking point of the match was Garner's fourth-minute booking after which he lunged into our old Scott Phelan with two feet. Miraculously he was only cautioned, but he was soon taken off for St Juste. After that with the wind on our side, it was just a case of learning to be gentle else the ball would fly out of the ground and the Wirral altogether, with players turning into acrobats to keep the ball in play and an inept referee who was dead keen on rewarding throw-ins instead of offsides, free kicks to the perpetrators, and generally disrupting any play that the weather didn't already disrupt. We capitalised on the 33rd minute from a 'keeper howler as Tynan rolled it into the feet of St Juste, whose rebounded shot was dealt with by Danny Holland. And after so little open play, the next two goals came in stoppage time as one-knee'd Holland completed a hat-trick. After a confident Scott McManus run and rifled shot over, St Juste gave Holland a close-range assist, before another 'keeper howler as he parried a Gregory attempt from the edge of the box, which Holland picked up and hit it into the open net from a difficult angle. 3–0 HT, Holland with the match ball.

St Juste breaks into area, Phelan covers.

Confidence was to be earnt again in the second half however, as Holland was replaced for Anton Foster in a defensive move as we would battle against a wind that would make a long ball fly like a broken shuttlecock. A free kick saw the Motormen pull one back thanks to Phelan who was perhaps more languid than we'd've expected aside from the obligatory goal against his old team. Being Shaymen, the fans treated this goal as if it was 1–0 to them and the game lost its classic appeal. What we were looking at now was keeping possession in high winds and shrewdly sitting back on our lead and it worked. A second goal for the home side may have come before McGivern finally justified a sending off as he spat on McManus (McGivern had also spat at a Town fan before the game), and the balance then turned to a scrappy midfield display with a few more bookings and a match that dragged on until past 5pm.

More match "action."

It's all well and good to protest about the man in black stopping a free-flowing game, booking when a caution/red was more deserved and dozing when important decisions were to be made, but I've kept something else in reserve here: he let Vauxhall kick off both the first AND second half. Nearly as surprising that no players really protested. The result was both sets of fans protesting this man's ineptitude and leafing through D.M. Turner's Essential Psychedelics Guide to see which hallucinogenic drug on the market lasts exactly two hours. What's more, McGivern was allowed on the subs bench after his sending off before the ref' finally caved in and sent him off for a shower. I love the people of Vauxhall Ellesmere Port and district that we've met, but much of this game was lacking.

But y'know. We're on a seven-win run that has shown that wins can be found in at least seven different ways though and despite having a bare-bones squad we now sit in third. Town not wait to strike Stalybridge and properly clear ground from Guisly as at least one play-off candidate drops points each week. Furthermore, this blogger has had at least two people ask him why he hasn't been writing, so the reader who has come this far has popular demand to thank because this bitch is back.*

*Provided my workload is kinder to me this term.

Vauxhall Motors 1 – 3 Halifax Town; att. 532
Ground: 5/10
Pitch: 6/10
Programme: 8/10
Chips: best in the league, perhaps the non-league?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Guiseley 3 – 4 Halifax Town; 20/09/11.


There's no better person to quote than myself, because otherwise who would quote me? "When we start playing well for once, it's going to feel mint."

I approached Nethermoor Park as you'd walk past a sleeping Rottweilier that only eats Town fans. A local kid slipped in with us, since his ticket would cost £1 in the company of an adult. After we got through the turnstile he joined a group, one of which shouted at us "You're gonna get battered tonight!" I made a bee-line to the bar and necked a tidy half pint of a Hebden Bridge bitter in time for the players to gather on a clean, slightly warped pitch.

What I heard next shocked me: Neil Aspin's father had passed away from cancer today. The teams lined up and bowed their heads for a minute's silence and the main stand spectators rose, and although by this point I wondered if there was a rational reason for us to stay, Aspin himself was still there by the dugout, showing the astounding resilience we would soon see from the players.

A minute in, Toulson gave it away and an attempt for the right-hand-side of the goal from Guiseley's Peter Davidson trickled through the hands of Eastwood, leaving us 1–0 down. A voice in my head said "9–0 FT."

