Thursday, 12 January 2012

Stevenage Borough - Broadhall Way

Stevenage FC
Broadhall Way

01438 223 223

Ground Number: 44
Saturday 25th September 1999
Stevenage Borough 0-1 Kingstonian
Nationwide Conference


The club was established as Stevenage Borough in 1976 following the bankruptcy of Stevenage Athletic. The new club didn't have the best start to life with the council selling their ground to a local businessman. The nasty piece of work dug a trench across the pitch to prevent any football being played and the club had to play at a basic venue, playing youth football. In 1980 the council got the ground back and Stevenage were able to join the United Counties League. They won Division 1 at the first attempt and were promoted to the Premier Division where they had three mid-table finishes before switching to the Isthmian D2 North. They won this league in 1986 and spent a couple of tricky seasons in Division 1 before being relegated back. They were promoted again in 1990 and this bought about a hugely successful period for the club. Three promotions in four years saw Stevenage in the Conference by 1994. Paul Fairclough was the man behind this meteoric rise and by 1996, they were Conference Champions. Stevenage were just one of a number of victims of stringent ground-grading at the time and were denied promotions, thus saving Torquay United. They were round the top places in the table more often than not but would have to wait until 2010 to eventually gain promotion as they won the league for the second time.  That summer, they dropped the 'Borough from their name, finishing 6th in League 2 in their debut season, gaining promotion through the playoffs after they beat Accrington Stanley over two legs before bearing Torquay United in the final - poetic justice considering the events of fifteen years previously. Amazingly, they reached the League 1 playoffs the following year, this time they lost out to Sheffield United. Results soon tailed off and by 2014, they were relegated after finishing bottom. They've been back in League 2 ever since, with modest finishes, though they did make the playoffs in 2015, losing out to Southend United over two legs in the semi-finals.

Stevenage have enjoyed a number of notable runs in the FA Cup. The most famous one came during the 1997/98 season. A victory in a replay over fellow non-league side Carshalton Athletic in a replay set up a game against Football League side Cambridge United. Again a replay was needed after a 1-1 draw away from home but they triumphed 2-1 in the replay to gain a notable scalp. The 3rd Round paired the with then second-tier side Swindon Town but they gained a remarkable 2-1 win down in Wiltshire. This set up a big game against Newcastle United. Though Stevenage were drawn at home, Newcastle tried desperately to get the game reversed, citing safety concerns. In the end, Stevenage put in a temporary stand to house the Newcastle fans and satisfy the FA. Stevenage gained a plucky draw at home - Guiliano Grazioli grabbing a memorable goal to take the game to a replay. The game at St James' Park was only won by Newcastle thanks to a goal that possibly didn't cross the line and the Boro had won the nation's hearts. Despite the windfall from this run, shortly after, controversial chairman Victor Green claimed that the club had no money and threatened to close them down. It took new chairman Phill Wallace to get the club back on an even keel. They went one round better in 2012, this time as a Football League side, taking Tottenham Hotspur to a replay after a 0-0 draw at home, eventually losing 3-1 at White Hart Lane.

Stevenage have twice won the FA Trophy. They were the first team to win a competitive final at the new Wembley, beating Kidderminster Harriers 3-2. They won it again in 2009 with a 20 win over York City. The club were also FA Vase Quarter Finalists in 1986, losing 2-0 to Southall. Other cup wins include the Herts Senior Cup in 2009 and the United Counties League Cup in 1981. The town of Stevenage has a population of just under 88,000. Famous people to come from the town include racing driver Lewis Hamilton, golfer Ian Poulter, footballers Kevin Phillips, Ashley Young and Jack Wilshere as well as actor Ed Westwick who played Vincent Swan in the brilliant sitcom 'White Gold'

Several players have played for both Stevenage and Wycombe. These include Graham Westley and Alex Revell from the current management team as well as current players Adam El-Abd and Craig Mackail Smith. Some of the better ones from Wycombe's point of view include Darius Charles, Dannie Bulman, Simon Stapleton, Steve Guppy, Stuart Lewis, John Mousinho, Anthony Grant and Charlie Griffin.

More information on Stevenage's history can be found on this excellent site
And for a take on modern times, this blog, Under The Lamex lights has you covered



My first visit to Broadhall Way came on Saturday 25th September 1999 for their Conference game against Kingstonian. I'd passed my driving test the previous April and although not a groundhopper at the time, I went to the occasional random game if it promised a decent club shop or in this case involved some ex Wycombe players. I took my younger brother and we were part of a crowd of 2,775 which included 152 from Kingstonian. The K's were the better side and won 1-0 thanks to a scrappy Geoff Pitcher goal even hanging on with ten men after David Leworthy was sent off after he lashed out after being the victim of one too many crude challenges. Former Wycombe men Matt Crossley and Gary Patterson turned out for the visitors whilst Wycombe youth teamer Gary Wraight was on loan to Stevenage. There may have been others but I no longer have the programme. Sadly, this being the pre-digital camera age, I didn't get any photos either but the only difference was that behind the goal was an uncovered terrace as opposed to the covered seated stand for away fans that it is now.

