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New York Stadium
Rotherham United v Preston North End
League One

Saturday, August 10th, 2013, 3pm
 
Paul Willott
(Preston North End fan)

South Yorkshire has seen some drastic changes to its scenery and landscape since the 1980s; nowhere more dramatic than the Rotherham area. The huge railway marshalling yards at Wath-on-Dearne to the north, and Tinsley just the other side of the M1 at Junction 34 have both been swept away; much of the heavy industry has dwindled away typified by the Manvers coking plant to the south. But in the middle of all this, Rotherham United continue to ply their trade predominantly in the third tier of English league football.

In fact contrary to the trend of clubs moving out of town, Rotherham have contrived to move closer to their town centre with a new ground which looked appealing from the pictures I had seen prior to my journey there. Hence I left my home in Kent with my daughter that morning not only with a sense of anticipation about seeing the new ground, but also the buzz of what was to be our first match of the season after the wilderness of the months without football. These very early fixtures always have been an excitement; who cannot fail to be full of hope and expectation when its the start of the season?
 
Shortly after burrowing under the Thames estuary via the Dartford crossing, we left the M25 at the Junction with the A12 to meet up with some colleagues from work who jumped in our car and it became incumbent upon me to rejoin that beloved institution of numerous traffic and travel radio bulletins, the M25, and follow it till we swept north onto the M1. To be frank, ploughing up that motorway seemed hard work with countless motorists seemingly intent on sitting in the middle and outside lanes at 60mph going no faster than cars to their nearside despite an open road ahead of them. Hence I was quite glad to leave the motorway at Junction 33 and follow the signs for Rotherham. 
 
Its almost impossible not to find the ground following the A630; the new "New York" stadium sitting to your right as the floodlights of the old Millmoor ground stand forlornly on the opposite side of the road. Almost out of instinct I immediately turned left at the next roundabout and at the entrance to Millmoor I spied that secure parking was being advertised for 3 which seemed ideal and reasonable and again on instinct without further thought I swung in, paid the 3 and parked up.
 
I was very content as we had arrived in perfect time to gain early access to the New York Stadium, which when one is mindful of a youngster on board is crucial in the event of sourcing alternative seating to be able to view the match should such a need arise. Hence we could get out and stretch legs and munch on packed lunch bits and pieces for a while before locking up the car and wandering down the to the new stadium.
 
First impressions didn't disappoint; whilst negotiating the pedestrian subway under the A630 we "disturbed" a couple of East European chaps conducting a hasty drugs deal so be wary!
 
Once safely clear of the subway we headed towards the quite striking "New York" stadium which I found quite appealing to the eye and quite distinctive which indicates that quite a lot of thought went into the design of the ground. The stewards outside the ground were extremely friendly and helpful in directing us to the away turnstiles.

The turnstiles themselves are state-of-the-art bar-code scanning types, and once inside we accessed the seating area and found it to be quite steep which I find ideal as even if relatively tall people come and sit in front of us, my daughter can still see the match. Even more ideal though were the seats at the very top of the aisles which for once were not marked with "reserved for stewards/stewards only" so without further ado I plonked my daughter on one of those seats and the rest of our group sat on either side of her.

With the ground still relatively empty, it afforded a good view of the interior of this smart little stadium; the two floodlight pylons that "lean" into and over the ground from the smaller of the pitch side stands were reminiscent of the then futuristic floodlight arrangement at Swansea City's old Vetch Field ground when they rebuilt the East Stand if any-one recalls?
 
The atmosphere soon built up as more travelling support arrived, and soon there was a real boisterous party mood in the away end as the Preston supporters revelled in the fact that earlier in the week we had disposed of our most bitter and despised rivals Blackpool in the league cup.   Whether the stewarding and policing is normally so relaxed I obviously couldn't comment as I suspect the authorities under-estimated the numbers that they may have needed; in the event they made little effort to stop the smoke grenades being continually detonated as song after song of an anti-Blackpool nature was belted out. Equally it must be said that on the odd occasion that stewards did pay us a visit, the supporters who had foolishly smuggled tins of alcohol into the ground surrendered them without fuss once they were spotted.
 
The home supporters didn't really seem to find a voice until well into the second half, by which time one sensed that a 0-0 scoreline was almost inevitable but that shouldn't detract from what was a cracking match with plenty of good passing football and build-up play on a good quality pitch. From a Preston perspective, the only thing lacking was better quality delivery into the box, but how encouraging it was after some 4 seasons of downward spiral to see an assured, composed, well organised defence and midfield.
 
Overall a draw was a fair result though, and as good a 0-0 match as I've seen for many a year, and it made a change to see a Preston performance to be really encouraged with. Hence when the final whistle sounded I was truly content and satisfied with the entertainment.
 
As we ourselves had no urge to rush south, we let the vast majority of supporter leave before heading for the exits, and it gave another chance to survey this tidy and impressive little ground. A capacity of 12,000 is probably just right; the attendance that afternoon was a little under 9,000, and it felt like a fairly full ground which is a much warmer feeling than a similar crowd in say a 25,000 capacity ground where one feels like one is waving a broomstick round in a dustbin, or belching loudly in an empty cathedral.
 
On the subject of Cathedrals, the matchday programme (3) is worthy of mention; one of the more interesting I've enjoyed for a long time, full of interesting facts about both Rotherham and Preston that I didn't know; i.e. that the spire on St Walburge's church in Preston is the tallest in England on a church not designated a cathedral.......
 
Once we sauntered back to Millmoor, we took the chance to explore the old ground from the outside instead of joining a queue of traffic. Surrounded on 3 sides by the scrapyard of its owner  CF Booths of Rotherham, it did seem kind of sad ; from one point behind the partially completed new stand, the pitch could be seen and it seemed well tended and cared for. Hence we struck up a conversation with the men on the gate who were employees of the same scrap metal merchant, and enquired who or what was using the ground now; they told us that nobody uses it anymore at all; the old groundsman still turns up twice a week out of love for the old place and does what he can to look after the pitch.

Millmoor - Still being cared for...

Millmoor Football Ground
                  Rotherham


Poor old Millmoor; the pitch looks like its desperate to be used again, the floodlights look down yearning to illuminate the hard men of Rotherham once more, and the old stands and terraces would love to host the good burghers of the town as they watch their team play; but sadly that will never happen. Maybe another sports club may be glad to make use of the ground. It did stir some emotions to peer in and see the old railway end where in years gone by I both stood and sat to cheer on Preston NE.  
 
After the nostalgia of wallowing in Millmoor, we settled down to the journey home, abandoning the M1 in favour of the A57 then the A1 and had a very pleasant run home, very encouraged after 90 minutes of good football.  Full marks to Rotherham for building themselves a cracking new little stadium. 


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