Tranmere Rovers FC – Prenton Park

After visiting both Anfield and Goodison Park in 2011, it was time for my third and final trip to Merseyside. Yet again, the heavens had opened and this time it was the streets of Birkenhead that had flooded. Lets look on the bright side though! At least the match was going ahead!

In the days leading up to the match there was much speculation as to whether it would actually go ahead after Tranmere postponed their boxing day encounter against Rochdale. This was due to a section of roofing being damaged in the main stand after 80mph winds had hit the region.

After only deciding to go to the match the day previously I had to resort to paying on the turnstiles. Some may argue that is how football should be – “Just like the good old days” – However, I prefer having a paper ticket.

I was picked up from the top of my road at 17:00 on the dot. Venturing with me to Tranmere were Danny, Gary, Dave and a new addition for this journey… Dannys’ girlfriend Dani. Yes. The confusion started almost immediately.

After the GPS had sorted herself out we pressed on with our relatively short journey. Along the way Danny discovered where Blue Planet Aquarium was, which cheered him up immensely. He asked if we could stop but we were unfortunately pressed for time.

We arrived in sunny Tranmere at 18:20. After driving around the block and noticing it was all ‘permit holders only’ we decided to park in the club car park. Costing £5 it was a bit steep, but there was plenty of room and seemed quite easy to get out of at the end.

After spotting a gap in the downpour we went for a walk. It was whilst walking past the Main Stand we encountered our first strange event of the evening. The Bury team coach had parked itself in the middle of the path, so we asked the nearest person if there was a way past it. Now, the simple answer would have been “Yes, there’s a set of steps to your left”. I regret asking this particular woman. Not only did she not understand what I was asking here, she also had a habit of answering questions with a question of her own.

Having successfully tripping over a pothole, I then travelled up ‘the steps to the left’ and limped towards the main entrance. It was whilst walking to the Main Entrance that I nearly got mowed over by a car. Okay, I didn’t… but according to one of my fluorescent friends I was within inches of losing my life. How awful would it have been if I’d have lost my life to a Nissan going at 5mph? Oh! Did I mention the car was at least 10 metres away from me? – Health and Safety and all that I suppose.

I eventually made it to the Main Entance unscaved and alive, and I had my usual photo outside.

It was then time to hunt for a matchday programme! We ventured into the club shop – which was run by babyfaced teenagers – and I purchased a pretty basic programme for £3.

It was now time to walk around the rest of Prenton Park, and as is always the case it began to rain again. We turned the corner, and there was a man selling Tranmere Fanzines. He looked so wet and miserable! I nearly bought a Fanzine off him due to the fact I felt sorry for him.

Suddenly we approached the River Mersey.

After crossing the River Mersey, Gary thought it would be a good idea to attack a young girl who was stood with her father at the traffic lights. ONLY JOKING of course! He didn’t attack her! She was about to get soaked by an oncoming car, so she ran into Gary.

Walking past the Prenton Park Pub I received a few dodgy looks. I suddenly remembered that I had resorted to wearing my Bolton Wanderers waterproof coat. We took shelter inside a Chinese Chippy, and we wondered which one of us would have their order messed up on this trip.* I ordered a Pie and chips, no problems there. It was Danny who had problems when he ordered a Chicken Barm.

So out we went. Danny eating a Chip Barm.

*I asked for a PieBarm when we went to Sheffield United, and I was told not to order any ‘foreign muck around here’.

Approaching the turnstile – pie in hand – we met a very pleasant fluorescent man who informed us that –

“It is free to get into Prenton Park this evening!… But it’s £100 to escape at the end!”

Wow! The stewards had all been so caring and lovely so far! Surely one of them had to be a jobsworth?

The away fans are housed in the Cowshed Stand at Prenton Park. The stand has a capacity of 2,500 and is all seated. It has a slanted seating arrangement, identical to that found in the Goodison Road Stand at Everton. Walking along the concourse reminded me of the Main Stand at Crewe. It was exactly the same.

The Cowshed offered, what I believe to be one of the best views in the Football League. With a very steep gradient there were no problems with seeing over the person in front of you.

To my right was The Main Stand. It is the oldest at Prenton Park and has a capacity of 5,957. It is a two tiered structure, and is divided into three main sections. The lower tier is split into the Bebington End Paddock and The Town End Paddock. The upper tier is simply called the Main Stand.

I really liked the look of the Main Stand. It was nice and traditional, and it was unusual to find a stand that has different colours of seating scattered everywhere!

To my left was the Johnny King Stand. The most modern stand in Prenton Park – Built in 1995. It was originally named the Borough Road Stand but was renamed after former Rovers manager John King. It has a capacity of 2,414.

The most iconic stand stood directly in front of me. The Kop. A large single tier stand which holds 5,696 home supporters. Again, this was built in 1995. The more vocal of Rovers supporters stand at the very top of this stand.

All of the stands at Prenton Park run unreserved seating apart from the Main Stand.

Back to the match!

As was the case on Boxing Day – away at Scunthorpe – the stewards had underestimated just how many Bury fans would be making the journey to Tranmere. Bury take around 25-30% of their home support away with them, which to be honest, is quite fantastic!

