LFW Awaydays – Ipswich, Portman Road
Tuesday, 21st Sep 2010 21:54 by Awaydays
QPR hit the road last Tuesday night and returned with three points from a wet and windy night at Ipswich Town’s Portman Road ground.
On the Pitch
This had been billed as QPR’s toughest game of the season with Ipswich in third at the start of play – but then they say GCSE exams are still tough. QPR registered two serious efforts on goal inside the first minute and just carried on, relentlessly, from there. In many ways they were more impressive without the ball than they were with it – as soon as Ipswich took possession they were immediately hounded by QPR players until their will to have it at all was broken and they resorted to just lumping it down the field towards Jason Scotland who spent a cold and wet evening keeping warm in Matt Connolly’s pocket.
That makes Ipswich sound like some team of no-hopers. They’re not. They were unbeaten going into this game and bounced back from it by beating Cardiff 2-0. QPR were just really, really good last Tuesday. There were no negatives to report whatsoever. Paddy Kenny was secure in goal, Kyle Walker was outstanding on his debut having played only a few minutes of senior football in the previous six months, Gorkss and Connolly were immense at centre half, Clint Hill took no prisoners, Shaun Derry ran the show and when Faurlin went off injured Akos Buzsaky came on and did a fine job too. Further forward the pressing and hassling from Mackie and Ephraim was relentless, Taarabt pulled the strings and Helguson led the line like a man twice his height and half his age – which strangely is what Ipswich brought on at half time in the form of Connor Wickham.
That presented us with a different task at the start of the second half but the storm was weathered with only a couple of nervy moments. In the end it was a shame that the killer third goal came from the penalty spot because had the referee allowed play to go on another second or two he could have awarded a fabulous goal to Buzsaky who lashed home from distance after Mackie was tripped in the area.
Scores >>> QPR performance 9/10 >>> Opposition performance 5/10 >>> Referee performance 7/10
In the Stand
Portman Road is a fine example of a modern football stadium in a town centre location. Everybody is close to the pitch and it looked absolutely wonderful under the floodlights with the rain glistening from every surface. It’s a proper old ground this one, second only to Bramall Lane in my estimation of Championship stadia, and ideally situated for the station and a thousand eateries and pubs within five minutes walking distance. The downsides to it are the cost of tickets, which are extortionate, and the away end, which is in one of the oldest parts of the ground.
The away end, at the end of the Cobbold Stand, is a maze of corridors and fire doors downstairs – each one leading to another toilet or refreshment kiosk you didn’t know was there before. It’s virtually impossible to go the same way twice here and, on this my tenth visit, I still found bits of the QPR section that I’d never seen before in my life. The situation upstairs is not dissimilar to that from the South Africa Road stand at Rangers – pretty cramped and in need of a good clean, but a decent side view of the pitch and shelter from the rain. Wedged in between visits to the soulless, out of town cathedrals of mediocrity at Derby and Leicester this was a reassuring trip to make – there is still room for proper football grounds in Britain today and this is certainly one of them.
The Ipswich fans were quiet as always, although you could tell from the brief rousing straight after half time when Wickham crafted an early chance that there was an atmosphere in the home end waiting to happen should the team produce anything to get them excited. The mood in the away end was joyous, as you would expect, and the “Rangers are back, about fucking time” chant raised a good few smiles in our travelling party. It summed the mood up perfectly on a fine night of football from the R’s.
Loads of police around the station and pubs before the game but no hassle or problems that I saw.
Scores >>> QPR support 8/10 >>> Home support 6/10 >>> Overall atmosphere 6/10 >>> Stadium 8/10 >>> Police and stewards 7/10
On the Road
The A14 is one of Britain’s great afterthoughts. After building the M1 and M6 it suddenly dawned on the authorities that it had two motorways feeding traffic from the Midlands, north and north west down into the same place near Rugby and any of it that wanted to go to the ports at Felixstowe and Harwich was then being forced onto a long, windy, A45 through Cambridge and other towns that didn’t very much care for a lorry flying past their front doors every three seconds.
