Topic: Leyton Orient at home...
FT: 1-1 Att: 1972
The way the league is panning out, Town have faced a pretty tough start to the season. It's been pretty much all of the in form teams. That Fullarton won the "Vanarama National League Manager of the Month' award for August was a testament to the progress he's continuing to make now he's got a chance to do things his way with his players. Whatever happens this season, this is a long, long way from the kick and rush we saw under Heath at the start of our Shaymen journey. The play-offs should be a realistic aspiration. I really do hope they can do it. And at the same time, part of me dreads having to deal with a distraught 9-year old over the Summer if they fall short...
Buy hey, so far, so good. As a result of that early promise, it was difficult to know what to expect from today. 2nd playing 4th. Leyton Orient were unbeaten before the game (still are sadly). Town are transformed and, by all accounts, could have won against Wrexham on Tuesday.
It was p***ing it down when we set off from home. A timely reminder that we're entering the 'match postponed' period. Town have moved to a squad of full-time professionals and to a new training facility up at Weetwood but it remains to be seen whether the new approach to all footballing matters has extended to a pitch cover or improvements in drainage. Given that the ground is still owned by cash-strapped Calderdale Council, I'm not optimistic.
They were hoping to break 2000 for today's match. Orient had been allocated the Skircoat Stand given their anticipated travelling support. 358 is still good for this league, especially given the distance involved, but not the 500+ that had been talked about. Some Orient fans had posted on a FCHT board earlier this week about the game, talking of how much they enjoyed it as a fixture. Decent ground, good pubs and fairly friendly locals (more of the 'friendly locals' later).
They made a decent racket in the first half although the drum and horn combination didn't go down well with Hannah, particularly given the fact that the owner of the former couldn't resist offering up some random patterns for minutes on end even when not a soul was singing along. They had good reason to sing when they did mind. They started well and we weren't particularly optimistic after 10 minutes of so.
It was Hannah and I's first chance to see James Berrett and Joe Skarz, the two latest Fullarton acquisitions. We didn't get much of a chance to judge them early on as most of the play was down the other wing from Skarz, on Orient's left. That was no accident as they'd clearly decided Jacob Hanson, Town's on-loan from Bradford right-back, was the weak link in defence. They were right in fairness. His Mum was sat behind us today. His loan runs out in December. She reckoned he's learning masses from the more experienced players in the team and apparently loves the chance to play first-team football. You can see the influence a player like Nathan Clarke must have on him. National League grounds can be fairly quiet places at times and give you a chance to hear the players in a way you don't in the Championship. Clarke was constantly offering advice and support. And giving the occasional b***ocking. One particularly loud f-word in a quiet passage of play led to a knowing smile to me from Hannah.
Clarke is another player I'm liking more and more. He's been around a bit, his centre-half partner and team captain Matty Brown was singing his praises in the programme today, but you need people who've played league football to do well at this level. Neat passes from defence are great, but knowing when to smack it into row Z means a lot too.
Hanson isn't a bad player. But he's young and needs to be more assertive and confident at times.
Town's Twitter feed mentions 12 or so chances for Orient in the first-half. That's arguably flattering to Town. Some were dangerously close to being taken.
In reality they could have been three up at halftime. But, as I keep saying, Town are a different prospect this season and kept themselves in the game.
A quick mention of some of the diving from Orient players. Mentioned it before, but it really is more prevalent with the southern teams. I don't know if playing in some of the big London club's academies means you're exposed to it more, but, as unscientific as it may be, I go on what I see and Orient were at it last year and we had more of the same today. Hannah wasn't impressed with one particularly spectacular swan-dive effort to try and win a penalty. Should have resulted in a card it was that blatant.
The second half started with Town linking well and threatening Orient's goal. Kosylo was great and his persistence paid off when he was brought down in the box for a penalty. Southwell hammered it home and Town were ahead. It woke the crowd up. Probably the best noise we've heard. A win would see Town second or third. Happy days.
Football is cruel at times. The ref found four minutes of added time from somewhere. And in them they equalised. Their entire bench joined the team in the pile-on at the side of the pitch. If we're being honest they were well worth it and a draw was a fair result, but that didn't help Hannah's mood. Or me as they're managed by Justin Edinburgh who I've never been able to abide. The sight of him grinning and waving his arms about didn't help lift the mood.
Hannah was better by the time we were walking back to the car.
The 'youth' were all making their way behind the North Stand to get up to where the Orient fans would be coming out. There'd been 5 or 6 coppers knocking about throughout the game. Such a presence is reserved for the bigger away followings it seems. There's usually only 1 or 2, if any at all.
As they urchins made their way up Hunger Hill they'd obviously given a group of three Orient fans some lip. Nothing to get wound up about for most but they'd had the misfortune to find what was one of London's angriest men. I suppose the fact he was about four foot nowt should have been a clue. 'Have a fackin word with them will ya?' he urged one of West Yorkshire's finest. I'm delighted to report that the officer on the receiving end completely ignored him, smiling at some of us with a shrug of the shoulders after Mr Angry had stomped off towards the station. Seems the young ones had a close shave as they were 'fackin lucky I didn't give 'em a good slap'. Jesus wept. In your 50s and that's how you carry on with a bunch of kids. I bet he's a 'fackin' joy to live with.
One shame about the draw, other than the obvious disappointment at the manner and timing of the equaliser, was that it kind of threw a dampener on the presentation of the first of the new fans' 'Player of the Month' presentations on the pitch at the final whistle. Ben Tomlinson (out with injury today and sorely missed) was the recipient. Really like him as a player. He's a different bloke under Fullarton. His effort and work rate are the stuff all football fans love. Hannah seems to be learning that. 'It matter's to him Dad' was how she summed him up.
Town are fifth tonight. It's a sign of what Fullarton's doing that, albeit it shouldn't be, it's a little disappointing.....