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Roots Hall
  Southend United v Leyton Orient
Johnstone's Paint Trophy Southern Area Final, 2nd leg
Wednesday February 20th 2013, 7.45pm
Bill Lacy
(Leyton Orient fan)

My Roots Hall visit was on a Wednesday night for a Johnstone's Paint Trophy Area Final. It was a big game and I was expecting a tremendous atmosphere. It didn't disappoint.
Getting there from London by train was easy enough and I was there in less than 50 minutes from Stratford. The nearest railway station is Prittlewell and the ground is extremely easy to find in about 10 minutes. Getting back was more of a hassle as for some reason the trains stop running directly into London after 9pm, necessitating a change at the non-descript town of Shenfield.
I was a little disappointed that I wasn't able to have a drink as all the pubs en route to the ground were home-fans only. There is a little food shack in the ground but they don't serve booze. I was minded to try a fish and chip shop which was recommended by a number of people which is passed on the way to the ground. However, the queue was ridiculous, actually curving out the shop and half way down the road. Instead I made do with a fairly mediocre sausage roll in the ground. 
Roots Hall is a proper old school ground and the atmosphere was brilliant. The away end is covered by an arching rooftop which reverberates the sound back down. It is a bit of a squeeze in there as they have simply bolted on seats to what used to be the terracing. The view is also hampered by a number of supporting pillars. The front row is so shallow you can barely see the action, but luckily I got there early and could sit where I wanted. They don't seem to mind you standing here, which can be good but periodically means the already limited view is hampered even more when someone gets up. The only time I've had a worse view was at Bury, but the atmosphere made up for it. It was a really enjoyable football experience.

As for the game itself, then having lost the 1st leg 1-0, then Orient were always going to be up against it. Still a good performance from the O's saw us take a 2-1 lead in the leg, making it 2-2 on aggregate. But in the 90th minute, with the prospect of extra time and maybe even penalties on the horizon, Ben Reeves grabbed a goal for the home side, sending them onto the Wembley final.
On the down side, the stewards were a bit off-hand to be honest and the Essex Police even worse, unnecessarily re-routing people around four roads on the way out, which never kept the fans apart anyway. A lot of the Southend lot were also quite provocative.
We lost in dramatic fashion and the Southend fans invaded the pitch. I'd love to try Roots Hall again, although next time on a Saturday!

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