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QPR Awaydays - Ipswich, Portman Road
QPR Awaydays - Ipswich, Portman Road
Tuesday, 1st Apr 2008 12:29

QPR held Ipswich to an entertaining scoreless draw at the weekend, but there was plenty to talk about off the pitch.

1 – The Match
Very similar to our game at home to Sheffield Wednesday before Christmas. There may have been no goals but this was a game of very high quality contested by two sides keen to play football the right way. Two breathless minutes in the first half where Lee Camp saved brilliantly to deny De Vos, then Rangers stormed down the other end and should have scored through Ephraim, then Ipswich piled forward and were only denied by a last ditch tackle from Damion Stewart summed up the fast paced, high quality nature of the action. Sadly for such a good game most people left talking about the referee who missed a blatant shove on Alan Lee in the penalty area in the first half then failed to award the home side a penalty or a goal in the second when Matt Connolly punched the ball out from behind the goal line. Haynes cracked the post in the first half and Camp made three outstanding saves to deny De Vos, Haynes and finally Quinn from a 25 yard free kick. In the end Ipswich just about deserved to win but Rangers contributed a lot to the game and worked hard for their point – another late winner would have been harsh on the visitors.

2 – Rangers’ Performance
Considering that the two outstanding outfield players of the year so far, Rowlands and Buzsaky, were both missing from the starting eleven and suspension to the increasingly impressive Damien Delaney resulted in a re-jigged back four Rangers can go home very satisfied with their showing. The back four, with Damion Stewart slipping seamlessly back into the centre half position alongside Fitz Hall, coped pretty well with a lively Ipswich side but did ride their luck at times. Hall continues to look laboured for me, I’ve already resolved to reserve judgement on him until he’s had a full pre-season with us under his belt because he only played one senior game in the six months before joining us, and he really struggled with Danny Haynes in the first half before changing to Lee in the second and looking much more comfortable. Matt Connolly didn’t look altogether at home at left back but was steady enough, Michael Mancienne was the pick of the defenders at right back.

In midfield Mikele Leigertwood continued his inconsistent form with a performance littered with needless possession conceding and wayward passes and he was replaced by Martin Rowlands after an hour who immediately upped QPR’s game a couple of levels. Keiran Lee improved us still further when he came on for Rowan Vine who was also below par. Up front Dexter Blackstock was better than he has been but still not great, Patrick Agyemang led the line superbly and was very unlucky not to score after a hard working, powerful running display that troubled the Ipswich all afternoon. I’d back him to score against Preston next week. In the end Rangers did well to hold their hosts and can be pleased with two points from two away games, even though it could have been four had we won when we should have done at Wolves. We even managed to make it through two periods of stoppage time at the end of each half without conceding a goal.

3 – Travelling support
As always with games at Ipswich and Norwich the QPR fans travelled in big numbers and were in good voice throughout the match. After staying overnight I was in the middle of Ipswich pretty early on Saturday, certainly before noon, but that was nothing compared to many of the travelling faithful from W12 who packed the pub opposite the station from mid morning onwards. Inside the ground the upper tier seemed to be pretty well sold out, I couldn’t see into the family section down below from our seats so no idea how many R’s were parked in there but I’d estimate about 2000 travelled up for this one. The fact that Ipswich play “Singing the Blues” over the tannoy before kick off always stirs the QPR fans up and they sung for pretty much the whole first half before calming down a little bit in the second. We were sitting up in the top left corner and everybody in front of us kept standing up, despite every seat offering a perfectly good view of the pitch when sitting, and that got a little annoying after a while but not especially so.

Now I suppose we better address the key issue of the weekend – the behaviour of a section of our travelling support. There was apparently an incident in the pub opposite the station where somebody went behind the bar and started helping themselves after waiting for a long time to be served, there were more QPR fans helping themselves in the station buffet before jumping on the five past five train home, and then there are reports of an unsavoury incident at Manningtree after the match. I’ll decline to comment other than to say that every group of football fans has a few bad eggs in it and we need to do what we can as a club to make sure the minority don’t ruin the experience, and the club’s reputation, for the majority. It’s very easy to hide behind the "it's only a minority" line and do nothing about it, something I've accused clubs like Stoke of doing in the past, but if we are attracting people hell bent on causing trouble then this needs to be addressed very quickly.

In the main excellent support, a credit to the club, a shame that a mindless few bring the club into disrepute like that.

4 – The Ground
A proper old football ground with a modern touch. Portman Road is a great place to watch football and the vast majority of these big, boring new grounds can’t hold a candle to it. The two new stands behind the goal are excellent two tiered structures that I’d really hope QPR have a look at if they ever try to redevelop Loftus Road or move elsewhere. The three tiered main stand on the opposite side to us is an impressive structure and the best thing about the ground is there isn’t an obstructed view in the place. I really like it, and it looks like the kind of place that you could get a good atmosphere going in if the Ipswich fans tried signing a bit.

