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Griffin Park
League One
ay, August 27th 2011, 3pm
Jason Jandu
(Neutral fan)

I decided to go west for my latest London football outing to watch the match between Brentford and Tranmere. Even at this early stage of the season, it was a top of the table clash. The Bees had attracted attention with an excellent start of three wins from four under new manager Uwe Rosler, Tranmere had also begun their campaign well, and both teams had scored a good few goals in the process. So I thought there was the possibility of quite a high-scoring game at Griffin Park.

The journey to the ground wasn’t so much difficult as time consuming, taking virtually as long as the match itself to travel from Bexleyheath Station to Brentford Station via Waterloo and walk down to the ground. As previous reviews have mentioned, the fact that Griffin Park is squeezed in between several normal suburban streets makes finding the ways in a little tricky. The turnstiles of the Main Stand and the ticket collection point, are located at the bottom of Braemar Road, and the entrances to the other ends are literally set in between houses. So you have to keep a close eye when you walk round the streets surrounding the stadium.

Once I found the correct entrance I took my place in the Bill Axbey Stand – in which you can sit pretty much anywhere, so don’t waste time like I did looking for the block printed on your ticket – and found a seat in the family section. I sat and read the very good Beesotted fanzine I accidentally bought from a lad outside the ground who I thought was selling the match programme!

Now I admit that my opinion of Griffin Park may be coloured by my previous trips this season to the very decent grounds of The Valley, The Den and the Emirates, but all in all I found it a pretty shabby and ramshackle ground, to be honest. You had the Main Stand opposite featuring a complete mish-mash of different sections of seating. Terracing for the home fans to the left. On the right the very odd stand for the visitors; with seating in the upper tier and terracing below. The stand I was sitting in was made up of long rows of seats, metal A-frames and the dreaded view-restricting iron girders supporting the roof, corrugated iron sheeting at the back and a collection of metal bars and floorboards resembling a camera gantry which hung precariously from the roof at the front of the stand.

The compact nature of the ground means that everything feels a bit cramped, from the turnstiles getting in to the concourses outside and the seats you sit in. The old-fashioned nature of the ground is further underlined by the traditional floodlight pylons standing in each corner, so all in all, it did give me the impression of watching League One football in a non-league setting. As I said above, my standards might be too high but I do feel that League One grounds should be a little higher up the scale than Griffin Park in view of the nicer new stadiums being built around the country these days. At least the stewards were unfussy and inconspicuous throughout.

The match began, and as strange as it may sound for a team who had won their previous match 5-0, Brentford looked very nervous, hesitant and unsure of themselves. They gave the ball away far too easily, their build-up play consisted of slow and ponderous passing amongst the defence and midfield. They failed to make inroads down the flanks and through the middle of what was admittedly a strong opposition defence, and in general they looked fairly sluggish against the sharp and nippy Tranmere midfield. Who were symbolised by the man of the match in my view, right midfield Andy Robinson, who created the first goal midway through the first half with a terrific cross headed in by Robbie Weir and scored the second just after half time with a powerful low drive into the corner from 25 yards.

Brentford’s main chances came in the first half when Clayton Donaldson had his one-on-one saved by Tranmere keeper Owain fon Williams and Gary Alexander flicked the ball onto the bar, but other than that they were disappointing – not that Uwe Rosler seemed too bothered about it from his unexpectedly muted presence on the bench – and were well contained by a Tranmere side who seem capable of going places this season.

After the match finished in simultaneous driving rain and bright sunshine, it took a fair while to filter out of one of the few exits through the corrugated iron sheeting and find one’s bearings – not that the mishap I suffered in skidding on a wet pavement and crashing into a neighbour’s bush helped on that score – to make it back to the train station and make my way back to Bexleyheath.

In fact, I could sum up the whole of the trip to Brentford as being a bit of a damp squib, really; admittedly some aspects of that were my fault. But neither the match, the Brentford performance or the ground was what I hoped it would be and, in view of how long it took me to get there, I’d probably only consider going back in the future for a match of really high importance, frankly.

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