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

Friday, 14 March 2014

2014 Stadium #3 - Globe Arena

Date: 8th March 2014
Stadium: Globe Arena
Location: Morecambe, Lancashire

My third stadium of 2014 was on Saturday 8th March 2014 at the Globe Arena in Morecambe, Lancashire. The match was Morecambe vs. Southend United in Football League Two.

The Globe Arena is adjacent to the Sunnyside camp site to the east of the town centre. The ground is around 1.5 miles from Morecambe railway station and has been home to the club since 2010. This was the year when Morecambe left their Christie Park home where they had played for the previous 89 years.

The stadium is dominated by the Peter McGuigan Stand which is the only seated area in the venue. This 2,173 seat structure is by the far the tallest in the ground and contains two levels of hospitality areas in the centre. The section towards the eastern end of the ground is given to away fans as the designated away terracing is often closed. The reception, club shop and ticket office are also contained within the Peter McGuigan Stand.

The remaining three sides of the ground are taken up by terracing. Opposite the Peter McGuigan Stand is the North Terrace which is an uncovered stand with two separate areas of concrete terracing with room for just over 600 fans. In between this is a food outlet and toilets and the back entrance to the stadium which leads out towards the training pitches at the back of the complex. To the right of the North Terrace is the West Stand which is the main terracing area for home fans. This covered stand can accommodate 2,234 supporters. At the opposite end of the pitch is the East Stand which is the away terrace with up to 1,389 fans able to fit in here.

Both sides went into the game on poor runs with Southend without a win in the previous eight games and Morecambe without a win in their previous ten games. The visitors started the better of the two sides and were able to grab an early lead in the 9th minute when Kevin Hurst's cross was met by Ryan Leonard who headed past the dive of Morecambe goalkeeper Barry Roche. The home side were barely in the game for the opening half-hour as Southend looked for a second goal to assert their dominance. In the 29th minute Morecambe equalised out of nothing - Padraig Amond swung a hopeful ball into the box but a mix-up between Southend's Daniel Bentley and John Egan resulted in them both leaving the ball for each other. Morecambe forward Kevin Ellison reacted quickest to head the ball away before finishing well from a tight angle. This completely turned the game and from this point on Morecambe were easily the better side - they put Southend under pressure for most of the second half and in the 70th minute scored the winner. Shaun Beeley twisted and turned his way through the visiting defence and as the Southend defence congregated around him he was able to laying the ball off to the unmarked Jack Redshaw who stroked the ball into the bottom corner.

Result: Morecambe 2-1 Southend United
Division: Football League Two
Attendance: 1,608

Thursday, 30 January 2014

2014 Stadium #2 - DW Stadium

Date: 25th January 2014
Stadium: DW Stadium
Location: Wigan, Greater Manchester

My second stadium of 2014 was on Saturday 25th January 2014 at the DW Stadium in Wigan, Greater Manchester. The match was Wigan Athletic vs. Crystal Palace in the F.A. Cup 4th Round.

The DW Stadium is nestled in a retail park near the banks of the Leeds and Liverpool canal. Wigan North Western and Wigan Wallgate railway stations are around 1.5 miles south-east of the ground in Wigan town centre. The ground has been home to the club since 1999 when they moved there from their Springfield Park home which they had inhabited since 1932.

The DW Stadium is made up of four separate single-tier stands of similar heights with fairly narrow gaps between each of them. The largest stand is the Boston Stand on the eastern side of the ground which can hold 8,238 supporters. Opposite this is the Springfield Stand which has a lower capacity of 6,100 seats because the top section of the stand is given over to the hospitality areas. This Springfield Stand also features the club reception, shop and ticket offices and a restaurant.

The North and South ends are near-identical with both able to house 5,400 fans. Away supporters are positioned in the North Stand though the South Stand was closed on my visit due to lack of demand. The interior differs somewhat between the stands with the South Stand being home to a DW Sports fitness lounge and the North Stand having a marquee located within.

