Thursday, 21 January 2016

2016 Stadium #1 - Gardiners Close

Date: 2nd January 2016
Stadium: Gardiners Close
Location: Basildon, Essex

My first stadium of 2016 was on Saturday 2nd January at Gardiners Close in Basildon, Essex. The match was Basildon United vs. Enfield 1893 in the Essex Senior League.

Gardiners Close is in the north of the town and is part of an area of green space which includes football pitches, cricket pitches and a leisure centre. The venue is 2.5 miles north-east of Basildon railway station and has been home to the club since 1970.

All of the covered areas are positioned on the west side of Gardiners Close. There is an all-seater structure by the half-way line which has a total of 104 seats divided into two sections with the entrance to the players dressing rooms in between. Behind the dressing rooms is the club bar building located in the car park. There are covered hard standing areas either side of the all-seater stand with both of these having picnic benches acting as seating.

The remainder of the ground is uncovered standing. On the eastern side of Gardiners Close there is a section of concrete steps built into the grass bank but because of the location of the two dugouts in front of it you cannot actually view the game from here. Behind the northern and southern ends there are grass banks with gentle slopes. Netting is in place directly behind the two goals to catch any wayward shots.

The game started with a spate of early goals as the players battled the wet conditions. Enfield gifted the opener to Basildon in the 7th minute after goalkeeper Jordan Warren ran out of his area to clear the ball only to play it straight to Rob Clark who lobbed into the empty net from 40 yards out. The away side got back on level terms almost immediately though as George Whitelock was able to push into the box before his bobbled shot snuck past the Basildon keeper. The home side restored their lead in the 12th minute when a free-kick was drifted into the box and an unmarked #4 Callum Leahy headed in. Basildon began dominating after this and despite missing a couple of one-on-ones did manage to add a third in the 33rd minute when a cross from the left wing by Lindisipho Mtyanda managed to trickle into the bottom corner. In the 57th minute there was a scuffle involving several players and coaching staff which resulted in Enfield's Andre Spencer receiving his marching orders. With Enfield down to ten men Basildon stepped up their attack and notched their fourth goal in the 73rd minute as Brad Warner stroked in after being left one-on-one with the keeper. Warner then scored another in the 81st minute after he held off a defender before rounding the keeper and knocking it into an empty net. The hosts really should have added to this total but a couple of terrible misses in the final few minutes meant they were limited to five.

Result: Basildon United 5-1 Enfield 1893
Division: Essex Senior League
Attendance: 122

Sunday, 17 January 2016

2015 End of Year Review

Total stadiums visited: 25
Number of stadiums visited for the first time: 24
Games seen: 36
Number of goals: 109
Goals per game average: 3.03
Highest number of goals in a game: 6 goals (Aveley 3-3 Thamesmead Town, Chesterfield 6-0 Colchester United, Bishop's Stortford 4-2 Peterborough United, Shrewsbury Town 4-2 Colchester United)
Lowest number of goals in a game: 0 goals (Colchester United 0-0 Oldham Athletic, Manchester United 0-0 Middlesbrough)
Largest margin of victory: 6 goals (Chesterfield 6-0 Colchester United)
Highest attendance: 67,258 (Manchester United 0-0 Middlesbrough)
Lowest attendance: 30 (Woodstock Sports 0-5 Holmesdale)
Team most seen: Colchester United (17)
Stadiums by country: England (24), Wales (1)
Stadiums by county: Essex (6), Surrey (5), Derbyshire (1), Dorset (1), Greater Manchester (1), Kent (1), Hampshire (1), Hertfordshire (1), Lancashire (1), Lincolnshire (1), London (1), Merseyside (1), Shropshire (1), Staffordshire (1), Warwickshire (1)

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

2015 Stadium #24 - Catons Lane

Date: 28th December 2015
Stadium: Catons Lane
Location: Saffron Walden, Essex

My twenty-fourth stadium of 2015 was on Monday 28th December at Catons Lane in Saffron Walden, Essex. The match was Saffron Walden Town vs. Hadleigh United in the Eastern Counties League Premier Division.

Catons Lane is on the northern outskirts of the town and is part of a small sports complex including a mini football pitch, basketball court and playground. The venue is 2.5 north-east of the nearest railway station at Audley End and has been home to the club since 1890.

