Thursday, 25 October 2012

FC Halifax Town 0-2 Lincoln City

Before I write about the normal drivel, a little story; are we sitting comfortably readers? Then we shall begin...

The date is the 26 of January 1999 and we are on our way to watch the Imps take on Halifax town away at the Shay in the Nationwide division three (today’s league two) Mr Del Colle is at the wheel and we are aimlessly driving round an out of town shopping area on the edge of Doncaster. A younger, single, fresh faced future blogger, sith lord, and Guinea pig trainer is slouched in the back nursing a hangover; the result of drinking pretty much all of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the Anchor Inn.

After spending what seemed like an eternity trying to get out of the car park with plenty of hand gestures from Felice to other drivers and plenty of honking of horns a calming influence appeared out of nowhere.  From his position in the passenger seat Baz reached under his seat and collected his bag. After a short rummage he presented a huge bowl of very tasty homemade trifle left over from Christmas along with three spoons. Their effect on the passengers in the car was every bit as dramatic as when Hot Rod opened the matrix in Transformers the Movie (the cartoon version). Soon afterwards hangovers and road rage were forgotten as we tucked into the taste treat.  At that moment a Retford Imp’s legendary moment was born. The game itself was a huge let down. City lost 3-0 due to some shocking marking by Dave Barnett and Stuart Bimson. In fact the main taking point in the game was the strange decision by the then Chairman/Manager John Reames to substitute striker Lee Thorpe a minute before halftime when he wasn’t injured. Although the game was shit the legend of the trifle on the way to football was born.
That was the last time the three of us had been to the Shay. I did go the season after on the train when a Steve Holmes last minute header rescued a point for City. This game was memorable for me as I was incredibly drunk but that’s a story for another day. As this is the first time back at the Shay for all of us, we decided on the way back from the first match between the sides on Saturday, that Baz would again make a trifle to commemorate that cold boxing day game 13 years ago.  As it happened the trifle didn’t appear but he did bake us a rather nice selection of cakes.

The last time we were at the Shay we were stood on the impressive terrace behind the goal. When the Shay’s redevelopment started, the Halifax Blue Sox Rugby League club were competing in the Super League. Following the club’s relegation and the well documented problems at the football club, building work stopped for a while. Now however as the club has risen from the ashes, the Shay now has a smart new stand along the far side to the one the away fans are seated in. The mixture of old and new stands gives the stadium a real charm and it’s great to see a ground that has been redeveloped without making it look like something that a 11 year old kid made with a Lego set. This is a real football ground. Tonight the City fans were housed the newest area of the stadium with admission being £13 and a programme coming in at £3. Now this may seem a tad expensive but we need to pause here because it is worth every penny.
I have been attending football matches since 1994 and collecting programmes just as long. In all my time collecting them I don’t think that I have seen as comprehensive a section on the away side as what I did in the Shaymen Shout.
Firstly you get two pages giving an oversight of the club at the moment. Then you get some very detailed pen pics of all the Imps squad and not just a couple of brief lines. Then you get a whopping  6 pages on the club’s history highlighting all the highs and lows of the clubs history right the way back from 1884 through to last season. I thought I knew a fair bit about City’s history till I read this. The rest of the programme is of a very high standard with plenty of interviews, blogs and information from a range of contributors which gives it a very diverse feel.  This programme wouldn’t look out of place in the Premiership. I don’t impress easily when it comes to writing but this did impress me. Amazingly I heard one or two chunters at its price. Yet another case of somebody opening their mouth without looking at what you get. You get what you pay for in life but on this occasion you get a bargain. And remember, they only had three days to put it together and off to the printers. Contrast that to ourselves last year when we didn’t issue anything for our FA Cup replay three days after the first game.
We were a tad peckish so headed over to purchase some snap. I went for the hotdog and Bbovril to wash it down. The dog was tasty enough with a decent sausage and nice crispy bread. Baz selected the meat and potato pie and was very impressed with it. So much so he went back for a second one.

City took to the pitch in their white shirts but twinned with the black shorts giving us a distinctly Fulham look. Quite ironic seeing how Baz had been lording it up in Harrods on Sunday afternoon. On the pitch City started a lot better than we did on Saturday (not that that would be hard it has to be said) We lined up 4-4-1-1 with Alan Power playing behind Jamie Taylor. The main talking point was Jake Sheridan’s inclusion ahead of Nicky Nicolau who has been one of City’s better players this term.  On 13 minutes the gaffer’s choice seemed to pay off as Jake Sheridan finished off a neat City move to put the Imps ahead.
The goal was created by Adam Smith who has had his critics this season, but today he was central to all of the good stuff that City produced. This goal rattled the home side, whose crisp neat passing, much in evidence at Sincil Bank in the first game, disappeared. When they did get on the ball City pressed them and forced them into mistakes. In short we did to them what they did to us in the first game.  The rest of the first half passed by with City being well in control. We didn’t create many chances but we didn’t have to. The home side didn’t really change their formation after going behind which suited Lincoln just fine. My companions got all giddy when they discovered that Celtic had taken the lead in the Camp Nou (although they weren’t so chirpy when the halftime scores came in) Funny that. I spent the halftime break giving a newbie a starter tutorial on the game “Fish Live” on our Smartphones.

It wasn’t until about ten minutes after the start of the second half that the Shaymen forced Imp’s keeper Paul Farman into his first real save of the game. The game started to open up and became much more end to end. Although the home side did improve they went to a more direct style and sent plenty of long balls into the City box which were easily repelled by the Lincoln Centre backs; Boyce and Miller.
Lincoln killed the game off in the 76th minute, when Mo Fofana picked out Jamie Taylor who picked his spot and fired past Glennon in the Halifax goal. The Shaymen keeper had indulged in a spot of trash talking in the press before the game. As he lay there with the ball in the net and his side 0-2 down he was probably contemplating whether to have whipped or fresh cream with his post match humble pie. It could have been even worse for the keeper when Colin Larkin’s shot from a tight angle struck the foot of the post with the keeper well beaten.  Lincoln saw the rest of the game out easy enough and won our first FA Cup replay in normal time since 1997’s victory over Gainsborough Trinity.
Overall this was a very professional performance from Lincoln. We looked steady all night and never really looked like losing. Yes the early goal did help things greatly, but in truth Halifax looked a shadow of the side they looked at Sincil Bank where they maybe should have beaten us. However as a club they are most certainly on the way back. That Blue Square North title race is going to be a real battle royale.

Things we learnt tonight

1) Nelson’s column is as high as the central mast on the Victory.
2) There are no kebabs shops in Halifax
3) Teams must play to the whistle and not switch off in the 94th minute. Like a certain Scottish side did in Spain. Or you may go home with nil points.
4) We are in the first round proper of the FA Cup.

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