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Broadfield Stadium
Crawley Town v
Stoke City
FA Cup 5th Round
Sunday, February 19th, 2012, 12 Noon
Philip Green
(Stoke City fan)

I had the pleasure of going to the Broadfield Stadium on 19th February 2012, to see Stoke City versus Crawley Town in the FA Cup 5th Round. My motivations for going were a) I have family connections with Crawley, so wanted to go back and b) I hadn't seen Stoke from a terrace in 11 years, so had this romantic notion of it being a fun way of spending an afternoon.
I had an easy drive around the M25 from my home in Hertfordshire, arriving in Crawley for the midday(!) kickoff at 10.30am. After popping into Pease Pottage Services, I proceeded to the ground. I was glad I had remembered the clear instructions on the Football Ground Guide as I ignored the turning for Broadfield and went along the A23 instead - the signpost for the stadium was only visible after I had left the roundabout! About half a mile off the motorway, I found a sign for free matchday parking. This was in the Broadfield Business Park, and seeing as it was adjacent to the ground, it was an offer too good to miss. There was ample, off-road parking for those arriving early, and this was easy to get out from at the end of the day. Most other cars seemed to be parked on the wide verges, although this resulted in plenty of mud everywhere!
As I knew there was a pretty big Stoke following for the match, I decided to enter the stadium an hour before kick-off as I wanted to secure a place at the front of the terrace. Entering the ground at this stage was easy - there were no queues and security was pretty light touch. The queues at the small foodstall were also minimal. The staff behind the counter were really friendly, and dealt pleasantly with someone who kept sending his pies back because they weren't warm enough!. Pricing of drinks and pies was definitely not Premier League; I thought it looked pretty reasonable.
I was stood on the side of the pitch in what I thought was an excellent position. Shortly before the game, however, a senior steward moved us all off the walkway (clearly visible in the photos of the ground) "as we had to keep a thoroughfare." I can understand this, but it would have been nice to have been told it when I first settled there. During the game, some other Stoke fans were threatened with ejection if they didn't get back behind the barrier.
As the ground began to fill up, there was some pretty good banter between the two sets of fans, although (inevitably) the distance between the two bodies of supporters and relative lack of numbers was too great to make this quite as exciting as I would have hoped. I am sure that the proposed full-size East Stand will improve the atmosphere for big games.
The match itself had banana-skin written all over it from a Potters' perspective, and the home team put our goal under constant siege - curiously, Stoke elected to choose to defend the away end in the second half. Once Delap had been controversially sent off in the 16th minute, Stoke were galvanised and went on to win pretty comfortably. I don't think the ref, Mike Oliver, will be on either manager's Christmas card list, as he missed some absolute howlers from either team as the game went on (including a last-minute goal-line clearance with an elbow from a Stoke defender!). The Crawley fans were very appreciative of their team's efforts at the end of the game and there were still plenty of fans left in the ground when the last players had left the pitch. The home fans mingled well with the Potters as we all left the game and this was something we don't tend to get in the Premiership!
Getting away from the ground was a doddle - a five-minute walk back to the car and then back on the open road in another five minutes. I had a very easy drive back to Potters Bar, this time continuing around the M25 anti-clockwise, so I have done the whole motorway in one day!
Overall, it was a great day out. It was good to get so close to the action, and if the stadium can cope with a capacity crowd so easily, it should be very straightforward on days with fewer spectators. I imagine it will be a better atmosphere altogether when the East Stand is completed.

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