It had been an excellent first week at the Yorkshire Post, with a friendly newsdesk helping me to settle in and a few bylines in the paper to kick-start the journalism career, but by Saturday afternoon I was desperate to make amends for not making a match last weekend.
There’s plenty of football banter flying around the office - Liverpool, Leeds United, Plymouth Argyle, Hull City, Celtic and Darlington are among the clubs represented - but it was the duo of Huddersfield Town supporters, Andrew and Robert, who suggested I accompany them to the Galpharm Stadium for the Leyton Orient fixture. I was assured of a traditional Huddersfield welcome and, although not entirely sure what that would entail, gladly took up their offer.
So, just a few strokes of the clock past midday and Robert (his reporter name clearly, since he became Rob, Bob and then, most affectionately, Bobby by the end of the afternoon) is using a full pint of Black Sheep bitter as a novel method of pointing out Huddersfield’s main landmarks. Remarkably, they all seem to be visible from the station pub - the statue of former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, a stone lion perched on top of a grand-looking building for some reason and the hotel where Rugby League came into being.
in journalism, they say you’re an expert in something for 15 minutes and that’s certainly true. This week, I’ve written about the world economic crisis, the headteachers’ union, the growing of dahlias and the ecclesiastical history of Dewsbury. However, I’m sure to remember my Hudders history lesson longer than any of those things. Later, I learnt about the barbers which is actually a massage parlour. It’s the kind of local knowledge you just don’t get at the tourist information centre.
The Huddersfield welcome wasn’t as sinister as it sounds. Basically, it includes getting a gallon of ale down your neck and trying not to miss the kick-off. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can add a pork pie and dollop of mushy peas, or hot beef roll, to the equation. I managed to do all that and only missed two minutes of the match, so not at all bad. If this was my YP initiation, it was thoroughly enjoyable.
I’d only been to the Galpharm once before - when Swansea City won 1-0 there en route to winning the League One title in 2008 - and it’s a very nice venue. That last visit was in January, with a vicious northerly wind blowing through the open corners, so it was also a good deal warmer. Under Lee Clark’s stewardship, Huddersfield have transformed themselves into one of the best sides in League One, and they have an enviable unbeaten record now stretching to 35 games. Surely the Championship beckons this year if this can be maintained.
I’d borrowed a season ticket to get in, which was a bit of a risk because it was a senior citizens’ season ticket card. There was a moment of hesitation from the spotty oink behind the turnstile as I presented it but thankfully he chose the lecture option rather than calling for the chief steward - “try and bring the right card next time,” he said in his most patronising tone. I was half-way to the entrance gate and too far gone on the Timothy Taylor’s to really care.
An exciting game ensued. Orient, without a win either at home or on the road, are rock bottom and offered precious little in the first-half. Huddersfield were shooting towards where i was sat in the dodgily-titled Pink Link Stand and I saw plenty of action, if only the one goal. Jack Hunt crossed from the right and Alan Lee headed home to put the hosts ahead on 22 minutes. Lee seems to be a cult figure and the vocal home supporters sat behind me serenaded his name for a good ten minutes afterwards.
Hunt’s Golazo from 25 yards doubled the lead midway through the second half and that really should have been that. But the game hinged on the dismissal of Jamie McCombe six minutes from time, for an incident off the ball which I didn’t see. He’s alleged to have elbowed George Porter while waiting for a corner to be delivered and received a straight red.
I was surprised how much this affected the game, especially against a team bereft of confidence like Orient. Seconds later, Kevin Lisbie had halved the deficit with a header and a comfortable afternoon suddenly became a bit tense. The Londoners started to believe and salvaged an unlikely point a minute into five minutes of stoppage time when Ben Chorley drilled home an excellent strike from outside the box. For the first time all afternoon, the travelling fans struck up a song as the rest of the ground rushed to the exits or the pub. They could scarcely believe it.
Next Match: With Boston at home to Kidsgrove Athletic in the FA Cup next Saturday, I’ll most likely look for a cup tie in my area.