A wet night in Essex
The EFL Cup first round provided with a trip deep into Essex for my first competitive ‘92’ game of the season. Colchester United of League Two hosted, Championship promotion hopefuls, Aston Villa at the Weston Homes Community Stadium. The whole experience played out in the midst of torrential rain that would have been considered ‘dodgy weather’ in January, let alone August.
Competition: EFL Cup
Refreshments: Burger + tea (£4.50)
Star player: Sammie Szmodics
With a long journey on the cards I decided to buy an e-ticket via the Colchester website. It was a quick and easy experience, and meant I wouldn’t have to waste time in a ticket collection queue. I decided to take the train rather than risk the mid-week traffic even though the stadium is right on the edge of the town. The, incredibly useful, Football Ground Guide informed me that a shuttle bus was available from Bruff close, which is a short, sign-posted walk from the station.
I wasn’t charged, either way, for the bus and the journey took around 10 minutes. The stadium sits in a large open area and looked quite impressive as the bus approached it. There is also a large car park with spaces that can be pre-booked, for people more inclined to drive.
I hopped off the bus and frantically looked for the correct turnstile, while the rain still poured. During my search I found a £3 programme as well as a sheltered concourse in the back of the South Stand. I had a quick skim while enjoying some temporary respite from the elements. The content was the minimum you’d expect with some useful information about the opposition and their new signings.
Once inside the stadium there were plenty more food and drink facilities and a large concourse area. It was big enough to move around freely and lots of people were enjoying a few beers. The prices were reasonable and there was a decent choice of burgers and hot dogs as well as hot and cold drinks.
Once I’d left the shelter of the concourse I was relieved to find my seat was covered by the roof. The first three or four rows, however, weren't so lucky. The stadium has four separate, similar stands and open corners. The away fans were at one end, in the North Stand, while the livelier Colchester fans were at the other end in the South Stand. All of the stands appeared to be quite steep, so the views were good and I felt on top of the action.
A good crowd turned up considering the conditions and the fact the game was being televised. Both sets of fans kept singing and a drummer, at the home end, ensured everyone was in rhythm. I particularly enjoyed the home fans attempts to squeeze ‘U-ni-ted’ into songs more suitable for two syllable words.
Villa made the better start and went two goals up in the first twenty minutes. Scott Hogan rolled in the first after the Colchester keeper failed to keep hold of the ball in the wet conditions. The second was an unfortunate own goal from Frankie Kent. In between the goals Colchester were awarded a penalty but it was well saved by the Villa Keeper. Five minutes before half time Reid’s shot was flicked in by Kent and Colchester had something to fight for in the second half.
Both sides had chances to win the game in the second half. Villa, who had rested a few senior players, lost their momentum towards the end as they made substitutions. Colchester kept going to the end, and Sammie Szmodics, who looked Vardy-esque, was a constant threat. Unfortunately, the home side couldn’t find a cutting edge in the slippery conditions.
The Weston Homes Community Stadium is a decent ground for League Two. The shuttle bus and e-tickets are good touches and simplify the overall experience. The home fans made a good attempt at creating and maintaining an atmosphere despite the conditions and going two goals down early on.