As you may have noticed much of my journey has been unaccompanied, with the exception of the Barnsley, Bolton Wanderers and Stockport County games all attended with a couple of friends both coincidentally called Sally, Glossop North End with Nick and of course the first game with Tianna. As an only child I was very happy with my own company and this has extended into adulthood. It means that going to games on my own is generally par for the course and it does provide an opportunity to speak to the locals and fellow football fans at the fixtures I attend if I choose to. All of that was about to change.
I had been posting my journey on my Facebook page and an old friend from work contacted me and asked if he could accompany me to a game and we agreed on a midweek trip to FC Halifax Town. Paul was to become a frequent companion on my journey and provide me with a huge amount of support and inspiration to achieve the 50 games target. This game in West Yorkshire was to ignite a great friendship in the coming New Year. I first met Paul at work, where we shared an office but worked in different departments and we’d often have a chat about football. I didn’t realise at the time, but we were both going through a pretty traumatic period in our lives, but I really enjoyed his company and our footballing chats. Paul left the Council to pursue a career in football, primarily journalism. We kept in touch as you do through social media and met up at the West Riding County Cup Final in April 2017, Tadcaster Albion versus Farsley, incidentally another trip with Nick too.
I’d had a breakdown in 2016, partially brought on by the death of my Dad in 2014, partially being within, what I was to find out later, was a toxic relationship followed by a four year bitter divorce and access proceedings, hence the games with Tianna at the start of this journey being extra special. I have suffered from depression, probably before, and since and have been on medication. I suffer swings of mood between highs and lows and I try to recognise and manage the lows and sometimes set myself ambitious challenges, such as this journey, to give myself a target to drive myself through those lows with something to look forward to that I enjoy. Along this journey I have experienced both and Paul has been a great help during these times. More of this in the articles to come.
Back to the game with FC Halifax Town hosting Chorley.
Halifax Town AFC was a former league club who in 2008 were dissolved with the phoenix club, FC Halifax Town placed into the Northern Premier League (NPL) Division One North in the 2009/10 season. The original club, nicknamed The Shaymen, were a founder member of the Third Division North in 1921 ten years after their formation and remained in the third and fourth tiers all of their years in the league before relegation to the Conference in 1993. They regained their league status for four years between 1998 and 2002 but suffered relegation back to the Conference and then went into administration at the end of the 2007/08 campaign. The ‘new’ club from 2009/10 worked its way through the NPL and have since 2017/18 been in the topflight of the non-league structure.
For this game, I met Paul in the Three Pigeons for a couple pre-match drinks and by the time we left it was absolutely throwing it down of rain. We walked down the hill to the stadium joking at the prospect of seeing a goalless draw on such a miserable night, having told Paul of my misfortune at the recent Blackpool fixture. The entrance to The Shay, is the new part to the stadium, with the site itself having been Halifax’s’ home since joining the league in 1921. The main stand itself is an impressive structure but is slightly odd in that one corner section has not been completed and has been that like for a number of years, a reminder of the clubs troubled financial past. We took up our seats fairly close to the half-way line but had a group of “Soccer YEAH!” boys sat behind us who talked incessantly through the game. They proved to be at times amusing and at others irritating.
Going into this game, Halifax sat at the top of the table, with Chorley in the lower reaches having had a poor start to the campaign. Therefore it was no surprise that the Magpies set off from the start with a back-five and were happy to allow The Shaymen plenty of possession. Ironically though it was Chorley who had the first real chance of the game after fifteen minutes, when a dangerous cross from Marcus Carver just eluded the Chorley forwards. This was followed moments later by a chance for Adam Blakeman, who despite being in a good position, fired well over the Halifax bar. What with the wind and rain and the resolute defending from Chorley, the home were struggling to make their possession count, but four minutes before the break, Liam McAlinden created a chance for himself, only to see his shot sail high and wide.
The second-half started where the first had left off with Halifax seeing plenty of the ball with half chances created for Michael Duckworth and McAlinden. Halifax manager Pete Wild tried to mix things up with substitutions on fifty-seven and sixty-nine minutes to get the breakthrough and it nearly worked with nineteen minutes remaining. Sub Jamie Allen played in Jerome Binnom-Williams, but his shot was straight at Chorley ‘keeper Matt Urwin. Into the last ten minutes, with Halifax still plugging away, substitute Cameron King had a shot blocked, which fell to fellow sub Allen, however his effort could only find the side netting. It was the last real chance and Chorley had earned a point with a resolute rear-guard action.
Paul had up and until that evening watched nineteen games and not seen a 0-0. The curse of ‘Blighton’ had struck and we laughed as we reflected on our pre-match predication. To cap it off it was still bucketing down as we left the ground and dashed for the car. Football you’ve got to love it!
Tuesday 08 October 2019
Vanarama National League
FC Halifax Town 0 Chorley 0
Venue: The Shay Stadium
FC Halifax Town – Johnson, Duckworth, Binnom-Williams, Clarke, Nolan(Sho-Silva 80’) , J King (C King, 57’), Staunton, McAlinden, Williams (Allen 69’), Cooper, Southwell
Unused substitutes –Appleyard, Maher.
Chorley – Urwin, Challoner, Blakeman, Meppen-Walters, Cottrell, Baines, Nortey, Massanka (A Newby 69’), Ross, Dodds (O’Keefe, 77’), Carver (Holroyd, 90’)
Unused substitutes – E Newby, Eccles