Rochdale - Spotland

23/4/2011 Rochdale vs Carlisle United (LD1) 2-3 Attendance: 3,762

Today is my final ground of the 92 and the good folks at Rochdale have been contacted about this momentous event in my life. They said they will present me with my specially printed, "Done The 92" T-shirt under the welcome to Spotland" sign. I've also contacted Southend United to put it in the final programme of the season.
About a month before this day I booked my train tickets, arranging it so that I had time to visit Bury's Gigg Lane ground on the way. So it meant leaving Leigh-on-Sea at 8.06. I set the alarm for 7.20, but was awake well before then. The first worry of the day was checking the teletext to read that Virgin Trains between London Euston were subject to delay because of an overhead line fault at Tring. But when I got to Euston everything seemed to be running OK.
There were a mixture of Man U fans going to the game at Old Trafford versus Everton and Liverpool fans going to the game against Birmingham at Anfield. I chatted to a Liverpool fan called Richard from Orpington in Kent. He said he goes up to Liverpool about four times a season and was at the same match as me against Man City the other week. He agreed that it was the best he had seen Liverpool play for some time. I told him about my visit to Rochdale and he wished me well.
I got the 9.40 train to Manchester Piccadilly which was full of Southern Man U fans going north. As usual the reserved seat I had booked had me travelling backwards and not forwards as I had requested, so I moved to another seat with a table. The journey passed without incident, though it went via Crewe, which added a bit of journey time.
Once in Manchester I caught a tram up to Bury, where I walked to Gigg Lane to take some photos of the ground for the website. It was then a bus from Bury to Rochdale, which took about half an hour. As Spotland is about a mile from the city centre, I caught a taxi up to the ground. It was already busy with many Carlisle fans walking around.
I made my way to the main entrance, where I had been instructed to go and when I told the doorman, he pointed me in the direction of the ticket office. After about ten minutes, the Chief Executive of Rochdale football club, Colin Garlick arrived. I then had my photo taken with him holding out my shirt in front of the Club crest. He then left and I got the doorman to take some more photos of me outside, this time with me wearing my "Done The 92" t shirt. Then that was it. Make of it what you will........
As no complimentary tickets were forthcoming I then bought a ticket for the main stand for £20, which said "unreserved seating" and walked round the ground taking some more pictures. On my walk I bought a programme for £3 and was glad to see that they had given me a mention as requested. Thank you Mark Wilbraham. I made a quick visit to the club shop looking for a cuddly toy of the Rochdale mascot, Desmond the Dragon. Don't ask me why they have a dragon as a mascot instead of the usual lion or dog?? They didn't have any of those, but they did have meerkat mascots dressed in a Rochdale shirt, so I got one of those instead.
I then decided to have a drink in one of the two bars that are situated round the ground. I chose "Studds" which was situated under the home end and had a pint of Thwaites for £2.50. Man U vs Everton was on the TV screens and when Man U scored there were a few cheers, indicating that a few United fans were there in disguise!
My attention was drawn to a guy wearing a "Done the 92" T-shirt, so I went up to him and introduced myself. He was called Zaff and was a Rochdale fan from Swindon, along with his mate Steve, who was a Liverpool fan. We swapped notes and he told me that he had completed his 92 at Hartlepool, but the club hadn't been that interested in his achievement. Whilst I was chatting to him and his mate, a Rochdale fan came up and asked if I was the fan in the programme and shook my hand. Oh what it is to be famous!
Steve then kindly took some photos of me and Zaff outside the main entrance, with more fans looking at us! We then went our separate ways, Zaff and Steve into the Thwaites End and me into the main stand. As I went through the turnstiles, the guy taking my ticket stub saw my T-shirt and asked me about doing the 92!
I then found a seat at back of main stand. Looking round I was quite impressed with the ground which has been modernised, but has still kept a lot of its character. The main stand has executive boxes at the back, with about fifteen rows of seats. Opposite is the away fans stand with about 1,000 Carlisle fans in it, who sing for most of the match. To my left is a stand of terracing for the old fashioned fans who like standing. Then on the right is home fans' end, which is all seated. All the stands are covered, though the main and east stands do have some pillars in them.
