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2009 will see me attempt to visit all 92 (94 come August) football league grounds for a competitive football match. This will include all grounds in the Premiership, Championship, League 1 and League 2. My aim is to complete this challenge within 2009 and in doing so raise as much money as possible for Children in Need. As you can see just above this my target is £2000. On this page I will be writing where I have been and how my challenge is going so please come back and re visit this page to see how it is going and to donate to such a worthwhile charity.
Due to limited space I will be posting only my most recently visited grounds on this page. Please also visit http://challenge94.webs.com where I have a lot more information on how my challenge is going.
12th December - Next up was my 1st ever visit to League 2 newboys Burton Albion. There Pirelli Stadium was one of the better grounds in the basement division of the football league and showed they certainly and ambitions beyond League 2. For Burton's game against Aldershot Town I was given a complimentary ticket which was kindly arranged for me by Fleur Robinson at the club. I picked up the ticket from the impressive reception and made my way to the terrace. It makes a change standing at games now with very only a handful of clubs that have standing room. This match also mrked Aldershot's 1000 league game sice they formed in 1992. The match got underway and in truth the first half an hour or so bared no reflection on the rest of the game. It was pretty dull and really only a couple of half hearted penalty appeals were worthy of a mention. Finally the referee gave into the pressure of the appeals and pointed to the spot when a shot struck Blackburn on the arm. After a brief delay due to an injury, Greg Pearson stepped up and cooly slotted past Ruiz in the Shots goal. Burton didn't have to wait much longer for there 2nd goal as Kabba played in Pearson who had acres of space before he put past Ruiz again. On 43 minutes Aldershot centre back Charles presented Pearson with a great chance to seal a quick fire hat trick. He done his impression of Bambi on Ice and Pearson was again clear through on goal. His well struck shot this time was saved though by Ruiz but to the keepers dismay the ball cannoned against the on rushing Kabba's chest and into the empty goal. Burton fans celebrated while a few of the travelling Shot supporters started a conga on the away terrace to cheer themselves up!! The 1st half goal scoring didn't stop there however and Pearson completed a 15 minute hat trick with a back header over Ruiz. His 3 goals were scored one with his head, 1 with his left and 1 with his right foot. The 2nd half was similar to the first wih no goals until halfway through. This time though it was Aldershot who found the back of the net through substitute Grant's header in off the post. Aldershot rallied for spell after this and Blackburn rattled the upright with a stinging right foot volley. The game was put firmly out of reach moments later as Kabba got his 2nd of the game with a simple tap in after good work again by Pearson. Aldershot's day got worse with 15 left as Charles brought down Maghoma as he burst through towards Ruiz and was giving his marching orders for a professional foul. Pearson was then given a breather by Burton boss Paul Peschisolido and he went of to a deserved standing ovation being relaced by Harrad. Kabba also had a chance to claim a hat trick with 5 minutes left but instead he unselfishly squared the ball for Harrad to tap home when well placed himself. Few would have blamed him for a strike on goal with his side 5-1 up! Aldershot fans by now were ready to go home.
13th December - After a stay over up North it was the lunch time Championship kick off at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium next for me. Cardiff City were the visitors for this game and stupidly I built my hopes for this game with both teams challenging for minimum play off positions this season. It was a very cold day in the North East especially as the ground is situated just off the North Sea. Before the game there was a show of appreciation for the Steel workers who jobs were under threat. It was nice to see both sets of supporters applaud the workers that walked around the side of the pitch before kick off. I was sittting in the ground really thinking to myself that I couldn't be bothered with this game and for most of the game I think that 22 players out on th pitch must have felt the same!! The only shot in the 1st half I can remember worthy of mentioning was a free kick from Yeates that Marshall did well to parry round for a corner. Johnson was looking threatening on the wing but too often the final ball was poor. Cardiff didn't show too much going forward with Bothroyd and Chopra feeding off scraps. On the hour mark in the 2nd half Cardiff went in front with a little help from Boro keeper Brad Jones. Burke sent over a right footed free kick from the left which no one managed to make contact with. The ball bounced in the box and curled into the back of the net with the defence and keeper Jones in particular very flat footed. Maybe this would spark the game into life? Well it did for a brief spell as Middlesbrough went in search of an equaliser. Wheater hit the bar with a header and from the follow up Lita found his header cleared of the line. Boro fans were starting to get on the backs of there team who showed a lack of confidence going forward in the closing periods of the game. The game finished 1-0 to the Welshmen and left new Boro boss Gordon Strachan still looking for his 1st home win in charge after 4 attempts.
