|LFW H'Awaydays - Newcastle, St James' Park|
Thu 08th Oct 2009 08:52
Nearly 2000 QPR fans made the long journey north last Wednesday to see Rangers earn a creditable draw against league leaders Newcastle.
1 – The Match
Did Stevie Wonder choose our strip for the day? When playing against a team that plays in black and white, what colours should you wear? Why black and white of course! I will concede that it was not difficult to tell the teams apart but, with that said, our blue and white hoops would have been a much better choice and would have added a bit of colour to the occasion. Rangers started off on the front foot and in the first ten minutes it looked as though it would be our day. We deserved our early lead, even though the goal came from a defensive blunder – the ball gifted to Watson who scored with a powerful deflected drive from 20 yards – and we were controlling the match. But it did not take long for the home side to find their feet and start to assert themselves and apply steady pressure. While QPR did put together some pretty passing patterns and did try to play the ball out of defence, Newcastle were constantly harrying us on the ball in our own half and I lost count of the number of times Cerny had to clear a back pass under varying degrees of pressure, and on a couple of occasions was lucky his clearance wasn’t blocked. You could just feel the equaliser coming and it was really no surprise when the home side were awarded a penalty around the half hour mark, even though the decision was ludicrous – the ball being blasted onto Stewart’s arm from less than a yard away, the home crowd rising as one and screaming “handball”, and the referee immediately pointing to the spot. But Cerny saved brilliantly, diving low to his right to parry the ball away to safety. It seemed as though the pressure eased a bit as we ticked down to half time, but Newcastle were still on top. In the second half Rangers had a couple of glorious chances to make it 2-0 but somehow Newcastle survived those scares and continued to turn the screw. Although Rangers put in some solid tackles and defended stoutly, Newcastle appeared physically stronger overall and were often simply pushing us off the ball when we attacked, with Routledge in particular appearing very lightweight. When they attacked, they were really tearing us up down the flanks, the left flank in particular (QPR’s right), where they always seemed to have two-on-one as they came at us. Ironically, the equalizer finally came from a cross from the right (QPR’s left), which was headed back across goal for Harewood to blast in from close range. For a few minutes after the goal it looked as though we might end up coming away with nothing, but the match fizzled out as full time approached and we held on for a point. A tense and entertaining match with both teams contributing some nice football, and in the end honours even was about right.
2 – QPR Performance
Although this was definitely more of a defensive effort, with Cerny the clear man of the match for QPR, it was most certainly not all one-way traffic. QPR moved the ball well and created enough chances to have won it. Rowlands and Watson were a tough tackling duo in the centre of midfield and also contributed much to the nice passing game we played when in possession. Routledge teased the home team but was never able to deliver the killer punch and was easily pushed off the ball a couple of times when he looked a clear favourite as he chased the ball into the Newcastle penalty area. Defensively, Stewart and Gorkss were solid in the middle but Newcastle did make hay down the flanks. I’m not sure if it is fair to place all the blame on the full backs though, because Newcastle often seemed to contrive a numerical advantage out wide which meant that QPR’s wide midfield duo were neglecting their defensive duties. Buszaky and Vine seemed to flit in and out of the match and Simpson was mostly kept in check but did manage to wriggle free a couple of times. Overall, a solid team effort and a hard fought point that very easily could have been three, away from home against the table toppers.
3 – QPR Support
I have a little confession to make here – I did not sit in the QPR section. I was categorically told by the QPR Box Office that tickets for this match would not be going on general sale and since I live overseas I do not have a membership (I used to though, years ago – long story). I had done my homework on the ground and was well aware of my choices: 58 quid (membership plus ticket) times two for the worst seats in the house to sit with the other Rangers fans; or 25 quid times two for far better seats but not with the other Rangers supporters. For better or worse, I went with the latter and was in the very front row of Level 4, which I must say was about as far away from the pitch as I would have wanted to be and still feel that I had a reasonable view of the match. I thought that the Rangers fans would be right behind us but as it turned out they were on the other side of the same end. I did hear a couple of rousing songs coming from our section over the course of the 90 minutes but for the most part I could not hear much noise coming from there. However, 2,000 fans in Newcastle on a weeknight is a real testament to our away support.
