Broadstreet, in defence of the Northern Echo Arena and THAT away strip
Better news this weekend came from Binley Woods where Broadstreet beat Harrogate to record their second consecutive win, their fourth in all, and the first time they’ve won back-to-back games.
It also lifted them off the bottom of National 2 North where they are now in 14th position, still in the relegation zone but only 3 points from 13th and safety, a position currently on loan to Preston Grasshoppers.
With several of the current Coventry squad getting a run out, and the game being publicised on the Messageboard, I’m surprised that only 175 were there to watch ‘Street beat Harrogate 23-8, a figure roughly in line with their average gate.
In all, I think 6 Coventry players started the game…Hodgson, Baker, Smith, Foreman, Roberts and Wolfenden, with a MacNulty also playing.
I’ve have assumed that the Smith who played at centre and who scored the opening Broadstreet try is indeed our own Sam Smith, but whilst it is a name of great merit and synonymous with fine lineage, it is not an uncommon surname.
Cliffie tweeted his delight having completed his first 80 minutes of rugby for some time, so that suggests he came through unscathed. Interestingly though, Cliffie didn’t take the kicks; that was left to the trusted boot of Lee Chapman.
I wondered in a post a while back what it was that Broadstreet gained from their partnership with Cov as they lost all 5 of their opening matches and seemed rooted to the bottom of the league. However, with players of the calibre of the Cov loanees who played on Saturday, it shouldn’t be too long before they are sitting comfortably mid-table. It does make some sense when looked at it in those terms.
I do wonder though, were I the regular full back for ‘Street for instance, how I’d feel when the coach came up to me on the Tuesday and told me I’d be standing down for the next few weeks to allow Cliffie to get match fit. It can’t be the easiest of conversations to have.
Maybe that is something that players are warned could happen when they join the club?
The question of where Cliffie will play when he and the coaches feel he is ready for a return to the team is still open to debate. Hutchinson is growing in stature at centre, Mieres is too good to be moved from full-back and Jones is one of the first names on the team sheet for me. Centre would be my preferred option despite his lack of pace, but I don’t doubt there will be calls for Jones to move aside make room for him.
I do think though it is a case of when he returns, not if. Cliffie’s boot has been sorely missed this year, not just because he is National 1s greatest accumulator of points over the last couple of seasons, but also because he scores tries, is a reliable kicker out of hand and seemingly unflappable.
Whilst he might not be a Coventrian by birth, there would be many of us who would offer him the freedom of the city, given what he has achieved in the time he’s been with us. He appears to love the club and is Cov through and through. It’s not always an easy decision as to where to play him, but to me a fit Cliffie Hodgson is someone I’d want to have in my starting XV.
One of the things that was asked on the Messageboard today was what the Northern Echo Arena was like as a rugby venue.
Unfortunately, the word ‘vile’ was used by one poster to describe his experience and this quite understandably upset a Park supporter who’d come across to presumably get a feel of what supporters felt about the game.
Given the above, it’s not surprising that I have a slightly different view of afternoon there. It certainly wasn’t ‘vile’ to me and I can only distance myself from that comment, although that’s not an implied contradiction of what else was said. It just an unfortunate word to use.
I arrived at the ground at about 1.15 and was told by an extremely friendly steward that the turnstiles wouldn’t open for the best part of an hour, but there was a bar open where I could wait until supporters were allowed into the stands. This was the only downer for me really because I’m not the best conversationalist, particularly with people I’m not familiar with. I just like to get to a ground and do my 10 laps around the pitch, take a few photos and leave.
It’s just the way I am.
Anyway, in the bar I went where fortunately I found Mick Carter had already arrived (whom I introduced to Ian Hodgson as Mick Curtis because I get so damned awkward in those situations; sorry Mick!!!), so I relaxed enough to make some reasonably coherent comments before moving out into the arena itself.
It is impressive in size, although to be fair it’s starting to look a bit ‘tired’ in places and wasn’t as new as I’d imagined it to be (2003, roughly the same age as the Butts).
The photo shows how faded the seats are.
Having not been told where I could and couldn’t sit, I of course went straight over to one of the restricted areas that wasn’t open to supporters, in order to take some photos of the players warming up.
A very nice lady, another steward, came over and explained that the only seating available was in the main stand opposite whereupon she walked all the way round with me. I know her kids names, where they go to school and the fact that she was going to be a steward at the Newcastle game today. Delightful she was…
…sorry, that sounds like something Yoda would say.
The ground filled up slowly, but by kick off there were a fair few in.
Now I’m not very good with guestimating the size of a crowd, but I would have said it was comfortably over 600+ and that just the ones we could see from where we were sitting. There were a lot of people standing against the metal rails/advertising stopping supporters from getting onto the ‘track’ that ran alongside the pitch. The official attendance of 900 could well be right, but in such a large area, even when confined to one stand, it doesn’t probably look as many.
The stand was set well away from the pitch (this can be better understood from the photo), but the view was excellent.
It’s always strange when you’re looking out onto empty stands in front of you, as well as to the left and right. It does create an eerie atmosphere initially (the same was true of Cardiff pre-season), but once the game was underway you quickly got used to this.
The noise level was certainly quite loud, the result of several hundred supporters all in fairly close proximity. I thought the Darlington supporters got right behind their team, especially having fallen behind 17-21 with 20 minutes left. There was the usual banter, mainly about the referee which was to be expected given that Darlington seem to benefit from so many of the decisions. There was some nice chat between the sets of supporters at half-time and it was generally everything you’d expect of a typical National 1 crowd.
I was totally unaware of the orchestrated banging on the roof above the players shelter. I do recall some singing breaking out from the rear of the main stand in the second half, but that was very good-natured. I did a runner at the end of the game, and as I left everyone seemed in good humour. The PA seemed very clear, although the announcer fluffed his words on one occasion which was fairly embarrassing for him and amusing to the spectators. There was plenty of razzle-dazzle before the game with cheerleaders (please Cov, never again) and music reaching a crescendo as the players entered onto the field of play. A bit OTT but quite well done.
I’m sure the incidents referred to will be followed up, but from where I was there was no evidence of anything untoward. Pleasant enough folk, good entertainment…but very long queues to get coffee or a drink at half time.
It always interests me how people have such different experiences of the same event. I’m sure someone else would have another very different view of their visit , but for what it’s worth, this is mine.
Having just read through this, there is one big negative…there’s a lot of walking involved and if you’re a bit shaky on the old pins, it’s probably not the ideal ground for you.
Remember the pink away strip?
I was so excited at the prospect of seeing it worn for the first time.
A few photos for the blog, some witty remarks about how good the players looked in pink…a couple of potential headlines ready.
So it was a massive let down to discover that the new kit hasn’t yet arrived at the club and that they would be playing in red. It’s a decent enough strip, but pink it’s not.
And having sung the praises of teamBAG not so long ago, I’m hugely disappointed in the delay over the away strip.
There’s only a potential 9 matches left in which to wear it – maybe it will get an outing at the Butts, too. (Although ‘outing’ isn’t the most appropriate word to use in this instance).
I’ve added a few extra photos (apologies if there are some duplicates) and a couple of very short video clips that I couldn’t download on the train coming back on Saturday.
I should add a big ‘thank you’ to my lad, Sam, who guided me through the complexities of tethering my Chromebook to my phone using WhatsApp on the way up to the game.
I wish I’d have had his patience as a teacher…