Public Transport – A National Embarrassment
With no train strikes affecting our plans, we set off for Doncaster hoping for a smooth journey…
The train before ours had been cancelled due to ‘trespassers on the line’, between Edinburgh and Newcastle. This meant that all seat reservations were cancelled and there was standing room only as the passengers of two trains were piled into one instead. This included first-class passengers.
Imagine paying extortionate first-class train fares and then end up standing? While this doesn’t affect tightwads like me, I couldn’t help wondering how I would have felt if I’d paid so much money to sit in comfort and end up standing next to lager-swilling football fans between carriages.
With buses being cancelled, train staff striking and general mismanagement of public transport in the UK, I can’t help wondering if anyone is actually doing something about it.
The government seem to care more about who is their latest figurehead rather than fixing problems affecting the people who elected them in the first place.
I really don’t want to keep on about this but it is a problem that needs to be sorted and quickly, especially as the UK heads into a recession. Transport is a key feature of the economy and needs to be running smoothly to help tourists spend money at their destinations and businesses to get staff to and from work and meetings etc.
I have tickets lined up for Lincoln City next Saturday and Coventry City the week after but these are planned strike days. I will be reimbursed for train tickets but money shelled out on match tickets will now be wasted. I’m by no means the hardest hit by these strikes but it is nonetheless annoying that my hard-earned money is being wasted like that.
Please sort it out, and quickly!
Doncaster – Pre-Game
We caught the bus from home to Durham and from there we caught the aforementioned train to Doncaster, where we stood for part of the journey south, before finally getting a seat as passengers left at York station.
We arrived in Doncaster around 11:37 and I stood among the hundred or so Millwall fans waiting for a train to Sheffield while Mrs Hopper took care of bathroom duties. Presumably, they had stopped off in Doncaster for a drink before heading to Sheffield. The other alternative is that they had suffered rail journey chaos too. Either is possible.
We decided to head to the Hallcross pub, which had been recommended to us by Twitter follower @Ryandunphy95. Thanks, Ryan!
Two pints of Staropramen for £5.00!
Bargains like that are hard to find in boozers these days and rather than going for our usual pub lunch, we decided to stay here and have a couple more cheap pints before making the long hike to the stadium.
Our visit to Doncaster coincided with a Pride event being held in Elmfield Park, which was on our way.
It’s great to see a whole community coming together to celebrate the growing acceptance of their numbers in society and one can only hope that this continues to be so. Discrimination of any kind needs to be eradicated from our society.
Doncaster Council should also get a bit of praise here as there were rainbow flags and triangular streamers dotted around the town and presumably, they also provided the event with the venue.
After eventually finding our way through the park, we finished the last stage of the journey and saw the stadium ahead of us.
Doncaster Rovers – The Stadium
Beyond the car park lies the Eco Power Stadium, which to my knowledge has never had a name that isn’t a sponsored one since its opening in 2007. The Keepmoat Stadium was the original name but this too was sponsored by a Doncaster-based house building company.
The original planning permission was gained for the ‘Doncaster Community Stadium’ and while it was assumed that this would be the official name, it has had a sponsored name ever since, converting to the Eco Power Stadium in 2021.
The initial impression of the stadium is of a nice, tidy venue that is very much in keeping with most new stadia. It feels a little like what Mrs Hopper likes to call ‘cookie-cutter’. What she means by that is that each stadium looks like it was cut out of the same mould.
I see what she means and while every stadium is slightly different, there certainly isn’t the same uniqueness that football grounds used to have.
Having said that, Doncaster Rovers do have the traditional four floodlights and how magnificent they look too, towering over the pre-fab-looking outer shell of the stadium. Too many of the new-build stadiums have floodlights built into the roof and as a traditionalist, I love to look for the floodlight landmarks as I head towards a new ground, so this was a particular pleasure for me.
We had a quick look around the busy club shop and picked up a programme, priced at £3.00. Luckily, these were sold separately from the main tills, where a long queue snaked around the shop.
We then made our way to the turnstiles to have our tickets scanned… and rejected!
The tickets were bought online from the Doncaster Rovers ticket office as soon as they were put on sale.