Crystal Palace started the game strongly and the Premier League side nearly took the lead in the 8th minute when some neat link-up play culminated in Cameron Jerome's goalbound effort being clawed away by Wigan goalie Ali Al-Habsi. Wigan pushed forward as the half progressed and in the 36th minute grabbed the opening goal of the game. James McLean was able to find space down the left wing and he advanced into the box before squaring it to Ben Watson to sidefoot into the net. The hosts continued to have the upper hand in the second half but spurned their chances to double their lead. In the 65th minute Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis made a double substitution throwing on Aaron Wilbraham and Dwight Gayle in place of Cameron Jerome and Marouane Chamakh and this took only a few minutes to pay off as Wilbraham poked home a corner to level the tie. The final 20 minutes were end-to-end as both sides looked for a winner and in the 78th minute Wigan got their noses in front once more. On the counter attack Roger Espinoza passed out wide to James McLean who cut inside and from the edge of the area struck low past Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni. The game could have gone either way in the final few minutes as the visitors pushed everyone forward but there were no more goals which meant the reigning F.A. Cup champions moved onto Round 5.

Result: Wigan Athletic 2-1 Crystal Palace
Competition: F.A. Cup
Attendance: 9,542

Friday, 17 January 2014

2014 Stadium #1 - The Hawthorns

Date: 4th January 2014
Stadium: The Hawthorns
Location: West Bromwich, West Midlands

My first stadium of 2014 was on Saturday 4th January 2014 at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, West Midlands. The match was West Bromwich Albion vs. Crystal Palace in the F.A. Cup 3rd Round.

The Hawthorns is nestled in the Middlemore industrial estate around 1.5 miles east of the centre of West Bromwich and 4 miles west of the centre of Birmingham. The closest railway station is The Hawthorns which is just 500 yards from the stadium with the more frequently served Smethwick Galton Bridge railway station just over a mile away. The ground has been home to the club since 1900 when they vacated their Stoney Lane home in the centre of the town to move to The Hawthorns.

Much of the ground has been extensively renovated over the last 20 years with three of the four stands being rebuilt in that time. The West Stand is the only one which has not been extensively renovated and it is the smallest in the venue. It has a capacity of 4,725 with a row of executive boxes placed behind the main seating. With the low capacity and somewhat cramped facilities inside the club have plans to replace it with a new 10,000 seat stand though movement on the project is currently on hold.

Directly opposite this is the East Stand which re-opened in 2000 with a capacity of 8,791. This stand also joins up with the Birmingham Road End at the northern end of the ground with additional seating in Woodman Corner. The Birmingham Road End was converted from terracing in 1994 and including Woodman Corner has 8,286 seats. The remaining Smethwick End is located behind the goal at the southern end of the ground. Able to house 5,200 supporters this stand is segregated into two with the away fans taking the eastern side and the most vocal home supporters taking the western side.

This all Premier League tie started off pretty slowly with just one shot on target in the opening 20 minutes as Julian Speroni saved Matej Vydra's effort. In the 22nd minute the hosts gave away a sloppy goal after a defensive error. Goran Popov's risky pass at the back went straight to Hiram Boateng who passed to Dwight Gayle who was able to turn and shoot from the edge of the box. His effort wrong-footed Ben Foster and ended up in the bottom corner of the net. West Brom sought to get back on level terms and almost did so when Craig Dawson's header hit the crossbar. The hosts continued to press after the break and with Palace sitting deep West Brom had ample opportunity to craft some decent chances. They became increasingly frustrated and made attacking substitutions to try and get an equaliser. The visitors seemed happy to play counter-attacking football and deep into stoppage time Yannick Bolasie made his way through what was left of the home defence and laid the ball off to Marouane Chamack who tucked into the net. This was the final kick of the game and confirmed Palace's spot in Round 4.

