Friday, 16 April 2010

FC Halifax Town 2 – 1 Radcliffe Borough; Thu 15 Apr '10.


Taking a couple of FCHT virgins with me, I set off early to see if the Shaymen could make it six. Losing 3–2 away to Radcliffe Borough a couple of months ago, it wasn't a matter of seeking revenge as they eventually managed to outshine us in a lacklustre second half, but into our final four games, three security points were essential. However, on the back of a 9–0 aggregate against two of the most testing league games of the season, it seemed we were only going to win tonight 12–0.

Another promising crowd turned out to be 1589, our second highest league showing this season, and very good for a Thursday night, in our fifth game in 11 days. It was beyond doubt that many of the woodwork support were sold by Saturday's performance and looking to see another game, and weren't at all let down.

As mentioned we've played games so frequently in the end-of-season cram, and the story's the same for countless other non-league teams. They're enough to make Rafa Benitez's claim that Liverpool shouldn't have to play three games in eight days even more ridiculous than it already was, and tonight's effort wasn't so much weariness as conserving energy.

We outplayed a fairly ambitious but not a very skilled Radcliffe team throughout the game, and the performance was acceptable. Two goals found their way in within the first 25 minutes and the crowd were satisfied. A kill-off goal was never found however, and midway through the second Radcliffe found the net, in the same way that someone could find an oasis in the middle of the Sahara within 90 minutes. Always strange when you can't pick out a single cheer in the crowd at that time, as if your team are playing a soulless CPU, but the Radcliffe players seemed happy enough. It brought the nerves in, and our close encounters with their Stockport loanee 'keeper Lloyd Rigby didn't seem enough when they got a couple of attacks in after that. Still, the Shaymen hung on, and the fans were happy to see the final whistle.

These games don't and can't bring in enough enthusiasm, but the buzz we've carried through has added to the pleasure. Doubtful for Saturday is the Doctor, who was scythed down and initially couldn't bring life to his legs, and was substituted at half-time. Not a good outlook when Scott Phelan serves a ban for our forthcoming games against Ossett and Clitheroe. Nick Gray similarly had to be substituted for a challenge, and we experienced yet another referee who couldn't put his foot down on anything.

Fresh out of school and like several other refs this season, he married his poor Unibond judgment with a bias against Town, leaving us all in the stands and on the pitch hoping that referees magically have perfect games in the league above. A few hundred stayed on to boo him off.

Next up is Saturday's 15-mile trek to relegation-gazing Ossett. Our first friendly as FCHT, Jim Vince threatened to take the players off due to Ossett's dirty play, and for our next away match against them at the end of that train-wreck of a season all our playoff hopes were tarnished in front of the biggest away following of the season, and the police got involved with our dissatisfaction with the ref. Many of us are looking at 1000+ away for that one, in hope of winning the title on that day if Lancaster lose. For those of us without wanderlust try the final two, Clitheroe home on Tuesday and Skelmersdale United home the following Saturday, which is looking to be the biggest turn-out of the season.

Try not to miss any of them, as they're looking to be fairly impassioned.

FC Halifax Town 2 – 1 Radcliffe Borough; att. 1589
Entertainment: 6/10
Star men: Lee Gregory, Stephen Payne


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