Having been denied access to the ground, we were advised to go to the ticket office and ask them for help. We cheekily avoided the long queue of people waiting to buy tickets, mostly because I felt we already had our tickets and shouldn’t have to join a line of people waiting to buy theirs.
We told the lady behind the desk that our tickets couldn’t be scanned and it seems we weren’t the only ones it had happened to that day. I’m not sure if it’s a new system having teething problems or something that happens on any given matchday.
We had our tickets re-printed and marched quickly back to the turnstiles to see if these new ones would work – they did.
With relief, we entered the stadium into the East Stand. There was quite a large and roomy concourse inside with a drinks bar and a separate food counter. In front of us, there was a goal net and excited kids getting to shoot a football at targets in the net whilst two ‘coaches’ supervised.
It’s always great to see kids being encouraged to feel a part of the club, so well done for that Doncaster Rovers, it will pay off in the long term.
Not so great were the £4.00 Pukka pies at halftime, tongue-curdling hot, straight out of the fires of hell and overpriced. Still, that’s not unique to Doncaster Rovers but it’s time football clubs started respecting their fans in my opinion. A Pukka pie costs about £1.25 in Asda right now and they make a profit on that, let alone £4.00.
Inside, the Eco-Power Stadium is a very uniform bowl of seats that continues unbroken around the stadium. Away fans are placed on the Eastern side of the North Stand and the more vocal Doncaster support is based in the South Stand.
I would estimate somewhere around 150 Sutton United followers had made the long journey up to South Yorkshire for the League Two clash against the recently relegated Rovers.
Doncaster Rovers – Stadium Gallery
Doncaster Rovers – Personal Videos
Doncaster Rovers – The Game
With football, you just never know what to expect and this was one of those games that delivered an unexpected turnaround.
With Sutton United taking the lead in the 16th minute, through Donovan Wilson, and holding onto that lead until the second minute of injury time. After George Miller’s equaliser had deflated Sutton, the cruellest of blows was still to come. Kieran Agard hit a fourth-minute injury-time winner to crush the South London team and their fans who must have fully expected to take home the three points as time ran out.
Both teams made chances in the first half but it was Sutton who looked the more dangerous team and controlled much of the game in truth.
The late, late punishment was brutal on Sutton because this was almost the perfect away day performance. They had limited Doncaster to mainly set-piece opportunities and they didn’t make anything of those chances anyway. Sutton on the other hand were denied more goals by Rovers keeper, Jonathan Mitchell, who was most probably the stand-out player on the pitch. Aside from the goal, the only time Rowe was beaten was when Doncaster centre-back Joseph Olowu, inexplicably headed the ball past him and almost scored an own goal. Luckily for the home team, it crept agonisingly wide of the post.
A crowd of 5,270 created a decent atmosphere and the noise levels were popping after the equaliser and subsequent winner. By the end, it felt almost as though Doncaster had pulled off an FA Cup giant-killing as the players and fans celebrated the unlikely win… the ones who hadn’t left anyway.
This was an enjoyable game for a neutral and while I was delighted for the home team, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Sutton because they didn’t deserve to lose.
However, this is why we love football so much. Its unpredictability is what keeps us going.
I have included links that take you to the match report taken from both clubs’ websites. This gives you the view of those last four jubilant/catastrophic minutes from the perspective of both parties
Attendance – 5,270
Entrance Fee – £21.00
Programme – £3.00
Doncaster Rovers – Personal Videos
Doncaster Rovers – Match Highlights
Doncaster Rovers – After the Game
It was another hot sunny afternoon and the route march back to Doncaster train station soon had me sweaty and forgetting the excitement of the previous minutes. Do Doncaster lay on a bus to the train station after matches? Something to consider if not because it’s a good walk between the two places and I would have happily paid a couple of quid to get there in comfort.
Happily, the train home arrived on time and not only that, our bus home from Durham appeared early (or late if you had been waiting for the previous one, of course) but this time, the chaos favoured us and we were home by 8 pm laden with cakes from Tesco to make up for the lack of lunch.
All in all, a very enjoyable day and Doncaster is a good place to enjoy a game of football (and a cheap pint of Staropramen!)
Onto the next!