Thursday, 14 May 2015

2015 Stadium #9 - Highbury Stadium

Date: 25th April 2015
Stadium: Highbury Stadium
Location: Fleetwood, Lancashire

My ninth stadium of 2015 was on Saturday 25th April at Highbury Stadium in Fleetwood, Lancashire. The match was Fleetwood Town vs. Colchester United in Football League One.

Highbury Stadium is located one mile east of the Irish Sea on the Fylde peninsula. It is tightly hemmed in by housing on three sides and a park on the remaining side. Fleetwood does not have a railway station so the nearest station is Poulton-le-Fylde around six miles south. There are however connecting tram services from Blackpool which stop 200 yards from the ground. The venue has been home to the club and its previous incarnations since 1939.

Having gone up six divisions in the space of a decade Fleetwood have had to adapt their Highbury home beyond all recognition. The latest addition is the Parkside Stand which dominates the ground. Finished in 2011 this stand has one main tier of seating with room for around 2,000 fans. At the back of the stand there are two levels of hospitality and conference areas with the top one of these including a balcony of additional seating which hangs over the top of the main seating area. The stand is topped off with a dramatic curved roof. It also contains the club reception and a small ticket office and club shop.

The only other area of seating is on the opposite side of the pitch where the Highbury Stand is located. Due to the adjacent social club this stand only runs for around half the length of the pitch and has a total of 550 seats. The Memorial Stand sits behind the north goal and is a concrete terrace with room for just under 1,500 home fans. Attached to the back of the stand is an excellent bar known as Jim's Sports Bar which can be used by home or away supporters. Behind the southern goal is the Percy Ronson Stand - this small terrace takes up around two-thirds of this side of the ground and has a capacity of just over 600. This is where the away fans view games from although there is also a small section of the Parkside Stand provided for those who want to sit.

The first half was a pretty quiet affair - the closest moment to a goal was around the half-hour mark when Gavin Massey went close to scoring with a volley from six yards - on this occasion Fleetwood keeper Chris Maxwell was able to palm the ball away and smother Massey's rebound effort. The game sprung into life in the second half - barely a minute after the interval Colchester took the lead. Excellent work down the wing by Jacob Murphy saw him beat two defenders before crossing for George Moncur to slot home. The visitors went close to extending their lead on a couple of occasions but found themselves pegged back in the 64th minute when Jamie Proctor clipped the ball home after a chaotic bit of pinball in the Colchester penalty box. In the 73rd minute Fleetwood took the lead when Proctor's lofted pass found David Ball who shrugged off Bongani Khumalo before curling the ball into the corner of the net. This meant that the visitors were staring relegation in the face unless they could turn the game round and in an extraordinary end to the game they did. In the 84th minute Gaving Massey swung a ball into the box - Macauley Bonne failed to connect but his presence seemed to put off Maxwell in the home goal and he let the ball slip through his hands into the net. The U's went on the attack straight from the kick-off and only a minute later after the equaliser were awarded a penalty when Dion Sembie-Ferris was scythed down just inside the area. Chris Porter stepped up and slammed the ball home to complete a remarkable turnaround for the U's whose season had looked finished at one point. The goals which kept Colchester in the survival hunt proved crucial as the following weekend victory over Preston saw Colchester stay up.

Result: Fleetwood Town 2-3 Colchester United
Division: Football League One
Attendance: 3,129

Monday, 4 May 2015

2015 Stadium #8 - Proact Stadium

Date: 14th April 2015
Stadium: Proact Stadium
Location: Chesterfield, Derbyshire

My eighth stadium of 2015 was on Tuesday 14th April at the Proact Stadium in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. The match was Chesterfield vs. Colchester United in Football League One.

The Proact Stadium was part of a regeneration project of the former glassworks in the Whittington Moor part of the town and sits adjacent to a large Tesco store. The venue is around 1.5 miles north of Chesterfield railway station and has been home to the club since 2010 when they moved from their Saltergate home where they had been for the previous 139 years.

The ground is pretty typical of modern new builds with four separate stands of similar heights though the East and West Stands have curved roofs. There are gaps in each corner which can be filled in should the club ever need to expand the ground. The West Stand is also known as the Main Stand and has 3,144 seats as well as executive boxes and conference areas towards the rear. The outward facing side of the stand has the club reception, ticket office and a small club shop.

Opposite this the East Stand has 3,208 seats and is sometimes used for away fans. This stand has a health club, cafe, community centre and play area contained within as well as a memorial garden at the back of the car park. The North and South stands behind the goals have flat roofs and both have a capacity of just over 2,000 each. Away fans are often positioned in the North Stand though on my trip we were in the East Stand.

