Scunthorpe United v Oldham Athletic, Saturday 19th November 2016, 3pm

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Jen and I don’t get to see many gigs these days. It’s one of the drawbacks of living in the middle of nowhere in countries that don’t have much of a music scene. It means that whenever we are in the UK we try to take advantage of the opportunities available.

This trip to Lincolnshire was to catch up with Billy Bragg at Lincoln Engine Works. As Lincoln City were playing away I’d originally intended to combine the gig with a visit to the even lower non-league side Lincoln United. However, when I read that Scunthorpe were leaving their Glanford Park ground at the end of this season, I changed my plans and we went there instead.

At the risk of showing my age, it doesn’t seem that long ago since Scunthorpe moved into Glanford Park and in my mind I still see it as a ‘new’ ground. It’s not though really as they’ve been there for twenty-eight years. Twenty-eight years in which I didn’t get around to attending a game, although in my defence we haven’t played there that often. Still, it’s never too late, as they say, until it really is too late I suppose. In this case it wasn’t and so I went along.

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The ground is next to a business park and so Jen cleared off to do some shopping and coffee drinking and I collected my pre-booked ticket for the Doncaster Road Stand. It’s the standing section behind one of the goals and with Scunthorpe being outside of the top two divisions they get to keep it that way.

It was great being on a crowded terrace. I’d arrived early enough to bag myself a barrier to lean on and I was in a perfectly placed position, close to the goal but high enough up to get a decent view when the play was at the other end.

The atmosphere took me back to my Holgate days. It wasn’t just the standing, after all the South Stand at the Riverside is fully standing these days and I can’t remember the last time I sat at a Boro away game. It was more being part of a mass, constantly edging one way or another for a better view.

The songs were in-keeping with the old-school afternoon too with Scunthorpe having a wide variety of chants that I hadn’t heard in years and including the classic “If I had the wings of a sparrow, if I had the arse of a crow…”.

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My interest in the game was enhanced by some Boro links. Scunthorpe had a couple of our ex-players on their bench in midfielder Richie Smallwood and Strachan-era wonderkid Luke Williams, whilst current Boro player Connor Ripley who is spending the season on loan at Oldham was between the sticks for the visitors.

The pre-game buzz all seemed to be about Williams, who had been out for a while with an injury and as seems the way had probably enhanced his reputation with every week that he hadn’t played. The consensus among the people around me was that Scunthorpe had missed his movement and that they were a much better team with him in it.

Play was end to end in the first half with the home keeper keeping top of the league Scunthorpe in the game. Connor Ripley had a bit less to do at the far end but he commanded his defence well and looked like a proper keeper. I sometimes think that’s half the battle.

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At half time I made my way down to get a drink and was gleefully informed by a small boy in the queue that Hull were a goal down at Sunderland. As I thought it unlikely that he would kick my head in I quietly let slip that I was actually a Boro fan and I’d be a lot happier if Hull were to pull their socks up in the second half.

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I was quite surprised at how small the crowd was in what is Scunthorpe’s last season at the ground and with them looking good for promotion to the Championship. Mind you, Oldham hadn’t made much of a contribution to the attendance with only a couple of hundred fans having made the relatively short journey.

The Donny Road stand was fairly well-populated, but there was plenty of space in the rest of the ground and with the 9,000 capacity stadium less than half-full it makes you wonder what’s the point of building somewhere new.

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Connor Ripley had a lot more to do after the break and acquitted himself well. Luke Williams made an appearance mid-way through the second-half and always looked comfortable. If Scunthorpe do manage to clinch promotion I’m confident he could look at home in the Championship.

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By the time Richie Smallwood made an appearance with a couple of minutes to go, Scunthorpe were a goal up. A shot from outside the box had left Ripley unsighted and sneaked in off the post. That was enough for the home win in what I suspect will be both my first and last visit to Glanford Park.

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