My son and I had previously been to this ground to support Wigan on three previous occasions, with one win and two draws. This match was a real 'six pointer' and a defeat for Wigan would have seen them really cut adrift. As it turned out, at the end of the weekend, just two points separated the bottom five teams, who seem to be forming a mini league of their own (QPR, Blackburn, Wolves, Bolton and Wigan). My son had brought along his German girlfriend, to experience her first football match.
We have passed the Reebok many times before, whilst driving along the M61. I have even been there on teaching courses, held in the luxurious board rooms. The stadium is not huge but is very attractive and well proportioned from the outside and the inside is no less impressive. The corners are filled in and there is an intense atmosphere.
Getting there is no problem, it is just a short distance off the motorway, and there is a railway station right by the ground as well. We took the first left turn and parked on an icy car park, costing £6. We got there fairly early, with the intention of walking to the Beehive pub about half a mile past the ground for a pint and to watch the second half of the Man United v. Liverpool match on TV. This is a good venue for away fans. On the way back to the ground, it was noticeable there was quite a large police presence and a few arrests were being made, but we had no idea what for. The German girl was intrigued by all the police horses and wondered why they used them. Had to think a bit for reasons! Getting into the ground was no problem, but as usual there are far more stewards around the away end than anywhere else and they carried out fairly random, half-hearted searches.
The concourse is quite cramped so we did not linger. We had seats in row G of the lower tier (actually the fourth row), looking directly down the touchline, quite different from our usual side-on seats at the DW. Wigan played magnificently, as if their very lives depended on the result, and the atmosphere in the away end was electric. Some flares were thrown and there was a lot of smoke at one time. Quite continental. Caldwell scored for Wigan just before half time, then Mark Davies equalised with a superb strike after a lucky deflection off Ngog's back. But McArthur scored a late, deserved winner for Wigan. Cue great rejoicing amongst the Wiganers. The Bolton fans were not impressed with their team's performance. There were boos at half time and lots of empty seats well before the end. As usual, Wigan were near the end of Match of the Day, and also as usual, there was little or no analysis of the match. They had spent most of the time on the Suarez non-handshake incident.
Bolton is a great away day. Tickets reasonable at £22. Lovely ground, decent leg room, home fans seem reasonably friendly, easy to get to, decent pub not far away. Let's hope this fixture will take place next season with both teams still in the Premier league. I realise it is easy to be generous when your side has just won !
Getting away was fairly easy, after queuing to get off the car park. The M61 is close by and we were soon heading North.
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