Seven minutes in and the danger in Guiseley's eyes let's us have it again, with Gavin Rothery finding some space from a header to hit it high up and in. Two goals down and I still hadn't even found a good vantage point from which to shout.

I found my father at the other corner on the ground, who declared we'd lost already and we may as well do what we can until the final whistle. But 20 minutes had elapsed and we hadn't conceded a goal in a while, so was some momentum being picked up? Yes, we had a good amount of possession but were we to let Guiseley on the attack again it'd be safe to assume they'd score, knowing our red carpet of a defense. Your inner dreads as a fan though can be hidden deeper inside you if you encourage your team vocally: "Do it for Neil Aspin!" had to be the words to go by.

Soon, the Shaymen's heads raised up like Pez dispensers. Terry Dixon was to take a free kick from 20 yards instead of the usual from cap'n Tom Baker, and the wall-beating shot was converted from the rebound by Lee Gregory. We had begun playing with some fluency again and sent an early warning to Guiseley that their perfect home streak wasn't so safe. However, the Lions couldn't help but respond towards the end of the first half, and not too long after a looping header got palmed away by Eastwood, he couldn't stop a close-range diving header that Rothery nailed, while I snuck off to see a man about a dog, trying not to think of anything at all.

No, I'm not a professional sports photographer. Well spotted.

More match visuals taken hurriedly because I accidentally deleted all of the older stuff including two goals and me patting Danny Lowe's back in my fervour.

After their second and third, the Guiseley massive felt eager enough to vaguely chant their name a couple of times, and the next peek I heard of the home team's supporters was being told that we were the strongest side to come to Nethermoor so far this season. We were just worried that Town's courage had crumbled again and that another write-off was ahead. And bloody hell, were we given an unexpected treat!

As we kicked off I heard a "Going down, going down, going down!" chant directed at us from the other side of the ground. Must be this non-league grace and spirit we're always told about that teams like bankrolled Guiseley clearly have in abundance. Defiantly, the Shaymen of the second half were world beaters (ie. Conference North beaters). Our game flowed, our players communicated, and Guiseley's nappies got fully twisted over it. It was simply better than anything from the last five games. When Holland squared the ball to Terry Dixon, whose touch went in off defender Danny Ellis, a 3–2 scoreline felt pretty OK in and of itself. Four minutes later, Baker's corner ball reached the bowing head of Terry Dixon, and the loanee himself had opened his account finally, and deservedly.

We could then do it all. Route one was a possible, as were the flanks. Our defenders picked up the stray Guiseley counters and the entire team had grown a foot in height. After ten further minutes it was Dixon again who fed in a route one ball to Gregory. Greggers, as per, took ages with the ball inside the six-yard box: was he erring, or was he dancing with the ball to deceive the frankly petrified Guiseley defense? Either way it worked, thank god, and the feeling of us getting that 4–3 win, a three-goal gain within 15 minutes still feels stunning.

So, a confounded Guiseley kicked off for the final time in the evening, and a particular brand of classiness courtesy of substitute O'Neill's elbow floored Liam Hogan, and the former was shown the red card after six farcical minutes on the pitch. The remainder of the match was still tense but seen out well, and the eighth goal of the game was on our radar more often than theirs. It's always tense, when the three points are in sight.

Neutrals at the match would've found it fantastic, and the Shaymen certainly did. This was the Shaymen we'd seen under Aspin in the previous two seasons, a group of lads who celebrate with each other when they score and always have the goal in their collective mind. If we piece more of these results together, minus the activity at the other end of the pitch, it'll be alright. For now, our current squad have showed easy game is something we ain't.

P.S. I got a programme; a rather uncommon thing for me now considering the dross I spent 17 seconds reading at Evo-Stik level. It's a good 'un! Admittedly tinpot in design (see below) but high in content and effort and ultimately worth the asking price. Props also to the first history I've read of ourselves which wasn't copied off a dormant, semi-literate page on the official website, despite it only documenting two of our 100 seasons of footie. Canny.

