Ground No. 42
Visited - Monday 23rd August 2004
Result - Rochdale 2-4 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Competition - Carling Cup
Attendance - 3292

I had planned to go to Spotland about a year ago, but with one thing and another I'd never got round to it, so when we were drawn against Rochdale in the first round of the Carling Cup, it was an opportunity not to be missed.
Despite it being an unattractive game on a wet Monday night and after a long trip on the previous Saturday, not to mention the game being on TV, I'd managed to persuade a friend to come along, so after a short train ride to Birmingham to meet him we set off north up the M6 Toll in atrocious conditions. We had the lot, rain, hail and what I could have sworn was a tornado forming around about Cannock!

Other than the weather the journey went fairly well, with traffic on the M6 being heavy, yet free flowing and we managed to arrive in Rochdale in a little under two hours. The ground itself was easy enough to find, being well signposted from the motorway, although parking seemed to be a little more difficult with most of the streets around the ground being full, we did however find a church that was offering parking, so hoping for some divine intervention in our woeful away form we paid a man and set off in the direction of a chip shop.

We found one easily enough, although it was closed despite us having seen people walking towards the ground carrying chips! After finding a shop, we walked back towards the ground, and had a brief walk around. We went in before too long, and once inside it really does look a nice little place. The away stand (Per-Fit Windows Stand) is of a good size and provided an excellent view where we were sitting. Facilities in it were excellent as well, although I was a little annoyed at the pedantic stewards who made everyone who was drinking beer stand in this small little corner, instead of filling out along the concourse. With the drinkers friends standing there it really was quite cramped when the rest of underneath the stand was empty, it really did seem quite ridiculous, I know of the rule not allowing beer in the seats, but this was stupid. The actions of the stewards in that incident were continued throughout the night with them being OTT far too often. As for the other stands, to our left was the WMG Stand, which was a good size, and looked impressive when full. The other end (Sandy Lane) was a small terrace and opposite, the Main Stand was a small, but nice looking stand.

The game kicked off, and before too long Rochdale had scored, it was kind of expected with not only our poor away form, but our general form this season being below expectations. When they went 2-0 up the mood in the Wolves end turned pretty ugly. We managed to get one back just before half time when Paul Ince scored a scorcher from about 30 yards out. That set us up for the second half, and we came out looking like a different team. With Kevin Cooper coming on he turned the game on its head when soon after the restart he had a free kick cleared off the line. Rochdale looked shaken at that, and it wasn’t too long before young striker Leon Clarke got us level. Kenny Miller and Keith Andrews added goals to make it look easy in the end, indeed we could have scored more had Newton not have wasted an easy chance, but it was enough, and 4-2 was a little harsh on Rochdale as it was, I certainly would have felt sorry for them if it was any more, as their fans and team really gave it a go, creating a good atmosphere, with the team working hard on the pitch.

We left the ground in a jubilant mood after securing our first away win in over a year. Many things were attributed to it, parking on a church car park, me wearing colours away from home for the first time since the play-off final, but everyone was just glad that the miles of travelling up and down the country had finally come to something. It was also kind of ironic, and self-satisfactory that it was probably our lowest travelling contingent for quite a while, so perhaps for the people who chose not to travel to 'lowly Rochdale' it served them right!

After getting back to the car, and sitting in the traffic we got on to the motorway again, and were home before too long. Overall it was a good day out, and a nice little ground to visit, very picturesque with trees surrounding the stands, its one that I'd enjoy going back to.

Ground No. 42 (return visit)
Visited - Saturday 17th May 2008
Result - Rochdale 2-1 Darlington A.E.T. (Rochdale win 5-4 on penalties)
Competition - League 2 Play-Off Semi-Final, second leg
Attendance - 9870

Having visited Spotland in August 2004, I’d really liked the place, finding it a charming venue, tucked away between terrace streets in a leafy suburb of the town. It was the perfect lower league ground, developed to a good standard and offering fans a choice between standing and seats, so I was looking forward to going back, partly just to get some more pictures, which had come out awful last time with my old camera, but also just to visit what is listed amongst most League 2 fans favourite trips.

