Studs Up


Reporting From The Press Box
October 5, 2009, 1:19 pm
Filed under: Football

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When I first moved to Bristol in October 2000, curiosity about my new home’s football scene led me to a Bristol Rovers game. I was underwhelmed by both the standard of football on the pitch and the standard of banter off it, and as I departed Bristol’s Memorial Ground having watched visitors Northampton Town steal a one-nil win, I felt pretty certain that it would be my first and last experience of football in England’s 3rd tier. However, last Saturday I found myself at Griffin Park to see Brentford take on Swindon, this time as a reporter for the Western Daily Press.

Having taken my seat in the press-box, it struck me as I took in my surroundings that I had very little to draw reference from. For example, although the pitch did not look as good as a Premier League pitch, and was much better than anything I’ve experienced myself on a Sunday morning, I had no way of judging whether it was any good or not by League One standards. The same went for the size and intimacy of the ground itself. Although I knew that Griffin Park’s capacity according to Wikipedia was about 12,000, and that this was fairly standard for League One, I had no way of knowing how it felt in comparison to other grounds of a similar size.

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It was a strange feeling to be surrounded by fans getting ready for their weekly matchday experience, whilst I had zero investment in the result whatsoever. Usually when inside a football ground, I am used to feeling a mixture of intense nerves and excitement as time flies towards kick-off. But on Saturday I was more preoccupied with making sure my 3G internet connection was working whilst trying to glean as much information as I could from the local reporters. Even so, as the referee blew his whistle to get the match underway, I still felt a little buzz. Apart from anything else, I had to be switched on, because my stint at the WDP would surely be brief if my article was not accurate.

Here’s my match report:

Revell at the double as Swindon sting the Bees.
Brentford 2
Swindon Town 3
An Alex Revell brace gave Swindon all three points against a spirited Brentford side in an exciting encounter at Griffin Park, ending a run of four consecutive draws and moving them up into the play-off places.
Although Swindon raced into a two-goal lead, Brentford twice reduced the deficit to a single goal, which given Town’s recent habit of throwing away leads late on in games, ensured a nerve-jangling finish.
The 1,244 Swindon town supporters in the Brook Road End began the game in good voice, and the players seemed to respond. After just 8 minutes, Jon-Paul McGovern found space to feed the ball through for Revell, and the on-loan striker did well to squeeze the ball over the line from a tight angle, scoring his first goal for the club.
Swindon continued to apply pressure, and 13 minutes later they doubled their lead. Ben Hutchinson showed good pace to get onto Anthony McNamee’s through ball, opening his Swindon account with a composed finish past Nikki Bull in the Brentford goal.
As the first half wore on however, Brentford began to gain a foothold in the game. Veteran striker Carl Cort had the home side’s best chance of the half from Ryan Dickson’s cross, but he was unable to keep his header down and Swindon went into the break two goals up.
The second half started in the same fashion as the first half ended, with Brentford pushing for a goal that would get them back into the game. Saunders cut in from the right and unleashed a spectacular left-footed effort, which hit the post having beaten Town keeper David Lucas. The resulting rebound presented Charlie McDonald with the easiest of chances, but the striker somehow managed to put his shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy no more than six yards out.
Brentford continued to press however, and with 15 minutes remaining, Carl Cort was rewarded for a hard-working display, as he thumped a shot past Lucas from the edge of the box.
But if Swindon fans’ thoughts were turning to their recent run of draws, they did not have to worry for long. Almost immediately after the restart, McGovern found Revel on the left-hand edge of the box. Full of confidence having finally found the net for his new club, the striker moved the ball onto his preferred right foot and smashed it into the roof of the net from 25 yards.
The Bees did not give up however, and scored again in the 82nd minute as some poor defending at a corner allowed MacDonald to head in. But with time running out for the home side, Swindon held on to seal a win that extends their unbeaten run in the league to ten games.
After the game, Revell spoke of his delight at getting off the mark: “It’s a massive relief to get my first goal for Swindon. It’s a great moment for me, but I’m delighted for all of the boys. We’ve deserved to win some games lately that we’ve drawn, so it’s just good for the team to get a win.”
Manager Danny Wilson was satisfied with his side’s 2nd away win of the season: “There’s a lot of teams that will struggle here, this is a tough place to come. Brentford have a great attitude and never seem to give up.”
Brentford (4-4-2): Bull, Wilson, Phillips, Bennett, Dickson, Saunders, Bean, O’Connor, Wood (Weston 73), McDonald, Cort. Subs not used: Price, Kabba, Taylor, Forster, Osborne, Legge.
Swindon (4-4-2): Lucas, Amankwaah, Greer, Cuthbert, Kennedy, McGovern, Douglas, Ferry, McNamee (Timlin 80), Hutchinson (Macklin 63), Revell (Paynter 85). Subs not used: Smith, Morrison, Jean-Francois, Peacock.

So with five goals, some of them of a decent quality, I was left with plenty to write about and some very enjoyable memories. My second experience of English League football had been better by far. However, as I left the ground, I was aware of a pang of concern. One thing that had struck me during the day was the average age of the supporters at the game. There were far more elderly fans and very few children. Although today’s ticket-prices probably prevent many pensioners from being able to attend Premier League games, but my feeling is that this is not the primary reason for the high average age of attendee.

It seemed to me that I was witnessing yet another symptom of the decay of the traditional aspects of the game in this country. Fans today (myself included) watch far more football on TV than in the flesh, and the community-based aspect of football is declining proportionally with the increase in Sky Television subscriptions. The idea of paying to watch your local club regardless of which division they play in is beginning to gather dust, and I fear that in a few years a valuable part of the infrastructure which serves as a platform for our more privileged clubs will become eroded beyond repair. In the meantime, I give total respect to the fans that were present on Saturday. Their love for their club as is it should be, unconditional, and for that I take my hat off to them.

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