|LFW Awaydays - Sheffield, Bramall Lane|
Thursday, 7th Jan 2010 18:55
On the pitch a creditable draw from a dire game, off it a trip down the local for the Northern R's.
1 - The Match
Urgh, dire. Championship football at its absolute worst. Both teams set up in standard, rigid 442 formations and made it very clear right from the off that the idea was going to be keeping the ball as far away from their own goal as possible and anything more than that was a bonus. As soon as the ball hit the deck in an attacking third it was immediately hoofed away down the field by both sets of defences in an attempt to turn their opposite numbers around and win throw ins, free kicks and corners. And that was it. For 90 minutes. Sheff Utd put together one passing move in the first half (three passes counted as a move in this dirge) and hit the bar, QPR managed one of their own and scored. United then equalised from a thrice cleared corner that eventually found its way onto the head of Richard Cresswell. The second half was more of the same, any chances created came from set pieces, and Ched Evans went close to winning it with a blockbusting free kick late on. Frankly if Messrs Hart and Blackwell think people want to pay to watch this dog turd they are very sadly mistaken. A game of such abysmal quality it became painful to watch.
2 - QPR Performance
Well, like I say, it was a dire, miserable, boring and drab affair and QPR did more than their fair share to contribute to that. Hogan Ephraim came on for the final 25 minutes and got the ball played into his feet for a run at the full back perhaps once if memory serves. He worked very hard, but it was all tackling and tracking back. The whole of the QPR side worked hard, looked more together and organised, performed much better than they had in the second half at Ipswich and deserve praise for that. This was a good result as well so credit to them. But it was frustrating that having shown with the first half goal that if you actually can get the ball down and move it around this prehistoric, cumbersome Sheffield United team they have no answer to it. We did that once in the whole afternoon, scored from it, and then immediately resorted to whacking long balls towards Agyemang again who wouldn’t win ball in the air against Morgan and Kilgallon even if he didn’t insist on ducking his head down every time he jumps for the ball.
3 - QPR Support
Straight after Christmas, in the cup, against dire opponents, in terrible weather, in the north, on a Sunday, with the club in meltdown again - and still a good 700/800 QPR fans there. Huge credit to all of them. Songs were a little thin on the ground but Sheff Utd’s bizarre fascination with Annie’s Song by John Denver did inspire message board regular Norfolt to try and get The Carpenter’s ‘Close to You’ adopted as our weird anthem and by the end of the second half his attempts were yielding quite a successful sing along in the far left block of the away end as you looked at the pitch. Listen out for that at future matches. Attention was distracted from the dirge on the pitch by talk of a film called ‘Latvian Fist’ and a female member of our travelling party who shall remain nameless confessing to feeling sorry for Chris Morgan when he got kicked in the face.
4 - Atmosphere
There was much talk over the weekend about attendances at cup matches - Wigan v Hull brought in barely 5000 for an all Premiership clash on Saturday. Bearing in mind Sheff Wed v Crystal Palace attracted only 8000-odd the previous day, at what is traditionally the better supported of the two teams, United did well to get more than 11,000. It is still much less than would be there for a league meeting between the sides and the atmosphere was very poor throughout. Quiet and unimpressed, as well we might be.
5 - The Ground
Still the best in the Championship for my money, although the addition of two feet of makeshift netting to the roof of the lower tier in the away end, presumably to stand Neanderthals from above dropping things and spit on those below, restricted the view from the back and looked hideous. Still, since it became fully enclosed Bramall Lane has become my favourite ground of all the regulars we visit - a proper, traditional, city centre based, fully enclosed football stadium with few obstructed views and a seat close to the field of play. The atmosphere is normally pretty good as well, although the reduced attendance affected that. Points off for not opening the bottle beer bar in the away end, although they were on sale from the refreshment kiosk. Another point off for serving Carling, which isn’t beer at all as even I recognise it and my standards are pretty low. Final point deducted for making those paying on the day traipse all the way round to the ticket office rather than have a single cash turnstile open - pointless and hugely inconvenient.
6 - The Journey
Short walk down Eccleshall Road to the ground. Of course I can cheat with this one as I can see the ground from my bedroom window, although I did contrive to do a proper cartoon like slid on the ice after the game where both feet simultaneously flew up into the air. The rating will be based on a combination of that, and the stories from Tracy and Colin who both travelled up from London and Royston respectively without any major problems other than it being standing room only from Doncaster on the way back.
7 The Pre Match
As usual the Northern R’s frequented the Old Monk next to the Crucible Theatre for the pre match beers. Close enough to the station to be walkable without attracting the idiot section off the trains, close enough to the ground to walk but far enough away not to be packed or attract unnecessary police attention, and with two Sky boxes showing all the football - although there was an initial panic when it seemed they were going to ignore Man Utd v Leeds and Celtic v Rangers in favour of the bloody cricket. Leeds’ win brought a big cheer, probably the only time you’ll ever find me, our group and people in Sheffield cheering for Leeds is when they beat that red scum, and there were various gasps of horror as one leg breaking tackle after another was waved away with a yellow card in the Old Firm match. I won the ‘how many bad fouls can Wes Brown commit after a booking without receiving a red card?’ sweepstake with a guess of eight and a good time was had by all. This used to be quite a dank and dingey pub, which considering the size of the room and the windows was quite an achievement, but the recent makeover has done it the world of good and the menu is now actually something you’d want to eat from rather than Wetherspoons style microwaved crap. The burgers, sourced from a local butchers, make it a worthwhile trip even if there isn’t a game on. Owain sadly had to once again suffer the breakfast sausage (a sausage, wrapped in an egg, wrapped in a pancake, and served in a bap) owing to QPR’s previous good results following its consumption and sure enough an unlikely draw was achieved to give the sausage a three match unbeaten run. Popped into Champs on Eccleshall Road after the game for the second half of West Ham and cup draw - left in disgust upon discovering the potential reward for beating a dire, miserable, long ball, northern mob would be a trip to another one.
8 - Police and Stewards
Notoriously difficult and over zealous on this ground in the past but very low key in this game. One QPR fan was slung out at half time after spending most of the first half hurling some pretty vile abuse at our own players, particularly Akos Buzsaky the pesky “Bulgarian”. Rather than wade into a crowd and cause a scene during a game they simply waited until half time and did it then which was sensible. A sit where you like and stand at the back policy was operated which was much appreciated.
Photo: Action Images
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