v Leeds United, Championship League
Friday, September 23rd 2011, 7.45pm
By Paul Dickinson
With only six of the current 92 grounds left to do, this weekend provided the perfect opportunity to get 2 more ticked off - watching my team at Brighton on the Friday evening and then staying over for Aldershot v Crawley the following day.
Having seen Leeds play many times at the Goldstone (which I loved) and at Withdean (which I didn't), I was looking forward to my 1st visit to the Amex Stadium
As I was meeting friends prior to the game, I parked my car at Hove train station and a 5 minute train journey saw me in Brighton. Its a place I know well and is great for an away fan, with loads of bars and eating establishments to suit all tastes.
All being real ale drinkers, we went to the Lord Nelson Inn & the Basketmakers Arms - both within 5 minutes walk from the train station and the latter having a particularly good range of different beers on.
It was then a quick walk back to the station to catch the train upto Falmer - where a queuing system was put into place in order to avoid congestion on the platform.
After chatting with some Brighton fans on the way there, we arrived at the ground 10 minutes later and 1st impressions are impressive, a great building design surrounded by countryside is certainly eye-catching. The away end is at the far side of the stadium from the train station and can be approached around either side stand.
Once inside, the concourses were heaving with a sold-out away allocation, so I didn't even both trying to get food or drink.
I have to say that my impressions of inside the stadium were less positive - there is one fantastic triple decker stand to the left of the away fans but the other 3 stands are far smaller and with spaces in each corner , where seats can be added in the future if necessary. However, the atmosphere was fantastic from both sets of fans and it was a classic game - with Leeds being 2-0 up at half time, then 3-2 down before scoring an injury time equaliser.
Having heard reports of long queues to get back into Brighton afterwards, I walked to the top of the away end just prior to the final whistle and then walked quickly round to the train station. There are 2 separate queues - one for Brighton and one for Lewes - and even though I was there quickly, it still took me 20 minutes to get onto a train and I heard later tales of Leeds fans not getting back into Brighton until 11.15pm. I was surprised by this - if you encourage fans to use public transport then you must have sufficient plans in place to cater for the subsequent demand.
That apart though, it was a great night out and all my bad memories of Withdean have now disappeared!
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