Run and Football 5 Easter Break 2023 Part 2

Our break in the Herefordshire area has already been memorable with a couple of runs and matches at Forest Green Rovers in League One and Swindon Supermarine in Southern League Premier South. After two away wins I’m hoping the visitors continue this run with Sunderland and Gateshead up next.

Cardiff City V Sunderland 10th April

A visit to the Welsh capital for a first visit to the Cardiff City Stadium was the central point of this Easter trip. The second longest away trip for Sunderland this season at 317 miles and a first run in Wales which hasn’t involved mountains. It takes about an hour to reach Cardiff and after several minutes sitting in slow moving traffic we get parked on the 7th floor of the St David’s Shopping Centre. Tracy and Jess go shopping, Jacob visits the gym and I run.

Scarf shop outside the ground

About the teams

Cardiff City are currently in a battle to avoid relegation. The club have an English Football League transfer embargo until Summer 2024 after failing to carry out a mandated business plan to reduce costs. This followed attempts to regain their Premier League status after relegation in 2019. Last month the club reported a loss of over £29 million for the 2021-22 season. For most of the last decade Cardiff have had a successful period with two Premier League seasons. Playing in the top flight in 2013 was their first season at this level since 1962.

The club were formed in 1899 as Riverside AFC and changed their name to the now familiar Cardiff City in 1908, joining the Football League in 1920. Cardiff remain the only non-English winners of the FA Cup in 1927 and have been runners up on two other occasions. They moved to the Cardiff City Stadium in 2009 replacing the adjacent Ninian Park which had served as home ground since 1910. With a capacity of over 33,000 the new ground has enabled the club to double attendances from Ninian Park.

Sunderland look as if they are in boring mid-table obscurity but it is never that simple. The loss of striker Ross Stewart for most of the season (15 appearances 11 goals), and a lack of a replacement, has blunted the club’s promotion ambitions. As exciting young team lead by on-loan Amad Diallo, featuring academy graduates Dan Neil and Anthony Patterson and shrewd bargain buys like Trai Hume has done better than expected despite a long list of injuries to more experienced players. After an unprecedented spell of 4 seasons in the third tier from 2018 to 2022 Sunderland and their youth policy seem to be moving in the right direction.

Joining the Football League in 1890 Sunderland won three titles and the World Championship in their first 5 years and were known as “The team of all the talents” in this period. Further titles followed in 1901-2 and 1912-13 where the club lost the FA Cup final 1-0 to Aston Villa almost becoming the first club of the 20th century to do the double. Further success came in the 1930’s with another league title and an FA Cup win in 1937. After their first relegation in 1958 Sunderland’s highest position in the top flight has been 7th in both 1999-2000 and 2000-2001. In recent years the club are best known for the Sunderland ‘Til I Die documentary series.

Going for a run

Using the stairs of a multi storey car park isn’t the best start to a run. From level 7 to the ground floor takes an eternity body swerving unsuspecting shoppers and making myself as loud as possible. I’ve seen the Principality (Millennium) Stadium from the car park and I know todays location isn’t far behind it. A nice 10k loop should take in both stadiums and some of the other sights. As usual it doesn’t work out that way.

One of the beautiful university buildings

After a couple of miles the road I’m expecting to take turns out to be a motorway. Undeterred I retrace my steps and try the next street, ending up in exactly the same place. Plan A is hastily abandoned and the usual make it up as we go along routine takes over. I don’t quite reach the Cardiff City ground but run round the Principality Stadium which doesn’t look like much from the outside. The highlight of todays run is the city’s train station which is outstanding amongst latter 20th Century and early 21st Century architecture.

Train station

After a couple of mishaps finding the car park within the shopping centre I’ve run 8 miles. Time for a quick change then the match.

