|LFW Awaydays - Plymouth, Home Park|
Mon 17th Aug 2009 17:07
The annual slog from Sheffield to Plymouth and back again took place on Saturday as the LFW crew headed south west for the second time in three days to see QPR take on Plymouth Argyle.
1 – The Match
Followed a familiar pattern for this fixture in recent times. QPR were clearly the better side for almost all of the match but they could only find one first half goal to show for their domination and after missing countless other chances were then punished deep into stoppage time. Heidar Helguson got the opening goal, heading in Adel Taarabt’s deflected shot, but Plymouth keeper Larrieu denied Buzsaky and Routledge from long range and then Rowan Vine in the second half one on one. Taarabt smashed another an inch wide of the top corner with the keeper beaten but the old QPR trait of defending too deeply, giving possession away and conceding criminally soft goals came back to haunt us in injury time when, just seconds after surviving one goal mouth scramble, Cerny was beaten by a Kaspars Gorkss own goal in the midst of another.
2 – QPR Performance
Very good for the most part. We passed the ball nicely and created some excellent chances. Wayne Routledge looked really confident after his midweek hat trick and gave Sawyer a torrid time down the QPR right – he was unlucky not to score with a volley in the first half that Larrieu saved brilliantly. Fitz Hall had possibly his best ever game for QPR at centre half and Mikele Leigertwood was a dominant presence in midfield. Adel Taarabt caused no end of difficulties for the Plymouth defence and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself with a fine effort that whistled past the top corner just after half time. But for all of that the same old problems started to rear their ugly heads as the second half went on. We gave away too much silly possession – Agyemang and Mahon were particularly culpable, we missed too many really good chances – Vine most guilty, and we started to defend far too deep and completely out of shape resulting in a farcical late equaliser. This is a game we should have won handsomely and we really must develop a hard nosed, ruthless, winning attitude to go with the attractive build up and fancy skills if we are to make the play offs this season.
3 – QPR Support
After taking nearly a thousand to Exeter on Tuesday night similar numbers made the trip here to Home Park and with Bristol away to come on Tuesday that is a creditable effort. Following on from the Blackpool home game the mood was much more positive and upbeat in the away end and there were less examples of the constant moaning and griping that became traits of the QPR support last season. Plenty of noise and atmosphere, particularly in the last ten minutes when rather than sitting on their hands and panicking the Rangers fans did their best to back the team. The highlight of the afternoon has to be the look on Alessandro Pellicori’s face as LFW regular Dai Hoop screamed “feed the Pelican” at him during his warm up. That one has to catch on surely? Hopefully the results will hold up and this more relaxed, happy atmosphere will continue.
4 – Atmosphere
The attitude of the Plymouth fans was on stark contrast to that in the away end. They were very quiet throughout and gave manager Paul Sturrock dog’s abuse for taking off Alan Judge near the end. Admittedly Judge had been their best outfield player but Sturrock must have had a reason for the decision and Plymouth went on to score anyway so he got the last laugh. Home Park is certainly not the loud, intimidating place it was back when we first started coming down here.
5 – The Ground
Still no sign of the redeveloped main stand so it is very much as you were last season at Home Park. The forced decision to bolt seats onto the old terrace to the left of the away end seems to have really dented the atmosphere, although there are still a gang of plebs gathered close to the away end on that side behaving like caged chimps. I am always a little confused with our ticket allocation here as they always give us a thousand to sell, but it is never very clear whether that’s it or whether we can have more for advance sale or on the day if necessary. There were a lot of empty seats to our right once again this year which would hint at the latter. Still a very nice place to come and watch football with unobstructed views throughout the away end, cheap ticket prices, and a nice walk up through the park to the away end before the game.
6 – The Journey
Always the longest trip of the year for the Sheffield R’s this one, although this was nowhere near as bad as it has been previously. Bearing in mind we have in previous years been diverted into Newport extending the journey time by three hours, been kicked off the trains altogether at Birmingham and plunged into the taxi of death that drove headlong into thick fog at 110mph all the way back to Sheffield and last year been slung onto a replacement bus service at Derby where Young Clive got into a fight with a drunk over who was leaning on who and trying to go to sleep this was very tame. We were on the 6.50am train in the morning direct to Plymouth and while myself and Phil made that nicely on time Paul was a little late, coming as he did straight from his night on the town.
