|QPR Awaydays - Sheffield, Hillsborough|
Wednesday, 19th Mar 2008 18:18
On a day of four seasons weather wise QPR produced contrasting performances either side of half time against Sheffield Wednesday
1 – The Game
Tense, tight and niggly but nonetheless entertaining from a neutral’s point of view. The match started true to form with QPR making all the running and creating all the chances. With Rowan Vine in flying form wide on the left and Rowlands shipping the ball out to him at every possible opportunity Wednesday were struggling to contain their visitors and sure enough QPR took the lead after a quarter of an hour. Rowlands fed Vine wide left again and his cross was turned in at the near post by Damien Delaney. Patrick Agyemang hit the inside of the post and both he and Blackstock missed other chances to double the advantage before home boss Brian Laws admitted his mistake and took off the lumbering Showumni and the terminally useless Ronnie Wallwork and introduced Burton and McAllister.
The shift in the pattern of play from that point was dramatic. Wednesday drew level within five minutes as Graham Kavanagh sprung a laboured offside trap to head Songo’o’s chipped through ball over Lee Camp’s head. Before the second half had really got going the turn around was complete with the impressive Burton converting a penalty after a mistake and then a foul by Lee Camp. Kavanagh, Burton, Tudgay and Spurr all went close to sealing the game with a third goal but QPR were offering very little going forward, only two efforts from Blackstock well saved by Grant, and that meant further scoring from the home side wasn’t necessary to see the game out. In stoppage time the play acting and show boating of Frank Songo’o finally riled the QPR players enough for them to bite and Hogan Ephraim was sent off for a forearm smash on the Frenchman.
2 – Rangers’ Performance
So frustrating I could almost grind my teeth down to the gums thinking about it. Once gain we showed exactly what we are capable of when we put our minds to it, before collapsing into the southern softie jelly like state that we adopt so often when the going gets tough away from home. Wednesday simply couldn’t get near us in the first half hour – everything we did well came down the left with Delaney, Vine and Rowlands swamping Richard Hinds and outplaying the hapless full back. In midfield with Wallwork looking like a Sunday league footballer Graham Kavanagh was overworked and over opposed resulting in very limited possession for the home side in the QPR half.
It looked for all the world like QPR were going to go on and complete the perfect away performance and win comfortably. Then Wednesday made two substitutions, and scored a poor goal from our point of view defensively. From then on there was only one winner. QPOR stopped feeing the ball wide to Vine and ridiculously replaced him altogether just after the hour mark. The ball retention was suddenly non-existent and it was Wednesday’s turn to enjoy prolonged periods of pressure in the QPR half of the field. It was no surprise when they went in front and after that we rarely looked like pegging them back. To compound it all Hogan Ephraim got sent off in injury time and our players left the field fighting after showing no signs of commitment of fight for the cause for the previous hour. Five out of five for the first half hour, zero from that point on.
3 – Atmosphere
Like the match really – QPR first half Sheff Wed second. The away end was buzzing during the first half with plenty of signing and raucous celebrations when the goal went in. If Patrick Agyemang’s shot had rolled in instead of against the post I’m not sure you would have kept the roof on the place with several R’s fans already surging forward in celebration as the ball rolled towards the goal. Sadly the switch in the direction of play and the turn around in the scoreline brought that to a juddering halt and in fact many QPR fans elected to head for an early train midway through the second half. That was the cue for the home fans, so nervous during the first half, to kick into gear during the second, and there was plenty of noise coming from the home stands by the end – possibly contributing to the widespread losing of tempers by the corner flag at the end of the game.
4 – Travelling support
For the second time in a week more than 1000 QPR fans travelled north for an away game and for the first hour or so they were in terrific voice. A gang of Rangers up at the back sang loud and proud during the first half and really did the club proud with their backing of the team. Travelling in such numbers, so often, when away performances are dire, is to everybody’s credit and long may it continue. Sad o see so many leaving so early, but with many taking their chances and booking the 1727 train home that was understandable, especially with the team giving up early as well.
5 – The Ground
It took a deep bath and nine or ten sessions in the shower but I just about managed to get the dirty, soulless, corporate Ricoh Arena out of my system by the time we arrived at Hillsborough on Saturday and what a fantastic, refreshing change it was to be in a proper old football stadium after 90 minutes in a place more fit for use as a spare tractor parts warehouse on Wednesday. Right from the moment you step off the tram and walk down to the Leppings Lane turnstiles you feel like you’re at a proper football stadium, with history and tradition and atmosphere. The concourse area may be dingy, and two points knocked off for not serving beer to away fans despite no recent history of trouble from QPR in these parts and no ill effects of drinking when beer was provided before the Sheff Utd game in January, but it at least looks like it’s finished, unlike at Coventry, and you can’t see into the toilets from the stairs up o the seats, unlike at Coventry.
