Friday, 30 December 2011

Sheffield United - Bramall Lane

Sheffield United 2-1 Notts County

27th December 2011

I chose tickets in the Away Section for this match, not because I felt any real affinity with Notts County FC (indeed, I had no connection with either of the combatants), but as a consequence of reading on a website somewhere that Bramall Lane could be a rather intimidating place for supporters of the away club.  And after the anodyne, one might even say sterile, atmosphere we encountered at Old Trafford the day before, I felt Son could probably benefit from a touch of intimidation in his life.

The visiting fans at Sheffield United are housed in the lower portion of the Bramall Lane stand, where one is certainly very close to the action, but is allocated what appears to be just a few millimetres less than the minimum leg-room required for comfortable sitting.  

And one does get to know the stranger seated next to you ever so slightly more intimately than perhaps one would like.  All this does lead to a delightfully claustrophobic experience, and although we could not see those home fans in the tier above us, we could certainly hear them.  And I guessed the red netting above our heads was not there just for decoration.

The facade to the South Stand - beneath the car park, of course,
lies the hallowed ground of The Bramall Lane Cricket
Ground, once a Test Venue.

The Kennedy's Kop end.

I liked Bramall Lane for all that: particularly the fact the club had taken the time to fill in most of the corners (I HATE open corners at football grounds).  Two small curved stands had been shoe-horned into a couple of the corners, whilst a third had been filled with what looked like offices.  

The remaining open corner however, looks as though it may have to stay that way as it is quite frankly a mess, with overlapping roofs resulting in a particularly unappealing jumble: a consequence, I am surmising, of the two adjacent stands being built years apart.

But I could forgive the ground that, and I loved the neat little decorative gable on the roof of the Visit Malta Stand – in memory, possibly, of the mock-Tudor gable press-box which the ground sported until Herr Hitler and his Luftwaffe took a dislike to it back in 1940.

That rather messy fourth corner.

The decorative gable and clock on the roof of the Visit Malta Stand. 

The match itself took a while to get going, and it required the visitors’ taking a surprise 17th minute lead to shake the home lot out of their lethargy.  United were level before the half-hour however, taking the lead just 6 minutes into the second-half – a lead they held to the end without too much difficulty.  Indeed, had the home lads’ finishing been a touch better, this could have been a bit of a bashing for County.

All three goals owed more than a little to defensive errors: United ‘keeper Steve Simonsen committing the cardinal error of not following the flight of the ball, and allowing Alan JUDGE’s innocuous looking free-kick to float past him.  

Some neat passing then helped create United’s equaliser but neither Sam Sodje nor Krystian Pearce will look back on their defensive contributions with much pride.  That being said, Ched EVANS’ finish (his ninth in seven games) was class.

More defensive silliness from Pearce led to United’s winner, as he had a little huff to himself when denied a throw in, allowing Evans and Stephen Quinn to take advantage.  Quinn’s cross ended up being bundled into his own net by County defender Alan SHEEHAN.

And the silliness didn’t end there.  For midway through the second-half someone in the row behind us noticed Blades’ keeper Simonson had an unreadable logo printed on the seat of his shorts and, after a few minutes discussion with his mates, came up with the suggestion it said “Insert cock here”.  Which judging by their guffaws, was quite the funniest thing they had heard in years. 

It made me realise that although football has taken major strides in eradicating racism of late (Suarez and Terry’s alleged misdemeanours, notwithstanding), it has barely begun to scrape the surface in its attempts to deal with that other scourge of society: Homophobia.

That logo

Take your partners please......

Panorama of Bramall Lane, Sheffield.

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