Tuesday, 9 October 2007

In Attendance: QPR vs Norwich City @ Loftus Road, Monday 8th October 2007

Norwich City finished in the top three of the premier league in it’s inaugural season. Just two places beneath them, in fifth place, finished Queens Park Rangers. The remarkable feat of these achievements of these two admittedly unglamorous sides is further emphasised by the fact they finished above all four of Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea. Chris Sutton was the main man at Carrow Road while the free-scoring Les Ferdinand will go down as a legend for the superhoops.

How both teams could have done with their former heroes in this game...

When I agreed to attend this match with two of my Norwich supporting friends and their Norwich supporting Dads, the Championship season was still young. The Canaries were flirting with inconsistency and QPR had started sluggishly. By the time I got on the Central line train heading to White City on this mild Monday night, QPR were rock bottom with only 3 draws to their name while Norwich arrived having not scored in their previous five games.

Naturally I was expecting an 8-goal thriller.

Upon arriving at White City, I gave my mate ‘Bruce Lee’ a call.

Me: Where are you mate?
Bruce: In a pub called The Springbok.
Me: How do I get there?
Bruce: Follow the crowd and you can’t miss it.

Much to my dismay, this would be the first football match I would ever attend where the term ‘crowd’ was being applied very, very generously. I must have followed about a dozen people on my way to the ground. I guess though, when you’re languishing at the tail end of the Championship, enthusiasm to go games isn’t quite there.

After meeting the Norwich contingent at the pub and picking up a programme, we ambled our way to the ground. Think about the atmosphere, the anticipation, the general aura of excitement that is always present as you approach a football ground on matchday. None of that was present at Loftus Road.

We found our seats in the Norwich end. Great view. Right behind the goal in the upper tier. Far more generous than tucking fans away in the corners (Premiership clubs take note – That said, Loftus Road’s corners had about 3 seats in them and mostly consisted of wall!).

The game kicked off promptly. Both teams approached with a sense of caution evidenced by the fact both sides decided to pack the midfield. The home side focused their play down the wings with Rowan Vine and the lively Hogan Ephraim trying their best to take advantage of the space in wide areas. Norwich on the other hand felt their best bet was to hoof the ball over the top and hope that the aging Darren Huckerby could latch onto the pass. A hopeless idea that was doomed to failure from the start.

Every Rangers cross was met by the head of the Norwich’s veteran Striker cum defender Dion Dublin. This was followed by Norwich attempting a long ball.

A poor first half laden with misplaced passes was summed up when one of the Rangers defenders under no pressure from anyone, hoofed the ball in the air so high and hard it came back down vertically five yards in front of him. Me and my other mate ‘Desperate Dan’ actually managed to have a conversation about the poor quality advertising hoardings, for five minutes! Yes, it was that bad! One pass was greeted with a collective groan by both sets of supporters. This was followed by Norwich attempting a long ball.

As the first half drew to a close, I couldn’t even amuse myself by checking any of the other scores as this was the only game on at the time. The second half began no better and within a minute, Canaries left back Adam Drury skewed a clearance high into the stands. I’m certain he was attempting a long ball.

Rangers admittedly did step up a bit and put a now Dublin-less Norwich defence under a bit of pressure. Martin Rowlands was given a free run to goal and struck the foot of the post with a shot. This was followed by Norwich attempting a long ball.

This roused a previously noiseless home crowd. Some City fans attempted a few renditions of ‘On The Ball City’ but I think most of them feared the worst when their side could only respond by attempting another long ball.

The worst wasn’t far off. The Yellows decided that they needed to replace Scottish midfielder Simon Lappin, who spent the entire evening slipping and falling on his arse, with David Strihavka – the first Czech to ever play for Norwich. How do I know this? I looked it up in the programme as he was coming on and Norwich were attempting another long ball.

As I was reading however, a roar went up from the home crowd. Penalty! Would you believe it? The first (and ultimately only) interesting part of the game and I missed it. Rowan Vine (who incidentally went to the same school as Bruce) had been tripped. Apparently the decision was dubious to say the least.

Martin Rowlands made no mistake from 12 yards and the home fans went delirious. Norwich had never looked like scoring and a couple of fans decided to leave at this stage. You know things are bad when, with 20 minutes left against the bottom side, fans have no faith in their team pulling it back.

All of a sudden football broke out from Rangers. They were trying pot-shots and even forced David Marshall in the Norwich goal into a few saves. Norwich responded with another attempted long ball.

Darel Russell, playing centre-mid for the yellows gave the ball away for the 12 hundredth time and the portly Lee Croft was constantly offside. Manger Peter Grant was on the touchline looking pretty animated (presumably telling his team to play it long).

Chris Brown was thrown on. This infuriated the Norwich fans around me. His tally of no goals in his previous 8 games made this reaction understandable. He did however, win a couple of flick-ons from yet another Norwich long ball. This meant nothing as he was flicking it on to no-one.

The awful Russell finally had a shot in the 85th minute which had the Canary fans around me greeted with the loudest sarcastic applause you are ever likely to hear at a football ground.

The final whistle finally came and the Norwich, players and management were bombarded with abuse from some angry East Anglians. One guy was so mad, one would have thought Peter Grant had sodomised a member of his family or something. QPR’s first win on the other hand was celebrated like a world cup win.

As a neutral, I was despondent at the fact I would never see that £20 I spent on the game ever again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no premiership snob. I’ve been to my fair share of lower league games and I’ve actually seen some pretty exciting and entertaining matches over the years. However, what I witnessed at Loftus Road was simply appalling. Two sides, lacking both in confidence and quality, trying in vain to get through 90 minutes of football without inducing a coma amongst the watching fans. And to think, this match was on Sky as well. Not a great advert for the beautiful game.

Final Score: Queens Park Rangers 1 – 0 Norwich City
Man Of The Match: Me for actually going even though I support neither side.
Att: 10,514

1 comment:

Amy Downes said...

That'll teach you for watching Naaaaarwich. Not famed for their beautiful football! Town will show them how its done next weekend. One day I will take you to see a real team play at Portman Road... and I dn't mean when we are playing Arsenal.