Once upstairs the view of the pitch is excellent, not quite as excellent6 as Bramall Lane with two posts either side of the goal obstructing the view, but superb all the same and all the memories of our promotion came flooding back as a decent following from West London struck up in full voice that echoed around the cavernous old stand with a satisfying volume. Afterwards, straight back out and onto a good form of public transport. My goodness after Coventry City this really was a breath of fresh air. The huge side stands at Hillsborough and giant kop behind the far goal make it an amazing theatre to play football in and unlike new grounds like the Ricoh it’s perfectly possible to get a good atmosphere going even when the crowd only fills half the seats. Certainly the two grounds in Sheffield remain firm favourites of mine – football grounds as they should be.
6- The Journey
Well as Hillsborough is only a mile or so away from my house this really wasn’t too difficult. After pre-match drinks and food in the town centre we headed out to the ground on the tram and that was that. Sadly afterwards the Sheffield Super Tram was doing it’s very best impression of the Hammersmith and City Line and we were left standing, with several thousand others, at the side of the road in the driving rain, sleet and snow waiting for a good 20 minutes. Normally they stack the trams up and clear the area pretty quickly but they’ve obviously been taking tips from Transport for London because there were no trams back to the city centre from 5pm until 20 past on a match day – very sensible. When it did arrive it was rammed to the point of being dangerous. After years of running like clockwork the Sheffield match day transport arrangements suddenly fell apart for reasons that never quite became clear.
7 - Pre Match
Just as people assume that if you live in London you spend all your time rattling round on the London Eye or poking the wax works in Madame Tussauds, so people assume that if you live in Sheffield you must frequent the horrible pubs in the city centre. The Frog and Parrot and possible the Devonshire Cat apart everything inside the ring road in Sheffield is a student focussed shithole. None of the pubs I regularly use out on the west side of town are easily accessible from the train station though and with the majority of people I intended to meet pre match coming in that way I was left to brave the middle of town and the dreaded Walkabout again.
Regular readers of ‘What have we learnt this week’ will know I’m not a fan of this Aussie bar nonsense but once again when searching for a place conveniently located near to the station and showing the football it came out on top again so in we went between noon and 2pm before jumping on a tram out to the ground. The pub was of course full of really loyal rugby fans wearing Wales, Ireland and England shirts (not much evidence of Welsh or Irish accents, or indeed any sign of these tossers for the other 11 months in the year but hey) but they were able to go upstairs and watch their silly non-sport on a big screen while we stayed on the ground floor and watched the hilarious Man Utd v Portsmouth game. After the match we somehow ended up in the bar at the Travelodge waiting for friends and it was from there that we took in the highlight of the day – Barnsley v Chelsea.
After a brief exchange of views with a drunk Welsh man in a red plastic nurses uniform we hit the town and tried some of the more trendy places before stumbling home, setting fire to the kitchen while trying to cook a frozen garlic bread, and falling asleep in front of the television.
8 – Police and Stewards
As always in this part of the world the stewards sought to create a stand off with the away supporters as often as possible. From the kick off a gang of about 100 QPR fans stood up at the back of the stand and lead the singing. Now I’m not going to go into the debate about “they’re not obstructing anybody’s view” “but it’s the rules” again other than to say that common sense really should prevail. By the time the stewards made their way to the back to order everybody to sit down the vast majority had begun to do so of their own free will anyway and all their presence served to do was make everybody stand up again and start bouncing around and singing just to spite them. This happens every time, why has nobody engaged the brain and thought to leave it 15 minutes and see who is then standing up because what invariably happens is 100 people stand up, then the game gets going and slowly they all sit down. By going up there you’re creating a problem for yourself – that however seems to be a favourite pass time of the stewards at Sheff Wed.
As our beloved fanzine editor Dave Thomas will testify to they love nothing better than to create a problem where none previously existed – this is not the attitude you want from stewards and there was no better example of their lack of common sense than when they threw a mate of mine out after the game had finished for accidentally breaking a seat up at the back of the stand. If the game is over he’s leaving anyway, why the need to escort him out and create a confrontation?
Total – 50/80
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