Perennially stuck in League 2, for only the second time in their history, Rochdale had managed to make the play-offs, so were in with a shot of getting promoted for the first time since 1969, and their second leg match against Darlington looked a great game to go to, with the tie delicately balanced at 2-1 to the side from the North-East. Ticket sales were going fast, but despite this Rochdale still refused to sell me a ticket unless I went up there in person before the game (no on the day sales either), but Darlington were far more accommodating and helpful, so having booked a place, I set off early, leaving home at 7am to make the journey northwards thanks to a 12pm kick-off for the Sky cameras. 

After arriving in Rochdale, I spent the time before the game in the town centre, before heading up to Spotland, coming in from a different way as before, having driven last time, but the walk wasn’t too long, taking about 20 minutes, through the cobbled streets before arriving at the ground with an hour to spare until kick-off. From the outside, little had changed since my last visit with the ground looking very smart, thanks to all four sides having been rebuilt in recent years. After going in, you get the same impression, firstly from the Willbutts Lane Stand, which is a good sized single tiered cantilever stand, offering great views and good facilities. To our left was the WMG Stand, the home end of the ground which housed the most vocal set of supporters and was another similar sized all-seated stand, although views here were restricted by a couple of supporting pillars, which also affected the other two sides, including the Main Stand opposite, which is a small all-seated stand, with executive facilities to the rear, and not quite running the full length of the pitch. Finally, is the Sandy Lane End, the smallest stand at the ground, but the only terrace, which is sheltered at the rear by the trees overhanging it, offering a picturesque backdrop to the ground.

Having taken a few pictures, I found my seat, which was in a great position, right on the halfway line offering a perfect view of the action, although as kick-off approached, it soon became obvious that it would be standing only, with a buoyant following having made the journey down from County Durham to support their side.

From the off, it was Rochdale who looked most up for the match, taking the game to a docile Darlington side who looked like they had come with the hope of hanging on to their first leg lead. They were really under the cosh, with ‘dale going close twice inside the first five minutes. Despite this though, it was the visitors who opened the scoring, winning a penalty in the 27th minute, with Clark Keltie showing John Terry how to do it, confidently smashing it home right into the top left hand corner. That seemed to wake the Quakers up, and the game started to become more even as the half wore on, with Rochdale seeming to fall away in their belief, but just before half-time the home side managed to get one back when a free-kick was hit home by Chris Dagnall amidst confusion in the visitors defence.

After the interval, the game really ebbed and flowed, with both sides enjoying periods of domination. Darlington hit the bar in the 47th minute but it was the home side who levelled the tie, when David Perkins hit a shot from 25yards out in the 78th minute, which rocketed into the top corner. It was a great goal, and with the tie now at 3-3, it took the game into extra-time. Darlington dominated the additional 30 minutes, but never really looked like scoring, even after Rochdale goalscorer Perkins was sent off for a nasty lunge at Ricky Ravenhill, so after two hours of football it eventually came down to penalties. Both sides scored their first four, but there was heartbreak in the away end when Jason Kennedy had his effort saved by Tommy Lee in the Rochdale goal. Ben Muirhead stepped up to take the final spot kick, and converted it to send the Lancashire side to Wembley. 

Throughout, there had been a great atmosphere from both sets of fans and even as a neutral I was drained at the end of the game, having wanted Darlington to progress, but it wasn’t to be, and the pitch invasion by the home fans at the end was well received in the away end, with both sides clapping each other off.

After leaving the ground, I made my way back to the station to go onto the second game of the day, with Stockport vs Wycombe kicking off at 6pm, although after the emotion of this match, that game was never going to live up to this one, with Stockport holding on to win 1-0 and go to Wembley to meet Rochdale in an all northern tie.

Overall, it had been a good day, and I was glad to get back to Spotland, especially for such a match. The ground was as good as I remembered it, and one I’ll be happy to go back to for a third time, it’s understandable why most fans rate it amongst their favourites. 

Welcome to Spotland

Rear of the Main Stand

Rear of the Main Stand

Rear of the WMG Stand

The Club Shop

Rear of the Willbutts Lane Stand

Rear of the Sandy Lane End

The Game in Question

The Sandy Lane End

The Main Stand

The WMG Stand

The WMG Stand

The Main Stand

The Sandy Lane End

Que Sera Sera...

Spotland Panoramic 1

Spotland Panoramic Picture 2


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