Chesterfield came into the game on a strong run of form and took the lead after 6 minutes - Drew Talbot's cross into the box found Gary Roberts who took advantage of a defensive slip to steady himself and volley the ball into the back of the net from 12 yards. In the 16th minute Dan Gardner slipped past Colchester defender Alex Wynter with ease before pulling back for Sam Clucas to smash the ball into the roof of the net. Less than 60 seconds later it was 3-0 as some atrocious defending by Colchester allowed Sam Clucas to ghost past three defenders and chip the ball over Chris Lewington. The game was over as a contest by this point though the visitors were able to arrest the scoring until at least half-time. Colchester made a triple substitution at the interval at the break to try and turn things around but if anything the second half was even more one-sided than the first. In the 58th minute Dan Gardner took a speculative 20 yard shot which was spilled into the back of the net by Lewington in the U's goal. A couple of minutes later it was 5-0 after more horrendous defending led to Jimmy Ryan beating the offside trap and chipping the ball in from close range. The hosts continued to batter the visitors who had Lewington to thank for keeping the score down to single figures. In the final few minutes there was yet another shocking attempt to play offside against Gary Roberts which led to him being felled by Lewington in the area. Roberts brushed himself off and dispatched the penalty to round off the scoring. A brilliant performance from Chesterfield against an appalling Colchester who were lucky to only lose by six.

Result: Chesterfield 6-0 Colchester United
Division: Football League One
Attendance: 6,508

Thursday, 30 April 2015

2015 Stadium #7 - Mill Field

Date: 6th April 2015
Stadium: Mill Field
Location: Aveley, Essex

My seventh stadium of 2015 was on Monday 6th April at Mill Field in Aveley, Essex. The match was Aveley vs. Thamesmead Town in Isthmian League Division One North.

Mill Field is close to the centre of Aveley and is just over 2 miles from the nearest railway station at Purfleet. With building work ongoing the stadium is now bordered by housing on three sides and the venue itself will become housing in the next few years. having resided in Mill Field since 1927 the club will soon be moving to Belhus Park just to the north of the village.

The west side of the ground is the most significant part of the venue. There is a 400 seat wooden stand level with the half-way line - this structure was built in the 1950s and has a few supporting columns at the front of it to hold up the roof. In front of this is a large amount of uncovered concrete terracing which runs for the length of the pitch. The clubhouse, dressing rooms and dugouts are also on this side of Mill Field.

The east side housed the Pepper Stand until it was damaged in a storm in 2009 - there is currently just a small bit of covered concrete terracing with a tarpaulin back to it. Because of the curve of the ground this sits a way back from the pitch. Behind the northern goal there is a covered metal terrace which has been added in recent years. The rest of the venue is uncovered hard standing.

The visitors were on top in the early going though it took until the 28th minute for them to take the lead. Tyrus Gordon-Young played a slick pass in behind the defence which allowed Michael Uwezu time to slide the ball past James Marrable in the Aveley goal. In the 34th minute Thamesmead doubled the lead when a dangerous cross into the area saw Spencer Harrison divert the ball into his own net. It looked like the away side were on for an easy win but in the 41st minute Aveley grabbed a lifeline when Steve Willis beat the offside trap and having drawn the goalkeeper then squared for  Liam Nash to stoke into the empty net. Thamesmead restored the two goal lead in the 54th minute in real route 1 fashion - a long goal kick up field was nodded on for Michael Uwezu to slam past the goalie. This lead went back down to a single goal in the 72nd minute as Petrit Elbi held off the attentions of a couple of defenders on the edge of the area before shooting in the bottom corner. This was the catalyst for a costly few minutes for Thamemead - firstly Derek Duncan was sent off for hitting Luke Stanley and straight after this they conceded a third when a nice passing move culminated in Arian Retkoceri curling a shot in off the post from 20 yards out. The hosts were well on top for the rest of the game but couldn't quite get a winner. In the 93rd minute Thamesmead were reduced to nine men as Michael Spencer was given his marching orders for a second booking but there wasn't enough time for Aveley to take advantage of this.

Result: Aveley 3-3 Thamesmead Town
Division: Isthmian League Division One North
Attendance: 76

Thursday, 23 April 2015

2015 Stadium #6 - Parsonage Field

Date: 6th April 2015
Stadium: Parsonage Field
Location: Farleigh, Surrey

My sixth stadium of 2015 was on Monday 6th April at Parsonage Field in Farleigh, Surrey. The match was Farleigh Rovers vs. AFC Croydon Athletic in the Combined Counties League Division One.

Parsonage Field is in a leafy, residential area on the edge of Warmlingham. The ground is around 3 miles east of the closest railway stations at Whyteleafe, Whyteleafe South and Upper Warlingham. The venue became home to the club in 1959.

