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Awayday Review - Barnsley, Oakwell
Awayday Review - Barnsley, Oakwell
Monday, 3rd Mar 2008 21:02

As the awayday reviews return to LFW we look back on Tuesday's trip to windy Yorkshire.

1 – The Game
Dire. Awful. This section is meant to try and reflect on the match from a neutral’s point of view – to be honest I fear for any neutrals there. Only my passion for QPR kept me alive through 90 minutes of this in the icy cold and I reckon without that the on site medical team may well have been summoned to check the pulse on my corpse come full time. The players deserve a defence, and both the pitch and the inclement weather conditions more than played their part in the game, but when professional footballers earning thousands of pounds a week can’t bring themselves to pass the football between them without giving it away it’s hard to have sympathy. Barnsley should have been at least two up by half time but poor finishing by Ferenczi cost them, QPR came into it after half time and had Rowan Vine been on the pitch instead of Blackstock they may have made more of their 20 minutes of pressure directly after half time. Other than that, and a late penalty claim from the home side, this game only ever looked like finishing one way and 0-0 was a richly deserved scoreline for a contest of appallingly low quality.

2 – Rangers’ Performance
Again I’ll refer to the poor conditions this game was played in as a mitigating factor, but overall we were pretty poor here and grateful to escape with a point. Martin Rowlands was superb in the centre of midfield, Connolly and Hall looked good at centre half, and Balanta was tidy wide on the flank. However, and it’s a big however, there was much to dislike about QPR on the night. Patrick Agyemang tried hard in the second half but was totally anonymous in the first, Blackstock was absolutely dire throughout. In midfield we had the best player on the pitch in martin Rowlands but we also had the worst in Mikele Leigertwood whose ball retention was akin to a pub footballer – he gave the ball away so many times I lost count and that meant that so much of Rowlands’ efforts went on covering for him rather than hurting Barnsley. Buzsaky had a piss poor game out wide and is thoroughly wasted in that position. Neither Mancienne nor Delaney had a good game at full back. Lee Camp made a bad mistake early on which Fitz Hall rescued for him but otherwise this was his best game for a while. Pretty poor overall, but a good point won against a side with only two home defeats to their name all season.

3 – Atmosphere
Every day I get down on my knees and pray thanks to God that I don’t have to watch my football at Oakwell every week. For those who have recently criticised the poor atmosphere at Loftus Road, rightly to some extent, I’d treat yourself to a trip here – easily the quietest ground in the football league. Honestly, I’ve been in noisier morgues. With only 300 QPR fans spread out around the vast away end, and well over half the ground completely empty or totally closed despite people needing ticket stubs for the Chelsea cup tie this game was played out in reserve match style surroundings. The home fans said absolutely nothing, it was incredible, I’ve never bee in a place so quiet. Amongst the tiny following from London a gang of about 15 did a bit of singing in the first half, but spent the second moaning about Rowan Vine being on the bench (three days after the QPR fans slated him against Sheff Utd – nothing quite a fickle as fans sometimes) and when he did come on the team descended into such a mess that everybody was just happy to hang on until the end. Terrible.

4 – Ranger’s support
One of those nights when everybody pretty much knows everybody else in the away end either by name or face. Around 350 QPR fans made the trip north and they are to be highly commended for making the effort. Of course in a stand built for nearly 5000 people we looked and sounded lost in a sea of empty seats. A gang of about 15 tried to get songs going and that went well for most of the first half but in the second they resorted to calling for Rowan Vine’s introduction even though just three days before QPR fans had been on his back against Sheff Utd. All in all it was quiet and lifeless in the away end – well done to those that made the effort. Minus points for the bloke who turned round and asked a middle aged woman to mind her language after calling the referee a ‘f****** bastard’ – his argument was there were kids there. There weren’t. If you want clean language, Barnsley away end on a Tuesday night not the best place to be.

5 – The Ground
Oakwell has been modernised on three sides which looks impressive when you arrive and park up a couple of hours before kick off. Sadly by the time the match gets started there aren’t that many more people inside than when you first arrived and it looks like a Championship ground with a League Two support – which of course it is. The impressive two tiered side stand is empty from the half way line onwards, the single tiered home stand behind the opposite goal is half full and of course the away end may as well not have been opened for Rangers on a midweek trip there were so few of us there. On the remaining side is the old main stand with the dug outs – this has an open bank of seating next to the pitch, of which half remains closed, and a covered area at the back which again is mostly shut. I remember sitting in there for our 3-1 win back in the 1990s and it was a dire place to watch football from. It also has a camera gantry stuck to the front that looks like an after thought the builders came up with when they realised they had a few bits laid around after the stand was finished. It looked very insecure in the high winds.

