This Tuesday night, the Halifax Town menagerie knotted their scarves tight and boldly made the 20-mile journey over to Hurst Cross, where Mossley have been allowed to play by Ashton Utd to fulfill their midweek fixtures. For those who didn't already know, during the snowfall, conditions were indeed treacherous down Seel Park way, as heavy snow proved heavy enough to send two floodlights crashing down. The club have been quoted £30,000 to replace the whole set which have been classed as unsafe, half of which they have to rake up themselves, and with a typical Unibond home crowd of about 150, this is no easy thing. You can donate here.
Ashton Utd have been gracious enough to provide a ground share, anyway. Hurst Cross is a fantastic ground, and saying it has proper standing area on all four sides, I can say for the first time since visiting Leigh Genitals that I have visited an actual "stadium." Except unlike Leigh Sports Village, which gallantly crusades against everything non-league football and indeed competitive sports as a whole, it has likability. Crush barriers line all sides, with a 200+ seater main stand standing opposite a roofed terrace on the other side lengthways, with several concrete steps behind both goals. It has been lined unevenly against the surrounding area and in parts the stands thin out. Multiple layers of concrete have been pasted over each other over the years, which still have the odd pothole. There is a fairly large club shop where I bought an Ashton United lapel badge, and a very inviting bar opening onto the terraced road opposite. Totally Corrie. The place is full of character but I'm afraid I can't provide pictures as my camera on flash mode has a range of about two metres. So take my word.
Since I have no pictures, I'll google image a few so more people will read this (ie. three people rather than one).
As I walked over for a place to stand, I accidentally walked in the way of Town centre midfielder and legend long due a knighthood Scott Phelan. I said "Sorry, Scott!" and he grappled my shoulder. I was blessed.
419 were in the stadium by kickoff, about 350 of which were following Town, and the smallest away following all season down to the facts that a) it was bloody freezing; and b) the administrators of the Town site accidentally decreed the match to be postponed for a while, accidentally publishing the headline were it actually to be called off. Sadly, it seems the Lilywhites aren't all warming to going a few extra miles to watch their team, either. Still, fairly vocal either side with a solitary Mossley fan possessing a voice that could be heard by us 100 yards away.
Then 10 minutes in, Marshall was released on goal, who passed it to Danny Lowe who uncharacteristically for a first Shaymen break netted the ball! "YEEESSS!" was the cry. And then Mossley quickly responded with a goal back while I was staring at what appeared to be a privy at the corner of the terrace. This place really has everything.
The game was on, and Town went underway with several chances, and it became increasingly apparent that the referee and linesmen weren't getting any. A 50-50 tackle saw James Dean booked, and offsides and non-offsides alike were judged as offside. Their biggest mistake of the match so far then saw Mossley flout the holy offside rule, which the linesman waved at and the referee overruled after a minute's deliberation. The Mossley fan bounced up and down at the other side of the ground, waving his scarf all the while. We were 2–1 down by the first half, and despite having the vast majority of time in their half, weren't coming back with anything.
The half-time whistle blew, and a couple of hundred fans booed and abused the referee and linesmen as they marched off. A middle-aged woman at the front moaned about how badly the ref' was being treated, and a Town fan rose from his seat and let off by far the loudest, longest burp I have heard so far this decade. But there were more important matters, notably the most tempting whiff of chips I've smelt at an away game.
On with the second half, and the Mossley goalkeeper had half the away fans behind him. It seemed to really upset him at the start, but by the end of the game he was starting to deflect the banter. Town had by far more attacks, but à la Jim Vince except with actual tactics and skill, nothing seemed to be nearing the net. Until the next worst decision the officials made all night but one of the best for us so it doesn't matter—an offside was ignored and Deano found the net. a few minutes from time again, Marshall scored a penalty after being brought down in the box. After a half of regular chanting and lots of linesman and goalie-abusing, the "winner" was an ecstatic experience. Shaymen of Halifax got a session in, as well as "2–1 and you fucked it up," both slotted neatly between the deciding goal.
Though we had dominated the game, Mossley were looking a competent side, saving their best football for us in their own words, and were making threatening breaks throughout the game. This one went out for a corner, and as even their goalkeeper, tired of the abuse, left to get in the box at the other end, the final goal was edged in. Mossley 3–3 Halifax Town, a very unfortunate goal to concede and two needed points dropped.
Since they're incapable of leading for most of the game, Lancaster decided to wind up thousands of Halifax fans again for the sake of four or so Dolly Blue followers and came back from behind in the dying minutes again to gain three points. If we win the games in hand we are four points behind them. A depressing statistic.
We're visiting Wakefield tomorrow, will hopefully bring a bigger contingent and hopefully see similar glory to last year's trip there around this time, which was a 4–1 win. As Aspin has bettered the vast majority of Jim Vince's games against the Unibond teams last season, this doesn't seem too out of the question. Last year's clash saw debutant and Michael Cera lookalike David Brown come on to score pretty much his only Halifax Town goal (despite featuring in most matches until we shrivelled into 8th place by close season), and a ton of happy fans walk out chanting "My garden shed is bigger than this." Let's make it another thrashing, and not a harbinger to finishing the season with a relegation-standard record.
On-pitch entertainment: 8/10
Ability to leave the area after the game: 9/10
Food: 6/10 (chips were nice, but getting the second of my five-a-day was prevented by them being out of mushy peas)