Adventures in Football #46: Meadow Lane (Notts County FC)
March 22, 2022
NOTTS CO VS. BOREHAM WOOD FC (National League)
Here to soak up some history this Tuesday evening. I’m off to Notts Co with Maria. The Magpies were formed way back in 1862. They’ve been at Meadow Lane since 1910. It lives in the shadow of its neighbour; Nottingham Forest’s City Ground and the two haven’t been rivals in any way, shape or form for quite some time. Notts Co are a founder member of the football league, way back in 1888. They were relegated the first season there was relegation. They won the FA Cup in 1894, from the second tier. They were in the top division, mostly, until 1926, when they had a run of dismal form. Sliding into division three south and later, in the 60s, division four.
They did return to the top flight in the 80s but were relegated in 1984 and they’ve not been back. In 2019 they fell out of the football league for the first time in their existence. Which is why today’s game is a National League one against Boreham Wood. Notts Co don’t belong in non-league. The ground is way too good for this level. It looks like they need to charge extra in order to pay for the upkeep. It’s twenty quid to get in here. Twenty quid for non-league is a bit extortionate. I had a look at Boreham Wood and it turns out they charge twenty quid too. I looked up Halifax and they charge £21. I went to Solihull earlier in the season and they charge £13. Someone is getting mugged off somewhere.
Players to watch out for today…Harry Arter lines up for Notts Co now. He’s on loan from Nottingham Forest. Formally of Bournemouth he’s their biggest name. According to a Charlton fan I spoke to he was shit for them last year. Hopefully an improved performance two divisions lower. Portuguese playmaker Ruben da Rocha Rodrigues is another one to watch. Fans player of the season last year, he had a barnstorming start for County. The number 20 is on my radar.
The drive to Nottingham is fairly uneventful. We went on the M42. That takes you most of the way. It was rush hour but because we went off south-east of Birmingham rather than taking the M5 through the western part it was basically fine. Going through West Bromwich in rush hour = pain. We did see some road rage though. A woman in a grey Seat giving a trucker the wanker sign only for him to follow her into the outside lane. Is this how Duel started? We also get to see the weirdly eerie looking cooling towers above. That tower in the back was barely visible from the other side and it looked like a spaceship hovering over them. That’s Radcliffe power station in case you were wondering.
We drive straight to the ground because I remember there being parking nearby when we went to Forest. Oops, here it is. Right by the ground. Five pound. Pot holes everywhere. The geezer running it was mega friendly though. This is a theme that would repeat during the evening. An overwhelming sense of friendliness and welcoming. As I was struggling to get out a bloke drove past and yelled “nice colour”. I’m assuming he meant the car and again, it was really friendly. It takes me five seconds to get out of the car. It takes Maria twenty minutes including a frankly bizarre experience of her walking around eating mango off a plate she was intending to smuggle into the ground inside a hat (honestly, this is my life and it’s fantastic).
Before we ended up going back to the car because she thought it was unlocked and to drop off her plate. It’s hidden in that hat. It’s a dinner plate!
We head into the ground and once again seem to be magically in the furthest possible location from the entrance. We’re in the Derek Pavis stand, which is a big boy. It has some decent amenities. There are toilets everywhere and they’ve got a great food area. I haven’t eaten so I indulge in a burger, which is decent. I also forgot to take a picture of the concourse and the turnstile. Got a bit hungry didn’t I. There’s something haunting about the ground from the outside. It’s not just at night, I felt this when we had a look at it for the Forest trip.
Two burgers and a pint of Carlsberg set me back £11.60, which is fairly OK I reckon. The expense of the tickets is clearly for the uptake of this incredible stadium. For non-league it’s unbelievable. It’s a Championship ground and it’s still in good nick. It looks a bit dilapidated from the road but inside it’s brilliant.
Everything about Notts County screams football league. It also falls into my ideal size for a stadium. There’s 5,010 in tonight, which is a great crowd for non-league and most of them are in the Pavis and the massive Kop end. The Haydn Green Family stand is a bit sparse and the Jimmy Sirrel, designated for away fans (and one of the largest away sections in football) is almost completely empty. About 30-40 Boreham Wood fans huddled together in there.