Oakwell has certainly come on some since then, the away end is new, offers a good view from every seat, and boasts excellent facilities downstairs. The parking is cheap at £3 and we drove straight out afterwards – however it is provided on a field which in damp conditions proved difficult to find any grip on as the Northern Rs’ chav mobile drifted down towards the Barnsley training ground as I frantically searched for gears. All in all a good ground at this level, just a shame there aren’t more people inside it on a match day.

6- The Journey
As always, shooting off at 5pm on a Tuesday was frowned upon in my office but after busting a gut to get plenty of copy in the system for the week’s papers away I went in good time. The road works approaching Sheffield on the M1 are now finishing so there was no repeat of the hold ups from last season and I even had time to drop my colleague off at Meadowhall tram stop, refuel and park up at Oakwell by half six. Northern the Younger was busy losing himself on the M18, M1, M62 triangle by this stage so a swift half of Kronenbourg (in a plastic glass – rant to follow) passed the time until the supporters’ coach arrived and people to talk to appeared. Afterwards we completed the substantial achievement of getting two friends back to Sheffield train station in time for the 2220 train back to the Midlands. The view from the windscreen did resemble Colin McRae’s World Rally Championship for the PlayStation at times but with no sign of law enforcement officers or cameras and little else on the road we made it with almost a quarter of an hour to spare.

7 - Pre Match
Barnsley really is a horrible place and consequently, rather than risk any of the local hostelries, Rangers fans tend to head for the bar in the Metrodome Leisure Centre right next to the ground. Now normally every town in the country has a leisure centre without thinking twice about it – in Barnsley the place is such a shithole they trumpet the Metrodome’s existence on brown signs on the M1 from 20 miles away so it’s impossible to miss and a horrible let down when you arrive. After sampling the crime against the human race that was down on the menu as “burger” last season I decided to give the revolting food a miss this time around but did try and partake in a quiet drink before the game. They had an offer on bottles of Miller (you may know this as Rat’s Piss) and also stocked bottles of Bud (you may know this as Rat’s Piss Light) but there was no sign of any decent bottled lager and the spotty barman informed me that even if I did order a bottle it would be poured into a plastic glass before I could drink it – which sort of defies the point of having a bottle of beer. So I went for a Kronenbourg on draft which was lovingly poured into another plastic glass and therefore tasted like stale sick scooped from the carpet of an Easyjet flight from Dalaman after a particularly rough piece of turbulence.

I have been in this bloody horrible leisure centre bar every Barnsley v QPR game since 1997. I have only ever seen people sitting and drinking quietly before going to the match. There has never been so much as a football chant raised, never mind any trouble caused, and yet the management insist on serving their drinks in plastic glasses. Plastic glasses are the work of Satan – guaranteed to destroy the flavour of whatever you put in them. I swear to God if the bloody plastic glasses are still being used here next season then I will show you just how much damage you can actually do to a bar manager with a plastic pint pot and they’ll be wishing they’d used glass after all. The most ridiculous sight of the whole night was a Barnsley fan returning to the bar with a real John Smiths glass that he’d been using for an hour or so to this point and upon asking for a refill having it confiscated. Watch out lads, he’s been quietly drinking his pint for a couple of hours but I reckon he’s going to go mental any second, quick take his glass away, give him a plastic one. Pathetic.

8 – Police and Stewards
The what? Sorry, saw none of either. That’s a good thing really. QPR fans were allowed to sit and stand in the away end as they pleased, stewards left everybody alone, no evidence of jobsworths, no evidence of police at all, if only every game could be like this. Police and stewards should only be involved if there is trouble – Preston North End really should take note of the Barnsley operation. Both games were Tuesday night fixtures with similar attendances and yet one passed off without incident while the other one was punctuated with aggro and fans being ejected. The difference? Barnsley used common sense, Preston used lobotomised gibbons.

Total – 43/80



Photo: Action Images

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