Football League 2 – 30th April 2011
Towards the end of last season, when offer comes to watch a football match, you jump at it with two hands. So when the boss organises as trip to Gresty Road, for Stockport’s last away game of the season, and probably in league football, I jumped at the chance.
Unfortunately, as well as the game, there was a small matter of the Evostik Playoff Final tickets to buy, meaning that I had to sacrifice pre-match drinks to queue for the two tickets I needed for the game. I arrived at the ground an hour and a half before the tickets went on sale (there was some unofficial news that the tickets would go on sale earlier). I’m glad I did, as when they finally went on sale (at 10:30am), the line was bigger than if the iPad launch gets you a copy of the latest Harry Potter book.
After getting the tickets, I ran tostation (I lie, I got the bus) to meet my work colleagues in Crewe. After a pint or two in Sandbach, we headed to the game.
We were in the away stand (opposite the main stand), for a must-win game for Stockport to mathematically stay a football league side for another week (in reality, they needed to win by a huge margain to stay up). If you were unfamiliar with Stockport’s troubles, you wouldn’t know it on the walk to the ground. County fans came out in force and in full voice to this game. After a bag check, queuing forever to get into the ground with stringent ticket checks, we entered the ground a few minutes before kick off.
The noise from the county fans were deafening. It wasn’t a sell out, but it was close. Taking a seat with the away fans, but surrounding my mates, we welcomed the teams onto the pitch with a level of reserve not shared by the County’s barmy army.
County started brightly, realising that today is the last chance to mount an escape from the entertaining doldrums of non-league football, and threatened early. Anthony Elding volleying just wide after a couple of minutes, and a number of Stockport County players coming close to scoring in the first half hour. Therein ended Stockport’s pressure, and they showed why they were struggling at the bottom of the league.
Crewe pressured for the last quarter of the first half, and Shaun Miller had three chances to take the lead, all three chances missing the target. This was in the space of 2 minutes. The half time whistle blowed and the score was 0-0.
For the half time break, no alcohol was served. Instead we made do with watching an under 11′s game that was a thousand times more exciting than the game we (by we, I mean my boss, work’s day out). Nervous trepidation was present in County’s end, compared to safe and sound Crewe Alexandra’s contingent who were loud and boisterous with singing and drums.
They had a lot more to sing about after 61 minutes when Alan Goodall headed a cross behind County’s keeper, giving Crewe the lead. Stockport fans capitulated, as the goal seemed to sum up County’s season. Crewe fans capitalised on it by unveiling banners informing the Stockport fans on their predicament. This worsened 4 minutes later when Clayton Donaldson slotted a through ball beautifully into the bottom corner. It was then that things turned ugly.
I’ve never really experienced relegation close to the end of the season. The only relegation Colwyn Bay have suffered since I’ve been a fan occurred when I was in University. Furthermore, Stockport’s releagtion came in on a season where they were expected to challenge. Fans turned against other fans, and generally the away end became an ugly place to be. Between us we made a decision that I’ve yet to do at non-league level: leave the ground early.
We dashed for the train back to North, which we got on okay, and headed home. Whilst promotion is a great thing, I sympathise with Stockport – relegation sucks.