Swindon Town
The County Ground

Ground No. 111
Visited - Saturday 16th December 2006
Result - Swindon Town 2-1 Bristol Rovers
Competition - Coca-Cola League 2
Attendance - 10,010

When the fixtures for the 2006/07 season came out, Swindon vs Bristol Rovers was one of the first neutral games that I drew a circle round, with the prospect of a local derby making a trip to the County Ground more appealing. I had actually been to the ground before, in June ’04, to take a few pictures, however, not having seen a game, then it didn’t count towards the 92 total.

Surprisingly, the match in question had been kept at a Saturday, 3pm kick-off, and with tickets available on the gate it meant that I didn’t have to leave home at too ridiculous a time, catching the 8:40am train from Wolverhampton, with the journey going well, arriving into Swindon on time, just after 11am.

As usual, I went down to the ground early, and after buying a ticket first, I managed to get into the ground to take a few pictures. Coming in through the Arkells Stand, to the left was the Stratton Bank. An uncovered former terrace, which stretched back further than its height really showed, with the rake of the seating being fairly shallow. Next to that, and running the length of the pitch was the Nationwide Stand. The newest structure at the ground, it was a fair sized, all-seated stand, split into two levels, both of which were fairly steep. At the far end was the Town End, which was another former terrace with seats bolted on. This stand had a particularly low roof, which with a large overhang, made the stand look smaller than it actually was. Finally, completing the picture was the Arkells Stand itself, which was a good sized, all-seated stand. Built in 1971, it was showing its age a little bit compared to the Nationwide Stand opposite, but still had a number of interesting features, including a decorative fence around the directors seating and a ‘no mans land’ separating home and away fans, where a block of seating had been removed to leave a section of bare terracing covered by netting. Originally it had been built with only an upper section of seating that was raised from the ground, however it has since had a lower part added, but this falls short of each end, leaving a bare wall at the ends of the pitch. From the outside, the stand is vaguely reminiscent of the East Stand at Highbury, with cream-white pillars at regular intervals along the fa├žade.

One thing that had changed since my last visit was the erection of advertising hoardings along the rear of the Town End. Whilst probably bringing in much needed revenue, they had ruined the previous bare look of the stand, which I had somewhat liked. The Nationwide still looked impressive with a row of trees and an area of grass behind it, giving the impression that the ground is in a nice parkland setting, like say the KC Stadium at Hull, however the ‘Magic Roundabout’ plus terraced housing in the vicinity soon give away the grounds urban location, with it being located just a short walk from the town centre. Finally, like the spire of a church, four large floodlights stood in each corner of the ground, helping to give it a classic look, especially after dark with beams of light shooting down towards the pitch.

Having taken enough pictures, and visited the club shop, I eventually left the ground to go back into the town for several hours before coming back, ready to go in for about 2:30pm, however after arriving at the Stratton Bank turnstiles, I was soon glad that I’d bought a ticket earlier, with the club forcing fans to buy tickets before going in. This caused huge queues, not helped by the stewards who were acting more like nightclub bouncers with their security checks, meaning it took me about 20 minutes to get in, and people without tickets even longer, what with having to queue twice.

Having finally got in, I found a seat near the bottom left corner, which was free from the glare of the sun opposite, and after a while, the game eventually got started.

The visitors started the brightest, and it took them only 12 minutes to open the scoring, when Richard Walker got on the end of a long ball and was able to slot it home after some good work to evade the Swindon defence. Despite this advantage, it was the home supporters celebrating next, when they equalised just three minutes later through Lucas Jutkiewicz when he got on the end of a cross to poke home. Worse was to come for Rovers, when the hosts took the lead only two minutes after that. Curtis Weston had hit a shot right against the crossbar, but Aaron Brown was the first to react to head the ball home making it 2-1. Swindon dominated the rest of the half, and were worth their lead at the break, with the visitors unable to really make much of their chances.

The second half was much the same, with Rovers having the best chances to score again, dominating the last 20 minutes or so, but for all the pressure, they never really had any luck inside the box, and so it eventually ended 2-1 to Swindon, when perhaps a draw would have been the fairer result.

Throughout the game, there had been a good atmosphere with the Rovers fans in fine voice, but with the game being a local derby, there had been somewhat of an edge to it, and that spilled over late on when Swindon fans in the Arkells Stand started to throw chairs (amongst other items) over the no-mans land into the visitors section. These were promptly returned in the same manner by the away fans, although it didn’t escalate, and the police and stewards quickly took control of the situation, however outside was a different matter with the police restraining Rovers fans immediately outside the gates, which created a flash point with the home fans who had been waiting just beyond the police lines. Apparently we had been asked to wait inside the ground after the final whistle, but with no PA system in the Stratton Bank (or at least not one that worked!), then no one had been aware of this at the time.

Having got away from the police escort, I made my own way back to the station and didn’t have long to wait for a train home, arriving back in good time, despite a slight delay in Didcot.

Overall, it hadn’t been too bad a day out. The ground may have been showing its age in places, but it still had plenty of character, and was a good one to visit, so I’ll be quite happy to visit once more in the future.

The County Ground

Football in the Community Office

Turnstiles to the Stratton Bank

Rear of the Arkells Stand

Rear of the Town End

A more plain Town End (2004)

The Club Shop

Rear of the Nationwide Stand

Old Turnstiles to the Stratton Bank

Rear of the Nationwide Stand

The Town End

The Arkells Stand

The Directors Seating

The Stratton Bank

The Nationwide Stand

The Nationwide Stand

The Town End

The Arkells Stand

The County Ground Panoramic 1

The County Ground Panoramic 2

The County Ground Panoramic 3

The County Ground Panoramic 4



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