Guiseley 3 – 4 Halifax Town; att. 897
Entertainment: 9/10
Ground: 5/10
Pitch: 7/10

I'm a happy Town fan.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Halifax Town 1 – 5 Vauxhall Motors; 17/09/11.


I'm writing this on the Wednesday, having seen Town take on Guiseley the night before. It's odd how that's happened, as I felt like writing this report as soon as I got home from the match, but even by the morning after I was pretty much speechless.

So, Vauxhall Motors. Eff Cee. Vauxhall Motors FC. When others try to justify the tinpot nature of football at lower levels, if they don't want to stop at the absurdity of Accrington being a "Stanley" or ask you where the hell Forest Green is, everyone can laugh at the expense of Ellesmere Port's biggest team. But where is Ellesmere Port? It's west of Runcorn and Frodsham, bordering on the Wirral. Whatever that makes you think, Vauxhall are a works team that have survived the demands of Conference North football for several years and with all banana skins in mind they were way, way better than us.

This Saturday broke my heart. A few minutes in Toulson grappled with a Vauxhall forward, seemingly out of the area. But the forward fell over in the area and Josh Wilson converted the penalty. 14 minutes in, Dean was about to be put through on goal as midfielder John Bennett pulled him down and received a red card for his ill-judged effort. So the Motormen were 1–0 up and 10 men down with so much opportunity for the Shaymen to get a little something. Baker's free kick tested the goalie pretty well, but not well enough. Golden opportunities followed, Gregory missing two good headers by angling them both a little to high and Baker's daisy-cutter which zipped just wide.

Then, just before our brains could adjust to the concept of going 2–0 down, Motors' Craig Mahon ran for a loose ball and struck it past everyone in front of him, scoring a screamer from out of the box. It was Vauxhall's next attack that then made it 3–0, a free kick inside the halfway line which went to Leighton McGivern who ran along with it and struck past Eastwood with momentum. Shock was served up in the South Stand and sadly some booing.

After a long half-time break, Town performed the best we'd get from them all afternoon. Surrounding a rebounded shot which Deano rolled past the 'keeper to make it 3–1, there was some hope that the Shaymen had finally arrived. Then, of course, shortly after this confidence boost, Baker of all people gave away a sloppy pass to McGivern, who took it one step, two step, and with his left foot . . . fuck me. From 35 yards out, McGivern's strike hit the top-right corner of the net, far out of the reach of any goalkeeper around. Devastating at any level.

From then on we were heads-down and didn't allow ourselves to make any semblance of a comeback. Our defense stopped short of rolling out the red carpet for the best opposition striker we've seen at the Shay for ages and ages, our midfield had the patience of an 8-year-old trombonist spending hours on his scales, and our striking was as sloppy a force as a few drunks trying to aim their wee properly.

To close the scoring, McGivern completed a hat-trick with a free kick that swung past the wall and curled into the far-left of the goal. He was then substituted to the biggest applause of the game, all across the ground. Half the crowd had left, and the atmosphere stung.

Remember: ten men.

There were so many faults with that match I don't know where to begin and to end, and which points are more valid than others. At the time, I still had confidence however, that Aspin's thoughts were more relevant than the fans'.


Halifax Town 1 – 5 Vauxhall Motors; att. 1265.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Hinckley United 3 – 2 Halifax Town; 10/09/11.


That sound you hear is Lynne Truss screaming.
It takes some thinking to reflect on summat like this, and I'm not going to claim to have each solution to every problem dealt out from a neatly-stacked deck of strategies. For the benefit of the hapless reader of FTS, let's go through the whole wreck of today and pick things out from the rubble.

I honestly don't think I've begun a day with the Shaymen without some optimism. Usually I have the full, three-point optimism, other times I hope for a well-earned draw. The end of the Jim Vince season was the only time I wasn't oozing with confidence, but even then achievement felt as if it were nearby. With Hinckley having already lost five games albeit with a manager who's lead them safely along for 14 years, setting off at 11am today I felt this optimism and continued to feel it for a pretty long time. I'm now going to skip the usual frivulous "then I bought a badge, then I ate a pie, la-di-da" wank I usually write on away days, in order to grind a few gears.

