Thursday, 12 June 2014

2014 Stadium #10 - Brunton Park

Date: 26th April 2014
Stadium: Brunton Park
Location: Carlisle, Cumbria

My tenth stadium of 2014 was on Saturday 26th April 2014 at Brunton Park in Carlisle, Cumbria. The match was Carlisle United vs. Oldham Athletic in Football League One.

Brunton Park can be found on the edge of a residential area just to the south of the River Petteril. The ground lies 1 mile from Carlisle railway station and has been home to the club since 1909.

The venue is dominated by the East Stand - a large cantilever stand built in 1996 which has a capacity of 6,000. This side of the ground is the only side which is all-seater and the northern end of it is usually given over to away supporters. On the opposite side of the pitch there is a mixture of seating and terracing which can also hold a total of 6,000 fans. This consists of the Paddock which is uncovered concrete terracing split down the middle by the tunnel to the interior of the stadium. Built above the terracing is the Main Stand which is split into three sections - the original structure which was built in the 1950s sits in the middle with two wings with additional seating which were added afterwards. The interior of the Main Stand includes the club facilities such as the dressing rooms, ticket office and hospitality areas.

The area behind the goal at the southern end of the venue is Warwick Road End. This unusual looking stand has a triangular roof which covers the concrete terracing which can house 3,500 people. The club shop is located directly outside the Warwick Road End. Finally the Petteril End is situated behind the goal at the northern end of the ground and is the smallest area at Brunton Park. This is a narrow section of uncovered concrete terracing with a small seated area towards the eastern end of it. The Petteril End is only fully opened for rare matches where high enough attendances are recorded to warrant the opening.

The game was the Carlisle's final home match of the season and they knew that a win was vital if they were to give themselves a chance of staying up. Oldham began the more composed of the two teams and played some good passing football despite not really threatening the home goal. Carlisle went closest when Gary Madine's long range effort was tipped over the bar just before the break. The visitors had the ball in the net around the hour mark as Joel Byrom headed James Wesolowski's cross into the net but as he turned to celebrate saw the offside flag denying Oldham the lead. Shortly after this the visiting side had the ball in the net again and this time it counted - a ball was sent over the drop to James Drayton who easily beat two defenders before poking the ball into the the bottom of the goal. As the game wore on the hosts desperately searched for an equaliser to get a foothold in the game but they lacked quality up front and the wayward finishing meant they could not turn it around. The angry home fans knew as the final whistle went that their chances of staying in League One were very slim and a week later their relegation was confirmed with a 3-0 defeat to Wolves.

Result: Carlisle United 0-1 Oldham Athletic
Division: Football League One
Attendance: 5,313

Thursday, 29 May 2014

2014 Stadium #9 - Bellmount Wood Avenue

Date: 22nd April 2014
Stadium: Bellmount Wood Avenue
Location: Watford, Hertfordshire

My ninth stadium of 2014 was on Tuesday 22nd April 2014 at Bellmount Wood Avenue in Watford, Hertfordshire. The match was Sun Postal Sports vs. Welwyn Garden City in Spartan South Midlands League Division One.

Bellmount Wood Avenue is the site for the Sun Postal Sports & Social Club which sits right on the very outskirts of Watford. To the south and east is the residential Cassiobury area of the town with woods to the north and west. The venue has been home to the club since 1937.

There is one all-seated structure which sits level with the half-way line on the western side of the venue. This stand is a concrete terrace with 96 seats bolted to the middle section. There is space on either side of the seating for standing and it is covered by a metal roof. The rest of the stadium consists of uncovered standing, some concrete, but the majority is grass.

The eastern side of the ground has the dugouts positioned by the half-way line and the social club is located to the south-east of the pitch. This social club contains a large hall including a bar as well as the other club facilities such as player dressing rooms.

It was an action-packed game from the start as the visitors took the lead in the 4th minute - after a shot was blocked in the Sun Postal box the ball ricocheted off Welwyn's Perry Stellon and ended up in the back of the net. The hosts responded quickly and levelled in the 11th minute when Colin Wilson's free-kick was met by Dan Tomkins who slid the ball in on the goal line. Just a couple of minutes later they were awarded a penalty when a handball was spotted in the area. James Armstrong tucked away the spot kick to complete the turnaround. Around the half-hour mark Sun Postal put the visitors under pressure with a series of corner and finally one got through as Ashley Lewis headed home to make it 3-1. There was still time for Welwyn to reduce the deficit before the break as Jason Caswell's drilled shot from the edge of the box went in off the post to end an entertaining first 45 minutes. Sun Postal restored their two goal lead in the 53rd minute after Craig Lynskey slammed home from close range and any hope of a Welwyn comeback was dashed in the 67th minute when they were reduced to ten men for a second bookable offence. It was surprising it had not happened earlier as the game had been an extremely bad tempered one. This quietened the game down a bit though Sun Postal added a 5th through Ashley Lewis late on to run out 5-2 winners as they continued on their way to the Spartan South Midlands Division One title.

