Tuesday, 28 March 2017

2017 Stadium #3 - Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas

Date: 4th March 2017
Stadium: Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas
Location: Vallecas, Madrid, Spain

My third stadium of 2017 was on Saturday 4th March at Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas in Vallecas, Madrid, Spain. The match was Rayo Vallecano vs. Reus in the Spanish Segunda División.

Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas is in the Vallecas area of Madrid in the south of the city. The ground is situated in a built-up residential area which restricts it to being a three-sided venue. Next to the stadium is the Portazgo metro station which is on Line 1 of the Madrid Metro. The venue became the home of Rayo Vallecano upon opening in 1976 and has been the club's longest serving home ground.

The two stands that run the length of the pitch are very similar structures - each having an approximate capacity of 6,500 and consisting of three tiers with the upper two tiers covered by a roof and the lowest tier extending beyond this. The south-west side of the ground includes a separate area in the middle of the stand for club officials and guests and the two dugouts in front of the lower tier. The north-east side is just general seating with away fans housed in the eastern corner of the upper tier. The outward face of the stand is where you can find a small club shop and a row of ticket windows.

The lower tier of the ground in effect forms a three-sided bowl with a single tier behind the north-west goal. This uncovered stand can hold just over 1,200 fans and is home to the Rayo ultras, known as Bukaneros. This end produces much of the crowd's noise and there are plenty of flags on display. There are two sections of seating (one either side of the goal) lost due to the two player tunnels going into the stand. There is however the the additional seating of around 600 in the quadrants ensuring that this end links up with the other two stands. Both quadrants back onto club buildings and there is a a big screen on top of the building in the north-west quadrant. As there are apartment blocks within a few feet of the goal at the south-eastern end there is no space for the club to have a fourth side to the ground. Directly behind the goal there is a large board showing an image of fans at the opposite end of the field.

The hosts very nearly got their noses ahead within the first 5 minutes when a cross from the left found Patrick Ebert six yards out and his header skirted the outside of the post. After this the game settled down into a dull encounter with both sides showing why they were in the lower reaches of the league. It wasn't until just before half-time when the next good opportunity came as another cross from the right picked up Javi Guerra in the box. He turned and shot and with the ball heading inches wide Adri Embarba's attempt to slide the ball in at the back post was just too late. Within a couple of minutes of the second half starting Vallecano had the ball in the net when a free-kick was saved and the rebound poked home by Embarba. Unfortunately for Embarba he was in an offside position so his goal was disallowed. The home side were far more energetic in the second half and in the 68th minute Ebert unleashed a 25-yard effort which came flying back off the post. A minute after this Guerra managed to head just wide from a few yards out. Rayo Vallecano were all over Reus but couldn't break them down. The visitors were happy to soak up the pressure and occasionally venture out of their half with quick counter attacks. They looked dangerous while doing this but their best chances came with speculative efforts outside the box. Reus will have been the happier of the two sides with the goalless draw as Rayo Vallecano's first season back in the 2nd tier continued to be a struggle.

Result: Rayo Vallecano 0-0 Reus
Division: Segunda División
Attendance: 7,780

Saturday, 18 March 2017

2017 Stadium #2 - Blundell Park

Date: 28th February 2017
Stadium: Blundell Park
Location: Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire

My second stadium of 2017 was on Tuesday 28th February at Blundell Park in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. The match was Grimsby Town vs. Colchester United in Football League Two.

Blundell Park is carved out of a residential area around a mile south of Grimsby Docks with the ground a short distance from the Humber Estuary which leads out into the North Sea. A mile south of the ground is Cleethorpes railway station which is the nearest regularly served station. The club went through four stadiums in the first 21 years of existence but have remained at Blundell Park since it was opened in 1899.

The Findus Stand (currently known as the Young's Stand) towers over the rest of the stadium with a top section consisting of just over 2,000 seats with a number of supporting beams at the front of the tier holding up the impressive roof. Directly underneath this seating are hospitality areas with windows facing out towards the pitch. Contained within the bowls of the stand are the boardroom, ticket office, club shop, a bar, a function suite and a restaurant. In front of the stand is an area which was once terracing but now has around 800 seats bolted into it. The seating areas only take up around half of the southern side of the ground with the remaining space currently unused for spectators. This was filled with temporary seating during the club's days in the 2nd tier but a drop down the leagues meant it was no longer required.

The now unused space extends round the south-east corner up to the Osmond Stand behind the eastern goal. This stand is given over to away supporters and has a capacity of 1,900. The Osmond Stand is connected to the Main Stand by a quadrant which is also currently unused. The Main Stand runs two-thirds of the northern side of the ground. There are at least a dozen supporting beams holding up the roof at the front of the stand but as with the Osmond Stand the old design does mwan it retains sound well. This stand also has a concrete press box taking up an area near the centre with the two dugouts level with this. The north-west corner is another area not currently in so this just leaves the stand-alone Pontoon Stand behind the western goal. This stand houses the more vocal element of the home support and can hold close to 2,000 spectators.

