LFW Awaydays - Sheffield United v QPR
Tuesday, 24th Aug 2010 21:42 by Awaydays
The LoftforWords Awaydays return, looking back on our days on the road with the Rangers. The first focuses on late weekend’s win at Sheffield United.
On the pitch
Well if you had offered the Northern R’s a draw in the pub prior to the start of the game we probably would have taken it. The start of the 2008 season was a regular topic of conversation before the kick off – QPR started well that year with an opening day win against Barnsley but were then brought unceremoniously back down to earth with a 3-0 hammering at Bramall Lane so it was with some apprehension that we approached this game.
Ultimately there was no need to worry. Sheffield United were awful – even worse than they were last season when you may remember Rangers had to face them four times, each game more boring than the last. Kevin Blackwell was sacked immediately after the match and there’s little wonder. Of course the post match pundits were full of talk about increasingly impatient boards and ridiculously early sackings but Blackwell’s tin tack has been coming for the thick end of 18 months.
Even if you look past the big transfer fees paid for little return on the pitch, and obviously many Blades couldn’t, Blackwell didn’t even try to entertain the Sheffield public. His football, against QPR and in general, was utterly dire. Against Rangers they spent the entire game bypassing their midfield and hammering long balls at Cresswell and Evans which was a walk in the park for Gorkss and Hall who dominated their opposition in the first half.
United’s dreadful style and lack of imagination or variety was highlighted by QPR’s invention and craft. Helguson and Mackie worked hard in attack to give the likes of Taarabt, Ephraim and Faurlin a chance to shine through. Rangers scored two well worked goals and a penalty inside the first 25 minutes to take an unassailable lead. The first was a flowing move from the back - admittedly after United had a very decent penalty shout waved away - that culminated in Taarabt sending Ephraim through on goal for an easy first. Then a nice cross field ball from Faurlin and a back post cross from Orr gave Ephraim a chance to cross for Mackie to head in.
Much of the pre-match talk had been about the return of Paddy Kenny to Bramall Lane. The goalkeeper walked out on United at the end of last season to join QPR despite the Blades sticking by him during a drug ban last season and he was given a predictably hostile reception, exacerbated by United’s decision to switch ends after winning the toss and force him to face The Kop in the first half. The home crowd gave Kenny’s replacement Steve Simonsen a rousing cheer at the start but his bad fumble and subsequent trip on Helguson presented Taarabt with a third goal from the penalty spot.
QPR survived a stone wall penalty appeal at the end of the half, when Evans was clearly fouled by Hill, and a couple of edge of the area free kicks. In the second half QPR calmed down and killed the game off. United actually got in behind the QPR defence three times at the start of the second period, and Hall was taken off injured after stretching to diffuse one such break, but Blackwell quickly introduced a second target man and returned to useless long ball nonsense down the field which killed the game off once and for all.
United will point to the first half penalty appeal, one of which definitely was, but they were easily second best in this game. QPR were composed and classy in possession, hard working and solid without it, and probably could have won by more had they gone for the jugular in the second half.
Scores >>> QPR performance 8/10 >>> Opposition performance 2/10 >>> Referee performance 4/10
In the stand
One of the all time classic QPR travelling tales involves a couple at the old Dell in Southampton who responded in rather different ways to attention from the R’s in the away end. A Saints fan, rather rotund it must be said, got particularly irate with the QPR supporters who had abused him for eating the majority of Southampton’s pies. Of course when people get angry about that, it only encourages more abuse, and so the situation escalated into him standing up and offering to fight most of the travelling faithful. Attention then turned to his partner, not exactly slimmer of the year herself, who stood up and mooned the away end leading to chants of “you’re fat, and you’re bird’s a slag”. It kept us busy for most of the second half, and the pair of them later featured in the local press on the south coast saying the whole episode had encouraged them to lose weight.
You get one of those every now and again – there was the pony tailed man in the pink shirt at Luton a few years back, and the slapper in the white coat at Stoke earlier than that. Midway through the second half at Bramall Lane, with QPR cruising through to victory, one of the local chavs decided to give his girlfriend a nudge and head for the exits early. She wasn’t a bad looking young lady, chesty I think is the word, and was pretty well dressed for a day at the football. He, on the other hand, was a scruffy scumbag in clothes that, by their appearance, had possibly been stolen from a skip earlier that day.
“She’s just too good for you” chanted the QPR fans. Just a few of them at first, but then as he grew more and more angry and animated by it hundreds joined in. For the girl’s part, she seemed to enjoy it – grinning, laughing and shaking various bits in the general direction of the away end for a few minutes. You just know that a huge domestic commenced the second they disappeared out of sight below decks.
In fairness nobody could blame the Sheffield United fans for leaving early, or sitting silently for the last hour of the game, or booing their team and their manager in the first home match of the season. They had created a hostile atmosphere to start with, most of it directed towards Paddy Kenny, and had been badly let down by their shambolic looking team.
QPR travelled in decent numbers. I said 800 originally but have since been assured on the message board it was more than that. It’s quite hard to tell when we’re in the lower tier at Bramall Lane. This is still the best stadium in the league in my opinion - a proper old fashioned, fully enclosed, city centre stadium – but I did prefer it when they used to put us in the upper tier where the view is fantastic.
