During Christmas Paul and I had been messaging about going to games over the period and in the New Year. I was still in a lull mood wise over the Festive period and one of the things I do is avoid social contact, although this is hard being quite a social character. The dip had happened whilst I had been at work, and I was avoiding after work gatherings or planned lunches. At one point I remember bursting into tears in the middle of the office talking to a good friend about an evening out she was arranging, with a number of friends from an old team that I had worked with for many years, but had disbanded after delivering a programme of business change work. Re-reading through old messages from friends over this period, I think I must have been missing a number of engagements on purpose. I had forced myself to go to the Salford City game, but it is the one game of the journey I have very little memory of, in fact the only recollection is a group of Scandinavian fans standing behind me. They were having a good time and starting up some chants, with the rest of the crowd joining in. The Scandinavians giggled at this and talked excitedly to each other in their own tongue, I can only assume that they were taking the mickey a bit, but it was quite amusing listening to them.
At the beginning of January Paul contacted me again and invited me to a game at Brentford, being one of their last at their Griffin Park stadium, but more of that epic day later. We made arrangements for the Brentford game and had other footballing discussions and he suggested we went to the Guiseley versus Darlington game at Nethermoor Park. I lived in Guiseley for nine years but never visited the football ground, these were pretty barren years in terms of going to games, I’d get to the odd Chelsea away game and a trip to Stenhousemuir but not to the level I used to. I had previously walked past Nethermoor Park on my way to the pub (The Station, a nice little meeting place as it’s close to the railway station as its name suggests) to watch football on Sky for the Chelsea games, not only a part time supporter but a part time football fan – sacrilege! Darlington of course are a former league side and shall no doubt feature at some point in this journey being northern and closer to home.
We met up in the Guiseley clubhouse which doubles up with the cricket club in the summer. Now I must admit I have walked a few laps of that cricket field, especially when I was feeling down. On arrival, Paul was his ever ebullient self and had been chatting with the locals and the visiting fans and officials. We got talking about how my journey had been going since we last met, which to be honest was terrible – I had been to just four games since going to Halifax with him in early October. “You’re going to have to change your strategy young man!” he said, rather Brian Clough like. We talked about visiting lower league games all the way down to tier 10, which is where the likes of Darwen and Nelson ply their trade and not necessarily to clubs that have been members of the top four tiers. To my list of new teams to visit, I added FA Cup winners, including teams still going such as Old Etonians and Wanderers – more of them later in the journey. Whilst watching the game we chatted to a number of home and away supporters and had some very interesting conversations about the demise of Darlington, unfortunately another sad story of fiscal mismanagement. I was addicted to going to football again, especially night games, thank you so much Paul!
Given the time of year it was no surprise that it was a windy and damp night under the lights of Nethermoor Park. My thanks to the Guiseley website for the following match report:
The visitors got off to the best possible start as the Lions conceded an early goal for the second game in succession with five minutes gone. The penalty resulted from Marcus Dewhurst diving at full stretch and pushing the ball away with both hands but also took out his opponent in the process and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. From the resulting penalty Adam Campbell put it straight down the middle as Marcus Dewhurst dived to his right. Not that it took the home side long to level things up with a brilliant solo effort from the in-form Kaine Felix who skipped past two defenders, was nearly felled but still kept his composure to beat Christopher Elliott from close in seven minutes later. A great touch from Aaron Martin shortly after saw him create room for himself but his shot was charged down. With both sides playing at a high intensity this absorbing contest took another twist midway through the half as Guiseley gave Hatfield far too much room and his sweet shot from 25 yards out found the bottom corner. This briefly took the wind out of the home sides sales, but the second half saw them launch a series of early attacks and force several corners which they couldn’t capitalize on. Prince Ekpolo replaced Andrai Jones to make his home debut as Guiseley looked for an alternative way to open up the Darlington defence as Lee Shaw and Dylan Barkers also joined the fray replacing Aram Soleman and Kennedy Digie respectively. But despite the three substitutions and near misses from Martin, Gabriel Johnson, Hamza Bencherif, Shaw and Felix and aided by some desperate defending at times, Darlington hung on to maintain their slender advantage.
Tuesday 21 January 2020
National League North
Guiseley 1 (Felix 12’) Darlington 2 (Campbell 5’ pen, Hatfield 29’)
Venue: Nethermoor Park
Guiseley: Dewhurst, Jones (Ekpolo 58’), Cantrill, McNally, Nicholson, Bencherif, Soleman (Shaw 65’), Felix, Digie (Barkers 79’), Martin, Johnson.
Unused Substitutes: Sheppeard, Newall.
Darlington: Elliott, Laing (Martin 20’), Watson, Storey, Hatfield (Holness 83’), Rivers, Wheatley, Headley, Reid, Campbell (Atkinson 73’), Donowa.
Unused Substitutes: Bascombe, Thompson.