LFW Awaydays – Norwich, Carrow Road
Thursday, 20th Jan 2011 10:31 by Awaydays
New Year’s Day took the Northern R’s to Norwich, although after what had gone on the night before it probably shouldn’t have done.
On the pitch
QPR were left to count the cost of a lacklustre first half display when improved efforts after the break were undermined by the sending off of Matt Connolly. Norwch took an early lead, Russell Martin cracking in a rebound off Paddy Kenny after Chris Martin had been allowed to run right through the heart of the QPR defence.
Norwich, in superb form coming into the game, were much the better of the two teams in the first half prompting two half time changes and a reshuffle from Neil Warnock at half time. The introduction of Bradley Orr and Patrick Agyemang seemed to have some effect to begin with but then a lazy back pass from Gorkss and a poor clearance from Kenny gifted Norwich dangerous possession and after being played in behind the Rangers’ backline Grant Holt did what Grant Holt does – hit the deck theatrically and then watched on as Matt Connolly was sent off for the second time in as many appearances on this ground. Holt was a constant pest, both in his play and his play acting, throughout this game.
The match then developed a manic quality with the ten men pushing for an equaliser, and coming agonisingly close when Agyemang headed against the outside of the post, but leaving themselves wide open at the other end. How the game stayed 1-0 God only knows – QPR were unlucky on a couple of occasions including a penalty appeal that was given as a free kick on the edge but looked like it was at least on the line while at the other end Norwich were in wasteful mood and Kenny in flying form. This game was in the balance right through to the last minute of injury time when a QPR attack was broken up and Kenny saved one on one with the otherwise outstanding Hoolahan.
QPR looked like they might have been capable of taking something from it had they kept 11 on the pitch, such was the spirited nature of the second half performance, but they wasted the first half and were made to pay for that.
Scores >>> QPR performance 6/10 >>> Opposition performance 7/10 >>> Referee performance 6/10
In the stand
Carrow Road is just about the least threatening ground we go to in any Championship season. One thing I always notice on the highlights is that when goals go in at the far end of the ground the supporters just sort of slowly get to their feet and clap politely in celebration. Be it the large swathes of yellow, the disproportionately high amount of middle aged and elderly couples coming to the game together in their knitted scarves, or the Canaries nickname it’s all about as intimidating as going to an under 12s match in Henley on Thames.
Which all made the attempt to “whip up” the crowd before the game rather laughable. Norwich do this by going around the ground on the public address system, not in the abjectly embarrassing “good afternoon Coventry Evening Telegraph stand” style of the Ricoh Arena but not far off, encouraging all fans to get up, including those in the “snake pit” stop sniggering at the back, and join in with the club anthem ‘On The Ball City’. Not since Charlton started singing ‘Red, Red Robin’ has a club anthem been quite as camp as ‘On The Ball City’. The lyrics to ‘On The Ball City’ are, and do try not to soil yourself in pure fear as you read this…
Kick off, throw in, have a little scrimmage,
Keep it low, a splendid rush, bravo, win or die;
On the ball, City, never mind the danger,
Steady on, now's your chance,
Hurrah! We've scored a goal.
City!, City!, City!
Hmmm, indeed. Now imagine this being sung by more vociferous fans Norwich have, who mass to the right of the away end and stand throughout. A good 1,500 grown men, their faces contorted with rage, their arms outstretched with passion, spit flailing forth from their lips as they scream at the QPR fans: “Keep it low, a splendid rush, bravo, win or die.”
If that wasn’t funny enough, and trust me it was, we then found ourselves sitting a few rows in front of an Irish gentleman in the away end who decided to commentate, at great speed and volume, on the game as it developed. Occasionally he would break off from merely describing the action to deliver performance hints and tips to the players: “kick him in the legs, go ahn he wants ya t’kick him, give him a little kick,” and so on. And when the game got really dull or unsatisfactory he would simply commentate on the game he wished he was watching: “and dey clear t’corner right outta dere, and Agyemang picks it up, and runs widit, and shoots, and he scores t’goal. AGYEMANG” followed by fake celebrations.
Needless to say his game sounded much more interesting than the one we actually ended up watching.
Marks off the police and stewards for persistent attempts to force QPR fans to sit down when 2,000 Norwich fans to our right were allowed to stand throughout.
Scores >>> QPR support 7/10 >>> Home support 7/10 >>> Overall atmosphere 7/10 >>> Stadium 8/10 >>> Police and stewards 4/10
On the road
I spent the entire Christmas period threatening to harpoon anybody who promotes the idea of a winter break straight in the eye. Nobody did really, apart from people like Steve Bruce who lost stupid home matches to poor teams and subsequently tried to blame the fixture congestion rather than his own team’s shortcomings. But still, harpoon, you’ve been warned.
However, and this is a big moment for me, maybe four games in a week was a little excessive. Quite apart from the damage it may have done to our promotion chances asking the likes of Shaun Derry to battle on through all that football, lots of it played with ten men, and the money it costs to get to and from these games in such a short period of time when other loved ones selfishly want presents buying and things, New Year’s Day is for hangover recovery.
