Friday, 20 October 2017

Wembley

Reading v Arsenal
The FA Cup
Wembley Stadium
Saturday 18th April 2015
5:20pm

Journey Time to the ground: 2 hours 15 minutes.  We left Newbury at 11am and drove to my parents house in Reading before making our way up to High Wycombe.  We then jumped on the train from High Wycombe to Wembley Stadium.  As we arrived about four hours before kick-off, we went to get some lunch Moulin Grill then had a look around the London Designer Outlet for a couple of hours before entering the ground about an hour before kick-off.

The ground was about a 5 minute walk from Wembley Stadium station.
 
Ticket Price: £33

Programme Price: £5

This was my eighth visit to the new Wembley and the second time I had seen Reading play there.  We were sat in the Upper Tier of the East Stand at around the level of the corner flag.  The Upper Tier is tier five and although it is a long way back from the pitch, the view of the playing action is good.  The leg room is good, although the seats are slightly uncomfortable as they seem to slope downwards. 

Wembley Stadium is the only five tiered ground that I know of, however the North Stand is the only stand which has the fourth tier.  Opposite the East Stand is the West Stand, which is identical to the East Stand and includes a large television screen built in between the third and fifth tiers.  The two side stands, the North Stand and the South Stand are almost identical to each other with a larger upper tier than either of the ends behind the goal.  The North Stand is the main stand, with the players' tunnel and dug-outs. There are large hospitality areas running between the lower and upper tiers running around the whole of the ground.  The stadium feels huge inside, especially when sat towards the back of the upper tier.
 
This was Reading's first FA Cup Semi-Final since 1927 and having never made an FA Cup final, and being rank outsiders, the majority of Reading fans travelled in the hope of not being embarrassed and being able to enjoy the day.  The first-half was as expected with Arsenal dominating possession and creating a lot of chances.  Reading managed to hold out until five minutes before half-time when Alexis Sanchez finished smartly to give Arsenal the lead.

I was worried that the goal so close to half-time would have broken Reading's spirit, but if anything the opposite was true.  Reading seemed to sense there was an opportunity to make something of the game, and equalised 10 minutes into the second-half.  Pavel Pogrebnyak managed to get the ball across the box and Garath McCleary was on hand at the back-post to volley in, a goal that was given by the hawk-eye system.  I have never celebrated as nuchas I did that equaliser!  There seemed to be belief within the team and although Aaron Ramsey hit the post for Arsenal, the game finished 1-1 and headed into extra-time.

Into the first period of extra-time came the moment that broke Reading hearts.  In added time at the end of the first-half of extra-time Adam Federici, who had been magnificent all game, let Alexis Sanchez's tame effort slip underneath his body, through his legs and roll over the goal-line.  Reading tried to find a second equaliser in the second-half of extra-time, but ultimately come up slightly short.

Attendance: 84,081 with 30,963 Reading fans.

Atmosphere:  The atmosphere was good.  I have never heard noise like it when we scored our equaliser.  However I don't think the acoustics at Wembley are that good.  The ground seems too big to generate a really decent atmosphere as the sound seems to get lost in the bowl and it is difficult for chants to be co-ordinated between the upper and lower tier.

Journey Time home: 2 hours 30 minutes.  There was quite a long wait at Wembley Stadium station to get the train back up to High Wycombe.  Once at High Wycombe we drove back to my parents' house in Reading to pick up the car before driving back to Newbury.  We got back into Newbury at around 10:30pm in time to get a KFC before it closed! 
 
Overall, I enjoyed my trip to Wembley, if not the result.  It was a long day, with it being the late kick-off and also arriving so early to soak up the atmosphere.  I have never seen Reading win at Wembley and it is a horrible place to lose, but I have never been more proud of my team as I was at the final whistle.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Swindon Town

Swindon Town v Peterborough United
Sky Bet League One
The County Ground
Saturday 11th April 2015
3pm

Journey Time to the ground: 30 minutes.  We left the house just after 2pm and a straight forward journey saw us parked up in the Carlton Car Park which cost £1 for the afternoon.

The ground was around a 10 minute walk from the car park.
 
