Sunday, 20 March 2011

Hucknall Town 1 – 2 Halifax Town; 19/03/11.


With eleven games to go, consensus was only winning five or so of these would edge us the title. Out of these we were yet to play games against Hucknall, Ossett, Retford, Mickleover and Whitby. Boxes well and truly ticked, hopefully. Today, the box in question was Hucknall, a suburban town hovering above Nottingham that held host to Conference North football in the past decade. Third bottom at the moment, if they don't buck their ideas up this will be NPL1 football this autumn. Swings and roundabouts I suppose, as in the '90s they climbed two tiers from the Northern Counties East League to the NPL under John Ramshaw.

Bit of thumb in the way there.

Making decent time we stopped in Linby, a midland village looking idyllic in spring's first t-shirt weather. After a gorgeous small platter of onion rings, breaded mushrooms and chips we easily found Hucknall's Watnall Road ground, unprepared for one of the most berserk jobsworth experiences of my lifetime . . .

You see, today my father paid for me to get in. After drinks in Linby I had to see a man about a dog and walked to the side of the ground where the clubhouse was to relieved myself there. When I tried to go back out again there appeared two old Hucknall types demanding my brother and I show them our tickets for the ground. Since my dad had let us in, he had the tickets and was out of sight. Fortunately, being the sad act I am, I'd taken a picture of the Hucknall team warming up on my phone from inside the ground and showed it these jobsworths, but they were having none of it. We paced around trying to find someone to call our dad for ten minutes, before walking out of the ground and round to the turnstiles where we went through. They wouldn't let us through either as we didn't have tickets, but by chance my father happened to walk by.

These daft little men were unsympathetic and the turnstile guy said to us "To get into the ground, you must have a ticket. Simple." I'd no idea we even were issued tickets for this match. We've only needed to do this before at Sludgeheap Victoria. How dare I go to the clubhouse for a wee when I was none the wiser! Sick of the patronising tone these chumps had given me, I told them in no simpler words that we were never told to have tickets on us at all times, and that I hope Hucknall get relegated. Not something I truly believe about any club in itself (bar the likes of the MK Dons), but if these Little Hitlers give me a kick up the backside, I'll give them one back! I walked off a proud man as he shouted, "YOU WOT!" back and the players took their positions on the pitch.

After fighting the jobsworths and winning we watched the Shaymen get off to a fine start, resulting in one of those precision headers that made time slow down courtesy of Lee Gregory. Hucknall had a fat 'keeper known as Ross who had his WAGs accompany him behind the goal, so would turn around often and get stick from our fans. He'd retort with great banter and a cheeky grin. A far cry from the Buxton goalie last week and I found him a welcome presence! The moment of the match came when he chided his defense with a cry of "Boys, boys, boys!" which got a couple of drunken Shaymen fans chanting back Lady Gaga's "Boys, boys, boys! / We like boys in ca-haaars" lyric for a few minutes. It's the sort of thing that makes you weep with joy. Soon after we were awarded another penalty, but for the first time ever Baker failed to whip it in, and it went straight into Ross' hands! We continued to go forward, as did Hucknall at times, but in general took too many touches on the ball and had more than our fair share of just-over shots. Half-time came after what felt like 20 minutes, and the job had been done so far.

Playing against the sun in the second half we paid for our not-so-clinical play. Fabian Smith broke free at the other side of the pitch and slotted it past Hedge while I wondered why I thought we could just quickly score another and wrap the game up. The goalie cheered up even more, and suddenly a mediocre game became quite frustrating. Their defense wasn't so much good as our control was poor. As things were beginning to look grim, a second Lee Gregory precision header came at the 85th minute and restored our lead. 2–1. Ross slowly turned to pick the ball from the corner of the net and suddenly looked glum, and to tell the truth, I'd learned to feel for this man! As the match went on their blond number 8 became increasingly aggressive. In fact towards the end I think it was he who got one of our players like a pair of scissors in his legs by the touchline. The referee blew and the two players started to come to blows but it turned out he was blowing for full-time. And after all that, phew!

Hucknall 'keeper: good with banter, good bloke.

One thing I was told to note by a Shayman was the tea hut prices here. £3.50 for a cheeseburger. £2.50 for chips. Michelin star prices for non-league food! Genuinely sub-EMC. Fans must eat BEFORE going to Watnall Road. And make sure they have tickets to present at the gates!

Hucknall's is a bogstandard, one-storey ground in need of a lick of paint. Due to its low stands there aren't the sorts of vantage points I'd go for. Its "official" capacity stands at 5,000 however, which means it's bigger than Crawley's, so maybe I'm just being a snob. The car park however was in a state of extreme neglect, and covered in broken glass, which was dangerous both for feet and tyres and simply unacceptable. Neither character nor convenience I guess and the pitch was one that required a little ball control, but edging it against a team who were finally up for turning their fortunes around is what will be remembered. Oh, and the petulance of the jobsworths. Mostly a dull match though, but an interesting away day.

Hucknall Town 1 – 2 Halifax Town; att. 527
Ground: 3/10
Pitch: 4/10
Programme: 4/10
Talent: 3/10
Entertainment: 4/10
Food: priced out!


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