The Globe Arena

Ground No. 219
Visited - Saturday 9th October 2010
Result - Morecambe 1-0 Shrewsbury Town
Competition - npower League Two
Attendance - 3239

For any non-league side to reach the 3rd round of the FA Cup then it has to be considered an achievement worthy of significant praise, and so for Morecambe when they pulled Ipswich out of the hat in 2001 then it could only be considered the biggest game in their history up that point, a chance to play against Premiership opposition at a stage of the competition they hadn’t reached in nearly 50 years. The 3-0 defeat that followed could only be expected, but two years later they managed to do it again, and having beaten Chester in the 2nd Round, were looking forward to either perhaps an easier tie and further progression, that or a mouth-watering trip to Old Trafford, Anfield, Highbury, etc. so what followed must have been a bit of a disappointment when once again they were paired with Ipswich, this time at Portman Road. The less said about the 4-0 defeat the better, but with it being the fourth successive season the club had made the proper stages it was a sign that they were progressing and establishing themselves on a national scale.

Founded in 1920 they started off life in the Lancashire Combination, and winning it for the fifth time in 1967-68, along with the Lancashire Senior Cup, they were invited to become founder members of the Northern Premier League the following season, finishing in an impressive third place behind future league sides Macclesfield and Wigan. Success after that was steady, winning the FA Trophy in 1974, but remaining mostly mid-table in the league until 1985-86 when their fortunes started to rise, with a new Chairman building the club up bit by bit, culminating in promotion to the Conference in 1995. With steady as the byword, then following their elevation to the top flight of non-league football their position was consolidated with top half finishes for most of their time until 2006-07 where a late surge after Easter saw them storm into the play-offs, defeating York in the semi’s, before brushing aside favourites Exeter in the final (the first at the new Wembley) to achieve a remarkable promotion for the first time ever to the Football League. Still, steady progression was the order of the day and after two mid-table finishes, in 2009-10 the club made the play-offs, only to suffer defeat to Dagenham, the side that they’d entered the league alongside three years earlier.

Not just on the pitch was progress being made though, and with their home of 89 years, Christie Park, struggling to meet Football League requirements, along with limited potential for expansion then a move was on the cards, and in the summer of 2010 the club re-located to the newly built Globe Arena just over a mile away, and closer to the coast. Of course for me that meant a revisit to the town, having ticked off Christie Park in 2007 and having been at Wembley to see them promoted, circled another significant event in their history, choosing the game against Shrewsbury to go to, which would be the day the ground was officially opened. Of course as this was October, then despite a delay in it being finished at the start of the season, it wasn’t the first game to be played there, and far from planning it, it hadn’t actually been until I was in the ground that I actually knew it was the official opening game!

Travelling up with Duncan from the Football Ground Guide, then we’d both be re-completing the 92 and set off in a good mood for the journey, only being slightly delayed with traffic on the M6 around Stoke causing some issues. We arrived at midday, and parked up nearby to get a good look at the ground. With one entrance, and the Main Stand sitting at the end of the drive, then on first impressions it does appear like many new builds with the way it’s been set out, however after walking around then it’s fair to say that it has a little more character than many, even if the grey colour scheme makes it appear a little lifeless.

Having had a look around then, it was time for a couple of drinks in the nearby William Mitchell, meeting up with fellow 92’er Vinny from Bournemouth who was with his wife Becky to tick this ground as well, before heading back and choosing to stand with the Shrewsbury supporters in the away end (the original reason I’d chosen this game having regularly watched Town when they were at Gay Meadow).

Away fans are located in the East Terrace, which raised from the ground holds 1400, with a low roof that helps create a bit of noise. The West Terrace opposite is identical except that the steps go all the way to the floor, (presumably one way of expanding capacity in future), whilst to the left is the Main Stand, named after chairman Peter McGuigan. Whilst it only has a capacity of just over 2000, it feels remarkably bigger, helped by steep rows and a number of executive boxes in its centre, where strangely for a new build, a number of seats have been built with restricted views. Finally, opposite, and perhaps to keep the feel of Christie Park alive is the North Terrace, a small open terrace running the length of the pitch, except where it’s truncated in the middle for toilet facilities and an exit gate, giving it a slightly odd look with home fans segregated, something which isn’t in practice in the Main Stand where home and away supporters can mix in the seats. If there is one slight design fault (in addition to the restricted view seats), then this appears to have come in the away end where the access alley behind it to the toilet/food facilities has already gained a notorious reputation, having been built to minimum safety requirements in terms of its width. Even with the away end less than half full it was a bit of a squeeze behind there, so what it will be like with a big following remains to be seen, although when there is a massive car park behind this end it begs the question why it was built this way? It’s an area that you can almost feel that building work will resume pretty quickly on with it being widened to more suitable levels. That aside though, the ground otherwise appears to have been built to a good standard in general.

When the game got underway the hosts were still seeking their first home league win of the season, only a Carling Cup victory over Coventry having seen the Shrimps fans leave in a good mood so far. It didn’t look like they would be today either after the Shrews put them under pressure, being unfortunate not to win a penalty on the quarter hour mark when Mark Raven was tripped in the box, but the ref played advantage only for Mark Wright to hit his shot wide. Morecambe started to get more into the game as the half wore on, forcing Chris Neal into a great double save to keep the scores level which resulted in chants of ‘are you Joe Hart in disguise’ from the travelling support behind the goal! Despite Neal having to make another couple of saves, the half ended goalless Shrews midfielder Kevin McIntyre clearing off the line from a corner just before the break.

In the second half it was much of the same stuff, the hosts hitting the bar only a couple minutes after the restart, and they were awarded a penalty in the 56th minute, albeit slightly dubiously with David Raven’s tackle on Craig Stanley looking fair. Mark Duffy stepped up, but Chris Neal was equal to him, saving it with his legs. The next bit of drama wasn’t on the pitch, but just off it when Shrimps manager Sammy McIlroy got sent to the stands, but his afternoon was to end happily when his side took the lead in the 83rd minute, the two players involved in the penalty connected when Duffy crossed to Craig Stanley who headed home to give the hosts the lead. There was no way back for the visitors, and so perhaps fittingly, the official opening of the stadium was marked with the clubs first league victory there.

After leaving then we walked down to the front to have a quick drink in the Ranch House pub, a remnant of the derelict Frontier Land which was a bit of a surreal experience with its ‘Wild West’ design and interior. The beer was good, and cheap, so no moans for that and after a couple of pints we made our way back with no traffic problems this time.

Overall, it had been a good day out, and as always, nice to re-complete the 92. I hadn’t especially been a great fan of Christie Park, with a slightly disjointed feel to it, and whilst this might be almost a modern update on it, two covered end terraces, an uncovered side terrace and a big Main Stand on the one side, then it does feel a lot better and more compact than its predecessor. Also for a new ground then it does feel like a rebuild, being in a residential area and with stands of all different shapes and sizes, so whilst not the biggest or most impressive, and somehow having cost nearly the same as Chesterfield’s b2net stadium, which feels twice the size, then it still receives a thumbs-up and will hopefully provide the off-field revenue to help the club continue their steady building and consolidate their Football League place.

Welcome to the Globe Arena

The Main Reception

Rear of the Main Stand

The Club Shop

Rear of the East Terrace

Rear of the North Terrace

Rear of the West Terrace

The East Terrace

The Main Stand

The West Terrace

The already infamous alley behind the away end

The North Terrace

The Main Stand

The West Terrace

The North Terrace

The East Terrace


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