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LFW Awaydays - Crystal Palace, Selhurst Park
LFW Awaydays - Crystal Palace, Selhurst Park
Wednesday, 2nd Jun 2010 15:03

Part two of the LFW Awaydays catch up looks back at a fabulous day on and off the pitch in the South London sunshine as the R's sealed their Championship safety with a 2-0 victory against Neil Warnock's old club.

1 – The Match A match that hinged on an unfortunate incident less than five seconds after the kick off. From the kick off Palace knocked a long ball up towards Calvin Andrew, Damion Stewart went to challenge him and the pair clashed heads and could not continue. QPR’s reshuffle saw them move Ramage to centre half and Mikele Leigertwood to right back. This brought a number of positives – Ramage proved to b a far better centre half than a full back, Leigertwood wasn’t around the midfield area cluttering things up and giving the ball away as he had done remorselessly at Leicester and the centre of the QPR team had the talented Faurlin and Buzsaky in combination for the first time to great effect. Palace had planned, clearly, to play a long ball game and feed ff Andrew, without him they maintained that tactic (does Paul Hart know anything else?) but did so to Stern John who was comprehensively battered by Gorkss and Ramage. The all laid the platform for QPR to completely dominate for the best part of an hour during which Buzsaky fired home fro distance and Gorkss headed in from a corner. When Palace introduced Alan Lee in the second half the balance suddenly swung, he won everything in the air and the hosts had three chances to score in ten minutes. Lee then picked up another knock and had to be withdrawn, and that stunted them again. Run of the mill Championship fodder for a neutral, spectacularly entertaining for the travelling QPR fans.

6/10

2 – QPR performance One of the R’s best performances on the road this season, and so unexpected after the Easter Monday collapse at Leicester. It seems to be in such bad taste to suggest that the early withdrawal of Damion Stewart turned out to be a positive as big Damo has been playing reasonably well of late and it turned out that his clash of heads had resulted in a fractured skull and brain bleed that kept him in hospital for a week. Nevertheless the reshuffles caused by the withdrawal s of Stewart and Andrew worked massively in QPR’s favour. Rangers are so much better when Leigertwood is not involved in the centre of the midfield, especially with Faurlin and Buzsaky finally given a chance to play together – they cast aside fears of us being left open by the lack of a defensive central midfielder by completely taking Palace apart. Elsewhere Ramage was a revelation at centre half, Tosic impressive at left back and a vast improvement on Matt Hill and Cerny looked solid in goal. QPR played good, attractive, attacking football and deserved their win.

8/10

3 – QPR support Rangers don’t usually travel in particularly big numbers to Selhurst. The way South London sprawls out from the river with no pattern, reason or trunk roads means that it was probably easier for most QPR fans to get to Leicester the week before than it was to get to Selhurst, particularly with a number of train services cancelled due to engineering. That and the poor quality of the away end, extortionate ticket prices (that have come down a bit from their ludicrous £33 high of a few years ago) and our propensity to lose comfortably on every visit means that man R’s choose to give this one a miss. However as the game approached and our situation at the bottom of the league started to become more critical tickets started to shift and in the end Rangers got 2200 down there, and they made a great noise throughout the game. Probably our best away support of the season, to go with the team’s best away performance – and it’s really not often the team responds so well to a big following, normally they choke. The highlight was probably the girl in one of Crystal Palace’s junior sides who, during a lap of honour, lifted her Palace shirt to reveal a QPR strip underneath in front of the away end. Cue massive cheers and all her team mates trying to trip her up.

8/10

4 - Atmosphere Lovers of Italian football will be familiar with the idea of ‘the Ultras’ – the hardcore support of any club that in Italy tend to mass together behind the goal at home matches under a plethora of giant, brightly coloured, brilliantly designed banners and bounce and sing constantly to songs preferred by a leader hanging off the fence at the front with a megaphone. Being in the Stadio Olympico to watch Roma v Inter, with 40,000 home ‘ultras’ all in the same colour, all signing in unison, all holding flares in the team’s famous colours was an experience I will never forget. Crystal Palace are the first club to try anything similar in this country and, hmmm, it’s difficult to know what to say really.

