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LFW Awaydays - Preston, Deepdale
LFW Awaydays - Preston, Deepdale
Thursday, 1st Apr 2010 23:53

Great pubs, an entertaining game, and foot in mouth disease on the train all went into a memorable Northern R's trip to Preston last Saturday to see the R's come from behind to draw 2-2.

1 – The Game
Considering the mediocre league positions of these two teams at the start of play this was a game of surprisingly high quality. It ebbed and flowed, both teams could have won, both could have lost, and in the end a thoroughly entertaining encounter came down to chances missed rather than the four that were taken. I felt QPR were marginally, no more than that, the better of the two sides throughout the game with Adel Taarabt a clear and obvious man of the match – tormenting Preston seemingly at will, disappearing from the game for five minutes and then bursting back onto the scene with a series of sublime touches and runs. Nevertheless it was Preston who took a commanding lead in the game – thoroughly rank defending from a corner that was preceded by Ross Wallace displaying the sort of behaviour you often see from short arse Scottish numpties like him in pubs on Friday nights and proceeded by defending you would then see from that same pub team on the Sunday morning allowed Billy Jones time and space to fire home the first. Rangers defended by the seat of their pants for most of the match with Gorkss and Stewart looking seriously uncomfortable with the physical presence of Mellor and Parkin. When Gorkss got the wrong side of Parkin from a free kick just after half time a big chance was always likely and in his attempts to gt back Gorkss wrestled his man to the ground and conceded a penalty. Warnock protested, but it was blatant and obvious. Callum Davidson took the perfect spot kick and it seemed Preston would win easily – not so, wonderful approach work from Taarabt set Ramage up to halve the deficit with his second of the season and then within ten minutes the Moroccan had teed up much maligned Tamas Priskin for the equaliser in almost identical circumstances. When Taarabt miraculously pulled off the same edge of the penalty box move for a third time shortly after it seemed harder for Rowan Vine to miss than score, but miss he did, fluffing his close range shot over the bar. Neil Mellor went through on goal after more hesitant play from Stewart in the last seconds of injury time but Ikeme pulled off a fine save leaving both teams disappointed yet relieved with their point. Great stuff though.

2 – QPR Performance
Good, very good in fact, and unfortunate not to yield three points. With fixtures coming thick and fast and money thin and thinner I have missed several games of late for the first time in many years. Consequently I haven’t really been able to get a firm view on how the team is evolving under Neil Warnock. I saw us against West Brom when we were brilliant, missed us against Plymouth when we were said to be workmanlike in victory, saw us at Sheff Utd where we did well to fight back for a point and should have won, missed us at Reading where all reports suggested we were the better team and undone by the referee, saw us against Swansea where I thought we were second best for the first hour then well on top for the last third of the game and missed the Derby home game that had some fans with goldfish like memories branding us a long ball outfit and claiming the game was the worst they’d ever seen. So I didn’t really know what to expect at Deepdale.

What I saw was a QPR team playing good football, excellent football at times. The plan, particularly in the second half when we were irresistible for half an hour in which we scored twice and should have had two more besides, was clearly to get the ball down to feet and get people like Taarabt, Vine and Ephraim running at the Preston defence. Taarabt was magical all afternoon, the second time this season he has single handedly battered Preston hinting at meagre opposition from the PNE defence, but Ephraim and Vine were both better than they have been for some time. There was very little long ball, and when we did play it it proved ineffective and German was removed at half time for that reason. For me this was a performance harking back to our all conquering October and in the same way we came back against Derby we could easily have come from two down to win here. On the negative side the defending was woeful – Gorkss and Stewart failed miserably to cope with Mellor and Parkin, and constantly created problems for themselves by allowing long balls to bounce rather than dealing with them in the first instance. As soon as a defender allows a ball to bounce he has a problem.

3 – QPR Support
It’s a long trip this, right up to the cusp of the Lake District almost, and with the trains expensive and the ground not walkable from the station we rarely seem to bring a big following up here. I’d say we were down to the usual 500 or so die hards, with a gang of 20 or so singers at the back and not a lot of noise from the away end all in all. I was pleased to see the fans make the effort to stay to the end and applaud the players for their considerable efforts though. There is a tendency, particularly at home games, to automatically boo at half time and full time if we’re not winning, regardless of circumstances, but I think those that travelled recognised that we’d played well and deserved more from the game judging by the reaction at the end.

4 – Atmosphere
As I’ll come onto shortly Deepdale is now fully enclosed, and the absence of an old abandoned stand or building site to our left certainly helps the acoustics in the place. The stand behind the goal is split half and half between home and away, and as usual in such circumstances Preston had a gang of idiots who like to stand as close to the away end as possible and goad the visiting supporters rather than actually watch the match. The mentality of such people mystifies me. Although it must be said not as much as the mentality of somebody who, when Manchester United are playing 15 miles down the road on the same day, comes to Preston North End in a Preston shirt, with Man Utd tracksuit bottoms. For those of us who decided to sit right across to the left of the away end to avoid the moronic element to the right, we were treated to a gang of the thickest people walking God’s green earth bumbling around on their knees and clenched fists in the new side stand to our left. They watched, let’s be honest here, absolutely none of the game, spending their time instead standing facing the away end, arms outstretched in what presumably was some sort of gesture of intimidation (if you’re reading this lads, highly doubtful, that means you wanna fight innit) for the entire match. One of them was indeed wearing United tracksuit bottoms, a fact not missed by the QPR fans on that side of the stand, but he kept thumping the Preston badge on his chest like some caged ape as if that negated the completely different crest on his thigh. Now the QPR equivalent is coming to Loftus Road on Saturday in an Arsenal baseball cap, or a Tottenham t-shirt, or Chelsea tracky bottoms. Just stop and try and imagine circumstances other than you having a very serious road accident rendering you completely brain dead in which that might happen. They breed them thick, northern and chavy round these parts. Anyway, atmosphere, after last season’s fevere surrounding Preston’s successful play off push it was all sadly lacking in comparison although the fully enclosed grounds certainly improves things.