On the south-east side of the ground there is an all-seater stand by the half-way line with three rows of seats built into the grass bank. The 147 seats are split into 3 sections with two 60 seat sections separated by 27 seats in the middle of the stand which double as dugout replacements for the two teams. The stand includes a strip of hard standing directly behind the seats. The rest of this side of the venue is uncovered hard standing. From here the pitch slopes down towards the north-west side of the ground. The north-west area of Catons Lane also has a stand by the half-way line which dates back to 1937. This stand consists of three rows of wooden benches with a gangway in the middle leading to the players dressing rooms within the stand. To the north of this stand is a smart clubhouse with a food outlet attached and a building for club officials next to this.

The south-west section of the stadium is uncovered except for a small stand behind the goal. This structure consists of 40 seats with a flat area behind this and at the back of the stand 4 progressively thinner rows of concrete terracing. The north-east end of the venue is the only area with no seating. Instead a number of demountables take up this area with a roof extending out from these buildings to cover the area directly behind the goal. The top corner of this is where the turnstiles are situated.

The game began with early pressure from Saffron Walden but in the 12th minute Hadleigh launched a counter-attack from a home corner and while advancing towards the keeper drew a foul in the penalty area. Danny Thrower's effort found the top corner of the net although the keeper Floyd Croll did manage to get a hand to it. The hosts peppered the Hadleigh goal in the opening 30 minutes but Hadleigh had defenders in numbers and were able to frustrate the hosts. The visitors then went on the attack in the later part of the half and though a 36th minute effort was ruled out for offside they did double their advantage in the 42nd minute after a cross into the box was headed down for Aaron Churchyard to stroke past the goalkeeper from 6 yards out. Hadleigh put themselves in an even more commanding position in the 57th minute when a winger beat the defender down the left-wing and produced a good save from Croll only for David Lorimer to knock in the rebound from 12 yards. Saffron Walden had plenty of time in and around the Hadleigh area in the second 45 minutes but never really looked like scoring. Hadleigh on the other hand were very effective on the counter-attack and looked more likely to add to their total. The visitors missed a couple of good chances in the closing minutes so it remained 3-0.

Result: Saffron Walden Town 0-3 Hadleigh United
Division: Eastern Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 367

Saturday, 26 December 2015

2015 Stadium #23 - Ship Lane

Date: 1st November 2015
Stadium: Ship Lane
Location: Aveley, Essex

My twenty-third stadium of 2015 was on Sunday 1st November at Ship Lane in Aveley, Essex. The match was Romford vs. Slough Town in the F.A. Trophy 1st Qualifying Round.

Ship Lane borders the M25 Motorway just north of the Dartford Crossing and west of Lakeside Shopping Centre. The nearest railway station is 1.5 miles east at Chafford Hundred though there are more convenient connecting bus services from Rainham station to the west. The venue has been home to Thurrock FC since 1985 with Romford groundsharing at present.

The south-east side of the ground borders the Thurrock Hotel complex with the Lakeside Stand built into the grass bank which separates the two premises. The stand has around 300 seats including separate sections at the back for media seating and home and away officials. Next to this seating there is a hospitality box. The rest of south-east side of Ship Lane is uncovered hard standing. At the northern corner there is a snack bar and the southern corner hosts a club shop and programme outlet. Adjacent to this is the Fleet Inn clubhouse which sits in the corner with the south-west side.

The south-west area of the ground has a shallow covered concrete terrace for its whole length barring a small gap in the middle for an exit. The north-west section of Ship Lane has a covered concrete terrace which runs the length of the pitch with a strip of uncovered standing in front of it. Around a quarter of the stand is taken up by 180 seats which have been built on top of the terrace. This stand also has a TV gantry on top of the middle section of the roof. Another covered concrete terrace takes up around half of the north-east area of the stadium - this stand is located directly behind the goal. Next to this is a club building which contains the dressing rooms.

The game was an F.A. Trophy 1st Qualifying Round tie between Isthmian League Division One North side Romford and Southern League Premier Division side Slough Town. The team from the Southern League showed their quality in the foggy conditions of the first half as they dominated proceedings. Slough only took 6 minutes to get on the scoresheet as the ball was crossed into the box allowing Dan Hicks to head into the path of Adrian Hollis who shot in from a couple of yards out. Romford then had a couple of lucky escapes as Lewis Putnam and Dan Hicks both hit the woodwork for Slough in the following 10 minute spell. Hicks did manage to make it count in the 28th minute as he backheeled a drilled shot from Warren Harris into the bottom corner of the net. The away side extended their lead in the 52nd minute when Lewis Putnam whipped in a low cross from the left wing and Charlie Mpi scooped the ball into the roof of the net from a couple of yards out. The final goal came in the 74th minute when substitute Gurkan Gokman crossed from the right wing for Putnam who brought the ball down and smashed past the keeper from 12 yards. With the game over as a contest the hosts had their most positive spell in the closing stages. George Woodward hit the post from a free-kick in the 81st minute and Romford then missed two great chances before the end. Slough were able to retain their clean sheet as they recorded an easy win to take them through to the 2nd Qualifying Round.

