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Brunton Park
Carlisle United
Preston North End
League One
Tuesday, March 20th 2012, 7.45pm
Paul Willott
(Preston North End fan)

For most fans of Preston North End, a trip to Carlisle isn't ridiculously far, but for my noble self living in Kent, my sanity was called into question for attempting this fixture!
However as a self-confessed driving enthusiast, the drive up north on a Tuesday for a midweek derby under the floodlights was all part of the anticipation and fun. I departed just after the morning peak to allow plenty of time for a relaxed drive with no pressures, and once the M6 winds north of Preston towards Lancaster and beyond the scenery is most delectable, especially through the Lune Gorge and Tebay.
Once I descended towards Carlisle, I found that junction 43 off the M6 leading onto the A69 was pretty gridlocked, so using local knowledge and expertise gained from previous visits, I quickly wheeled round the roundabout and popped back to Junction 42, gaining access to Carlisle via the A6. At a major set of traffic lights I turned right (signposted Hexham A69) , followed it to the end and then turned left onto the A69 and almost immediately found a place to park car on a raised piece of isolated pavement to the left within sight of the ground. This route was trouble free, and parking as I did saved the 2-50 wanted at the ground, although such a price does compare favourably with other stadiums.
Rumour has it that Carlisle are to entertain a new ground out of town; if so, this is a shame, as Brunton Park is a wonderful mix of stands, with a new stand along one side of the pitch, part of which is given to away support, the 'home' terrace at the Warwick Road End with its quirky 3 pitch gable roof, the middle one being larger than the others,  the Grandstand opposite the new stand with its terraced paddock in front of it, and winged additions either side, and finally the uncovered Petterill Terrace that seems largely unused these days.
Even the floodlights are worthy of particular comment; most traditional floodlight pylons have a square or rectangular shaped frame mounted at the top to which the lights themselves are fitted.  Not so at Brunton Park, the floodlights are just fixed to the top, of the tapered pylons themselves, giving and extra dimension of quirkiness to the ground at this northern outpost of English League football.
There is nothing quite like a derby match at night under floodlights; watching your town's mercenaries take on another town's mercenaries in gladiatorial combat with the crowd baying in anticipation. This fixture did not disappoint, with the away support in full voice making full use of the acoustics in the new stand, and plenty of full-blooded tackles on the pitch. It being a derby game too, there was a fairly noticeable police presence , but fortunately the atmosphere which was crackling, never boiled over so the police had little to do.
As a spectacle, the match was poor on quality, but pride counts for far more in derby games, so we North Enders took pride in a 0-0 draw garnered through some pretty desperate if brave defending.
After the match. I retraced the route i took, which seemed a wise call as most traffic was staying in a queue on the A69, so I exited Carlisle fairly traffic free towards Junction 42 of the legendary M6 and back south.
I loved every second of it.

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