Tuesday 11th August 2015 – Accrington Stanley 2 – 2 p Hull City AFC
Capital One Cup R1 @ Wham Stadium, Accrington
For the 80s child and older, the mention of Accrington Stanley evokes memories of this.
Accrington Stanley FC – known because of their demise in the 1960s followed by a slow and steady rise through the doldrums of Northern and Non-League football, now sitting in the bottom tier of league football. In their own words, “The club that wouldn’t die.”
The last time City played them was the 1950s, as equals, in the league. At the start of the 2015/16 season they met again, this time separated by two divisions and a gulf in riches, in the first round of the League Cup.
It was a Tuesday night affair; normally I don’t attend the earlier rounds of this competition, which are regionalised, making travel from the south difficult to do in an evening. But this one was a ground tick I had to achieve. Two strategic half days off work booked, and via Preston and a mate’s sofa in Manchester, the away day was on.
Arriving into Accrington at 3pm, a pleasant-looking and agreeable place set amongst the backdrop of the Lancashire Moors, a watering hole was needed.
The Peel Park Hotel was our first stop, sited next to Accrington’s previous Peel Park Ground (now just a playing field) – one wall from the old ground is all that remains now. Beer was good, publican friendly, and already a nice contingent of both sets of fans.
With an hour or so to go, we made our way towards the Crown Ground (about 10-15 minutes walk from the first pub), or as it is known now (under one of these awful sponsorship arrangements), the Wham Stadium. Beforehand however, we stopped in the home supporters pub (but away friendly), The Crown (had to be). Plastic pint glasses in this one, and not the range of ales that Peel Park Hotel offered, but good fun all the same, and something of a novelty to be able to drink without problems so close to opposition quarters.
Despite being a several dozen league places apart and City’s side having vast Premiership experience, I was a bit nervous about this one. Whilst not (yet?) as prolific as his Dad, Accrington’s goal threat was none other than, son of Dean, Josh Windass. It felt a foregone conclusion that he would score the winning goal against the team were his old man holds Legend status…..
Accrington Stanley are often cited to be the smallest club in the Football League – their ground does nothing to prove this wrong. Capacity c. 5,000 and single tiered throughout, it is easy to miss amongst the houses in the walk up to it. Whilst small, it is however friendly. It reminded me somewhat of Glanford Park – tight and compact, bit run down, and steel rails at the top of the stands. Albeit I’ve never felt a trip to Scunthorpe as friendly!
The away end is an open terrace behind the goal. Facilities are basic; mixture of small and portaloo bogs, couple of burger vans, and a hut selling beer (bottles of Carlsberg from memory). It didn’t rain that night, but I can imagine a similar fixture in February may not be as pleasant!
The views however were spectacular; a nice red sunset that night also. There are worse places to watch football.
The game itself, for 90 minutes at least, was not a cracker. City fielded a side mixed with youth, new signings and some old favourites, but you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a pre-season friendly. City seemed incapable of exiting second gear, and intent on walking the ball into the net. The atmosphere was not great neither, City fans were a big part of that, but as the game wore on, the home side started to find their voice, and with a few good chances spurned, the 90 minute whistle blew, and you felt a bit sorry for Accy. They could have pulled off an upset – and with your own team semeingly not caring – you wouldn’t have begrudged them it either.
Extra time started with a bang; City took the lead earlier on through new boy Akpom (just arrived from Arsenal on loan) before being pegged back. City youngster Greg Luer got his first senior goal for The Tigers in the second half of extra time, but again City couldn’t hold on.
2-2 AET. Penners.
Even that was drawn out, and City made hard work of it. Maguire and Meyler missed their spot kicks (the latter slamming the ball into the stand to his left….) but in sudden death it ended 4-3 to the visitors. Banana skin avoided. R2 it was to be (R3 at the time of writing this – holiday season and all that).
The late finish meant we missed the last train back to Manchester, so a taxi was the only option. In London that would have meant £120 at least. Up North it was cheaper than the combined train fare – £25. Got to love it up here.
A game City should have won with ease (on paper) though made difficult, but a decent day out. They might be the smallest in the league (debatable and I would imagine they would argue that) but Crown Ground is well worth the trip. Friendly club and pubs, and a scenic setting for football. And no doubt a rare ground tick for Hull City fans.