PIRELLI STADIUM: Tilting Towards Disaster

With Wrexham’s season continuing to disappointment from Saturday to Saturday, my friend, Shaun, suggested travelling to his old stomping ground of Lincoln to re-visit some of the sights he enjoyed in his youth before watching The Imps play Bolton Wanderers at Sincil Bank.

I’d never been to Lincoln before, so to discover a new part of the country, and then see a match as a neutral, sounded like great relief. However, we soon found out we couldn’t have picked a worse weekend to travel…

A band of rain had been lodged over England’s midriff since Friday afternoon and still remained in place on the morning of our journey. Despite living in a country that has to deal with consistent amounts of rain all year round, that meant chaos for us.

Shaun missed the train because his taxi was late, Birmingham New Street was in disarray from flooded lines – adding further length to our journey – but, worst of all, Lincoln City postponed the game four hours before kick-off when we reached Nottingham.

I was furious. I checked the club’s Twitter feed the night before, in the morning and on the way to the game but they gave no indication that the match was in danger of not being played until quarter to 11 on the day. I can imagine Bolton’s supporters would have been even more miffed.

Shaun and I sat in Nottingham train station for an hour trying to figure out what we were doing. Going to Lincoln for the sights was still an option but, while we plotted, Forest’s game down the road was declared off as well. We thought heading back would be best to avoid more rain-induced chaos later that evening and decided to see if we could make Burton Albion’s game against Blackpool during our U-turn from Nottingham.

We refreshed Burton Albion’s Twitter feed repeatedly en route to ensure they would be playing and made it to the Pirelli Stadium drenched but with an hour to spare before kick-off.

The Highs

A brief reunion

Having done zero research on the two teams, I enjoyed seeing some familiar names and faces warming up, particularly in the Blackpool squad. Nathan Delfouneso, Jay Spearing and Sullay Kaikai stood out but my excitement levels increased when I learnt former Wrexham defender, Curtis Tilt, was still with the Tangerines.

He took his place in the starting line-up and recovered well from a second-minute booking to produce a composed opening half. He and his centre-back partner, Ben Heneghan, managed to thwart Albion’s early endeavours before the visitors took control.

Burton goalie Kieran O’Hara spilled a cross from Delfouneso, which was hastily cleared before Kaikai could pounce, and then Matty Virtue agonisingly fired over when he was free on the edge of the six-yard box.

Despite the goalless scoreline at half-time, an away win felt inevitable. That was before Tilt flew into a tackle on Oliver Sarkic 10 minutes into the second half that saw him receive his second yellow card.

I couldn’t believe Tilt got sent off – his first red as a full-time professional. I was a bit disappointed but also engrossed in the drama, and joined in the chants of ‘cheerio’ as he walked off. It fuelled the home fans around us to bang their imported drum louder and back their team to find a winner in the final half hour.

The Lows

No fairytale finale

Unfortunately, though, there was no winner from either team. Burton dominated proceedings but an immense defensive performance from their opponents ensured they left with a point.

Heneghan had the biggest impact in the Blackpool backline, putting in the work-rate of two defenders by stopping waves of crosses, through-balls and runs.

His team almost stole three points late on when top scorer Armand Gnanduillet came off the bench and burst through the Burton defence. With only O’Hara to beat, he chipped the on-rushing ‘keeper and was only denied by the post.

I’m sure Blackpool will be satisfied with the point, though.

The Verdict

Although our crazy trip around the Midlands didn’t provide us with a goal, seeing such a competitive game, where both sides provided maximum effort, gave us something to be positive about.

There was a warmth around Burton Albion which was most welcome following our ordeal earlier in the day. The club staff were very helpful in getting our tickets sorted – which were a reasonable Β£20 each – while the Brewers fans gave off a real friendly vibe, too.

I also liked their ground. It reminded me of AFC Telford’s New Bucks Head and Fylde’s Mill Farm – a nice main stand, with terracing opposite and behind the goals.

When we left, it finally stopped raining and we made our way back home in good time, pledging to never think about Lincoln again until the spring.

Burton Albion 0
Blackpool 0

EFL League One

Ground rating: 6.5/10

Thanks for reading. To keep updated on the latest hops, stories and photos from the mental health stadium tour, you can follow the blog on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

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