Norwich City v QPR – First Away Point Since 1st February

Team: Green, Fabio, Ferdinand, Hill (Onuoha), Traore (Bosingwa), Mackie, Park, Diakite (Derry), Hoilett, Zamora, Cisse

Subs Not Used: Murphy, Taarabt, Wright-Phillips, Johnson

Attendance: 26,317

Unfortunately Jimmy was still unwell so Paul Finney volunteered to drive us up to Norwich. I met up with him at Stanmore station and we later picked up Mark and Jamie. It was slow going along that stretch of the A11 through the forest, but we’d left early and eventually parked up in that massive car park near the ground. The others went for a meal and I met up with Andy Benwell in the ‘Compleat Angler’ which was, as usual, heaving with Rangers fans who were soon in good voice, including songs in memory of Ray Jones and Alan McDonald.

Apparently the Box Office had returned 400 tickets from our 2,400 allocation, but by kick-off there were very few empty seats so there must of been a good uptake on the day. Mark Hughes made two changes and surprisingly we started in a 4-4-2 formation.

The home side took the lead after some poor defending, but soon after Mark Clattenburg awarded us a penalty, I suppose for a shove on Cisse ? Ruddy saved it, but Zamora bombed in to bang the ball into the net. There was some concern on whether Clint Hill would remain on the pitch following his booking and on-going run-in with Grant Holt who is certainly a handful and looks bigger than ever. Mark Hughes had no choice but to replace him at half-time.

There was a wonderful spontaneous chant for Ray Jones, which got louder and louder. Five years to the day that he had tragically lost his life.

Norwich hit the crossbar and Rob Green made a very good save from 25 yards from the impressive Robert Snodgrass. However, on another occasion it looked suspiciously like he had handled the ball outside his area ?

Rangers played better after the interval and had more of the possession, but the home side had the better chances. Cisse was caught offside time and time again as he continually mistimed his run. Zamora went off for treatment and it was some minutes before he returned to the fray with his head bandaged. I thought that Park looked much better and had a good game. Jose Bosingwa eventually made his debut and Shaun Derry also came on towards the end. With our first away point since 1st February, we have to be pleased with that.

As expected it took ages to get out of the car park and it wasn’t long before we hit that storm that we’d previously heard rumbling in the distance. Lightning lit up the sky and the rain descended in monsoon proportions. Paul kindly dropped me off in South Harrow where I met up with Declin for a few pints.

Steve Russell

Queen’s Park Rangers’ manager Mark Hughes believes his side will be good enough to survive without having to endure another nail-biting finale. And that despite seeing them make heavy weather of gaining a point against a Norwich side who will themselves struggle to repeat last year’s achievements.

“We’ve invested well and are certainly in a better position than we were,” said Hughes. “It was an important step to get off the mark with our first goal and our first point. It’s something to build on. On occasions we lacked the right ball at the right time.”

That was as near as he came to admitting that his side were very much second best – a point not lost on Norwich City manager Chris Hughton, who stated simply: “We played really well and should have won.”

After kicking off with 5-0 defeats, both managers could consider this an improvement; but there was nothing to suggest that either club will experience anything other than ‘difficult second season’ syndrome. If defending was the obvious shortcoming a week earlier, this was a story of one team, Norwich, almost incapable of taking their chances, and another incapable of making them. The brightest spark was the former Leeds winger Robert Snodgrass on his home debut for Norwich, but QPR’s army of new recruits appeared strangers to one another.

Norwich introduced to the crowd Norway international Alexander Tettey, Hughton’s seventh signing since himself replacing Paul Lambert in the Carrow Road dugout. The 26-year-old former Rennes midfielder arrived too late to face QPR, but Sebastien Bassong and Javier Garrido both featured. After blooding seven in last weekend’s debacle, Hughes sent out no further new faces in his starting line-up, though 70 minutes in Jose Bosingwa became Rangers’ eighth debutant.

It took just 11 minutes, however, for Hughes’s defence to be breached. As Anthony Pilkington enjoyed the freedom of their penalty area and Simeon Jackson headed home his cross. Eight minutes later referee Mark Clattenburg handed Rangers a quick route back into the game with the award of a penalty against Bassong for a challenge from behind on Djibril Cisse. The Frenchman’s spot-kick was pushed against the post by John Ruddy, but Bobby Zamora fired the rebound home. Hughton thought the penalty “soft”, Hughes’ view was that it was a penalty, “by the letter of the law – but I’m sure Chris will feel a bit aggrieved.” Hughton was aggrieved too that Zamora was, “at least three yards inside the box” when the penalty was taken. He was pleased, though, that his side “showed character to come back and be the better team.”

In the game’s most compelling subtext, Clint Hill found Norwich striker Grant Holt a literal handful. The defender was fortunate to receive only a yellow card for wrestling his man to the ground just outside the area and after fouling him twice more he earned a lecture from Clattenburg. On possession, territory and chances, Norwich were well ahead and got steadily more so, but there was little to trouble goalkeeper Robert Green on his erstwhile home ground.

Midway through the second-half, Jackson should have scored his second goal, but failed to connect with Snodgrass’s cross. Then Snodgrass went close with an excellent header and Russell Martin hit the crossbar. Rangers’ only attacking plan seemed to be long balls up to Cisse, whose poor timing left him repeatedly offside and frustrated. The greater frustration may have been Norwich’s in failing to convert their dominance into three points.

Aidan Semmens – The Independent

The main thing from the game was securing a point. After watching the match and then later seeing the highlights on TV when I got home, I think it’s fair to say that it could of been much worse than it was. Hill and Green can count themselves lucky that they stayed on the pitch. That said, it looks as if both of them may face a spell on the sidelines as we are about to add to an already huge squad.

Again on Saturday we got caught on the flanks and Fabio was at fault for them getting free and firing in at will. Lucky for us that most of the time, apart from the goal, they failed to meet the crosses. Norwich are not the best of teams and that is the worry. What got me again was our ‘hoof’ mindset ! We have had all summer, spent millions and forget the fact that we paid less – this squad did not come cheap. And yet we have players out of position and hoofing.

The penalty was soft and I found it odd that Cisse held his head in his hands when Zamora scored, I’ve never seen that before ! The moment of the game came on 31 minutes when we sang for Ray Jones and I also thought of ‘Mrs QPR’, Daphne Biggs, as well. It shows that this club’s fans will never forget those that are no longer with us.

The storms were unreal and our slow drive back, at times, was mad, but it was a good day out, a point and something to build on. All we’ve got to do now is what QPR always do and turn the form book upside down at City on Saturday and then the scum.

Paul Finney