Firstly the idea falls down through lack of numbers. The ‘Ultras’ number about 200, all bunched together at the front of the block near the away end. To their left and behind them the Palace fans are quietly watching the game. There’s no heaving mass of support dominating an end of the ground here. Secondly the gigantic banners, so brilliantly designed, that are a feature of the Italian and Eastern European models are not replicated here. One bed sheet with ‘South London is wonderful’ scrawled on it in poster paint does not an Ultra banner make. For our visit they all had a little plastic flag in the Palace colours to wave around as well, but they looked a bit like the free ones you get with a McDonalds Happy Meal. Thirdly in Italy the ‘Ultras’ are intimidating. At that Roma game Inter had a pocket of 1500 nutters in the corner, and they weren’t afraid, they were nasty bastards ready to take on all comers despite a numerical disadvantage and the away end being on fire for most of the game. At Palace their ‘Ultras’ are all aged between 14 and 18, children basically, and as they all stand there with their shirts off and their arms round each other bouncing up and down singing ‘we love you, we love you, wherever you will go, we follow, we follow’ it was about as intimidating as the video that went with the Village People’s classic hit Macho Man. Fourthly, and here’s where they really trip up, the biggest part off being an ‘Ultra’ on the continent is the away games. The banners, the flags, the songs, the attitude – everything goes with the group of nutters on the road and they stand loud and proud in the away end and give it the big un. The Palace ‘Ultras’, perhaps because they’re not old enough to go to away games by themselves yet, were nowhere to be seen at Loftus Road earlier this season.

In fairness it was good to be in a ground where the home fans were making some noise, and they did keep supporting their God awful team even when it was clearly letting them down so badly. Loftus Road is far, far too quiet at the moment and to some extent the Palace fans put us to shame. The atmosphere was so much better than it was at Leicester in their shiny new ground the week before and there was some decent banter between the home and away fans. It was just all a bit, I don’t know, is the word muggy?

7/10

5 – The Ground I always think Selhurst Park is a strange old place in many ways, nestling in amongst the houses and train stations of South London. It’s in a hole for a start, so when approaching the away corner from Norwood Junction you can only see the larged two tiered stand behind the goal, the rest is buried out of view. That newer stand for the home fans is a bizarre thing, with a huge curved roof and extravagant floodlights that look like the whim of a designer who had a bit of money left in his budget so thought he’d show off a little bit. The Arthur Wait stand that houses the QPR fans is an absolute shed with supporting pillars blocking 90 per cent of the views, wooden seats towards the back and a tiny concourse at the back for toilets and food. With only two exits from the stand and one from the concourse up a flight of steps it takes the best part of 20 minutes to get out afterwards if you are sitting at the front and I’ve always told myself that if an emergency evacuation was ever required there I’d be leaving via the pitch because you’d have no chance back there. To the right behind the other goal a small single tiered stand, topped off with two rows of executive boxes and a giant screen that shows Soccer Saturday before the game and at half time, not a bad idea that and certainly one we could look at for our own screen at Loftus Road. Then opposite us another old looking side stand with supporting pillars a plenty, although the unmistakeable figure of Simon Jordan that used to be clearly seen standing in the entrance to the director’s box is now, of course, absent. It’s looking its age basically, we were sitting near the front of the away end away from the pillars on the plastic seats and in the sun so it wasn’t bad for us at all but I know that the further back you are the more lousy your experience is.

5/10

6 – The Journey Usual trains down from Sheffield for the Northern R’s, and the usual Covent Garden café for breakfast. Then it was simply a case of walking across the Charing Cross bridge to Waterloo. I had planned to meet Tracy, Colin and the others under the clock, Del Boy style, before going to London Bridge for pre-match drinks. However once we found out Millwall were at home to Gillingham in the pikey derby that day we revised our plans and went to meet the regulars of the Vagrant at Clapham Junction instead. From there it was a quick ten minute hop down to Selhurst. On the way back I went from Norwood Junction and London Bridge to St Pancras and home again. No delays, no incidents.

8/10

7 – The pre-match Having ditched our usual pub in London Bridge for fear of a Millwall invasion we met everybody in The Falcon at Clapham Junction – a huge old pub on a busy junction with a front bar area that was brightly lit and slowly cooking its regulars in the sunlight, and a back lounge that had no windows or lights and was therefore like drinking in a cave. We sweated at the front. There was a decent range of beer and food in there, though no Sky for the lunchtime match which wasn’t really an issue on this particular day as Sky were attempting to pass Scottish football off as a sport and I’d rather watch the grass grow on an English football pitch than actually watch a game take place on a Scottish one. Incidentally I wonder how furious landlords who pay extortionate Sky subscriptions get when they find that the key Saturday lunchtime fixture is given over to Scottish matches that nobody gives a toss about? Anyway the pub was fine, the drinks were good on a hot day, and we even had a 60 year old bloke who looked a little bit like Terry Nutkin parading up and down in front of the boozer with grey hair down his back, a tiny little crop top and mini skirt barely hiding his modesty and high heeled shoes. He went past twice, so clearly the loud cheering from the QPR fans present did something for him. It takes all sorts.

8/10

8 – Police/Stewards I saw nothing of either, which is always a good thing.

9/10

Total: 59/80

Photo: Action Images



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