Southend Road

Ground No. 187
Visited - Tuesday 21st July 2009
Result - Penrith 3-4 Barrow
Competition - Pre-Season Friendly
Attendance - 120 (estimate)

It must be lonely to be a Penrith fan. Not only are they at the far end of the country, but even in their own league they’re a long way from the nearest opposition (see map), yet in Barrow they find themselves a contemporary, so it seemed to be an apt game to go to after the club had announced that their pre-season friendlies would be played at Southend Road. They had been due to leave there at the end of last season (indeed, I thought I’d missed out on the ground), but with their new Frenchfields Stadium yet to be ready, then the old venue had gained a reprieve before the bulldozers finally moved in.

Situated in the town centre, it was probably only a matter of time before it eventually gave way to development, even in a pleasant, sleepy market town such as Penrith, but ‘progress’ is planned in the form of a new town square development with an adjacent supermarket, although there are apparently doubts the latter will happen now, given the financial climate, but after arriving, its evident that this last minute reprieve is only temporary, with a huge area of land sealed off in its entirety, building yard fences restricting access to all but the car park and turnstiles.

With it being a night game, and no way back afterwards, then I booked a few days off work and had arrived into the Lake District during the early afternoon. Unfortunately it had been raining all day, so I was slightly concerned that the game might get called off, but thankfully a lapse in the deluge about an hour before kick-off probably helped persuade the ref to go ahead with the match.

As mentioned, from the outside there’s now little to see other than a building site, but the turnstiles lead inside adjacent to the Main Stand, which raised from the ground, is a classic grandstand structure centred on the halfway line, with four rows of bench seating and a roof that prominently bears the clubs name and colours. Opposite, a small terrace provides cover for about half the length of the field, whilst hard standing runs around the rest of the perimeter. Notably there are two sets of dugouts on each side of the pitch, the ones in front of the Main Stand remained unused whilst the ones on the far side cut into the terrace making it a bit difficult to pass behind them thanks to one of the 'pen' walls that runs a little too close to the visitors bench. The clubhouse (if there ever was one) had presumably already been knocked down with no sign of anywhere to get a pint inside the ground.

Earlier in the day I’d been struck by a tragedy when after taking some pictures at the local Rugby club, my camera decided to pack up. 4½ years service and it chooses to break just before I visit a ground that will be demolished in the imminent future! Typical, but for some reason it was still taking pictures on full zoom, so with that and a disposable purchased then I made my way in, although I nearly ended up missing kick-off having gone into the town to find a pub only to come back at 7:30pm and see the players lined up ready to start. The game had been due to begin at 7:45pm, but the ref insisted on kicking off early for reasons best known to himself!

The first hour was quite lively, with both sides going for it. Barrow looked notably fitter and stronger than their hosts and quickly raced into a 2-0 lead before they were pegged back to 2-1 with a goal straight from a free-kick. Unperturbed, the visitors made it 3-1 on 32 minutes, but just before half-time Penrith's number 7 went down rather easily in the box and the penalty was converted on the rebound after the Barrow 'keeper had made a good save.

At half time I went off in search of an old programme as one hadn't been produced for any of their friendlies (surprising considering they probably could have made some money off what was a decent 120ish crowd). The announcer seemed to be trying to get rid of them ahead of the move, and I ended up with 8 after politely refusing any more, and being eager to get out of a room that was wetter inside than out thanks to a leaking roof (you can tell why they want to move!)

After the break, the second half started as topsy-turvy as the first, Penrith equalising on 55 minutes from a corner, before Barrow went right down the other end and made it 4-3 after some good work down the right saw the ball pulled back to the number 9 who weakly hit it at the keeper who dived and agonisingly saw it take a bounce and literally roll over him before creeping the last few yards into an empty net whilst he tried to grapple along the floor to reach it! The rest of the game was played out in traditional friendly style with little of note other than chatting to another hopper who had travelled up from Nottingham, before the game eventually finished in another downpour which had seen most people not already seated in the stand cram under the small cover of the terrace.

After leaving, then I made my way back to the hotel for the night, glad to have come. The ground might not be one to eulogise about, but it is a decent Step 5 ground with plenty of character and a nice surrounding landscape with Beacon Hill rising in the distance, providing a nice backdrop to the Main Stand. The people here are very friendly as well, so I’ll be glad to get back and along to their new ground, even if predictably, it is depressingly out of town in the middle of nowhere.

Outside the Ground

Rear of the Main Stand and Turnstiles

The Near Side

The Main Stand

The Dressing Rooms

Seating in the Main Stand

The Town End

The Far Side Terrace

The Far Side

The Leisure Centre End

Ready for Kick Off

Southend Road 1894-2009


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