Result: Sun Postal Sports 5-2 Welwyn Garden City
Division: Spartan South Midlands League Division One
Attendance: 67

Saturday, 17 May 2014

2014 Stadium #8 - Victoria Park

Date: 21st April 2014
Stadium: Victoria Park
Location: Hartlepool, County Durham

My eighth stadium of 2014 was on Monday 21st April 2014 at Victoria Park in Hartlepool, County Durham. The match was Hartlepool United vs. Morecambe in Football League Two.

Victoria Park is in a convenient location on the edge of a large retail park close to the town centre. It is also within a short distance of the town's Marina and railway station. The ground was originally built for the town's rugby club in 1886 and has been home to the football team since it formed in 1908.

The Cyril Knowles Stand on the east side of the ground was opened in 1995 and is the most modern structure in the venue. The all-seater stand has 1,600 seats and a row of hospitality boxes along the back of it. The stand attaches to the main club building featuring the reception and ticket office. The opposite side sees a mixture of terracing and seating. The area closest to the pitch is given to uncovered concrete terracing with room for just over 1,800 fans. Directly behind this is the Niramax Stand which is raised above the terrace to be the tallest stand in the ground. This was opened in the late 1960s and has 1,600 bucket seats built into the concrete.

The area behind the goal at the northern end of the ground is the Rink End - a 1,000 seat stand given over to away fans. This stand has a few supporting pillars so is the only one in the ground which has restricted views. At the other end of the pitch is the only side consisting entirely of terracing - the Town End. This stand can hold just under 1,800 supporters with the most vocal Hartlepool fans tending to congregate in this part of the ground. With an overall capacity of under 8,000 Victoria Park is a compact venue with an old ground feel - the short stands with low roofs make sure the acoustics are very good making for an excellent atmosphere.

Hartlepool came into the game on the back of a six game losing streak which had seen them slide down the table into a second consecutive relegation scrap. Morecambe were in a similar predicament having started the season well but an eight-game winless run had seen them fall near to the drop zone. Both sides knew that whoever won would basically be safe and that translated to a nervy first half with Hartlepool on top until the visitors netted against the run of play. It was the 25th minute when Andy Parrish lofted an optimistic ball into the box - Kevin Ellison was able to hold off his marker and nod the ball over defender and goalkeeper into the back of the net. That was how it stayed until half-time - Hartlepool came out fighting in the second half but things got worse for them in the 57th minute when Simon Walton was shown a straight red card for a high tackle on Jordan Mustoe. Interestingly despite being a man down Hartlepool seemed spurred on by this and dominated the rest of the game. They pushed Morecambe into defending very deep and in the 67th minute Jack Compton let fly with a 25 yard drive which dove into the bottom corner of the net. The hosts piled forward in search of a vital winner and in the 81st minute they got it. Jonathan Franks' long range effort was palmed as far as Jack Barmby who cooly sidestepped a challenge before slotting it past the goalkeeper to secure League Two survival for Hartlepool.

Result: Hartlepool United 2-1 Morecambe
Division: Football League Two
Attendance: 4,864

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

2014 Stadium #7 - St James' Park (Newcastle)

Date: 19th April 2014
Stadium: St James' Park
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear

My seventh stadium of 2014 was on Saturday 19th April 2014 at St James' Park in Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear. The match was Newcastle United vs. Swansea City in the Premier League.

St James' Park is located very close to Newcastle city centre on the edge of Leazes Park. This area of the city is currently being redeveloped with large student apartment blocks springing up opposite the stadium in recent years. The stadium is served by St James Metro Station with the main Newcastle railway station around half a mile south of the ground.

St James Park has been home to Newcastle United since 1892 with the stadium's current look built through the 1990s into the early 2000s to give a current capacity of 52,405. The lower tier of seating of the ground forms a continuous bowl around the pitch with the additional tiers on the north and west sides of the venue. The Milburn Stand is the main stand and houses the club reception as well as its hospitality areas. This stand also includes an atrium on the outside for the escalators to the upper levels. On the inside the premium seating is situated in the centre of the lower tier along with the press seating which is directly above the dugouts. The stand also has a row of corporate boxes in between the upper and lower tiers which run for the length of the stand and extend round to the end of the adjacent Leazes End.

