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Hillsborough
Sheffield Wednesday v Blackpool
FA Cup 3rd Round
Tuesday February 7th 2012, 7.45pm
Dom Bickerton
(Neutral fan)

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

I was really excited for this game mainly because I'm a big fan of the FA Cup and Hillsborough has to be one of my favourite grounds. I'm actually a Stoke City fan, but I have been at University in Sheffield for the last four years and in that time I've developed a soft spot for Sheffield Wednesday, so on the odd occasion I'll go and watch the Owls and take in the great atmosphere. Me and a mate (who's also a Stokie and at Uni in Sheffield) decided to take advantage of the 10 ticket price for this game and made a really good night out of it.

2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking? 

Having lived in Sheffield for some time, getting to the ground was no problem for me. I got the tram (3 return) from the city centre up to Leppings Lane and made the short walk to the Kop. For anyone that has never been to Hillsborough or the city of Sheffield, the tram system is very easy to understand and shouldn't cause you any problems. (Oh, and you pay for your ticket on the tram, so don't worry about being stopped without a ticket)

3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly? 

Due to my poor timekeeping, I got to the ground about 15 minutes before kick off but still had plenty of time to go and get a quick pint from the bar at the back of the Kop end. Service was quick and luckily for me I knew one of the bar staff, so managed to get a free pint! I've been told that alcohol isn't available to away fans, but there are plenty of pubs within walking distance of the ground, so I shouldn't think that it would be too hard for away fans to find a nice watering hole somewhere.

4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground? 

Going to Hillsborough is like stepping back in time. From the old-fashioned turnstiles to the general design of the ground, everything just oozes character. The Kop is absolutely massive and I can imagine that it would create a very imposing atmosphere if it was sold out. The ground has a lot of history and it's hard not be impressed by the individuality and sheer size of the place - a special mention goes to the fantastic looking gable on top of the Main Stand. There's also a somewhat eerie feel to Hillsborough - it's very hard not to look over at the Leppings Lane end and be reminded of the terrible events that occurred in 1989. Overall the ground is a spectacular, moving place to visit and without doubt one of the best grounds in the UK.

5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, facilities etc.. 

This match was understandably never going to have the best atmosphere and attendance due it being televised, Wednesday putting out a very weak team (promotion to the Championship is their obvious priority this season) and the sub zero temperature. Despite these factors the Wednesday fans in the upper part of the Kop were in good voice and it clearly spurred the team on in the opening minutes of the game. Wednesday had two very good chances early on, but were caught out on the break and Matt Phillips struck his 10th goal in 10 games to put Blackpool 1-0 up after seven minutes. This early goal seemed to drain the confidence of the Wednesday players and fans alike. Seven minutes later the somewhat goal shy striker Lomana LuaLua curled in an absolute peach of a goal which pretty much sealed the win for Blackpool within the first 15 minutes of the match. Wednesday were fairly fortunate to get to half time 2-0 down. 

At half time I stayed in my seat and tried to keep warm, like many others I wasn't prepared to venture out of the back of the stand to queue for refreshments in the freezing cold. Blackpool continued to dominate in the second half and on 54 minutes Sylvestre scored an absolute cracker into the goal in front of the 600 or so Blackpool fans who had the made the trip - they were in good voice all game and I take my hat off to them. 

I was a bit disappointed with the home fans towards the end of the game; many left very early on in order to get a tram away from the ground quickly - during weeknights the tram runs less often than normal, so there's usually a procession of fans leaving early, desperate to get to the tram before it gets too crowded at the tram stop - me and my mate found it quite funny once we realised that after the 75 minute mark there were more Stoke fans than Wednesday fans on our row! Despite the large number of home fans leaving early the game was still a good spectacle and Blackpool ran out worthy 3-0 winners. 

After the final whistle the stewards, who kept a low profile throughout the game, helped to direct fans out of the ground through the exits in the corner of the stands and did a good job of calming down some rather daft, young Wednesday fans who'd clearly been watching too many films about football hooligans.

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

After leaving the ground we walked back to the Leppings Lane tram stop which was very crowded, so me and my mate went and got some food from a nearby takeaway while we waited for a later tram that wouldn't be so busy. For anyone that doesn't fancy trying to get onto a stuffed tram or wait in the cold, there is a KFC and a few takeaways next to the tram stop, so there's no need to brave the crowds and the elements.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

Overall, it was a great night out that only cost 13 for the ticket and transport which is an absolute bargain. The match was good to watch and Hillsborough is always well worth a visit to go and take in some proper grass roots football. I would advise any big football fan to go and visit this great stadium, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.


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