19th December - With only 2 games left to complete the challenge and only 3 weeks of the year remaining I was praying that the poor weather in the week wouldn't put this weekends game in any doubt. Fortunately the West Country didn't get the snow that we had in Essex and the League 2 game between Exeter City and Southend United was to go ahead. Harry had (madly) decided to come with me to this game as it was a ground he hadn't visited before and also drove us down there. we got there in decent time considering the icy conditions leaving Essex and even had time for a quick pint after collecting my complimentary ticket that had been left for me by Andy Gilliard at Exeter City. Southend had lost there previous 6 games on the road so the omens were not good for the 250 or so Southend fans that had made the long journey down the weekend before Christmas. The away terrace at Exeter wasn't the greatest stand I had stood on and as the afternoon went on it got very cold standing there. Southend had the 1st clear cut chance of the game but Ibehre somehow didn't connect with Malone's inch perfect left wing cross. Moments later Exeter were celebrating going in front after poor defending from the away team and a good finish from Stansfield. The striker ghosted in between 2 Southend defenders from a long punt forward. With Steve Mildenhall not knowing whether to stay or come for the ball Stansfield lifted the ball over him and into the empty goal in off the post. Poor defending and goalkeeping but a good tidy finish. Malone then gave Ibehre another great chance to score his first goal for Southend with another teasing cross. This time the goal shy striker connected but headed wide with only the keeper to beat. At half time it was nice to hear that Andy had also arranged for my challenge details to be read out. Southend needed a kick up the backside and it looked as though they got it at half time as they came out in the 2nd half and pressed for the equaliser. A Barnard header went straight at Jones and the Exeter keeper also did well to thwart McCormack after a good run from the Shrimpers midfielder. With half an hour remaining Southend were given an advantage after Exeter frontman Barry Corr was sent off for a late challenge on Anthony Grant. However the numerical advantage wasn't helping Southend and in fact Exeter seemed more likely to score another for a period in the 2nd half. The numbers were evened up by referee East when he sent off Ibehre for a push on Exeter defender Duffy. It completed a terrible afternoon for the striker and hasn't done his hopes any good for a permanent move when his loan deal expires. As Southend pressed for the equaliser, Exeter hit on the break and had 2 good chances through Stansfield to double there lead. They didn't and Southend lost for the 7th game in a row on the road. Merry Christmas everyone!!
27th December - Well this was it, my last game of the challenge. With it all starting way back in January in North London at Tottenham, I somehow ended up just down the road at North London rivals Arsenal. After spending the night with Rose's family in Surrey on Boxing Day I made my way to the Emirates by rail from West Byfleet early on a bitterly cold Sunday morning. I met up with Frank who was lucky enough that I managed to get two tickets for the game between Arsenal and Aston Villa. With Frank being an Arsenal supporter and also donating £3 for every game I have been to this year it felt like a fitting way of saying thanks to him as well. Got there in reasonable time to have a walk around the impressive new ground before making our way inside the ground for a couple of beers. After sinking the expensive drinks we made our way to our seats that were pretty high up. Anyone suffering from vertigo would not have liked it up there! I quite like a high view though as you get to see more of what is going on. From kick off Arsenal looked to get at Villa straight away and forced a number of good chances. The best of which fell to Eduardo who scuffed his shot straight at Friedal in the Villa goal. Villa had a brief 10-15 minute spell in which they looked like they could open the scoring. Ashley Young's deflected effort only just went over and Cueller will also feel he could have done better with a snap shot that went harmlessly wide. Back up the other end Nasri dipped a shot just over the bar and Sagna also blazed a shot over the Villa bar after a free kick was blocked. The half ended 0-0 but with hope that they would be goal action in the 2nd half, especially with Fabregas warming up at half time amongst the Arsenal subs. Arsenal boss Wenger admitted that it was a risk to play the Spaniard after a recent hamstring injury but a risk he was prepared to take as 10 minutes into the 2nd half he was brought on for Denilson. Instantly he proved why when he sent a 40 yard free kick just over before teeing up Arshavin for a shot that was well saved by Friedal. The crowd an Arsenal team were buoyed by Fabregas's entrance to the game and the confidence filtered around the ground. Just moments later Fabregas burst towards the Villa box but was brought down by Richard Dunne. The Spaniard picked himself up and sent a curling 25 yard shot passed Friedal and into the top left hand corner. A great free kick. He had totally changed the game in the space of 10 minutes. Villa now had to attack and this played perfectly into Arsenal's hands as they hit Villa on numerous counter attacks. Finally they got the 2nd killer goal after a quick break sent Theo Walcott clear on the right. He played in Fabregas with a perfectly weighted ball that Fabregas steered home past the on rushing Freidal. The Arsenal team and supporters celebrated the goal but must have been worried about the way that Fabregas hobbled after scoring the goal. He limped of the pitch and got a deserved standing ovation from the crowd for his 27 minute cameo performance. I think that was the best substitutes appearance I have ever seen? Arsenal were not finished there though and in injury time Abou Diaby curled in a great 3rd goal from 25 yards out. Diaby probably would have got my man of the match had it not been for a certain Spaniard!! And so that was it the challenge was over.......
Clubs visited so far : Tottenham, Chelsea, Derby, Reading, Bury, Burnley, Wigan, Southend, Stockport (via Southend), Leyton Orient, Macclesfield, Man Utd, Barnet, West Ham, Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheff Weds, Gillingham, Bournemouth, Port Vale, Colchester, Wycombe, Preston, Sheff Utd, Man City, Charlton, Brighton, Chesterfield, Hereford, QPR, Crystal Palace, MK Dons, Luton, Blackburn, Accrington Stanley, Tranmere, Watford (thanks Uncle!), Northampton (via Southend), Millwall, Grimsby, Dagenham & Redbridge, Swindon, Birmingham, Norwich, Chester, Sunderland, Shrewsbury, West Brom, Fulham, Coventry, Walsall, Ipswich, Lincoln, Hull, Huddersfield, Barnsley, Portsmouth, Peterborough, Aldershot, Torquay, Wolves, Bristol Rovers, Plymouth, Brentford, Darlington, Everton, Aston Villa, Rochdale, Notts County, Scunthorpe, Nottingham Forest, Leeds, Blackpool, Carlisle (via Southend), Bolton, Morecambe, Oldham, Newcastle, Liverpool, Bradford, Crewe, Southampton, Yeovil, Stoke, Hartlepool, Bristol City, Cardiff, Accrington Stanley, Swansea City, Burton Albion, Middlesbrough, Exeter, Arsenal
I have received complimentary tickets at clubs in black