Now the negatives, QPR are housed in the Cobbold Stand and it’s really starting to look its age. Firstly it’s filthy, absolutely disgusting in parts, from the moment you come through the turnstile to the time you take your seat you’re never more than three feet away from marking your clothes (or face) with a black dust and gloop that seems to have attached itself to every wall, door and banister in the place. Young Clive’s seat had been splashed with some thick, tar like substance that presumably had dripped down from the roof at some point. The gangways are very narrow, the seats are tightly packed together, it takes an age to clear out afterwards (not helped by the stewards closing the side stairs at full time) and all in all it’s a tight squeeze.

But come on, this or the Ricoh Arena? I know which I prefer. It’s in the middle of the town and close to the station which is excellent. You’re not in the ground for five seconds before you’re confronted with the “visitors bar” which is massive and well staffed so you don’t have a long wait or a tight squeeze despite it being rammed at quarter to three. The away end may be a tight squeeze, and filthy, but it offers a great view of the pitch, makes you feel really close to the action and makes for a fantastic atmosphere.

I really like Portman Road, it’s growing on me with every visit, definitely a great trip for the QPR fans.

5 – Atmosphere
One problem Portman Road does have is the volume of the home support. The first we heard from them all afternoon was when the booed Gary Roberts, one of their own players, onto the field as a second half substitute. For a team playing good football, on the brink of the play offs, with 24,000 people in the ground that’s really not good enough and it’s mystifying to me because I think the ground lends itself very well to making a lot of noise. The away end is certainly great for it and it’s a long time since the QPR fans have been in this kind of voice. It’s shame it was all one way really but I don’t think that the away fans being so far away from the North Stand where the more vociferous (as in a kitten is more vociferous than a hamster) Ipswich support congregates in much the same way as the School End is a long way from the Q Block. Could certainly be better, all one way.

6 – Pre Match
A complete cock up. As I’ll explain in a moment the Northern R’s travelled down to Ipswich on Friday night and were up bright and early on Saturday morning with the intention of meeting friends off the train at Ipswich station at half past eleven. In the end we would have been better staying at Mrs Clive’s because there was food, beer and Sky Sports on offer there but we’d said a couple of weeks before to a couple of our friends that we’d be in Ipswich by mid-morning, as we had been before, so they should book their trains to arrive at that time.

So we begrudgingly jumped on a park and ride bus from out near Woodbridge and headed into town. The doors of the bus had barely closed when we got a text from the train saying that our friend’s tickets were only valid as far as Manningtree because the pre-match routine for the lads we usually hang around with at QPR is to go there for drinks and then get a taxi into town nearer the time of the game.

Faced with a choice between drinking and eating in Ipswich just the two of us, or heading out to Manningtree to meet our group, we went with the wrong option. We just missed a train after walking to the station from the middle of town, then had to wait half an hour for another one because the next one was late, so it wasn’t until after half 12 before we even got off the train in Manningtree. All the while I was telling myself this was a bloody stupid thing to be doing, especially as we’d passed a wonderful looking Irish bar in Ipswich on our way into town, and were actually standing right next to the ground at half eleven, but for whatever reason we kept ploughing on, passing the QPR fans arriving in Ipswich s we headed south.

The station at Manningtree is actually a good mile from the middle of the town and is stuck out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fields and expanses of water. We walked down from the platform and into the town which was a little bit like arriving in Royston Veysey and we, eventually, finally arriving in the pub at nearly one o’clock. That meant three drinks in three different pubs, all of them very nice it has to be said but by that time we just wanted to sit in one place and drink, before a taxi ride into Ipswich at 2pm. We arrived back at the ground we’d left two and a half hours previous at half two, stony cold sober but well travelled.

I think we’ll give Manningtree a miss next time. Nice as it was it doesn’t make a lot of sense to go from the ground to a town ten or more miles away for three drinks only to pay a tenner to get back. The McGinty’s Irish bar that was open as our bus arrived in Ipswich, did food and had the Rangers and Celtic game on looked our best bet and will be our watering hole next season.

7 – Journey
Ipswich from Sheffield is a long old way, whichever way you do it. It’s also another trip that underlines just how quickly rail fares are increasing, and by how much. Three weeks before this match you couldn’t get this trip, with a railcard, for under £40 and yet we travelled here last season for less than £28. To make matters worse no trains were running between Peterborough and Ipswich in either direction over the weekend. So already the two Northern R’s and my Ipswich supporting girlfriend were facing a bill in excess of £130 for a return journey, the majority of which was to be made on a rail replacement bus service. Now where I come from they call that “taking the piss” so we looked at alternatives. Going via London was quicker (that’s right Sheffield to London to Ipswich was quicker) and cheaper (you couldn’t make it up) but not especially so. In the end we elected to travel down directly on Friday night and come back via London on Saturday.

