Every good day out at the footy is made memorable by its journey. Be it catching a train on your own, listening to the team news on your phone, a coach trip with rowdy fans, or even a car ride with your dad’s mate, you never forget it. On this drizzly and overcast Saturday in December, there was only one source of solace for the wet weather, as a group of repatriated Yorkshiremen gathered to watch Halifax Town away at Grosvenor Vale, home to Wealdstone FC.
Deep in west London ahead of kick-off, the likely lads set up their stall, ‘just half hour away from the stadium’ - or so they thought. One rushed pint and a rescheduled tube later, a steady jog was required from Ruislip Gardens station through this quaint and calm part of the nation’s capital. After navigating through a residential area, the entrance for Grosvenor Vale soon became clear. Just in time.
The clanging of the turnstyle, a brief chat and a well wish from the stewards; it was time for kick off. There’s no away end as such, instead an away congregation behind the Wealdstone goalkeeper, Will Dennis. The 21 year-old made a return to the club which loaned him in 2018. Here, against Pete Wild’s Halifax Town, Dennis featured in his one and only return appearance for the Stones, having signed for the game on emergency loan from Bournemouth.
Under the foglights, the game got off to a quick and cagey start, with both sides giving the referee plenty of decisions to make. The crowd were in good voice and fans of all ages were involved in creating an atmosphere for this Vanarama National League fixture. One young Halifax supporter started his own chant of ‘Come on Shaymen’, which was responded by the traveling fans in unison.
Ten minutes before halftime, Halifax were awarded a penalty. Matty Warburton hit the ball hard and true into the bottom left corner. Pete Wild’s Barmy Army had liftoff. 1-0 to the Shaymen.
The interval was spent recapping the first half with strangers in the queue for the loo. Cheap brews and a ham salad sarnie soon transported you from the wind of Wealdstone into the warmth of your nan’s living room. But enough of that, time to get to the other end of the stadium, behind Dennis once more. The sharp whistle of the referee soon pierced through the murmurs from the crowd and the action returned.
What ensued was 45 minutes of penalty claims, berating the officials and back-and-forth chanting between the two sets of fans. Yet, for all the pressure that Halifax were placed under, they stood resilient in the London night. Battles were had, tackles were heavy and the damp turf did little to reassure players receiving the ball. As the game entered its final knockings, an equaliser felt inevitable, but never arrived - much like our tube from a few hours prior.
Halifax held onto the win. Three points won on the road in their quest for promotion to the football league. In celebration, the away fans serenaded their popular manager. Wild and his players stood with their chests puffed out and thanked the fans.
Whilst the Wealdstone Raider was away, the men from the Shay smashed and grabbed what was there for the taking. Disappointed and disheartened, the home fans piled into the clubhouse for a drink and to see Jeff Stelling read the scores. They could be proud of their team and look forward to their next outing at the Grosvenor Vale with hope in their heart for a better result.
This is your friendly reminder to support your local club.