Ticket Price: £19

Programme Price: £3

This was my third visit to the County Ground.  We were sat in the Town End, a small, single-tiered covered, all-seated stand behind the goal, where the majority of the vocal home support sat.  The leg room was adequate and the view from the seats was good although there were a couple of pillars that partly obscured some of the pitch.  

The County Ground is a good sized, all-seated ground.  To the left of the Town End is the Arkells Stand, a single tiered main stand which had the dug-outs situated at the front of it.  This stand is shared with away fans.  Opposite the Arkells Stand is the Don Rogers stand, another single tiered stand which runs the length of the pitch.  Opposite the Town End is the all-seated, uncovered Stratton Bank Stand which is largely unused unless there is a particularly large away following.  This end also has the only Rolex clock found at any football ground in the world.   
 
Both sides had a realistic chance of making the play-offs with Swindon sat in third and Peterborough six points outside the top six, so both sides were pushing for a win.  The best chance of the first-half went to Swindon who were awarded a penalty in the 28th minute when Jonathan Obika went down under pressure from Michael Smith.  Andy Williams smashed his spot-kick against the bar and the half ended 0-0.
 
The second half was a fairly even contest with both sides restricted to long range efforts.  The home fans were growing frustrated but finally had something to cheer about in the 71st minute when substitute Jermaine Hylton grabbed the only goal of the game slotting in from just inside the box with one of his first touches of the game.  

Attendance: 7,126 with 285 Peterborough fans.

Atmosphere:  The atmosphere was pretty good.  There was a lot at stake for both teams and the Swindon fans in the Town End certainly kept singing for the whole 90 minutes.

Journey Time home: 45 minutes.  After a short 10 minute walk back to the car, we were on our way.  There was very little traffic and we were home before 6pm.

I enjoyed my trip to Swindon.  The weather was pleasant and the atmosphere in the Town End was very good.   With both teams evenly matched and pushing for a win, the game was entertaining and a Swindon win was probably the right result on the balance of play.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Oxford United

Oxford United v York City
Sky Bet League Two
Kassam Stadium
Monday 6th April 2015
3pm

Journey Time to the ground: 45 minutes.  We went via a detour at a car boot sale in Abingdon, so ended up leaving the house at 9am.  We were up in Abingdon by 9:30am.  We looked around the car boot sale and got some lunch, eventually leaving Abingdon at 1:15pm.  We were parked up in Grenoble Road by 1:30pm.  The parking on Grenoble Road is free and around a 10 minute walk to the ground.
 
Ticket Price: £18

Programme Price: £3

This was my second visit to the Kassam Stadium.  We were sat in the Oxford Mail East Stand which is a single tiered stand behind the goal.  We were a few rows from the front, in line with the crossbar, and the view was good and leg room ample.  

The most unusual things about the Kassam Stadium is that it only has three separate stands.  Opposite the East Stand at the West End is a fence!  To the left of the East Stand was the South Stand, which was two tiered and housed the dug-outs.  Opposite the East Stand was the North Stand, a single tiered stand that is shared with away fans.  Overall the ground felt very open and exposed which was lovely for us on a hot, sunny day, but I can imagine is very cold during the winter.
 
With both sides scrapping for survival towards the bottom of League Two, the first half was largely uneventful with both sides struggling to create any clear-cut chances.
 
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first half.  Danny Rose had the best chance of the game, but volleyed wide from Pat Hoban's left wing cross.  The game finished 0-0, a fair result for both sides.

Attendance: 9,406 with 422 York City fans.

Atmosphere:  The atmosphere was fairly quiet.  The home fans sat in the Oxford Mail East Stand with us attempted to get an atmosphere going, however with the ground being so open, any noise was lost the the elements.

Journey Time home: 50 minutes.  After a short wait in traffic to get away from the ground, we were soon down the A34 and sat in the Burger King in Newbury having dinner before 6pm!

I enjoyed my trip to Oxford.  The weather was lovely and we were sat in the sun for most of the game.  Even though the game finished 0-0, it wasn't a bore-draw and was entertaining.  The ground is very open which is nice on a pleasant day, but I'm not sure I would have enjoyed myself so much had it been hammering down with rain!

