I love the FA cup, who doesn’t? The excitement of being drawn away from home at a ground you’d never expect to go to is always a novelty, so I was never going to say no to a trip down the M23 to Crawley. I’m not afraid to admit my ignorance and say my knowledge of Crawley and it’s football club isn’t great, apart from it’s the other side of Gatwick and they’ve recently had a lot of money pumped into them which has rewarded them with a lot of success and back to back promotions.
We travelled by car from Reading, and there was ample street parking on various housing estates within a five minute walk of the ground. There was also plenty of parking at the stadium, although the traffic looked quite slow getting out of there at the end of the game. From speaking to friends, the train station was accessible by bus, or a twenty minute walk.
Broadfield Stadium is a relatively new one, opening its doors in 1997 with a capacity of 5996. Saturday’s fixture saw the ground’s record crowd, with 5880 in attendance, of which 1955 were Reading fans. The away fans are housed on the terrace behind one of the goals, and a small section of seating to the left of this stand.
For those who like a drink before the game, there were a number of bars within close proximity to the ground. However, built into the ground was Redz bar, where both home and away fans were welcome to watch the early kick off game on projector screens. The bar continued outside, with gazebos and plenty of space for fans to socialise before the game. It was definitely a great meeting place for friends too. I thought that having both sets of fans together created a really good atmosphere.
I thought the stewards were very good throughout the day. They were very friendly when entering the ground, and rightly escorted some Reading ‘fans’ out of the ground after things kicked off in the stands, including advertising boards being ripped off. Seeing people who associate themselves with my football club behaving in that way is just embarrassing for everyone involved, especially when I hardly ever see it, and I go to the majority of away games.
As expected there was not a lot of food on offer, although what was available was reasonably priced. A pie could be purchased for £3 and a bacon and cheese burger for £4. Alcohol is available inside the ground for away supporters, but could only be drunk in a small designated area in the corner of the stand.
This was only my second ever time standing on a terrace at a football match (my first being last season at Peterborough) and it was even more fun than the first time. The atmosphere was great, one of the best all season with the songs about Adam le Fondre and Noel Hunt being crowd favourites. It was also great to hear Steve Coppell’s name ringing out loudly from the away end, but I expected nothing less! The Crawley fans were quite quiet however, but that didn’t stop us enjoying our day.
We were able to get away from the ground pretty quickly; parking away from the ground definitely helped us out there. Stopping at the services just before getting on the motorway for a celebratory Burger King definitely topped off a very good away day!
The game itself was nothing special. The Crawley goal after 14 seconds was pretty spectacular, although I wanted to correct some Crawley fans as we were walking out after they claimed it was the quickest FA cup goal ever. I hope that stays with Jimmy Kebe for a long time! Crawley didn’t play badly, but we should have scored more goals than we did, but a win is a win and at least there was no upset in the 3rd round. It’s a shame we’ve been draw at home for the next round, but hopefully we get through so I can visit another new ground.
Twitter - @Becka_Ellen