Thursday, 25 September 2014

2014 Stadium #19 - Olympiastadion (Berlin)

Date: 13th September 2014
Stadium: Olympiastadion
Location: Berlin, Germany

My nineteenth stadium of 2014 was on Saturday 13th September. The match was Hertha Berlin vs. Mainz in the German Bundesliga.

The stadium is part of the Berlin Olympic Park which was created for the 1936 Olympic Games. The complex is located in the western part of the city and is served by both an S-Bahn station and and U-Bahn station though there are also several other stations within walking distance. The venue has been home to the club since 1963 when they left their former home in the north of the city.

The stadium underwent substantial renovation works between 2000 and 2004 to bring it up to the required standard to host the 2006 World Cup Final. Though many facilities were vastly improved the main look of the venue was retained. There is still the gap on the western side of the ground where the steps run up towards the Olympic torch and the stone list of medallists from the 1936 Games. This also allows views of the 250ft high bell tower which was built in 1934. With a capacity of 74,244 the seating takes the shape of a two-tier bowl though there is a section in the middle of the south side which is styled differently. The area facing the pitch consists of four small rows of VIP seating on the lower tier, a media centre on the top tier and corporate boxes right at the back of the stand. As part of the renovation works the south side now has an extensive five storey area housing VIP lounges, kitchen, police holding area, player dressing rooms, a chapel and a large car park. When the players walk onto the pitch they emerge from a tunnel underneath this part of the ground. The substantial roof weighs approximately 3,500 tonnes and has twenty supporting columns distributed across the top tier to hold it in place.

There are spacious concourses outside of the arena on both tiers with a club shop built into the eastern side of the lower tier. As the stadium is just a part of the wider Olympic Park there are vast grass areas outside for many food and drink outlets on matchday. In addition to the main stadium there are smaller football and athletics venues as well as a hockey stadium and outdoor swimming stadium. To the west of the ground is the Maifeld with the clock tower at the top of this. When approaching the main entrance to the park on the eastern front fans walk down the wide Olympischer Platz with the Olympic rings displayed between the two that dominate the skyline.

The first half was a lacklustre affair with neither side looking particularly likely to score until the 36th minute when the visitors got their noses in front. The Hertha defence were slow to react to a looped ball into the box allowing Koo Ja-Cheol a clear run at goal. His initial shot was saved but he then squared it for Shinji Okazaki who rifled the ball into the corner of the net. The second half was a more entertaining one for the fans as the effort of the home side increased. They threw on new signing Solomon Kalou with 20 minutes to go but just seconds after this change they found themselves 2-0 down after a slick team move by Mainz culminated in Sami Allagui (playing against his parent club as part of his loan spell at Mainz) tapping in from a couple of yards out. In the 86th minute the hosts reduced the deficit when Ronny scored from the penalty spot but any hopes of an equaliser were dashed in added time when Hertha were undone by another ball over the top as Yunus Malli found enough space to cross the ball to Okazaki who stroked in his second of the game from close range. Mainz were well drilled and able to expose Hertha's poor defence with the same tactics on several occasions - a well deserved victory for the away side.

Result: Hertha Berlin 1-3 Mainz
Division: German Bundesliga
Attendance: 42,069

Sunday, 7 September 2014

2014 Stadium #18 - Wessex Stadium

Date: 23rd August 2014
Stadium: Wessex Stadium
Location: Weymouth, Dorset

My eighteenth stadium of 2014 was on Saturday 23rd August at Wessex Stadium in Weymouth, Dorset. The match was Weymouth vs. Hitchin Town in the Southern League Premier Division.

The Wessex Stadium, known as the Bob Lucas Stadium since 2010, is on the edge of the town in between a golf course and a police station. The ground is just under 2 miles north-west of Weymouth railway station and has been the club's base since 1987 when they left the Recreation Ground which they had inhabited for the previous century.

The Main Stand is positioned on the western side of the ground - this all-seater structure has room for 900 fans and as it is raised well above pitch level offers good views of the game. The seating within the stand is split into three sections with the directors area located in the middle of these. This west side of the ground also includes the players entrance and a club shop.

The rest of the ground is taken up by concrete terracing with metal barriers - the terracing forms a bowl which takes up the north, east and southern side of the ground and runs up towards the Main Stand on the western side. The terracing is a mixture of covered and uncovered with the areas behind the two goals and around half of the eastern side of the ground under a roof. The covered area on the eastern side also includes a food outlet at the back of it.

