Crewe Alexandra 1
When the fixtures are released in June there are a handful of fixtures I look out for, Crewe against Portsmouth is high on my list.
As a lifelong Crewe Alexandra fan, growing up watching the Railwaymen, giving up my season ticket when we had just been promoted to League One in 2012 was one of the hardest things I have done in football. I had a season ticket at Gresty Road for six seasons, I was going pretty much every home game for a few years before that too as I watched my side drop from the Championship to League Two.
The promotion year was amazing and I felt so left out living 200 miles south when we were in League One, beating teams and of course winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final in 2013. Now I hadn’t been to any of the previous rounds, I missed an awesome game in the Northern area final when we beat Coventry City at the Ricoh but I wasn’t going to miss another trip to Wembley.
I felt like a fraud, a part time fan, having been to a handful of away games and a few home games, I didn’t feel part of the club that had taken up a huge chunk of my childhood. Because we were playing well and winning trophies, it made things so much worse.
No-one could have predicted the downward spiral after our second Wembley victory in 11 months. The 2013-14 season was one to forget, I’d seen nine Crewe games that summer (between July and September, including friendlies) but results weren’t good enough and we pulled off a great escape with survival with a couple of games to go, four points above the drop.
The following season was no better, surviving on the final game of the season after another season of terrible football. I wasn’t feeling as bad for not having to sit through it every week, amazing how fickle my brain is.
2015-16 our luck ran out and we dropped back into the fourth tier and I had been to three games and hadn’t seen them win since Boxing Day 2014. Glad I wasn’t there to physically see us go down, that happened to me in 2006 and 2009.
I digress slightly, back to today’s game, Crewe are unlikely to get much closer to my current home so to miss this game would be crazy, despite our dip in form playing against a side sitting fourth in the league, my team will always be my team.
I was also wary that of the fact that I had been to two away games and seen us lose 5-1 and 4-0 this season (at Wycombe and Exeter) so I thought it would be similar today. I have seen them win away this season at Leyton Orient so maybe there was a slim chance of that result repeating itself.
Either way I headed to Fratton Park with no expectations and came out feeling on top of the world. It’s a funny old game.
This is my fifth trip to Fratton Park and my second time watching Crewe Alexandra play here.
My first trip came on the 29th September 2012, having just moved to Hampshire, Pompey’s game with Scunthorpe (a club I wrote for at the time) was a perfect test run for when Crewe would come to town two weeks later.
On October 20th I watched Pompey run out 2-0 winners against my side and then stayed away until December 2014 when I went against Accrington Stanley (a 3-2 win for the visitors). My last visit before today was against Plymouth Argyle in April 2015 so I was due another visit after nearly two years.
Fratton Park is an amazing ground for League Two and although their fans can be a little unsavoury, they bloody turn up through thick and thin. To think they won the FA Cup in 2008 and were entertaining Ronaldinho and AC Milan that same year goes to show what kind of slide they’ve been on.
16,000 fans for a fourth tier game would not happen in any other country. For context in January, around 500 witnessed the Fuerteventura derby in Spain’s fourth tier, an amateur affair that really does show England what an amazing depth of football that it has.
The away end is basic, electronic turnstiles mean that you have to purchase a paper ticket rather than pay on the gate but the little grey ticket booth in the car park was easy and friendly enough. One snack bar at the top of the stairs is your lot for an away fan before heading into the stand. Two support poles could obstruct your view but with unreserved seating you can pick your best spot to watch the game.
The ground is fairly generic in terms of all-seated, corners not filled in which gives it an older feel. The Fratton End opposite the away fans looks awesome when full and the only stand I haven’t sat in during my previous visits.
The North and South Stand first couple of rows put your head in line with the pitch, the seats look lower than pitch level so cant imagine what sort of view you would get from there but some fans did get the full 4D experience when Crewe’s left back Zoumana Bakayogo was flung into the crowd after running out of pitch.
The stand housing the dugouts, tunnel and dressing rooms is two small tiers and has beams going all the way down, a problem I occurred for the Accrington & Plymouth games, not that I could complain with complimentary tickets from my housemate who worked for the club.
One of the main features is the outside of the ground. It looks pretty generic from the outside for the most part and it isn’t that easy to walk all the way around, however if you follow the stadium around from the away end to the opposite corner, squeeze yourself down a tight alleyway ignoring the 13 year-old Stone Island gang trying to provoke you then you get to the mock Tudor façade and the main ticket office.
It looks like nothing else you would see at a Football League ground, maybe there is similar with old non-league grounds but it was certainly worth walking around to grab a quick picture.
Either way, like with most grounds I have been to, I am always going to recommend that you visit such an iconic ground in English football, after all, they nearly went out of business completely.
Crewe did their League Two survival hopes the world of good with a 1-0 victory over high-flying Portsmouth.
Captain George Ray put the ball in the back of the net with 15 minutes remaining to secure a memorable win on the road.
Portsmouth didn’t pose much threat over the course of the game and Crewe nearly grabbed the lead in the opening two minutes when Jordan Bowery fired a header at goal that David Forde had to tip away low in the corner.
The hosts did go close when Enda Stevens whipped in a good cross and striker Eoin Doyle glanced his header over the bar.
Crewe spent a lot of the time chasing the ball and former Alex man Gary Roberts bent his free kick into the side netting, it looked like it had gone in from the opposite side of the stadium.
Ben Nugent then saw his header cleared off the line after Forde had missed the punch from James Jones’ deep free kick and Nugent’s back post header was blocked by Stevens.
Portsmouth created nothing in attack and as the second half progressed, it looked like the Railwaymen could take the lead with a bit of luck. Neither side looked like they had the cutting edge in attack and a goalless draw may have been a fair result with the home fans clearly disgruntled at the performance as Pompey kept the ball without causing any problems for a Crewe side struggling for consistency.
The Alex went close when Ray had his header blocked from a corner before Billy Bingham saw his shot cleared off the line by Stevens. The ball came back in with Jones putting a ball out wide for Callum Cooke, who swung in a great cross and Ray attacked the ball and sent his header into the bottom corner.
2016/17 Games: 103
2016/17 Grounds: 58 (9)
Total Grounds Visited: 153 (40)