When Adrian and I (Ross) booked our tickets for the Walsall-Burton fixture, we were yet to know that this fixture would be a top of the table League 1 clash between first and second.
Being a fairly short journey, we left at 9:45am with a few stops on the way including Walsall Wood, Rushall Olympic, Bloxwich United (later finding they dissolved being replaced by Rostance Edwards), Pelsall Villa and Fellows Park for lunch (now a Morrisons supermarket).
It was a foggy autumnal start which later eased off with sunny spells.
Walsall Wood was our first stop of the day who play at Oak Park. Oak Park is situated next to a leisure centre with a small stand, terracing behind a goal, a clubhouse and a colliery memorial at the far end of the pitch behind the goal.
Following our stop, we made the short journey to Rushall Olympic who play at Dale Lane. When we previously visited Dale Lane, the ground was locked up which proved to be difficult to photograph. Thankfully on this occasion, the ground was open which made it easier to take photos (though the high fencing again proved to be challenging).
Next was another fairly short journey to Bloxwich United who play at Grosvenor Park. We previously visited Grosvenor Park a few years back and decided to return to take some new photos. Upon our arrival, we noticed signs displaying Bloxwich United AFC had in fact been changed to Rostance Edwards FCwith the previous dissolving in 2012. Adrian noticed a gap in a concrete wall which he decided to jump through to get a few snaps inside the locked ground to the bemusement of a local woman who walked passed as he jumped out the ground.
With plenty of time before getting lunch, we decided to squeeze in another stop at nearbyPelsall Villa who play at the Bush Ground. As we arrived at Pelsall Villa, the team were about to leave for their away match. Having asked the coaches if we could get a few photos of their ground, the gates were briefly unlocked for us to go in and get some pics. The pitch at the time was covered in fallen leaves and even appeared to slope from one goal to the other!
We made our way towards Walsall parking on Bescot Crescent only a short walk from both Walsall FC’s current home the Banks’s Stadium and their former home Fellows Park.
Fellows Park has now been replaced with a Morrisons Supermarket where inside are various photos of Fellows Park and a clock outside marking roughly where the centre spot was.
We ate lunch at the Morrisons Café after browsing the various photos on the walls inside the shop.
Lunch and a few cups of coffee later, we were walking out of Morrisons on the way to the Banks’s Stadium cutting through the nearby retail park.
When we reached the Banks’s Stadium, we walked around taking photos outside before we collected our tickets and went in through the turnstiles.
Whilst we were inside near the food kiosk and the toilets, we recognised Crewe Alexandra legend, Dario Gradi, outside the food kiosk eating a burger (probably scouting on behalf of Crewe Alex who in fact play Burton Albion during October).
Bescot Stadium, also known as the Banks’s Stadium for sponsorship purposes, was built in 1989-90, by GMI Construction, with a reported build cost of £4.5m. The stadium was opened on 18 August 1990, by Sir Stanley Matthews, prior to a friendly match with neighbours Aston Villa in front of 9,551 spectators. Originally both ends of the ground were standing areas, and the capacity of the ground was around 11,000. However, capacity was reduced to around 9,800 in 1992, when the away supporters terrace was filled with seats. Following an extension to the Tile Choice Stand (formerly known as the Gilbert Alsop Stand), during the 2002-03 season, it is now an all-seater stadium, with a capacity of 11,300. In 2009, the club erected a large advertising hoarding to the south of the stadium, facing the M6 motorway. Plans to develop the KIA stand (which usually caters for away supporters) were announced by the club during 2005. The proposed development would mean using the blueprint of the most northern stand (currently the Tile Choice Stand), which stands opposite it. Funding for the redevelopment was to come, in part, from a large advertising board on the back of the stand facing the M6 motorway. The board is, at the time of writing, the largest illuminated sign adjacent to a motorway in Europe. However, due to the club’s failure to regain Championship status, and the subsequent drop off in attendances, the redevelopment plans were put on hold.
Yet another international break meant no games in either the Premier League or the Championship, so the main focus in the Football League was the clash of the top two in League 1. Burton the leaders making the short journey down the A38 to second placed Walsall.
Not sure many football fans would have thought these two sides would be top two in October when the fixtures were released in June, but it is a testament to both clubs organisation on and off the field that they are finding success.
Both clubs early success this season have been brought about by having a good defence and not surprisingly for the half hour chances were few and far between despite some excellent approach play.
The talented Romaine Sawyers the first to strike, bringing a good save from the Brewers keeper.
Walsall were getting ahead of steam and were playing some good football deserving their lead. Slick passing involving Mantom, Henry and Sawyers saw the ball moved from left to right and an excellent finish from the teenager Liam Kinsella. 1-0 to the home side. In the second half, Albion started to control the possession more, they almost equalised minutes into the half, Mantom heading away via a post after a corner had inadvertently been miss directed towards goal by Downing.
Despite all the possession the visitors were not creating anything of note that was until the last quarter. As defences tired chances became more frequent and how sub Timmy Thiele missed kicked a low cross by Beavon in the 6 yard box, only he will know. The loose ball ricocheting off KInsella with Downing completing the clearance.
At the other end, Sam Mantom was denied a goal following an excellent block from Calum Butcher and Cook brought out a good save from John McLaughlin.
Walsall wrapped the game up in stoppage time, the eagle eyes officially spotted a hand ball by Edwards in the box and Tom Bradshaw who had a quiet game scored sending the Albion keeper the wrong way, 2-0.
On the day before a crowd of 6,812, a deserved win for Walsall who leapfrog Burton at the top of League 1.
After the match, we made a dash back towards to car running through the retail park back to Bescot Crescent making our way through Sutton Coldfield, bypassing Tamworth and then heading northbound on the M42.
Our day of sport continued with an evening at Loughborough University to see Leicester Riders take on Glasgow Rocks in the British Basketball League which proved to be a close affair with the home team winning by a small margin.
Overall Ground Quality : 7/10
Ease of getting there : 8/10
Atmosphere : 7/10
Programme : 9/10
View of Action : 7/10
Quality of the game : 8/10
The “football” feeling : 8/10
Chances of coming here for a random game : 7/10
Legroom : 8/10
Surrounding area : 7/10
Overall : 76/100