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LFW Awaydays – Exeter, St James’ Park
LFW Awaydays – Exeter, St James’ Park
Thursday, 13th Aug 2009 13:05

A standard League Cup First Round fixture turned into an epic 14 hour drinking session and day at the races as LoftforWords headed for the South West earlier this week.

1 – The Match
A tightly fought and nerve jangling first half gave way to a complete cake walk in the second as QPR stepped it up a level or two and Exeter struggled to live with us. Before half time QPR struggled to put anything together and although Rowan Vine hit the top of the crossbar and Agyemang also benefitted from a goal mouth scramble it was Exeter that shaded the first 45 and had several chances to take the lead before the break. Once Jim Magilton had laid into his troops over the oranges things were different – the second half was a very one sided affair with QPR scoring five and having three more cleared from the goal line. Wayne Routledge got a hat trick, the third of which came from the penalty spot after a deliberate handball and inevitable red card for Scott Goldbourne, and there were goals too for Alessandro Pellicori and a pearler from Hogan Ephraim. At half time any neutrals in the crowd probably thought they had a fair chance of seeing an upset but QPR stepped it up in the second half and were good value for their win.
6/10

2 – QPR Performance
A thumping away win and a first five goal haul on the road since Easter 1993 would lead you to believe that a rating of nine or ten is coming here but in truth the scoreline flattered Rangers somewhat. Exeter were well in this game for the thick end of an hour and the first goal that opened the floodgates came somewhat out of the blue. You can see a lot of what Jim Magilton wants to bring to QPR’s pattern of play already, but at times in the first half the players struggled to put it into practice. Rowan Vine and Patrick Agyemang were pretty poor up front which meant a lot of moves stalled or broke down having reached them. After half time, or rather after the first goal, those moves started to string together a lot better and as we moved up through a couple of gears Exeter crumbled, and then collapsed completely after the sending off. On a night when Derby and Sheffield United both succumbed to teams from a division below Exeter we were professional, clinical and ruthless when given the opportunity and you cannot ask for much more than that.
7/10

3 – QPR Support
The man with the microphone teased the travelling 813 from W12 before the match about the lack of noise being generated from the away end but to be honest this was a good following from the faithful. The away end stretches the support out about ten deep right round behind the goal, the corner of the pitch and into the side stand and with no roof over most of it that does not lend itself well to creating an atmosphere. Still, considering the mileage we have to cover this week and our record in the early stages of this competition recently I thought the numbers were good and the mood amongst those that made the trip was upbeat and optimistic, even at half time when it looked like it was going to be one of those nights. As the goals flew in it did give rise to a terrace quiz with questions like ‘last penalty away from home’, ‘last time we scored five away from home,’ and ‘last QPR hat trick away from home’ all taxing the brain cells at the end of a long day of drinking.
7/10

4 – Atmosphere
The gorgeous summer weather and the way St James’ Park is designed gave this more of a pre-season friendly feel than that of a rip roaring, threatening cup tie. Exeter come across as a really friendly club – owned by the fans, on its way up the league, in a nice part of the world and very welcoming to visiting fans. That is probably not the sort of intimidating atmosphere the team wanted to create for higher division opposition and as the goals rattled in through the second half it felt more and more like a summer kick about with nothing at stake. The away end was not conducive to building a great atmosphere among the away fans and the home fans that were signing seemed to be right at the back of the big terrace behind the goal at the far end so it was hard to make out any noise coming from there. Credit to the home fans for upping the noise levels and giving their team a good send off in stoppage time despite the scoreline.
5/10

5 – The Ground
Half of St James’ Park is fit for the League One level it now finds itself at, the other half most certainly is not – guess which bit we got. A smart single tiered seated stand stretches down one side of the pitch with an impressive covered terrace of similar height and design behind one of the goals. The away fans though get the other two stands – entering through a small turnstile block at the back of a shallow terrace behind the goal and then having to make your way round to the seats through the standing fans and a small gate with a steward checking tickets. I had paid the pound extra to sit originally but my view was obstructed by one of the many supporting pillars in the tiny side stand and was very close to the Exeter fans who share the stand with the visitors – should the traditional QPR cup upset take place I did not very much fancy that so instead I perched on the end of the terrace level with the edge of the penalty box. The view was decent enough all things considered and it was nice to watch competitive football from a terrace again. The toilets were as you would expect from a lower league ground of this age. Overall though it was a pleasant place to watch football, whether I would say the same if I was stuck on that terrace for the FA Cup Third Round in the middle of January I don’t know.
5/10

