This season has, unusually, seen only a couple of Hallamites away trips, to nearby Worsbrough and a rather clipped visit to Rainworth (where kick off was 2pm, not 3pm....you can guess the rest). So it was good to get back in the groove last weekend with a trip to Nottinghamshire to watch the Countrymen take on the lower mid table Clipstone.
Setting off around 1.15pm, Google's navigation took us to Clipstone via a very pleasant countryside route, avoiding the M1. After some debate, we decided 5 songs each on the car stereo and the time passed nicely despite the kids' being subjected up Mull of Kintyre (Forest's walk out music at the City Ground). On a more positive note, Emily and Joe now know what the best Goal of the Month music is*.
After about an hour we pulled up in the car park adjacent to the ground. As at most (but not all) away grounds, there was a warm welcome on the gate but, as at every away ground, we were soon accosted by a friendly volunteer and were wasting a few quid on the half time draw. But it's all good, when you're only being charged £5 for an adult, a teenager and a 9 year old, it's the least you can do to support our fellow NCEL clubs. And Clipstone was definitely one of the friendlier places we've visited.
Our Joe & Dad flag in place next to one of the goals, we headed to the cafe which served up fairly standard fare, but again remarkably cheap. £4 for chips, a hot dog, and a coffee. Can't complain. And from there, we went across to the covered terrace / seating area at the side of the pitch, where it was nice to catch up with Hallam volunteers Sharon, Jeff, and finally meet Ian 'Grumpa' Smith, not to mention the programme editor!
If you're wondering why we're half way through this match report and have gone into such detail about non-football related matters, well that's because, unusually for a Hallam game, the football itself provided little to report. So much so, that upon checking the Hallam twitter just now, I can't even remember the Watson strike that was disallowed for offside after just 2 minutes.
On what appeared to be a hard and rather bouncy pitch, Hallam weren't quite firing against an obdurate Clipstone team, with just few chances at either end in the first half. Hallam were generally on top, but couldn't quite create the clear cut chance that strikers Watson and Wilson were looking for.
But the gods were with Hallam, that's for sure, in front of a crowd of 75. Soon after the restart, with the sky a lovely inky blue, Hallam were leading 2-0 thanks to a pair of decidedly sketchy goals.
First up, following a corner cleared by Clipstone, was a 51st minute strike by Bradbury who crossed the ball deep back into the penalty area. The 'keeper caught it, seemingly behind the line, before rather oddly throwing it into the side netting.
Then, on 54 minutes and after a marvellous goal line scramble where the ball could have gone anywhere, Watson poked home from about a yard out to put us two up. That's 7 goals in the last 7 games for the Hallamites Hero.
And like all decent teams, once we got ahead, it seemed unlikely that the result would be in doubt. Never in great danger but then never entirely comfortable in the face of a committed Clipstone team whose no. 11 was particularly dangerous but well handled by Brownell, Hallam saw the game out well and took the 3 points back to Sheffield. We can definitely play better, but I guess sometimes results need to be ground out. Well done Hallam.
And, after a trip home via the M1 this time, Mrs Hallamites served up a lovely lasagne for tea, the perfect end to a great away trip. Unfortunately we can't make the trip to Shirebrook next week, so unless we take in this week's away fixture at Ollerton, we'll see you at Rossington on the 18th.
Up the Hallam.
*the correct answer, obviously, is The Life of Riley (instrumental) by the Lightning Seeds.
Pics by James Burdett and Grumpa