Kick off was fast approaching and we had picked a brilliant spot to watch the match from. Then, out of nowhere… The Adams Family perched themselves in front of us. Cheeseburgers in hand.

One of the family even brought his own catchphrase – “Dya know what I mean?”. He said this at the end of every sentence. Enough was enough. We moved down the row, as far as we could go.

I ended up sitting right next to the fabricated ‘JD Sports’ sign which was preventing us from moving into the other half of the stand. This was a choice which I would later live to regret…

The teams emerged, and still Bury fans were cramming into the small allocated area. According to some discruntled fans they had been queieing for at least 20 minutes to get through the turnstiles! Poor planning on Tranmere’s behalf I think. Never underestimate the Bury fans.

Bury were extremely unlucky not have taken anything from this match after dominating for the majority of the match. They used the wide pitch to great effect but just lacked the cutting edge needed in the final third.

It was the home side who had the first chance of the match when Robbie Weir saw his effort palmed away by Cameron Belford in the Bury goal. This attack woke Bury up, and from then on they never looked back. Andy Bishop and Lennel John Lewis – Whos name is a shop – both squandered good opportunities for the Shakers.

Andy Bishop missed again just seconds later when Phil Picken fed him through. Bishop was unlucky to have his shot saved by on-loan Tranmere keeper Paul Rachubka.

Tranmere then had a number of corners. I had never seen so many moves which had obviously ‘come straight from the training ground’ in one match. Every single corner Tranmere had they had a clever plan, and the Bury defence were helpless. Ash Taylor was unlucky not to see his effort give Tranmere the lead.

More corners flew in… more shots flew over.

It was Tranmere who took the lead against the run of play on 25 minutes when Bury failed to deal with yet another corner. The corner was passed across the edge of the box, and Joss Labadie was there to smash it past Belford.

On the stroke of half time Bury nearly equalised when Andy Bishop beat the Tranmere defence before setting up Michael Jones. Yet again, Rachubka was equal to the shot and the teams went in for half time.

At half time I went for a walk around the away end. First of all I had to climb under the controversial fabricated JD Sports Logos, and then I had to scale up the fairly steep steps. I eventually reached the top of the stand gasping for breath… Was probably my own fault for running up it! After taking a few photos I returned back to where The Adams Family were sat.

A man who was sat a few rows behind me decided he wanted rid of the JD fabric. Great idea! This now means we can all move around freely! I unhooked the strap near me… being the helpful sole I am.

The match started again, and I soon regretted unhooking the strap.

A fat, gobby and obnoxious fluorescent male shouted some abuse at me, whilst pointing at the untied JD sign. Want to know what he said?

“Oi! k###head!”

I couldn’t believe it! And neither could the other Bury fans. I had done nothing wrong whatsoever and he had the cheek to swear at me – a 16 year old boy. I found this slightly ironic as we were sat in the ‘Designated Family Area’. I’m pretty sure if I’d have randomly fired some abuse at him I’d have been kicked out straight away.

After conceding defeat, he pulled the JD Sign down the stand.

1-0 to the Bury fans.

Anyway! Back to the match!

Tranmere started the second half the better of the two teams and nearly doubled their lead when Bury defender Mark Carrington almost fired into his own net.

Highly rated Everton youngster Jose Baxter also came close to scoring just moments later, but Belford pulled off a fantastic save.

71 minutes and Bury were inches away from scoring a deserved equaliser. A corner kick flew in, and the ever present Joe Skarz volleyed towards goal, only to see his effort blocked on the line. Bury then won a freekick from the resulting clearance. The freekick swooped in, and Mark Hughes headed marginally over the bar – much to the despair of the following Bury faithful.

More Bury pressure ensued, and in the final minute of normal time they once again were unfortunate not to equalise. Michael Jones crossed the ball in to meet Ashley Easthams head… and he headed just wide.

Tranmere then broke on the counter attack and sealed the victory when Ash Taylor scored. The ball was fired in, and the Bury defence stopped claiming for offside. The appeals were ignored and Taylor kept his composure to beat Belford. 2-0 it finished.

Bury felt aggrieved not have to have earnt at least a point from a hard fought fixture, but they could return to Lancashire with their heads held high.

Prenton Park is quite a nice stadium, and it brings together the old and the new of stadium design. It’s a shame that there was no atmosphere whatsoever, and the stadium seemed far too big for a club of Tranmere’s size. The fact that the match was played on a Friday night over the festive period probably didn’t help with the crowd size.

The journey back was quite fast, and I watched The Inbetweeners Movie on my iPod which topped off what had been a great evening out.

Me outside Tranmere Rovers – Prenton Park
Me inside Tranmere Rovers – Prenton Park
A Poor Peters Pie
The Kop – Tranmere Rovers – Prenton Park
Jonny King Stand – Tranmere Rovers – Prenton Park
Main Stand – Tranmere Rovers – Prenton Park
The Cowshed End – Tranmere Rovers – Prenton Park
The JD Sign!

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