September 02, 2011

As I seen it

POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM becomes Poolie in Stevenage for the day


When the fixture list came out, one of the first ones I looked for was Stevenage. Although I love the familiarity of great away days out at places like Orient, Brentford, Crewe, Peterborough etc, you can't beat the first time at a new ground.


Now I don't think I was alone in having a few preconceptions about what the Lamex Stadium would be like. If I was pressed to draw up a stereotypical list of what I expected to encounter at Stevenage, I would fall back onto what little I know about the place. Let's see then, they're a team from a new town built to mop up the London overspill, and this is only their second season in the league. Here goes then:

New town architecture (eg characterless)
Easy to get to if you're driving, but poorly served by public transport
Hardly any pubs within walking distance
Overzealous stewarding/policing
Distinct lack of atmosphere, or one artificially whipped up by a drummer
Rip-off catering
Rip-off bottle-neck parking with no alternative
Functional yet utterly soulless stadium

As it happens, not all the above boxes were ticked. I didn't see any of the town's architecture, as the ground is but a Sam Collins long throw from the A1. Amazingly, there was a huge car park directly opposite the ground which was completely free! I can't believe that whoever owns the land isn't coining it in on matchdays, particularly now that they will be getting larger crowds. Not that it would be a good thing, just that it's unusual for enterprising southerners to miss a trick like this."As for the atmosphere, the regulation percussionist whacked out a thudding beat at regular intervals, but overall the Stevenage fans were pretty loud even without the help of their little drummer boy"

I didn't pass any pubs on the drive in, and I don't expect that there were rows of them just around the corner. The stewards and muskers were quite relaxed, the most laid back I've encountered at a match for some time. The tossers in luminous jackets at Elland Road could learn a thing or two from this approach.

The catering was probably averagely priced, but I always feel that I am being fleeced when being asked for money by a southerner than someone with say, a Lancashire accent.

The stadium was functional, and would have been almost soulless had it not been for the irregular terrace behind one of the goals, which only extended about two thirds the length of the goal-line. As for the atmosphere, the regulation percussionist whacked out a thudding beat at regular intervals, but overall the Stevenage fans were pretty loud even without the help of their little drummer boy.

This is the first game I've been to for a long time without a load of Monkey Businesses to flog, and it took a bit of getting used to. However, I soon settled down without constantly wondering where my bag had gone to.

At half time we were two to the good, thanks to Stevenage spurning a few good chances, a superb thumping header from Peter Hartley, and a cheeky penalty finish from Boydy after Colin Nish was brought down rather naively in the Stevenage box.

Before the start of the game I said I would be happy with a point, given the impresive early season start Stevenage had made. At the final whistle it was a relief to hang on to 2-2. Nish should have put us three up, and after that Stevenage upped their game as we grew more knackered. When they pulled one back it was inevitable that an equaliser would come, and I feared the worst when the board went up signalling 4 minutes of added time shortly after the leveller.

We managed to hold on without any scares, and again it was odd to head straight out of the ground without trying to flog mags to the exiting Poolies. The car-park didn't fail to disappoint however - I was in the car a full 15 minutes before I was able to drive out and head back north up the M1.

By the time I got home I had come to the conclusion that it was two points dropped rather than a point gained, in spite of the injury ravaged squad which featured the veteran central midfield of Humphries and Murray. Still, we continued our unbeaten run, and if we remain difficult to beat then we should comfortably finish in the top half, if not troubling the top 6.