Sunday, 17 October 2010

Durham City 0 – 2 Halifax Town; 16/10/10.


Here's one for you to miss. With the mercury tucked away deep into your thermometer, your team have an away day in the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup 100 miles away. It's something I won't pass, in part due to my tie to the Shaymen and part because I wanted to meet a friend at the university. Otherwise I'd really have to dig deep for a good reason. It is a Town match, but one you know to be a dull, unglamorous formality in a land far away. I'd have to at least ponder a 200-mile round trip for my favourite bands so it shouldn't make sense that I would go for anything less. My trump card? Well, the Shaymen are more than a favourite band, aren't they.

This was a big one for Durham. Not a crowd-puller, but one with nothing to lose. A team they now know to be far tougher than them, and a slight money-earner for the club due to Halifax Town's radical introduction of away fans to the Evo-Stik league. Their side is still barely a senior one, and the best of the local sixth formers' ability is near warm-up pace to the Shaymen.

My last trip here was early on last year, when this was one of the season's biggest games. Durham were catching up on games and winning most of them. We always had more games played and because of that tasted the first place for a couple of months. A win there would've asserted our place. An average following of 450 came up and got so little atmosphere going that an older fan started blasting "Ole, ole, ole, ole/We are the Town, we are the Town" through a tinny megaphone speaker. We had several chants this time round, which shows how far our morale has come. Walking around New Ferens Park I had memories of trying to balance a plate of chips and programme whilst clapping at the good moves underneath the stand, Danny Meadowcroft doing a season-ending slide into the hoardings at the far side, and that disallowed header that stopped it from going to 2–1 for us. Oh, and one of the Durham strikers straight after the match with a baby in his arms, yelling at our fans that they'll be the champions, and we'll be consigned to the play-offs. An insult at the time, but in finishing eighth we would've been glad of playoffs towards the end of a sadly farcical season.

I dredge up these memories because there was nothing in this match for the memory. An emphatic win with little effort and thankfully no injuries on the tough astroturf, so job done. It's good to have memories of a place that is otherwise the most arid footballing land: a gloomy galvanised stand looking over the dark green plastic with hard standing everywhere else in between a nursery, a massive blue warehouse-like sports complex, and most uninhabitably, a Premier Inn. Said "inn" is attached to the grimmest restaurant ever, a franchised thing with a personality that would bore those who go to stadium:mk full of logs that will never be burnt on a fire. Over the space of 15 minutes, they failed to cut my friend a Victoria sponge before we had to march off to the game. Pathetic beyond words. The waitresses milled around the bar like remedial amoebas, moving pint glasses one metre east, then one metre west again. If those places are to your taste, please smash your head through your monitor immediately and make it your resting place.

Nicky Gray finally got that goal for his confidence, as he weaved from the line of the corner flag to the centre edge of the box to find a good place to leave the ball in the back left, out of the reach of the University Challenge-haired goalkeeper. That came in five minutes, and the second came later on in the second-half, with a hesitant tap-in by a pump-wearing James Dean.

Tomorrow we'll see if we're drawn anywhere interesting in the next round (Prescot Cables?).

Durham City 0 – 2 Halifax Town; att. 282
Ground: 3/10
Pitch: 3/10
Programme: N/A
Talent: 8/10 (in the city)
Non-partisan entertainment: 2/10 

Durham City 0 – 2 Halifax Town
Halifax Town 4 – 0 Harrogate Town
Burscough 0 – 2 Halifax Town
Ashton United 0 – 3 Halifax Town
Halifax Town 4 – 0 Hucknall Town


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