|LFW Awaydays - Derby County, Pride Park|
Mon 06th Sep 2010 18:53 by Awaydays
A late, late show on the pitch and a later than anticipated night out in Derby as the Northern R’s hit the road again last weekend.
On the pitch
It’s a bit hard to know where to start this section this week as I missed the best bit. The 91 minutes of action I saw were heavily weighted in Derby’s favour – the Rams worked very hard, successfully kept our better players out of the game, and were good value for their 2-0 lead going into stoppage time at the end of the game. It was one of those “we wouldn’t score if we stayed here all night” moments, so I didn’t, turning instead and heading for the pub as the stoppage time board went up in the hope of being far enough away from the ground by the time they launched into another bloody chorus of Steve Bloomer’s Watching.
So as far as I’m concerned the QPR performance was pretty abject and the Derby one pretty impressive. Ultimately though credit must go to QPR never giving up and fighting back in stoppage time during which they scored twice and survived a one on one with Paddy Kenny at the other end all in three minutes. And the main criticism of Derby on the day would be their tactics of simply kicking for touch, wasting time, and then passing up an opportunity to maintain possession when they had it at 2-1 in stoppage time that enabled QPR to score. Rangers showed great determination, the Rams tremendous naivety, and in the end neither team really got what it deserved when you assess the whole 90 minutes.
For QPR Taarabt was quiet – hindered, though not totally marked out of the game as the man himself suggests, by Robbie Savage who was nevertheless impressive for Derby. I do wonder whether things would have turned out more in QPR’s favour had Taarabt scored an early one on one chance with Bywater after wriggling away from Savage’s clutches and slipping between two defenders in the box. Jamie Mackie followed that shot up but saw his effort blocked, his work rate and equalising goal made him the top QPR man. Taarabt wasn’t alone in putting a below par performance in though – Orr and Faurlin both had their worst games for the club so far and Connolly and Gorkss really struggled, especially when Cywka came on in the second half.
Ultimately Rangers were hugely fortunate to get anything out of the game at all – but it’s that ability to fight back when not playing well that lifts you above sides that play well but allow opportunities to pass them by as Derby did.
Scores >>> QPR performance 5/10 >>> Opposition performance 7/10 >>> Referee performance 4/10
In the stand
It’s a fairly easy trip up the M1 or Midland mainline from London for QPR fans, and after a fine start to the season it was no surprise to see in excess of 1500 R’s in attendance at Pride Park. As far as the ground goes, it’s all a bit same old same old. It’s a new ground with no soul, it’s way out of the city centre in the middle of an industrial estate, the roads around it are a nightmare before and after the game and pubs are few and far between in the immediate vicinity.
It is though, as new grounds go, one of the better ones. Firstly Derby do actually get close to filling it and creating an atmosphere, although the number of empty seats increases every time we visit here as the Rams continue to languish in the lower reaches of this division. Still, a good crowd and a good atmosphere for the most part and although it’s hard to distinguish one new ground from another most of the time Derby are at least doing their bit to put their mark on Pride Park – an impressive statue of Clough and Taylor was unveiled outside the ground before the match, if only there was scope at Loftus Road for us to do similar things for our legends.
We had to sit where we were told in the away end, as opposed to the usual unreserved policy, although we just decamped to the top right hand corner of the away end where there were some spare seats knocking around and we could all watch the game together. The more boisterous element of the QPR support joined us up there before kick off and, apart from a few kicks in the back from one of the more inebriated members of the brethren, that wasn’t a problem at all. The chant about paying the Derby fans’ benefits raised a smile, the one about Robbie Savage looking like a girl was the stuff of six year olds on an infant school playground. Surely to Christ we can do better than that? The stewards waded in a couple of times to throw QPR fans out, although they weren’t in the same league as the officious bastards at Sheff Utd last time out.
Savage wound the away supporters up in the second half – racing over to an incident where a QPR attack had been interrupted by the referee who wanted Shaun Barker to receive treatment for an injury he inflicted on himself through crass incompetence to applaud the official’s actions and continue applauding while looking at the QPR fans. Why he felt that necessary, other than because he’s one of life’s genuine knobs, is beyond me. At that point it looked like the game was lost and so any abuse directed back his way had a hollow ring to it – one of the biggest regrets I have from the day, apart from missing the goals, is missing the look on Savage’s face at full time. And, for that matter, the reaction of the fat Derby fan in the club’s away shirt (40+ year old men in replica shirts? Discuss) who had plenty to say in the direction of the away end throughout the game but was probably a little subdued at the end.
Points off for the number who lost faith and left before the end, and it certainly wasn’t just me.
