Any old Iron?

The credit crunch has not bypassed the Fuller household.  Despite my relocation to the 7th most expensive city in the World, I still have a few pennies left at the end of the week for Lolly and myself to find a game on a Saturday when West Ham are away.  With our beloved Hammers playing in the North West for the second time in two weeks (with two more trips up there in the next two!) we looked into the Fuller Football Crystal Ball.  This week’s criteria was simple – we had to be back at Ikea Lakeside by 6pm to pick up a wardrobe, so a new ground within an hours drive would be ideal.  Blue Square, obviously, and preferably one that wouldn’t break the bank, would be somewhere new and had some photo opportunities.

Whilst I had been smashing up a 70 foot concrete drive with a pneumatic drill (very therapeutic apart from the loss of feeling in your hands), Lolly had been away on her school field trip to Swanage.  She was following in the footsteps of Jay, Simon, Will and Neil, although I would be very worried if she spent her time looking for the MILF and offering her ” a lick of her cornetto”…For those completely lost at this point – check out The Inbetweeners.  However she was back, and looking forward to developing her photography portfolio.

So what did the Crystal Ball throw up this week?  Andy Hessenthaler’s Dover Athletic versus Alan Devonshire’s Hampton & Richmond came out first, closely followed by Braintree Town versus Worcester City.  I gave Lolly the choice, and once she found out Braintree were called “The Iron” she plumped for a trip to Essex.

She asked why were they called The Iron and not Irons?  We know that West Ham got their nickname of the “Irons” and “the Hammers” from their origins at the Thames Ironworks, Scunthorpe got their monocle from the nearby steelworks but I had no idea why a small town in rural Essex got the name Iron.  Time to consult Wikipedia, and they told me that the town was famous for the Crittal Window Company, who made the iron windows for the likes of the Titanic.  Their factory was actually located next to the current ground in the south of the town centre.  Well there we are.

So we headed north, then east almost passing Chelmsford’s ground where we went last week.  Braintree had had a great past decade and a bit.  Thirteen years ago they were in the Ryman’s Third division, playing local derbies against the likes of Witham, but promotion after promotion saw the club in the Blue Square South ten years later.  They narrowly missed out on promotion to the Conference National in 2007 when they lost in the final to Salisbury City, and last season lost in the Play Off semi-final to eventual winners Eastbourne Borough.  Less than an hour from home we were pulling up in the free car park outside the ground, tucked nicely away behind some smart new flats.

Ten pounds for me to get in, Lolly free of charge in the good old style “lift over” and with a programme, tea, coke and a delicious bacon burger took the spending to a whopping £20 for the two of us….£20 – approximately the same cost as 40 minutes football for one of us at West Ham.  To replicate a similar situation at West Ham it would cost (current season prices) over three times this amount.  Even at the Division Two level at Dagenham & Redbridge you would be looking at nearly £30 excluding parking so the club need to be applauded.  What was a bit of a mystery though was seeing how comfortable everyone seemed in the ground.  The bar was busy, the fans were buying their burgers, everyone was enjoying the sunshine, and with an average attendance (excluding the Chelmsford local derby) of around 450 why, oh why is the club trying to push through a new stadium move?  The club are progressing with plans for a 6,000 capacity stadium on the outskirts of town which will have amongst other things, a tennis club, community pitches and a banqueting suite.  Why?  The board, sitting in their portakabin behind the goal must be on the mushrooms if they think “if they build it, they will come”.

Braintree Town 0 Worcester City 0 – Cressing Road Stadium – Saturday 12th September 2009

What's not to love
What's not to love

With the temperature hitting the mid-seventies it was obvious that this game would fail to live up to any expectations.  It was also obvious that the game I would have chosen (Dover) but be full of goals.  So after my first sip of tea, and the teams barely a few minutes into the game, the first score flash came through from the Crabble.  Braintree came close to matching that with a smart header from Jon Keeling that hit the bar but was the best effort in the first half an hour.  Both teams struggled to make an impression on the game, and the fans seemed more keen on getting their suntan than any meaningful vocal support.  What was good to see was the early appearance of a Non-League Wag behind the goal, now a regular feature at the Blue Square South fixtures.

Lolly went off to get some artistic pictures especially those showing how uneven the pitch was, with a big lump, as if the clubs elephant mascot had been buried in the goalmouth being marshalled by Worcester’s Ben Hinchcliffe who was the busier of the two keepers, making further saves from Keeling again and Brad Quinton.  Half time came and went, and a check on the scores saw that there had been three goals down at Dover – drat!  Still a change of tactics in the second half was surely on the cards?  Er no.  More of the same was served up in the second half, with a few openings.  The impressive Worcester full back Alfie Carter cleared one header off the line, and with the game heading deep into injury time it looked to all still left in the ground that Braintree had earned a penalty when Lee Roche was brought down, but the referee inexplicably waved play on, only to blow the full time whistle a few seconds later.

Marks out of ten for a lovely venue for late summer’s football – 9/10.
Marks out of ten for value for money – 9/10
Marks out of ten for the game itself – 4/10

Can’t win everytime I told Lolly, as the sixth goal of the day at Dover game through on my phone….My choice next week!

About Cressing Road Stadium
Basic it may be, but it is more than adequate for “the Iron”.  One single covered stand runs three quarters of the length of the pitch, and covered terraces opposite and behind one goal offer cover from the elements for those standing.  Behind the north end is a small terrace, protecting the club house.  Views from everywhere are good but avoid standing under any speakers as they are deafening.  The club is one of the few in the leagues where the Board Room is a portakabin beside the edge of the pitch.  The club are planning on a move to a state of the art 6,000 community funded stadium on the edge of time – hmmmm.

How to get to Cressing Road Stadium
The ground is located to the south of the town centre.  The car park at the ground is free of charge and to reach the ground leave the M11 at Junction 8, heading in the direction of Stansted Airport, but staying on the A120 whilst the airport traffic heads off at the second junction.  Follow this for 16 miles until you reach Galley’s corner, where you should take the 1st exit on left at the roundabout into Cressing Road.  Follow this for nearly a mile and take third left into Clockhouse Way, then 1st left again for the ground (it’s hard to see until you turn the corner).

From Braintree station it is a 15 minute walk.  Turn right outside the station, then first right into Rose Hill.  Keep left and this will become Mill Hill and eventually Chapel Hill.  The second right is Clockhouse Way for the ground.

How to get a ticket for Cressing Road Stadium
Pay on the door is the order of the day in Braintree with a bargain £10 entry for Adults and £5 if the do decide to charge for children.  You can pay an additional £2 for a transfer to the single stand, or wait until just before half time when the steward wanders off for a pint and sit there free.  Nice little tickets though.


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