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My Favourite Non-League Picture: John Bradley

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John Bradley

BIG IMPRESSION: Liam McAlinden is hoisted up into the air after scoring on debut. Picture: John Bradley

This week, FC Halifax Town photographer John bradley shares and explains the image that he cherishes the most

Saturday August 10, 2019. It was a typically beautiful summer’s day in west Yorkshire – the perfect setting for FC Halifax Town to welcome Dagenham & Redbridge, and their former England manager Peter Taylor.

The National League was only two games old and the Shaymen had made the perfect start, collecting six points out of six, while the Daggers were unbeaten also, having taken four.

Although Pete Wild’s team had made such a good start, my expectations pre-match were not high. Many were expecting the Shaymen to struggle, especially having left it so late to secure safety in the National League the previous  season, and in the wake of boss Jamie Fullarton standing down amid a tumultuous pre-season.

It was also my first match of the season, and my first working for The Non-League Paper. All eyes were on new signing Liam McAlinden, who arrived at The Shay that week with good pedigree but, like plenty of other new strikers who come to the club, he had something to prove to   fulfil his promise.

I’ll be honest, I was extremely nervous throughout. The adrenaline of photograping live events does get to you at times and I wanted to do a good job.

The game itself got off to a slow start and certainly wasn’t offering much in the way of hope that it would be able to provide me with a goal, celebration or key moment to ensure a memorable NLP debut.

Then, however, on 16 minutes, man-of-the-moment McAlinden immediately won the hearts of the Halifax faithful  by latching onto a rebound from a Cameron King shot and smashing the ball high into the Dagenham net.

Instead of running over to the photographers sitting behind the goal, Liam ran off towards the old Skircoat stand, but I managed to anticipate this quickly and followed him over just as he was being mobbed my his teammates.

I snapped away and thankfully got the frame I wanted – the goalscorer being hoisted up into the air in a sea of blue.

The Shaymen went on to win the game to go top of the National League after the opening week with three wins out of three.

I woke early the following morning and made the short walk to the local shop to get my copy of The NLP – as was now my weekly ritual. That’s when I saw my image adorning the front page!

I couldn’t believe it, and ran home with the copy like Charlie Bucket after he found the Golden Ticket!

I was floating on air for a long time after that, and even though I’ve had numerous images printed in the paper over the course of the season, none have given me more pride or made me happier than this one.

Now, wherever my football photography journey – west Yorkshire or otherwise – takes me, that image will always be my special one.

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