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Matchroom Stadium
Leyton Orient v Carlisle United
Saturday, March 16th 2013, 3pm
ague One
By 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 been meaning to ‘tick off’ Brisbane Road for a number of years and for some reason it had been evading me, so with a free Saturday in sight I decided to grasp the nettle (so to speak) and book some cheap rail tickets for a trip to the Orient. I have a tenuous link to Carlisle given that my dad was an occasional visitor to Brunton Park (and even went to the odd away game) when he left Scotland for the border city many moons ago, so I thought it might be a good idea to surreptitiously support the Cumbrians (even though I had a ticket for the home end!). Orient’s recent form had been good, and with both teams having an okay-ish League One season I thought I should be in for a good afternoon’s entertainment.

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

I know an Orient season ticket holder who lives in my home city of Lincoln so decided to travel down with him. Mercifully, East Coast now offer a few trains that go direct to King’s Cross so I was pleased I would be in the capital within two hours rather than having to change at Newark North Gate. Upon arrival in London we made a bee line for the Underground, changing at Liverpool Street and arriving at Leyton Station within around 30 minutes of leaving King’s Cross. As I am an occasional visitor to London I have recently invested in an Oyster card and I would recommend them as a real money saver, plus they help you to avoid the queues at ticket machines (see for details).

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

After reading up on Brisbane Road on this website, we headed for the Birbeck Tavern, which is a little off the beaten track but no more than ten minutes’ walk from Leyton Station. The pub hasn’t seen a lick of paint in ages but has an attractive little garden and had a nice mix of home and away fans pre-match. It seems to be the main pre-match haunt for visiting supporters and I had an interesting chat with some of the members of the London Carlisle United Supporters’ Club who had all congregated therein. The pub had two real ales on tap (they did have a third but ran out before I got there) and I would recommend Rita’s Special, which is a proper old-fashioned pint – just like things used to be!

I didn’t eat before the game but there are a few outlets along Leyton High Road en route to the ground. Before the game I managed to purchase a copy of the Leyton Orientear, one of the few lower-league fanzines still being printed with so many now only existing online. The tube station is only ten minutes’ walk (maximum) from Brisbane Road and we made our way to the ground at around 2.20pm, cutting through the pretty Coronation Gardens and having a look around and a peek in the club shop before heading through the turnstiles.

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

I was in the South Stand, behind the goal, and the most noticeable thing is that the seats are raised well above pitch level, which offers an excellent view of the action and is a refreshing change from some of the poor views I’ve had in more recent games. The away fans, who numbered just over 400, were to our left and shared the East Stand with home supporters, by far the oldest structure at the ground. This stand, as many will know, has the club’s name emblazoned on a lovely old gable that apparently used to stretch across much of the stand a few years back before it was shortened for safety reasons.

The North Stand, behind the other goal, is newer than the South Stand and is not raised as high above the pitch. To my left was the West Stand, which isn’t as big as it looks from the outside. The seating area is fairly steep but there can’t be more than 15 rows and much of this very tall structure is taken up with executive areas. I did notice the flats that have been built into the corners of the ground and there were some families getting a free view of the action – I guess that is one of the perks of living next to Brisbane Road! Overall, a decent League 1 ground that has a good mix of tradition and modernity.

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

Orient eventually won 4-1, although Carlisle looked the more enterprising side early on. The game turned when the visiting keeper was booked for handling outside of his area. Orient’s resulting free kick couldn’t breach the defensive wall, but they took the lead soon after and scored again on the stroke of half time. Carlisle’s keeper was again in trouble in the second half, seeing red for giving away a penalty, which was converted. Carlisle pulled one back but Orient added a fourth later on through Dean Cox, about whom the home fans sang one of the funniest chants I’ve heard this season but won’t repeat! I grabbed a balti pie before the game, which was fairly standard, and the stewards in the home and away sections seemed fairly anonymous which is always a good sign. Possibly my favourite part of Brisbane Road is the bar they have under the South Stand. Everyone seemed to head there at half time and it seemed far nicer and more comfortable than many I have been to and is far removed from having to sip a pint on a freezing breezeblock concourse as is the case at many grounds nowadays.

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

We headed out bang-on full time and nipped to a supermarket en route to the underground to grab a couple of cheeky cans for the way home. Whilst the station was busy, it seemed to cope very well with the sudden influx of fans and we got away on the first westbound train. From there, we again changed at Liverpool Street before getting to King’s Cross in good time of the train home.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

I really couldn’t grumble at my day out – a good ground, a decent game (after watching so many dull ones recently) and a few beers to wash it all down with. Orient might not be the most exciting day out in the capital – personally I preferred my visits to the likes of QPR and Brentford – but it is probably quite underrated so anyone thinking of making the trip should not hesitate, especially if you’re going to go to the Birbeck before and possibly even after the match. Brisbane Road has been tastefully redeveloped over the years and I would prefer to visit somewhere like this over an identikit stadium like Shrewsbury or Scunthorpe any day.

One final point is that I would recommend getting to Brisbane Road sooner rather than later in case they do end up sharing the Olympic Stadium with West Ham, which could soon be subject to a judicial review. I got the feeling that many Orient fans would rather stay at their current home rather than move in with the Hammers.

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