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Hale the Conquering Hero

With Halifax Town making their first visit to York Road on Saturday, former striker Steve Hale looks back on his finest moment in a United shirt

Steve Jinman

Steve Jinman

Hale the Conquering Hero

The Advertiser's report on the victory from 2004

Date: 14th February 2004

Scoreline: Halifax Town 0 Maidenhead United 2 (Hale, Yaku)

A game which will long live in the memory of Stephen Hale, for more than just scoring the opening goal.

Hale joined Maidenhead United initially on loan from Northwood to link up with his former strike partner Lawrence Yaku, making his debut against a Justin Edinburgh Billericay team at the wrong end of the Ryman Premier Division, with Hale scoring the only goal, a free kick on his debut.

We had progressed to the last sixteen of the FA Trophy, starting in the 2nd Round beating Swindon Supermarine after a replay, winning 2 1, after drawing 3 3 at their place, the 3rd Round away to Histon 3 1. 4th Round at home to Wealdstone (including Jermaine Beckford), hammering them 5 1. Hale having scored 6 goals up to now before the draw was made, Halifax Town or Staines Town away.

Hale takes up the story.

‘We knew who we had be drawn against. The original tie was scheduled on February 1st at The Shay, but was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, the game was rearranged for February 10th, 1 1 the score, and with time running out the replay was held 2 days later, Thursday 12th. We trained that evening, had finished and still didn’t know who we were playing, as the tie had gone into extra time’.

Hale goes on ‘I had gone home to the local pub in Iver to wait for the score as it meant either a local journey to Staines or an away day in Yorkshire’.

The result came through and Halifax had scored an extra time winner. No Whatsapp group in those days just text messaging. Hale mentioned, ‘With being involved in the Barmy Army, I knew I had one or two who would come to Halifax’.

The details came through, coach Friday meet at silly o’clock, with an overnight stay. Hale goes on, ‘Great, a night away, only issue was, I was on duty the Friday, as I worked for The London Ambulance Service as a Paramedic and too late to book annual leave’. This was the same for his strike partner Yaku. He also was at work, so the arrangement was made by Steve’s partner at the time who worked for BMI, to fly there.

Hale and Yaku met at Heathrow for a flight less than an hour in the air. With the players due to return straight after the match, Hale and Yaku couldn’t return until the Sunday.

Hale says, ‘It was a quick flight with The Gaffer, Tumble (John Dreyer), picking us up the other end. There we were at the baggage carousel when it stopped. I was like, hang on, where’s my kit bag?’

‘Sorry Sir, it’s all off’

Hale recalls ‘A few swear words were said, as I found out the bag had gone to Manchester, close, yeah right but would be sent directly to the hotel in time for the game the next day’.

Tumble said’ How long did that take? I’ve been here ages’.

Yaku laughing away as I said, ‘My kit bag has gone to Manchester’

We arrived via a tour of Bradford, to be met by skipper Brian O’Connor with a glass of red. ‘Pre-match ritual’ he says.

Hale says, ‘We got up Saturday for breakfast, still with no kit bag in sight. The decision was made to be driven into Huddersfield by Steve Sanders to buy the works, boots, kit bag, towel, pads, pants, but there was no shop that had a pair of size 10’s. Literally had given up hope when we went down some side street and there was a very small sports shop, and a pair of size 10 Mizuno were bought’.

We arrive at The Shay a team playing in The Conference, then managed by Chris Wilder (now manager of Sheffield United), on a pitch that wasn’t the best. The 50 or so fans, including 4 or 5 from The Barmy Army, made themselves heard. We were under the cosh from the off, and we gave a free kick away 15 yards outside our box after a handball from the skipper (don’t mention the red wine). Hale takes up the story. ‘It’s a well-known fact that I hated running, and with us conceding a free kick I had to go back and help out. The free kick was over hit and landed in our keeper’, Phil Wilson’s arms, who threw the ball out left to Martyn Lee who took two touches before a diagonal ball to Yaku before I hit the ball on the half volley from 20 yards before celebrating in front of the away fans. It was a fantastic counter attacking move’. Yep, Hale ran 80 yards, unheard of.

The drama didn’t end there, as Halifax were given a penalty given away by the skipper (don’t mention the red wine), a pointless tackle the commentator said.  Craig Midgley took the kick, it struck the post rolled across the goal line, struck Wilson, well let’s say in the groin area and Wilson pounced on the loose ball. A grateful skipper offered Phil a crate of red wine with that save. Moments later Halifax the ball in the net only for it to be disallowed for offside. We were riding our luck.

The second half began much like the first, Hale says,’ Phil made two outstanding saves which kept it at 1 0 before a late strike by Yaku rounding the keeper to seal a 2 0 win and quarter final tie away to eventual runners up Canvey Island.

Hale says, ‘What an unbelievable feeling it was beating a conference side away from home, the celebrations with Tumble, Phil Gray, Yak’s and my Barmy Army friends continued late into the night in Leeds. I remember arriving back at the hotel in the early hours to be told ‘your kit bag has arrived Sir’.

I was left out of the starting line up in the quarter final, where we went down to 10 men early doors, (Andy Dugdale sent off deliberate handball), losing 4 0. I went on loan to Oxford City not long after as I was off to the West Indies to watch the cricket, but returned to play for the Reserve’s scoring 2 and getting back in the side for the final game of the season against Aylesbury, winning 4 1, which saw us finish above half way and into the new league the following season.

Hale can be seen here at York Road on match days, as he works here as a medic alongside the Doctor.

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