Saturday, 20 May 2017

Maidstone United F.C. - Gallagaher Stadium

Maidstone United F.C.
Maidstone United F.C.
Gallagher Stadium
James Whatman Way
ME14 1LQ

Ground Number: 41
Date: Tuesday 21st March 2017
Score: Maidstone United 1-1 Sutton United F.C.
Competition: Vanarama National League
Attendance: 2,929

Maidstone United, one of the most well supported non league clubs and one of the most successful non league clubs in recent years as they get an average attendance of over 2,000 and normally take over 250 away as a minimum and they found themselves playing in the Ryman Division One South in the 2012/13 season but now they find themselves playing in the Vanarama National League which is three promotions in the space of four years which is an incredible achievement.
Image result for maidstone united logo
Last season (2015/16), ourselves (Sutton) and Maidstone found ourselves battling it out in the top 5 in the Vanrama National League South and it was coming to the end of the season and Sutton played away to Maidstone on a cold Tuesday night and won 2-1 and gave the insight that we may actually win the National League South which we did and I wanted to go to Maidstone last season but I wasn't aloud to go which meant I groundhopped to Tooting and Mitcham v Molesey instead that night and I heard many reviews that Maidstone was amazing so that night, I made it my mission to go to Maidstone next season (this season).
When the fixtures came out, we started to go through all of the away games that we could go to and we saw that we had been given Maidstone away on the 21st March and luckily enough my dad had that day and the next day off which meant I was able to finally say that I would definitely be going to Maidstone this season. As the season went on we went to many away games such as York and Southport etc. but the one that I was mainly looking forward to was Maidstone because I had made it my mission to go to Maidstone this season and I just couldn't wait for the night of the game.
As the season went on, the feeling of going to Maidstone in March felt much more exciting and as I went to more away games, I became even more excited for our trip Maidstone. The weeks went by and the week before the game finally arrived. I then started to look into the history of Maidstone United as I dont really know a lot about them.
Maidstone United were formed in 1992 as a result of the original Maidstone United dissolving and then the newly formed Maidstone Invictia were founded in 1992. They joined the 4th divison of the Kent County League and made their way up the leagues over the next few seasons. They then entered the Kent League in the 2001/02 season and after being in the league for a few years, they won promotion to the Ryman Division One South in the 2005/06 season. The club spent one year in the Ryman Division One South as they were promoted to the Ryman Premier and they spent 4 seasons in the Premier Divisionn, They were then relegated back down to the Ryman Division One South in the 2011/12 season. They spent two seasons in the Ryman Division One South and they were promoted back to the Ryman Premier in the 2012/13 season.
In 2012, Maidstone United returned to Maidstone as the newly opened Gallagher Stadium was built and opened. The club spent two seasons back in the Ryman Premier and they were promoted to the National League South in the 2014/15 season. They played their first season in the National League South and managed to clinch promotion to the National League in their first season after beating Ebbsfleet United on penalties in the play-off final and at the time of writing this blog, they currenty play in the National League.
I had college the day before and like any day before a big game, the day went slowly but it finally went and Tuesday finally arrived and I had to wake up at 6:30am for college and I knew that in under 12 hours I would be in Maidstone. I got the bus to college and I only had the two lessons to do and I was out of college by 12:30pm and I was home by 1:15pm. As soon as I got home, I got changed and had a quick wash and by the time I had done that, my dad had arrived.
After my dad arrived, I got all of my flags ready and I made sure I had everything ready and we left my house at 2:03pm and we drove back to my dads as he had to get changed as he had just finished work. My dad got changed and we had a few snacks and I put some face cream on and then we finally left my dad`s house at 3:18pm. We then picked up our friend Tony from his house which is only a 5 minute drive away from my dads and then we set the sat nav for the Gallagher Stadium.
We drove through Sutton and up to Merstham and drove on the motorways to Maidstone and the roads were pretty empty and the weather was really nice as well, it was pretty sunny and it wasnt too hot but by the time we got to Maidstone at 4:37pm, it had become quite cold and me being me, I didnt bring a coat as I was wearing my Sutton top over my jumper. We parked outside the Gallagher Stadium and walked into the town centre and we decided that for tonights dinner we would be having Burger King which is one of my favorite meals to have before a football match.
We walked through the town centre and a couple of Maidstone fans started saying "Maidstone, Maidstone" as they were trying to intimidate us but we Sutton fans never get intimidated by a couple of teenagers chanting. The high street is quite nice in my opinion, it has some nice shops and has a friendly feeling to the place. We got to Burger King at 4:55pm and I got a bacon double cheese XL meal and some of the chicken strips and a cup of coke. By this time I was very hungry and I was getting very excited for the game. The chicken strips were a first timer for me and they were quite expensive but for what they are, they are not really good value for money but I re-filled my cup but with a fruit twist fanta and then left Burger King and we headed for the ground at 5:34pm.
