1. Why you were looking
forward to going to the ground (or not as the case
I visited this ground many years ago and I had
heard reports that the ground had been improved
since then. Rochdale were in 2nd place in the
League and Southend 6th with 4 games to go so we
expected a good match. Southend had managed to
stay in a play-off place despite a 12 match
winless run. Rochdale is only 60 miles from where
I live in North Wales as a Southend exiled fan so
a comfortable journey for me compared to the other
Southend fans long trip up from Essex.
2. How easy was your journey/finding the
My son and I travelled to the game with my brother
and his daughter as they had travelled up to us on
the train the day before for an Easter visit. The
trip was short work along the M56, M6, M62 and
M627 and just over 1½ hours. The ground was easy
to find and we arrived early and we even managed
to park in Willbutts Lane, opposite the away fans
3. What you did before the game pub/chippy....
home fans friendly?
We were early so visited the Ratcliffe Arms on the
main road, Sandy Lane which is within the car park
entrance. We had conversed with local fans in
Willbutts Lane and again in the Ratcliffe Arms
whilst watching a premier rugby league match on a
large tv screen and they were all particularly
friendly, including the bar staff. It was a sunny
dry day so we then sat in a little park opposite
the ground and met up with another brother who had
travelled up on a supporters coach.
4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first
impressions of away end then other sides of the
The ground came into sight on our left having
followed an easy sat nav route and it is a neat
compact ground. The ground appeared clean and
smart. The Sandy Lane end terrace is small and
unusually, both ends behind the goals are occupied
by home fans. Away fans sit in the Willbutts Lane
stand with good seating and plenty of leg room.
The Main Stand opposite appeared modern, with
hospitality boxes incorporated within. We away
supporters sat in a large stand but it was
sectioned off for us to occupy half the stand from
corner post Sandy Lane end to the halfway line.
The views of the pitch are superb. The
commentators area is high up to the rear of the
Willbutts Lane stand and Ian Dowie was seen making
his way up the stand on duty for Sky television.
The pitch was dry and ground staff watered it just
before the game and at half time, and it played
well allowing both teams to play good football.
The pitch looked good, given that rugby is also
played at Spotland.
5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere,
stewards, pies, facilities etc..
The game was played in warm sunshine. The
atmosphere was a bit subdued as Rochdale started
tentatively and a defensive slip led to Southend
grabbing the lead. Rochdale were playing a fast
passing game and hit the bar, but their threat was
reduced when their leading goal scorer Hogan was
injured and had to limp off. Southend scored a 2nd
just before half time and then straight from the
kick in the 2nd half to go 3 up. Southend fans
were in good voice throughout given a much needed
away win. There is a food service area within the
stand, offering the usual pies and drinks at
reasonable cost. I can recommend the hot and tasty
meat and potato pies at £3, and the beef pies were
also popular. The stewards were relaxed and
particularly friendly, and you could sit anywhere.
The only gripe I have is that the sound system is
poor and no one around me could understand any
announcements including the team list being read
out. The match program of 70 pages was £3 and a
6. Comment on getting away from the ground after
There was no delay in getting away from the ground
and we relied on satnav to take us on the short
motorways journey back to North Wales.
7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:
This was a good day out with a result that left
Rochdale in the automatic promotion 3rd place and
Southend still 6th with 3 games to go. Rochdale is
a traditional football ground and good to visit
with the most friendly fans and stewards I have
ever met at an away ground anywhere.
Attendance 3,884 (421 away)