Statue of FA Cup winning captain Fred Keenor outside the Cardiff City Stadium

Cardiff City V Sunderland

Walking from the centre of the city to the ground takes about 20 minutes. The area has several EU Funding notices for infrastructure improvement schemes. How this much needed work will now be funded after leaving Europe is still open to debate. Areas like the North East and South Wales who received much more from the EU than they contributed are still to find out how the government intends to ensure they are not worse off as promised during the referendum.

We are in “safe standing” today. seats with more leg room and a safety bar. We haven’t sat down at any Sunderland away games yet this season but the set up will hopefully prevent any post goal injuries ocurring.

Safe standing

The game

Despite a win on Good Friday Cardiff have no confidence, start badly and don’t improve. Sunderland pen them back from the first minute and control the game without creating many scoring opportunities. The Sunderland fans try to create a decent atmosphere but the home crowd aren’t interested. One of my least favourite crowd chants is “Football In A Library” but on this occasion it was well deserved. Sabri Lamouchi obviously agrees his side have started badly making a double substitution, putting on two defensive minded players after only 36 minutes. Despite the majority of possession and some nice football from Sunderland the half ends 0-0

Sunderland fans at Cardiff City Stadium

Second half

Jacob had been worried for a couple of weeks that Connor Wickham would score for Cardiff today. He’s wrong as the ex-Sunderland striker is substituted at half time. Sunderland continue to press the home team and on the hour make a breakthrough. Jack Clarke wins a free kick just outside the 18 yard box. Alex Pritchard takes the set piece and shoots towards goal, the wall fragment and the ball hits the inside of the post. Dennis Cirkin can’t miss from near the goal line 0-1. Cardiff have a short spell of pressure but Sunderland easily soak it up and at times look threatening. With no futher scoring the game ends in a comfortable away win for Sunderland.

Sunderland fans salute their team at the end of the game

Review of the day

Entry Fee Adult £21 U21 £11

Programme £3.50 full colour 68 pages

Attendance 23,365

Run fun 6/10

Parking availability 2/10

Match entertainment 3/10

Adrian’s pastry index not in attendance

Cardiff City FC website

Run on Strava

11th April

No football today as after a packed Bank Holiday weekend everyone needs a rest. Time for a run instead. When we arrived at the accommodation the owner kindly said I could run across her field to reach some trails in the wood. The only caveats were I would need to duck under half a dozen electric fences and it might be slightly muddy in places. After 4 days of sunshine I decide to try the run after 12 hours of rain. I limbo under the electric fences with ease but slightly muddy has become knee deep and sticky with a film of greasy water on the top. I’m already a stone heavier before I reach the woods and decide an out and back of 5k will work. After a pleasant half hour in the mud and rain I can’t face horse paddock bog and return via another set of tracks and the road.

Run on Strava

Eastleigh V Gateshead 12th April

When I last visited Southampton in 2002 I’d never heard of their near neighbours Eastleigh only 3 miles away. This isn’t surprising as they played in the Wessex League (9th tier of English football). Jacob picked this one out as a good idea a few weeks ago but we are both a bit tired after 3 already this week and a two and a half hour drive just doesn’t appeal.

Silverlake Stadium home of Eastleigh FC

About the teams

Eastleigh are enjoying an exciting season under manager Lee Bradbury and are hoping to cling on to a playoff place. This would be the highest finishing position in the club’s history. Last week they were 5th but one point over Easter has seen the Spitfires drop to 7th and the last playoff place. The team have the best home record in the league going into the game with 14 wins from 21 games.

The club were founded in 1946 and have played at lower levels of the non-league pyramid before promotion to the National League in 2014. Up until 2002 they played in the Hampshire equivalent to the Northern League so have undergone a transformation. Getting to the Silverlake Stadium is easy until you arrive. There are no streetlights and non-official matchday parking is up a dark lane half a mile away from the ground. Allegedly the car park is season ticket holders only but there were a few Gateshead fans parked in there after the game.

Gateshead have won three games in a row since we visited the International Stadium on April 1st and haven’t dropped a point since mid-March. Any relegation worries have disappeared and the team are playing with confidence. Tickets are now available for their FA Trophy final at Wembley against Halifax.