The Leazes End is the other stand that was significantly expanded during the late 1990s - the combined cantilever roof is the largest in Europe. Away fans are allocated the north-east corner of the stand so are a great distance from the pitch. The remaining two stands are much smaller in stature - the East Stand, which is hemmed in by housing, and the Gallowgate End. This end of the ground has a sports bar and the two-floor club shop within it. The raised concourses outside the arena also give good views out over the city of Newcastle.

Newcastle’s good start to the season had waned by the visit of Swansea with the Magpies on a run of four straight defeats prior to the game. The game started in comical fashion when Jonjo Shelvey’s drive was deflected into the face of referee Chris Foy knocking the official to the ground. Play soon resumed though Foy was replaced by Anthony Taylor shortly afterwards. In the 23rd minute Newcastle took the lead when Luuk de Jong found Shola Ameobi in the penalty area - Ameobi was able to use his strength to hold off a couple of Swansea defenders before beating Michel Vorm from 12 yards. Swansea had the lion’s share of possession in the opening 45 minutes and in first half injury time grabbed a deserved equaliser as sloppy Newcastle defending allowed Wilfried Bony to nod in Ben Davies’ corner kick. The hosts created more opportunities in the second half with Dan Gosling and Vernon Anita both going close. Swansea remained a threat on the counter-attack and a good save from Tim Krul was required when Bony was set clean through by Marvin Emnes in the closing minutes. In second half injury time Newcastle were undone by another Swansea counter-attack and as Emnes raced into the back he was scythed down by Cheick Tiote for a clear penalty. Bony, who had been excellent all game, stepped up and cooly dispatched the penalty to all but guaranteed Swansea another season in the Premier League.

Result: Newcastle United 1-2 Swansea City
Division: Premier League
Attendance: 51,057

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

2014 Stadium #6 - Spotland Stadium

Date: 18th April 2014
Stadium: Spotland Stadium
Location: Rochdale, Greater Manchester

My sixth stadium of 2014 was on Friday 18th April 2014 at Spotland Stadium in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. The match was Rochdale vs. Southend United in Football League Two.

Spotland Stadium is north-west of Rochdale town centre bordering a park on one side and houses on the other three. The venue is 1.5 miles from Rochdale railway station and has been the venue for the club since 1920.

The ground was extensively renovated in the during the 1990s into the early 2000s. The last stand to be completed was the Willbutts Lane Stand which is the largest in the ground. It has a capacity of close to 4,000 and is the only stand in the ground to offer unrestricted views throughout. Away fans are usually positioned in this stand towards the western end of the ground. Opposite this is the Main Stand which has around half the capacity of Wilbutts Lane Stand. The back of the stand is given over to the stadium hospitality areas and it also contains the dressing rooms, ticket office and club bar.

The Pearl Street Stand sits behind the goal at the eastern end of the ground. It has 2,500 seats and though it has a couple of pillars holding up the roof the stand offers good views of the pitch as it was where I watched the game from. At the other end of the pitch is the only terracing section in the venue - the Sandy Lane End. With trees and a road directly behind the stand it is the smallest at Spotland with room for just under 2,000 supporters. Again, this has a few supporting pillars across the stand.

Rochdale were on their way to promotion but had hit a poor patch of form coming into the game - Southend were chasing the play-offs and were able to capitalise on a nervous home performance which saw them gift the visitors easy goals. The first came in the 12th minute when Matt Done was robbed of the ball by Jacob Murphy at the edge of the box - Murphy squared the ball to Barry Corry who tapped into the empty net. The home side reacted positively to going behind and almost equalised in the 18th minute when a long-range effort from Ian Henderson came back off the crossbar with Dan Bentley beaten in the Southend goal. The home side's wayward passing almost cost them a second goal soon afterwards when an underhit backpass allowed Michael Timlin in on goal but his effort was cleared off the line. Rochdale did not enjoy such good fortune just before the interval - a home corner was cleared and in the ensuing counter-attack Ryan Leonard crossed for Jacob Murphy to put the ball into the empty net. Any hopes of a comeback were extinguished after a woeful start to the second half saw Southend score within 20 seconds. Kevan Hurst beat a challenge in the box before finding the unmarked Timlin who steered the ball into the bottom of the net. This was the end of the game as a contest though Southend almost made it 4-0 when a stunning 30-yard shot from Kevan Hurst came back off the crossbar. Rochdale did manage to get the ball in the net near the end only to see the goal ruled out for offside - it summed up the day for the hosts who could have no complaints about the result having been soundly beaten by the play-off chasers.

