Mansfield Town v Middlesbrough
FA Cup, 4th Round
January 26th 2008, 12 noon
By Dave Minett
I visited Mansfield in the F.A Cup 4th round in Jan 2008. I live on Tee-side, but I am not a local. I am originally from Woking. I thought Mansfield were very poor in an earlier cup game that was televised, so I decided to attend the game with some Middlesbrough fans whom I work with as a, sort of a sortie, for future reference if they were to be relegated later that season.
On arrival in Mansfield, we found the ground quite easily. We had travelled down the A1 and came in along the A617. We tried to park on the car park for the retail area near the ground, but the stewards advised us that it would be wise to park elsewhere, due to fines being implemented in that area. After a ten minute confused drive around, we ended up parking on a street at the side of a lovely park. At the side of the park was a Pizza Hut, and just a little further up the road were Macdonald's and KFC restaurants. This direction led us away from the ground, but we found two pubs. One was called Il Rosso and was a very smart bar with a restaurant. It was full of people with suits on and the beer I had was expensive at £2.90 a pint. Across the road was The Famous Talbot pub, where prices were cheaper and the beer tasted much better. That's my tip for anyone thinking of drinking in either of theses venues. Both pubs were packed with home supporters and were quite, noisy but friendly. Near the two pubs were a betting shop, a chippy and a Chinese takeaway. What more do you need. This area also has numerous amounts of car parks that belong to MFI, Curry's, and P.C World etc. Absolutely fantastic for parking.
Our walk to the ground was uneventful. That was until we realised we had to walk past the main stand. Outside the main stand were groups of youths/men who were confrontational towards visiting supporters. We ourselves had no problems, but many other Boro fans ran the gauntlet of these locals. Police with horses and dogs were needed to keep a lid on things.
Inside the stadium, the views were excellent for watching the game. To my left, was a poor, run down stand that was now closed. It was the only blight on a excellent lower league stadium, as it gives a weird kind of atmosphere. The food was ok and a little expensive and was just the type of fare you would expect at a football stadium. Alcohol was available before the kick off and during half time but at £3.30 a small bottle of lager, I realised football was pricing itself beyond the pockets of regulars supporters even in the lower echelons.
To my disappointment, the stewards seemed quite aggressive and hostile and to be fair, rather ignorant of any normal manners. We asked a couple of them to point us in the direction of the nearest cash point for when the game finished and were told that they were not information centre's. They were more interested in making everyone sit down. The police were more reasonable and far more helpful and I would recommend asking them for any help you need rather than the stewards. They advised to use the one at Sainsbury's near to where we had parked. They advised us NOT to go to the town centre. Doing so would be too risky
The game itself was quite interesting, as Mansfield belied the lowly position to outplay Middlesbrough throughout most of the game. Up front they had the diminutive Michael Boulding, who hit the cross bar twice within a minute in the first half which nearly bought them an equaliser. The atmosphere was excellent from both sets of supporters, as Boro went on to win 2-0. Class had shown when it mattered in front of goal. A diving header from a Mansfield defender into his own net finished the tie off, and calmed the nerves of the Boro fans.
Afterwards the day took a turn for the worse. Outside the stadium, outbreaks of violence occurred and the police were rushing around to contain the outbreaks. Groups of locals were very intimidating as they deliberately infiltrated the visiting fans. We however, came away unscathed, but stupidly, we didn't follow the police officers instructions as we headed into the town centre to find a cashpoint. We walked past a street which had at least three pubs on. Outside the pubs, were police in full riot gear, with dogs and horses. We quickly understood why the town centre was to avoided. Things looked like they were getting out of hand. We turned about and eventually returned to our car and we went to the Sainsbury's cash point like we were originally told.
At Sainsbury's we bumped into a small group of very friendly Mansfield fans and they told us, it was like this for every big game or local derby. Normally though, they informed us, it was quiet and at that time they said if they were to be relegated, there would be little to be worried about if coming to Mansfield for a game.
Overall, everything is in place that is needed for a day out at a football match. Plenty of parking, several good pubs and plenty of eateries. Always take plenty of cash ( Bob!). Just take care and stay out of the town centre, there is no need to go near it as like I say everything is available near the ground and watch those stewards.
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