5 – The Ground
A really excellent Championship stadium, one of the best around. Proof, as if it were needed, that the answer to stadium issues is not always to sell up and quickly jump into bed with Tesco on some God forsaken retail park in the middle of bloody nowhere. Preston have completely rebuilt their Deepdale home on the site of the original ground. While I’m not a fan of a ground with open corners, Deepdale would be a fabulous place if it was fully enclosed, the result is a brand new, state of the art, proper football ground. I have sat here and slagged off Leicester, Coventry, Southampton and other new grounds for the last five years and yes Preston do technically have an entirely new ground, but allow me to explain why this is different. Firstly it’s in the town, not close enough to the railway station, town centre and pubs really but still in the town and easily accessible rather than out by the M6 with only a Pizza Hut and Brantano footwear for poor people warehouse for company. The stands are steep and close to the pitch. All the identikit new stadiums built stick the supporters behind grass, a row of hoardings, more grass, more hoardings, a gravel track, more hoardings, a concrete walkway, and then a vast expanse of slowly sloping stands until you wonder, in the case of Leicester, why you didn’t just take a telescope to the railway station and watch it from there. The extravagant roof supports and floodlight pylons add character and uniqueness to the stadium. It’s just a proper football ground, as new football ground’s should be. The tickets are very reasonably priced as well, making the attendance of only just over 12,000 all the more mystifying. I love the place, second only to Bramall Lane in our league in my opinion

6 – The Journey
One change, at Manchester, for the Northern R’s heading over from Sheffield but not a good journey at all. We normally get the 1011 from Sheffield to provide extra changeover time at Manchester but decided to risk the 1042 in the interests of extra sleep and breakfast in the steel city. That gave us just nine minutes to change at Manchester but still should have had us in Preston in time for the Palace v Cardiff kick off. Sadly upon arrival at Sheffield we found our train to be advertised 25 minutes late, and although this farcically came in to just a four minute delay we still arrived in Piccadilly late where we then found our connection to Preston was also 15 minutes late. I say we, that’s Steve, Ellis and me. Phil was meant to be joining us, but missed the train at Sheffield by feet, and then did the same at Manchester. In the end though because our train from Manchester stopped at every single farm house on the way to Preston he managed to overtake us on a later service and was waiting for us when we got there. Not only did we stop at every station, halt, siding and junction but we also ground to a slow and painful halt at every third signal, only for the bloody thing to change just as we got to it, like the signalman had forgotten about us and only changed our lights when we lit up as stationary at the control centre. If they want sympathy for their poxy strike they will have to do a damn site better than this. For no reason whatsoever we arrived 30 minutes later into Preston by which time Palace were already a goal down.

On the way back things were better. Everything ran to time, and for reasons unknown the Preston to Manchester train declassified first class allowing us to sit in there with standard tickets. There was some unpleasantness at Salford when I suggested Ellis might like to check out the chest on the girl sitting in another compartment, only to find I was actually sitting next to her Mother, but that soon passed when we changed trains. The four of us proved why plebs like us should not be allowed in first class by breaking the table lamp.

From Sheffield I was due to head to Scunthorpe to catch up on the Hull FC game from earlier in the evening (wish I hadn’t bothered) and a gang of Grimsby fans fresh from a 4-1 defeat at Rochdale filled the air with smoke and songs celebrating Peter Sutcliffe’s art of killing Yorkshiremen. That made the last hour or so of the trip a real ball ache.

7 – Pre Match
When we did eventually make it to Preston we went in The Old Vic opposite the station taxi rank. We’d used it before, knew it had Sky and liked its proximity to the taxi rank o we could make a quick getaway to the ground at half two. That all worked out very nicely. They had the Scottish football (not even a sport) on ESPN which was being watched by one man and a ghost, and the Championship match for the rest of the people in there on separate screens and Steve and Ellis had half a cooked chicken each at dirt cheap prices. That was all very agreeable, although after the match we went in The Station which previously made you swear allegiance to the IRA before you walked through the door but is now a really fancy gastro pub with superb food and a sports bar at the back. We’ll probably try there next year as it looked superb. Back in Sheffield another excellent new addition to the pub scene, the Sheffield Tap, provided us with Quilmers from its vast array of beers from around the world as I tried to avoid glances from my girlfriend's ex at the other end of the bar. Three great pubs on the day, not often we can say that in this column.

Police and Stewards
Always completely over active and anal in this part of the world and no different on Saturday. When you’re literally wheeling a disabled bloke out of the ground you’ve got to ask yourself if your crowd control among 500 QPR fans in an away end built for 3000 is going a little bit too far. The decision to lift a disabled bloke at half time, seemingly for throwing packets of mustard around, caused fraught arguments on the concourse throughout half time. QPR fans with vaguely good memories will remember fans being lifted from an away following of 200 one cold Tuesday night for the heinous crime of standing up at the back. Basically they seem to enjoy creating hassle in a sparsely populated away end and did so again on Saturday – I would say ‘God knows what they do when they play Blackpool’ but I’d hazard a guess at ‘absolutely nothing’ because that would be genuine confrontation and aggro, rather than simply an opportunity for them to get all Bertie Big Bollocks at the thought of being given a yellow/orange/blue jacket and bossing around a handful of football fans.
Total – 49/80

Photo: Action Images

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