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Victoria Park
Hartlepool United
v Preston North End
League One
Tuesday, November 29th 2011, 7.45pm

  Paul Willott
(Preston North End fan)

It's a long drive from Kent to Hartlepool; so its a good job I quite enjoy long distance driving. Otherwise this would have been a nightmare!  If, at the end of a long drive, there is the anticipation of 90 minutes of League football, then all the better.

In fairness, the long drive up the A1, switching onto the A19 went fairly smoothly, losing only some 40/50 minutes due to a heavy goods vehicle having flipped onto its side.  Once approaching Hartlepool from the South, along the A689, you will easily be able to see the ground to your left once you are in the vicinity of the town centre.      

I had taken the decision to make this an overnight stay, as I didn't relish an all night stint behind the wheel back to Kent, so having deposited my bits and pieces and freshened up, I made my way on foot to Victoria Park.       

For those of us who are averse to these more modern football stadia that resemble industrial units, then this really is an oyster! On a bitterly cold night, with a stiff breeze whipping in off the North Sea, how my heart raced with warm anticipation at the sight of those floodlight pylons illuminating the ground; beacons guiding you towards the entertainment to be offered; and I felt my step quicken the closer I got. I wonder why many others sense greater excitement when walking towards those bright floodlights of older fashioned grounds, as opposed to the modern all enclosed style stadia?

Once inside, that sense of excitement rose at the sight of the green pitch, and smell of warm food. Negative points though sadly have to be awarded for the complete lack of meat and potato pies, but all re-awarded with a bonus for the most immense hot-dogs which were truly awesome. 

Some folks will point to the pillars in front of the away stand as a reason to complain, but for me, an evening in a lovely old ground such as Hartlepool, I cherish everything, including the pillars that 'block' your view. That Preston North End managed to win (first win in nine attempts) was just an added bonus to a fantastic evening in a lovely ground that is a symbol of an age slipping by.   

So for me, a Preston North Ender living in exile down in deepest Kent, it was worth every minute of the many hours spent on the A1 for such an experience, and will live with me for years to come.

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