Colchester started the game well and came close to scoring in the 10th minute when Tarique Fosu let fly from 25 yards only to see his shot cannon back off the post. A quarter of an hour after this the visitors went within a few inches of goal again as a corner was played directly to Brennan Dickenson who shot just wide. Grimsby didn't spend much time in the U's area in the first half but a couple of minutes before the break were gifted a goal. With Colchester pushing forward Owen Garvan gave the ball away on the half-way line leaving a two-on-one situation at the back. Calum Dyson was able to go wide to beat Cameron James before squaring for Sam Jones to shoot over the line from four yards out. The hosts were tactically strong in the second half and bogged the visitors down in the middle third of the pitch. Colchester were rarely able to trouble Grimsby and were often limited to long-range efforts. The last few minutes saw a nervy period for the home side with a few scrambles in the box but they were able to see these out to record a one-goal victory.

Result: Grimsby Town 1-0 Colchester United
Division: Football League Two
Attendance: 4,186

Friday, 10 February 2017

2017 Stadium #1 - Dog & Duck

Date: 28th January 2017
Stadium: Dog & Duck
Location: Wellingborough, Northamptonshire

My first stadium of 2017 was on Saturday 28th January at Dog & Duck in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. The match was AFC Rushden & Diamonds vs. Loughborough Dynamo in the Northern Premier League Division One South.

The Dog & Duck is in the south of Wellingborough and is one of two football grounds on the site with neighbours Wellingborough Whitworth FC having a separate pitch on the eastern side of the Dog & Duck. The western side of the ground is directly next to a Beefeater and a Premier Inn with a recently built retail park behind the northern end. The southern end is bordered by fields making it the only side not surrounded by developments. Wellingborough railway station is 1 mile north-east of the ground which was opened in 1901 for Wellingborough Town. AFC Rushden & Diamonds have played at the venue since 2012 though will be leaving in 2017.

The entrance to the ground is on the north-west side and there is a small club shop facing outwards close to the turnstiles. Once inside this end has a raised flat platform which takes up the western corner of the ground. On the platform there is the clubhouse, a food outlet, dressing rooms and the players tunnel. Directly behind the goal there is a covered metal terrace consisting of 7 rows of standing.

There is a single all-seater stand on the north-east side of the ground. This staddles the half-way line and has 163 seats for spectators including an officials area in the middle and a press box at back of stand. Close to the stand there is an additional beverage area with a demountable known as Dale's Bar. The remainder of the ground are taken up by standing areas with just one covered area on the south-west side running for around a third of the length of the pitch. Due to the Premier Inn car park bordering this side it is fairly tight on space though this ceases as you get to the south-east section of the field meaning a lot of space behind the goal at this end.

Rusden & Diamonds took barely a minute to opening the scoring when the first corner of the match was headed clear as far as Joe Curtis on the edge of the box and he returned the ball with a smart volley into the corner of the net. The hosts went 2-0 up in the 21st minute as Fazel Koriya ghosted into the box, fooled a couple of defenders with some nice skill before squaring for Curtis to rifle the ball into the roof of the net from 6 yards out. Loughborough were not holding out well against the R&D attack and conceded again in the 25th minute. This time Curtis was the provider as he ball into the box found Tom Lorraine who was able to control the ball and turn and shoot low past Jack Tolley in the away goal. After racing into a three-goal lead the home side were able to take their foot off the gas a little with their next best chance not coming until first-half stoppage time when Liam Dolman hit the bar with a free-kick. The visitors were much improved and matched R&D as both sides were limited to half chances only. There was one more goal though which came in the 82nd minute when Lewis Lesley lifted the ball into the box and despite no home players being in the vicinity a mix-up in the Loughborough defence saw goalkeeper Tolley and defender Carl Sibson go for the ball at the same time resulting in Sibson heading it over his teammate into own net.