The trip there passed with little incident. Coming back Ipswich station was seriously busy but most QPR fans got on the two or three trains that left just after 5pm. That left the 1730 sitting on platform four for a good half an hour with nobody on it, and even though it was clearly called and signed as a platform four train most people didn’t seem to even realise it was there until about a minute before we left by which time it was too late for them to get over the bridge and on board. A peaceful trip home for us then, although watching Tracy trying to work out how one ticket from Manningtree booked in a deal with three other people, none of whom made the train, and a single to Manningtree booked with a railcard she didn’t possess would be valid on a train that didn’t even stop at Manningtree was amusing for a while.

The Hammersmith and City Line curse struck us again at Liverpool Street, four went one way while we waited for one, and that meant there was very little time for refreshments at Kings Cross. Unbelievably there is no off license on the new St Pancras station so I had to shoot through to Kings Cross, buy the beer there, and rush through onto the train with eight minutes to spare. Actually that’s not true – I can’t resist Marks and Spencer’s prawns so what actually happened was, despite the lack of time, I dived in there, picked up said prawns, queued behind some silly posh old toff who was clutching a week’s worth of shopping and vouchers for everything and ended up sprinting onto the train at the last possible second.

To compound matters my phone call to find out if my younger brother and friends had made it onto the train in time was interrupted by a quiet coach Nazi dressed like Rupert the Bear who demanded I stopped talking and left the carriage immediately. I was just dying for the stuck up tosser to make any kind of noise whatsoever during the trip so I could stand up and ask him to be quiet but I reckon he sensed that because he went all the way to Sheffield sitting with his wife in stony silence. He was either determined to make his point or is locked in a miserable union with his other half. Either way that’s quite sad and I’d feel sorry for him if he was such an intolerant, cantakerous old git.

We eventually arrived back into a serious rain storm in Sheffield at ten o’clock, Little Clive had a further hour of travelling to get out to Scunthorpe while we crashed in just in time for Match of the Day clutching a Dominos Pizza. A long old day all in all but it all ran to time. Far too bloody expensive all the same.

8 – Police and stewards
I was going to rant on at this point about it being complete overkill, as usual, in this part of the world but as reports of the behaviour of some of our fans have come to light I suppose I’d better hold back a little bit. I’m not sure I see the need to block the side stairs with a line of stewards and coppers during the match, particularly when that creates a congested situation at either end because there isn’t enough room for people going up and down to pass, or for the searches of supporters coming in through the turnstiles but we’ve come to expect a massive police presence in this part of the world when we’re in town and so it proved again. It says a lot for how pointless all this mass shuffling around of big groups of fans, closing of pubs, forcing QPR fans onto the first train that arrives etc all is when the big trouble of the day occurs at Manningtree. No matter how many police you lay on or how much intelligence you have, those people that want to go to football for a fight will find a way to do so regardless and in the end it’s only the innocent football fans that suffer both at their hands, and at the hands of the over bearing police and stewards around the ground. A real shame.

Total – 49/80

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Seven users have commented on this article. Click here to add your thoughts:

Love the reports Clive - very fair and enjoyable to read - keep it up!! - Dave

Glad to see you enjoyed yourselves. We have always been a quiet club for some strange reason, we tend to get the "your supposed to be at home" songs thrown at us, but being an Ipswich supporter for over 30years, I can't change now. Your fans were a credit to you and your team looks good for next season. All the best to you all. - Mike

One of the best nil-nils i've seen for a long time. First half, your fans were a credit to the club, we are like that at away matches, but unfortunately only mutes and moaners tend to turn up to Portman Road. Good luck for rest of season, and if we miss out on promotion (which will most likely happen...) I look forward to a couple of good games next year. Cheers. - BlatantBurr

Decent Article, but your disrespectful comments about the home support, were rather ironic coming from a man whose team can't fill their 19,000 seater tip. Your Q section is vociferous, but certainly no more vociferous than the North Stand - maybe spend an afternoon in it? Portman road does not lend itself to atmosphere( the away sections are the only bit that does) - But yes, the away supporters are far too far away from the Away section - you were next to the family section. Atmosphere is a big problem, but it is something that could be changed (our away support is always vocal and well-numbered). Good Luck - CBITFC

The acoustics at FPR are very misleading. Oddly the main singers are in the North Stand Lower, it was pretty noisy there for most of the match. The problem is you could hear nothing of this. Last season we went to the opposite end near you away fans and heard not a song from the North Stand yet we knew they were singing as we could see them, We just could not hear them at all. So I would not jump to conclusions about away fans singing, they are doing the best but they have to fight architectural acoustics - Tim

Just thought I'd reply to the report regarding the lack of noise during the game against QPR. The problem is the poor design of the lower North Stand as it does not allow the noise to exit correctly. It sounds as loud as hell inside, but a mate of mine says you can hardly hear it down the away end? I go home with out a voice after most games and by the way, there were no boos when Roberts came on from us? - Mike
Tha new North Stand has steralized the noise a great deal from a distance. Inside it seems noisy. Manningtree? Come on boys, is that what the R's have sunk too? - Proflex



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