Topic: Warrington Town away

FT: 2-2 Att: 929

Section 236A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 governs the sentencing regime for 'Offenders of Particular Concern'. They were born of a desire on the part of the government to increase the scrutiny of those convicted of serious offences who fall short of being truly dangerous. Release from such sentences is dependent upon a finding by the Parole Board that continued detention is no longer required for the protection of the public. Once released, the offender is the subject of a further one year of licence over and above that they'd have for a normal, determinate sentence.

I'd spent the morning telling a hundred or so local solicitors all about this rather tedious but hugely important aspect of sentencing law. It's a good way of cementing existing work and attracting new instructions. Now today, rather than stay as I would normally and listen to further talks on subjects as varied as 'Special Measures for Vulnerable Defendants' and 'Developments in Confiscation Law', I bailed early and, having collected Hannah, was soon on the M62 bound for Warrington.

If you'll pardon the analogy, FC Halifax Town were most definitely 'Offenders of Particular Concern' today. Trust me, Hannah, in her capacity as their 'PO', ain't for letting 'em out early now we're back. In fact, by the time the final whistle mercifully sounded to put us out of our misery, we'd decided that they could walk back to West Yorkshire and then start their sentence.

This was dire. And, in reality, worrying. You see, this wasn't a bad day at the office. It wasn't a case of the plucky minnows giving a team two divisions above them a scare in the 'great leveller' that is the FA Cup. This was, I fear, symptomatic of a wider malaise. They're running out of ideas. And, by full time, the couple of hundred Town faithful that travelled to watch them, had run out of patience.

I'm not sure anyone really hung around at the end. Very few could bring themselves to clap. It was bad. And we were fed up.

The drive to Warrington is a journey I've made many, many times. But on those previous visits, the ball at the end has been a different shape and there's been 26 players on the pitch.

The 'Cantilever Stadium' is everything you'd expect of a ground in the Evo-stik Northern Premier. A redbrick clubhouse in one corner (think local cricket club with a few quid) a couple of small covered terraces, one halfway down the side, one behind the goal, and a 6-row seated stand straddling the halfway line. That was where we found ourselves sat. On the front row no less. There's a 3G 5-a-sdie pitch behind one goal. At least 4 local residents get a free view of home matches from their houses, a few more must get 80% or so of them from the 'apartments' at the other end. The tannoy whistles with feedback at almost every announcement. Peckish? 'Jackie's Baps' will see you right.
'It's all black and white inside' was Hannah's scathing review as she handed me the programme. Yep, we really were in the grassroots today. Which made scraping, and I mean scraping, a draw all the more annoying. As did some of the world-class, gold standard whoppers in the crowd. You're clearly near enough to Liverpool for some to convince themselves that that 'famous wit' has blown in some distance from the sea. Terrace 'wags' are a pain at the best of times. But at least some can raise the odd smile. Not at the Cantilever.

Hannah and I spent the first ten minutes in the ground stifling laughter at the sight of a bloke in the biggest sunglasses we'd ever seen. 50 if he was a day. Skinny jeans, expensive leather jacket and a pair of wraparound bin the size of dinner plates. His mates weren't much better. You just knew there was an Evoque with a private plate lurking somewhere in the car park. 'Look at them Dad, just look at them, he looks like a fly.....' We were certainly in Cheshire alright.

The team warm up. In such an 'intimate' setting you can hear every 'f-word'....

I suppose I ought to say something about the football. Warrington looked like the National League side. Town were s***. There you go.

And yet it all started so well. 4 minutes in, corner, Nathan Clarke header, 1-0. I'd said to Hannah with complete conviction that they'd score just before they took the corner. Maybe, we thought, this could be the game to get some of the zip that won Fullarton Manager of the Month for August back. Or maybe not.

It was like the goal put them to sleep. Warrington were busy and determined. They had movement, quick passes and lay-offs. They wanted to win. Town looked like they wanted to go back to bed.

Fullarton's team selection was baffling. Odelusi is supposedly a winger. He's played in the centre of midfield. Not that well since we've seen him play, but that's where Fullarton saw him in the past. What he isn't is a striker. But that's where he started today. With Edwards on the bench, Fullarton's decision to play him alongside Southwell up front was either going to be a revelation or a disaster. You can see which way this is going.

It must be frustrating being in this team. You get the impression that, perhaps with the exception of Johnson in goal, nobody really knows where, or indeed if, they're going to start. Kosylo is a angry little so and so at the best of times. He seemed even more frustrated than usual today. You couldn't blame him. Town are fast becoming a one-man team. I don't know if Preston wasn't fully fit but he seemed a yard off the pace with a head that was elsewhere. Staunton had a better game. We heard him a lot and he was desperately trying to organise and help. I swear I don't remember Skarz being on the pitch.

And then there was Lenighan. The fact he started shows he's had some form of extension on his temporary contract. I have literally no idea why. I struggle to think of a decent pass he made or opportunity he created.

The home side equalised after 25 minutes. In one period of the first half they seemed to win about 10 corners in as many minutes. I'd love to know the percentages of possession. It genuinely felt like 80% or more for Warrington. It was no surprise when they took the lead. They deserved it.

They have some 'ultras' who were now in full voice. Well, I say 'ultras'. They were 20 or so blokes in repli-kits with a drum and some big flags. The 'full of tits, fanny and the Wire' song has made it's way from Wilderspool via the Haliwell Jones. And they took great pleasure in belting out 'National League, you're having a laugh'. Their chorus of 'A shit Jimmy Bullard' must have felt like the final ignominy for Kosylo.

And then he scored. And he deserved it, even if Town didn't. He always does. He deserves at least a goal a game. Because he stands out a mile in this team. He is too good for them. It's not just his pace and the little touches, the running at players and finishing. It's the attitude. Yes, he's a hot head and he does give away free kicks and get booked when he shouldn't. The indiscipline is something he needs to address, but being in such a small ground and so close meant we could see and hear what it means to him. It means a lot. We could hear him. Hear how he encourages and cajoles. We could see how he feels every missed pass and bad touch.

Fullarton had brought Edwards on before the goal. Town looked a different team. A long way off anything particularly worthy of a win but the tide turned for a while. Did make you wonder why he didn't start. Cameron King got a run out. Same question. The real puzzler though was why Southwell had come off and Odelusi stayed on.

McLeod didn't get a look in again. Nobody's suggesting these missing players are proven world-beaters, but something needs to change if the downward trend isn't going to continue. The injuries haven't helped but there's more to it than that.

The replay is on Tuesday at The Shay. Hannah's got a busy week at school. She sounded almost relieved at the prospect of Mum not letting her go. I probably will. They'll be lucky to 500 in on that performance.

She’s the main man in the office in the city and she treats me like I’m just another lackey, but I can put a tennis racket up against my face and pretend that I am Kendo Nagasaki...