'Emotional but magical': the night that fans returned to Newport's Rodney Parade
ITV Wales' Beth Fisher was one of the 900 people at Rodney Parade on Tuesday evening to watch Newport County play Forest Green, in the first game attended by fans in over a year.
It was one of the nine pilot events being held by the Welsh Government to pave the way for larger events later in the year.
Here Beth writes about the joy of seeing fans return to the football ground.
Disclaimer: I do cry quite a lot but I have to say crying at the sound of a crowd cheering was a first for me. Everyone has suffered in many different ways during this pandemic and whilst sport may not be in priority list for some, for many it is their life.
I have met so many sports fans who have said that their lives have felt empty because they haven’t been able to physically support their team and after last night I understand that even more.
There were queues of people waiting to get in the stadium hours before kick-off and there was a strange sense of anticipation and excitement at them stepping into their “second home” for the first time in 15 months.
Remember, this was a huge game for The Exiles who now are just two wins away from winning promotion to League 1.
I’ve been very privileged to be able to watch live sport during the pandemic. It’s not something I have ever taken for granted but I’ll be honest - it’s not been the same at all without crowds.
Until last night I couldn’t describe what I meant but now I know. It’s about this invisible energy the fans bring, the passion and the love that they have for their club is real.
It brings families and friends together and last night you saw people smiling and cheering and let’s be frank after a miserable time for the world recently it genuinely felt good!
Behind the scenes, there was a monumental team effort from Newport County, Dragons rugby and Rodney Parade to ensure all the protocols were met for the first sport test event.
Fans adhered to the rules and I genuinely felt safe.
Gavin Foxall, Newport County chairman, told me that it had been harder to organise this than some of the huge FA clashes they had had over the years.
So given the occasion, it was only fitting that Matt Dolan scored a 25 yard screamer to open the scoring for the 900 lucky fans to go wild - and yes I did cry again!
Another goal from Lewis Collins took the final score to 2-0 against visitors Forest Green, meaning Newport County are one step closer towards the League Two play-off final.
But most important was the atmosphere and when people ask me what it was like to be there last night, I tell them it was like meeting an old friend you haven’t seen for years; emotional but magical.