it was a long day yesterday. We set off at 6-40am, aiming to park at High Wycombe, and get a train to Wembley stadiumstation. Made High Wycombe at 10-30, including a brief break on the M6 Toll. Loads of cars and coaches on the motorway with Morecambe scarves and shirts.
At High Wycombe, it's free parking on Sundays, plus a train ticket paid for with a voucher I got for another train being an hour late (result!). Jono & I were walking the 1km round the new stadium before the doors opened at 12, only having spent cash at the service area.
The arch is massive, but the proportions are so good, that it's not overwhelming. Jono & I are seriously impressed.
By the turnstiles is a list - no cameras, no bottles, no flags, air horns, uranium 235 (Ok I made the last one up). I enquire at Information as I have a small digital camera with me. That's Ok, I am told, as it's not a big press photographer's camera and it's not nuclear powered. I had hoped this would be the case, as I hadn't got a strategy for dealing with a) lack of admission or b) smuggling in camera. Small cameras and flags go in, and we have to take the 'sports tops' off our water bottles, but can carry the bottles in open. Weird.
Cheeseburger 'meal deal' £7-50! Tell myself train was free for us both and buy two without flinching. Very tasty cheese for some reason.
Toilets work, although apparently not all 2000-odd of them, according to reports from the FA cup final on saturday. Had no urge for further research.
Inside the stadium is huge, yet you feel quite close to the pitch. In fact you're closer than in the old Wembley if you ever went there. I saw Genesis in concert in 1987, but didn't look carefully at the pitch on that occasion. Seats are big, and there's lots of legroom. We're on row 18, facing the arch (as well as the pitch). Video screens are huge, sound system excellent.
Once the match gets going, there are obviously a lot more from Exeter than Morecambe (total crowd of just over 40,000 - a record for the Conference). Yet the Morecambe end makes more noise most of the time. A defensive error puts Exeter ahead after a few minutes, but after that all traffic is the other way. Several excellent saves keep Exeter ahead, including saving a penalty and the follow up shot, but the pressure tells, Thomson scores from a defensive error and at half-time it's 1-1.
After the break, Exeter wake up, and a couple of subs give them more energy and also more height. Davies, the sub keeper hero from the second York game, makes some good saves, but as time goes on the match looks destined for a weary period of extra time. Then it all changed, a long ball found Carlton in enough space between defenders to organise a shot, which blasted into the net in a very impressive way. Morecambe then had to hang on. Exeter got frustrated, Gill was sent-off for a head-butt on a Morecambe player, and 4 minutes of added time must be played.
They survived, and it's League football next season for the first time ever. It was great to be there, and I suspect the crowd got much more entertainment for their £20 or £25 than those paying many times more did on Saturday. Jono & I had a great time, and we even got home before 10, thanks to Chiltern Railways and a very cooperative motorway network.
Good luck Morecambe, I feel I'm becoming a fan.