Sunday, 24 October 2010

Halifax Town 0 – 1 Mansfield Town; 23/10/10.


No typo: we really did fail to score. And this was the big one too, a Conference team to play against who we had a good chance of bettering (we did by a slight margin, though not on the score sheet). Crowd predictions were lofty, score predictions were positive, and the wait was a tense one in between 9:40pm on Tuesday to 3pm yesterday. The crowd I'd describe to be OK, but slightly underwhelming when so many of us were looking forward to ones that would really project us to league heights.

Fans! Away fans!

My first experience with the Stags/scabs came pre-match when a group of them followed me (5'6 in my shoes), shouting nonsense and trying to start on me. Nothing ignoring them and picking up the pace won't cure. I suppose even our chanting didn't feel as good as it could've been—singing "Neil Aspin's barmy army" at the end of the season was one of the most electric experiences I've had anywhere . . . a sign of things to come I guess, because after five minutes Danny Lowe gave the ball away in what I'd call a rare lapse for him, and with scab striker Briscow comfortably clear, he beat Hedge to an early lead. The Mansfield end of the Skircoat erupted, and it was sorta good to see away fans existing after so long. The bigger worry was how a deficit left unaddressed could lead to a 4 or 5–0 humiliation. Thankfully it didn't, as our grip on the game came after 15 minutes.

Nerves were part of the reason why we couldn't have the honour of playing in the First Round, and many mistakes seemed to be made that wouldn't were we playing in the league, getting ourselves into positions where we've been routinely setting up goals for the last ten games, before skying the ball or making a dopey cross. The second half wasn't exactly an all-guns-blazing affair, but I'd say we were the better team with Mansfield breaking a few times against the run of play, and us left with little practice on how to make a Conference-standard defense crack. A goal seemed so close several times, and it was agony to have to wait for their goalie to take a ssslllooowww goal kick as another chance went amiss.

Like the Wrexham game 364 days before, the big chance came just at the end as at the very top edge of the goal, a finger got to a Deano header. Then it went out and another of the dwindling minutes left us. The full-time whistle blew and we were unlucky.

The ref was one of those monsters who did take something from the game. His decisions against us (seemed to want to crack down on diving) even bewildered the Mansfield, having none of Danny Holland showing the stud-marks on his thigh. Nope Danny, it was a dive and you obviously drove your own studs into yourself. A Mansfield player getting disciplined pulled down his shorts in front of the South Stand to remind us that he was a seven-year-old.

Then came the second experience of Mansfield Town fans: a mini-pitch invasion of a fraction of them, coming onto the pitch to celebrate a one-goal margin against a team two leagues below them. To put it into perspective, that's like us invading the pitch at Brighouse Town or Lincoln Moorlands Railways, or Chelsea fans invading Dagenham and Redbridge's pitch. It's like bullying the kid with rickets. It's like cracking open the Champers after finding a parking ticket on the floor with seven minutes left on it. They obviously have the intellectual scope of fungi, or are just really really not used to their team getting away with anything.

Oh well, there's always next year, and we did have a legitimate cup run. Time to climb another league and time to try our luck on the FA Trophy. Didn't want the glamour of playing against Torquay in the next round anyway. Proud of our team as always.

Halifax Town 0 – 1 Mansfield Town; att. 2986
Entertainment: 6/10


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