Result: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4-0 Loughborough Dynamo
Division: Northern Premier League Division One South
Attendance: 461

Thursday, 2 February 2017

2016 End of Year Review

Total stadiums visited: 31
Number of stadiums visited for the first time: 27
Games seen: 38
Number of goals: 125
Goals per game average: 3.29
Highest number of goals in a game: 8 goals (South Park 6-2 Molesey)
Lowest number of goals in a game: 0 goals (Taunton Town 0-0 Slimbridge, Saltdean United 0-0 East Preston)
Largest margin of victory: 6 goals (Amesbury Town 0-6 Sholing)
Highest attendance: 25,275 (Norwich City 1-2 Huddersfield Town)
Lowest attendance: 30 (Amesbury Town 0-6 Sholing)
Team most seen: Colchester United (10)
Stadiums by country: England (31), Denmark (1)
Stadiums by county: Surrey (4), Wiltshire (4), Essex (3), East Sussex (2), Suffolk (2), West Sussex (2), Berkshire (1), County Durham (1), Devon (1), Dorset (1), Hampshire (1), Lancashire (1), Leicestershire (1), London (1), Norfolk (1), North Yorkshire (1), Northamptonshire (1), Oxfordshire (1), Somerset (1)

Saturday, 28 January 2017

2016 Stadium #27 - The Haven Sportsfield

Date: 27th December 2016
Stadium: The Haven Sportsfield
Location: Crawley Down, West Sussex

My twenty-seventh stadium of 2016 was on Tuesday 27th December at The Haven Sportsfield in Crawley Down, West Sussex. The match was Crawley Down Gatwick vs. Horsham YMCA in the Southern Combination League Premier Division.

The Haven Sportsfield is on the northern tip of the village of Crawley Down. The football pitch is part of the community centre known as The Haven which was opened in 1991. The building itself runs along the southern side of the ground with housing to the east and open fields to the west and north. The nearest railway stations are East Grinstead to the east and Kingscote to the south, both of which are just under 3 miles from the ground.

The community centre and social club building is behind the southern part of the venue and this contains the boardroom, a club bar and players and officials dressing rooms. Moving into the confines of the football ground there is a 186 seat stand just over the half-way line towards the western end. The remainder of the southern side is taken up by uncovered standing.

The uncovered standing continues round the western end and the northern side of The Haven. The northern side also includes the two dugouts by the half-way line. The eastern end is mostly uncovered standing but has a small terrace known as the Brian Suckling Stand. This structure has 4 levels of standing and is located towards the southern end of the ground. Near to this in the south-west corner there is a food van for supporters.

On a bitterly cold night Crawley Down started brightly and took the lead after just 6 minutes when Oli Leslie snuck in behind the defence and was slipped in by Lee Thomas allowing him to slot past the goalie in the box. The hosts should have extended their lead in the 19th minute when the ball was played from the right into Gianfranco Mici who lifted over the bar from close range. Crawley Down continued to have the best of the chances and again found themselves clean through just before the half-hour mark although on this occasion Sam Smith saved Lee Thomas' shot. The wasteful finishing of the hosts came back to haunt them in the 49th minute when Max Howell picked up the ball 30 yards from goal, beat a couple of defenders and stroked past Martin Hopkins from 12 yards to equalise for Horsham. The home side went close again shortly after when Dan Sullivan hit the foot of the post from a free-kick but the game then descended into a niggly affair with lots of fouls disrupting the flow of the event. The visitors took a surprise lead in the 76th minute - it came about when Dan Evans controlled an overhit pass well and then mis-hit a crossed into box. Fortunately for him this poor cross ended up looping over Hopkins into corner of net. The home side did not deserve to come out of the game with nothing and in the 81st minute a mix-up in the visiting defence let Sam Cane in on goal and he clipped the ball over advancing goalie from 15 yards to level the game up at 2-2.

Result: Crawley Down Gatwick 2-2 Horsham YMCA
Division: Southern Combination League Premier Division
Attendance: 104

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

2016 Stadium #26 - St George's Field (Reigate)

Date: 27th December 2016
Stadium: St George's Field
Location: Reigate, Surrey

My twenty-sixth stadium of 2016 was on Tuesday 27th December at St George's Field in Reigate, Surrey. The match was South Park vs. Molesey in the Isthmian League Division One South.

St George's Field is part of the South Park area of Reigate on the south-western edge of the town. The ground is part of the South Park Sports Association with a cricket pitch to the north of the football area. The other three sides of the ground are surrounded by fields. Just over a mile and a half south of Reigate railway station, the venue has been home to South Park since 1925.

There is an impressive modern-looking clubhouse in the north-east corner of the sports area lying adjacent to the cricket pitch. A walk past the cricket pitch then takes you towards the football ground where there is an astroturf mini-pitch by the entrance. This is on the eastern side of the main football pitch and this side also has the dressing room building level with the half-way line which provides two covered standing areas and a snack outlet. The remainder of the east side is uncovered standing.

The western side opposite is uncovered standing though there is a decent sized grass area behind the strip of concrete. This side also has the two dugouts which are positioned either side of the half-way line. The area behind the northern goal is also uncovered and there is netting positioned directly behind the goal to prevent the balls from going onto the cricket pitch behind. The southern end is mostly uncovered but does have two all-seater stands as well. The larger of the two is a 105 seat structure on eastern side of the goal while the smaller 50 seat structure is on the western side of the goal.