Saturday, 31 January 2015

AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth v Reading
Sky Bet Championship
Goldsands Stadium
Tuesday 21st October 2014
7:45pm
 

Journey Time to the ground: 1 hour 45 minutes.  We left Newbury at 5pm and arrived at the ground at 6:45pm.  We managed to park up in Buchanan Avenue which was about a five minute walk away from the ground.  The on-street parking was free.
 
Ticket Price: £14 for a student ticket, with an adult ticket costing £26

Programme Price: £3
 
This was my first visit to the Goldsands Stadium following redevelopment, although I had been to Dean Court a couple of times previously before the ground became an all-seater stadium.  We were sat in the away section which is half of the Energy Consulting East Stand.  The East Stand is a single tiered stand at the side of the pitch split between home and away fans, with away fans situated close to the South Stand.  The view from the East Stand was good, with enough leg room between seats and a view of the entire pitch without having to stand.

To the left of the East Stand is the temporary Ted McDougall South Stand which is also one tier.  Opposite the East Stand is the Main Stand which is the same size as the East Stand but houses executive boxes and the dug-outs.  To the right of the East Stand is the Steve Fletcher North Stand, which is also one tier.  Overall the ground felt very small and compact with all stands roughly the same height.
 
The first half was fairly even as both sides struggled to create chances, although both did hit the woodwork.  Matt Ritchie hit the post for Bournemouth with a curling effort from 20 yards with Jamie Mackie hitting the bar for Reading.
 
Reading were blown away in the second half as Bournemouth came out as a team transformed, scoring three goals in a fifteen minute spell.  The first came just five minutes after half time with Callum Wilson heading home a cross from Marc Pugh.  The lead was doubled five minutes later when Wilson turned provider for Brett Pitman to convert before Pitman volleyed home a second from Richie's corner after 64 minutes.  Reading were shell-shocked for the remained of the game, struggling to create any chances of note.  The scoreline was only kept respectable by Adam Federici who made a number of spectacular saves throughout the game.

Attendance: 8,899 with 1,073 Reading fans.

Atmosphere:  The atmosphere was fairly quiet as the home fans made little noise, apart from around the three goals.  The atmosphere in the away end was better, with constant singing despite the poor performance and result.

Journey Time home: 2 hours.  We managed to get out of the ground and back to the car by 9:45pm and were home at 11:45pm with a quick detour to Fleet services to get a Burger King on the way!

I enjoyed my trip to Bournemouth despite the result!  The ground is light years away from the old Dean Court, although it is rather on the small side, particularly when the aspiration of the team is clearly to play in the Premier League.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Brighton and Hove Albion


Brighton and Hove Albion v Reading
The FA Cup with Budweiser
The American Express Community Stadium
Saturday 4th January 2014
3pm
 
Journey Time to the ground: 1 hour 40 minutes.  We left home at 11:20am and parked up at 1pm.  We parked in The Bridge car park, the only car park close to the stadium, at a cost of £15.  The ground is not signposted, neither were the park and ride car parks, where we were intending to park!

The ground was a ten minute walk passed Falmer Station. 
 
Ticket Price: £15

Programme Price: £2.50
 
This was my first visit to The AMEX Stadium, a new ground that I was looking forward to visiting.  As the tickets had been bought for me as a Christmas present, I was sat in the Upper Tier of the West Stand.  The West Stand is the main stand and is for home fans.  It has three tiers and houses the players tunnel and dugout.  The view from the Upper Tier of the West Stand was very good, the leg room plentiful and the seats were padded!  It was though, quite a walk up a number of flights of steps to reach the Upper Tier.   
 
To the left of the West Stand is the North Stand which is one tier.  Opposite the West Stand is the East Stand.  The East Stand is two tiered.  To the right of the West Stand, is the South Stand.  The South Stand is single tiered and identical to the North Stand, but is split between home and away fans.
 
Reading started the game poorly and were struggling to create any chances, whereas Brighton had much of the play in the first half.  Brighton had already hit the crossbar three times in the first half hour of the game through Keith Andrews, Solly March and Ashley Barnes before taking the lead just after the half hour mark through an Andrew Crofts shot from 20 yards deflected passed Adam Federici by Alex Pearce.  Brighton were good value for their lead at half time, with Reading rarely threatening.
 