Scores >>> QPR support 7/10 >>> Home support 7/10 >>> Overall atmosphere 7/10 >>> Stadium 7/10 >>> Police and stewards 6/10
On the road
I quite like East Midlands Trains. As far as train companies go they’re not over expensive, you can always get from one end of their line to the other for £30 or less, the trains are frequent and rarely overcrowded and, touch wood, I’ve never had any severe delays with them. However since moving to Corby they have started to irritate me slightly.
For instance, the only trains that stop at Kettering are the ones that go to Nottingham. So it’s impossible to meet friends coming down for home games from Sheffield as the Sheffield train goes straight through Kettering, and similarly I had to change at Leicester on my way to Derby because none of the Kettering trains go to Derby on a Saturday. It all seems a little daft and surely there must be a way of alternating so some Sheffield trains stop there and some don’t. Anyway, geeky train complaint of the day out of the way.
I got a lift into Kettering from my girlfriend who then went off to a family reunion, not complaining too loudly about me choosing to go to the football instead to her credit, and I used the change in Leicester to try and scout out some better pubs than the Walkabout for our visit there later in September. I failed. God it’s a poor place for pubs Leicester. I met Tracey on the Derby train, she’d invested in a first class ticket for the journey north but claimed it had seen ruined by the presence of a screaming child so was happy to come and sit with me in the cheap seats and regale me with a tale of woe from during the week where a friend of hers scratched an insect bite off his foot and nearly bled to death as a result. Just what you need before breakfast.
I was supposed to head back on the 6pm train with Tracey but, as will become apparent shortly, the euphoria of the comeback kept us in Derby late into the night and in the end I was on the very last train south of the night. They kicked me out at Loughborough, although I think that was a scheduled change, and then again at Kettering for Corby. There was some unpleasantness at Kettering where the rigours of the day caught up with me and I may, or may not British Transport Police, have been a little ill. Then rather than wait 40 minutes for a Corby train I jumped on the Corby bus which was handily sitting outside the station as I arrived.
There and back for £13.
Scores >>> Journey 7/10 >>> Cost 7/10
In the pub
Many moons ago at Colchester the Northern R’s set the record for most ejections from pubs in a single day – I think we managed eight between noon and 3pm. The problem that day was that we were wearing QPR shirts under jackets, so there’d be no problems with the door staff but as soon as we got inside and removed the coats a home fans only policy was quickly enforced and we were turned around. Ultimately we sat and sweated at the back of the Wetherspoons I think.
That was a dire day and since then a strict dress code policy has been in force on our away trips – nothing must be warn that could distinguish us as QPR fans to pub staff. Even when Paul is with us with his chav hair and dodgy beard our travelling party doesn’t exactly look like football fans on a day out and we haven’t had a problem since.
The non-threatening appearance did us big favours at Derby where we were able to gain access to the Waterfall opposite the train station which operates a home fans only policy. I like the Waterfall because it’s got plenty of space, it has the live football on at lunchtime, the food is passable, it’s walking distance from the ground and it rarely gets too full. The doormen are pretty relaxed with their home fans only policy, we saw a guy at the bar with a QPR tattoo on his leg for instance, but Tracey insisted on exaggerating a story for them anyway and was out there for a good five minutes asking who Derby were playing and whether they were expecting any trouble. Phil was apprehended by the doorman and refused entry, until he pointed us out as his "Derby mates" and then in we went.
In the end there was a decent crowd of us in there – four from Sheffield, one from Germany via Oxford, one from Staines, two from London and one from Corby – and we enjoyed the beer and Blackburn v Arsenal through until about half two with no problems. Extra mark for the pub selling match programmes as well, which was a nice touch and something QPR should look into. Quote of the pre-match, which shall remain unattributed for fear of causing embarrassment – “Are you from west side Staines or east side?” “Hmmmm, I suppose it depends which way you hold the map up.”
After, or in the case of Tracey and me during, the match we all went back to the Waterfall for what was supposed to be a couple of drinks before we all boarded the train around 6pm. Of course after the late show at Pride Park, which seven of the nine stayed to see, nobody was very much in the mood for going home so we all piled into a very swanky Indian restaurant round the corner for a curry. Sheffield Steve, who had offered to pay, was, I think, aiming for a cheaper Indian a little further up the road but the food was right up there with some of the best curries I’ve had so it was worth a bit extra. It was Steve, honest. It was a real shame when a big dose of the hiccups/far too much beer, forced me to return quite a bit of it onto the tracks at Kettering station later that evening.
Scores >>> Pub 8/10 >>> Atmosphere 7/10 >>> Food 9/10 >>> Cost 7/10
Final score - 95/130