Whilst walking back to the ground, we sang a couple of Sutton songs to get us all into the football mood and we got back to the Gallagher Stadium at 5:50pm and I filmed some of the ground for my match day vlog and then we went to the turnstilles to find some other Sutton fans waiting for the turnstilles to open and we saw the new North Stand and we was all impressed with it and it was the main conversation until the turnstilles opened. Just before the turnstilles opened, we had our bags checked and I had to pay £12 for a concession ticket and that is very expensive because £12 is roughly the price for an adult to get into Sutton but I dont mind paying £12 to watch my team. Once we got in the ground we went in the club shop so I could buy a Maidstone pin badge to add to my collection and a programme. We then put the flags up and then we walked around the ground to take some pictures of the stadium.
The Gallagher Stadium is a beautiful and very modern stadium and is one of the best that I have visited. The ground has a capacity of 4,168 and there are 750 seats. On the approach to it from the town centre, there is little to see as the stadium is built into a hillside. Even from the main Club car park, there is not much to be glimpsed of the interior. Once inside though it is a different matter. On one side is the smart looking Main Stand. This all seated stand has a cantilevered roof, meaning that there are no supporting pillars to contend with. It is also raised above pitch level, meaning that spectators have to climb a small set of stairs to enter it.
This Main Stand was extended in 2015 so that it now has a capacity of 750 seats. Oddly the team dugouts are not located in front of the Main Stand but on the other side of the ground. This side has no facilities for spectators as such, just a small flat standing area, behind the perimeter fence. The team dugouts almost seemed to have been an afterthought as they receded into the standing area. At the North End is a new covered terrace that was opened in March 2017. This terrace is of a fair size and has a capacity of 1,768. The opposite, the Loucas End, is a small covered terrace which is just seven steps high. There is also plenty of surrounding trees and greenery on view.
After going round the ground to take some pictures I went round to the burger van to buy myself a cup of hot chocolate and my dad a coffee. I myself am a person who likes to drink a nice warm cup of hot chocolate before a football match and I have to say that the hot chocolate at the Gallagher Stadium is really well made and is not too strong. After drinking around half of my hot chocolate, my friend Theo and Ryan and a few others arrived and we had a good chat and Theo was definetly more excited for the game than me. Ryan then put up his flags and then Theo went to get some chips and I decided to get some as well and the portions they do are quite decent and the chips are quite soft and well cooked.
By the time I finished my portion of chips, there was only around 15 minutes until kick off and the Maidstone fans were occupying their new stand and there was also a celebration picture being taken for the completion of the new stand. The Maidstone fans were quite loud as there was a good 40 or so fans chanting and like many clubs, they were singing the same songs that most large clubs sing. The game nearer to starting and the Sutton fans started to stand with us and we decided to get the chants going to warm up our voices for the game and there was quite a few Maidstone fans standing with us as well which was not really comfortable in my opinion as I am not really used to having fans from the other team right next to me but I put this aside and kept the singing going.
The teams came out and there was a massive roar from the large crowd within the stadium and as soon as the teams come out, I felt so proud that I support Sutton United and I felt a surge of energy pass through my body. The game kicked off and I was so excited because I had been waiting for this game for a long time. Both teams had decent chances in the first half but Sutton had the better chances
The half time whistle blew and both sets of fans gave a massive round of support for their teams. After the teams had gone back into the changing rooms, I went to the burger van with my mate Theo who went and got a bottle of coke and we both chatted about the game. We then walked back to where we stoof in the first half and there were quite a lot of Maidstone fans up our end but we was expecting this as the game is not segregated.
Sutton started the second half looking quite strong and we had a few chances to take the lead early on in the first half and Maidstone had the odd chance but in the 51st minute, Sutton broke out of control from Maidstone and thundered down the left wing and put a great ball into the box and Coyle put the ball into his own net and Sutton took the lead and Adam Coombed nearly got the final touch on the ball but it was an own goal from the Maidstone player.
Sutton then created a few more good chances but then it seemed to look like Maidstone wanted the game more as they were creating a lot of chances and Jamar Loza was putting everything on Sutton but Maidstone seemed to get a bit of luck as Jamar Loza was tripped just outside the box but Maidstone were given a penalty in the 68th minute and Loza put the ball past Will Puddy and the score was back level. Sutton then had a few chances but towards the end of the game, Sutton were defending for their lives as everything Maidstone were doing was dangerous but Sutton managed to hang on and the game finished 1-1.
We then clapped the Sutton players and then we took the flags down and headed back to car and we all fealt quite happy with a point because our away form has not been the best this season and it was a point nearer to safety and a draw is a fair result as Maidstone are in-form at the moment and you cant really moan with a point away from home.
We got back to the car and drove home and the roads were quite empty and we had some cookies and crisps left over from our snacks that we bought for the game so we all had some cookies and crisps and we dropped Tony back at his house at 11:03pm and we got back to my dads house at 11:08pm and I checked my notifications on my phone and then went to bed at 11:23pm feeling very tired but quite happy.