The southern side of the ground contains the car park, a clubhouse and the dugouts. The clubhouse building has an overhanging roof providing a covered spectator area which includes a couple of wooden benches. To the right of this there is an open area which extends towards the pitch and this contains several additional picnic benches.

The remainder of the venue is uncovered standing but there are no more hard standing areas on the other three sides. There is a metal barrier running alongside the pitch on the the northern side of the ground and this extends round the corners almost as far as the two goals. There is however only a narrow strip where fans can congregate behind the two goals. Directly behind the eastern goal is the access road to the venue and beyond this a field. The perimeter fence on this side has seen better days so the club are hoping to replace this soon. There are no floodlights at Parsonage Field which led to the club moving to the Croydon Arena a few years ago. They have now returned but will be unable to progress any further up the league ladder without a floodlit stadium.

This was a top of the table clash with both sides knowing a win would see them occupying 1st place come the final whistle. The visitors had the best of the opening period of the game and took the lead in the 26th minute when Callum Maclean controlled the ball well in the box before driving into the bottom corner. AFC Croydon Athletic were looking to extend their lead while they were on top but two Farleigh goals in the space of four minutes turned the game on its head. Just after the half-hour mark the hosts were awarded a penalty when a free-kick was handled in the box - Liam Neaves stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way to level the game up at 1-1. In the 38th minute Neaves scored again when his free-kick into the area bypassed everyone and bounced into the top corner of the net. The away side were on top for the bulk of the second half but Farleigh dug in resolutely and were able to eke out a 2-1 victory to remain at the summit of the division.

Result: Farleigh Rovers 2-1 AFC Croydon Athletic
Division: Combined Counties League Division One
Attendance: 207

Thursday, 16 April 2015

2015 Stadium #5 - Woodstock Park

Date: 4th April 2015
Stadium: Woodstock Park
Location: Sittingbourne, Kent

My fifth stadium of 2015 was on Saturday 4th April at Woodstock Park in Sittingbourne, Kent. The match was Woodstock Sports vs. Holmesdale in the Southern Counties East League.

Woodstock Park is on the edge of Kent Science Park, to the south of Sittingbourne. The venue is mostly surrounded by fields with only the south-west side backing onto the Science Park itself. It is around 2.5 miles from Sittingbourne railway station. The club moved to the ground in 2010 and in 2013 Sittingbourne FC also relocated to Woodstock Park after ground problems of their own.

There is a large clubhouse on the south-west side of Woodstock Park - this building contains the club offices, dressing rooms and two bars. There are a number of benches placed in front of this for fans to sit and watch the game. The rest of this side of the ground is uncovered standing except for one covered concrete standing area in the north-west corner.

The north-east side of the pitch has no spectator areas though it is where the two dugouts have been placed. Behind the goal at the north-west end there is a small covered metal terrace while the only all-seater stand is behind the goal at the south-east end. This 150 seat structure was added in 2013 just prior to Sittingbourne moving in and there is planning permission in place to extend the seating area in this part of the ground if needed.

Woodstock came into the game comfortably ahead of Holmesdale in mid-table but were taken apart by the visitors in the opening 45 minutes. Holmesdale opened the scoring in the 8th minute when the ball broke to Benga Ogunseye on the edge of the box and was able to turn and unleash a 20 yard effort into the top corner. A couple of minutes later the visitors doubled the lead as Ogunseye again caused problems  for the home defence before squaring for Michael McKenna to tap in on the line. In the 19th minute Holmesdale scored an easy 3rd as two defenders were left unmarked at a corner and Mark Axel reacted quickest to head home. Shortly before the break the visiting side extended their lead further when Woodstock lost the ball in the area and Michael McKenna was able to loop a shot into the top corner from 20 yards out. After a dreadful first half the hosts made it a more even second period though they did concede one more goal in the 69th minute as a ball over the top found Ogunseye who lofted the ball over the advancing keeper to complete the 5-0 rout.

Result: Woodstock Sports 0-5 Holmesdale
Division: Southern Counties East League
Attendance: 30

Friday, 10 April 2015

2015 Stadium #4 - Vale Park

Date: 3rd April 2015
Stadium: Vale Park
Location: Burslem, Staffordshire

My fourth stadium of 2015 was on Friday 3rd April at Vale Park in Burslem, Staffordshire. The match was Port Vale vs. Colchester United in Football League One.

Vale Park is located in the town of Burslem in the northern part of the wider city of Stoke-on-Trent. The ground sits is bordered by Burslem Park to the south and Sproson Park to the north though also backs onto a residential area on its eastern side. The venue is 1.5 miles from the nearest railway station at Longport and has been home to the club since 1950.