The rather hastily arranged solution was the A14 which is two lanes too thin in either direction and populated almost entirely by heavy goods vehicles, and complete and utter fuckwits. Or complete and utter fuckwits driving heavy goods vehicles. There are four ways to attack this road. You can do it in a lorry at a speed of either 59 miles per hour or 61 miles per hour. If you are doing 59 you stay in the left lane, if you are doing 61 you can pull out indiscriminately and without warning to overtake some of the 59ers in a manoeuvre that takes, on average, three weeks.
Secondly you can attack it in a BMW. You do this by sitting in the outside lane with your foot hard to the floor, a cigarette in one hand and a mobile phone in the other. If there is a car in front of you then you can play a game where you see just how close you can get to its back bumper in an effort to intimidate it out of the way until it either moves aside or somebody is killed.
Thirdly you can buy for yourself a very small car with a very tiny engine capable of achieving 0-60 in a week and a half. You can then pretend it is actually a Bugatti Veyron and sit in the outside lane with your foot hard to the floor struggling to maintain 50 miles per hour, overtaking nothing and causing a queue of angry motorists behind you so long it appears on the traffic update on BBC Radio Cumbria as you pass Newmarket.
Or, fourthly, you can simply sit there in a standard car, grip the wheel and pray that nobody from the first three sections kills you, maims you or delays you to such an extent that the journey no longer has a point.
Only an absolute cretin would have built this road with just two lanes, and only a sadist would have then lined it with all the different types of speed camera known to man that somehow have a knack of appearing from a bush just as you’ve managed to open up a little to 78 miles per hour for the first time in an hour and a half. It’s an absolute pig of a road. Badly designed, badly maintained, policed by Nazis and used by morons. Throw in, as whoever is in charge of these things kindly decided to do last Tuesday, rain that would have had Noah peering out from the bridge, tutting and declaring “I don’t care how restless the baboons are getting we’re not setting out in this lot” and the whole thing becomes a sodden, God forsaken death trap.
Whenever I wonder if it makes sense to go everywhere on the train a journey like this comes along to make me realise just how much I hate driving. Two and a half hours there, one and a half hours back, from Kettering – utter, utter hell every single second of it. And all for 114.9p a litre. Bargain.
Scores >>> Journey 1/10 >>> Cost 1/10
In the Pub
And so having bravely fought the forces at work against me on the A14 I decided to ditch my car somewhere near the ground and head for the Station Hotel. Now it was about half six when I pulled up on the north side of the ground and I deliberately parked up there because there were a couple of pizza takeaways nearby that I thought would come in handy after the game. The resident’s parking schemes handily ended at 6.30pm just as I was arriving so I had my pick of free spaces no problem at all.
That left me with a ten minute walk from one side of the ground which initially didn’t seem too much of a chore. That was until the rain left the A14 for the first time on the evening and emptied spectacularly over my head and, as it was a Tuesday, work suit. The Station Hotel was, shall we say, boisterous, with a heavy police presence and barmaids in “we love QPR” t-shirts that may as well have said “please don’t trash our bar.” It’s a pub I avoid on Saturday matchdays normally and will continue to do so. It’s a grimy, horrible pub that everybody seems drawn to as it’s the first place they see off the train and where the police tend to shove everybody they don’t want making a nuisance of themselves in town. Plastic glasses all round and it’s fair to say that drenched from head to foot in a suit I was rather conspicuous.
Afterwards Owain and me ordered an extra large half and half stuffed crust pizza that was on the menu at £17.99, had a discount down to £14.99 for picking it up, appeared on our receipt for £9.99 and we were charged £7.98. Still, while it was being cooked the cashier told his workmate: “I love working here man cos yeh when I was at home I’d just be bored as fuck man yeh”. So maths, and speaking in sentences, clearly not a strong point. To be honest I was a little concerned that by adding our bill or talking to his friends he may forget to breath in and out and just collapse there and then on the takeaway floor.
Anyway you can’t argue with a giant pizza covered in dead animals with stuffed crust for less than half the advertised price – even if it is eaten off the passenger seat of a Vauxhall Corsa with the neighbourhood dogs massing outside.
Scores >>> Pub 2/10 >>> Atmosphere 4/10 >>> Food 7/10 >>> Cost 9/10
Final Score 80/130
Photo: Action Images
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