View from the car park

Going for a run

With an evening kick off and plenty of driving I take the option of a run earlier in the day. Exploring a different part of the forest near our base I complete an undulating 8 miles in lashing rain to get my daily fix.

Eastleigh V Gateshead

Arriving at the ground the stand behind one goal looks fantastic with glass fronted executive boxes and despite the rain everything looks good. The result doesn’t really matter today for Gateshead they should already be safe and we are just here to see a game of football. Looking for the turnstile on our tickets leads us to the corner of the ground and a big cattle shed added onto the end of the ground. Under the sign Away Fans is an exit with a piece of Heras fencing across is.

Heras fencing to keep people in or out?

The away end is round the back and we enter via two old fashioned turnstiles. Jacob’s first mistake of the day comes next as he doesn’t realise we are behind the goal and turns right. We are now near a group of around 200 early teens who start abusing us and singing “dirty northern bastards”. After retreating as slowly as possible to the away end we find a seat. There are plenty to pick from in a temporary stand which has been better days. It looks like work is going on to replace the stand we are sitting in which can’t come soon enough. Gateshead fans slowly trickle in as kick off approaches with Jacob counting 54 just as the game gets underway.

A hole in the floor of the stand

The game

With an Aaron Martin on both sides which one would come out on top? The Eastleigh captain and centre half with over 200 league appearances including last season at promoted Port Vale or the Gateshead centre forward who has 0 goals in 24 league appearances for the club? Gateshead start well and after 6 minutes take the lead. Martin takes the ball into space behind the defence and finishes like a confident striker not one still waiting for his first goal of the season. Five minutes later the sides are level as Carter is played in down the left hand side of the box and smashes home. Gateshead are playing the better football and their supporters are enjoying the night with a wide range of songs including Laurel and Hardy’s Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

Gateshead’s Martin get the slightest touch on a goalbound Adam Campbell goal bound effort for Gateshead to retake the lead on 26 minutes. As the opposite end of the pitch and even on the highlights later it is difficult to see what happened. Gateshead remain the better team but there are no more goals and the half ends 1-2.

Trainee hooligan boys enclosure and pie shop

Second half

Jacob makes his second big mistake at half time. Despite having already been to the Pie Shack to buy a programme halfway through the first half he decides to wait until half time for pie and Bovril. Then he doesn’t want to queue in the rain so waits until everyone else has been served. This results in the bloke before him getting the last steak pie (Jacob gets chicken) and not returning to his seat for the first goal of the half. Gateshead’s Aaron Martin shows he’s unequivocally the best Aaron Martin on the day with a third goal and hat trick. 25 appearances 3 goals sounds a lot better than 24 appearances 0 goals.

Gateshead players congratulate hat trick hero Aaron Martin

Captain Greg Olley scores a 4th and a sustained “we are staying up” comes from the Heed supporters. With the team leading 4-1 and enjoying most of the possession Gateshead keeper Marschall is booked for time wasting which seems a bit strange. A few minutes later there is a goal we can all see coming. From a corner, Owen Bailey makes a little run from the edge of the box and Grey Olley finds him on the penalty spot to head home uncontested. Eastleigh get another consolation from close range but it is all about Gateshead tonight. At the end of the game the team and supporters give each other some respect for a job well done. Even the National League thinks the club are Heed-ing On UP!

Review of the day

Entry Fee Adult £3 U21 £3

Programme £3 56 pages (plus paper flyer advertising season tickets)

Attendance 1,875 including around 75 from Gateshead

Run fun 7/10

Parking availability 3/10

Match entertainment 8/10

Adrian’s pastry index not in attendance

Eastleigh FC website

Run on Strava

Slimbridge AFC V Willand Rovers 13th April

On to the last day of the holiday. A visit to the Brecon Beacons and some football. After getting in after 1am the night before due to an overnight road closure I was expecting this one to be a struggle.

