|LFW Awaydays - Oxford, Kassam Stadium|
Thu 30th Jul 2009 18:28
The latest Awayday Review of the pre-season campaign looks back to last Friday's trip to Oxford and a 2-2 draw between the hosts and QPR. Matthew Fairfax was there for LFW.
1 – The Match
Quite entertaining as pre-season games go. Rangers were the better side for most of the first half, but Oxford came back into it after the break and looked a lot better than their Conference status suggests. Overall our performance was more De Canio than Dowie/Sousa – Gavin Mahon’s goal was a sublime team effort, but some of the defending in the second half was pure farce. It will be interesting to see if this is a sign of things to come for the Magilton era.
2 – QPR Performance
Very confusing. We started the game playing like Brazil and ended it playing like the Faroe Islands. Whether it was down to Oxford tightening up their midfield and forcing us back, a worrying lack of match fitness or a gradual increase of “sod this, I’m off for a pint” amongst our players is open to question. What was very evident was that we looked good on the ball but couldn’t actually do anything with it when we had it (if that makes sense). Is it me, or is a repeat of last season’s frustrating mediocrity already looking odds-on?
3 – QPR Support
Rangers travelled in great numbers as usual – so much so that Northampton-style chaos unfolded as supporters had to queue at a small hatch to pay ten quid for a ticket only to hand over said ticket at the turnstile precisely ten yards away. Thankfully the old man and I saw this coming and made an early retreat from the pub.
4 – Atmosphere
There was a bit of banter amongst the supporters, but in a three-sided stadium with such big gaps between the stands it was difficult to get much of an atmosphere going. The Oxford fans were quiet during the early stages, but once they’d safely concluded that we were shit they came out of their shell a bit. The singing was sporadic, but the chant of “3-0 to the Oxford boys” from behind the goal sent an icy chill down my spine. By a stroke of cruel misfortune my first act as a QPR supporter was to sit down in front of the telly, decked to the nines in blue and white, and wait for the expected cake-walk to unfold before my eyes. It was 1986. It was the Milk Cup final. We were playing Oxford – lowly Oxford – having dumped out the invincible Liverpool in the semis. There could only be one winner… I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m still undergoing therapy…
5 – The Ground
The Kassam Stadium is a nice new ground. Or at least it would be, if they’d ever finished building it. The three stands that are in place are spacious and more visually-pleasing than can be said of most new grounds, but the distance of the stands from the pitch and the wide-open expanses in the corners (not to mention the open end!) leave the place feeling somewhat draughty. Perhaps the architects were guilty of a mathematical blunder during the design process, which would add to a charge-sheet that already includes colour-blindness. “Why’s it blue?” said the bloke behind me during a lull in play, echoing the thoughts of 892 others. I don’t think any of us quite figured out the answer to that, but at least it gave us something else to think about while yet another sideways pass went astray.
6 – The Journey
The A34 on a Friday night is not a pleasant place to be, and further tested the patience of two travelling Welshmen who had already done battle with the never-ending M4-widening scheme between Cardiff and Newport. Only recently I was thinking what a good job they’d done to relieve the age-old bottleneck, but no sooner had they opened three-quarters of it than they decided to dig it up again – this time, would you believe, to replace the central reservation with a thick concrete wall. Thankfully, despite the requirement to slalom our way through half the world’s supply of traffic cones, we made it to the Oxford ring road with two hours to spare, which gave me plenty of time to counter my old man’s incomprehensible phobia of roundabouts with some rally-style navigational assistance. Going home was a doddle by comparison, aside from the usual game of Russian Roulette as we tried to recall which of the 47 separate sets of roadworks on the M4 came equipped with speed cameras.
7 – Pre Match
We were early enough to find a space in the big car park behind the open end, and after munching some hard-earned sarnies (whilst glaring menacingly at a group of kids who decided it would be great fun to cycle off the top of a nearby grassy knoll and whizz past our wing mirrors at great speed) we set off in search of a pub. We’d visited the Kassam once before, and found a quaint little pub which had the appearance of a converted barn. However, we couldn’t quite remember where it was, and naturally set off in completely the wrong direction before being helped back on track by some friendly yokels. The pub was called the Priory, and was far from quiet tonight as it had been on our previous visit. Rangers had completely taken it over, and all the usual faces were there as we sat down outside and breathed in the aroma of frying burgers. The plastic glasses were a predictable let-down, as was the queue for the bar at around seven o’clock which caused us to give up and head for the turnstiles – just as well as it turned out.
8 – Police and Stewards
There was a steward busying himself beside the away ticket window when we joined the queue, and he was already looking rather pale before we told him that there were two hundred more of us in the pub! He was doing his best to get another window opened, but judging by the number of R’s fans still drifting in after the match kicked off I’m not sure he succeeded. His colleagues inside were equally surprised by the strength of our presence, and did little to assist the later arrivals who were left little option but to clamber over the taped-off barrier in order to find a seat. No other problems though, and there was no police presence that I could see. Thankfully there were no signs of an unlikely 1986-inspired riot kicking off – although that’s probably because Jim Smith didn’t come charging onto the pitch with the Milk Cup in his hands screaming “well done lads – I knew you could do it!” Not that I’m bitter or anything…
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