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St James' Park
 
Exeter City v
Preston North End
Saturday, March 17th, 2012, 3pm
League One
Paul Willott
 
(Preston North End fan)


Once again, as a Northender exiled in Kent, I had the luxury of a pleasant drive down the A303 towards Devon.  It does make a welcome change from never ending motorways, and there are plenty of sights to see along the way.
 
Having done my home-work with an atlas the night before, I had pretty much worked out that once I had passed under the M5 I needed to keep straight ahead across several junctions before trying to home in on the ground some where to my right once near the city centre.
 
This seemed to work, and just as well as I found sign-posting to be almost non-existent, so beware!   Just at the point where I was beginning to think "oh dear", I suddenly chanced upon a fair number of pedestrians in red and white shirts walking in one direction, so breathed a sigh of relief and spied the ground to my left as I drove along the Old Tiverton Road.  I turned right at the roundabout at the end of the road, where St. James Parish church sits, and found some suitable parking and then walked back to the ground.
 
The ground itself, named after the Parish church, makes away fans welcome on a tiny terrace behind one goal, open to the elements.  At the opposite end is the modern rebuilt terrace which has a peculiar profile to one side due to the proximity of a railway line and alongside the railway line is an old Grandstand, part of which is allocated to away fans should they wish to sit. To the right of the 'away' end, or St. James Road terrace, is another new stand that looks very tidy.
 
I liked the appearance of this ground very much, nestling amongst its rather cramped and confined environment quite cosily. Although not required on this mid-March afternoon, the lighting consists of a set of old poles along side the old Grandstand with a few lights attached to each pole, and more modern lights on the new stand opposite, so I suspect that the ground never did have the traditional floodlight pylons. Indeed there would have been no room in at least one corner due to the aforementioned railway line.
 
I mentioned before in an earlier report how I liked the noise made by Swindon's home support, and Exeter's fans deserve just as much credit if not more.  For a team trying to stave off relegation, and losing for the majority of the match, they rarely let up a noisy barrage of support.
 
Its always great to see your team win away from home, yet I felt a tinge of sympathy with the home fans as they sang their hearts out, and complete with drums a plenty on the home terrace they made a great atmosphere, so I hope they stay up come the end of season shakedown.
 
I returned to my car, and for ease I drove a different route out of town relying on instinct and sense of direction which soon brought me to the A30  from where I could trundle under the M5 and onto the A303 and home reflecting on a pleasant afternoon's football.  
 
I think most fans will enjoy Exeter City; but do your map homework beforehand unless you rely on satnav, and have clothing to hand that you may need for an open terrace!
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