You can find my match day vlog here:

I really like the Gallagher Stadium, I really like how it still has a non league feeling to it but the ground is definetly good enough for the football league. I like how the main stand has no supporting pillars and I like how the new terrace fits in with the design of the stadium. I also like how the open terrace allows you to feel open inside a mostly covered stadium and the small terrace behind the goal reminds you that you are watching a non league game and is not tall which means everyone is packed toegther which creates a better atmopshere.

The Spitfire Lounge which is the bar inside the stadium is very big and has a large projected screen and there are plenty of drinks available and it has a friendly feeling to the place. The lounge is also very big and there are generally a lot of people in there before and after the game.

The food and drink in the ground is also pretty good, the chips are well cooked and the portions are reasnonbly sized. The hot chocolates are also very nice and well made so if you are going to the Gallagher Stadium for a mid-week fixture, then I would deifntely suggest buying a hot chocolate.

The atmosphere in the ground is also pretty good as the Maidstone fans are quite loud and there are a good 50 fans singing and they also have a drum which is quite loud but doesnt ruin the atmosphere. Sutton were really loud at the game and we didnt let the Maidstone fans intimidate us and we kept on singing throughout the game.

I have to admit, Maidstone isn't the friendliest club that I have visited as there fans were quite arrogant towards us both in and out of the stadium and during the game, one of their supporters came over to us and started waving his Maidstone scarf at us and being arrogant towards us but on the whole, the Maidstone fans are quite friendly.

The overall experience as an away fan is Maidstone is a good away day as the stadium is decent, the local area has lots of eateries and the food inside the ground is quite good and the atmosphere is quite good as well. If you live within 1/2 hours from Maidstone then I would suggest groundhopping there but if you live more than 3/4 hours away, then I wouldn't really reccomend it as it would be very expensive for you but overall, I would reccomend going to Maidstone United.

Stadium: 8/10
Bar: 7/10
Food and Drink: 8/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Friendliness: 7/10
Value For Money: 8/10
Experience As An Away Fan: 8/10
Average Rating: 7.7/10

Friday, 14 April 2017

Aldershot Town F.C. - The Recreation Ground

Aldershot Town F.C.
Aldershot Town F.C.
The Recreation Ground Stadium
High Street
GU11 1TW

Ground Number: 40
Date: Saturday 18th March 2017
Score: Aldershot Town F.C. 2-0 Sutton United F.C.
Competition: Vanarama National League
Attendance: 2,197

