Sunday, November 17, 2019
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Football Away Days: Cheltenham Town & Whaddon Road

Cheltenham Town vs Exeter 2019Before the end of the 2018/19 football season, our Ed. managed to fit in another 'football away day' trip, where he coerces a group of friends to visit a ground that he'd not previously visited, to watch a team that none of us are emotionally invested in! The focus this time was Cheltenham Town, the date April 6th, and the opposition were the promotion-chasing Exeter City. This is how our day at Whaddon Road went.

 

 

As with other recent football away days, the process for getting hold of tickets was nice and simple via the club website, and they were posted out to me well in advance of match day. As for getting there, the majority of our group elected to take the train. Whilst the journey was straightforward, Cheltenham Spa station is a good 40 minute walk away from the Jonny-Rocks stadium, although that being said, that also means that there are plenty of pubs on route.

 

With a bit of time to kill before the 3pm kick-off, we therefore decided to amble in the general direction of the ground, in search of liquid sustenance. The only problem was that a lack of forward planning meant that we turned down a few pubs in order to get closer to our destination, and then ended up with having to settle for visiting just the one.

 

That watering hole was The Shamrock, a simple, dyed-in-the-wool Irish pub with old wooden floorboards, plenty of pictures on the walls, and a piano in the corner. Naturally, a good pint of Guinness was on offer, although it was clearly not a football pub as our presence doubled the number of patrons!

 

From here we hightailed it to Whaddon Road, which is pretty close to the edge of the town, where rolling countryside makes up a lot of the background for the Colin Farmer stand. We had tickets for the terraces in 'The Paddock', this is an open area with plenty of older fans that backs onto a small concourse where your typical food and drink can be found (burgers, chips, tea etc). Before entering the turnstiles for this side of the ground, we found the Sports Bar, which had a fairly decent, and welcome, variety of beer, ale and cider available.

 

90 Minutes Online Ed. with Whaddney RobinPrior to the start of the game I managed a football first. In all of the football matches I've ever attended, I had never had a picture with the club mascot, and as you can see, I was pretty chuffed to have a snap of myself with Whaddney Robin! As for the game itself, it ended up being a fairly entertaining contest, with a couple of moments of controversy sprinkled in.

 

The home side started the match confidently enough, as they probed The Grecians defence with some decent build-up play, only to be unable to create a clear cut chance. This continued to be the theme for the first half, until Exeter took the lead, somewhat against the overall run of play, in the 36th minute. Craig Woodman set himself for what looked like being a cross into the box, but instead rolled a clever pass into the path of Dean Moxey. This caused two of the Cheltenham players to backtrack, and with the time and space afforded to the left back, he cut inside the penalty area and placed an accomplished finish into the bottom right corner.

 

Following the traditional half-time visit to the bar, and the burger van, the action got back underway. The second half started tentatively, until the turning point of the match came in the 53rd minute. A deep cross from the right swung into the edge of the 6 yard box, and the Robins striker, Luke Varney, collided with the away goalkeeper Christy Pym. Seeing it in real time, the assumption was that it was a foul and a penalty, especially after Varney received treatment on the pitch for several minutes before eventually being stretchered off.Whaddon Road burger

 

It was only after the game, and seeing subsequent reports and footage, that it was apparent that Pym had punched the ball before clattering into the unfortunate Varney. However, the referee pointed to the penalty spot, gave Pym a yellow card, and the equaliser was confidently rifled into the top left by Conor Thomas.

 

For much of the remaining 30 minutes, Cheltenham were on the ascendancy, and sensed the chance of pushing on for a winning goal. As the pressure built, the hosts managed to create a handful of decent openings. Kevin Dawson had a looping volley tipped over from just inside the penalty area, and Rakish Bingham had a great chance to win it when he ran on to header and struck a half-volley straight at Pym from 6 yards.

 

Exeter did still threaten on a couple of occasions, very much aware that a win was needed to keep up their play-off hopes. Their best chance coming when Ryan Bowman nearly capitalised on a defensive error, but as he ran in on goal the angle became too tight and his shot was saved.

 

The final twist in the afternoon came during the extended period of stoppage time. An eventful game for the Exeter 'keeper had a sting in the tail, when Pym went to collect the ball for a goal kick, he allowed his frustration to get the better of him and senselessly pushed over Cheltenham striker Billy Waters. The referee promptly brought out the 2nd yellow and a red card, dismissing a furious Pym in the 100th minute!

 

Following the end of the game, my cohorts and I thought about navigating the route back to some pubs, but decided instead to head towards home and to have a few beers without worrying about catching the train afterwards. That being said, the experience of watching Cheltenham Town at Whaddon Road was fun, and one that we would recommend for other fans that are keen to enjoy a new football away day.

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