National League

Boreham Wood 0

Gateshead 4

(Wes York, Luke Hannant, Manny Smith, Jamal Fyfield)

Attendance: 314

Meadow Park

Family gatherings and parties are usually pretty repetitive, you see the cousin who you see maybe once a year and an elderly relative usually tells you how big you’ve grown or that she remembers when you were a baby or something really obvious.

There is always a good spread though, a party is made or dismayed by the buffet, a sea of beige foods, sausage rolls, sandwiches, quiche, spring rolls and pork pies. I love it, there is always a DJ playing all the same tunes and in this particular party, playing “one for the youngsters” included Show Me Love by Robin S (1990) I was born in 1994 and wasn’t the youngest person at the party.

Now I love my family, a self-proclaimed mummy’s boy and although I live 200 miles away from my nearest and dearest, I still love catching up with everyone when I am at home.

This weekend did consist of a family party, but nothing I described above would be happening to me. The party was for a relative of my girlfriend, so I didn’t have to worry about any embarrassing stories of my youth surfacing and no real pressures to speak to absolutely everyone there. The invite dropped through our letterbox about a month ago, being the mad football fan that I am I instantly saw that it was a Saturday…. in Borehamwood.

I obviously checked the fixtures and as if it was God’s plan, Boreham Wood had a home fixture! The hotel (where the party was and funnily enough where we were spending the night) was just under two miles from Meadow Park, this day couldn’t get better! Due to traffic I was dropped off at the ground about 14:55, just enough time to find the turnstile and get into the ground, just as the teams were lined up in the tunnel area waiting to go on the pitch.

This was my first time watching the home side and my first visit to Meadow Park. I have seen Gateshead once before, this season in my last National League game when they lost 3-0 to Woking back in November.

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The Ground

My first note to make was the sat-nav took me to the pay and display for the public area of Meadow Park. You can see the ground and the West Stand, fenced off with no sign of an entrance. The only sign I could see was ‘Away Entrance, Strictly Away Fans Only’, with only minutes before kick off I didn’t have a clue how to get to the main entrance, however the steward on the away turnstile said it didn’t matter as you can walk around once inside rendering the sign useless (until the day they have to segregate fans).

After nearly having a heart attack at the admission price, it nearly put a downer on the afternoon. £18 for an adult ticket seemed very steep; this maybe in line with other clubs in the National League but Boreham Wood didn’t offer any student rate or anything remotely looking like a price I wanted to pay. The fact that Yeovil, one league above charge £16 shows why Boreham Wood were the only team in the National League to have an attendance below 500. Only two games in the three National League Divisions (Premier, North and South) had lower attendances today (Concord Rangers and Oxford City).

So with the ticket and programme leaving me with just £1.23 in my pocket, I was pretty glad that there weren’t any pin badges available as I wouldn’t have been able to afford one. The girl on the turnstile seemed almost sympathetic at the ticket price, probably not the only one to question it on my way in, I don’t normally complain but I saw Southampton against Liverpool for £20 this season!

On a more positive note, I liked the ground. It had quite a clean feel to it, the stand on the left running down the length of the pitch looked very modern and the BWFC etched into the seats was very smart for a ground at this level. Doing some research I see that the West Stand was built in 2014 so still very new.

Each end was uncovered standing but there was plenty of covered seating offering a great view of the pitch. Today the weather was glorious, sunglasses were needed and it was nice to feel the warmth of the sun. Any true football fan will have a story about nearly getting frostbite in the colder months of the soccer season. Mine was a trip to Hartlepool in December 2007, the hot water tap didn’t work and the hand dryers were broken too, and we (Crewe Alexandra) lost 3-0, that trip still gives me nightmares.

The club shop, a little hut in the corner of the ground had a few bits in but looked a bit sparse, shame that I couldn’t pick up a pin badge. The pitch looked dry but fairly good nick for this end of the season, a few rough patches in the goalmouths but nothing too bad.

Boreham Wood share the ground with Arsenal Ladies, looking on their website, they charge £6 for a game so if you want to tick the ground off and not overly fussed about who you watch there, the cheapest way would be to head over to watch The Gunners (I never thought I would say that sentence).

I must reserve a special mention to the group of young Wood fans (donning a mix of football attire ranging from Watford, Spurs and BWFC) making some noise behind the goal with chants like “Bruno’s (Andrade) on fire” and the like.

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The Game

Gateshead ended a run of four consecutive defeats with an impressive 4-0 victory away at Boreham Wood, who have now lost four games in a row.

Goals from former Wrexham trio Wes York, Manny Smith, Jamal Fyfield and Luke Hannant’s second goal of the season confirmed a well earned three points on the road for the Heed.

In a slow and sluggish start to the game, the first real noteworthy moment was the opening goal on 13 minutes. Wes York lifted the ball over David Stephens before controlling it with his chest and firing a volley looping over the stationary Grant Smith and nestling into the bottom corner.

The Heed doubled the lead three minutes later, Matt Paine lost the ball after good pressure from JJ O’Donnell and Stephens could only poke the ball as far as Luke Hannant who smashed the ball low into the bottom corner.

Boreham Wood were struggling to get into the game, the ball going back to ‘keeper Smith who was struggling with his distribution to his static outfield players.

O’Donnell smashed a shot over the bar as Aspin’s away side went looking for a third after Stephens had lost the ball to former Northern Ireland youth international Patrick McLaughlin.

The Wood had their first real chance of the game on 28 minutes when Paine passed the ball into Ricky Shakes who teed up Angelo Balanta to fire high over the crossbar.

Former Eastleigh playmaker Jai Reason fired a speculative effort over the bar from 30 yards as Luke Garrard’s men were starting to settle into the game.

Manny Smith was then forced into a goal saving block when he got his body in the way to deny Shakes a certain goal after a mishap with travelling ‘keeper Dan Hanford. The Gateshead shot stopper had come way out of his area to clear the ball, getting tangled up with Smith before passing the ball straight to home striker Shakes who sent a weak shot at goal. Luckily Smith had recovered to block the shot away and retain the clean sheet.

Garrard made one change at the break, bringing off former Chelsea and Crewe Alexandra defender Danny Woodards off for a more attacking option in the form of Kenny Davis.

Balanta forced a good save from Hanford as the Wood looked to try and pull a goal back before Heed left back George Smith raced away down the wing to fire just wide at the other end.

Davis was definitely making a difference linking the midfield to the attack and after some good link up play around the edge of the Gateshead box, he set up Balanta to volley at goal but Hanford held onto the effort.

With ten minutes left on the clock, both sides made changes, Jake Wright replacing York for the visitors and Frank Keita coming on for Balanta.

The game really opened up in the final moments and Gateshead hit Wood on the break, Wright picking out Jordan Burrow who took a touch, cut inside and curled a shot destined for the bottom corner but Smith managed to get two hands to the ball and tip it around the post. From the resulting corner, the visitors did grab the third goal when Manny Smith used his aerial presence to get to the ball and smash his header in off the underside of the crossbar.

As the game reached injury time, their was still time for another goal when Fyfield and Hannant held the ball in the corner of the pitch before Fyfield cut inside on the edge of the box and curled the ball expertly into the bottom corner to complete the rout.

2016/17 Games: 124

2016/17 Grounds: 66 (10)

Total Grounds Visited: 156 (41)

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