Ground: Fraser Eagle Stadium Date: Sat 21st February 2009, 3.00 pm
Competition: League Two
Match: Accrington Stanley 0 Dagenham & Redbridge 0 HT: 0-0 Att: 1,123
Additional: Entrance: £13.00 Programme: £3.00 Coffee/Tea £1.50
Fraser Eagle Stadium in pictures
Accrington Stanley are not to be confused with Accrington, the club who were one of the twelve founder members of the league. I had this pointed out to me Saturday much to my horror. I felt like an experienced astromoner who’d just realised the moon wasn’t made of cheese.
Accrington, the new one with Stanley tagging on the end, were founded in 1891, their name deriving from the existing Stanley Villa, a club based at Stanley WMC in Stanley Street, Accrington. (yes, I know – Stanley off!) They took the town name when the original Accrington folded in 1893. They played league football from 1921 to 1962. In 1962 they were replaced in the league by Oxford United. In 2006, after the longest exchange program ever, they swapped positions again, the resurrected Accy back in the league and Oxford condemned to the Conference. In that time Accrington Stanley had gone bust and been reformed – in 1968.
Both of the sides today get very poor attendances, Accrington have averaged just 1,486 this season (which must be about the worst in the league since the early eighties). Dagenham are fourth worst with 1,945, but this is in a season where they are pushing for a play-off place. Indeed the attendance today was 1,123 which is the lowest league crowd I’ve been a part of. Coincidentally, it beat my previous record of 1,329, which was at Dagenham & Redbridge last season.
The Fraser Eagle stadium, more commonly known as the Crown Ground, was an unexpected visit, replacing the postponed Hereford v Brighton game on 7th Feb. It is a bit like when you have your shopping delivered and they choose suitable replacements for the products they didn’t have in stock. Edgar Street will have to wait for next season now, unfortunately, as the replay against Brighton is in the middle of my Easter Welsh holiday.
I drove to Accrington, stopping off on the way at Northwich to pick up Martin, a Man City friend I hadn’t seen in ages. (He used to watch Brighton away games with me in the late 90s when we were dismal; and I watched the occasional City match with him). We were also meeting Shaun Smith, of 100 Football Grounds Club fame, in town before the game.
I was impressed with the brief experience I had of the town. The predominantly beige brick used in the buildings is much more visually appealling than their more common red counterparts. It looked smart and the multi-storey town centre car park was free, as in no charge whatsoever. For those visiting by train, like Shaun today, the station is bang in the middle of town, with the stadium a brisk 15-20 minute walk uphill from town.
There were plenty of pubs in the town centre to choose from. Recommended by CAMRA is the Abbey in Bank Street, which we tried to find, but failed. (Despite walking up and down Bank Street). We ended up in the Black Horse, which wasn’t a free house but did do a nice pint of Theakston’s. A quick drive from town and up Whalley Road and we could easily park in Livingstone Road, right outside the ground.
The ground was built in 1968, in line with the club’s resurrection. It holds 5,057 with 1,200 seated, making it the smallest in the league. It it a mixture of new and old. The newest stand is the main stand running the length of the pitch. It is only a few seats up and reminds me of Kingstonian’s Kingsmeadow. Behind one goal is another newish small covered stand where, apparently, the more vocal support sit.
The other end is a smart terrace, about 5 deep, which was vacant except for 3 ballboys. The remaining side is the Whinney Hill Terrace, or the cowshed. Cowshed it certainly was. This is a makeshift two-thirds covered tiny terrace, half of which is given to away fans along with the minute corner terrace next to the open end where the ballboys were. In the middle is a makeshift TV gantry, the bare scaffolding and polythene type.
Behind the Cowshed was a fair swathe of wasteland, bordered by a new housing estate. Ballboys could be seen fetching balls from the wasteland, and at some points stood like sentries on an old pile of bricks. If I was a decent photographer it would make a very poignant image, and one I would have associated with my pre-visit depictions of Accrington.
Despite its small size it is enough for Accy, and even small crowds fill the place quite well making for a better atmosphere. The game was good for a 0-0, Accrington winning the first half on points, but unable to finish, maybe lacking a little confidence. Dag & Red came back at them in the second and looked oft-times like snatching a winner. It was Accrington, though, who were given the opportunity to get all three points with a penalty given in injury time, for hand ball. (It did look like a kosher penalty). It was saved by Tony Roberts from Andy Proctor. It was Roberts’ 400th appearance for the Daggers and an exciting ending to the game for a neutral.
Accrington’s Fraser Eagle Stadium was Ground 77 in my Sisyphus-like quest for the 92.