Monday, 24 April 2017

2017 Stadium #6 - Sandygate Road

Date: 5th April 2017
Stadium: Sandygate Road
Location: Sheffield, South Yorkshire

My sixth stadium of 2017 was on Wednesday 5th April at Sandygate Road in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. The match was Hallam vs. Shirebrook Town in Northern Counties East League Division One.

Sandygate Road is nestled in the Crosspool suburb of Sheffield with houses bordering most of it as well as a church to the east. The ground is 3 miles west of Sheffield railway station. It doubles as a cricket ground with the east of the cricket field overlapping with the west of the football field. The venue began hosting sport in 1804 for Hallam Cricket Club and in 1860 when Hallam Football Club was formed they also called it home. As a result Sandygate Road is recognised as the oldest football ground in the world.

The 1860 suite is located in the north-east corner of the ground - this excellent clubhouse and bar was opened in 2012 after the club were left a significant amount of money in a supporter's will. It also contains memorabilia relating to the club and ground's long history. Adjacent to this is another building which contains a food outlet on the outside and the player dressing rooms on the inside. Attached to the front of this building is an all-seater stand with 210 seats. The two brick dugouts reside in front of this stand and also next to the stand are are two demountables for the boardroom and manager's office.

The only other stand in the venue is behind the northern goal. For around one-third of the length of this end there is a covered terrace to the left of the goal. Continuing on from this is an uncovered terrace behind the goal with the western section a grass area leading into the cricket field. This extends round to the cricket pitch on the western part of the ground and though a temporary barrier is in place during football matches this is not an area for spectators. The area behind the southern goal is uncovered standing with cricket nets taking up the back section of the western half of this end.

It took Hallam all of 50 seconds to open the scoring - a throw-in made it into the area, the ball was clipped into the air and Jack Hargreaves sweetly struck a volley into the bottom corner from 12 yards. The remainder of the first half saw Hallam regularly getting in behind Shirebrook requiring the hosts to produce several key saves and last ditch tackles. This inability to put the game out of sight cost the hosts in the 34th minute when Shirebrook crossed a free-kick into the Hallam area and a mix-up saw Tim Whittaker divert the ball past his own keeper. The game turned at this point and suddenly it was the visitors on top. Shirebrook ended the half strongly and continued into the second period almost scoring in the 50th minute when Bruno Holden went down the left wing, cut inside and launched an excellent curling effort which flew back off the crossbar. As the game progressed Hallam sorted themselves out a bit and in the 63rd minute went close when Kieran Watson was put clean through only to be denied by the Shirebrook keeper. The key moment came in the 72nd minute when a free-kick was whipped into the box, nodded forward to Watson who mis-hit a volley which bobbled in off the post to put the hosts back in front. Hallam almost made sure of the points in the 85th minute when a free-kick was drilled into the box and steered onto the post. Although that chance wasn't converted the single goal lead proved enough as Hallam saw out the game to continue their play-off push.

Result: Hallam 2-1 Shirebrook Town
Division: Northern Counties East League Division One
Attendance: 135

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

2017 Stadium #5 - Westhumble Playing Fields

Date: 11th March 2017
Stadium: Westhumble Playing Fields
Location: Dorking, Surrey

My fifth stadium of 2017 was on Saturday 11th March at Westhumble Playing Fields in Dorking, Surrey. The match was Dorking vs. Staines Lammas in Combined Counties League Division One.

The Westhumble Playing Fields sit at the bottom of Box Hill giving the site a dramatic backdrop. The football stadium is part of a sports area situated between the A24 road and the railway line which links the area to London. This railway line borders the ground to the west with a cricket pitch to the north, a football pitch to the east and trees to the south. The nearest railway station is Box Hill & Westhumble half a mile north. The venue has been the home of Dorking Wanderers since 2007 with Dorking currently groundsharing until both sides move to Meadowbank Stadium for the 2017/18 season.

The west side of the ground has two all-seater stands. The larger of the two is a metal and concrete stand level with the half-way line which has 104 seats. The smaller stand is made of wood and metal and has 50 seats including 20 seats designated for officials. Next to this stand is another wooden structure containing a food outlet, boardroom and a small clubhouse. The northern and southern end of this side of the ground are uncovered standing behind a wooden fence which extends around three sides of the venue.

By comparison the eastern side is very sparse - there are no spectator areas with a green fence blocking off the area to signify the divide between this and the football pitch behind which is home to Dorkonians FC. The only structures are the dugouts either side of the half-way line. The northern end is entirely uncovered standing as is most of the southern end though there is a small metal terrace of 4 rows which sits just to the right of the goal. Behind this stand there is a grass area which leads back towards two dressing room buildings (one for home players and medical staff and one for away players and officials).

