This is possibly my final away game of 2016, so I decided to celebrate by going to what is probably the worst ground in the English Football League. Accrington Stanley call themselves the “Biggest little club in the world”, which gives you an idea of what the club is like. This is the 26th ground I’ve been to of teams in the current 92 Football League clubs, and this was certainly one of the more unique experiences.
This was obviously my first trip to the Wham Stadium (I’m not joking, it is actually called the Wham Stadium), and there was some doubt as to whether it would go ahead. The game at Oldham just 20 or 30 miles away was called off because of a frozen pitch, and I’m not sure it got above 5 degrees all day. I reckon the game only went ahead because the stands at Accrington are so small the sunlight could cover the whole pitch.
You don’t exactly get the best first impressions when you arrive at the Wham. As you walk through the main entrance there is large pile of old chairs at the back of the car park, probably more seats than there were in the Whinney Hill Side, where there were just two rows of seats. Away fans are able to buy tickets at the ‘Blue Building’, which is actually just a blue container unit, which I think doubles up as a gym. While I’m at this point, tickets for under 18s were £15. No, that wasn’t a typo, it actually costs £15 for under 18s. This is disgraceful. There is a reason that only 1100 home fans turn up, and that’s because they charge 15 bloody pounds for under 18s!
The players’ entrance is about as far from posh as it is possible to be, as it is simply a gate that leads towards the changing rooms, that’s if you can call them changing rooms. They also sell ‘match badges’ for £3, which are actually of pretty good quality, but I doubt they sell into double figures for a game between Accrington Stanley and Yeovil.
The away end is pretty dull. It is basically just three rows of terracing, one of which is temporary and was closed for the game. The home dressing room is just on the left side of the stand, so you got the occasional Accrington player walking through the away fans to get there. To say the toilets were basic would be polite. It was a small cabin which could fit probably eight people at most, and looked, much like the rest of the stadium, on its last legs.
On the other side of the stand is a multi-coloured box building that was sponsored by the Plastic Box Shop (again, it is actually called that), who are one of the club’s main sponsors. The club are trying to raise money to build a big screen on this, which is a bit bizarre. Firstly, I’m pretty sure they would be better off spending this money improving the rest of the ground. Secondly, I doubt that the building is in any way strong enough to hold up anything heavier than a decent sized TV screen. Maybe if they’d have asked for the money a bit earlier they might have been able to pick up something decent in the Black Friday sales. It also seems that Accrington owned only one album, as the only music that we heard before the game was from Bastille, apart from the five times we heard ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams throughout the day. We were not happy. It was cold and the ground was poor.
The food was surprisingly quite good, even though there weren’t any pies. The burger and chips were a lot better than some of the stuff we’ve had at other grounds, particularly Luton. Before the game we were spoken to by someone from BBC Radio Somerset, who seemed very surprised when I told him we had come from Lincoln. One of my mates then predicted Yeovil would win 1-0 and Tom Eaves would score the winning goal. You’ll find out later why I’ve said that.
The players entered the field through the Oswaldtwistle Mills Arch (I promise, I’m not making this up), because there is not tunnel. There were 110 Yeovil fans who had made the trip up to Accrington, a decent number given that it is a four hour drive from Yeovil. There was though very little atmosphere created by away fans, something that wouldn’t have been helped by the lack of roof over the away end.
In terms of the action, it was Yeovil who had the better of the first 45 minutes. Otis Khan had a shot turned off the line, while both Ben Whitfield and Ryan Hedges had efforts from just outside the area saved. Accrington did create a couple of good chances though, with Mark Hughes (not that one) heading wide, and John Sullivan shooting over from range.
The game really came to life in the second half, and Yeovil took the lead soon after the break when Otis Khan curled a free kick around the wall and into the corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area. It was a decent finish, but given that he would never have got it up and down over the wall, the ‘keeper really should have done better after it went in his side of the goal. Yeovil continued to push for a second and should have killed off the game. Ryan Hedges fired wide, and Tom Eaves created room on the left, but couldn’t find a man when he tried to pull it back.
Yeovil boss Darren Way then chose to take off Khan and bring on Francois Zoko. This is a substitution he makes every game without fail, so much that some people behind us were running a sweepstake based on what minute he would make this change. To be honest, it should have been Eaves who came off and not Khan, because even though he’s at least 6ft 3in, he barely got off the floor all day and was dreadful up front. He also decided that he would have a go at a free kick 25 yards out when Khan went off. The ball ended up in a different postcode to the goal. It really was that bad.
The failure to grab a second didn’t look like it would cost Yeovil entering the final few minutes of the match. Nathan Smith, who I referred to as ‘Calamity Smith’ when talking to a photographer before the match, was actually superb, and won every ball that came forward. It was in fact when Smith was out of position trying to win the ball back when Stanley equalised a minute into stoppage time. Alex Lacey and Alex Lawless failed to clear a long ball forward, and Gary Taylor-Fletcher headed it down to Rommy Boco to slide past Artur Krysiak and into the net.
That was just about that, and the points were shared. Overall, Yeovil were probably the better team, but suffered as a result of failing to take their chances when they were a goal up. It was a good game of football throughout; though I’m not sure I’d be happy to return to the Wham Stadium, especially with those ticket prices.
Rating out of 10: Good game of football, but a poor ground and ridiculous pricing. 4/10