Exeter - St James Park
28th March 2011 St James' Park Exeter City vs Swindon Town (LD1) 1-0
This game should have been a Boxing Day 2010 fixture, but it was postponed due to a frozen pitch. The re-arranged game in February was then called off for a second time due to a waterlogged pitch! So third time lucky... In the Spirit of Christmas 2010, the PA is playing Christmas songs, and several fans are wearing red and white Santa hats. There's even one fan come dressed as Santa Claus!
I've come down from Southend by train, with a slight detour via Bournemouth and Yeovil to take some photos of those grounds for the website, as I missed getting any photos on my first visit. After Bournemouth the journey went haywire due to a line side fire, which meant me missing my connection for Yeovil at Dorchester, and ending up for an hour in Weymouth!
After Yeovil I was back on track so to speak and got into Exeter about 5.45pm. I decided to go straight to St James' Park before checking in at my B & B, to get some photos of the ground, whilst it was still light. The cost of a return ticket from Exeter Central was a mere £1! St James' Park, not to be confused with the more mighty Newcastle United's football ground, has its own station right next to the main stand, which looks very dated from the outside with its green corrugated iron panels.
There's already a coach load of Swindon fans parked up by the away end. I spot a sort of temporary bar set up at the back of the Flybe Stand which is selling pasties and other goodies, so I decide to come to back here for a pr-match pint and food, rather than the Weatherspoon's pub in the town centre, which I visited last time I was in Exeter.
I catch the train back to Exeter Central and check in to my b & b, before getting another train back to St James' Park about half an hour later. It's well patronised by the locals with about twenty Grecians, getting off. The only problem for coming back into Exeter is there isn't a train back at the end of the game. It leaves at twenty seven minutes past nine, so you would have to miss the last five to ten minutes of the games to catch it. Otherwise the next train's not until 22.27. I decide to walk back to my B&B and get my money's worth.
I make my way round the ground to the bar area at the back of the Flybe Stand looking forward to my pastie, only to be told that they've run out of them! So I try my luck at the Hog Roast kiosk next door. I settle for a pork and apple burger and am pleasantly impressed. Delicious! In fact better than the meat pie at Morecambe a few weeks ago! This is washed down with a pint of the local Tribute Ale, which is also very nice.
I chat with a couple of Exeter City fans, who are very friendly and interested in my quest to do the 92. One is from Gravesend in Kent and comes down to Exeter if he's working anywhere nearby. Another fan mentions Southend's Barry Corr, who was an Exeter City player last season. In his opinion he's quite temperamental, but does get the goals.
I go through the turnstiles, where they tear a section off my ticket - bar codes haven't quite reached Devon yet! My stand is fairly modern and quite steep with executive boxes at the back. To my right is a covered terrace for the home fans, which I reckon must be the biggest section of terracing in the football league. Correct me if I'm wrong. Opposite is the main stand which doesn't quite stretch the whole length of the pitch. Finally, on my right is a small open terrace for away fans - God help them if it rains. So St James' Park, Exeter is a ground of two halves - the modern and the ancient.
The programme is dated 26th December 2010 as it was printed before the game was called off, but there is an insert with more up to date information on the teams and their league positions. Exeter are in 13th place, mid-table, whilst Swindon are 23rd and need all three points desperately. The teams come out to Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Two Tribes". Swindon are in an all white strip with blue edging making them look more like AC Milan. They go out attacking from the start and almost getting a goal in the first couple of minutes. It wasn't until nearly half way through the first half that Exeter started getting into the game. But the sides seemed to cancel each other out. So it was still 0-0 at half time.
It was more of the same for much of the second half, though both Sheehan and Andrew had near missed for Exeter. This seemed to have a galvanizing effect on the Exeter fans behind the goal, who hardly sang in the first half, but by now are more vocal in the second half. I notice a few people start to leave with fifteen minutes of the game still to go. Obviously they're off to catch the train!
Then comes a "hand of God" incident when Swindon defender, Scott Cuthbert puts his arm up in the penalty box and tries to knock the ball away in full view of 4,000 fans. The referee points to the penalty box, but only books Cuthbert. Ryan Harley takes the penalty and scores.
"Going down with the Argyle!" sing the Exeter fans. I feel sorry for Swindon, who have battled hard all through the match and were hading for a draw, but they just can't quite score. So it looks like they will be going down along with Plymouth.
The Exeter fans are hardly ecstatic with the win and file out quietly at the end. I walk back to the town centre along with several fans, but decide against going to the pub after such a long day and am back in the B& B within twenty minutes.
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