Reading improved in the second half and had much more of the ball without creating many goal-scoring opportunities, with Brighton goalkeeper Peter Brezovan not really having to make a save.  The game petered out, with Brighton more than happy to settle for the one goal victory, and progression into the next round of the cup.
 
Attendance: 20,696 with 2,155 Reading fans.
 
Atmosphere:  The atmosphere was fairly quiet with the ground just over two-thirds full owing to the fact it was a cup game between two teams in the same division.  Both sets of fans did get behind their teams, but the atmosphere seemed pretty subdued, which could have been down to the relentless rain and not playing for league points.
 
Journey Time home: 2 hours.  We split the journey home, stopping in Croydon for some food at Ikea, so didn't actually get home until just before 10pm, having got back to the car just after 5pm.
 
Although I did enjoy the trip to Brighton, it could have been a much better day.  I know that the club do not want people driving to the ground, and this is discouraged by the fact the ground is not signposted, but you would think that the park and ride sites would be heavily signposted, which they weren't.  The weather was atrocious for much of the day.  The ground itself is very nice, but is let down a little by the massive concrete backs of the South and North Stands, which aren't particularly aesthetically pleasing!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

West Ham United

West Ham United v Reading
Barclays Premier League
Boleyn Ground
Sunday 19th May 2013
4pm

Journey Time to the ground: 2 hours.  We left home at 1:45pm and decided to drive through Central London.  We managed to park up on Ernald Avenue off of Barking Road.  Luckily, as the game was on a Sunday, there were no parking restrictions in place.

The ground was a ten minute walk down Barking Road. 
 
Ticket Price: £49

Programme Price: £3.50

This was my third visit to the Boleyn Ground.  Each time I have sat in the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand Lower tier in the away end, and this time was no exception.  We were sat three rows back from the front of the stand, and although this was just above the level of the pitch, we did have a good view of the game.  We were sat just to the left of the corner flag, which meant that we were actually passed the touchline, at one end of the ground.  Although there wasn't much leg room between rows, this wasn't a problem.   This stand was shared with home supporters to our right, with a line of netting in between the two sets of supporters.  There were also home supporters in the upper tier above us.  

To the left of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand is the East Stand, which is a two tiered.  It is the oldest stand at the ground, and is a lot smaller than the other three stands.  Opposite the East Stand is the Alpari Stand, an impressive two tiered stand which is the main stand at the Boleyn Ground.  This stand houses the players tunnel and the dugouts.  Opposite the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand is the Bobby Moore Stand, which is another two tiered stand.  There are two video screens, one between the corner of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand and the East Stand, and the other in the opposite corner, between the Alpari Stand and the Bobby Moore Stand.  Overall, the ground is very impressive, if feeling slight imbalanced with the smaller East Stand.
 
The game started quietly, and definitely felt like an end of season game with nothing to play for.  Half-way through the first half, Alex McCarthy's attempted clearance hit Andy Carroll on the back of the head, and fell into the path of Kevin Nolan, who rounded McCarthy and slotted the ball into the empty net.  Ten minutes before half time, Ricardo Vaz Te coverted after being set up by Caroll, sending his shot across goal from the left hand edge of the penalty area, leaving Reading two down at the break.  
 
Reading finally woke up in the second half.  Ten minutes after the interval, Garath McCleary pulled a goal back, smashing the ball passed Jussi Jaaskelainen with the aid of a slight deflection.  Two minutes later, Reading were level, Adam Le Fondre tapping in a Nick Blackman cross at the far post.  The game remained fairly even until ten minutes from the end, when Nolan grabbed his second, sending McCarthy the wrong way when he was one-on-one with the keeper.  Nolan completed his hat-trick just before full time, heading Modibo Maiga's cross passed McCarthy.   

Attendance: 34,973 with 512 Reading fans.