Pontsticill Reservoir with the highest peaks in the Beacons behind it

About the teams

Slimbridge are bottom of the Southern League Division One South with only 24 points and are already relegated. Last season they finished in 14th place but it hasn’t gone as well this season. They sacked their manager in February but the change hasn’t preserved their league status. Slimbridge based in Cambridge, Gloucestershire have a history going back to 1899 and have been around a few different leagues seeking moves across the pyramid to reduce traveling. Their ground was formerly known as Wisloe Road until renamed after former chairman Evi Thornton who gifted it to the club in 1960.

Welland Rovers are a few places higher than Slimbridge and are in a relegation battle. Four teams are only separated by a couple of points with games running out. The club were founded in 1907 and played in the Devon leagues for over 75 years before slowly working their way up the league to gain promotion to the Southern League in 2019.

Entrance at Slimbridge

Going for a run

I’ve looked forward to this one all week. A few hours on the Brecon Beacons. It has been raining for the last couple of days but Thursday is fine and according to the forecast 0% chance of rain. Tracy and Jess are going on the Brecon Mountain Railway and I’m running as far as I can in the three hour window. I plot a map of my phone only to find it wants to take me up the tight winding road. I’m here for the fells not the roads so I jump onto a path at the first opportunity.

Getting off the road

I’m not even sure if it is real path or just an access but eventually get up onto the open fells. The train comes past on its way back to the station for Tracy and Jess while I enjoy the sunshine, the fells and meet some new friends.

A couple of happy horses

I’m trying to follow the train route at first but it becomes obvious I should just do my own thing instead. A bit of a climb takes me to the top of the hill and on to a disused quarry. After a quick scout around I head towards the only peak on my phone map.

Disused quarry

Pen March is 535 metres high but I’m not actually sure where it was as the part of the fell it was on is featureless and boring. Anyway I ticked off my first peak in the Brecon Beacons and head back towards the train station.

View from the top of Pen March

On my way back to the car there is a huge bird of prey in the sky watching for mice or other creatures to eat. I’m pleased it isn’t interested in me and run past the horses again and arrive at the car just in time.

Bird in the cloud

Slimbridge V Welland Rovers

The ground seems in a funny position. Right next to the motorway but access is through the village and we never use the motorway. A nice car park is spoiled by a van with no bumper or engine and a rusting bramley apple sales van. One inside it is tidy and what you would expect from a small club. A seated stand, covered terrace and club house. The pitch has seen better days in terms of maintenance but it has plenty of grass on it. As the teams enter the field of play the entrance music is The Liquidatior by Harry J All Stars. We might not enjoy the game but the DJ is OK with us.

The game

After a pretty even opening Slimbridge give away a penalty on 15 minutes and Willand beat the keeper from the spot to make it 0-1. A few minutes later a mistake in the defence allows an easy chance and is is 0-2. Just as the half is ending a third goal for Willand finishes the game as a contest.

Willand Rovers no 8 celebrates his goal in the 46th minute

It has been hard on the Slimbridge team who haven’t looked as bad as the scoreline suggests. We have particularly enjoyed watching no 5 playing as a left centre back in a 3. He looks out of shape, struggles with a pass occasionally but has been enthusiastically getting forward and trying to make things happen. All of the goals have come from the opposite side of the pitch. At half time the DJ spins some more good tunes and I do a little dance to keep warm while Jacob looks around embarrassed.

The covered stand with speaker

Second Half

More of the same in the second half with Willand having the better of the play and scoring again in the 54th minute. The game becomes subdued and not much happens for the last half hour. Everyone seems happy to go home on the referees final whistle.

An easy win for the away side in this one and the most one sided game of our holiday. Still an enjoyable evening at the football.

Closing stages

Review of the day

Entry fee Adult/under 21 £9

Programme none

Attendance 85

Run fun 8/10

Parking availability 9/10

Match entertainment 4/10

Adrian’s Pastry Index Not in attendance

Slimbridge Website

Run on Strava

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