Result: Romford 0-4 Slough Town
Competition: F.A. Trophy
Attendance: 134

Friday, 18 December 2015

2015 Stadium #22 - Merland Rise

Date: 31st October 2015
Stadium: Merland Rise
Location: Tadworth, Surrey

My twenty-second stadium of 2015 was on Saturday 31st October at Merland Rise in Banstead, Surrey. The match was Banstead Athletic vs. Worcester Park in the Combined Counties League Division One.

Merland Rise is located in Tadworth, a neighbouring village to the south-west of Banstead.The ground is part of a sports complex which includes the Banstead Leisure Centre, a youth centre and a recreation ground. The venue sits just under a mile south of Tattenham Corner railway station and just under a mile north of Tadworth railway station.

There is one seating area in the ground which is level with the half-way line on the northern side of Merland Rise. This stand has 168 seats split into four sections separated by concrete and this includes 32 seats assigned for officials and 3 seats assigned for press.

The southern side of the ground includes the dugouts as well as a covered concrete terrace towards the entrance in the south-west corner. The area outside of the entrance includes the car park and a clubhouse. The western goal has a covered concrete terrace directly behind it which takes up around one-third of this side of the ground. There is less space behind the eastern goal so this has an uncovered raised concrete platform for fans to use. The rest of the stadium is uncovered hard standing.

The first part of the game was end to end with Banstead forcing Worcester Park into a number of early saves. In the 15th minute the hosts were awarded a free-kick just outside the box after a trip - Rob Hill stepped up and curled a terrific shot into the top corner of the net to put his side 1-0 up. The rest of the first half was pretty even though the visitors almost equalised on the stroke of half-time when a header was cleared off the line. It didn't take too long of the second period for Worcester Park to get back on level terms - in the 54th minute Banstead failed to clear a free-kick and while the ball was bouncing around the box it was bundled in by Lee Davison. The away side were on top in the second half and went close again when a curling 20-yard effort hit the post in the 80th minute. Just when it looked like Worcester Park were going to have to settle for a point Banstead threw it away when a short back header was intercepted by Carl Chaney who lobbed the stranded keeper from 15 yards out. This was in the 93rd minute so there was no time for the home side to respond and Worcester Park picked up all three points to send them top of the table.

Result: Banstead Athletic 1-2 Worcester Park
Division: Combined Counties League Division One
Attendance: 35

Monday, 7 December 2015

2015 Stadium #21 - Old Trafford

Date: 28th October 2015
Stadium: Old Trafford
Location: Old Trafford, Greater Manchester

My twenty-first stadium of 2015 was on Wednesday 28th October at Old Trafford in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester. The match was Manchester United vs. Middlesbrough in the Football League Cup 4th Round.

The Old Trafford complex sits in an industrial part of the city adjacent to a freight rail terminal. It is bordered by its own railway station to the south and the River Irwell to the north. The closest tram stop at Old Trafford is half a mile south but there are several other stations within a mile in other directions. The stadium has been Manchester United's home since 1910 except for a few years during the 1940s when bomb damage forced them to play at Manchester City's Maine Road ground.

I visited Old Trafford for a couple of tours during the 1990s but the venue has changed dramatically since. The 'front' of the ground is the East Stand which has a massive glass facade showing club offices behind. The base level contains the club reception and a vast megastore. The area in front of the stand has been converted to a plaza with a football mosaic on the floor. As you work your way round the outer ring of the stadium you go through a number of tunnels. The South Stand tunnel contains the Munich Air Disaster memorial and well as entrances to the press area and several directors boxes and suites. The West Stand includes a suite for international fans while the North Stand includes a number of suites as well as the ticket office, a cafe and the club museum.

Inside the ground the largest stand is the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand on the north side of the venue. Completed in 1996 this is the only three-tier stand in the venue and can hold 25,500 fans - around a third of the overall capacity. The two stands behind the goals had second tiers added during the early 2000s. The Stretford End behind the western goal houses 12,000 people across two tiers. At the other end of the pitch the East Stand is similar but has a large disabled section carved into the southern side of the lower tier therefore giving it a slightly lower capacity of 11,500. The South Stand is the only single-tier structure in the ground and seats 11,500. It includes the TV gantry and at the back of the stand corporate boxes which then extend in a bowl around the other sides of the stadium. As the only single-tier stand any potential future expansion of the venue would centre around this area. The most recent work was the addition of seats to the quadrants linking the stands giving the ground a current capacity of just under 76,000 making it the largest club ground in England.