Now whether a memo went round about us travelling in fancy dress and Phil and me just missed it, or whether Paul actually thought his attire was suitable for the day, never actually became clear. Whatever the reason, and it was suggested that possibly our plans to drink in The Navy when we arrived planted an idea in his mind, Paul decided to come dressed as the construction worker from the Village People complete with tight white vest and open checked shirt. He seemed oblivious to our piss taking as we got on the train, then he broke wind three times the third of which was one of those that sticks in the back of your throat and had new passengers retching as they entered the carriage long after we had left Birmingham New Street and then he went to sleep for the full five hour trip down to Plymouth. Every now and again he would wake up to change positions in his seat, at which point he would get a blast of Disco Inferno or Macho Man just to remind him of where he was and what he was wearing but he was soon back to sleep again.
The trip down gave us the second chance in a week to hang out of the window of a moving train as it passed by the coast between Exeter and Newton Abbot and, sorry to go all mushy on you all again, there can be few greater pleasures in life. What a country we live in, absolutely spectacular, easily my favourite little bit of travelling we do in the entire season.
Coming back we had time for half an hour of Newcastle and Reading before jumping on the 1821 service back to Sheffield. We had a few large bottles of Kronenberg to help us on our way this time but having made our way through them by the time we left Bristol and still a good three hours of the journey to go the whole day really started to catch up with us. We then had the bright idea of moving down a carriage into G which had suffered a cataclysmic blow out of its circuit box as we left Plymouth and been plunged into darkness. The guard had moved us out of it at the time but she had jumped off at Temple Meads and it was now sitting completely empty and in pitch darkness. We spread out over a few empty tables and went to sleep.
The next thing I knew we were past Birmingham and a railway lamp was being shone in my face by an angry guard screaming about health and safety regulations. The way he was carrying on you would think death stalks you around every corner in a dark railway carriage but after he’d woken our resident camp backing vocalist up with a start causing him to panic and start yelling about him having a valid ticket but not being able to find it he realised he was being a bit heavy handed and decided to simply move us under the brightest set of lights he could find and leave us there. A man the word jobsworth was invented for. We did think about asking him to turn the lights off in our new carriage but he didn’t look like a man with a sense of humour, had probably had a very long day, and we didn’t fancy being heaved off the train altogether at Burton upon Trent.
We arrived back in Sheffield at 11pm and after that there was just the small matter of the four mile walk back up the hill to Crookes, via Nibbles Pizza as ever, before bed. It’s an enjoyable trip, but I always find myself swearing we will never do it again by the end of the day.
7 – Pre Match
Having arrived five minutes early into Plymouth there was the small job of walking down the High Street to the Barbican before we could get stuck into some much needed refreshments. We went in The Navy as always, and it remains a superb pub. Initial fears over the poor tuning of the giant screen were allayed and we were able to watch an hour or so of Chelsea v Hull over cold beers and good food. My plate of surf and turf, a portion so huge it needed to be served on a plate the size of a dustbin lid, was exactly what I needed at the end of a long trip and there were plenty of Rangers’ fans in there to chew the fat with for a couple of hours. After previous bad experiences with a taxi that didn’t arrive one year and a lift from a guy driving a skip on wheels another we decided to walk up to the ground for the second year running and although it’s a good 30 to 40 minute slog uphill it’s not an unpleasant walk and it settled my dinner down a bit before the game. Still one of the most enjoyable pre-matches we have on tour in the Championship.
8 – Police and Stewards
There used to be a real problem in this part of the world with complete police overkill for a match between two sides whose fans, as a general rule, get on really well. QPR fans would be herded off trains and into the pub next to the station whether they wanted to go in there or not and then marched up the hill and into the ground in single file. Thankfully Devon and Cornwall Police seem to have now realised just how bloody stupid that is, possibly because the pub next to the station is now closed, and I hardly saw a police officer all day. No problems with the stewards either. A great improvement on previous years.
Total – 54/80
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