Dean Court
Bournemouth v Crawley Town
Saturday, December 29th 2012,
League One, 3pm.
 By Matthew Cowdrey

1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):

Since Crawley’s rise to the heady heights of League One the average journey to an away game is now 185 miles. This made Bournemouth a veritable local derby. That combined with the helpful timing of the game between Boxing Day and New Year and the fact that I have family in the area meant that it was an easy game to pencil in.

The family visit took place in the morning and I realised that the family members I was visiting only lived three quarters of a mile from the ground. With hindsight I should have walked…!

Crawley had been in a good run of form recently with two good away wins (Including Portsmouth on Boxing Day) so expectation was high.

2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?

The drive to and From Bournemouth was extremely easy. Despite warnings of localised flooding near Chichester, there were no delays to speak of. Heavy rain on the way home made the drive hard work, but at no stage was it difficult or painfully long. Door to door was easily under two hours.

Finding the ground was simple enough and car parking was ample despite the warnings the day before. Having said that, we arrived early (12:20) with a view to having lunch before the game. Car parking cost a pound and our early arrival secured us a space within 20 feet of the exit and pointing in the right direction.

3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?

On a normal home game as an away fan you have the choice of lunch at the pavilion in the park or the Legends Café and Bistro at the ground. The 1910 Supporters Bar at the ground is for home fans only. Sadly as the game fell during the holiday period the Pavilion was not open. We made our way to the Legends Café and Bistro at 12:20 and attempted to order some food. At this point we were told we couldn’t order food because they stopped serving at 1pm on a match day. When I pointed out that it was only 12:20 I was told that “well we’re stopping early today. You can get a burger in the ground later if you want”. It wasn’t exactly the warm welcome I was expecting to a Café and Bistro on match day. Stopping food at 1pm on a normal Saturday seems a bit odd. The bar itself was somewhat lifeless and a little clinical. The bar ran out of draft bitter by 1pm and keg bitter by 1:15. The bar was poorly understaffed and when the Crawley support arrived (all 380 of us) they seemed woefully underprepared.

The few home fans in the Legends Bar weren’t particularly friendly or talkative and most seemed to resent the presence of away fans in their bar. Whilst not hostile I wouldn’t class the atmosphere as welcoming.

4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?

Three sides of the ground look very impressive, but without a South Stand of any sort it looks a bit odd. The away fans are put on the South end of the East Stand next to the open end of the ground which gave you the added pleasure of feeling detached from the main atmosphere whilst at the same time being blasted in the face by a strong South Westerly wind coming straight in off the channel. This is definitely a ground to wrap up for as an away fan. Seating was comfortable enough and being well over six foot myself this made a welcome change to most seated grounds.

5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, facilities etc..

Despite the promise of burgers in the ground, no food was available. There is a bar though which is great if you’re 40 but not so good for my 8 year old son. The stewards were clearly embarrassed by the lack of food and one of the female stewards even let us back out of the ground and walked us round to the outside of the North Stand in the middle of the home fans so we could buy a couple of hot dogs. She then walked us back round to the away end and let us in through a side door. All of the stewards were welcoming, polite and friendly.

Prior to the game the referee Lee Probert who was the referee when Crawley played Man Utd at Old Trafford  came over to speak to the Crawley fans during his warm-up. A nice, unexpected and unusual gesture.

A few of the slightly more inebriated Crawley fans (clearly too much Christmas cheer) gave some of the stewards a fair bit of stick until the other Crawley fans told them to shut up, but not once were they greeted with anything but a smile from the Stewards.

The game itself was something of a damp squib. Crawley captain Gary Alexander won possibly his first header of the season to score after 16 minutes, sadly however in the wrong net. A sleepy defence at a free kick towards of the end of the first half sealed our fate and the lacklustre performance continued throughout the second half to tee up the inevitable third goal.

The biggest round of applause all day from the Crawley fans was for former Crawley talisman Matt Tubbs as he came on as a late substitute for Bournemouth. Crawley were well beaten by a revitalised team that surely must be favourites for promotion to the Championship now. The speed of play (and thought) left Crawley in their wake and Crawley simply didn’t have the ability to deal with them.

6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:

Although only 20 feet from the exit of the car park and not hanging around once the final whistle went, it still took nearly 30 minutes to get as far as the main road. The ground is down a single road and there would appear to be many who saved the £1 car parking fee to park in side roads as the exit did seem to take a while.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

Whilst easily accessible on the way in, the exit wasn’t smooth and the lack of any food matched with surly service and a breezy, three-quarter stadium didn’t exactly get us in the mood for a happy day out. The performance of Crawley was the final nail in the coffin, but Bournemouth in their current form are a delight to watch. I’m sure that once the new South Stand is completed and somebody works out how to order food that the experience will improve significantly.

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