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W Stadium
Wigan Athletic  v Stoke City
Premier League  
Saturday, March 31st 2012, 3pm
By Dom Bickerton
(Stoke City fan)

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

I always look forward to a good Stoke City awayday that promises a great day out with family, friends and the possibility of a rare away win for us. Wigan had only won one game at home this season, so we were all unusually confident of getting a good result. The cheap price of £20 for a ticket ensured that a large amount of Stokies travelled North for this fixture. The fact that Stoke are all but guaranteed another season in the Premier League and have little to play for helped create a fantastic party atmosphere.

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

We travelled to Wigan from Manchester, so the journey only took about 25 minutes at the small price of £3.90 return. When we arrived at Wigan station, we followed the directions on this Football Ground Guide website and briskly walked to the ground in about 15 minutes.

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

Before the game we met up with up with some friends at the Red Robin pub that's mentioned on this site. Within about half an hour the pub was packed and there was a great party atmosphere with plenty of chanting. The staff were excellent and coped very well with the large crowds. There were a few Wigan fans wearing colours that received a bit of grief, which might be expected if you go drinking in the pub assigned to away fans. However, I didn't see any trouble.

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

My first impressions were that the ground is fairly modern looking from the outside and is situated in a great area. Families are well catered for with a Pizza Hut, Frankie & Benny's, Red Robin pub and a cinema right next to the ground. The inside of the ground is neat and tidy, but extremely plain and lacking in character.

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

The atmosphere inside the ground was just awful and the worst home atmosphere I have ever experienced. Wigan rarely sell out their ground and as usual there were thousands of empty seats in the home stands. The only home fans that made any real noise were a small pocket of a few hundred fans to the left of the away end, but they were drowned out by the Stoke fans who were in good voice all game. I can understand why Wigan have been so poor at home throughout this season, because I can imagine every game must feel like an away match. Luckily for Wigan, Stoke decided to put in their worst performance of the season by some distance and gifted the Lactics only their second home win!

The match itself was very poor and the only incidents of note in the first half were the Wigan forwards missing several sitters. Stoke were extremely lucky to get to half time with the score still at 0-0. During the second half we were even worse than the first, gifting Wigan the lead with some shoddy defending from a cross, allowing Antonio Alacaraz an unmissable header. The rest of match was utter dross football and Wigan put the result in little doubt when the impressive Victor Moses robbed the ball off the woeful Andy Wilkinson, rounded the 'keeper and slotted into an empty net to give Wigan a 2-0 win.

The facilities on the concourse weren't very good and couldn't cope with the large away following - the bar staff were very slow and the toilets just weren't big enough. The match stewards were some of the worst I have ever encountered, many Stoke fans in front of us were moved from the rows behind the goal and given no reason as to why. Several fans who demanded a explanation had their tickets taken off them and were manhandled from the ground despite having done nothing to warrant such treatment. This could have caused a massive amount of trouble and was extremely irresponsible stewarding.

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

We left the ground and followed the crowds back to the train station. We somehow managed to squeeze onto a train full of Stoke fans and were back to Manchester in no time at all.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

Despite the poor performance we still had a great day out. We rarely expect a Stoke away win, but meeting up with other fans, making a bit of noise and having a few drinks always make up for our typically poor away performances. If Wigan stay up, then we'll be back next season - hopefully our team decide to turn up too!

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