Broadhall Way

Ground No. 218
Visited - Saturday 18th September 2010
Result - Stevenage 0-0 Torquay United
Competition - npower League Two
Attendance - 3049

Like the town, Stevenage are a relatively new club to all intents and purposes, having only been formed in 1976, however just like the town itself, the history of football there dates back much further.

Stevenage was the first ‘new town’ built after the war, being designated in 1946, however the ‘old town’ dates back much further, with settlement in the area from Roman times. The first reference of football there seems to come from 1894 when a club named Stevenage FC were formed, adopting the suffix Town in 1899 and entering the Herts County League, finishing 8th in their first season. Their history is quite sketchy prior to the war, but in 1947 they joined the Spartan League, before becoming founder members of the Delphian League in 1951. They merged with Stevenage Rangers in 1956, dropping the Town suffix, until re-adopting it in 1960 after which they moved to Broadhall Way in 1961 and turned professional two years later when they joined the Southern League. Despite a third place finish and promotion to the Southern Premier in 1966/67, the club dissolved 12 months later and in their place arose Stevenage Athletic. Their time however was brief, despite rejoining the Southern League in 1970, they lasted only 8 years, resigning again in 1976 following bankruptcy. Once more a new club was formed, starting out at junior level and playing on local fields, before moving back to Broadhall Way in 1980 when they added the suffix Borough to their name. Winning the UCL Division One title at the first attempt, they quickly climbed the leagues, reaching the Conference in 1994 after winning the Isthmian League title. It was around this time that the club really started to reach national attention, being denied entry to the football league in 1996 after winning the Conference due to the ground not being up to requirements. The next season they reached the third round of the FA Cup, before losing to Birmingham, only to go one better the following season, when they took Newcastle to a fourth round replay at St James Park. It was this success that led to Broadhall Way being transformed into one of the best stadiums outside the league, and for much of the latter part of the 90s it looked like only a matter of time before they’d finally get promoted. As it turned out though, it would be another decade before that ambition would finally be realised when Graham Westley led his side to the title in April 2010, just missing out on making it a double after losing in extra-time to Barrow in the FA Trophy final, a cup they’d won in two of the previous three seasons. 

When I’d seen the club beat Wimbledon 3-0 on Easter Monday, little did I, or anyone know at the time know that it would be one of the final games where they’d use the Borough moniker. On promotion, their chairman made the announcement that they’d drop it and return to plain old ‘Stevenage FC’, claiming a link to the original side in the town that were formed in 1894. Personally I’d been a bit sad to see the change, being a fan of unique second names like Stanley, Harriers, Argyle or Alexandra, etc. but the use of Boro would live on as their nickname instead.

On promotion, then they of course became a member of the 92, which necessitated a long overdue visit to the ground, which like the Kassam Stadium, I’d been putting off on the basis of not wanting to re-visit in the event of their promotion (92 club rules). I’d chosen the visit of Torquay United as the occasion, and setting off early I met up with Duncan of the Football Ground Guide in Birmingham, where we went on down to Hertfordshire, making good time and arriving before midday.

Situated on the edge of town, the ground has completely changed since the club were denied promotion to the league. The Main Stand is the only existing part of it left, and that itself looks completely different, having been extended on both sides to its current length. The original section can just about be made out with the red and white stripes at the rear of it in the centre, with the two wings and offices at the rear having been added in the summer of 1996. At the same time the East Stand opposite was built, along with the North Stand behind the goal. Both terraces, the East Stand is a decent size and runs the full length of the pitch. Initially it was uncovered, but when the roof was added, a nice addition was a gable in the centre, which houses the TV gantry and a clock above. The North Stand is a little basic in comparison, being only half the size and covering two thirds of this end. The newest addition to the ground is the away end, which unusually, is probably the best stand at the ground. Built in 2001, it holds 1400 and is fully seated, with the supporters bar situated behind it.

Having had a quick look around, we made our way into town to meet up with a few more 92’ers, Brian, Allison and Mel who had made the trip up from Kent to see the game, having a couple of pints in the Wetherspoons before heading back to the ground and popping in the supporters bar before the game began.

When Boro were denied promotion, Torquay were the lucky recipients of a reprieve, having finished bottom of the league that season, but this wasn’t the first time the clubs had met, with the two sides having shared two seasons in the conference before The Gulls were promoted 12 months earlier than Stevenage. Their previous meeting had seen a 0-0 draw played out at Broadhall Way, a game which according to the Torquay website had seen end-to-end entertainment and fast paced, attacking football from both sides that was a joy to watch. Whilst this game would end up with the same scoreline, the description of the match unfortunately couldn’t be any more different as a dull affair played out.

The visitors kicked-off, attacking the end which housed their supporters, and it was them who had the first real chance on goal, Martin Gritton being wasteful after some good build-up play early on. In the 22nd minute Chris Robertson headed the ball against the bar from a corner, to test the home fans nerves, but still the goals weren’t coming and the visitors were denied by the woodwork again, this time from Danny Stevens who saw his effort tipped on to the post and out for a corner just before half time.

In the second half, home ‘keeper Chris Day was once again grateful to the woodwork, as Kevin Nicholson drove a low shot against the post. But far from it being all Torquay, the home side were having a decent amount of possession, and buoyed on by the fans in the East Terrace and their version of Dale Cavese, had a few chances themselves, albeit few of which caused Scott Bevan in the away goal to break too much sweat in turning them away. Bored of the game, we ended up leaving when injury time was announced, to have a cheeky sneak into the home end to view the ground from a different angle before the final whistle was eventually blown, much to everyone’s relief. 

After leaving, then the journey back went well enough, arriving home without any trouble, taking fond memories more of the ground itself rather than the game. With three decent sized stands, and trees surrounding it on all four sides, then especially on a sunny afternoon it’s a pleasant place to watch football, and if plans to rebuild the North Stand come to fruition, then it will have gone from one of the best outside the league, to one of the better ones in League 2. As for their progress on the pitch, apparently Stevenage in French means ‘Steve Swims’ and sitting just outside the play-offs at the time of writing you could say their time in the league so far is going swimmingly…

Welcome to Stevenage

Rear of the Main Stand

Main Reception

The Club Shop

Rear of the South Stand

New Bricks Needed!

Rear of the East Stand

Turnstiles to the North Stand

The South Stand

The Main Stand

The East Stand

The North Stand

The Main Stand

The North Stand

The East Stand

The North Stand

The East Stand

The South Stand

Broadhall Way Panoramic 1

Broadhall Way Panoramic 2

Broadhall Way Panoramic 3

Broadhall Way Panoramic 4



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