|LFW Awaydays - Bristol City, Ashton Gate|
Thu 20th Aug 2009 21:20
QPR suffered their first defeat of the season on Tuesday night at Bristol City. Off the pitch a lack of trains meant another dreaded trip down the M1, M42 and M5.
1 – The Match
Very unusual for a Championship match in that both teams tried their best to pass the ball on the floor whenever possible. It was hardly slick, flawless stuff and every time I sat and admired a good piece of play somebody would shank a ball into touch or fall over under no pressure but still, for the division we are in, it was excellent. The teams were very evenly matched and the difference in the end proved to be the finishing ability of Nicky Maynard that was better than that of anybody on the QPR side. The start of the second half in particular was played at a frightening pace and had QPR possessed anybody who could finish at all this could have turned into a high scoring encounter. Alas Adel Taarabt hit the post with their best chance and Maynard won the game with a screamer ten minutes from the end of normal time following a bad injury to Bristol debutant Velicka. Good stuff all round though, entertaining.
2 – QPR Performance
Very good in general, but without the sufficient cutting edge or finishing touch to turn possession and chances into something tangible. QPR started with clear intentions to pass the ball through midfield with new boy Faurlin included in a two deep with three further forward formation. That worked well for the first ten minutes but City took over for a good twenty thereafter and were only denied the opening goal by a combination of poor finishing from Haynes, good goalkeeping from Cerny and a goal line clearance by Buzsaky. There were signs at the end of the half that there was better to come and QPR came out flying after the break crafting four great chances to take the lead in the first four minutes. The football was good to watch, but it always looked likely that we would find it hard to finish off the pretty moves with a goal. Taarabt hit the post, Leigertwood missed a sitter in injury time, numerous cut backs, crosses and downward headers went into or through the penalty box with nobody there to apply a touch. Despite a solid display between them Stewart and Hall both had a hand, one with a missed tackle and the other with a slip, in the eventual winning goal. Again I am forced to wonder what our defence did last season to warrant being changed around this, and what else we have to do before the club realises we are a decent striker short?
3 – QPR Support
Decent numbers travelled down and they back the team very well for the most part. A lot of people signing in the away end did seem to lose heart during the second half when the City fans to the right just would not shut up! In the end there was a lot of frustration about as Rangers missed their chances and eventually lost the game. Not bad overall.
4 - Atmosphere
Probably the best I have experienced at a standard Championship match for a good few years. QPR travelled in good numbers and backed their team sporadically and usually that would have been enough to comprehensively outsing the home support which tends to be quiet at most grounds. Not so at Ashton gate where the Bristol City fans made a hell of a noise during the second half in particular, continuing a Red Army chant for a good 20 minutes even when QPR were in the ascendancy and generating noise from two or three areas of the stadium. The fans to the extreme right of the away end were the most vociferous. Loftus Road could easily be like this if we wanted it to be - the City fans were a real 12th man for their team.
5 - The Ground
Ashton Gate is very similar to Loftus Road in many ways - an older, more traditional ground, with stands close to the pitch and plenty of obstructed views. The away end is awful, there is no other word for it. The seats are backless and many are broken so simply tip you forward when you try to sit on them - the lack of a seat back where you are used to having one to crash into can cause numerous injuries during goal celebrations but QPR kept us nice and safe on that front on Tuesday. The views from just about everywhere in that stand are terrible, obstructed by many pillars, and after the match it takes an age for the whole congregation to flock through a very narrow tunnel back out into the car park. At least we were not held in after the match this season. The main stand to our left also seems to be looking its age with plenty of obstructed views but the side stand to our right is an impressive, steep structure which just leaves the single tiered structure behind the goal at the far end. It’s a nice, tight, compact ground but two sides of it are in dire need of a rebuild and it is no surprise to see City advancing plans for a new stadium.
6 - The Journey
No trains back to Sheffield that late on a weekday night which necessitated a road trip. Four of us set out from the Steel City at about half past two, negotiating our way through the average speed checks and evil M42 traffic management system to arrive on the outskirts of Bristol before 6pm. We had been warned about traffic in the city and sure enough the A4 into town was very slow going for the final three miles. I had decided having seen the traffic on my way back to temple Meads after a previous visit here that I did not want to cross the swing bridge and park on the ground side of the river for fear of still being stuck there during the morning rush hour. Instead as soon as we saw the bridge we dived off into a side street and looked for a parking space. This took us on a rather bizarre tour of streets on a 10:1 incline and barley wide enough to get my little Ibiza down. They were all one way as well and we worked ourselves into a bit of a mess before deciding to ditch it in a back alley. This turned out to be masterstroke as it was right next to a pub.
The plan worked a treat after the match when we were able to shoot straight off out onto the motorway. The journey back though was a complete ball ache. The active traffic management system was still in operation on the M42, presumably to cure the congestion that frequently occurs there in the middle of the bloody night. Then just as I thought we had cleared it vast swathes, 15 miles in fact, of the dual carriageway section between Birmingham and East Midlands airport were down to one lane so three blokes could safely organise a litter pick. A litter pick. For the love of Christ it’s a motorway, nobody cares if it looks a mess. A litter pick. I could not believe it. We had to follow a truck up there, then we had 18 miles of average speed check past Nottingham, then another five miles of it past Sheffield. It is a miracle we made it back at all never mind at the respectable arrival time of 1.30am. The roads of this country are an absolute joke. No driving for me now until Newcastle away at the end of September though thank God.
7 - Pre Match
Our little parking plan dropped us onto a genuine find. The Adam and Eve pub in the backstreets of Bristol on the opposite side of the river to the ground was completely empty when we walked in just after six which is never a good sign. Big Steve tried to order a bottle of Bulmers, which went down poorly in a pub with nine or ten different ciders on tap at the bar, and was eventually presented with a cloudy liquid that he took an instant dislike to. The rest of us were on Budvar. Food was served from half six and although a few were getting twitchy when we had not been fed by 7pm, eyeing the 7.45pm kick off, it was well worth waiting for. We all ordered 28 day aged steaks which, when they arrived, were absolutely incredible. Phil had ordered his rare and it came with a pulse, mine was only just dead and Steve’s and Ellis’ weren’t far behind. Served with fat chips and rocket salad I can honestly say it is the best piece of meat I have ever eaten in my entire life, washed down with ice cold beer. It was superb. The walk to the ground across the bridge took us less than 20 minutes and we were in the ground for half seven.
8 - Police and Stewards
As with Plymouth at the weekend relatively little evidence of either on a ground where there is normally total overkill. QPR fans were not kept in after the final whistle as is normally the case, although had Mikele Leigertwood scored late that might have been different. One brief disturbance in the back corner of the stand in the second half was settled without an ejection and all in all they seemed pretty sound to me on the night.
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