Saturday April 27th 2013, KO 3pm at the ‘New York Stadium’.
Rotherham United (Red/White) 2-0 Aldershot (Black/Black), att 11,300 (308 away), admission £20, programme £3, balti pie £3.
The equation was pretty simple. If Rotherham won that guaranteed them promotion to League One, if they drew, other results elsewhere would come into the equation.
Aldershots fate was pretty much sealed already. Depending on other results they would need three points and at least a six goal shift in their favour, which probably meant winning 3 or 4 nil on the day to avoid relegation to the fifth tier of English football, the Conference. It sounded a highly unlikely scenario.
As I'd said to a couple of Millers fans outside a pub earlier in the day. Aldershot are not bottom for no reason, 45 games normally sorts the wheat from the chaff.
I should have been ticking the 'New York Stadium' and recompleting the '92' on March 23rd v Exeter City, but a rather unseasonal dollop of the white stuff on Yorkshire had put paid to that plan, rather annoyingly the game being called off five minutes after I'd taken my seat on the cross-country Reading to Sheffield service.
So, I swapped my ticket for the Aldershot game not realising at the time how significant the match would turn out to be.
Collecting my ticket ninety minutes before KO from the club shop come ticket office, I noticed the 'game sold out' signs up and noted already a buzz around the stadium that the intermittant showers could not dampen.
I'd heard good things about this new build, only opened in the Summer of 2012 and I was of the same mind.
Steep raked stands, good sight lines, and a pleasing look about it, the only thing I didn't like was the roof, which looked like it had been made of plastic sheeting and on a sunny day let far too much light down onto the spectators from above.
The River Don runs right alongside the stadium, and it's only a five-minute stroll from the town centre, the NYS really is in the heart of the community. You'd think it'd be a depressed economy, and to many I'd sure it still is. Historically home to glass manufacture, milling and steel, this part of the country was hard hit by the extreme policies of the conservative government during the 1980s. But apparently over the next 20 years or so, Rotherham is expected to receive £2 billion in investment from private industry.
The town's economy, when combined with that of Sheffield, is growing faster than Leeds and Manchester apparently.
So, with the return of the Millers from their 5 year sojourn at the Don Valley Athletics Stadium in Sheffield, the boom in the local economy, and the towns team on the up, things do look very much brighter for all locally.
Their old ground, 'Millmoor' is still visible from the NYC, the floodlight pylons clearly on the horizon about 1/2 mile away. The pubs in the town were rammed to bursting before the game, and after walking in, then straight back out of three or so, I bit the bullet with one the two Wetherpsoons and stood outside to enjoy a tasty, and cheap pint of local ale, no fancy London prices here! Arriving back at the stadium, once I'd located my seat I was very pleased with the view near the back and the half way line. Three hundred Shots fans had turned up to oversee the last rights, a real shame to see them returning to NL after having fought their way up from the lower depths of non league after reforming in 1992 then reclaiming their league place in 2008 as I'm sure a quick return to the league will not be easy to obtain.
The game not unexpectedly was a nervous affair, Aldershot played cautiously with one upfront, seemingly to try to frustrate Rotherham before pushing on in the second half. To a degree this worked as it remained goalless at half time, although any nugget of football in the first forty-five minutes was played by the team in red. At half time Aldershot switched to 4-4-2 and gave Rotherham a little more space to open them up. However, the lead was giving away in a scrappy fashion after their keeper Young dropped the ball when climbing in what looked like it ‘should’ have been an easy catch. With promotion as the reward the loose ball was tucked away by centre back Mullins and the crowd went absolutely mental.
As the game progressed Aldershot had a few half chances and their small band of fans were supportive, but it was no surprise when Frecklington swept home on ninety minutes after a quick breakaway had left Aldershot short at the back. This second goal caused a mass pitch invasion much to the annoyance of some of the fans around me who wanted the game finished and promotion officially sealed. After some minutes the stewards got them back behind the white lines, and the game finished just a few minutes later.
I’ve no doubt that the town of Rotherham was very much painted red by the time the pubs closed later that night!
As a footnote to Aldershots relegation, a few weeks later the club also went into administration, with a ten point deduction hanging over their first campaign back in the conference.
Stand out star performer – Pringle (Rotherham).