Bristol Rovers
The Memorial Stadium

Ground No. 93
Visited - Saturday 6th May 2006
Result - Bristol Rovers 2-3 Macclesfield Town
Competition - Coca-Cola League 2
Attendance - 6100

With Wolves’ season over, it meant that there was an extra week left on the calendar to get a few grounds in before the summer. Looking down the fixture lists, I had been hoping to go to Blundell Park to see Grimsby at home to Northampton in a game that they needed to win for promotion, but unfortunately tickets had sold out quickly, so the next best option was Bristol Rovers home tie to Macclesfield.

Having been to Ashton Gate a few months previously, I was looking forward to going back to Bristol to see the city’s other team. Looking at pictures, the Memorial Stadium looked a really characteristic ground, so it promised to be a welcome break from the DIY flat-pack grounds popping up around the country.

I’d decided to set off fairly early, so caught the train from Wolverhampton at about 8:30am, changing in Birmingham before arriving into Bristol at just gone 10:30am. As usual, I went straight up to the ground to try and get in, and with the gates being open, was successful and managed to go all around.

At one end of the ground was the South (XXXX) Stand, which was one of the more interesting structures that I’ve seen on my travels, being a small area of temporary seating 12 rows high, and running about two-thirds the width of the pitch. Not that that was particularly unusual, but what set it apart from most temporary stands was the roof, which was an awning supported by a fair number of pillars, giving the impression more of a giant tent than a football stand! To the right of the South Stand was the DAS Stand, which only ran for about half the length of the pitch, and again is probably one of the most unusual stands in the country. With a small area of terracing situated in front of a second tier of seating, both of these were in the shadow of the overhanging balcony which contained another section of seating and executive boxes, with above them, a small roof that had an interesting curve in the middle. Also on this side, right up in the corner was the Family Enclosure, which was a small, covered terrace, offering unrestricted views.

At the near end is the most ‘conventional’ stand at the ground, the Blackthorn (Bass) Terrace. With 23 rows, and running the full width of the pitch, it had a good capacity, and was where the home support congregated during the match. Finally, completing the picture at the Memorial Stadium was the MCE Stand. With a lower tier of terracing running the length of the pitch, it was overshadowed by a large upper tier of seating, raised quite a distance above the terrace, with a huge roof covering it and the terrace below. Unfortunately, the seating only ran for about half the length of the pitch, centered on the halfway line, but that didn’t make it any less imposing, with it looking particularly huge from the outside.

After having taken enough pictures, I eventually left the ground, stopping off in the ticket office and club shop, before making my way back to the city centre to spend some time prior to kick-off, eventually coming back to the ground at about 2:30pm.

I’d chosen to stand in the Blackthorn End, and with the weather being moody at best, that proved to be a good decision. Rovers had been in mixed form of late, and a loss to Rochdale seven days earlier had meant that they were out of the play-off race, so the mood of the fans did seem quite subdued, with the game meaning nothing for them, but with Macclesfield still not assured of a place in the league next season, they had traveled in fairly good numbers, filling the far end of the MCE Terrace.

As was expected, the visitors looked the brightest early on, and it didn’t take long for them to go 1-0 up, when from a corner, David Morley rose highest to head the ball home. With this, the home side were stirred into action, and just five minutes later were back on level terms after a good move down the left was finished by Lewis Haldane from close range. More was still to come, and with both sides looking shaky at the back, it was Macclesfield who were next to benefit after some poor defending left Marcus Richardson with plenty of time to fire in the cross from Matt McNeil. After that, the tempo seemed to slow down, and a normal end-of-season affair duly played out, with the score still 2-1 at the break, despite Rovers having a good chance to equalise late on.

In the second half, the home side came out and really took the game to the visitors, and so it was no surprise when on 57 minutes the lively Haldane grabbed his second of the afternoon, with a super strike from the edge of the box. With this, both sides sat back, seemingly content with the point, and just as it seemed like the final score would be 2-2, up popped Marcus Richardson again, this time with the winner. It was deep into injury time when Macclesfield grabbed their third, and with that the game was over, and indeed the season with the Cheshire side having confirmed their status as a league team for another year.

At the end of the game, there was a pitch invasion from the home fans, but it was mostly good natured, so after staying behind for a bit, I eventually left with the ground still half full, catching the bus back to Temple Meads in good time for the train homewards.

Overall, I was glad that I’d chosen to come to the Memorial Stadium. It has to be the most unusual ground of the 92, with four completely different stands, each quite unique in appearance. The experience of visiting here might be different if you are an away fan in the open terrace, but as a neutral, I quite enjoyed it, so I’ll be more than happy to go there again one of the days.

The Memorial Gates

The Memorial Gates

Rear of the DAS Stand

Rear of the Blackthorn End

The Club Shop

Rear of the MCE Stand

Turnstiles to the MCE Stand

The MCE Stand

The Blackthorn Terrace

The DAS Stand

The South Stand

Inside the South Stand

The MCE Stand

The South Stand

The DAS Stand

The DAS Stand

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