I spot Desmond the Dragon on the pitch and take some photos of him. If I had my wits about me, I could have gone down the front and asked for a photo with him. The teams come out, though I didn't notice what music they had, but there was plenty of noise from both sets of fans.
In fact the first half was fast and furious, but quite evenly matched. Unluckily for Rochdale, Carlisle opened the scoring when Holness headed back into his own net after Carlisle's Craig Curran's header had hit the post and rebounded onto him. But Rochdale weren't behind for long. Nicky Adams made a clever pass into the penalty spot for Joe Thompson to head into the Carlisle goal.
At half time I was thinking of trying a pie for £2, but I really didn't feel that hungry and the queue was pretty long. I then moved to the other end of the main stand, to give me a quicker getaway before the match finished.
After the break Rochdale were first to score, within five minutes of the start, after a nice touch from Joe Thompson in midfield reached Matt Done, who shot into the far corner of the goal. You would have thought that Rochdale, given their position in the league, would have stood firm with that lead, but they seemed to relax too much. The result was that Carlisle got back into the game and eventually stole if from Rochdale. Mind you, it took what must be a strong contender for Goal of the Season (League 1) to get them there. It came from Liam Noble on the hour, who shot a cracker from 40 yards out, with Rochdale's Fon Williams having no chance. Even some of the Rochdale fans applauded the goal, whilst one Carlisle fan ran onto the pitch and did a dive into the celebrating Carlisle players, only to be carried away by a Rochdale steward!
The death knell for Rochdale came just a few minutes later, when another long range shot, this time from Matty Robson, beat Fon Williams yet again. Rochdale did come back at Carlisle, but two late efforts came to nothing and the Cumbrians went home happy.
I meanwhile left a few minutes before the end, not sure if I would have to walk all the way to the station, or catch a bus or a taxi back into the city centre, in time for my train at 5.30. In the end I walked as far as the Town Centre before getting a taxi to take me to the station. It was quicker than I thought and I was able to get the 5.15 train instead, along with about five Carlisle fans, who must have had the same idea as me.
At Manchester Victoria I got a tram into the city centre and as I had an hour before my 6.35 train, I decided to explore the shops. I found a great collectors shop just off Piccadilly Gardens with Records. CDs, books, magazines and other collectables. So I spent a good fifteen minutes in there, before buying some food in a supermarket. I was thinking of going for a drink in one of the pubs, but they were all bursting to the seams with Man U fans, so I decided to give it a miss.
I arrived at Piccadilly station about a quarter of an hour before my train was due to depart, but the sign said "delayed". In fact it arrived ten minutes after it was due to leave. So we finally left fifteen minutes late and after going slow after Stockport we finally arrived in Euston almost half an hour late. On the train I met another Blackpool fan for the second week running. This guy was a "Cockney Tangerine" if there is such a fan and came from south west London. He was bemoaning the referee but was interested in my achievement.
Having got back to Euston, thinking my travel delays were at an end. Little did I know that they were going to get worse! I got a tube straight away and managed to run to Fenchurch Street to catch the 9.40 train back to Southend. The only problem was as soon as I got there, all the trains said "cancelled". It turned out that there was a problem with the overhead power lines between barking and Upminster. We were told to get the underground to Upminster and then we would be able to get trains to Southend from there.
So everyone went back out of the station and to Tower Hill tube station, where we got a packed tube to Upminster, arriving at half ten. The next problem was that at Upminster there were no sign of any trains to Southend and all the signs said "cancelled". Finally a train from Southend arrived just before eleven and we all got on. The driver said we were about to depart, then five minutes later he said we would not be leaving Upminster till 12.02 am! Much to the groans of all on board. So it meant a wait of almost an hour before the train finally left. So I finally got home at half twelve after a seventeen hour day. Not the best way to end such a historic day for me. It makes me glad that I don't have to do this anymore. But no doubt next season I'll be making plans to visit Brighton and Crawley and one other. Just hope it isn't Fleetwood Town!


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