Monday, 23 January 2012

Cheltenham Town - Whaddon Road



Cheltenham Town FC
Whaddon Road
Cheltenham
Gloucestershire
GL52 5NA

01242 573558
Official Website
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Ground Number: 73
Tuesday 12th November 2002
Cheltenham Town 1-2 Wycombe Wanderers
LDV Vans Trophy 2nd Round





CHELTENHAM TOWN - A BRIEF HISTORY


CHELTENHAM TOWN were formed in 1887 and played in local football prior to joining the Southern League in 1935 with their first spell there lasting 50 years. The last 5 of those were erratic, with the pain of relegation in 1979 being followed up with a very disappointing 19th placed finish in the Southern League Midland Division. Prior to that they'd endured spells flitting between the two tiers of the Southern League. They won promotion back to the Premier Division in 1983 and by 1985 they had won promotion to the Conference after lifting the Southern League Championship. They'd finish as high as 11th in their first spell in non-league's top tier, though were relegated back to the Southern League in 1992. Their second spell here proved a lot happier and in their 5 seasons they never finished lower than 3rd. 1996/97 saw them finish as runners-up to Gresley, but owing to ground grading issues with champions' Gresley Rovers ground, they were promoted. This kick-started an incredible period of success for the club, and a runners-up spot was followed up by the Conference Championship in 1999. Promotion to the Football League followed, with spells in the bottom two tiers. Their best ever finish came in 2007 when they finished 17th in League One. They lasted in the Football League until a 23rd placed finish meant relegation back to the Conference in 2015. The top tier of non-league was a much-changed beast to the one that they left, with a whole bunch of ex-league sides with big backing to compete with. However, they defied the odds and were league winners, returning to the football league at the first time of asking. They've had a tough time of it since returning, sitting second-bottom at the time of my latest visit.



In the FA Cup, the Robins best ever run came in 2001/02. After beating Kettering Town, Hinckley United, Oldham Athletic and Burnley, they lost 1-0 at West Bromwich Albion. The club listed the FA Trophy in 1998 when they beat Southport 2-0 at Wembley Stadium. Since being in the football league Cheltenham reached the Southern area semi-final of the Football League Trophy in 2007, as well as the second round of the league cup on a number of occasions. A number of local cups have been won, most notably the Gloucestershire County Cup on 32 occasions. Traditional rivals were Gloucester City although with the last league meeting coming in 1997, the relationship is a little more cordial with their nomadic neighbours sharing their ground since 2010. 





MY PREVIOUS VISITS

Wycombe's first visit to Whaddon Road since the 2 sides were in the Conference together came in 2002. Wycombe were still in Division 2, while Cheltenham had just been promoted and were in the division below. The competition was the much derided LDV Vans Trophy, and as such, Wycombe fielded a weakened side. But despite this, they came through, with a golden goal winner from Lewis Cook.



I made 5 further visits to Whaddon Road, our only other win coming on New Years Day 2011 on our way to promotion from League 2 under Gary Waddock, That day, despite falling behind to a great goal and looking like we could be well beaten, we roared back with goals from Stuart Beavon and Gareth Ainsworth. 2006 was not a good year for me at Whaddon Road with our only defeat at Whaddon Road and one of two goalless draws coming in the playoff final second leg after we had lost 2-1 in the first leg. Cheltenham went on to the final in Cardiff, beating Grimsby Town and gaining promotion to League 1 in the process.

VISIT 7: CHELTENHAM 0-1 WYCOMBE (L2, 30/12/16)

I'd not been to many Wycombe away games so far this season, in fact, this would be my first league game of the season. As with a lot of other grounds on this blog, I'd only done a very brief blog on Cheltenham as I'd not visited Whaddon Road since starting my ground entries 5 years ago. I'd have done a lot more this season, but League 2 ticket prices were so stupidly high, I'd decided against revisiting. At £21 Cheltenham was no exception, but with precious little else on offer on the night, I decided to go for it. I'd be missing out on a family party at home, though I'd organised this a couple of months back and promised people a lift to the game.



On the day of the game I had a nice easy day at work, and was out just after midday. That was me done for the year, with 2 days off meaning I don't go back to work until 2017. I was feeling a bit tired in the afternoon, so I had an Irn Bru to perk me up as I didn't have time to sleep. After saying a brief hello to the family I left at 3.30, listening to The Tow Mikes on TalkSPORT as I made my way to meet Anwar in Aylesbury. I got there at 4, and he and his son Hicham were there waiting for me. Though the traffic was fairly light, drivers were being cautious due to the fog and so it took a while to get there. We arrived just before 6, parked up in a side street called Oakland Avenue that I'd spotted on Google Maps. We then walked into town and I went to one of the Wetherspoons in the town,  The Bank House. It was a bit of a disappointment - no real cider and pretty scruffy with no menus on the tables. In its defence, service was friendly and quick, and the Tennesee Burger that I had was piping hot.  From there I met Anwar and Hicham and walked back to the ground, getting there at 7.10. I paid the steep, but to be fair, going rate price of £21 to get in and settled down for the game.




Wycombe had been in great form of late, especially Scott Kashket who was scoring every game. Inevitably it was he who opened the scoring on 10 minutes with the first goal of the evening. No one had mustered a serious shot on goal, but when big Adebayo Akinfenwa knocked the ball down, Kashket was there to rifle home. It continued to be a game of few chances with Wycombe having a penalty claim denied and Cheltenham firing just wide down the other end. The second half saw Wycombe try to grab a second to make sure of victory, although towards the end we sat back a bit and were a bit lucky to escape with a win when Cheltenham missed an open goal. Still, a win is a win and this was a highly valuable pme. We didn't leave Cheltenham until 10.15 due to talking to people and walking back to the car. I dopped Anwar off at 11.40, getting home myself just after midnight. I stayed up for a couple of hours before going to sleep around 2am.



THE GROUND

WHADDON ROAD is now a smart ground fit for the Football League. It's situated in a residential area with not a huge amount in the immediate vicinity of the ground although town is a 20 minute or 1 mile walk away. I don't recall what the food and drink facilities are like inside the ground, but the fans were always friendly and the stewards fairly reasonable if you behave. For the past couple of years, the ground has carried the ludicrous 'World Of Smile Stadium' thanks to sponsorship from a local dental company. I guess every penny of revenue counts, and they had to grin and bear it though.



The MAIN STAND and PRESTBURY ROAD END have remained unchanged for all of my visits and provide a decent standard of accommodation. They have a capacity of around 1100 for the terrace, though the 1800 capacity main stand is probably the most aesthetically pleasing, dating from 1963.



On the far side is a newer stand, built around the turn of the century. This has a 2000 capacity, all seated. Though I never saw a game with it in situ, I did get a picture of the small but attractive terrace that it replaced, albeit not a very good one through a gate, when I visited in the mid 90's to take photos.



Finally, The WHADDON ROAD END was an partially covered terrace on my first couple of visits, but was replaced around 2006 with a smart seated stand holding 1,100. Clever use of space has been made to fit it all in, owing to them being hemmed in by the local bowls club.



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