I’m a big fan of the Notts County sign up here along with flag, which is getting a bit battered in the wind and has seen better days.
We’re not allowed alcohol in the stands, which confirms this is still operating as a league ground in everything but the league table. Also, the pitch is immaculate. Maria thought it was plastic. I had to point out some imperfections around the goal mouth for her to believe me. For a non-league club to have such high standards is incredible. The fanbase seems a little on the old side but they are not quiet. There’s one fella behind us with a RATTLE! I love a rattle. Proper old school business. I keep being involved in little friendly interactions with people around me. They all seem to know each other and have probably been in the same seats for years. It’s like Port Vale all over again. But instead of feeling like an outsider who could see himself getting settled into the seat on the regular, I feel like I’ve been there for years. Oh, it’s that beardy bloke and his missus who tries to smuggle plates into the ground. Nice couple, big County fans.
The main stand is off to the left here. I’m fully zoomed out so you can see it in comparison to it’s surroundings. It is massive and it is rocking. The support over there is loud, persistent and consistently fun. They bang away on the back of the stand. It sounds like drums, but it’s not drums. Every now and again I find myself just looking around the place and soaking it all in. Maybe it’s the black and gold colour scheme but it’s a stunning ground to sit in.
There’s a bit of wear and tear on the steps. You can just about see that here but that just adds to the character of the place. It’s had a fresh coat of paint. It’s looking sharp but you can still feel that history where thousands upon thousands of Notts County fans have trod over the years.
Onto the game and it’s a cracker. Both teams are decent for the level. They both attack and they both have defensive frailties to be exploited. It looks like it’ll be one of those ‘who can outscore the other’ games but somehow the ball only ends up in the net once. Harry Arter does a solid job of ‘quarterbacking’ until he attempts a terrible free kick that goes out for a throw in. He then gets into it with the big Boreham Wood number five and almost gets sent off. He’s substituted to a standing ovation. Some good quality from Arter though. My other ‘one to watch’ is even better. Rodrigues plays some sensational passes. Flicking the ball around the corner for runners, picking up passes between defenders. He’s routinely class. Like everything else about County, he’s too good for this level.
I’ve come away from Notts County feeling a sense of belonging. If I was a man without a club I would strongly consider County. They’re a great club with a great history. They’re about 90 minutes drive away. I’ll certainly keep an eye on them and I really hope they get promoted. I’d like to thank all the Notts Co supporters for such a warm welcome, both at the ground and online. I wish you all the best. COME ON YOU ‘PIES!
Final Score: Notts Co 1 Boreham Wood 0
Let’s give this one some ratings! I have a league table now.
I wanted to go high on this because it was a lovely experience. There was noise coming from everywhere first half. It was a proper banging atmosphere. Everyone was joining in, on all sides. Second half…not so good. I think the nervousness of the fans didn’t help and holding onto a 1-0 lead for the majority of the game was an issue. It was good support though. ***1/2
I said earlier that £20 for non-league was a rip off but it was a good game, a good ground and a good atmosphere. So, I came away thinking it was a perfectly acceptable price to pay. Big turnaround! ***
Although we only got one goal, we had a tonne of goal mouth action. I can’t find the statistics anywhere but loads of chances, for both teams. Could have been 4-4. ***½
EASE OF ACCESS:
The car park is right next to the ground. You can park on the road next to the ground too. We got there a bit too late to do that. Get there about 6.15-6.30pm and you can park for free basically. The exit was easy. We got stopped at the lights for a couple of minutes but then turned left and that was the end of the traffic! Massive contrast to the Forest game. ****
We had food. It was good. There were no queues at 7pm when we got there. You can buy a cup of mushy peas here! Legendary stuff. I spoke to a couple of old boys who’d bought them. The view was great, the people around us were friendly. Just a great experience from start to finish. ****½
A sensational score. If they’d held on to that atmosphere throughout the game they’d be top of the league. As it stands…joint top.
So, from us to you, Notts County, we had a great time at the football.