Aldershot Town, a team that I have wanted to visit for around 4 years now and I started to want to go and groundhop to Aldershot Town when they were promoted to the football league around 9 years ago and at that time, I always used to play as Aldershot on FIFA as they were one of the more local teams to me on FIFA and this made me want to visit the club.
Image result for aldershot town badge
When Aldershot were relegated back down to the National League, I lost pretty much all interest in the club as this was the time when I started to become a proper Sutton supporter and started to follow Sutton away as well as home and this meant that Sutton were my main priority and I had lost interest in not really going to other grounds like Aldershot but this changed last year when I started to groundhop. I started to gain some interest in Aldershot again during the summer holidays of 2016 when I decided to take on the challenge of managing Aldershot on Football Manager 2015 and I was managing Aldershot for around 3 years on Football Manager and got them promoted twice (up to League One) and this meant I had played Football Manager for around a month as Aldershot manager in real time and I decided to buy an Aldershot scarf online for £12 as I kind of started to like the club again.
My kind of love for Aldershot Town has kind of been there for the past 9 or so years from me playing as them on FIFA and me managing them on Football Manager but when my dad announced to me that he had the day off for Aldershot away a week before the game, I was so happy and it felt like Sutton had just won a game in the last minute because I was really excited that after around 5 or so years, I will finally be visiting Aldershot Town F.C.
The week before the game went very slowly mainly due to me being at college on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday but was more likely to be because I was very excited that I am going to be visiting Aldershot Town on Saturday. My four days at college were not too stressful which was quite rare because college is normally stressful for me but this week seemed to be a lot more relaxed for some reason. Friday finally arrived and I had to go through one more day of college before the big day at Aldershot Town and the day was quite relaxed, the work was not very hard and we wasn't given too much and this meant I was able to come home in a good mood and I was staying round my dads tonight which meant I had to get all my stuff together for the weekend ready for when he comes round. Once I got home, I got all of my things together and I had a spare 15 minutes so I decided to look into the history of Aldershot Town F.C.
Aldershot Town F.C. were founded in 1992 and were the re-formation of the previously club Aldershot F.C. who folded in 1992. The club play in red and blue and their nicknames are `The Shots` and `The Rising Phoenix`. They currently play at The Recreation Ground which has a capacity of 7,100 and there are 2,136 seats. When the newly formed Aldershot Town F.C. were formed, they entered the Isthmian League Division Three in 1992 and their attendance for the clubs first competitive fixture had a higher attendance then the old Aldershot F.C. last ever game. Aldershot won the Isthmian League Division Three in their first season by 18 points and the club was promoted to the Isthmian League Division Two. After finishing in 3rd in their first year in the Isthmian League Division Two, the club were then promoted again and now they were competing in the Isthmian League Division One. The club remained in the Isthmian League First Division until the 1997/98 season when they were promoted to the Isthmian Premier Division and they played for the first time in the Premier Division in the 1998/99 season.
Then in the 2002/03 season, Aldershot won the Isthmian League Premier Division and they were promoted to the Conference and they entered the Conference for the 2003/04 season. The club competed well in the Conference for four long seasons and the club was finally promoted to the Football League in the 2007/08 season when they were the champions of the Conference. The newly formed Aldershot Town made it back to the Football League in 16 years and they entered the Football League in the 2008/09 season. The club competed in League Two for 5 season before finally getting relegated back down to the Conference in the 2012/13 season and since that year, the club have been battling it out in the Conference Premier.
So the day of the game finally arrived and the moment I woke up, I got straight out of bed and saw that I woke up quite late because I woke up at 8:15am which is very late for a Saturday as I normally find myself waking up at around 7am on a Saturday so I had a lye in as well which didn't hurt as we wasn't planning on leaving until 11ish. So after I woke up, I had a nice refreshing warm shower which really woke up and I had a nice breakfast which consisted of toasted muffins which butter which is one of my favourite breakfast options. After breakfast, I had time to do my intro to my match day vlog as I run a YouTube channel called TalkSuttonUnited which is where I upload my match day vlogs, match reports and pre-match podcasts and occasional news updates.
So after I finished filming my match day vlog intro which took around 5 minutes, I got all of my things together that I was taking to the game, I put my jumper on and then we went out to the car and put everything in the boot and then we finally left my dads house at 10:50am. We then had to drive up to my Uncle Ben`s house as we were taking him to the ground as well and we drove up to Banstead to pick him up and we got to his house at 11:12am and he had to get his things ready but he only took a minute and we left his house at 11:15am. We then had to drove up the A3 which would take us near to Aldershot and the A3 was pretty quiet which was really good because it meant we was able to drive there quickly and we turned off the A3 around 5 miles from Aldershot and then we had to drive down some small roads and we finally arrived in Aldershot at 12:15pm and we passed thre ground on the way and the town wasn't very busy and we headed for a car park which was around a 5/10 minute walk from the stadium.
We arrived at the car park at 12:22pm and we parked the car and had a quick walk to see what kind of places there were to eat in Aldershot and us being us headed straight for the Burger King and me being me had a bacon double cheese XL meal with coke, my dad had the chicken royale meal and my uncle Ben had like four small burgers and a coffee for £7. Once we started to eat, I started to really get in the mood for football because I just wanted to go to the stadium but next up on the list was to visit a local pub for a drink so we finished our Burger King at 12:50pm and we headed for the Crimea pub which is heavily suggested for away fans and we got to the pub at 12:57pm and the pub was very traditional and had a few of our close Sutton United friends inside and I got a pint of coke and the pub also had a dart board so me and a few of the other Sutton fans had a couple of games of darts.
