The Daggers edge The Wood in National League battle

The Secret Football Fan is on a mission to find the best value football at grounds mainly in the South East of the country. During the season, I aim to give an honest, neutral’s view on my visits to grounds I haven’t been to before or for some time.

Hopefully it will be a decent read and provide a bit of exposure to some clubs who don’t always get the column inches of those further up the footballing spectrum.

I kick off my 2017/18 season with a trip to Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park. After a 2-2 draw at AFC Fylde on the opening weekend, they were entertaining last season’s Play-Off Semi-Finalists Dagenham & Redbridge in their first home league game of the campaign.

Pre-match information

I’ve always been one for a bit of pre-match prep, visiting the club website, find out how to get there, how much will it cost me to get in, which players to watch out for etc. The Boreham Wood FC Official Website is your one-stop shop for all things regarding the club.

It provides all the information with regards to admission, where to park, player profiles and much more. I parked in the Civic Council Offices Pay & Display, which is less than five minutes walk from the ground. It is free after 6.30pm midweek, so ideal for a Tuesday night match.

The club also has prominent social media pages, with the Twitter account featuring a useful Match Preview.

The Stadium – Meadow Park

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I’ve only ever visited Boreham Wood FC once previously and that was well over 20 years ago. Meadow Park has changed beyond recognition since then and this ground is well worth a visit if you haven’t been before or recently.

According to Chairman Danny Hunter’s programme notes, there have been a lot of ground improvements going on over the close season including a brand new DESSO pitch, which is similar to surfaces at the likes of the Emirates, Wembley Stadium and Old Trafford to name a few.

The floodlights have also been upgraded as well as the artificial training pitch adjacent to the ground. With The Wood playing host to Arsenal’s Ladies and Development squads, it is clear with this link that Boreham Wood FC are going places.

In addition to this, the West Stand is impressive and would certainly not look out of place in the Football League. Not being a huge fan of sitting at football matches, I watched the game from the North Stand, which was an open terrace. If you do prefer sitting though, you have the added bonus of access to both the East and West seated stands throughout.

Along with my two accomplices for the night, we visited the bar before kick off which is situated behind the East Stand. According to the club website, this is open to home supporters only, but it seemed pretty welcoming, well kitted out with a nice décor and framed memorabilia from season’s gone by.

I cannot comment on the prices of the beverages as they were bought for me as designated driver. However, Sky Sports News was on multiple screens with the latest scores taken in at half time.

When looking into the Club’s exploits before my visit, I noticed that they had the lowest average attendance in the National League last season. I’m guessing that with so many more senior clubs in close proximity, it is a challenge to increase the fanbase, but they finished a creditable 11th despite the shortfall in support.

It was £18.00 for me to attend this game and they offer concessions for under 16s and under 12s. For a fifth tier fixture, this might appear quite a lot particularly when there were EFL Cup ties on the night at similar prices or less.

I’m not sure how these prices compare with others in the division or whether this would put the casual/potential new supporter off attending, but the entertainment of this particular match and the facilities on offer made it feel like money well spent.

In addition to my entrance, I purchased a programme at £3.00 and a Cheeseburger at £4.10. Didn’t feel the food was particularly good value, but again I’m not in a position to compare with food at other stadiums of a similar level.
For those interested in merchandise, the Club have a shop in the corner between the East Stand and North Terrace. I didn’t go in to check out the prices, but from the outside they looked like they had a good range of clubwear on sale.

The Matchday Programme

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Although a little on the steep side cost-wise at £3.00, the 48-page matchday programme is impressive and a cracking read. There are many features including notes from the Chairman Danny Hunter, Manager Luke Garrard as well as an interview with recent recruit Tom Champion.

In addition to this, there is news from their successful PASE Academy, work in the Community and Wood midfielder Angelo Balanta’s Dream Five-A-Side Team of players he’s played with and against.

The Match – Boreham Wood 1-2 Dagenham & Redbridge

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Having checked out both club’s websites beforehand, I noticed that a number of players and officials had moved between the two clubs recently, so I thought this should add a bit of spice to the fixture. However, none of the players on show seemed to get any stick from either sets of supporters.

All three goals arrived in a lively opening 18 minutes. Fejiri Okenabirhie profited from a wayward back header to his keeper from new recruit Tom Champion. The Daggers no 11 made no mistake with a confident finish.

Opposite number Bruno Andrade then hauled the hosts level within five minutes when his exciting run into the penalty area resulted in him being hauled down. He soon picked himself up to level from the spot.

The visitors certainly enjoyed the better of the first half although The Wood had their moments. What proved to be the winner arrived in the 18th minute. Having won a free-kick 25 yards from goal, Corey Whitely stood confidently over the ball.

The Secret Football Fan’s brother, who was also at this game said “Look at him, does he think he’s Ronaldo or something!?”. He was soon eating his words as a quite brilliant free-kick curled over the wall and into the Boreham Wood net.

The Daggers continued to look the more likely up until the break with ex-Wood forward Morgan Ferrier looking a threat.

In the second half it was a different story though. The Daggers were now struggling to make an impression and Boreham Wood were asking all the questions. Right-back Kane Smith had a shot well-saved, whilst Kieran Murtagh should’ve scored after some excellent work down the right by Andrade.

Ex-Woking man Andrade was unlucky not to rescue a point for The Wood in stoppage time when his superb effort rattled the frame of the goal. The visitors defence valiantly held on to make it back-to-back wins having beaten Barrow by the same scoreline on Saturday.

This was a good advert for The National League and on this evidence, both clubs should have a decent season.

The Secret Football Fan’s Star Man – Bruno Andrade (Boreham Wood)

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Andrade won a penalty, converted it himself, should’ve had an assist in the second half when Murtagh was just unable to convert his brilliant cross and he hit the woodwork in stoppage time. His pace and trickery looked The Wood’s most likely route to goal particularly in the second half, but he was unfortunate to end up on the losing side.

Other players worthy of a mention were Morgan Ferrier and Corey Whitely for the visitors. Ferrier was a menace in the first half against his former club and gave The Wood backline a tough time with his power and pace. They would’ve been pleased to see him substituted mid-way through the second half. Whitely on the other hand scored a free-kick worthy of winning any game.

OVERALL RATING OF TSFF’s MATCH EXPERIENCE: 8/10