This was a ground hopping trip that came about by accident. I had no plans to go to this game at all when I got into my car, but I ended up on the terraces at this game.
Sound a little cryptic? Well, let me try to explain. I’ve been up in the North East for the last two weeks, working up there and enjoying the great hospitality of Michelle. Having meals cooked for me every night after work (if not by Michelle, then by her parents) and, my laundry done and generally looked after is something I could get used to. If I can find a way to move my job from London to Newcastle and could then persuade Michelle to let me move in, then I’d do it like a shot. Even walking the dogs in the sub zero temperatures along the Tyne Valley is a pleasure compared to being in London.
Anyway, I digress, I set off at lunchtime today to drive back home after a breakfast fit for a king – thanks Michelle the white pudding made the meal complete. I was intending to drive back home via the office in London to drop off my work laptop and some shirts for work. As I drove the first part of the journey, I heard from my son Tom who was planning to go to Alfreton v Orient today. He told me about the train he was getting from Sheffield and even where he would watch the FA Cup raw in Alfreton before the game.
Then I received another text from him telling me his train had been cancelled, then a text saying he was going on another train to Chesterfield, then a bus to Alfreton.
Then a text telling me he was lost in Chesterfield which he described as a sh*thole with donkeys in the town centre!
Next came a text telling me there were no busses that would get him to the game before 1/2 time so he was going to try to get a train. At this point, I was somewhere between Doncaster & Sheffield and made the decision to try to get to Chesterfield and give him a lift to Alfreton. It seemed the right thing to do to help him get to the game.
As I approached the motorway junction for Chesterfield, I spoke to Tom who told me he was now on a train from Chesterfield to Alfreton. So my good deed was not going to happen. Well as its nearly Christmas and /tom hasn’t done his Christmas shopping yet, I thought I would give him a surprise and meet him in the ground and make him think I’m a nice dad really. (He had no idea I was going to meet him either in Chesterfield to give him a lift or at the ground).
I reprogrammed the Sat Nav for Alfreton’s ground – DE55 7FZ – thanks to Duncan Adams’s Football Ground Guide for this. Well, I got off the M1 at junction 28 and turned onto the A38 when my Sat Nav lost the satellite and I was left having to navigate myself via road signs and looking for landmarks. Fortunately floodlights tend to be taller than surrounding buildings.
I found the ground, and got parked outside the social club right next to the ground and I thought ideal for a quick getaway after the game. So, after parking the car, I saw the turnstiles & main reception.
They are not quite as impressive as the reception and main entrance at say St James’ Park or the Emirates are they? Anyway, there was no mention of away fans on the turnstiles, so I asked at the main reception to be told that the away turnstiles were at the other end of the ground and were about as far away as it was possible to be at the ground.
I thought about just going into the turnstiles at this end, but then thought it would be hard to find Tom when he was at the other end of the ground, so I made my way around the ground and through the park to the away end where I paid the £18 to get into the terraces for away fans. Home fans get a seat for that price! Actually the away fans get the better deal as we had a roof over part of the away end, the home end was uncovered seating and everyone stood for the full 90 minutes anyway.
First impression when I got in the ground were that it was a bit of a ramshackle ground that reminded me a little of Accrington Stanley’s ground.
I wandered the length of the away end but was unable to see Tom. I then thought that perhaps Tom had done what I often do and go in the home end. Texting him to find out if he was in the ground, I learned he was just as Orient went a goal down. Whoops, a cup upset was on the cards. The game was 9 minutes old and it had been all Alfreton for those 9 minutes and they deserved the goal.
I may not have seen Tom, but I did see lots of familiar faces amongst the Orient faithful. These are the real loyal football fans. Watching a team who rarely win games and never win trophies is much harder than watching teams that win games and trophies regularly. Following teams like Orient is a real test of loyalty, not watching Man U or Chelsea win every game.
