Spotland - Rochdale
Monday, January 2nd, 2012,
V Preston North End, League One, 1pm
By Paul Willott
In some ways, after a decade of Preston mixing things with the 'big boys' in the Championship, a visit to Spotland is a reality hammer blow that you really have come back down in the world. That said, it is also a derby match to a certain degree, hence a reasonable degree of anticipation.
Driving to the ground I found very straightforward following the directions on this website, and having got to Spotland in plenty of time, I found suitable parking almost right outside the ground on Willbutts Lane itself.
The clearly excellent chippy had too great a queue already , so due to the cold temperatures and young family in tow, I decided to get inside the ground and grab a hot drink. Although the seating is not unreserved, the stewards seemed to leave us well alone even though we were clearly not in our allocated seats; common sense perhaps prevailing that we had chosen our spot early to try guarantee our little one a half-decent view of the action.
The ground itself is a well modernised and tidy affair , and a healthy allocation for away supporters in a stand with no pillars to hinder the view, which is always a plus. Despite the 1pm kick-off, which I find often dampens an atmosphere, both sets of fans were quite vocal, and the banter flowed fairly freely between the home and away supporters.
I was glad however that we had dined before the match; anyone looking forward to a pie at half-time was to be sorely disappointed, as food stocks had run out. This seemed poor planning on someones part, as they would surely have expected a fairly high turn out. To have run out before half time seemed pretty unbelievable. As for the much vaunted pies, the one I ate before kick-off was okay, but nothing to justify the fuss they seem to get.
As a footballing spectacle, the match was average; bettered in every department by the atmosphere. Preston displaying exactly why they are so inconsistent, and the 'Dale struggling to get some points to lift themselves out of the dreaded drop zone. For the record, the match finished 1 - 1; but in truth, much as it pains me to say it, the Dale were the better side on the day and deserved all three points.
Traffic did not disperse too easily after the game, although whether that is in part due to the high number of away fans is hard to tell. It took at least half an hour before we reached the M62 and started to head over the pennines in the twilight on the first part of our journey back to Kent.
Did I enjoy the day? I must have done; otherwise I wouldn't keep coming back for more after all these years!
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