MK Dons v Colchester United
Saturday, August 22nd 2009, 3pm
By David Prior
1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):
I wouldn't say I was looking forward to the visit, I just had to experience the stadium for myself after hearing how brilliant it was from people who'd been. Also, Colchester United had made a 100% start to the season and was hoping for a continuation of our fine start.
2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?
We arrived by train from London Euston into Bletchley station which was apparently the nearest station to the stadium - on exiting the station it was like we were in the countryside - no station staff, no taxis no nothing! We took a chance and turned right out of the station and were soon corrected by a car load of Dons fans who saw us in our Colchester shirts and pointed us in the right (opposite) direction. Considering this is the nearest station, I was amazed that there was not a single sign post for the football stadium ANYWHERE along the long route to Stadium:MK. After walking for at least 45 minutes on a swelteringly hot August afternoon, the ground finally came into view as we walked through an industrial estate. After crossing a supermarket car park we eventually got to the stadium! With no public transport or even signposting, the journey was a right pain.
3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?
The plan was to find a pub near the ground and have a couple of cold ones but due to the unexpected length of the journey to the ground, that idea was shelved. The Dons fans we spoke to along the way were very friendly and told us a shortcut to the ground. There is a massive lack of pubs near the ground so the best bet is to arrive at Milton Keynes central VERY early and head into the town centre where there are plenty of local hostelries and use public transport to the stadium as you will be sorely disappointed if you do what we did.
4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?
The exterior of the ground is strange, it just doesn't look like a football ground as only half of it is finished. It is an imposing structure and it is evident a lot of money has been spent but due to it's location and half finished facade - it was kind of an anti-climax. If you are travelling without a match ticket, there is an away fans ticket office just past the visitors entrance.
All my disappointments of the exterior were soon forgotten when I entered through the jazzy turnstiles and onto a massive concourse overlooking the away end and the pitch which was very well laid out and has 2 fast food outlets serving the usual football fayre of Burgers, pies etc and a well hidden bar serving bottled lager, bitter, cider and alcopops. When I took my seat I was struck by the size of the stadium, which when finished will indeed be an impressive venue, so impressive the stadium announcer spoke of their hopes to be a venue for the 2018 should England be awarded it. The opposite end form us has been nicknamed "the Cowshed" in reference to the infamous Concrete cows the town is known for, this end is where the "vocal" home supporters are located with the main stand to our right and the family stand to our left. As kick off approached, there were swathes of empty seats all around the stadium. We brought just over 700 fans with us out of a crowd of 8,400, which in a stadium with a capacity of 22,000 was very eerie.
5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, toilets etc..
The game was a real stop start affair in the first half with the referee and linesman making some extremely curious decisions both ways, MK bossed the 1st half and was no surprise when they took the lead 10 minutes before half time in unusual and controversial circumstances. A clear handball (akin to a hand pass in Aussie rules) put their right winger free and his cross made it to the far post and was smashed home, however the referee disallowed that goal and gave them a penalty instead for a push which was converted.
Throughout the 1st half the stewards who were a friendly bunch, made a few attempts to get us to sit which we did but the temptation to stand soon returned which they realised and laid off us. The atmosphere in the 1st half was awful with our small band of supporters making a fair bit of noise as our songs echoed around the massive building site above us. It seemed as though MK fans are still struggling with their identity and aren't sure how to create and maintain an atmosphere.
Half time came and I sampled one of the worst Burgers ever consumed, washed down with a cold beer so it wasn't a complete disaster! Toilets were big, clean and spacious and a far cry from some other grounds I've visited in the past.
The 2nd half kicked off with us in the ascendancy however we were hit on the counter and they scored a second on the hour. We got on the score sheet on 75 minutes but despite countless chances and keeping them locked in their 18 yard box, we couldn't break down their defence and the final whistle handed them a just about deserved 3 points.
6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:
With no obvious signs of public transport anywhere, the thought of the mammoth walk was looming large so the decision was taken to get a taxi to the station. If you are planning on going by train, my advice would be to walk over the road to Asda and use their taxi phone inside the store. We booked our taxi and were dropped off at the station less than 1/2 hour after the final whistle. All the crowds seem to head off in different directions so it's hard to know of any traffic problems but the area was clear within 20 minutes.
7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:
Disappointing, hardly anything to do before the match in the way of refreshment. I'm sure if there is a full house the atmosphere in the stadium is excellent, but if it is only just over 1/3 full, it will be poor like our experience. However, the facilities within the stadium are amazing. The seats are padded and the leg room is unbelievable - I stand 6ft 2 and I was able to stretch my legs. The result put a dampener on the day but following Colchester United, you learn very quickly to take the rough with the smooth.
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