Molesey had the best chance of the early going when a long distance swerving effort by Joe Pratley-Lewis almost caught out Calum Thomas in the South Park goal. South Park started to get on top as the half progressed though and in the 36th minute took the lead when Kieran Lavery picked up the ball down the left wing, cut into the box, used a couple of stepovers to make space for himself and drilled the ball into the corner from 6 yards. Molesey's first half ended badly when one of their players was sent off for dissent while leaving the field after the referee had blown to end the half. Less than 60 seconds into the second period things got worse for the visitors as they went two goals down. This one was scored by Jack Stafford who played a smart one-two with a teammate before curling the ball into the roof of the net from 20 yards. In the 63rd minute South Park hit the crossbar but the respite for Molesey was short-lived as Dylan Merchant headed in the resulting corner. In the 69th minute the away side managed to grab a goal after being awarded a penalty for Josh Andrew being tripped on the edge of the box. Joe Nwoko smashed the penalty down the middle into the roof of net. With ten minutes to go Asa Rixon-Nicholls bundled in a corner to restore South Park's three-goal lead but Molesey kept going and a few minutes later Joe Nwoko grabbed his second when a cross from the right found him 12 yards out and he steered home. With the visitors back within two again they pushed forward but were then undone twice in two minutes. In the 89th minute Molesey gave the ball away allowing Chris Smith a clear run at goal. He was able to lift over the advancing keeper to notch up South Park's 5th. Straight from the kick-off the home side got the ball again, ran into the box and though the initial shot was saved Smith was at the back post to score again to finish off a frenetic final ten minutes to the game.

Result: South Park 6-2 Molesey
Division: Isthmian League Division One South
Attendance: 126

Thursday, 5 January 2017

2016 Stadium #25 - Recreation Way (Mildenhall)

Date: 17th December 2016
Stadium: Recreation Way
Location: Mildenhall, Suffolk

My twenty-fifth stadium of 2016 was on Saturday 17th December at Recreation Way in Mildenhall, Suffolk. The match was Mildenhall Town vs. Haverhill Rovers in the Eastern Counties League Premier Division.

Recreation Way is on the southern outskirts of the town with fields directly to the south of the ground itself. It is bordered by housing to the west, a social club to the north and to the west there is a retail park with Mildenhall Swimming Pool directly behind this side of the ground. The nearest railway stations are Shippea Hill and Lakenheath which are 8 miles north. However with these being two of the least used stations in the country the more convenient locations include Ely, Stowmarket or Bury St Edmunds stations which are all over 10 miles away. Recreation Way has been the home of Mildenhall Town since 1945.

The entrance to the ground is in the north-west corner and leads into a covered standing area. Next to this is a nice clubhouse which includes a snack outlet in its exterior. Continuing to work along the pitch there is then a covered seating area which contains 3 rows of benches. At the back of this area are the dressing rooms. The remaining run down to the southern end of the ground is uncovered standing.

The eastern side of the venue is uncovered except for a small 50 seater stand near to the north-east corner. The only other item of note on this side are the two dugouts by the half-way line. The areas behind both goals are pretty limited for space so just have a thin area of uncovered standing. With the club aiming for promotion they are planning to build an additional 50 seater stand to meet Step Four ground grading requirements.

Mildenhall went into the game on a fantastic run having won 19 of their 20 league games so far. As if things weren't going to be difficult enough for Haverhill they were reduced to ten men after just 11 minutes. It came about when the visiting goalkeeper Charlie Turner dropped a cross at the feet of Mildenhall's Chris Bacon. Turner reacted by rugby tackling Bacon to the ground to stop him scoring and was duly dismissed. Without a substitute keeper it was left to defender Sam Holmes to take over and his first act was to save David Cooper's penalty. For the remainder of the half Holmes was not often tested as despite Mildenhall having the lions share of play they did not have their shooting boots on so lots of efforts went high and wide. The 2nd half was completed one sided as the hosts peppered Haverhill's goal with shots but Holmes was putting in an excellent performance to frustrate Mildenhall. The ball barely got out of Haverhill's half for the whole of the second period and finally the defence was breached in the 82nd minute when a cross from Lee Clift to back post found Stephen Spriggs who headed in on the line. The visitors then ventured into opposition territory and looked dangerous as they sought an equaliser. However as they pushed forward the one man disadvantage came back to bite them as in the 89th minute Mildenhall killed off the encounter with a second goal. Dan Brown drove an effort off the bar and when the ball rebounded it was Spriggs who reacted quickest to slot the ball home and grab his second of the match.

Result: Mildenhall Town 2-0 Haverhill Rovers
Division: Eastern Counties League Premier Division
Attendance: 110