Sadly the dreaded Sheffield stewards made an inglorious return to action in this match. In the past AKUTR’s editor Dave Thomas has been thrown out of Bramall Lane, quite violently it must be said, and ridiculously refused admission to our promotion party game at Hillsborough in 2004 – on both occasions his crime was simply trying to sell his excellent fanzine. Little Phil has been thrown out of Sheffield Wednesday, after the final whistle, for kicking a seat as well. They’ve been quiet in recent years but you never know when they’re going to be in the mood. When they are, this city produces the worst stewards in the country. In mitigation, it must be quite hard living in Sheffield as a thick, poor, unemployed nobody. Somebody giving you an orange or yellow coat and a meaningless title like “area supervisor” or “event overseer” on a Saturday must provide a much needed ego boost. But if somebody was paying you minimum wage for three hours of work on a Saturday afternoon, would you really set out to cause a load of trouble? Could you really be bothered?
After the first QPR goal a huge gang of these barrel scrapings swiftly moved in having previously been standing around by the corner flag doing nothing. Three of them were required to forcibly eject a Rangers fan for overcelebrating, one pulling his leg while the other two wrestled with his upper body. Common sense, perspective, reasonableness, professionalism – all sadly lacking. This group of hired thugs then stood with giant smiles on their faces as various QPR fans tried to voice complaints, and indeed swooped straight back out from the corner whenever Rangers scored looking for other victims.
While all this was going on the gang of northern R’s at the back of the stand had our own personal jobsworth. Somewhere in Sheffield on Saturday a downtrodden husband was kicking his feet up at home and rejoicing in the three hours he had to himself without the silly cow that we had to put up with for the entire game. Either that or he was sticking his head in the oven at the mere thought of her impending return.
Jokes? No, not allowed. Comments of any sort? No not allowed. We were, in this order, threatened with ejection for – standing up, going into the aisle when celebrating, complaining about the treatment of the QPR fan who was thrown out and finally taking pictures of each other in the away end. This is a group of three football fans who have never been thrown out of a ground, or even spoken to by a steward, in a combined 60 years of watching the game. Never before has anybody been so pedantic and keen to do a job on the minimum wage. She was an absolute pain in the arse to the point where even the other steward standing nearby was laughing at how pathetic it all was when she moved in during the second half to stop us taking pictures of each other. On the off chance her other half is reading this, you have my sympathy sir.
Scores >>> QPR support 8/10 >>> Home support 4/10 >>> Overall atmosphere 7/10 >>> Stadium 8/10 >>> Police and stewards 1/10
On the road
Sheffield always used to be a bit of a ‘cheat’ trip for me when writing this column as I lived smack bang in the middle of Hillsborough and Bramall Lane and consequently only ever had two miles to travel to either game. Luckily during the summer I got a promotion at work. Unluckily this means I now live in Kettering. Actually, I live in Corby, but I say Kettering because I’ve grown tired of people looking at me with pity when I say Corby.
So I did have a journey of sorts for this one, although it was done on Friday evening back into the arms of my beloved after work. Friday was a late night at work, during which time I sat and listened to the Hull FC v Crusaders match on the radio. Hull seemed to have blown that one late in the game when the Welsh side made it 16-16 and as they went over for that try I turned the radio off and stormed home in disgust. Five Live reported the game as a 16-16 final score and it was only when I arrived back in Sheffield an hour and 40 minutes later and saw the texts on my phone that I knew we’d actually won. So that was a good, if rather belated, start to the weekend. I hate driving, one of the big positives of the new job is I live five miles from my office rather than 37 miles as I did before, and the cost of petrol is an absolute disgrace, so I’ll be doing most of my trips by train where possible.
Scores >>> Journey 7/10 >>> Cost 4/10
In the pub
The Northern R’s, as usual, went to The Old Monk before the game, although we may well be changing venues from now on. The first reason for that is the curse of the breakfast sausage has been broken. The breakfast sausage is a work of pure evil, served only in The Monk, and eaten only by Owain. It is a dodgy sausage, wrapped in a fried egg, wrapped in a pancake, and served in a white bap. I’ve posted a photograph below because frankly words cannot do justice to how revolting it is.
The food in The Monk has been terrible for years but has improved markedly recently since its makeover, and deal with a local butcher which at least makes the burgers worthwhile. The breakfast sausage though is a greasy heart attack waiting to happen. Owain tried it initially as part of a hangover recovery prior to last season’s game against Sheffield Wednesday. Rangers won then, and avoided defeat on two further trips to Sheffield which meant Owain had to keep eating the bloody things. We won at Barnsley as well so he had to keep eating them into this season. However, with Owain now working in Germany and unable to make this match nobody else was brave/stupid enough to have one and QPR won anyway. The curse now broken, we may be able to try the Common Room for our next visit which is a superior place in every way.
This year the Monk was far busier than it usually is, and the clientele had a little bit more of an edge to it. There was never a hint of trouble to be honest, but the demographic of the drinkers there has got a little bit more tattooed and close shaven since our last visit and for the first time I genuinely felt a little bit concerned as an away fan visiting. Still, massive screen with the Man City game on gains extra points.
Scores >>> Pub 6/10 >>> Atmosphere 3/10 >>> Food 5/10 >>> Cost 6/10
Final score - 73/130
Photo: Action Images
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