Spartak Moscow 2 v Tekstilshchik Ivanovo, Sunday 28th March 2021, 2pm

I’d had this ground on my list of potential places to see a game for a while. It’s pitch 4 at the Spartak Academy and I’ve previously seen it listed as hosting Spartak Youth and Women’s games. I’d even had a wander along to it a few months ago when visiting Sokolniki Park to check that it really did exist, so I suppose you could say that I’d done my homework.

I retraced my route from the park for this visit, pausing for a bonus youth game at Pitch 1 before rocking up just over an hour early. A friendly English-speaking steward pointed out the ticket office a little further down the hill and even told me which stand to ask for if I was not a fan of either team.

The woman in the ticket office found it quite amusing that someone who didn’t speak any Russian would want a ticket for a reserve team game in the middle of nowhere. Although not as amusing as when I tried to pass a thousand ruble note through to her to pay for a ticket that turned out to be free.

Ticket in hand I returned to the entrance gate where the metal scanner and the pat down search failed to discover the SLR camera in my coat outer pocket. Therefore if you inadvertently turn up at the game with a chainsaw in your handbag or a dozen rare turtle eggs strapped to your shins, I’d recommend using Gate A.

The steward told me that there were only two rules, ‘wear your mask and keep your distance from other spectators’. I like rules like those.

My ticket was in block A2 which was along the side with the dugouts. Four out of every five seats were taped off to make it easier for people to follow rule two, although as kick-off approached the later arrivals tended to ignore the tape. The stewards enforced a one seat gap between people and spent a disproportionate amount of their time reiterating rule one to those who were wearing their mask beneath their chin.

Stand B was behind the goal to my left and contained the Spartak fans. They sang for most of the time and even got the odd ‘call and response’ chant going with the people near me.

There were around twenty or so fans in the seats opposite me supporting Tekstilshchik Ivanovo. They too did their share of singing, but the most notable element of their support was the banner showing a skull in a top hat. I’ve no idea at all what it was meant to signify, but it’s a good look for a skull.

Ivanovo is a city around five hours drive north of Moscow, so I imagine a few of the visiting fans were based in the capital. As I run out of local new grounds Ivanovo might make for a realistic option as I cast my net a little wider, particularly if there is a convenient train service.

Spartak were in their usual Boro tops, whilst the visitors were in a strange black and grey combination, that if the grey bits hadn’t been stripes I’d have assumed was due to the kitman mistakenly putting them through a boil wash. Neither side gave their fans anything to sing about in the first half and I think there was half an hour gone before we witnessed a shot on target.

At half time I stretched my legs behind the stand before taking a seat at the other end when play restarted. There were fewer people in that section and I was able to keep a greater distance between myself and everyone else.

Spartak opened the scoring on the hour with a good finish before letting Tekstilshchik back into the game a few minutes later with a defensive mix-up. There were a lot of cynical fouls that earned yellows and a couple of tackles that I thought warranted reds as the game became increasingly ill-tempered.

Both sides had their chances at the death but failed to take them. The Spartak players slumped to the floor at the final whistle as if they had just been knocked out of a cup or suffered a relegation rather than drawn a meaningless mid-table fixture against a side one place above them. Maybe the academy does sessions on looking like you care.

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