We spent nearly an hour in the Crimea but after a few games of darts against my uncle and my mate Luke, I finished my pint of coke and we started to head off to the ground at 1:49pm and the ground was just a few minutes away so we slowly walked down to the ground and we got to the Recreation Ground at 2pm. Before I went through the turnstiles, I went in the club shop and I purchased a Aldershot Town pin badge for £4 to add to my collection of ground hopping pin badges. Once we got in the ground, we headed round to the where the away fans are normally segregated but the game today was not segregated but most of the Sutton fans stood/sat together. When we got to the area we was going in, we found out we only had a small seated section of around 150 seats and the open terrace we was hoping to go on was closed so I decided to put my flags up but around 20 minutes before kick off, they opened the terrace, so I took my flags down and put them up on the terrace. I then had a good chance to look at the ground.
The Recreation Ground is a lovely stadium and is one of my favourites that I have visited so far. I like how the ground is situated next to the high street but is covered by trees which gives the ground a rural feel to it. On one side is the North Stand. This was built by the supporters club in 1932, in preparation for the old Aldershot FC joining the league. It was built on top of some much older stone terracing, and is raised slightly above pitch level where the stone base of the terracing can still be seen. It originally had bench seating only in the front, central sections, but this was replaced with individual seats when new dressing rooms and offices and the Directors box were added in 1980. Further seating was also added in 2008 on Aldershot town’s promotion to the League to bring the total seats in the ground close to 2,000. However both ends and a small section behind the seats are still standing. The stand has two quirks, due to the way it was first built: the roof does not quite cover the first row or two of the seats; also, it was not built level, so when seen from across the pitch it is visibly higher towards its east end. 
At one end is the East Bank covered terrace. This stand has a classic looking barrel shaped roof and has a number of supporting pillars running across the front of it. Opposite is the High Street End. Until 2013 this area was unused for spectators having just a narrow path and some advertising hoardings. However to help the Club comply with League rules stipulating the number of seats that a ground must have, then a small prefabricated covered area was erected on one side of this end (towards the Main Stand). Called the Community Stand it comprises just four rows of seats and only runs from the corner flag to the goal area. It has a total seating capacity of 250. On the other side of this end is a two storey green portakabin that serves as a Police Control Box, otherwise this end is unused for spectators. The ground benefits from an impressive set of floodlights which I really like.
I love the Recreation Ground because it has a true non-league feeling to it and I like the way how the ground has a very traditional feeling to it and the changes that the club has done such as adding the small seated stand behind the goal all fits in with the stadium and it doesn't ruin the grounds tradition. After I put my flags up on the open terrace, I had some time to go and get some chips from the tea hut and the chips were really nice, they were not burnt or crusty, they were cooked perfectly and tasted amazing. I would really recommend getting a portion of chips when you go to Aldershot Town F.C.
So kick off was nearing and the Sutton fans were starting pour in and there were around 200 (216 announced) loyal Sutton fans who had made the 35 mile trip to Aldershot and for a small club like ourselves, a 216 loyal away support is really good. The teams came out and there was a huge roar from all around the stadium as both sets of fans clapped and cheered as their teams entered the pitch. The game kicked off and the Sutton loyal started to sing our normal songs and there were a decent amount of us singing as there was about a good 30 of us chanting and even when we got a corner or throw in, all of the Sutton fans clapped and it was quite loud. The Aldershot fans had a drummer and the drummer was okay, the rhythm wasn't always perfect but it seemed to work and there were around a good 200 Aldershot fans chanting but they kept on repeating the same 4/5 chants which was a bit disappointing because we have around 10/12 chants and we have a wider range of chants.
Sutton were dominating and we scored but unfortunately our player was offside, this meant the goal didn't count. Sutton continued to attack and had many good chances but Aldershot managed to catch us on the counter attack just before half time and Will Puddy deflected the shot into his own net and Aldershot found themselves 1-0 up at half time and was much not deserved as Sutton should have been at least 3-1 up at half time. My half time snack was chocolate coated rice crispy cakes and cookies and I had a chat with the other Sutton fans and we all still believed that we should be winning and we can still get something out of the game.
The second half started and Aldershot seem to be a bit better and Sutton just seemed to become less confident and we was giving away chances. Sutton had a few chances to get back into the game but we just didn't take our chances and Aldershot continued to attack and Sutton were punished in the 90th minute as Aldershot scored to seal the game and make the three points safe. The full time whistle went and we clapped the players off and I thought to myself that only losing 2-0 to a team that are around 8 places above us is not the worst result but we definitely deserved a point at the least.
I took my flags down and we headed back for the car and when we was walking out of the ground, a couple of elderly Aldershot fans said that we deserved to win the game and they wished us luck for the rest of the season. We left the ground at 5pm and headed back to the car park. The roads and paths were very busy which meant it took us a bit longer to get back to the car park but we finally got back to the car at 5:13pm. We were all disappointed that we didn't get anything from the game because we deserved a point at the absolute minimum.
We drove out of Aldershot and within a few minutes of driving, we were back in Surrey which was a shock because we thought that Aldershot was much further from Surrey but we drove up towards the A3 and there was a bit of traffic as there was a road accident but the traffic cleared after around 5 minutes and once we got on the A3, the journey was a piece of cake as there was no traffic and the roads were not too busy. We dropped my uncle Ben at his house at 6:20pm and we dropped our mate Tony off at his house at 6:42pm and we finally got home at 6:50pm. We got home and had a little bite to eat and then I had a quick shower before going to bed.