Atmosphere:  The atmosphere was the best I have experienced for a long time.  The West Ham fans, particularly those in the East Stand closest to us, made a lot of noise throughout the game, only going quiet for a bit when Reading pulled the game back to 2-2.  The Reading fans were quiet until the second half and although there weren't that many of us, made some noise.  I hope that the atmopshere isn't lost when West Ham eventually move to the Olympic Stadium. 

Journey Time home: 2 hours.  We got back to the car just before 7pm and we were back home just before 9pm. 

Despite the result, and the stress of driving through Central London, this was a good day.  The stadium was good and the atmosphere tremendous.  Reading were poor, apart from a twenty minute spell at the start of the second half, but hopefully things will improve next season when playing at a lower level.  The West Ham fans were the friendliest I have encountered for a long time, with at least four taking the time to stop and wish us luck for next season, and one even asking for a photo with us!  It's a shame that West Ham will be leaving the Boleyn Ground, as the stadium is great.  I just hope the atmosphere can be retained at the Olympic Stadium.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Fulham

Fulham v Reading
Barclays Premier League
Craven Cottage
Saturday 4th May 2013
3pm

Journey Time to the ground: 2 hours.  We left home at 12:30pm and drove to Strawberry Hill.  We caught the train from Strawberry Hill to Putney.

The ground is a fifteen minute walk from Putney station, over Putney Bridge and through the park. 
 
Ticket Price: £40

Programme Price: £3.50

This was my sixth visit to Craven Cottage, and the fifth since it has been redeveloped.  Each time I have sat in the Putney End, which is behind one of the goals and has the away end, and also a neutral section.  There is no segregation in this stand and each time I have been there has always been a good mix of home, away and neutral supporters.  The stand is single tiered and feels temporary in nature, with the staircases being metal, and the floor feeling like it is made from plywood!  The view from this end is good, although the height between rows isn't the best.  There is also little leg room between rows.  We were sat towards the centre of the stand, around five rows from the front and had a good view of the whole of the pitch. 

To the left of the Putney End is the Riverside Stand, which is also single tiered.  This is the main stand and has the dugouts in front of the stand.  Opposite the Riverside Stand is the Johnny Haynes Stand, another single tiered stand, and the oldest stand at the ground, with a gable on the roof.  Opposite the Putney End is the Hammersmith End, which is identical to the Putney End, but just houses home fans.  In the corner between the Putney End and the Johnny Haynes Stand is The Cottage.  The house has some seating on the upstairs balcony to allow people to watch the game, and is also where the players come out from before the game.
 
The game started with Reading dominating possession for a change!  After 12 minutes, Hal Robson-Kanu was fouled in the box by John Arne Riise to earn a penalty which he dispatched himself, sending Mark Schawarzer the wrong way in the process.  The rest of the half continued with Reading having the majority of the ball, although Fulham did created a few chances that were well saved by Alex McCarthy.  
 
The second half started well for Reading.  Just after the hour mark Robson-Kanu had his second, curling a shot passed Schwarzer into the far post.  This seemed to wake Fulham into life, and they pulled a goal back ten minutes later, with Bryan Ruiz slotting passed McCarthy.  Almost immediately Reading restored the two goal advantage with Adam Le Fondre tapping in after rounding Schwarzer.  Again Fulham pulled another goal back with 15 minutes to play, with Ruiz scoring his second goal of the day with his head.  The scoring was completed in the final ten minutes with Jem Karacan firing the ball in from just outside the box, bringing the final score to 4-2 to Reading.   

Attendance: 24,087 with 1,215 Reading fans.

Atmosphere:  The atmosphere was good in the Putney End due to the Reading fans.  The Fulham fans did not make much noise throughout the game, and seemed to be a bit embarrassed to be losing 4-2 at home to the team that were bottom of the league.  

Journey Time home: 2 hours.  We made the short walk back to Putney station and caught a train to Strawberry Hill, before driving back home. 

This was a good day.  Craven Cottage is another easy ground to get to, and it was a relatively short journey.  I finally saw Reading play well for a full game, and get an away win, the first I have seen for a few years.  It's a shame that we will probably be playing in different divisions next season, as Craven Cottage is a really enjoyable day out, especially the walk through the park to and from Putney Bridge.