This is the first of several reports the gates committee will be making over the season on the progress of attendances against the estimates made before the season by a panel of our members.
Last season, the number of people attending matches at St James Park exceeded our expectations by a comfortable margin: there were over 100,000 individual attendances for the first time in several years, with over 10,000 more home fans than the forecast.
As we noted throughout the season, strong home supporter numbers were slightly offset by a shortfall in away attendances compared to expectations, but now the facilities for away supporters have been so radically improved we expected the away turnouts would gradually improve.
This has already begun to show itself, with four of the five home league games this season attracting more away fans than we predicted.
Looking at the individual games, we started well with 4,502 (4,351 home, 151 away) for the visit of Macclesfield, compared to our expectation of 4,067. 385 more home fans and 50 more away ones meant a pleasing 435 above estimate.
Swindon arrived a fortnight later with both teams having made a strong start to the season. Nevertheless, the 1,053 Swindon fans who filled the away terrace for the first time combined with just over 100 more home supporters than forecast meant a total attendance of 5,435, which was 606 (+108 home, + 498 away) better than prediction.
Mansfield are generally well supported away but the end of the summer holidays and their poor start meant we slightly over-estimated numbers this time, the gate of 4,316 made up of 4,054 home and 262 away fans being both below expectations (-27 home, - 79 away) for an overall figure down 106.
Leyton Orient were welcomed back to SJP after a couple of seasons in the National League and both home and away fans turned up in good numbers. The total of 4,933 just missed the magic 5,000 mark but 4,495 home and 438 away supporters represented 514 (+ 319 and + 47) better than prediction.
Numbers for midweek games against mid-table opposition are always difficult to predict, but the 3,765 total for the Port Vale game was as good as could reasonably have been expected: 345 better than our cautious forecast, made up of 319 home and 26 away fans above prediction.
Overall, then, after five League Two fixtures, 22,951 attendances at SJP have been comprised of 20,894 in the home sections and 2,057 away supporters, an average of 250 home and 108 away fans up on forecast (though the latter is of course boosted by Swindon).
Looking at the prediction for Saturday, given that City are riding high at the top of League Two and Grimsby have also started well our forecast now looks cautious. We will report on this, and the following games, in our next report.