You can find my match day vlog here:

The Recreation Ground is a really nice stadium to visit. It kind of has a partly football league feeling to it but it also has a non league feeling to it which means if you are watching a non league game at this stadium, you wont feel like you are at a football league game. I like the way that the club has kept the ground traditional and has not ruined the ground by adding any large and modern facilities such as large new terraces or seated stands etc.

Unfortunately I didn't go in any of the bars inside the ground but I did go in a local pub called the `Crimea` and it is located around a 3 minute walk away from the ground and it is very friendly for away fans, has reasonable prices and there is a dart board. The `Crimea` also has a very traditional British pub feeling to it so if you like traditional pubs and you are visiting Aldershot Town FC, I would highly suggest going for a pint in the `Crimea`.

The food and drink inside the ground is pretty good as well, my dad had a tea and my uncle had a coffee and they both said they were quite good in terms of taste and I had a portion of chips and they were quite decent, nicely cooked and they were decently sized so top marks for the food and drink inside the ground.

The atmosphere is something that was not lacking for this fixture, both sets of fans were creating a decent atmosphere and if you are an away fan, then you will be shocked by how loud the Aldershot are because for this level of football, they are very loud and this stadium is a very easy stadium to get the atmosphere going because you are on the open terrace (if you are an away fan) and the ground makes you want to start a chant and support your team.

Aldershot Town F.C. is also very friendly. When I went in the club shop to buy the pin badge, the fans inside there and the staff who worked in there were very friendly and welcoming and even inside the ground, the stewards are polite and if you bump into an Aldershot fan, they will generally give you a friendly smile.

The overall experience from an away fans point of view is Aldershot Town F.C. is a really good away day. There are a lot of places to eat in Aldershot before the game, the local pubs are pretty good, the stadium is pretty decent, the club is very friendly and you will experience some great atmosphere and football. If you are an away fan, I would highly suggest going to Aldershot Town F.C.

Stadium: 8/10
Bar: 8/10
Food and Drink: 8/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Friendliness: 8/10
Value For Money: 8/10
Experience As An Away Fan: 8/10
Average Rating: 8/10