Ipswich - Portman Road
22/1/11 Ipswich Town vs Doncaster Rovers (CHA) 3-2 11,329
Although I had been to a match at Portman Road in 2004, it was for a friendly, and if I want to become a member of the 92 Club it has to be a competitive football match. So this match was as good as any in my schedule to go to, especially as the weather was OK with no snow, etc. I could drive all the way in about a hour, but as I have driven up and down the A12 so many times in past few years, I did a compromise and drove to Chelmsford where I caught a train to Ipswich.
As I was waiting on the station I sat next to an OAP, wearing an Ipswich scarf and said "hello". Immediately he took me for an Ipswich fan and started to talk to me as if he had known me all my life! He asked what I though of Roy Keane and then told me that he's ruined Ipswich Town and that the new man is really an athletics man!
Eventually the train arrived, about ten minutes later than scheduled, but it was a Norwich Express, so had plenty of room and seats with tables. By the time I got off there must be at least forty Ipswich fans who have got on along the way, plus one Donny fan, who I saw on the platform at Chelmsford.
The advantage of going by train to Ipswich is that as soon as you come out of the station, you see the ground looming ahead of you. It's just a five minute walk across the river Orwell and you're there. I pass a few Donny fans mingling by the away end and then walk round the ground. You can pay at the turnstiles if you want, though I'm surprised by the coat of admission - £33.50! And this is judged to be a category B game. No wonder attendances are so low, not withstanding Ipswich's current league position.
I then try my luck at the Drum and Monkey, which is the nearest pub to the ground, but they won't let you in unless you have an Ipswich Town season ticket. I walk towards the town centre and go into a modern bar called "Curve". It's not too busy, but doesn't have any real ale, so I settle for a pint of cider. I sit down and read the programme I have bought, which also includes a free packet of seeds from a local nursery. Well what would you expect from the Tractor Boys! No one speaks to me, so I sup up and walk to the Britannia Stand and reluctantly pay my £33.50, for which I am given a ticket to Block R on the extreme left. No worries though, as once I am inside I move to a space in Block O, near to the half way line, as they're so many empty seats, with a much better view!
The pitch doesn't look in too bad nick, with just some sand around the goal areas, but as the game progresses it starts to look quite worn.
The ground has to two tiered stands at either end, plus the one I am in, which also has two tiers. Opposite me is the smaller Cobbled Stand, where the away fans are also situated, separated by a giant replica Ipswich shirt, draped across the no man's land. There doesn't look more than two hundred of them, but the whole ground looks half full anyway, at in the end I am surprised that there are actually 17,000 there, as it doesn't look that many from where I am sitting.
The teams come out from the corner to the right of me, from under a building that looks similar to those at Craven Cottage and Fratton Park. The PA plays a snippet of Status Quo's "Singing The Blues", whilst the Doncaster players, huddle into their characteristic circle. Then the game starts, with some singing from the fans behind the goal to my left in the Sir Bobby Robson stand. But within the first minute Doncaster's Billy Sharp hits the post and then within five minutes they score, when Sharp breaks free and scores from a more central position.
It looks like this could be a rout from Doncaster, especially when they get a second on twenty five minutes, when Sharp again puts the ball into the net, but is judged to be offside. Although Ipswich do fight back, they just can't get their finishing right and at times Doncaster look dangerous on the break.
Just before half time I pop to the toilet and buy a cup of tea and a Kit-kat for £3. I'm annoyed to see they have Adnams on sale, but as I will be driving later, I don't give in to the temptation.
Whatever Paul Jewell said at half time, (in charge of his first match in charge of Ipswich at home), seems to have done the trick. Within three minutes of the restart they are level thanks to a cracking shot from Norris from outside the box. Ipswich continue to apply pressure, playing like a different team from the first half. On the 60th minute they take the lead when 17 year old Connor Wickham heads into the net. But Doncaster take the celebrating Ipswich players by surprise and nick another one in the next minute, courtesy of Sharp again, who heads a Coppinger cross into the corner of the net. Game on! But only five minutes later Ipswich get the winner when Edwards fires the ball hard and low past the Doncaster keeper. Although both teams keep up the pressure in a much entertaining second half, that is how the score stays. Could this be the start of an Ipswich revival back up the Championship, or will they do the same as their East Anglian rivals, Norwich City, and end up in League 1? It will be an interesting second half of the season for Ipswich Town.
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