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LFW Awaydays - Reading, Madejski Stadium
LFW Awaydays - Reading, Madejski Stadium
Thursday, 1st Apr 2010 10:50

On the pitch QPR felt aggrieved with several refereeing decisions as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Reading, off the pitch Nik found himself right in amongst the enemy during the pre-match.

1 – The Match
Blimey. What can I say which hasn’t already been said? I’m normally quite sceptical when fans, players, and managers blame the referee for a result – you make your own luck in football – but I have never before seen a game where the referee was so completely responsible for the final outcome. For the first 30 minutes, QPR and Reading were evenly matched, with QPR soaking up early pressure from the home side and having a good go on the break. It looked like the second half could prove lively, but the referee, Gavin Ward, had other ideas. He spent most of the first half-an-hour with his whistle between his lips; but, for the last 15 minutes, and the second-half of the match, he may as well have painted his hand yellow. The sending off of Stewart for two yellow-card offences – one deserved, one not – tipped the balance of the game in favour of Reading. The home fans may point to countless fouls given in favour of QPR, but there is no denying that Reading had the better share of free-kicks and with only 1 yellow card to our 6, the better share of justice.

In the second half, QPR kept backs to the wall, with 9 men behind the ball and Priskin wondering alone up-front, watching the long-balls drop out of his reach (he wouldn’t have been able to control them anyway). This tactic worked for 40 minutes with Gorkss and Connolly mopping up any cross-field balls and defending the goal-line as if their lives depended on it, but as Reading grew tired of this tactic and tried running with the ball instead, the defence crumbled. The penalty was difficult to see from my angle, but I will blame Hill never-the-less as his positional sense and ability to tackle can both be questioned. QPR could have equalised, but wasted plenty of crosses by aiming them exclusively at Gorkss, who had three Reading defenders to contend with, and when the ball did reach feet it unfortunately reached the right-boot of Peter Ramage, who could do no more than volley into the chest of a Reading player.

Not a game for the neutrals, lovers of justice, or QPR fans.

2 – QPR Performance
Far too difficult to judge. QPR soaked up the early pressure well and tried to hit Reading on the break. Before the sending off, Rangers were taking control of the game, but after that calamitous decision, the strategy was one of damage limitation, which was ultimately set to fail with our defensive record this season. Perhaps, given a fair chance in the second half, we could have won, but in hindsight, after watching the Derby game last week, who knows what could have come out of the tunnel after the break.

3 – QPR Support
More than 2,000 away fans wouldn’t be an unfair estimation of the number who piled into the Waitrose Stadium. Your reporter arrived with 15 minutes to spare and spent most of that time stuck in a queue for tickets – compare that to the Coventry game, were desperate QPR fans were standing in the rain, literally throwing their tickets at anyone gullible enough to take them.

During the first half, the 2,000 didn’t quite make themselves heard, but as the banter began to flow between the home and away fans, especially after the sending off, the noise became almost Newcastle-esque. There was quite a bit of agro between the two sets of fans, caused in no small part by the stewards removing half of the safety netting that sat between both sets of fans. A couple of missiles were thrown and some toys fell out of one or two prams, but as the Reading fans didn’t stay much past the 90th minute, and the QPR fans stayed to cheer the losing team from the pitch, the flashpoints were few.

4 – Atmosphere
Dull...see below

5 – The Ground
The Ricoh Law in physics dictates that: the higher the concentration of retail outlets outside a football stadium, the lower the quality of atmosphere inside the stadium. The Madejski, parked between a B&Q and a CostCo (not a Waitrose as I originally thought, but surely that would be better than CostCo?), falls foul of this law: it is a soulless bowl which looks like it was built with Lego. I don’t know why Reading don’t just play in the aisles of one of their neighbouring stores; in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Madejski doubles up as an Allied Carpets for six days of the week. No pubs for at least 100 miles and 20-30 minutes away from the city centre by bus. Are they actually in Reading? Why don’t they rename themselves M4 Junction 11 United, at least then it would be easier to find.

6 – The Journey
Living in Oxford, the journey to Reading took me a grand total of 26 minutes on the train: the complete opposite of Clive’s trips to West London on a Saturday. The journey to the ground was more difficult, but I managed to find a bus full of friendly white and blue hooped fans, which was travelling from a city centre pub to the ground.

7 – Pre Match
Arriving in Reading at 6.00 after a long-day at work, I decided to avoid the usual chants and cheers of the away fans who were spilling out of the Three Guineas pub next door to the train station, and headed for a small, independent pub which had been recommended to me by the Good Pub Guide and a couple of Reading locals (before you ask, yes I am writing this from a rocking chair, sucking on a pipe, with the heating set to 28C, whilst moaning about the draft through the front door). After pissing off a taxi driver who had to drive me the short distance to the pub (he wanted me to walk as he had been waiting for a bigger fair – look, you’re a taxi driver, drive the taxi to wherever I want to go, I’ll pay you, and you can go and pick someone else up, that is how it works), I entered the Nag’s Head – a large, traditional looking pub (big red door, steamed up windows, music which stops when you enter, etc). Turns out, it was a home fans pub...every wall plastered with programmes and fanzines from the Boer War to the present day, a TV showing Reading vs. Villa from the cup on a continuous loop...even the dog was called Madejski. But, by the time I realised this, I was stuck. Instead of turning on my heels and running, I ordered a drink and some food (great food – if you’re ever in Reading on a non-match day, visit the Nag’s Head), and asked the bar man the quickest way to the ground. Why, it was the pub bus of course! How stupid of me. Before I knew it, a blonde bar lady handed me a pint glass full of money and raffle tickets, and £2.50 later, I had a ticket for the Nag’s Head express to the Madejski. A couple of drinks for courage and I was on the bus, sat silently in the corner, reciting Ranger’s chants over and over in my heard and trying not to get a sudden burst of tourettes. Actually, he wouldn’t have mattered if I had. The bus was full of students and Saga members, discussing their last day trip to Bangor, all musing on how many goals Reading would concede. Considering their recent run of form I found this surprising. 25 minutes later we arrived. Strangest way to travel to a game, and I wouldn’t advise it in Millwall, but I had a seat, we made it on time, and it was a damn sight cheaper than the £3.00 bus I took back to the station.

8 – Police and Stewards
No sign of the police, but the stewards were notable by their stupidity. Not only did they remove the netting separating the seats between the home fans and away fans, but they put the equivalent of a one man Dad’s army in the netting’s place to act as a human barrier, and subsequently turned a blind eye to threats from both fans and the occasional missile. At one point, a plucky steward decided it was a risk to have so many QPR fans standing in the aisle (presumably because the B&Q shelf-stacker would need to get through at half-time and replace the tungsten tip screws) and asked them to find a seat – seconds later they were back in the aisle and his next course of action was to roll his eyes and sit back down.
Total – 39/80

Photo: Action Images

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