Northstand Nostalgia: Halifax humbling for Pompey plonkers

Peter Ellis scored an own goal in Pompey's 1979 2-0 defeat at Halifax
Peter Ellis scored an own goal in Pompey's 1979 2-0 defeat at Halifax
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A regular contributor to the Football Mail’s letters page many moons ago, the Northstand Critic has got back in touch...

Once upon a time, long, long ago in a faraway place, known as Halifax, two young warriors arrived at their destination.

It had been a long arduous journey.

Barry and I set out early that morning from our usual departure point of the Monkton Pub in Copnor Road, with hope in our hearts.

On that wintry day, back in March 1979, road conditions were treacherous.

Radio 2’s Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart informed us of quite a few postponements as we edged slowly north through Oxfordshire along the A34.

To ensure our own game was still going ahead, our head of ops Martyn ‘Fooksy’ Fooks ordered an unscheduled stop at Oxford services to confirm the positive status of our fixture.

The good news was that Halifax had escaped much of the bad weather, but unfortunately our driver could not restart our ageing coach and a replacement had to be requisitioned from a local firm.

Again, there was further bad news following good.

The replacement vehicle was to be a brand-new luxury model, regrettably it would not arrive for another two hours!

Once aboard our speedy new coach the Oxford driver did his best to make up for lost time, as he not only put his foot to the floor, but in a bid to appease the more rumbustious passengers he drove for a while on the motorway hard shoulder, as we neared ‘The Shay’ (the home of Halifax Town).

Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 3.30 that our coach finally arrived at the stadium, 30 minutes into the game.

The inclement wintry weather that year had coincided with a dip in form for promotion-chasing Pompey.

Despite losing our two previous games, most aboard our coach fully expected a comfortable win at bottom-of-the-table Halifax.

Once inside the ground we learnt that we had missed the opening two goals of the game.

Although they were scored by Pompey players they were unfortunately both own goals and there was to be no further score.

This defeat proved pivotal in our failed promotion attempt that season.

I do not know whether it was a kneejerk reaction, or a considered consensual agreement, but Barry and I both realised that we needed to distance ourselves from this numbingly embarrassing defeat ASAP, so we could try and forget it.

The French foreign legion seemed a little extreme, so instead we chose Coventry.

We had decided to gatecrash my cousin’s engagement party, taking place later that evening.

We asked the coach driver to drop us at the nearest motorway junction to Cov, where we hitched our way to the engagement location in town.

The venue was full of family members, among an array of strangers, all of whom were suitably, suited and booted.

None of them had any inkling of the impending arrival of two inappropriately dressed football fans whose matching flat caps and donkey jackets were hardly the ideal de rigueur for such a family occasion.

My everlasting memory is the look of horror on my mum and dad’s faces, as a dishevelled and uninvited ‘Bill and Ben’ made their undignified entrance through the doors of that Coventry club.

Similar to Del-Boy and Rodney’s arrival at a friend’s wake in Fools and Horses, we also looked like a right couple of ‘plonkers’!