Swindon Town v Accrington Stanley
Saturday, February 25th 2012, 3pm.
By Paul Willott
As a Preston North End supporter exiled to Kent, when the Lillywhites are at home I often inspect the fixture list to see if Accrington Stanley or Morecambe may want some northern sympathetic support in the south.
Hence on this day I found myself travelling to Swindon, a town whose team have tasted all 4 divisions of the professional game within the past 2 decades.
Now let me be quite candid; the County Ground is fantastic to me. Not only is sat-nav proof and it is map-proof too. All you need to do is leave the M4 at the appropriate junction, namely junction 15 from the East, follow the signs to Swindon and you can't fail to trip over the ground ; thats if you haven''t already noticed the good old-fashioned floodlight pylons , in which case its either ridiculously foggy or you shouldn't be driving at all!
I found a suitable patch to ditch the car, and then walked to the ground, whereupon I pounced upon one of the burger stalls and lavished a few quid on a most delicious quarter pounder.
For those hardy souls travelling to support the Stanley, a section to the east of the Arkells stand was allocated, which at least afforded covered seating as opposed to the uncovered Stratton Bank where seats have been installed upon former terracing. However I understand that Stratton Bank is usually unused except for overflow, or major fixtures. Despite looking fairly old, the inside of the Arkells stand is in good clean order, and is very presentable.
What a lovely 90 minutes. If you prefer prawn sandwiches, then don't bother reading any further. But, if you like watching a game of football where the shadows of the floodlight pylons slowly lengthen across the pitch as the afternoon progresses, then make a visit to Swindon a priority. It was also refreshing to visit a ground where the home fans actually make plenty of noise throughout the game, as opposed to the odd polite cheer when a goal goes in before sitting down pacifully as though riding on the 08:21 to Paddington for a days work!
I have already eulogised over the floodlight pylons, but the rest of the ground deserves a mention too, as opposite the Arkells stand is the more modern looking Don Rogers stand, whilst to the West is the small Town End, which I suspect is also a terrace that has had seats bolted to it. The noise their fans made could kid you its still a standing only area.
Also thrown in for free at the moment is the added entertainment of watching the antics of the Swindon Town manager, Paolo Di Canio along the touch-line. What a guy. I wish he was managing my club!
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the County Ground; the ground clearly deserves to be hosting football at Championship level yet finds itself in the basement division. Under Di Canio though it looks as though Swindon will achieve promotion, and I will happily return next season to cheer on Preston North End; assuming the Lillywhites don't detioriate any further and slip down a level themselves!
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