4 – Atmosphere
There is no doubt about it, the Geordies are passionate about their football. The tension was palpable as the match progressed and we clung doggedly to our slender lead. The Newcastle fans behind us were singing regularly throughout the match and there was a continual buzz as Newcastle continued to press for an equaliser. Of course the place exploded when it finally came (gutted – just when I was starting to think we might pinch it!) and the buzz continued right to the final whistle.
5 – The Ground
Yes, I’m giving a really crappy mark to the ground that puts the away fans so far from the pitch that they can barely make out the players on a small patch of green in the far off distance. St. James’ Park is certainly a nice looking and well maintained stadium with a roof over everybody’s head, comfortable seats, and a capacity of over 50,000, all of which would seem to be deserving of a high mark. And if we were just talking about a comfortable place to seat over 50,000 people I would give it one. But the whole reason for being there is to watch football and this is an away day review, so I’m marking it from that perspective. Probably half of the seats in the ground are further from the pitch than I was, many of them much further, and the seats given to the away fans much, much, further. I can’t help thinking that we should try to find some balconies in White City to house the Newcastle fans when they come to LR as a retaliatory measure. We used to know how to build stadiums for football, with a second tier that was situated above the lower one to get the fans closer to the pitch, so why are we now building 50,000 seat bowls? And the decision to put the away fans in the worst seats in the house and then charge them a fiver more than any other seat at the same level is, quite frankly, a disgrace. I’d rather watch football from a temporary uncovered stand in the pouring rain at Bloomfield Road than from the nice dry and comfortable observatory that is the away section at St. James’ Park.
6 – The Journey
The journey to the ground was a short one since we had stayed the previous night in Middlesbrough to see my brother’s team play the previous evening. After a wonderful full English breakfast buffet at our hotel we headed out to Hartlepool via the Transporter Bridge and eventually meandered our way into Newcastle in the early afternoon. We did drive around a bit looking for parking since my brother had visions of finding the perfect parking place – free and a five minute walk from the ground – and I didn’t think a multi-storey car park would be a great idea for a quick getaway, since we were facing a drive of five hours plus to mid Wales after the match. But it all turned out well as by good luck rather than good judgement we happened across a nice small car park on College Street, which turned out to be only a ten minute walk from the ground and perfectly situated for the desired quick getaway. After the match my brother set his Sat. Nav. for Chester services and as we cruised past a sign for the A1(M) I thought we were golden and leaned back in my seat to relax. Unfortunately, it turns out that my brother’s Sat. Nav, which is now getting on a bit, is suffering from early onset dementia and the next moment he was cursing it and we were headed back into Newcastle! But we were soon on the right track again after a bit more human intervention. We got home at around 4am, a little punchy from lack of sleep and in a state of high amusement at my brother’s hilarious recap of the “Ladette to Lady” series, which I have never seen and which apparently started off with a bus load of Australian trollops – surely an excellent way to begin any reality TV programme.
7 – Pre Match
Since we are both, ahem, directionally challenged, our first order of business upon arrival was to locate the ground and plot our getaway. We then spent some time looking around the city centre and had a nice refreshing Starbucks break where my brother sank half a bottle of tequila. Well, actually it was a latte but he didn’t want me to say that in the away day review because he thought it sounded a bit soft for a pre-match drink. If you were unlucky enough to read one of my previous away day reviews it will come as no surprise to you that we somehow stumbled across a Pizza Hut for our pre-match meal. They were fresh out of the daily special pasta, which was a disappointment to my brother but of no concern to me as I tucked into my pepperoni and onion pizza. However, my understanding is that the salad bar more than made up for it. Newcastle is certainly a lovely place to visit, the locals are very friendly, and that Geordie accent is absolutely delightful!
8 – Police and Stewards
Didn’t even notice them. Well done!
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