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Memorial Ground
Bristol Rovers v  Fleetwood Town
Saturday October 5th, 2013, 3pm
League Two

James Spring
(Neutral fan)

1. Why were you looking forward to visiting the ground?

My local team Weymouth were away to Biggleswade and I couldn’t get to Nottingham to watch my beloved Notts County, but I was desperate to see a game this weekend. A quick look through the fixture list showed that Bristol Rovers were at home to Fleetwood. I did some research on this website to see how best to get there, and when I found that a train return would be £17 it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.

Plus it would be another ground ticked off, and with the constant speculation about Rovers leaving the Memorial it might be my only chance, plus the match looked quite appealing so off I went.

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

I caught a train from Weymouth that got me to Bristol Temple Meads just before 2pm. I had looked on Google maps at the route, but decided instead to just jump in one of the Taxis outside the station. The Taxi driver was actually a Bristol City fan, so we talked about the Bristol Derby which had taken place a few weeks earlier, and he reminisced about the City sides he’d watched in his youth. Friendly chap and I couldn’t complain at £10 for the ride. He dropped me off just outside the Memorial Gates.

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

Having got to the ground at roughly quarter past two I just went straight to the ticket office, which is directly in front of you as you go through the Memorial Gates which are behind the Blackthorn End. I met up with a mate of mine who recently moved to Bristol for work, and we decided to watch the game from the Blackthorn Terrace so we could sample the best of the atmosphere. £18 for an adult ticket (I managed to forget my student card!) wasn’t cheap, but it certainly wasn’t over expensive either. The match day programme cost the standard £3 and was a pretty good read.

One thing I really liked was that while the players were warming up, Rovers manager John Ward came over to the Blackthorn End and spent time saying hello to fans young and old, having photos with fans and signing autographs. I thought this was a really nice gesture, and it’d be nice to see more managers do that sort of thing.

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

The first thing I noticed was how odd the ground is, in that six stands make it up and none of them seem to match. The away fans are housed partly on an open terrace and partly in a temporary seated stand behind the goal, so I’d imagine it’s pretty difficult to get much atmosphere going in the away end.

As I said, the different stands make it quite odd but I liked the ground, I always prefer the old fashioned type grounds. The East Stand looked quite impressive, and looked very similar to the main stand at my local club Weymouth.

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

The first half was a bit of a non-event. Rovers tried to get the ball down and play but offered absolutely nothing in the final third, while Fleetwood’s tactic seemed to be to hoof it up to the big lad up front. The second half however was a lot better. Rovers came out stronger and had a golden chance to go 1-0 up when Andy Bond raced onto a through ball but could only shoot high and wide one v one with the Fleetwood keeper Scott Davies. Fleetwood then went close when Antoni Sarcevic had a long range effort tipped over the bar by Steve Mildenhall when it looked destined for the top corner.

On 64 minutes a goal finally arrived for the visitors when a run into the area was not stopped by the Rovers defence and Jamille Matt turned the ball home from no more than a yard out. The goal seemed to spark Rovers into life and just two minutes after falling behind, Andy Bond’s cross was headed home by John-Joe O’Toole, sparking jubilant scenes in the Blackthorn end, with many fans running to the front to give Scott Davies an ear full after the Fleetwood keeper had shushed the home fans after the first goal.

Rovers were now on top and the home fans were right behind their team. In the very next attack Rovers had another header cleared off the line, and from the resulting corner they saw another header come back off the post.  Fleetwood weathered the storm and with just three minutes to go, Jamille Matt scored his second of the game to put Fleetwood on the verge of another away win.
The home side tried to rally but couldn’t force another chance, and deep into added time, Jon Parkin sealed the game for the visitors with a wonderful volley from a tight angle. A frustrating day for Bristol Rovers who will wonder what might have been had they made their pressure tell after the equaliser.

I was a bit disappointed at the atmosphere which only really came to life after the Rovers equaliser, although to be fair the game had been quite flat up to that point. Mind you when the entire Blackthorn end sang “Goodnight Irene” it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, that sounded brilliant!

The food inside the ground is pretty good and quite cheap. I brought a coke and sausage roll for just £1.95 before the game, although half the pastry from the sausage roll ended up on the floor!

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

My mate knew where he was going so we got a bus back into town. Bus was fairly busy as you would expect, as were the roads, so it took a good twenty minutes to get back into town. From there I had to run back to Temple Meads as my train left at ten to six. The station is very well sign posted throughout the town centre so you’d do quite well to get lost. From the bus stop to the station is was about a twenty minute walk, and I got back with time to spare. There were a couple of Rovers fans on my train so we had a chat about the game and the season ahead. They were pretty friendly, if a little depressed.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of day out:

On the whole an excellent day out. Another ground ticked off, one decent half of football and not too expensive either. I hope Rovers pick up as the season goes on. They’re a decent sized club who shouldn’t be fighting to stay in the Football League.

Are you an away or general football fan who has visited the Memorial Ground recently?
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