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County Ground
Swindon Town v  Preston North End
Saturday, February 23rd 2013, 3pm
League One
By Joe Cooper
(Preston North End fan)

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

I was looking forward to this match due the drama that had been going on at both clubs in the weeks prior to the fixture. The recent departure of Graham Westley meant Simon Grayson was to take the helm for the first time against a managerless Swindon, after Paulo Di Canio had walked away from Swindon under a cloud of controversy. Swindon were also top of the league and with North End knocking Bournemouth off the top spot a week before I was hoping for another upset!

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

Iím friends with a fellow North Ender who lives in Bath so I caught a train down on the Friday afternoon. Bath is only two stops prior to Swindon so I pretty much did the journey 24 hours before kick-off (Frankie Fryer style). It took me about 4 hours with two changes, one at Birmingham New Street and the other at Bristol Temple Meads. If I had done the journey in full I reckon it would have taken about a 4 and a half hours, so in all it was quite a journey despite the trains running smoothly.

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

We set off for Bath Train station at about midday on Saturday, and we were in Swindon for roughly 1.30pm. Upon leaving Swindon railway station we saw a pub across the road in which the police had chosen to harbour a rather large number of Preston supporters. It wasnít immediately obvious which direction the ground was so we asked one of the police officers to point us in the right direction. Because there were only two of us he was quite happy to let us find our own way to the ground.  After following the road the copper had directed us down we soon picked up the signs for the stadium. On reaching the County Ground we asked some Swindon fans where the away entrance was and we were politely told where to head for.  We were on the concourse for 2pm.

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

When seeing the ground from the outside it looked like your typical League One ground. I always enjoy seeing those old standing traditional floodlights as they have become a bit of rarity now, but the County Ground have four of them standing proudly in each corner of the ground. The concourse was quite small so I can imagine it being quite congested for the bigger following, I didnít go down at half time but my mate said it was a bit of nightmare. The ground, despite looking quite dated, was quite neat and tidy with all the necessities, such as leg room being adequate enough. The view of the 18 yard box at one end was slightly impeded by a pillar but it didnít cause too much of a problem.

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

I had a cheese burger and a bottle of water before the game which came to just over a fiver. The burger was cold and I didnít really enjoy but I was hungry so I ate it anyway. Myself and the 900 odd North Enders were making a lot of noise before and during the game, resulting in a good atmosphere in the away end. There was a bit of noise coming from the Swindon Fans in the first five minutes but very little after that. The stewards were pretty much unnoticeable. The only rule they seemed to enforce was keeping the closest block to the home fans reserved for family groups.

In the first half Swindon seemed to be using a lot of the possession, forcing a couple of good saves out of our keeper, we soaked up the pressure well and made it half time with score still goalless. After the break Preston looked a little bit more dangerous in the form of counter attacks, which ultimately paid off when 18 year old Prestonian Will Hayhurst scored his first ever professional goal to put the lilywhites ahead. Swindon kept piling on the pressure and the Preston defence eventually cracked after Rooney latched on to a poor back pass from David Buchannan. The game finished 1-1 which in my opinion was a fair result.

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

We were back at the train station on a train within 40 minutes of the final whistle.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

All in all a nice day out. Pleasant fans and a pleasant ground, however I saw it had very little by the way of good pubs to drink in before the game.

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