Rochdale were top of the league, and running riot against many teams. Whilst Accrington were chasing a Play-Off position.
The relatively short drive to Accrington was a stressful one. On this particular Saturday afternoon, the British Defence League and Unite Against Fascism had organised joint marches through Bolton town centre. We thought we had escaped the crowds, until we had to stop at some Traffic Lights. Suddenly, around 2,000 fascists walked straight in front of our car across the road. We were there for about 10 minutes until we finally got moving again!
Our journey continued, and was going well until there was an accident on the main road going up to Accrington. Time for The GPS to send us the ‘scenic route’. Rolling up and down the Lancashire hills on the way to a game was brilliant! It certainly beat the train or the motorway. I even got a glimpse of The Hollands Pie Factory in Accrington along the way! However, Accrington is full of small roads, and quite simply could not deal with the extra traffic and numerous roadworks.
So after the fascists, road accident and roadworks, we finally arrived in Accrington at 14:50. We parked around half a mile away from the ground, and “Got a jog on”. I bought my programme from a tatty looking girl who had in her grasp a tatty looking money bag. The programmes were that small they were kept in her tatty money bag. Inside the programme was a pixelated poster of Accrington striker Billy Kee.
Mum and I approached the turnstiles, which were being operated by two old women. We produced our blue coloured Main Stand tickets. And well, the sight of blue tickets sent the old women loopy! Apparently we had to go in the Rochdale end because the tickets were away coloured, despite clearly stating this particular stand on the ticket. After a couple of minutes of deep conversation between the turnstile operators we were allowed in.
Having not visited Accrington before, we didn’t have a clue where to go next. So we walked past a brick wall, and ended up in the middle of the subs benches! After a moment of confusion we found some seats and settled down. We sat in The Main Stand, which is the newest of the stands.
The travelling Rochdale fans were situated to my right in the Coppice End. It is a relatively short distance between the two teams, so much so that many Rochdale fans walked from Spotland to The Crown Ground. Rochdale brought far too many fans, so Accrington decided it would be more beneficial to shove them all in the home end as well.
Accrington did deal with the overcrowding in the end though…. with the help of the police of course!
Opposite us was The Whinney Hill Terrace. This housed a few supporters both standing and seated. This is also where the TV Gantry is situated. Behind the terrace is a new housing estate and a small hill. You could probably watch the match off the hill, which is what I may do next time!
To my left was the Sophia Khan Stand where the noisy Accrington fans were standing. The low roof helped the atmosphere travel through the ground very well.
The game itself was one which I will never forget. The first half was full of end to end action, with both teams playing excellent attacking football. Despite both teams efforts, the game was goalless at half time.
Playing for Accrington Stanley that day was Luke Joyce. Luke attended my primary school and high school, so I’d always heard about him, and followed his progress. So it was nice to finally see him play.
At half time, I noticed that David Dunn of Blackburn Rovers was sat behind me. I asked him for a photo and he obliged. I also noticed that Leeds Manager – Simon Grayson was sat near me.
The second half was well worth the admission fee! Accrington opened the scoring when Michael Symes fired past Frank Fielding in the Rochdale goal. Stanley then doubled their lead 4 minutes later when John Miles scored. At this point Accrington were dominating the match and looked as though they would score again. However, Rochdale forced a great comeback – Proving why they they were title contenders.
Just 2 minutes later Gary Jones pulled a goal back for Rochdale, before then scoring his and his teams second. Minutes later there was a mass brawl which resulted in a player from each side being sent off. This only worked in Rochdales’ favour. Chris O’Grady scrambled in a goal with 7 minutes remaining, sending the Dale fans delirious.
The best goal though, was saved until the very end. Substitute Kallum Higginbotham saw Accrington goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis off his line, and lobbed him from the halfway line. It is one of the best goals I have seen personally, the only one possibly beating it is Wayne Rooneys’ overhead kick v Manchester City.
The game finished 4-2. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the ground who wanted this enthralling game to carry on all day.
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 23 miles
- ADMISSION: Free tickets
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £3