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Awayday Review - Bristol City, Ashton Gate
Awayday Review - Bristol City, Ashton Gate
Saturday, 11th Aug 2007 10:19

In Bristol the weather was fine and the day out was entertaining as always, here is our awayday review.

1- The Match
A cracking way to open the season - end to end stuff from start to finish, a wide open game, and four goals to enjoy/endure. Newly promoted City started the stronger of the two sides as you would expect but with Mancienne marking Trundle out of the game they lacked a sufficient cutting edge to take advantage of their early superiority. Rangers quickly played their way back into the game with long range attempts from Nardiello and Blackstock missing the target while crosses from Rowlands and Moore caused problems.

In the end the opening goal came against the run of play - Gary Johnson's son Lee picking up on a loose ball given away by John Curtis and scoring from the edge of the area with a shot that Lee Camp really should have done better with. Rangers were back on terms straight from the kick off when Dexter Blackstock sprung the offside trap and cleverly lifted Adam Bolder's through ball over the keeper and into the net. The Bristol City keeper Basso stayed down injured for a considerably length of time and didn't re-emerge for the second half.

After starting the second half as they had the first, and hitting the post when it seemed easier to score, City soon became a spent force and Rangers took the game over. Martin Rowlands almost uprooted the City post with a low drive from the edge of the area and then cracked one against the bar after a mazy run down the right flank. Another dribble past three men put him through on the sub keeper Henderson but his shot was well saved and you started to get the feeling it wasn't going to be our day.

Sure enough in injury time Scott Murray, who'd replaced the completely ineffective and off the pace Trundle, lashed an unstoppable strike into the top corner from fully 25 yards. Rangers fans couldn't believe it and to make matters worse they were forced to stand and watch the torture by the local police who closed the exits - more on that later. It turned out to be a blessing though as within seconds, and with the party in full swing on all four sides of the ground, Martin Rowlands sent a free kick to the back post, Marc Nygaard headed it down and Damion Stewart stole in unmarked to head home a second equaliser and send the travelling 2000 into one of those crazy hug a stranger moments.

A belting match with a fair result at the end of it.

2- Rangers' Performance
Rangers performed well for 20 minutes of the first half and balls were flying across the penalty area with alarming frequency for the home side at one stage. They got a good goal from Blackstock and should have had a penalty right on half time for handball. Alas this was sandwiched between two sessions of poor football. QPR were slow out of the blocks and did well to hold Bristol City in the opening quarter of an hour as the home side threatened to start the season with a bang - only Mancienne's superb marshalling of Trundle prevented an early set back. After the equaliser Rangers were again poor, apparently putting the cue on the wrack and waiting for half time, which was a dangerous tactic a better side than City would have taken advantage of.

The second half started in the same way with City on top but by the hour Rangers had completely taken the game over. Martin Rowlands was awesome on the flanks and when Hogan Ephraim came off the bench and commenced torture down the other flank there only looked like being one winner. In the end, in true Rangers style, they almost lost it but showed great spirit to come back and snatch a point which was the very least their overall performance deserved. For an away side to have this much possession, play this well and create this many chances is quite something, I just hope we don't regret this as two points lost at the end of the season.

3- Rangers' Support
Opening day of the season, nice weather and therefore a larger than usual travelling support from W12. The blocks directly behind the goal line were pretty full when we arrived 20 minutes before kick off so it was no surprise that we eventually spread ourselves out into the seats around the corner flag and beyond. I'd say there was a good 2000 Rangers fans shoe horned into the away end which in such temperatures can best be described as "cosy".

The goals were celebrated enthusiastically, especially the last one, and the away fans were in good voice throughout except for the minute or so between Scott Murray breaking our hearts and Damion Stewart putting them back together again.


4 - The Ground
Ashton Gate is a ground of two halves. The stands down one touchline and behind the goal at the other end are newer, with no obstructed views and steeped banked seats close to the pitch. The other two sides, including the away end, are older and while not quite on a Colchester United level of 'shithole' are still well past their best. The away end, despite being behind the goal, is served by a block of turnstiles down the side which open out into a small open air concourse type area with the snack bar and bogs all crammed in together. It's a tight squeeze and very much like the set up behind the side stand at Crewe for those familiar with Gresty Road.

Access to the seats is via a narrow tunnel which opens out into a walkway over the disabled section. The away end is a dark and uninviting place. The seats appear to have been bolted onto an old terrace and none of them have backs to them which takes some getting used to to say the least! I'd just about got to grips with the idea when damion Stewart scored, I pressed forward waiting for some resistance from the seat in front which of course never arrived and as it folded down over I went. The seats, particularly in the corner section, appeared to have just been chucked in by some cowboy builder being paid cash in hand. They were uncomfortable and in places unsafe. The view from the away end was very poor.

So all in all give me a place like this ahead of the plastic fantastic warehouse type structures at Leicester and elsewhere but there is a fine line between a ground with character and a complete pig stie and at times the away end at Ashton gate crosses that line. The gates at the back of the away end were very securely chained up as well in a way that didn't suggest they could be opened quickly in a fire, it took the thick end of 20 minutes to clear the away end when they did decide we were allowed to leave which is very concerning - wouldn't like to be in there in an emergency.

So two sides of the ground looked nice, two sides not so much.

5 - Atmosphere
Well message board regulars will know that my travel guide to bristol didn't go down too well. The last time QPR were here lots of Rangers fans encountered problems inside and outside the ground and having flagged that up in the pre-game guide and just advised against wearing colours in certain parts around the ground I was taken to task by a number of City fans who branded me an "irresponsible liar". However the first thing I saw once inside the ground 20 minutes before kick off was a gang of ten police officers racing through the away end towards the Bristol City fans in the other half of the stand behind the goal trying to separate fans after trouble had broken out. How odd. No trouble in Bristol I thought.

The atmosphere on the whole was very good, both sets of fans really backed their teams well but when City fans share that stand behind the goal with away fans it's always intimidating and I was glad to be sitting a fair distance away from the divide.

6- Pre-Match
After a ride to the waterfront with the world's grumpiest taxi driver I met a gang of my mates in the Lloyds bar on the harbour side for a pint. Tracy and Charlotte then got in touch and let me know that they were next door in the less crowded Pitcher and Piano. Lloyds was heaving and there were no seats in there but we got a table fine outside the place next door, mainly because it's expensive and crap.

We ordered food and ten minutes later were told that two of the three things we'd ordered were out of stock. After reordering we waited another half an hour for it to arrive. I stuck to what I thought was a safe order of fish and chip but it seemed that they'd only managed to get two thirds of the way into cooking it before thinking "bloody hell this order has been in a while, lets just send it as it is." Therefore my fish was indeed warm and served with chips but it appeared to have just been dunked in the batter mixture and sent out and a soggy mess. It was just about edible and I suppose there are people starving in the world and all that so I ate it.

All in all though it was a very pleasant afternoon and I enjoyed my ice cold beer while sitting outside in the sun. The peace was shattered at one point when a huge sailing ship bobbed past and fired a canon at us but nobody appeared to be injured and the bizarre boat left as quickly as it had arrived.

We decided to walk to the ground from there which was a fair old trek but wasn't too bad - although Tracy struggled in flip flops :-)

7- The Journey
With Northern the Elder still upset about being conned into buying another season ticket despite telling everybody at the end of last season that he would no longer being a regular he refused to come down to Bristol for this one. Northern the Younger made the rookie mistake of booking a holiday which clashed with the opening day and so for the first time in a long while it was just me boarding the train at Sheffield early on a bright and sunny Saturday morning.

The journey there passed without incident and I was pleased to meet a friend of mine Mick from Derby on the train later on, the first time I've seen him since Ipswich away last season. It gave me somebody to chew the fat over with and passed the journey very quickly for me.

In Bristol I managed to get in a cab driven by the world's grumpiest man who tutted and called me a name when I told him I wanted to go down to the waterfront. Apparently trips down there were taking three times as long as normal because of how busy the city was. I refrained from telling him that wasn't my problem but did keep hold of a tip at the other end.

After the match and the ridiculous 30 extra minutes spent penned in the away end I decided to take a steady walk back to Temple Meads. I'd heard it was a long way and decided to book myself on a later train for a bit of time and I must say the walk down by the river on a wonderful day after a last minute equaliser was a nice way to end the afternoon. I made it back to the station with a good half hour to spare and enjoyed a pint at the station bar before the train arrived.

Courtesy of "it's a small world" syndrome I was joined on the train back by SirPaulFurlong29, the message board poster not the man himself, back as far as Cheltenham and we had a good chat about all things Rangers. After he'd gone I decided to get stuck into some serious drinking but as I made my way through to the buffet car they closed it. The train still had 80% of its journey to York to complete but the buffet closed at 7pm on the button. The buffet car attendant then sat at the end of the carriage staring out of the window to Birmingham but point blankly refused to serve me even though she was doing nothing else with her time - when I arrived in the buffet all of 30 seconds after she'd made the announcement about the closure she wouldn't even sell me a can, even though I had the right money.

I hate these "everything by the book" people, what bloody harm would it have done to serve me at thirty seconds past seven o'clock for God's sake? Miserable, sour faced, cow.

Frankly Virgin's policy of closing the buffet cars like a shop at 7pm is a joke. It isn't a shop, it's a buffet car. GNER open a full buffet and bar service on their 2330 service from Kings Cross and Virgin can't stay open past 7pm. They've lost this franchise over the summer and frankly I say thank God for that - don't let the door smack you in the arse on the way out.

A steady walk home via my local pub and pizzeria topped the day off nicely and I walked through the door as the Match of the Day theme tune struck up. Love that.

8- Police/Stewards
Having been chastised for saying in my pre-match travel guide that Bristol was not a completely trouble free place to visit I was shocked to find so many police officers around on the day. That was nothing though, imagine my shock when we were told 867,453 times over the tannoy system that the away end would be locked and we would be held in for our own safety after the match. I can only assume that we were being protected from the thousands of Bristol City fans waiting outside to shake us by the hand and wish us all the best. I was told in no uncertain terms that my assertion that it was "tasty" the last time we came to this ground was completely wrong, a lie, and irresponsible of me. Firmly put straight I will now deduct six marks from the police for keeping us in at the end of the game which is a pain in the arse, always goes on to long, causes more aggro than simply letting us out and is a form of false imprisonment and I shall deduct a further two marks for doing it unnecessarily. Obviously the Bristol City fans are a friendly bunch and we missed out on a big love in and shaking of hands outside because of the over zealous policing.

Total- 52/80

Photo: Action Images

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