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Southend United
Friday, April 18th, 2014, 3pm
League One
John and Stephen Spooner
(Southend United fans)

1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):

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 ground/car parking?

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 1 hours. The ground was easy to find and we arrived early and we even managed to park in Willbutts Lane, opposite the away fans entrance.

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 ground?

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 reasonable read.

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

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)

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