I then saw Tom in the ground and approached him as he took his place on the away terraces. I wasn’t sure where he entered the ground as he had not come in the turnstiles I had used. It turns out, he had just gone in the turnstiles to the home end and asked the stewards to move him round as he didn’t know where the away turnstiles were. He confused the stewards when they asked him why an Orient fan had gone in the home end by telling them he was a Newcastle United fan. That’s my boy!
The ground itself is small, with a capacity of only 3500, most of which is behind the goal we were at. This was given over to the Orient faithful today, but can be segregated for home and away fans to use if necessary.
As I alluded to before, the other end of the ground is open and consists of seat which appear to have been bolted onto a small terraced end. I’m not sure why the large terrace is given to away fans instead of giving them the uncovered seats.
Down one side was mainly the Directors box, the dugouts and the Corporate Hospitality sections with only a small section of seating for the general public. The hospitality section was I have to say not the most impressive looking.
To be fair, there was a sponsors’ lounge behind the seating area.
The other side of the ground was rather ramshackle seating which appears to have been bolted onto terracing with a corrugated metal roof.
You will perhaps notice that there is no fence or rail between the seating and the pitch.! I’m a little surprised this is acceptable as there would be nothing to stop the crowd (if there was one) from invading the pitch from here.
You will also notice the less than intimidating “Alfreton Town Football Club” sign on the stand roof. It is hardly as intimidating as the “This is Anfield” sign at Liverpool. I can only presume its there to remind people where they were in case they had forgotten.
So far, you may think that I have been rather dismissive and negative about the ground. Well let me mention the good things about the ground. The staff at the ground, stewards or otherwise were remarkably friendly and treated away fans as people. Clearly this is a mistake and will no doubt be rectified in the future. We can’t have clubs treating people as people and speaking to them politely. Its only Leyton Orient who do that.
The other good thin about the ground was the catering. A wide range of food and drink were available including pies, chips etc. Again the club let themselves down by charging reasonable prices and not having burned the pies. I would visit Alfreton again just for the food. I never sampled the pies but Tom did and it looked edible and he enjoyed it.
The game itself was over by half time aster Orient scored 3 times in the first half including 2 from David Mooney. My mate Greg will be pleased to see the manager Russell Slade ignored Mystic Greg’s suggestion that Mooney was a waste of a shirt. Since Greg said that Mooney keeps scoring. He does still manage to miss a hatful of chances each game.
The second half was rather more tame with Alfreton puling one back early on, but unable to score an equaliser. The game was wrapped up by Dean Cox scoring his second and Orient’s 4th goal near the end. So a 4-2 away win sends Orient to Hull City’s KC Stadium in the 3rd round.
Despite the convincing looking score, Alfreton were a little unlucky having hit the woodwork on at least 3 (possibly more) occasions with the Orient keeper beaten. If any of these had gone in the result could have been very different.
The crowd at today’s game was given as 1,1104. This included something in the region of 200 O’s fans and seemed to be rather poor for an FA Cup 2nd round tie. However, Alfreton have only had 1 gate above that this season, even including a pre season friendly against near neighbours Chesterfield. Indeed their last home game in the FA Trophy was seen by only 361 people, so this was a big crowd by their standards.
One factor affecting the attendance figure would have been that the match was shown live on ESPN and was an unusual 15:15 kick off time. Now you may think that TV coverage of a game is a glamorous affair. Well it may be at Old Trafford or Anfield, but here it consists of cameras mounted on scaffolding towers and a prefabricated and polythene studio as can be seen below.
The half time analysis from experts is done at the pitch side at a table exposed to the elements as in the last photograph.
The game over, I drove Tom back to the station for his train and set off back to London. Learning as I drove that the route I would have taken (A1 & M11) if I did not go to Alfreton had several major delays owing to accidents cheered me up as it meant that I did not get home any later than if I had not gone to the game.
The bad point of the day was getting home to a freezing cold lonely house. After having Michelle and her family for company, now its just me and the mouse for company. However, I think the mouse may have moved out!
FA Cup Round 3? Its either Orient at Hull or Newcastle @ Brighton. I think it will be Brighton as I have not been to their new ground but have been to Hull’s KC Stadium.