Today saw the Green and White Army head east to the capital for a clash with a QPR side hoping to bounce back to the Premiership following a season in the 2nd tier.
The South Africa Road Stand
The GWSC were kind enough to pick me up on the side of the A303 (pre-arranged!!) giving me an extra hour in bed, not that I got much sleep – maybe a touch of excitement setting in. A pretty good run up to London saw us arrive on time to catch the England match at O’Neils in Shepherds Bush punctuated with periodic blasts of “Allez Allez Oh”.
The 1,388 travelling fans then packed into the cramped upper tier of the School End of Loftus Road with the noise building before kick off. Before the match itself got underway there was a minute of applause for Alec Stock which was enthusiastically embraced by the entire stadium, in fact it was probably the most enthusiastic the QPR crowd got all afternoon.
It was a very different looking Yeovil to the team beaten at home by Ipswich on Tuesday night. Not only did the team look lively and completely up for the match but a Palazuelos injury during the warm up saw Ayling pushed forward into central midfield and Lanzoni starting at right back.
And our newest midfielder came close to opening the scoring – minutes in Ayling lobbed keeper Green only to have the goal disallowed for a foul by Hayter which frankly only the referee saw.
This should have warned us that it wasn’t going to be our day and so it proved. Ayling pulled another shot just wide of Green’s goal and Stech saved from Morrison as Yeovil refused to be intimidated by their opposition. Things did go wrong for Yeovil about 25 minutes in when West Ham loanee Ravel Morrison shot home past Stech from just outside the box. Goal music blasted out effectively masking the lack of response from the home fans.
Gary made an early substitution, bringing Dawson on for Holmes after only 30 minutes and this looked to be a good move with Dawson bringing power and running to the Yeovil right. However we were unable to make a dent in the score line. Despite their lead the QPR fans were very quiet and a loud away contingent continued to out sing them as half time came with a 1-0 deficit.
For a former Priemier League stadium Loftus Road was disappointing. Restricted views, a long thin seating area that spread the singing contingent wide apart and a tiny concourse where it was virtually impossible to move. It was also hard to catch up with other fans as the stewards (who on the whole seemed pretty relaxed where I was) were strict about only allowing you into the section printed on your ticket. Prices were high too.
So after that little break back to the action....
Yeovil again came out fighting but as has often been the case they lacked that extra bite in the final third and good build up play time and again came to nothing. Stats later showed that the Glovers only managed one shot on target in the entire match, easy to see why of our 29 points, 20 have come in games where we kept a clean sheet. Lawrence was unlucky not to make that 2 shots on target when he hit the woodwork on 57 minutes with a cracking shot that left Green watching and hoping. The woodwork at the other end also got a pounding as Jermaine Jenas hit the crossbar, the look of relief on Stech’s face was mirrored by the Yeovil fans just above his goal. It was not to last; QPR made us pay again when a great break down their right by Junior Hoillet lead to a cross which was met by Bobby Zamora to double their lead.
Undaunted the players continued to try to push forward and the fans continued to sing with some good natured banter being directed at the one QPR fan who seemed to be truly enjoying himself despite being almost lost under a ridiculous sombrero. The layout of the stand also lent itself to a blast of right side/left side although there did seem to be two left sides at one point there.
As time ticked away players again appeared in unfamiliar roles with Webster appearing to double as front man and centre back (impressive) whilst Miller played a wider role over to the right. Nothing was running for us though and into stoppage time QPR added a rather flattering third to their tally from the boot of Morrison to give a score line that didn’t quite do justice to Yeovil’s efforts.
So time for the visiting support to squash once again into the tiny concourse and file slowly towards the exit, lots of people commenting on the lack of space and possible implications in an emergency. Luckily we all made it safely back to the waiting coaches.
The packed concourse
Heading west into a rather glorious sunset most pinned their sporting hopes of the day on a French victory in the RBS Six Nations that was playing on the radio as we left the ground. However to cap a not so brilliant day the coach radio faded out with France edging towards the try line only to fail at the final hurdle, hand the title to Ireland and disappoint us once again.
Mission Survival continues at Wigan on Tuesday night. COYG.
Just 3 days after the trip to QPR, Tuesday saw Yeovil away at another of last season’s Premier League clubs, Wigan Athletic.
A beast of a bus journey for a Tuesday evening did not put off 223 (well 3 turned out to be Bolton supporters who just like to watch Wigan lose!) of the Glovers faithful who travelled hoping to see the team cause something of an upset against an in form side, on an 8 game winning run, whose recent victims included Manchester City.
The journey was passed with general Glovers chat, a re-run of our last meeting with Uwe Rossler and a quick round of guess the score (I went 0-0). On finally arriving we drove straight past the entrance to the stadium before parking on a waste land up the road. Scrabbling down a small bank, heading round the back of the retail estate took us to the stadium and then onwards to the pub before heading to the match itself.
The fans returned to their usual formation (sit at the front, stand at the back) whilst the team lined up in a slightly unusual formation with Ayling taking his place in a 5 man midfield which frankly failed to give us any width what so ever and we looked poor both going forwards and in defence. Luckily Wigan didn’t look much better and a rather lack lustre first half ensued with only one real incident of note when Wigan were awarded a very soft penalty which was saved by Stech diving to his left and getting a strong hand to the ball which went out for a corner which Yeovil then went on to successfully defend.
Half time came and the Yeovil contingent spilled into the huge concourse of the DW and bought reasonably priced pies and beer to see them through the rest of the match. Rumour suggested before the match that Paddy Madden had travelled to watch his old team mates and I got to meet him during the break and wish him luck in his current league 2 campaign. Shame he declined an invitation to join the noisy bunch at the back of the stand.
The second half started with more of the same and it proved to be very hard to get an atmosphere going. The stadium was huge and open corners and an upward sloping roof let the wind in and the sound out and an unconvincing performance on the pitch did little to inspire.
On 56 minutes the evening got worse with Nick Powell nodding in a McArthur cross and there was no sign of where any Yeovil goal would come from. The midfield continued to be narrow and Miller seemed disinclined to chase any of the deliveries that landed in his vicinity. Then after 71 minutes Gary made the change that proved to be key; Moore on for Lanzoni, 2 up front and Ayling returning to his more familiar right back position. The difference was almost immediately apparent with Yeovil showing more width and more attack. 11 minutes later Miller hit home for the equaliser followed in quick succession by a second strike which sent the travelling fans into near delirium and some Wigan fans to the exits. Could it be that Yeovil would pull off a shock result? The game, however, was far from over and chants of “we are staying up” were abruptly silenced as Beausejour crossed from the left with McArthur slotting home to draw the home side level. Despair set in on 88 minutes when Beausejour sent in another cross which Byron Webster was only able to help into his own net.
Those who were at the Ipro were suffering from a severe case of Deja Vu but, unlike Derby, Wigan had left Yeovil a precious 7 minutes to save the day. The lads never gave up and 3 minutes into time added on the entire team, including Stech, went forward for a corner which was swung in hard by Lawrence to a packed box where Stech in his bright yellow kit distracted everyone and allowed Ayling to tap the ball home for his first ever league goal and a precious equaliser. Cue a return to delirium in the North Stand, tempered by a fear that a final Wigan attack could still rob us of that vital point. We hung on in there and spilled out into the freezing northern night our happiness somewhat tinged by news from the Valley that Charlton had snatched a late winner to stay above us.
So was it 2 more points thrown away or a point snatched back from almost certain defeat? For me it was a point well earned and my faith in survival is alive and well, let’s face it, pre-match I would have settled for a 0-0!
Next up Bolton at home and then another Tuesday night away day at league leaders Leicester City. COYG