McDiarmid Park - St Johnstone
Saturday January 14th, 2012
V Rangers, Premier League, 12.30pm
By Jim Prentice
1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):
McDiarmid Park was one of the first of the wave of British purpose-built stadia and I was looking forward to seeing it for myself. I had wanted to go to McDiarmid for a number of years and bit the bullet when my Rangers supporters' club decided to run a bus to a match at the Perth stadium.
2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?
I made a very early start to drive to meet the coach but once aboard the journey went fairly quickly after having a snooze and chatting to a few mates (plus having a browse through Groundtastic magazine!). The ground is on the outskirts of Perth so was easy to find, although it is not so far out of town that somebody who arrives in the city by train wouldn't be able to walk it. Our coach parked up in a designated bus park in the footprint of the stadium, just the other side of an astroturf pitch. There is space for around 100 buses and about 500 cars.
3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?
We headed up to the 208 Bar on Crieff Road, which offered decent beer (Tennent's, Belhaven etc) and some respite from the freezing conditions. The 208 is a bit of a sports bar with a few framed shirts on the walls. Being on the outskirts of town, there wasn't a whole lot else to choose from, with no other pubs or chippies in sight, although if I'd been feeling a little more adventurous I might have gone to try to find something else. I didn't see a lot of home fans before the game, but those I did see seemed friendly enough.
4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?
The ground, without being particularly big, is pretty functional and feels nicely balanced with all four stands of similar height and design. I was in part of the Main (West) Stand; the view was okay and unobstructed but the leg room was the best I have ever had - even six foot-plus people will be comfortably accomodated! Rangers also had fans behind both goals. I have always been fascinated by the colour scheme of the seats at McDiarmid Park - sections of in orange, blue and red! I can only think they based this on 1980s Ibrox, which had a similar design, although as with Rangers' home ground I think the ground would look better if they changed the seats to all blue.
5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, toilets etc.
The atmosphere wasn't the most memorable, with the St Johnstone fans remaining pretty quiet apart from when they scored, although the Rangers fans tried to lift the team with a few choruses at various points in the match. I thought it was slightly bizarre that fans in the Main (West) Stand have to go to the side of the stand and down a flight of stairs before reaching the kiosks and toilets, which are situated in the bowels (sorry, rubbish pun!) of the stand. However, the pies are well worth traversing the stairs for - the Scotch pies in particular had more filling than any I can remember! The stewards were quite relaxed, which isn't always the case during away trips.
The first half was a bit of a slow burner, with Rangers taking a while to get into gear and the hosts rarely threatening. Rangers opened the scoring midway through the half when Steven Davis took a quick free kick, starting Sone Aluko on a mazy run; he in turn set up Nikica Jelavic to slide in the opener.
Rangers should have doubled their lead early on in the second period when Dorin Goian had a bullet header nicked off the line (not bad for a guy who broke his nose in the first half but elected to soldier on!). Rangers spurned a few other chances and were made to pay for their profligacy when Marcus Haber's header went in off Carlos Bocanegre; television replays later showed the goal shouldn't have stood as Haber was impeding a defender, although this was merely in keeping with a pretty poor refereeing decision. However, with seven minutes left, Aluko's free kick was headed on to his own bar by Murray Davidson and Jelavic was on hand to tap in the winner, allowing Rangers to take all three points back down the road to Ibrox.
6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:
We made our way out of the ground pretty sharpish, as we all had a 300-mile-plus journey home! Our bus was brilliantly positioned and was one of the first out of the car park which meant we were able to depart without a hitch.
7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:
I enjoyed my trip to McDiarmid. Despite being more than 20 years old, it is still in pretty good condition and the stands offer a decent view of the playing action. It would be nice if one or two more bars and chippies happen to spring up in the vicinity of the ground, because if they do it will certainly be one of the better days out in the SPL and a place I would be more than happy to return to one of these days.
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