The first half-hour was a quiet affair with nothing of note occurring. However on the half-hour mark Staines broke into the box and the ball was laid off to John Nunn who shot in off the post from 12 yards. In the 41st minute the visitors went 2-0 up when the ball was played from midfield over to Tim Hayden on the right hand side. Hayden had no Dorking players anywhere near him allowing him to take his time before slipping the ball past home goalkeeper Charlie McTigue. This was a little hard on Dorking as it they had been competitive up to this point but Staines took their two clear-cut chances to lead at the break. In the second half the away side looked pretty comfortable. Dorking came close to scoring in the 82nd minute when a ball into the box was clipped over the goalkeeper but a Staines defender was able to clear off the line. In the 87th minute the visitors struck again when substitute Aaron Fraser dispossessed a Dorking player in his own half, advanced towards goal and lofted the ball over McTigue to round off a 3-0 win.

Result: Dorking 0-3 Staines Lammas
Division: Combined Counties League Division One
Attendance: N/A

Friday, 7 April 2017

2017 Stadium #4 - Estadio Vicente Calderón

Date: 5th March 2017
Stadium: Estadio Vicente Calderón
Location: Arganzuela, Madrid, Spain

My fourth stadium of 2017 was on Sunday 5th March at the Estadio Vicente Calderón in Arganzuela, Madrid, Spain. The match was Atlético Madrid vs. Valencia in Spanish La Liga.

The Estadio Vicente Calderón is to the south-west of the city centre on the banks of the Río Manzanares close to the Río Madrid park complex. There are two metro stations nearby - half a mile to the north-east is Pirámides station while half a mile to the south-east is Marqués de Vadillo station. Both of these are on Line 5 of the Madrid Metro. The venue has been home to the club since 1966 when they moved away from the Estadio Metropolitano de Madrid. Later this year Atlético will leave the Estadio Vicente Calderón in favour of a new 73,000 capacity ground in the north-east of the city which will be known as the Wanda Metropolitano.

The Estadio Vicente Calderón has an overall capacity of 54,907 and three-quarters of the ground is made up of a two-tier bowl which extends round the northern, eastern and southern sides of the ground. The seating in the bowl section of the stadium is uncovered except for a small proportion of seats at the back of the lower tier, which are covered by the tier above, and three rows at the back of the top tier which are covered by the corporate boxes perched on top of the seating the whole way round the bowl. The lower tier behind the southern goal houses the loudest home fans in the ground. In terms of the exterior of the stadium the eastern side has a club shop, club museum and the 1903 sports bar and restaurant while the northern side is home to the media centre.

The western stand is not connected to the bowl and is a very unusual structure in that it overhangs the M30 motorway with five lanes of traffic running directly beneath it. This allows it to run up to the edge of the river while being suspended far above it. The cantilever roof covers all of the top tier and the upper areas of the lower tier. At the front of the lower tier are the dugouts and players tunnel which leads up to the pitch from the depths of the stand. A small amount of seating in the lower tier extends round into the south-west and north-west quadrants and there are two big screens behind this seating which bookend the western stand.

Atlético played some excellent football in the early stages and dominated the first quarter of the match. It only took until the 10th minute for the hosts to go in front as a crisp passing move from the back culminated in Koke stroking the ball through the Valencia defence to Antoine Griezmann who shot across goal into the bottom corner from 15 yards out. After the opening 20 minutes Valencia managed to frustrate Atlético while not offering much themselves. This served them well until just after the second half restarted when they found themselves 2-0 down. It came about when Filipe Luis sprinted towards the box before laying the ball off to Kevin Gameiro. He then shot from 20 yards and the ball deflected off a visiting defender and into the far corner of the net. A few minutes after this the hosts should have extended their lead when Griezmann was put through on goal but his shot was pushed just past the post by the Valencia keeper. In the 59th minute the home side had another good chance when a terrible lobbed backpass put Gameiro in on goal but he was tackled by a returning defender as he was about to shoot. Valencia presented another opportunity in the 69th minute when a misjudged pass put Gameiro in on goal but he dragged his shot well wide. Just 60 seconds later another sloppy back pass set-up Griezmann but once again the home side failed to make Valencia pay for their errors as he lofted the ball over the bar. The home side did get a third goal in the end - a pass into Thomas Partey was miscontrolled by the Ghanaian but this error actually ended up being a perfect pass for Griezmann who reacted quickly to poke the ball past the keeper. In injury time Atlético came close to adding a fourth when Nicolas Gaitan cut in well from the wing and shot just over from close range as Valencia defenders closed in on him. Valencia came away fairly fortunate to have only lost by three goals with their side offering very little to give their travelling supporters any cheer.

Result: Atlético Madrid 3-0 Valencia
Division: La Liga
Attendance: 46,473

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)