Result: Rochdale 0-3 Southend United
Division: Football League Two
Attendance: 3,884

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

2014 Stadium #5 - Butlin Road

Date: 5th April 2014
Stadium: Butlin Road
Location: Rugby, Warwickshire

My fifth stadium of 2014 was on Saturday 5th April 2014 at Butlin Road in Rugby, Warwickshire. The match was Rugby Town vs. Chalfont St Peter in the Southern League Division One Central.

Butlin Road stadium is located in the west of the town - it is surrounded by allotments to the west, the railway line to the north, astroturf pitches to the east and a cricket pitch to the south. The venue is around 1 mile from Rugby railway station and has been home to the club since 1973.

The Main Stand sits close to the half-way line on the south-eastern side of the ground. The cantilever stand was built in 2003 and has a capacity of 500. The dressing rooms and physio areas are contained within the structure. The rest of this side of the ground is uncovered concrete terracing. Adjacent to the Main Stand is the VS Bar which is of an excellent standard for a club at this level of the league ladder.

On the opposite side of the pitch is a smaller seated area with room for a further 240 fans. This thin stand has a number of supporting pillars to hold up the roof and has two small covered terraced areas either side of it. Behind the goal at the north-west side of Butlin Road is a large covered concrete terrace which formerly joined up with the terracing bordering the main stand. Behind the other goal there is a smaller covered concrete terrace. The venue is fairly spacious so has an overall capacity of around 6,000.

With Rugby involved in a four-way fight for the Southern League Division One Central title the hosts were keen to get back on track with a win having lost the previous week. Rugby started the game well with Justin Marsden missing an early chance to go 1-0 up. In the 19th minute Nathan Fox's 30-yard free-kick cannoned off the crossbar and Rugby continued to attack Chalfont in a dominating first half display. The away defence was difficult to break down and were able to soak up the pressure until the interval. Chalfont were able to launch some counter attacks in the second half but Rugby were the side who looked more likely to win the game. Michael Power-Simpson was in fine form in the Chalfont goal and frustrated the hosts right until the end of the game as he managed to keep a surprise clean sheet. Rugby will have been very disappointed to fail considering the host of chances they spurned along the way.

Result: Rugby Town 0-0 Chalfont St Peter
Division: Southern League Division One Central
Attendance: 447

Saturday, 12 April 2014

2014 Stadium #4 - Maitlands

Date: 1st April 2014
Stadium: Maitlands
Location: Debenham, Suffolk

My fourth stadium of 2014 was on Tuesday 1st April 2014 at Maitlands in Debenham, Suffolk. The match was Debenham Leisure Centre vs. Fakenham Town in the Eastern Counties League Division One.

Maitlands is part of the Debenham Leisure Centre complex on the western outskirts of the village. The venue is 9 miles from the nearest railway station at Needham Market.

The Maitlands venue is on the edge of the Debenham Leisure Centre complex which includes a sport halls, squash and basketball courts and astroturf football pitches. The main entrance building includes a bar and takeaway which backs onto the football ground itself.

Maitlands has a 112 seat structure by the half-way line on the northern side of the pitch. The remainder of the ground is uncovered standing with the area behind the goal at the western end of the ground taken up by a grass bank which provides raised views for any spectators watching from here. The two dugouts are located on the southern side of the pitch directly opposite the single spectator stand.

Fakenham were riding high in the division in a battle for 2nd place and Debenham gifted them an early opportunity to extend their winning run when Ben Green felled Daniel Williams in the penalty area in the 6th minute. Robert Harris's penalty was saved by Debenham goalkeeper Sam Chilvers but Fakenham's Ashley Jarvis was able to react quickly to put the loose ball back into the danger area and Matt Franks rifled the ball into the net to put the visitors 1-0 up. Fakenham were the better side in the opening half and in the 32 minute they doubled their lead when James Page steered the ball through a crowded penalty box into the bottom corner. It appeared that Fakenham were on their way to a comfortable victory but in the 36th minute Debenham pulled a goal back - Sam Chilvers sent a long goal kick towards the opposition penalty box and when Fakenham goalkeeper Tom Rix misjudged the bounce of the ball it fell for Stuart Jopling who was able to nod into the empty net to pull a goal back. The visitors started the second half brightly and on the hour mark their lead was increased again when a long throw looped over several players before landing with Robert Harris who atoned for his first half penalty miss by drilling the ball past Sam Chilvers in the Debenham goal. After this point the game was fairly even with neither side creating too much in the way of goal scoring opportunities as it finished in a 3-1 victory for Fakenham.

Result: Debenham Leisure Centre 1-3 Fakenham Town
Division: Eastern Counties League Division One
Attendance: 63