There was very little action in the first half - the closest the tie came to a goal was when Sergio Romero palmed away Stewart Downing's 25-yard effort. The visitors gave it a good go in the second period and at one point had the ball in the net only to see it ruled out for offside. Romero was forced into making several saves but then blotted his copybook by almost gifting Boro an embarrassing goal when he misjudged a backpass and saw the ball bounce inches wide of the post. The home side very nearly won the tie late on when Ashley Young's crossed to the backpost found Jesse Lingard who half-volleyed the ball back off the woodwork. With no goals the game headed into extra-time - the hosts had several chances but when Anthony Martial headed wide from six yards out it was clear this one was going to be resolved by penalties. In the shoot-out Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young all missed sending the Championship side through 3-1.

Result: Manchester United 0-0 Middlesbrough (Middlesbrough win 3-1 on penalties)
Competition: Football League Cup
Attendance: 67,258

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

2015 Stadium #20 - Goodison Park

Date: 27th October 2015
Stadium: Goodison Park
Location: Liverpool, Merseyside

My twentieth stadium of 2015 was on Tuesday 27th October at Goodison Park in Liverpool, Merseyside. The match was Everton vs. Norwich City in the Football League Cup 4th Round.

Goodison Park is located in a built-up residential area in the Walton area of the city, close to Stanley Park. The venue is three-quarters of a mile east of the nearest railway station at Kirkdale and around 2.5 miles north of Liverpool Lime Street station in the centre of the city. Goodison Park has been home to Everton since 1892 making it one of the oldest top-flight grounds.

With the stadium surrounded by residential streets on three sides it is quite tightly packed in except on the south side where there space for the club to utilise. This area is marked with a statue of Dixie Dean and a memorial wall gated entrance. Inside is a fan zone with food outlets and a small club shop (the main Everton One club shop is located just across the road). The southern end is home to the Park End - the most recent addition to Goodison Park having been built in 1994. This single-tier cantilever stand can fit approximately 6,000 fans and also includes the club reception, ticket office and hospitality areas. Because of its newer design it is the only stand in Goodison Park with no restricted views.

On the western side of the ground is the Main Stand which is the only three-tier structure. This was built in 1971 and towers over the other three stands which are of the same height. There are great supporting beams holding up the roof at the bottom of the second tier with smaller stanchions at the top to hold up the top tier. Since its opening the Main Stand has had corporate boxes added to the small bottom tier. Opposite this is the Bullens Road Stand which dates back to 1926. This includes a large gantry at the top of the stand where the TV camera is positioned. The southern end of the stand is given over to away fans with large following using the top and bottom tiers. There is a corner quadrant which links this Gwladys Street Stand behind the northern goal. Originally built in 1938 this end has undergone quite a lot of change over the years that followed. There is no quadrant linking it up with the Main Stand due to the church in the north-east corner of Goodison Park. With no more room to increase the current capacity of 39,572 and the small amount of corporate areas afforded to it the club have had their eye on building a new stadium for quite some time. However, after several false starts this will be a number of years before this may come to fruition.

The first half was a dull affair - the closest either side came to netting was in the 25th minute when Tyias Browning intercepted the ball and slid it through to Romelu Lukaku who brought a good save out of Declan Rudd. Only 5 minutes into the second half Norwich took the lead - a corner was only cleared as far as Gary O'Neil who scooped the ball back into the box allowing Sebastian Bassong to stroke the ball home. The hosts had plenty of possession during the following minutes but found it tough to create good chances until the 68th minute when they netted the equaliser. Kevin Miralles got into space down the left-wing and his low cross found Leon Osman who turned and rolled the ball in off the post. The away side had a few good opportunities to win it after this but were denied by some excellent goalkeeping by Joel Robles. The game progressed into extra time with Everton the better side but in injury time Ross Barkley blazed over to ensure this one was going to a penalty shoot-out. Everton successfully dispatched their spot-kicks but with Wes Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond failing to score it meant an exit from the tournament for Norwich.

Result: Everton 1-1 Norwich City (Everton win 4-3 on penalties)
Competition: Football League Cup
Attendance: 31,694