Weymouth raised out of the traps and grabbed the lead with only a couple of minutes on the clock. There was panic in the Hitchin defence as they tried to clear an early corner and when the ball fell to Adam Kelly inside the box he smashed the ball into the top corner. The home side played some attractive football in the opening half but despite having Hitchin penned in they did not extend their lead and were punished for this just before half-time. In the 42nd minute Hitchin punted a free-kick into Weymouth territory - Brett Donnelly nodded the ball on to Matt Lench who chested the ball down before striking through the goalkeeper to send the sides in level at the break. Hitchin put in a much better effort in the second period though they narrowly avoided going behind again in the 65th minute when a Weymouth effort struck the angle of post and bar and was scrambled away. In the 74th minute the hosts gave the ball away to Matt Lench in midfield - Lench was able to ride one tackle and as several defenders congregated around him was able to lay the ball off to the open Donnelly. The striker had time to compose himself before drilling the ball into the bottom corner of the net. Just as it looked like the home side were heading for defeat they lobbed a long ball into the box and when the ball fell to Stewart Yetton he was able to score from close range to grab a point for Weymouth.

Result: Weymouth 2-2 Hitchin Town
Division: Southern League Premier Division
Attendance: 619

Friday, 5 September 2014

2014 Stadium #17 - Stoneylands

Date: 20th August 2014
Stadium: Stoneylands
Location: Long Melford, Suffolk

My seventeenth stadium of 2014 was on Wednesday 20th August at Stoneylands in Long Melford, Suffolk. The match was Long Melford vs. Cornard United in Eastern Counties League Division One.

Stoneylands lies on the eastern edge of the village and is part of a complex with a few football pitches which backs onto the Suffolk countryside. The nearest railway station is at Sudbury - 3.5 miles south of the ground.

There is a covered metal stand on the western side of the ground which contains 106 seats. Built in 2002 it enabled promotion into the Eastern Counties League. Adjacent to the stand is the club bar, food outlet and dressing rooms. The remainder of the west side of the ground is uncovered standing though there is a covered section by the bar.

The opposite side of the ground contains the dugouts but as space is at a premium there are no viewing areas for spectators. The rest of the ground is uncovered standing though you can see the remnants of a former covered standing area behind the goal at the northern end of the ground. As it no longer has a roof in place it offers no protection from the elements.

Cornard nearly took the lead in the 14th minute when a free-kick was tipped onto the bar but after this Long Melford got on top of the game and took the lead on the half-hour mark from the spot. Will Wingfield beat several defenders and drew Cornard goalkeeper William Green into making a mistimed slide tackle which sent Wingfield sprawling. Nathan Rowe took the penalty and shot low into the corner. In the 37th minute the visitors equalised when John Root beat a defender in the box before poking the ball home. The second half was fairly even for a time but towards the end Long Melford ratcheted up the pressure on Cornard and in the 78th minute they made their breakthrough when Glen Harris headed in from a corner. Just a few minutes later the hosts had a third as Jack Durey dispossessed a Cornard defender close to goal and was able to tuck the ball into the net.With only five minutes remaining the game petered out ensuring Long Melford's winning start to the season continued.

Result: Long Melford 3-1 Cornard United
Division: Eastern Counties League Division One
Attendance: 118

Friday, 29 August 2014

2014 Stadium #16 - The New Croft

Date: 12th August 2014
Stadium: The New Croft
Location: Haverhill, Suffolk

My sixteenth stadium of 2014 was on Tuesday 12th August at The New Croft in Haverhill, Suffolk. The match was Haverhill Rovers vs. Newmarket Town in the Eastern Counties League Premier Division.

The New Croft is on the eastern outskirts of the town as part of a larger sports complex. The nearest railway station is the small one at Dullingham around 9 miles north-east of the ground though for connecting bus services Cambridge is more suitable. The venue was opened in 2010 with its name a reference to the club's former home at Hamlet Croft where they had played from 1913 until the move. In addition to Haverhill Rovers, the venue is also the permanent residence of Haverhill Borough FC.

There is a covered all-seater stand capable of holding 158 people located on the western side of the ground. Behind this is the main club building including the bar, food outlet and dressing rooms. There is also an outside seating area to the left of the stand. The New Croft was built 2010 at a cost of £2m and this shows with the club building as it is very impressive compared with other teams in the division.

The only other stand in the ground is a small covered metal terrace directly behind the goal at the southern end of the venue. The rest of The New Croft is uncovered standing behind a metal barrier which extends round the pitch. The two dugouts sit on the eastern side of the ground opposite the main stand.

