The circus is always in town – Carl Marston’s Travels with Town
- Credit: Archant
Football writer Carl Marston has visited 120 Football League grounds, many of them reporting on Ipswich Town. Here he spotlights Stevenage’s Broadhall Way
Whenever I visit Broadhall Way, the home of Stevenage FC, I always feel like I am off to the circus, or about to nip into the funfair.
Ipswich Town have only had the pleasure of one visit to Broadhall Way (for a competitive match), but I have had several, and each time it seems that the circus has been in town, based at Fairlands Valley Park opposite the football ground.
I haven't yet been in the Big Top, braved a roller coaster ride or purchased some candy floss.
Usually, it is just a challenge to sneak into the car park, because of all the adjacent trucks, caravans and funfair attractions.
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There's usually been enough fun on the pitch at nearby Broadhall Way, to keep me amused, rather than having to resort to a few goes on the Coconut Shy or on the Helter Skelter slide.
And just to confirm, I have never left Stevenage with my face painted, or with a prize from the Hook-a-Duck stall in my car-boot.
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Instead, I've just left with a steaming lap-top, after an afternoon of keyboard tapping at the footy, plus a Dictaphone full of managers' quotes.
Town have no game this weekend, because of the International call-ups, hence my need to 'think outside the box' and spotlight a different ground.
And I came up with Stevenage's Broadhall Way, because it's topical - they are propping up the Football League, and in danger of disappearing back into non-league after 19 years in the big-time (one of the famous 92).
In fact, Boro are still searching for their first league victory, going into this weekend's home match against Grimsby Town, having failed in 12 previous attempts, with seven defeats and five draws.
Yet, alas, they can boast a fine record against Ipswich.
They have a 100% record on home turf against visiting Town sides - although they've only met once for a competitive match at Broadhall Way - and have won on one of their two visits to Portman Road.
- Ground: Broadhall Way (since 1980)
- Club: Stevenage FC (founded in 1976, following the demise of former club Stevenage Athletic)
- Town's only visit: 2-0 away defeat on August 6, 2013
- Town's record: P1 W0 D0 L1
Initially joining the United Counties League in 1980, the club, then known as Stevenage Borough, went on to win three promotions in four seasons during the early 1990s to leapfrog into the Conference (National League).
They won the Conference title in 1995-96, but were denied promotion to the Football League because of below-standard ground facilities.
However, they were given the green light when repeating their Conference title exploits in 2009-10, choosing to drop the 'Borough' from their name to coincide with their new life in the Football League.
Stevenage have had some high-profile managers over the years, most notably Peter Taylor (2007-08) and Teddy Sheringham (2015-16).
The two clubs have never met in a league fixture.
While this is Town's first season outside the top two divisions for 62 years, Stevenage have never been higher than the third tier, which they reached in 2011 by securing back-to-back promotions.
However, they have met three times in the League Cup, with Town winning one and losing two.
The one visit to Broadhall Way (current capacity of 6,722) was not a happy one.
The Town faces were glum, not painted, that evening.
Capital One Cup glory was ended for yet another season, Town conceding two second-half goals.
Filipe Morais converted a penalty, after Liam Hyam had fouled Ounamre Tounkara, and Jordan Burrow doubled the lead with 14 minutes remaining.
It meant that Town had lost to lower-league sides in five of the last eight seasons in the League Cup, a dismal record that was set to get worse by the following season's loss to Crawley Town.
Manager Mick McCarthy put on a brave face. He insisted: "I thought the first half was all right, to be honest."
Town's bright moments were in fact few and far between. Scottish centre-half Christophe Berra's header was cleared off the line in the first half, and David McGoldrick was denied by a smart save in the second period.
But Town fans will not be returning to Stevenage in a hurry, circus or no circus!