When I was younger I used to love all the football at this time of year, and never really understood the gruff and unshaven faces in our group complaining so bitterly about getting up early on New Year’s Day to go and watch QPR play. What could be better? Well, now I’m old enough to understand, plenty of things. At 1am on New Year’s Day I was doing that silly linked arm drunk jigging thing people do to Come on Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners while dressed as a Mexican. I was still dressed as a Mexican, and still awake, at 4am, which meant the alarm came as quite a shock when it sounded at half seven. “People have been sectioned for less than this,” said Lindsey as she rolled over and went back to sleep. Owain was similarly unsympathetic, although unfortunately for him he’d already purchased a match and train ticket so had to get up too.
We arrived at Kings Cross in good time – I felt an evil combination of tired, sick and cold as we waited to see if indeed any of the First Capital Connect drivers were intending to turn up for work. With a variety of trains clicking round to ‘Cancelled’ due to a driver shortage ours steadfastly remained, had it been cancelled we would have had a decent excuse not to go but the bloody thing insisted on running. Owain had a bacon sandwich and I had a packet of Trebor Mints which, for future reference if you see me scoffing a pack, means I’m quite likely to vomit at any moment. I find the chalky texture and refreshing taste settles my stomach, although there have been notable incidents where this has failed. All over Sheffield Super Tram conductors for instance.
Anyway not only was our train running, but it also did that really, really, really convenient and not at all irritating thing where it sits at the platform ready to go for 20 minutes before we were actually allowed to get on it. When the platform was called, some five minutes before departure time, staff started shouting and telling us to rush to board as it was ready to leave. Why do train companies do this? Why do they leave them sitting there empty until the last possible minute and then force everybody to rush to get on? What is achieved other than mass irritation? “It’s to allow them to be cleaned” said a platform attendant as I grumbled my way past him before boarding and picking up a copy of the Metro from December 22 just to render his laughable point utterly, utterly worthless. There was something floating around in the toilet that looked like it had been there a lot longer as well. The Swiss would laugh at us if they knew we ran a railway like this. Bastards.
Railway companies that is, not the Swiss, they’re tremendously tolerant people.
Because this was a match at a holiday period, and nobody wants to travel in a holiday period, Liverpool Street station was closed while some men failed to clock in and dig up the lines. Rather than tackle the network of replacement bus services where even the timetable looked like one of the more challenging levels from the Krypton Factor we decided to go from Kings Cross, change at Ely and then across.
Ely, as it turned out, was closed – the whole town that is, not just the railway station. We stood on the platform for half an hour and stared out across the rain sodden flats leading out across the seventh level of hell and contemplated where it had all gone wrong. Then the Norwich train arrived.
On the way back we were left to wait for the train for sometime on Norwich train station where, by the looks of the track, they’d successfully cleared the toilet from our earlier train with spectacular consequences. It was a change at Cambridge this time – an odd station with only one through platform stretching three miles through the town centre and a number of bay platforms. You can connect almost immediately with a London train here, although in their wisdom they put the Norwich train on a platform at the north end of the station, which is actually closer to Kings Lynn than Cambridge, and the London train leaves from the south end down near Stansted Airport. We ran, but we missed it. A Norwich fan who ran with us swore quite passionately as he saw the London train disappearing off into the distance – he’s been doing that sprint every Norwich home game for 12 years he told us later, and never made it once. You’ve got to admire the guy’s optimism for still trying.
I’d like to say that I fell soundly asleep on the London train, but the only seats left were next to the dividing doors in the middle of the train that opened with a loud hissing noise whenever somebody approached and remained open, and hissing, until they were physically man handled shut. That, it turns out, was the job of the person sitting in my seat but after the first three quarters of a million times I gave up, pulled up my hood, closed my eyes and prayed for some sort of hideous train wreck that would put us all out of our misery and leave the swines at First Capital Connect faced with a massive compensation claim that would keep my family comfortable for the rest of their lives without me.
Scores >>> Journey 4/10 >>> Cost 4/10
In the pub
Against our better judgement the Northern R’s did indeed brave a public house when we arrived in Norwich. Angered by the lack of Sky and ludicrous policy of serving drinks in plastic glasses by steaks with steak knives at the Compleat Angler we agreed to look elsewhere this year and fortunately Colin and Nick had arrived before us and sussed out the Coach and Horses just around the corner from the station. Paul and I had tried this place a season or two back and found it to be accommodating but lacking live football so it was a relief to find the West Brom v Man Utd game live on a number of screens around the place.
The first Becks did little for me, although a really quite tasty and well priced chilli burger did settle me down a little bit. Owain spent the entire pre-match ensconced in the toilet praying so he was beyond help by this stage. West Brom were a bit unlucky in the game I thought, although that could be a complete load of bollocks to be honest because having assumed what looked to be a perfect position at a table in front of the screen three very large Norwich fans then came and stood in front of me, and then moved to stand in front of me again when I changed sides of the table. I don’t think they were doing it deliberately – I think they were probably just thick, selfish pricks.
I’ll nevertheless give the place good marks. The food was good, there was a wide range of drinks and it was all well priced. It’s taken us a while to find a good pub in Norwich but this one might just be it.
Scores >>> Pub 7/10 >>> Atmosphere 7/10 >>> Food 7/10 >>> Cost 8/10
Final Score 89/130
Photo: Action Images
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