Sunday, 2 January 2011

Halifax Town 4 – 1 FC United of Manchester; 01/01/11.


Halifax Town? Aren't they like, a pub team now?

Take two. Shortly after the thriller a few weeks ago ice formed around the north, layer by layer. In Cumbria, whole lakes were completely frozen over with the odd ice skater behaving smugly for good measure. After steady -10ºC temperatures for a week or so in Calderdale things thawed out after Christmas and by today, all had returned to normal. Our FC United games came back-to-back and it's been nice to see off two potential challenges.

I've decried the FC United fans previously, so since that stuff's tasty, go there. Beyond that is a legitimate worry in their squad. This is a team that lost at home to a bunch of U18s last season. What's more widely known is that this is a team that recently beat Rochdale in the dying seconds of the first round of the FA Cup, and held Brighton to a draw away. Football enthusiasts turned to doff their hats at these cute, constantly-singing proponents of "punk football" before turning around again so they could carry on watching John Terry womanising and Tevez gurning through his snood. In that game last season Durham City projected up the table, notching a macking nul points due to winning two games, but being deducted all those points for off-field fiddling. FC United also face relegation at this rate, occupying place 21 of 22. Winning their first matches initially put them top of the league, but not anymore. But in beating Rochdale they've proven on the day and in the mood, they can beat any side in this league. Maybe. Perhaps. I guess not.

It took a while for either team to find their feet. When we find our feet we start running towards each others' nets depending on who has possession. It's thrilling and tense, but luckily for all the FC United legs, none of them can finish. It was no chance goal therefore, when they took the lead courtesy of Jerome Wright with a penalty that went just left of centre. They took the lead! Punk football is working!

FC United attacks were quite tense, and the closest chances they had were all saved by Hedge, who palmed away an effort from Richard Battersby. Luckily this stirred our players enough who were lacking the guile to finish in front of a North Stand adorned with flags from either team. FC United's weak point was manipulated in a corner that couldn't be cleared, giving Jamie Vardy space to finish it a little before the half-time break. It had obviously shook the Shaymen to find the opposition was one of those rare birds that could score against us after a while of trying, and we left off with relief that the response came quickly.

Second half.

Riley came on in the second half and the formation adjustments made it so FC United were roundly outclassed. As they grew tired we gained most of the midfield possession. When the Reds got the ball they would force up with it though, and in an alternative reality a goal could have been stolen at some point. Lee Gregory marked his latest début at the other end, finishing off a cross that Phelan squared in. Following a superb run at the other end, Jerome Wright made mince meat of a shot Hedge could only half-cover. In tense times, we could really count on the Reds' inability to shoot, with the fourth worst attack in the league.

At 2–1 up, frantic shouts in the South Stand prevented many terrace chants from catching on as well as they could, but it highlighted how as much as we were dominating the proceedings, every stray United attack could have spelt points dropped. They had a free kick which they foolishly passed into our wall, but intercepted the ball again and . . . missed. In the five minutes of additional time our headers that looped over the bar and shots that hit the side netting were compensated with Marshall's fresh-from-the-bench legs hitting it past Ashton from an acute angle. Another delirious South Stand pile-on and more hugs from those stood around me. And two minutes later Taylor showed why we stand on this league's shoulders. He lobbed Ashton, who conceitedly tried to tip the ball, but it bounced right in. We threw ourselves on top of each other in the terrace. Someone bit my nipple.

The order and timing of the goals brought back the Bradford PA–FC United match for me, except I can say we had more thrills watching this as Shaymen. Three points against a team that still has a large but dwindling support, the team that make the noise and the news. It's what brought the extras in today, the curious and the normally apathetic. We attracted our biggest crowd yet as FC Halifax Town and gave them every reason to come back. Regular Saturday crowds of 2,000 felt like some sort of dreamland just a few months ago, but if we seduced a couple hundred more this weekend, we're closer than we could have hoped. To get 4,023 for a league match in the seventh tier of English football is something only Wigan Athletic have beaten, and the match wasn't even a title decider.

This was just another modest three points. Yeah, we can now say that if we want to. Another three points out of the 45 we've achieved in total from 19 games this season. I can't agree with self-elected owners doing the dealings as they wish and do in English football, but if it has to be the case, I'm glad we have a mastermind of a manager and powers that be with the devotion of us fans. We had more mascots than ever today, pre-match entertainment, a minute's applause for three Shaymen who left us at the end of last year, a bustling banqueting suite and a few thousand ordinary fans watching some impressive footie. It's like some sort of airy-fairy spiritual rebirth, but with a football club. Bring on Colwyn Bay on Monday!

Halifax Town 4 – 1 FC United of Manchester; att. 4023
Entertainment: 9/10


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