For 6.30 in the morning, there was an enthusiastic atmosphere on 'Berry's Bus' and for most of the way to Membury services, there was either talk about the game or plenty of reading material to keep me occupied (cheers Tom Berry!). After waving at fellow Southend fans driving along in their cars, the journey to Membury went quite quickly, and we arrived at about 9.30.
It was quite a pleasant experience at Membury, because it was actually Southend's designated service station for the day and it had been decorated in Blue and White, whilst there were also people giving out free goodies. After a quick bite to eat and having a quick play with some air horns and inflatable baseball bats, we hit the road again. I think everyone was quite surprised with how quicky we made it into Cardiff - the ground was in sight at around 11.30, which we knew would mean about three and a half hours of pre-match fun.
We did arrive, we made the short walk to the 'Yard bar and restaurant', which I had previously visited prior to when we played against Wrexham in the LDV Vans Trophy final. Once we were in there, members of 'Team Judas' and family Duffill had a few beverages (some alcoholic and some not!) as well as a bite to eat before Matt Donohue, Martin Paterson and I went into the bookies to have a look at some of the odds. I decided to go for one pound on a 2-1 Southend win at odds of 8/1, whilst TLG reporter Donohue went for a 2-0 Southend win with Freddy Eastwood scoring the first goal and Duncan Jupp as the last goalscorer. Of Course Donohue's bets somehow unfolded, but there was a catch, which I'll explain later.
Anyway we entered the ground at about 1.50 and found our seats behind the goal.
The Ground - The Millenium Stadium
The Millenium Stadium is truly amazing. It is undoubtedly one of the best stadiums that I have ever been to and it must be one of the best in the world. At a huge cost of 130 million pounds, the stadium was predominantly built for the Welsh national football team as well as the Welsh national rugby team…not to mention the live music events it has hosted. For Football matches it is ideal - 72,500 seats are available to spectators and the leg room and views of the game are unbeatable. There are endless things to do around the ground as it is located in Cardiff City centre, and to be honest is a must do feature if you are a football fan. I have loved visiting Cardiff's Millenium Stadium and watching my own team play there this season more than Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool is an absolute honour!
With both sides understandably nervous, chances were few and far between in the first half although if either side dominated the play it would have been Lincoln. Half of the time the ball was up in the air, and the Southend players realised that if they were to win the game they must keep the ball on the floor, as Lincoln had far more ability in the air. Despite Lincoln's dominance in the air, they also looked very nervy in central defence, which Southend looked to capitalise on come the second half. Nicky Nicolau worked tirelessly up the left-flank but unfortunately his crosses were either awful or there was nobody in the box to collect them, so instead the Shrimpers worked the ball up the right side, where Duncan Jupp's crosses were the best they have been all season. Both sides began to come out of their shell a little bit, With Simon Yeo smashing a shot just wide before Freddy Eastwood slipped at a crucial moment to stop himself from scoring.
Despite both sides attacking more, neither side had managed a goal so the match went into extra time and the Southend fans were already bracing themselves for a repeat of the LDV final against Wrexham. However, those thoughts were dashed in the last minute of the first half of extra time when Freddy Eastwood walloped home his 23rd, and undoubtedly most important goal of the season to give the Blues the advantage. And that wasn't that either, as Lincoln were caught throwing to many players forward and Eastwood was calm in passing to Duncan Jupp, who duly scored his first goal in 10 (yes 10) seasons to send the Blues up to League One. At the end of the match, the ecstatic Southend players joined their supporters in parading the Play-Off Trophy around the Millennium Stadium to cap what was a truly superb day for the club.
"I would have to say that winning the game in Cardiff is one of the best moments of my life. I have supported the Blues for 10 years now - and as I am only 16, I have not seen a better moment than to finally get promotion from the League's bottom tier. I would just like to thank all of the players and of course, Tilly and Brush for their superb efforts throughout the season and would like them to know that they have not gone unnoticed." - Adam Duffill
" I'm over the moon. Before the game I had three separate bets. Us to win 2-0, Freddy to score first and Duncan Jupp to score last. I would have won £82 but it only counted in normal time and I ended up with nothing!" Matt Donohue
(Original article by Adam Duffill in TLG, June 5, 2005)