Accrington - Crown Ground

5/4/11 Accrington Stanley vs Southend United (LD2) 3-1

After the debacle of the postponed game in February, I took the risk, along with around 200 other Southend United fans, of going back up to Accrington. This time I went by train from Kings Cross, where I got a Grand Central train all the way to Halifax. I was then meant to get a train within a few minutes, across the Pennines to Accrington, but at Halifax it was chaos. Some thieves had nicked some signalling cable in the Leeds area, so all the trains were up the creek.
There was no information on my train, so I chose to get the next train out as far as Hebden Bridge, about twenty miles from Accrington. Luckily I only had a ten minute wait there, before my delayed train came in. So I arrived at Accrington at half six, instead of ten past.
Rather than walk, I got a taxi, which was a mere £2! No wonder the taxi driver was pleased when I gave him a £1 tip. I then did my usual rekky round the ground taking some pictures, though there wasn't that much to see. As the football league's smallest ground, it looked more like a non-league ground than a football league ground. Two of the stands had this bright red girder roof frame, making them look more like bridges than football ground stands! There's a big sign proudly proclaiming, "Accrington Stanley - The Long Road Back", it was in 2006 that they got back into the football league.
The two supporters' coaches were already parked up and a few Southend fans were lingering around. I briefly spoke to ex-kitman, Dave, who had driven up from Milton Keynes, then paid my usual visit to the Club Shop. Considering Accrington Stanley is the smallest ground in the football league, it wasn't a bad little shop. I bought Wendy her customary mascot, and Peter a souvenir bar of Accrington Stanley chocolate. I also got a programme which had an extra cover added to the original one from February 12th. Shades of last week's programme at Exeter City....
I then found the Greyhound pub, where Wino and his mates were holed up, having a pint or two of Lancashire's cheapest beer. At just £1.60 a pint for Sam Smith's bitter it was like going back to the 70's. They even had Mild and Stout on draught!
Then it was time to go back to the Crown Ground, or should it be the Fraser Eagle Stadium? All the away fans had to go through the car park to get into the away end. A female steward looked in my back pack, but not very thoroughly. Then it was into the football league's smallest ground at just 5,000 capacity. It was just a fiver, to get in and no tickets were issued.
The first thing I noticed was there was no roof on the away terrace, plus there's construction work still going on. Apparanetly, this should have been finished in time for Southend's original visit in February. When I asked a steward about this he said that the club just hasn't got the money at the moment and it might get done sometime next season. They have put an extra five rows of stainless steel steps at the back of the terrace, but  this isn't open yet. It's behind an aluminum fence and beyond that is the car park.
On my left is the main stand, which must be about the smallest main stand I have ever seen in the football league. The right opposite is the home terrace, which of course has a roof and is the home of the Accrington "Ultras". There are several large red and white banners proclaiming this fact if you didn't know. Then on the left is a tiny covered seating area, the Whinney Hill Stand, which only has about three rows in it. Usually the away fans who want to sit are given half of this, but not tonight. So some home fans walk past us to get to it, whilst the rest of us can choose our perch on the open terrace.
I decide to get something to eat from the back of our terrace. It's a mobile kiosk more in place at a motor race meeting or festival rather than a football match. I choose some chips for £2, declining to have curry sauce poured over them. There's three likely lads getting food in front of me. One has a Preston North End shirt on, one has a blue Leeds shirt on and the final one is wearing a black Liverpool top on. It seems they are locals who always join the away fans as they hate Stanley. In the end they stand to the left of us away fans and avoid any trouble.
There's the Accrington Stanley mascot. Winstan the Dog, hanging around in front of us and then I discover why. It's because the teams come out from the changing rooms in the corner to my left, which are really a portacabin and basic to say the least. Accrington Stanley seems to be the only ground which doesn't have some music from the PA for the teams to come out to. It's not exactly silence, but it seems a bit weird after all the 90 other football ground we've visited. The first half is dominated by Accrington as you would expect, having won their previous seven home outings. The pitch isn't as bad as I thought it would be, though there is a large brown patch near the centre circle, as well as in each goal area. Plus it slopes down to the opposite end from us. All credit to the Stanley Ultras who sing all the way through both halves. They seem to like singing a little ditty based on the Sex Pistol's "Anarchy In The UK", a song I remember them singing at Darlington last year.
It's Stanley who score first after just ten minutes at the opposite end, when McConville chipped his corner into the near post, which was headed into the net by Ian Craney. Accrington keep up the pressure but don't score, though Prosser did get booked just before half time for a hard tackle on Gornell.
In the second half Southend seem more up for it and in the 58th minute Ryan Hall scores from a free kick after Anthony Grant was brought down. The trouble is that most Southend fans don't realise we've scored and it takes a couple of seconds before everyone cheers. There's even a couple of songs, but then it returns to quiet again.
The 1-1 score lasts until the 80th minute when Stanley's Gornelly scored after making contact with a long throw in. Then it gets worse as Mohsni gets sent off, after bringing down Gornelly in the penalty area - his second bookable offence of the evening. So that's the way it stays, with an unusual attendance of 2,222, 177 of them Southend fans. I leave a couple of minutes early and meet my friend from Bolton who is parked up in the car park and has been watching the game unbeknown to me. I stay the night at his house just outside Bolton, near the Reebok, before returning to Southend the next day. I later hear from Wino that he got in at three o'clock the next morning.

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