Result: West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Crystal Palace
Competition: F.A. Cup
Attendance: 12,700

Monday, 13 January 2014

2013 End of Year Review

There was a slight increase in the number of new stadiums visited on the previous year. During 2013 I visited a total of 33 stadiums (29 of these for the first time) across 19 English counties. Below is a run-down of the statistics of my year:

Total stadiums visited: 33
Number of stadiums visited for the first time: 29
Games seen: 38
Number of goals: 101
Goals per game average: 2.66
Highest number of goals in a game: 7 goals (Swindon Town 5-2 Port Vale)
Lowest number of goals in a game: 0 goals (York City 0-0 Aldershot Town, Middlesbrough 0-0 Peterborough United, Colchester United 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur)
Largest margin of victory: 4 goals (Billericay Town 5-1 Basildon United)
Highest attendance: 29,697 (Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Barnsley)
Lowest attendance: 25 (Sporting Bengal United 2-0 London Bari)
Teams most seen: Colchester United (8), Barnsley/Blackpool/Brightlingsea Regent/Dover Athletic/FC Clacton/Grays Athletic/Hadleigh United/Lowestoft Town/Milton Keynes Dons/Potters Bar Town/Swindon Town/Waltham Abbey (2)
Stadiums by county: Essex (7), Suffolk (4), Lancashire (3), London (2), North Yorkshire (2), West Midlands (2), Berkshire (1), Cambridgeshire (1), Devon (1), Hampshire (1), Hertfordshire (1), Merseyside ( 1), Norfolk  (1), Somerset (1), South Yorkshire ( 1), Staffordshire (1), Surrey  (1), West Sussex (1), Wiltshire (1)

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

2013 Stadium #29 - Plainmoor

Date: 29th December 2013
Stadium: Plainmoor
Location: Torquay, Devon

My twenty-ninth stadium of 2013 was on Sunday 29th December 2013 at Plainmoor in Torquay, Devon. The match was Torquay United vs. Exeter City in Football League Two.

Plainmoor is located in a built-up area of the town and is tightly packed in between housing and a school. The closest railway station is Torre which is just over a mile away with Torquay railway station around 1.5 miles from the ground. Plainmoor has been home to Torquay United since 1910.

Plainmoor consists of two all-seater stands and two terraced stands and has an overall capacity of 6,500. The newest stand, Bristow's Bench, was completed in 2012 and runs most of the length of the pitch on the south-east side of the venue. The stand contains seats for 1,750 fans as well as the press area and newly renovated dressing rooms. The structure is raised above the pitch and so is the tallest stand in the ground.

The other all-seater stand in the venue is the Family Stand which sits behind the goal in the south-west section of Plainmoor. This 1,200 seat structure also contains executive boxes at the back of it. The remainder of the ground is taken up with covered terracing. The Marnham Road side of Plainmoor has a television gantry located on top of it and it also contains the Torquay United indoor bowls club. The Warbro Road end of the ground sits behind the goal at the north-east area of Plainmoor and is given over to away fans. A police control box is located at one end of this stand so the away fans do not extend for the whole length of the stand. When visiting teams bring large followings, as was the case with Exeter, they are also given a section seating in Bristow's Bench.

Torquay suffered a poor start to the season but entered this game off the back of two wins and a draw which gave them hope in their aim of avoiding the drop. They were presented with the opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot in the 7th minute when Liam Sercombe's mistimed tackle sent Billy Bodin tumbling in the area. Karl Hawley struck a decent penalty but Artur Krysiak made an excellent save to deny him the opener. The hosts were the better side in the first half but despite their build-up play didn't test Krysiak's goal very often. In the 38th minute Exeter notched up the opening goal against the run of play. Tom Nicholls made a run down the left before unleashing a low drive from 25 yards which beat Michael Poke at his near post. This spurred Exeter into action and they put in an improved second half display. Just before the hour mark David Wheeler escaped the attentions of three Torquay defenders before running in on goal and slotting the ball neatly into the bottom of the net to make it 2-0 to the away side. Just when it looked like Exeter could run away with the game Torquay introduced substitute Elliot Benyon into the fray and within minute his cross had been turned in by Karl Hawley to reduce the deficit with 16 minutes remaining. The hosts then ploughed forward in search of an equaliser but in the 85th minute Exeter got the crucial third goal when Alan Gow dispossessed Anthony O'Connor close to goal and slid the ball past Michael Poke to wrap up three points for the visitors.

Result: Torquay United 1-3 Exeter City
Division: Football League Two
Attendance: 4,231