I then made five further visits with Wycombe, pretty much driving the whole time or getting a lift with someone else and often visiting the then excellent 'Our Mutual Friend' pub which had real cider on. The first was the Friday 25th July 2008 when I gave mates Paul & Sue a lift and in front of a crowd of 850, Stevenage took the lead through Anthony Thomas after 7 minutes, only for Wycombe to win 2-2 thanks to goals from Chris Zebroski and Scott McGleish. I don't remember very much about my October 2010 visit, but Wycombe won 2-0 thanks to goals from Kevin Betsy and Stuart Beavon despite enduring a poor start to the season. I recall in 2012 that I got a lift with my Brother and Dad and I made my first visit to Our Mutual Friend. On the pitch, we drew 1-1 in a League 1 clash. Michael Bostwick looked to have won the game for Stevenage on 84 minutes but Grant Basey grabbed an injury-time penalty to equalise. My last visit before updating this blog came in 2014 and was my favourite visit. We made a real day of it, going into town before returning to the aforementioned pub. On the pitch, Three Counties Radio were covering this local derby. They said that Gareth Ainsworth 'Out-Westleyed Westley' - referring to the win at all costs tactics employed bu both managers, although Wycombe were in their infancy in this respect, having avoided relegation from the Football League by the skin of their teeth a few months earlier. Current Wycombe man Darius Charles gave Stevenage the lead in controversial fashion on 31 minutes, winning a 50/50 challenge with keeper Matt Ingram to bundle the ball over the line whilst our man laid stricken on the floor. It took some time for the game to restart but Wycombe equalised on 40 minutes thanks to Paul Hayes' volley. We were ahead on 44 minutes, smart free-kick routine ending in a  goal from Peter Murphy. Stevenage pressed for an equaliser but Wycombe confirmed their win in the last minute thanks to a Matt McClure goal on the break.


Thanks to the SkyBet rewards app, I was winning free tickets on a regular basis. Sadly, they were for home fans only, so any hope of using them for Wycombe away games were dashed. I had a number of grounds that I wanted to revisit, most pertinently Oldham Athletic, but I was unable to persuade any of my fellow hoppers to help out with fuel costs. Local, it would have to be then and Stevenage and Northampton were the candidates. I chose the former as it was a much better area for pre-match. In fact, I was so uninspired by Northampton that I updated my blog as I'd visited in 2015. The day before the game was a good one for me. I won £90 off of a free spin on Coral casino and also cracked on my the planning for my March trip to Belgium and Holland. Pretty much everything was planned in with three games in the Netherlands and one in Belgium. After getting ready, I left at 11.30. The journey over was excellent and I was parked up opposite the ground an hour later. I'd earmarked a great looking pub called The Chequers which was selling five real ciders according to the What Pub website. However, half an hour walk later they had none whatsoever, so I left. The Standing Order Wetherspoons was next, that too drew a blank on the cider front but I was parched by now. I ordered a chilli jam, cheese and bacon panini which was very nice with chips and a pint of Strongbow for £5.69.


I was done by 2 but was surprised that it was 40 minutes walk to the ground, having not checked as I wasn't expecting to visit. By 2.35, I was back at the car to drop off and pick up some stuff. It was a few minutes to the ground where I had to wait a while while they printed my tickets. It had been a disappointing pre-match but I was in the ground with plenty of time to spare. It was a pretty decent attendance for this crunch relegation battle with Orient filling there end. None of the ex Wycombe players (Adam El-Abd, Craig Mackail-Smith or Alex Revell) were in the squad for the hosts but Matt Harrold was on the bench for Orient. Stevenage lined up in white with various dashes of colour but at least it was better than their Burger King style red and white kit. I later found out it was their third kit. Stevenage were the better side early on, having plenty of attacking play but they just couldn't seriously test the Orient keeper. They were made to pay on 18 minutes when the visitors broke and Ruel Sotiriou shot across the face of goal into the bottom left-hand corner past Stevenage keeper Paul Farman. The game got to half time with Orient still ahead and with a section of Stevenage fans booing the team off. I didn't think they were that bad as a neutral, but I know from when Wycombe were in a similar place, if it's your own team, it hurts and you see things totally different to someone with no allegiance. The second half started off a different story with Stevenage offering little. Orient made it 2-0 on 58 minutes, a looping cross by Josh Wright was put in and with the home defence standing like statues and Ousseynou Cisse nodded over the line. The game was as good as over a couple of minutes later when Sotiriou's low drive made it 3-0 to the visitors. A fair few fans had seen enough and made for the exit.

The game petered out without too much further incident and the lack of urgency from Stevenage was baffling. Certainly, the two goals in two minutes killed them, but this team has all the hallmarks of the Wycombe side that stayed up on goal difference and in all honesty, deserved to go down. The only difference was, that season we were up in the playoff area in October and gradually slid down the table. Stevenage are rock bottom and four points adrift. It's hard to see them getting four points from the rest of the games this season, let alone gaining six points on other teams. The radio reports said pretty much the same thing. I was able to get away pretty quickly thanks to making a hasty retreat. The rest of the area's results on Three Counties Radio made for grim listening too - defeats for Luton and Watford. Worst of all was Wycombe's defeat to county interlopers Milton Keynes. We didn't play at all well from what I heard, not evening managing a shot on goal, so it's no wonder we've not scored an away league goal since October. Brilliant home form sees us second in the league and it's mainly been a joy at Adams Park this season. Back to Stevenage, I feel for them, it's a nice club to visit with decent fans, but they look gone already. I was home by 5.45 and spent the evening typing this blog and getting on with other things before the obligatory Match Of The Day viewing before bed.


BROADHALL WAY is a smart and tidy lower league ground. Two sides have remained the same for all of my visits - both alongside the pitch. The main stand has a capacity of around 2000 and the opposite terrace around the same. Behind both goals have changed - the home end was originally a covered terrace and the away end an uncovered one, but these have both since been replaced by 1400 seated stands.

Facilities are pretty decent, the tea bar is pricey as you'd expect, but does at least have a decent range of food. There's a standard club shop and also a supporters bar, though I've not tried the latter. There's a decent pub, Our Mutual Friend, close by, as well as a Burger King. The town is around 20 minutes walk away and has a decent range of places including a Wetherspoons which is actually at the other end of the town and 40 minutes walk away. Based on my experience, you are better odd going to 'Our Mutual Friend' and eating at the ground unless you have huge amounts of time to spare.


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