- Dec 7, 2019
For your March 21 entries
Thanks for posting, I really enjoyed watching that footage and remember that Halifax team well. What really stood out for me in that footage was the seemingly excellent spirit the game was played in. The Rushden keeper being acknowledged by a Halifax player after an excellent save had kept it at 0-0 and other examples of players just wanting to play a game of football.Saturday 21st March 1998
Halifax Town 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0 (HT 0-0)
The Football Conference (3.0)
Attendance 3,951 (all-ticket sell-out)
Programme £1.50 (32pp)
The day Halifax Town fans realised the unimaginable was about to happen: 12 months after their team came within minutes of relegation to the Northern Premier League (and almost certainly folding), the Shaymen beat their nearest rivals to the Conference title to stand poised for a return to the Football League. Astonishing, for a side the bookies rated 66-1 outsiders when the season kicked off.
As luck had it, the 1997-98 season fell during a two-year spell I had working for a Skipton-based magazine and book publisher. A Monday to Friday, nine to five job, too - not something I’d experienced in previous journalism posts. Those hours allowed me to watch virtually every Halifax game, home and away. My interest in the club I’d supported as a schoolboy had been reawakened, five years previously, by relegation from the Football League. 1997-98 turned out to be my last season as a regular supporter. Relocating to Exeter in August 1998, a week into the following season, turned me into a full-time groundhopper. The habit was broken, finally for good. I never went back to supporting a team. Can’t say I miss it.
This was a strange season. A real novelty attending matches expecting Halifax to win rather than hoping they wouldn’t lose. After the first few games, it became clear George Mulhall’s part-time squad had the potential to be a cut above anything else the Conference could offer. Indeed, two of Town’s five league defeats came after the title had been clinched. The players were on the lash for several days, and performances suffered at Northwich Victoria and (of all places) Welling United.
At home games, one’s eyes couldn’t help but stray continually to the two ends at The Shay. Both were being rebuilt in a race-against-time effort to modernise the facilities. At least one end stand had to be complete before the Football League inspector called. On April 2, the new north terrace was deemed fit, raising capacity from 4,000 to 7,400. The players duly finished the job, clinching the title on April 18 with a 2-0 victory at Kidderminster Harriers (more of that, I daresay, in a ‘Retro WDYG’ to come).
One of the three pre-April 18 defeats, a 0-4 drubbing, had come on a gloomy February 7 at Nene Park, Irthlingborough. This crunch return fixture - top versus second - was dubbed ‘payback day’. It would have been entirely typical of Town, who featured on that day’s Football Focus, to fluff their lines. Failing to turn up on the big occasion was the club’s speciality. In the event, however, Brian Talbot’s expensively assembled Diamonds were played off the park. A final score of 2-0 barely did justice to Town’s superiority. Rushden full-back Tim Wooding, cracking under relentless pressure, broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute by turning a cross past his own keeper. Then, with five minutes of normal time remaining, Jamie Paterson, later to be named the season’s Conference Player of the Year, rounded said keeper to add a glorious second. Thirteen points clear. Job almost done.
One other from this date worth a mention:
Nottingham Forest 1 Leeds United 1 (1993, the inaugural Premier League season). Doing ‘The 92’. The days when Premier League squads comprised mostly UK-born players. A very different football landscape. Forest featured Roy Keane, Ian Woan and Gary Bannister; Leeds fielded David Kerslake, Steve Hodge and Lee Chapman. Rod Wallace (13mins) put Leeds ahead only for Nigel Clough (43mins) to equalise. The attendance was 25,148 (circa 5,000 short of capacity). Finishing bottom, Forest were relegated with Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace. Leeds, 17th, were two points clear of the drop zone.
I’d been to the City Ground before, during July 1977. At the time, a Sheffield-based cousin played for one of Forest’s numerous nursery teams, Brunsmeer Athletic Juniors. The team were invited to a behind-the-scenes tour (conducted, I recall, by Irishman Liam O’Kane, on Forest’s backroom staff). It being the ‘long’ school holiday, I was staying with my cousin for a week, and tagged along. Even in its undeveloped state, the City Ground was fairly impressive. Little did we - or anybody else! - realise newly-promoted Forest would take the First Division by storm during the season ahead. The tour concluded with a walk down the players’ tunnel. Without warning, a door opened and Brian Clough popped out his head. “Keep off that pitch, you lot,” he barked then promptly vanished. It was the only time we saw him all day.
ECWC QF 2nd leg.
Hajduk Split v Hibernian.
16-00 @ Plinara Stadium ( AKA Gas Plant Stadium / AKA Stari Plac). Rugby Union nowadays.
Made my way from the Sunday Milan derby ( 0-2 to AC) to the lovely town of Split for this QF tie.
It looked a difficult tie but with Hibs winning the first leg 4-2 I was optimistic. An Alan Gordon hat trick in the first game had set up this intriguing game.
Hibs were 2-0 down by half time and the bananas home crowd were going mad. At this stage Hibs were out of it and badly needed a goal , manager Eddie Turnbull thought the same and replaced Tony Higgins at half time with Jimmy O'Rourke. The tactic didn't pay off and John Blackley added to Hibs woe with an own goal. That was it and the Hibs defence had let them down.
Pre game left my bag in the hotel near the station to pick up after the game and went to the stadium early doors to have a look. 2 hours before and it was fairly full , I had a comp , mate Alec Cropley had given me a comp previous day , it was in the posh (?) seats so managed to get in and even half a few free slivovitzes and some food. Bottles were being passed around during the game and it would have been rude not to accept the local hospitality. Sure the bottles would have ended up on the pitch if the result had gone against Split.
Wearing my Hibs scarf I didn't buy a drink post match whilst waiting for the 32 hour train journey on the Tauern Express to Cologne. D 218 left at about 21-00 arriving in Cologne on Friday morning about 05-00 in plenty of time for Rot Weiss Oberhausen v Moenchengladbach on Friday evening (1-3).
Jimmy O'Rourke for Higgins 45.
Bobbie Smith for Bremner. 52.
Striker Ivan Hlevnajk was the tie winner for Split scoring 2 at Easter Rd inc the 70th minute 4-2 vital goal and then scoring again in Split.
Good trip , met some lovely people , men and women, Kept in touch with one for 20 odd years. Drank far too much.
Yes very strange.Brilliant stuff.
Mind you, hard to believe that Eddie Turnbull gave Tony Higgins a start over Jimmy O'Rourke.
Alex Cropley was still a regular at non-league games in the Edinburgh area earlier in the season. Often see him at Craigroyston, Musselburgh and places like that. What a player.
His laddie and his nephew both played for various clubs in the Edinburgh area. He watched them but also took an interest in various clubs. I think he has given up the taxi now but he was doing that until recently.Yes very strange.
Alec , always called him that , he didn't mind. One of my favourite players of all time , without injuries he would have been a great.
Had his phone number in the 80's as he was touting for business. Taxi driver.
Suppose he was watching the lad when you've seen him , IF still playing ?
Alec at his best , 9' 45'' in but you may as well watch it all -His laddie and his nephew both played for various clubs in the Edinburgh area. He watched them but also took an interest in various clubs. I think he has given up the taxi now but he was doing that until recently.
NLM relies on advertising to pay the bills to stay online . Could I ask that you disable your AdBlocker for this site. Alternatively if you are a registered user you can remove all ads and get other benefits for as little as £1.50 a month. Just go to your Profile and click on Account Upgrades. Most visitors will see this message only once per visit...... Thanks