Preston North End 3:0 Yeovil Town
FA Cup 1st Round
Saturday 3rd November, 2012
I'm a northerner. I was born in Scarborough, and have lived in Bridlington, Malton, Huddersfield and Doncaster. Even now I'm on the other side of the Pennines, I'm still in Lancashire as a 'Yorkshireman on tour'.
Some northern towns have a bad reputation. 'Industrial, run-down, full of poverty-stricken trouble-makers, graffiti, litter, concrete buildings' are just some of the terms which are served out when discussing the north of England's larger settlements. Well, let me tell you something: Preston is all of those things, and more. It's possibly one of the most unlikeable, filthy and depressing places I've ever been to in England. I tried to like it, but as soon as I stepped off the train, I could tell that I never wanted to come back.
Regardless, Preston is one of my local cities now, like it or not. During my time here, I intended to go to Deepdale which is one of the most famous grounds in the north of England. Today was that day.
Yeovil Town were the visitors for an FA Cup 1st Round tie, and I decided to take advantage of the reduced admission prices. At £10 for adults, and in my case £5 for concessions, it was a no brainer that I should venture 15 miles north to this less than salubrious city on the River Lune.
After doing a bit of shopping, and trying not to catch anything, in the city centre - I started the 20 minute stroll out to Deepdale, via the Prison. That's about as scenic as the walk got.
Deepdale, to be fair, looks most impressive from the outside. Unfortunately, I was met with the scene of ambulances surrounding a supporter who had been knocked over on the main road near the ground. I hope he made a full recovery.
After purchasing my ticket at the Away Ticket Office (there was no way that I was supporting a team managed by Graham Westley), I made my way through the one open turnstile. I wasn't expecting a big away turnout today for several reasons. Firstly, the FA Cup 1st Round holds little interest for clubs in League One and League Two. When Scarborough were in the Conference, it really meant something to get into the 1st Round, but low attendances at the Football League clubs at this stage in the competition show their feelings towards it. Secondly, Yeovil to Preston is 230 miles. In each direction. On an good day, you're looking at a journey lasting no less than four and a half hours. Finally, it was cold. Very cold.
Nonetheless, the turnout of 164 was more than reasonable, and I took my place among the hardy green-and-white clad ladies and gentlemen from deepest Somerset. The 20 or 30 of them at the back of the stand located near where I was sat were in good voice throughout, and some of their songs ranged from mildly amusing to borderline hilarious. To be honest, they provided the best entertainment of the afternoon in what turned out to be an appalling game of football. They even have a supporter who rings a bell, which could get annoying, but was novel enough not to on this occasion.
It's not an exaggeration to say that nothing happened in the opening 38 minutes. Preston's first goal, resulting from some poor Yeovil defending, was the first meaningful shot on target. Three minutes later, the second shot on target resulted in their second goal, again coming from poor Yeovil defending. That was the first half. Two shots. Two goals. Boredom quickly setting in, and my negativity was further fuelled by the worst hot chocolate I've ever had at a football ground. And it cost £2.10. At most NCEL grounds, you'd get a two course meal and a drink for that. Sometimes I don't miss the Football League...
The second half was slightly livelier, but Yeovil's hopes of an unlikely comeback were scuppered when Ed Upson was given a straight red card for a poor challenge on the hour mark. At the time, the away supporters were most upset at the decision, but looking back - it did seem like a reckless tackle.
Preston got their third and final goal from a corner on 70 minutes, and that was about that.
I managed to rush back to the station in time for the 5:10 train back to Ormskirk, trying to remember a day out at the football that I'd enjoyed less. This was my fourteenth match since relocating temporarily to Lancashire, so perhaps I'm lucky that it's taken this long for me to be so unenthusiastic about the whole experience. Maybe I miss the involvement that I feel watching Boro - and next week's game against Brighouse will freshen things up a bit. Sometimes being a 'neutral' really is just that. Football sometimes doesn't feel right when you don't have any real attachment to either team.
In conclusion, the entertaining Yeovil fans made it bearable, if not enjoyable. They were always one of those teams who Boro never had any quarrels with in the conference, and their supporters - like today - always seemed like a jolly bunch. I wish them well in their League One campaign. As for Preston, it's unlikely I'll venture outside the confines of the station again in a hurry. I've ticked it off. No need to go back. Ever.