The tallest stand in the ground is the Lorne Street Stand which runs alongside the eastern side of Vale Park. This stand was opened in 1999 to replace the former uncovered concrete terrace which had stood there before. It was intended to seat 5,000 fans but still remains unfinished with seats only in place for half of the lower deck. However, the upper deck was completed giving the club the opportunity to provide balcony-style hospitality boxes. The Lorne Street Stand also includes the club reception and other facilities in use by community organisations.

The Railway Stand is on the opposite side of the pitch - this was formerly a mixture of seating and terracing until the latter was upgraded during the 1990s. Several supporting columns reside in the middle of the stand and the roof does not extend out to all the seats at the front of the stand. Next to this the north-west corner has a small two-tier structure with uncovered seating in the lower section and covered seating in the upper section. This area is hemmed on by the Railway Stand on one side and the Bycars Road End on the other. The Bycars Road End is a single tier stand with two supporting columns on each side - as with some of the other stands those at the very front are a little open to the elements. Behind the goal at the southern end of Vale Park is the Hamil Road End - this 4,500 capacity stand houses the away fans and also has some stanchions half-way up the stand. On the outside of this structure, the club shop is attached  The south-west exterior of this structure backs onto to the club shop and there is also a pub across the car park.

Port Vale come into the game off the back of some really poor results and raced out of the traps early on to threaten the Colchester goal. Vale looked particularly dangerous down the wings and the U's goal led a charmed life in the opening half-hour. After this the visitors came back into the game and only a smart save from Sam Johnson prevented George Moncur opening the scoring towards the end of the first half. The second period saw Colchester well on top and they took the lead in the 57th minute as Moncur was able to play a 1-2 with Chris Porter on the edge of the box before having the time to control the ball and drag it into the bottom corner. The away side had several chances before grabbing a second goal on 77 minutes. Some sloppy passing from Vale saw the ball fall to Jacob Murphy who played a quick 1-2 with Porter before beating a defender for pace and drilling his shot into the bottom corner of the net. The hosts did get one back with a few minutes to go as Louis Dodds slammed home a volley after a corner wasn't cleared properly but in the closing stages it was Colchester who looked the more likely to score again as they claimed a 2-1 win.

Result: Port Vale 1-2 Colchester United
Division: Football League One
Attendance: 4,471

Monday, 30 March 2015

2015 Stadium #3 - Avenue Stadium

Date: 21st March 2015
Stadium: Avenue Stadium
Location: Dorchester, Dorset

My third stadium of 2015 was on Saturday 21st March at the Avenue Stadium in Dorset, Dorchester. The match was Dorchester Town vs. Frome Town in the Southern League Premier Division.

The Avenue Stadium was built on the southern tip of Dorchester next door to a retail park. The venue is bordered by a Tesco store to the north, the A35 to the south and a railway line to the east. This line splits off to Dorchester South and Dorchester West railway stations, both approximately 1 mile from the ground. The venue has been home to the club since 1990 when it replaced their nearby former home, also called 'The Avenue', where they had resided for the previous 61 years.

The ground is dominated by the main stand which is raised above pitch level on the western side of the venue. This 710 seat structure is split into 10 small seating blocks across two levels with the interior of the stand including the club reception and ticket office. Either side of the stand there small sections of uncovered concrete terracing.

On the opposite side of the pitch there are two sections of covered terracing split in the middle by additional turnstiles and a small club shop. Similar covered terracing takes up the entirety of the southern side of the ground and there is also a food outlet in the south-west corner. The northern side of the ground has the same level of concrete terracing but there is no roof in this area.

Both sides went into the game in the bottom third of the table and it was not difficult to see why after a desperately poor first half. Frome edged the early passage of play but the best chance of the half fell to the home side when Ben Watson's close range shot was tipped onto the crossbar by visiting keeper Darren Chitty. The second half was a little better but the game didn't spring into life until there was a quarter of the game left to play. In the 74th minute the hosts grabbed the lead as Bradley Tarbuck showed good strength to loop a seemingly lost ball back into the danger zone and Ben Watson was able to nod over the keeper into the top corner. Frome came back at Dorchester and in the 85th minute levelled the game up at 1-1. Shortly after having a shot cleared off the line the visitors kept sending it back into the area and with the hosts unable to gain control the ball fell to Mark Cooper on the left. Cooper whipped the ball into the six-yard box for Lewis Haldene whose saw his first effort parried by Alan Walker-Harris but then reacted quickest to the rebound to send the ball over the line. The final few minutes saw end-to-end football but with no clear cut chances Frome were able to rescue a point.

Result: Dorchester Town 1-1 Frome Town
Division: Southern League Premier Division
Attendance: 425