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Cherry Red Records Stadium
AFC Wimbledon v Luton Town
Blue Square Premier League

Saturday, August 8th 2009, 3pm
Steve Bailey
(Luton Town fan)

Lots of other new grounds to look forward to this season, I’d always intended to try and get to all the Conference grounds too (as well as completing the last 12 league grounds and last 2 Scottish league grounds I need) – I just hadn’t reckoned it would be watching Luton!

This was of course a historic day for the first ever meeting of the phoenix club of AFC Wimbledon against Luton, the first club to be relegated to the conference for reasons other than for results on the pitch.  It must be said all Luton fans were looking forward to this game with more enthusiasm than any season since our two year stay in the Championship ended.  The demand for tickets was massive as only 800 were on offer to us and they sold out in next to no time.

I travelled by train to Norbiton station and it is only a short 10 minute walk to the ground (directions - turn right out of station entrance  then left down Norbiton Avenue, keep going as the road bends round to the left then right down Gloucester Road till you get to the main road.  Turn left and the ground is then about another 200m down  the main road on the other side.  There is only one entrance under a metal arch proudly proclaiming it as the home of Kingstonian).

First up we went though to a pub about 10 minutes walk the other way, the Willoughby Arms in Willoughby Road.  Wish now we’d not left it for another pub nearer the ground as it was a great football friendly pub full of some very friendly Wimbledon fans including one guy who started supporting the original Wimbledon back in 1969 and has therefore been on quite a journey in those 40 years!  4 real ales on offer and the 2 I had were excellent.  Then we moved on to the Bricklayers Arms about 10 minutes up the main road in the opposite direction to the ground.  It was OK but that’s all that can be said.  Not many fans of either club there.  There was another pub we passed called the Robert Peel but looked a little busy, people spilling out all over the car park!  There was a good chip shop near the ground and a popular café as well.

You enter the ground up a single road and whilst we had our own turnstiles to go through the was not a huge police or steward presence between us and the main stand.  That having been said it was very friendly inside the ground and even one idiot from our following knocking the mascot’s head off didn’t spoil that.   The ground is compact, none of the stands are high but it all looked neat and in good order.  Floodlights appeared very small and not sure a night game would be that well illuminated!

The view from the away end was not great for the goal at that end as it is a fairly shallow terrace, must of the action in both halves was at the other end though but had we scored in the second half I would have had to reply on the cheers from fans nearer the goal!  So recommend getting there early to get a good view if you have a big away following, I got there at 20 mins to kick off and the terrace was already packed.  The view is not helped by people standing by the perimeter wall and the stewards not moving them on as you’d expect at a league game – they tried but when “would you mind moving down the stand please?”  met with no response they just gave up! Toilets were small as you’d expect but as long as you didn’t try and go at half time they were adequate.  The chips from the food bar looked very good as well.

There was a good atmosphere, not a huge noise due the open and compact nature of the ground but maybe it was also the unusually (for this summer) hot weather than quietened everyone down.  The game?  Well, we should have been 3 up at least by half time but only led by a single penalty goal. Our half time fears were justified as Wimbledon settled after the break and got a penalty of their own and could easily have taken all 3 points.  A draw was a fair result really but it was all rather deflating for us as we expected to get off to a winning start.  Already we are shaking our heads and saying “it’ll be a long season you know”.

Getting away was easy, back at the station with plenty of time for the 1721 back into London – there are four trains an hour though so no need to rush.  All was friendly there too as fans mixed with no problems.  So all in all a good day out and would certainly go again should we not get out of the Conference at our first attempt!

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