In the latest in their excellent series of myth-busting articles, the BBC published a study in February about whether a “cold night in Stoke” is an influencing factor on results. Whilst the decision to pick Stoke City and The Britannia Stadium may simply be based on the fact that it is freezing on an August Bank Holiday rather than any other factor, the results were quite interesting.
Former England international Danny Murphy says opposing players have seen going to play Stoke City as a tough away game, but not necessarily because of the weather. “It was because they were playing a certain style under Tony Pulis and it was as hard a place to go as any,” said Murphy. “The pitch was really small, it was a tight ground with a lively atmosphere, and they would fire balls into your box from everywhere.”
The BBC analysed the results of every midweek Premier League match during winter months over the past 10 seasons to find out which grounds are the most likely to leave visitors going home unhappy – and surprisingly found that Stoke City isn’t even in the “worst” five grounds to visit in terms of away team performance, especially since Mark Hughes has been appointed where the home win ratio has fallen from 50% under former boss Tony Pulis to just 20%. In fact, the research suggests the best time to visit the Britannia is during the winter months.
The research got me thinking about our own home form during the winter midweek nights. The recent wins against Merstham and Dulwich Hamlet were both played in freezing conditions with both away teams seemingly not up for the fight. But what does the trend look like over the past few seasons? Well, the stats are very interesting indeed.
In the period from 1st November to 15th March since 2012, we have played 15 midweek home games in the league and cup, excluding the “Christmas games” (i.e those played on Boxing Day or New Years Day with 3pm kick offs). Out of those Lewes have won an amazing 11 times (or a 73% win rate) – I say amazing because when you look at our overall home record in that period our win rate is around half of that. Included in that list are wins against Brighton & Hove Albion and Eastbourne Borough in the Sussex Senior Cup, Maidstone United and Lowestoft Town. We’ve only lost three times (Enfield Town this season), Canvey Island and AFC Hornchurch, with one draw against Heybridge Swifts in the Ryman League Cup.
So why have we got such a good record under the lights? One reason that could help us is our location. Teams will have to leave early afternoon to get down to Lewes, potentially having to navigate through the rush hour traffic, in a similar vein to the fact our away record in that midweek period where we often have to set off at 3pm is poor. Of course the wit of Cynical Dave on the terraces and the distraction of the Circa food also cause our opponents to lose their concentration.
So next season we’ve asked the Ryman League to schedule all of our home fixtures in midweek – that way we could be promoted by Easter….well, we can but dream!