Saturday, 30 January 2010

Skelmersdale United 2 – 2 F.C. Halifax Town; 14th November 2009.


If you have enough knowledge to scrape together a couple of marks in a AS level Rob Studies exam planned to be given a test flight in a flagship academy in Tyneside next year, you should know that I'm an ardent F.C. Halifax Town fan. To make matters worse I'm devout enough to try and give reviewing their games a go.

Skelmersdale is a sizable town in south Lancashire that recently fulfilled its promise to build one roundabout for every 50 people by 2006. Plonked within an industrial estate surrounded by buildings o' galvanised steel now stands their new stadium, to which 200+ people find their way for each league match. It has about fifteen different names, including the Skelmersdale and Ormskirk College Stadium, the Westgate Interactive Stadium, and Stormy Corner, which is slightly more endearing. I think it's the first Unibond ground I've visited twice, now. Last time it was far windier and the 400-strong Halifax faithful were all accosted by several windjammer-clad kids throwing stones around, grunting out chants and all that. Halifax completely gave up to an unfair referee, our playoff hopes were ruined and Vince left that week. This time in excess of 600 of us turned up and those kids presumably had had life bans handed out. It was hard to know where the Skem fans were exactly as they only made noise when they scored, so you had to make a guess by the amounts of freckly kids with buzzcuts and their undoting parents there were.

Other pre-match comments include the slowest queue at a refreshments stand ever, with a rate of one person per three minutes. Lower standards are expected when pies have to be warmed under the catering staffs' bingo wings but when chips don't come with the service what's lacking needs to be made up with by another settlement. A little Lancs kid satisfied his hunger in the queue by picking bap crumbs from a coffee-stained plastic table. The cold of the recession bites. At least they didn't run out after 20 orders like most of them.

Tantamount in worry to the idea of us playing the side with the best form in the league away on their windy, muddy pitch was coming back to the DJ there, who also acted as chairman, but luckily he was more subdued today. Instead he let the proceedings of the fun day continue, which included a few year eight drummers from the local school and a couple of kids with their faces painted. His annoucements whenever Skelmersdale score however are very impressive, as he screams out the goalscorer's name in obvious joy.

The game got off to a tentative start, with Halifax showing some strength, which lacked in a defense with one too many men, and the ability to stick a leg out to finish around the box area. That we had more time in the attacking third then them, yet they made Hedge do more work than we did to their 'keeper was fairly glaring. All kicked off in confidence though when we were awarded a penalty in the 28th minute, scoring it in the 33rd minute due to a shirt-pull in the area. Though I didn't fully get to see it, it was a criticised decision by the Skem fans nearer the action which is excusable, saying the average Unibond ref' will unlikely pick up on GBH let alone a pulled shirt. The low penalty was dispatched into the middle of the net as McMahon dived to the right.

Even though Town were instilled with confidence after this taken opportunity, a few minutes before the break Skelmersdale came back with two goals within seconds of each other, and the Skem third erupted, with a shot by Wade and an unstoppable 25-yarder from Armstrong. When they break they really do break, and the Shaymen were presumably sent into the dressing room with a bit of shock for another hairdryer reception from Aspin.

Or maybe not, as Halifax came out again with the same lack of confidence despite the ability to get it in Skem's half most of the time. A highlight from around this time was the Come On Town guy shouting "Come on Deano!" when Nicky Gray dribbled the ball up the wing. National hero. Nicky Gray had an alright match, but not his usual, whilst Deano had a bit of a shocker and could've earned himself some stick were it not that the ball met his head into the next in the 73rd. And that was the equaliser! Fans woke up, started chanting and abusing the opposition players rolling around on the floor as usual, and I'm back at home watching the Shaymen. But the lead-up to the surely-dawning third goal was one worthy of raising many a Shayman voice. Balls here and there went out for throw-ins, the referee gave decisions either way like clockwork, and the bookings by the end of the match were several a-piece. Hedge proved his worth of the England C team with a handful of fantastic covers and saves as Skem broke through with their intimidating and impassioned attacks at sudden moments, wherein it seemed unlikely the Halifax defense could even get a foot on the ball flying to and fro.

Pies: yummy!

The testing point for Town came at a moment when a cross flew over into McMahon's outstretched arms as James Dean lunged towards the ball too, and the two went at loggerheads as Deano stood his ground and the 'keeper pushed him back. After a few minutes of ensuing squabble, McMahon was made to take off his jersey, revealing a bit of a belly under a Jack Daniels shirt, and was sent to the dressing room. With a centre back now in goals, it seemed obvious that in the next ten minutes that Town could challenge a 'keeper who wasn't actually a 'keeper. But they didn't. Aspin out.

By and large though, the point was a happy one from a three-quarter-arsed Halifax team. It seems right now that the more Scouse accents we hear, the more we tend to prick up our ears, kick our heels and scamper into our burrows. To summarise, there are now 600 Halifaxians feeling very greatful they will probably never have to visit a certain ground again whose roofs half comprise of scaffolding, where old dugouts are propped up against stands to lazy Town fans can wee against them. Yeah, there's another warning about Unibond matches—don't look around the backs of stands/converted dumpsters if you're a fainting Susan. The last time most non-league toilets were cleaned usually coincides with the last time Grimsby Town finished a season in the top half of a league. Be warned.

The next Town match is at home to Mossley in the Unibond Extra-Preliminary Super Senior Co-operative Challenge Cup of Presidents Round Zzzzzz. The next Saturday match is away to Guiseley this coming weekend, and if you're holding out for a league match, 'twould be two weeks ahead, where we're home to Woodley Sports. As far as crucial decider matches riddled with chances either side and top-flight football performance goes, that will be fairly low in it, but if you're wanting to see a win, you'll probably get one.

Ground: 3/10
Pitch: 5/10
On-pitch entertainment: 7/10
Locals: 6/10
Ability to leave the area after the game: 2/10
Surrounding area itself: 2/10


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