This one turned out to be a one-sided affair with a rampant Newmarket thrashing the home side. The visitors opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 27th minute - Richard Chadwick was clumsily fouled in the box allowing Lee Clift to dispatch the resulting spot-kick. In the 36th minute Newmarket doubled their lead when Jake Wayne cut inside a defender before chipping the goalkeeper from 20 yards. Just a few minutes later it was 3-0 as Ollie Snaith's sweetly struck shot from the edge of the area went in off the post. Things didn't get much better for Haverhill in the second half, they fell four goals behind in the 51st minute when Andrew Claydon was left unmarked from a corner and was able smash the ball in off the crossbar. In the 66th minute the visiting side extended their lead to five as a Jack Higgs free-kick took a big deflection on its way past Adam Whybrow in the Haverhill goal. The bad night for the hosts was compounded in the 84th minute when they were reduced to 10 men after a wild tackle by Dan Cornwell on Newmarket goalkeeper George Lawton.

Result: Haverhill Rovers 0-5 Newmarket Town
Division: Eastern Counties League Premier Division 
Attendance: 72

Thursday, 21 August 2014

2014 Stadium #15 - Park Lane

Date: 5th August 2014
Stadium: Park Lane
Location: Canvey Island, Essex

My fifteenth stadium of 2014 was on Tuesday 5th August at Park Lane on Canvey Island, Essex. The match was Canvey Island vs. Maldon & Tiptree in a friendly.

Park Lane is in the south of the island just a couple of hundred yards from the Thames Estuary. The venue sits a few feet below sea level with a marker on one of the stands to denote this. The stadium sits in a green space in the middle of a built-up area. The nearest railway station accessible by land is Benfleet, some 3.5 miles north-west of the ground.

The west side of Park Lane features a thin all-seater stand which extends approximately 85 yards down to the southern end of the ground. This is fully covered and has just over 450 seats contained within it. Adjacent to this structure are the dressing rooms, food outlet and club bar. On the opposite side of the pitch there are two small covered stands either side of the half-way line with the two dugouts between them. These two stands have a few rows of shallow concrete and are the only covered sections on this side of the ground with the remainder of the east end given over to hard standing.

There is fairly limited space behind the goal at the southern end of the ground with a small terrace section taking up the length of this part of Park Lane. At the opposite end of the pitch there is a more substantial terrace which, though also uncovered, provides better views of the action from a steeper vantage point. The north-western corner of the venue has the turnstile entrances as well as the access points to the club bar.

The game was a friendly between Isthmian League Premier Division side Canvey Island and Isthmian League Division One side Maldon & Tiptree. The home side should have taken the lead early on when Victor Osobu crossed to the feet of Anthony Thomas who put the ball wide from a few yards out. However, Thomas made no mistake in the 33rd minute when he controlled a cross on his chest before wrong footing the goalkeeper and tapping into the empty net. Canvey's lead only lasted a couple of minutes - a Maldon long ball found Bradley Hunter on the edge of the box and he was able to out-muscle his marker before slamming the ball home. The Gulls came out on the attack at the start of the second half and in the 56th minute re-took the lead when Anthony Thomas' corner was curled into the back post and flew into the roof of the net via a deflection from Maldon defender Danny Smith. The visiting side then brought the game level again in the 71st minute when a blocked shot fell to Alberto Pinto who smartly controlled the ball before unleashing it into the bottom corner. If anyone was going to win it during the final minutes it was Maldon and in the 88th minute they came very close to snatching a winner. The ball was whipped into the box by a Maldon winger and when the Canvey goalkeeper collided with one of his defenders the ball was on its way into the net before a last ditch slide by Ashley Dumas just kept the ball from crossing the line.

Result: Canvey Island 2-2 Maldon & Tiptree
Attendance: 139

Friday, 15 August 2014

2014 Stadium #14 - Pride Park

Date: 2nd August 2014
Stadium: Pride Park
Location: Derby, Derbyshire

My fourteenth stadium of 2014 was on Saturday 2nd August at Pride Park in Derby, Derbyshire. The match was Derby County vs. Rangers in a friendly.

Pride Park Stadium, currently known as the iPro Stadium for sponsorship reasons, is part of the Pride Park business park to the east of the city centre and around three-quarters of a mile from Derby railway station. The club moved to the stadium in 1997 having left the Baseball Ground which had been their home for the previous 102 years.