6 – The Journey
As I will come onto shortly the quirk of the fixture list and cup draw sending us to the South West three times in a week smacked of a chance for a week off work and a few days out in a nice part of the world. We had planned a day at the races prior to this fixture which required a very early, 6.30am early, set off from Sheffield in the morning for Phil and myself. In an attempt to avoid the evil Nottingham roadworks and the bastard average speed check that goes with them I took the A38 down past Burton and then promptly got lost around Birmingham looking for the M42 and M5 – whenever I followed signs for them I found myself being bumped off onto the M6 toll road and with road tax, petrol tax, petrol VAT and every other rip off cost to the motorists of Britain they can think again if they reckon I am going to spend £4 to take my car on a bloody toll road. Anyway we were soon back on the right track and although the M5 down past Bristol and then to Exeter (how can it be 76 miles from Bristol to Exeter for goodness sake?) was a complete drag and littered with its own stretches of 50mph average speed checks for no reason whatsoever we arrived at roughly 11am. Tuesday turned into a bit of a session in the end which meant Wednesday morning was spent trying to sober up enough to get the car home. We eventually left at 10.30am, went through the Nottingham roadworks this time, and arrived back in Sheffield at 2.30pm. Points off for having to drive because I hate it, and will have to do it again next Tuesday for Bristol, but as car trips go it wasn’t bad with no real problems or hold ups.
6/10

7 – Pre-Match
The first thing we did after arriving in Exeter was try and find something to eat. We were staying that night at the Jury’s Inn in the city centre and a short walk from there took us to the Co-op where I had, and let me try and remember this, a pastrami, Monterey Jack cheese, bacon, salad and something else New York deli style sandwich. It was revolting. Once the three lads from London had arrived we had a swift half then got a taxi down to the station and a train out to Newton Abbot for the racing.

That train ride is a unique experience, running so close to the sea that the waves actually lap against the track side fence at high tide. The sun was beaming down by now, despite a weather forecast of 21 and cloudy, and a 20 minute ride along the cost with the carriage window down and the wind whistling past was a very pleasant way to spend a morning. I know I am a miserable git sometimes but it is hard not to feel anything other than completely relaxed and contented as you look out over the beach and the sea from the bar of a moving train. Newton Abbot itself seemed like a very nice place as well and after trying a couple of pubs there we walked down to the race course in time for the 2.15.

Over the course of three hours and six races plenty of beers were sunk, skin was burnt, bets were placed, Phil lost all his money and I managed to pick three winners by following jockey Richard Johnson – had he won the first race when he really should have done a lucrative treble would have been mine. The one blot on the copy book was being beaten by a horse in red and black hoops that we had all picked out earlier in the day and then forgotten to back – despite that I came out on top for the day, the sun shone all afternoon, the beer was cold, the locals were friendly and there was even time for a swift drink at the station, and three or four more in Exeter before the game.

After the match we headed for ‘town’, or to what we basically thought must be ‘town’ when we were sick of walking, and to be honest it is all a bit of a blur from here on. At one point it occurred to me that I'd sunk the best part of 14 bottles of beer with only half that disgusting Co-op sandwich to soak it up so I was in Dominos Pizza at one point, placing an order under the name Bruce for some bloody stupid reason, and I remember having bits of my pizza stolen on a street corner at one point. We met up with the famous Mel 'Norfolt' who had left the game at half time with the score 0-0, and there was a blonde girl with an unbelievably sexy voice outside the old Fire Station at one point. We ended up drinking Budvar by candlelight in there and endearing ourselves to the locals trying to enjoy a romantic evening out by spending ten minutes trying to set up some form of drunken team photo in the middle of the bar. I also remember Andy trying to break into a pub that was very obviously closed and being advised by a passer by never, ever, ever to go in The Locomotive. But that’s about it.

It was something of a surprise to me to open my eyes later on and find myself in a hotel room, that I presumed to be mine, as I had no recollection of getting to it or what it looked like from the previous day. Still, one of those truly great days out.
10/10

8 – Police and Stewards
Apart from the one operating the gate into the seated side stand I saw none of the latter. There were a few police around outside but they were all very chatty and helpful in pointing the confused amongst us in the right direction before the kick off.
9/10
Total 55/80

Links >>> Match Report >>> Awayday League

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