Sunday, 22 January 2012

Vauxhall Motors 1 – 3 Halifax Town; 21/01/12.


£3 student. Excellent!

It's been a little while since I last saw the Shaymen, a much longer while since I last followed The Brotherhood away, and longer still since I last wrote about The Brotherhood. To be specific, my last away game was Colwyn Bay in our dismal attempt to advance in the Trophy, and my last report, the Guiseley one, comes from a time when we were only beating relegation candidates, flying in with kamikaze tackles and shipping far too many goals in the opening minutes. FTS returns as the Shaymen win their seventh consecutive game and sixth consecutive away game. Whatever has changed our fortune, the biggest addition we've made since that Guiseley game was impact substitute Jason St Juste, a light-footed left-winger who runs at an acute angle to the ground. As a second-half utility man he is a great asset.

One of the two clubhouses at Rivacre Park, this being the dry (and therefore deserted) one with '70s caravan décor. I somehow doubt this TV blasts out Soccer Saturday but it's worth remembering your roots sometimes.

Obviously, it was heartbreaking for a 10-man Vauxhall to put five past us earlier in the season. It's the fact they're seemingly anonymous too. A works team based outside Ellesmere Port, by the Astra factory and the motorway. But all that does for me right now though is respect the fans: far from Mammon-loving brand-worshipers, they're all sound men of the Merseyside. My burning ears singed my flat cap as I read the kind words they had to say of us in their programme. "Forget the Telford and Kettering pretenders," I paraphrase, "FC Halifax Town are probably the biggest team we've faced in the league," also adding that Halifax was "part of the glorious North where rugby league [FTS edit: ahem!], bitter, and Northern Soul reigns supreme." They kindly acknowledged our respect for their performance in the reverse fixture and fed us the nicest chips I've had at a ground yet. If we're to progress up the leagues I hope we won't be missing the hospitality of places like Rivacre Park.

The main stand at Rivacre Park, complete with badly-placed dugouts. The Rivacre is an OK place that reflects the size of the club and is definitely better than Nethermoor.

The chill of the easterly wind wasn't as welcoming though, and neither was the referee. The first talking point of the match was Garner's fourth-minute booking after which he lunged into our old Scott Phelan with two feet. Miraculously he was only cautioned, but he was soon taken off for St Juste. After that with the wind on our side, it was just a case of learning to be gentle else the ball would fly out of the ground and the Wirral altogether, with players turning into acrobats to keep the ball in play and an inept referee who was dead keen on rewarding throw-ins instead of offsides, free kicks to the perpetrators, and generally disrupting any play that the weather didn't already disrupt. We capitalised on the 33rd minute from a 'keeper howler as Tynan rolled it into the feet of St Juste, whose rebounded shot was dealt with by Danny Holland. And after so little open play, the next two goals came in stoppage time as one-knee'd Holland completed a hat-trick. After a confident Scott McManus run and rifled shot over, St Juste gave Holland a close-range assist, before another 'keeper howler as he parried a Gregory attempt from the edge of the box, which Holland picked up and hit it into the open net from a difficult angle. 3–0 HT, Holland with the match ball.

St Juste breaks into area, Phelan covers.

Confidence was to be earnt again in the second half however, as Holland was replaced for Anton Foster in a defensive move as we would battle against a wind that would make a long ball fly like a broken shuttlecock. A free kick saw the Motormen pull one back thanks to Phelan who was perhaps more languid than we'd've expected aside from the obligatory goal against his old team. Being Shaymen, the fans treated this goal as if it was 1–0 to them and the game lost its classic appeal. What we were looking at now was keeping possession in high winds and shrewdly sitting back on our lead and it worked. A second goal for the home side may have come before McGivern finally justified a sending off as he spat on McManus (McGivern had also spat at a Town fan before the game), and the balance then turned to a scrappy midfield display with a few more bookings and a match that dragged on until past 5pm.

More match "action."

It's all well and good to protest about the man in black stopping a free-flowing game, booking when a caution/red was more deserved and dozing when important decisions were to be made, but I've kept something else in reserve here: he let Vauxhall kick off both the first AND second half. Nearly as surprising that no players really protested. The result was both sets of fans protesting this man's ineptitude and leafing through D.M. Turner's Essential Psychedelics Guide to see which hallucinogenic drug on the market lasts exactly two hours. What's more, McGivern was allowed on the subs bench after his sending off before the ref' finally caved in and sent him off for a shower. I love the people of Vauxhall Ellesmere Port and district that we've met, but much of this game was lacking.

But y'know. We're on a seven-win run that has shown that wins can be found in at least seven different ways though and despite having a bare-bones squad we now sit in third. Town not wait to strike Stalybridge and properly clear ground from Guisly as at least one play-off candidate drops points each week. Furthermore, this blogger has had at least two people ask him why he hasn't been writing, so the reader who has come this far has popular demand to thank because this bitch is back.*

*Provided my workload is kinder to me this term.

Vauxhall Motors 1 – 3 Halifax Town; att. 532
Ground: 5/10
Pitch: 6/10
Programme: 8/10
Chips: best in the league, perhaps the non-league?


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