Stinckley are the most incompetent team we've met this season. From the opening minute we were freely bombarding down to Stinckley's terraced end goal and it took only a minute for their players to become mardy, bemoaning every ref' decision, even ones that went their way. Whereas working through some teams' back lines is almost like brain surgery, manouvering the space Hinckley left us was easier than sewing a button. We did the usual Town thing and took our time with it, though with the spontaneity and pace we used to be capable of would've startled their lumpen looking 'keeper Danny Haystead. Indeed, no Town fan at the DeMontfort today felt we only had the potential for two goals. Instead, we operated at the pace of a pre-season friendly. When playing one league game a week, you don't operate at a friendly pace. When playing one league game a week, you have the energy reserves to . . . well, y'know: if you can potentially score six goals, you should try to score those six goals.

Lee Gregory was given good service on the first goal and was clean through on goal. Haystead came off his line and the lob into the net was perfect. In the second half, when débutant Terry Dixon's shot was parried away, Harry Winter did a successful job with a gnat's fart of a kick into an open goal. Throughout these 65 minutes leading to the goal that made it 2–0 Town, Stinckley were playing to the standards of a Step 4 team. But we were mediocre. We were mediocre, and even when we approached the goal we weren't clinical. As usual. It felt like we were arbitrarily planning attacks when we had the ball in their half, taking our time before foolishly giving away the ball, only to dispossess them again.

The Shaymen speed down the flanks once again.

This was a cat-and-mouse/piggy-in-the-middle style of play, and it's the style of play you should only be happy with seeing if your team's at least 4–0 up. Instead we took to it from kick-off until Stinckley started scoring.

Stinckley would go on to have six shots. Of those, three were on target and those three all went in. The deceptively quiet frontman Andre Gray found space for a decent shot out of Simon Eastwood's grasp four minutes after our second goal. A little while later, Gray fed a perfect cross for Danny Newton to head in from a few yards. And with a few minutes to go, that Andre Gray again was through, and when Eastwood's dive for the ball got the man instead, Stinckley were rewarded with a penalty which former Town reject Luke Dean netted. A man who couldn't impress when we played Wakefield in 2010. This always happens.

As the transition in the above paragraph took place, Town went from their barely-acceptable grade to which they'd played for the entire game (and the vast majority of the last four matches), to timid, to eleven Tom Harbans, all clambering over each other to show how feckless they could be in a moment of need. The confidence in the team was astonishingly low, and it doesn't take a conceited man to demand a team like Halifax Town to play to their assumed prestige. We've a splendid ground and 1,000 fans who won't be put off by several months of performances similar to the first dozen hours of competitive football seen this season. For a squad to flourish, tweaking it should be kept to a minimum. However, if one or two players are shown the door this week then Aspin will still know what he's doing and it'll all be a greater good.[1]

It's always a good idea to use words sparingly to keep their full effect. With that in mind, this performance was a disgrace.[2]

Anyway. Congratulations! You've successfully(?) read through eight paragraphs of boundless misery, and some of my more constructive thoughts following that horrid alternative reality world that was the final quarter of this Saturday's match. A credit to the handful of Stinckley fans who sung on their team. If only I could get my fellow Shaymen to do the same.

Tell you what though: as I came out of the ground, I felt the urge to laugh. I don't know if it's me learning to mediate myself, or if I'm just going crackers. It's either the most healthy thing to do in this situation, or the least healthy.

If you don't bother watching us' next match this coming Saturday, home to Vauxhall Moors, you'll have chosen the worst time to tune out. Because (and this is today's only positive): when we start playing well for once, it's going to feel mint.

[1]  Encouragingly, in this weekend's official interview, Aspin shares the same speechless disappointment as any fan who's done the 250-mile round trip while keeping his natural level-headedness.
[2] Tough love, honest.