The West Stand is the largest in the ground - it has two tiers with executive boxes in between the levels for the length of the stand. The structure extends round into the south-west and north-west quadrants with the latter consisting of an extra two levels of hospitality areas with a big screen above this and a small amount of general seating on the lower tier. This side of the venue also contains the club reception, ticket office and a Starbucks built into the outside of the north-west quadrant.

The rest of the stadium is a bowl shape which takes up the North, East and South Stands. Because these stands are lower than the West Stand the roof dips down to take this into account. If the club become established in the Premier League there is an option to increase the capacity of these three stands up to the same height. The club shop is located in the East Stand and there is also a Greggs built into the north-east quadrant.

The game was a friendly between Football League Championship side Derby County and Scottish Championship side Rangers.There was a massive travelling contingent of almost 10,000 Rangers fans at the friendly and their side came close to opening the scoring on 15 minutes. Kenny Miller crossed the ball for Fraser Aird who headed wide from just a couple of yard out. Derby grew stronger as the half progressed and had a shot cleared off the line just before the interval. In the second half the home side were on top and just before the hour mark took the lead. Simon Dawkins got into the box and was able to draw two Rangers defenders and the goalkeeper away from the centre allowing him to cross the ball for Chris Martin to slide into an empty net. In the 73rd minute later the home side doubled their lead when Will Hughes ran through the visiting defence before laying a perfectly timed through ball for Martin who tucked the ball under the advancing goalkeeper. A couple of minutes after this Martin was involved in an off the ball incident with Rangers defender Bilel Mohsni. The Rangers man took exception to being tackled and flew head-first into Martin's chest. The referee was left with no option but to send Mohsni off for this ridiculous act. Derby narrowly missed notching up a third goal with the last kick of the game as the ball flashed wide from a free-kick but the game finished 2-0.

Result: Derby County 2-0 Rangers
Attendance: 17,860

Monday, 11 August 2014

2014 Stadium #13 - Crown Avenue

Date: 29th July 2014
Stadium: Crown Avenue
Location: Pitsea, Essex

My thirteenth stadium of 2014 was on Tuesday 29th July at Crown Avenue in Pitsea, Essex. The match was Bowers & Pitsea vs. Maldon & Tiptree in a friendly.

Crown Avenue, also known as the Len Salmon Stadium, is located on the outskirts of Pitsea with trees and fields on three sides and housing on the other. The stadium is 1.5 miles from Pitsea railway station.

The south side of the stadium has a covered all-seater stand at the centre of it with room for around 180 people. To the east of the main stand is a covered area containing a food outlet and to the west of it is a small uncovered concrete terrace. The rest of this side of the ground is uncovered hard standing.

As the northern side of the ground is hemmed in by trees there is only room for the the two dugouts with nothing in the way of spectator areas. The remaining areas for fans to view from are behind the two goals - there is a covered terrace behind the goal at the eastern end of the ground and uncovered hard standing behind the goal at the western end of the ground.

The game was a friendly match between Essex Senior League side Bowers & Pitsea and Isthmian League Division One North side Maldon & Tiptree. There was a dramatic start to the match as the visitors went 2-0 up in under 2 minutes. After 50 seconds the ball was lifted over the top to a Maldon striker who lobbed the advancing keeper and just 55 seconds after this Bowers failed to clear their lines and a 25 yard strike found its way into the net. The home side were really struggling and only some good fortune prevented the visitors from extending their lead until the 24th minute when another 25 yard effort was shot into the bottom corner. In the 27th minute it was 4-0 as a corner was whipped into the box and nodded home by a Maldon player. In the 32nd minute the hosts grabbed one back after the Maldon goalkeeper lost possession on the edge of his box and the ball was squared for a Bowers striker to tap in. The respite did not last long though as Maldon then scored another 2 goals within a minute - the first from the edge of the box and the second when a ball was sent across the box and with all the defender missing it the midfielder at the back post was able to slot home. The hosts saw out the 10 minute before the break but went in 6-1 down. Having being torn apart in the first half the home side re-organised at the break and put on a significantly better display in the second 45 minutes. On the hour mark there was an unsavoury incident when a visiting player appeared to headbutt a home player who then raised his arms in retaliation. The referee sent both for an early bath. In the 66th minute Maldon had a chance to notch up their 7th goal of the game when they were awarded a penalty but the goalkeeper was able to palm the ball away. Bowers were able to dig in and stop the score getting any worse which, after their first half display, must have been a big relief.

Result: Bowers & Pitsea 1-6 Maldon & Tiptree
Attendance: N/A