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Broadfield Stadium
Crawley Town v Oldham Athletic
Saturday, September 28th 2013, 3pm
League One
  James Prentice
(Doing the 92)

1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):

I had wanted to visit the Broadfield Stadium ever since Crawley made it into the league but had put it off until now, being one of the slightly trickier journeys to make. With my 92 count having little more than ten grounds left, however, I decided to go for it nice and early on in the season. I managed to book a cheap rail fare and sadly had to make the journey alone as my mate had other commitments to attend to. With Crawley being one of a new breed of well-run former non-league clubs that have replaced outfits that have struggled for years (such as my hometown club, Lincoln City), I was interested to see at first hand whether their ground and support reflected their meteoric rise up to the heady heights of the League 1 play-off zone.

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

I caught the 9.30 train from Lincoln direct to Kings Cross and arrived in the capital around two hours later. From there, it was a tube ride to Victoria before getting an overland train out to Crawley. I saw a few away fans on my final train and they seemed to be in good spirits despite an indifferent start to the campaign. When arriving in Crawley, I was taken aback by the amount of concrete and ‘new buildings’ that just do not seem to blend in at all. Although I understand it is a 1960s new town, it seems completely bereft of any real character and is definitely not a venue for sightseers. However, the walk of around one mile to the ground was a pleasant one, although a tree-lined main road before an underpass directed fans to the Broadfield.

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

I went straight to the ground and collected my pre-ordered ticket. I had intended to go back to the Half Moon pub on Brighton Road, which I passed on my way, but with time ticking on I decided to get a programme, go for a quick look in the club shop before having a swift pint in the Redz Bar at the back of the Bruce Winfield stand. The home and away fans seemed friendly and mixed amicably. Oldham fans had taken along their flag made in memory of the late Ernie Cooksey, which was very fitting given that he played for both the Latics and Crawley during his career. During the match there was a touching minute’s applause from all four corners of the ground.

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

I had a ticket in the aforementioned Bruce Winfield stand, which is a small covered terrace located behind the goal and, from the pictures I had seen, was expecting a drab concrete jungle. After entering the ground, however, I was pleasantly surprised and was interested to see that the facilities are of good quality. The home stand spans one end of the pitch before curving around to the size of the pitch, just before meeting the Main Stand. While the Crawley supporters were on the quiet side, this helped keep some of their chants reverberating around the ground. While the stadium does not ooze character, it was certainly built to a high standard and, despite being on the small size, offers good views of the action.

The other end, where the away fans were located, was an almost identical to the stand I was in. The main West Stand looked like it would offer a great view, offering an unobstructed view and being raised well above pitch level. Opposite was the temporary East Stand, which looks slightly like a market stall and does have a large number of thin pillars that may make is difficult when the game is in progress.

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

I grabbed a burger, chips and drink meal deal, which at £5.50 was not too badly priced. The burger was really tasty, although sadly this meant that I did not get to assess the pies! The stewards were pretty friendly and seemed to trust the home fans to behave themselves. As already mentioned, the home fans were pretty quiet throughout the game. They threatened to raise the noise levels when Crawley took the lead early on, although as this turned out to be the winner and much of the rest of the game saw Oldham miss a host of great chances, the atmosphere was pretty subdued and nervy. Sadly the game was not a classic – I don’t seem to see many on my travels! – but the home side held on to collect maximum points, although I could not help but feel sorry for Oldham, who deserved something for their efforts.

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

I headed straight back towards the station, having to catch a train at around 5.30pm. The crowd seemed to disperse pretty quickly and by the time I was on Brighton Road there was little evidence that I had just been to a match with just over 3,000 others! When I got there, however, I found out that all trains to Victoria had been cancelled, meaning I had to get one in the direction of London Bridge, which did not leave until 5.45pm. This would mean a nerve-shredding dash across the capital if I was to make my connecting train home. Thankfully, I took the advice of a helpful station conductor and changed to a faster train after reaching Three Bridges. Even so, I only just got into London Bridge on time and had a make a run for it to get the tube. Thankfully, I made it in time and managed to make the long journey home in one piece.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

Whilst not a brilliant day out in my book, the Broadfield is a tidy and comfortable ground that has more about it than a lot of other ‘new generation’ grounds. It does feel very much like a former non-league venue, but if Crawley can maintain their place in League 1 and increase their fan base then they may be able to increase the capacity of the stadium. I had a relatively enjoyable day out, although I doubt that I will make the trip again unless it’s for a good reason!

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