Tuesday 24th August 2021 ko 19.45
EFL Cup 2nd Round
QUEENS PARK RANGERS 2 (Dickie 26 Chair 40)
OXFORD UNITED 0
Att 8,154 (2,058 away)
Entry £10 (Away End) – As OUFC season ticket holder, £15 otherwise
I’d just about found my seat in the School End Lower when I heard “Laurence!” from behind. Now there aren’t too many blokes with my name so I turned round. It was one of the many volunteers I’ve met organising groundhops and he said with a laugh, “This isn’t your normal territory” and I could see his point. I am known for non league, this blog has, after all, documented visits to hundreds of non league grounds. But the bit you often don’t see is the League stuff, I am after all still a season ticket holder at Oxford United.
And I’ll probably never be the type to give up the League stuff- the line between League and non-league feels increasingly blurred anyway. Are Southend United somehow more, or less worthy of a visit since falling out of the EFL last season? Not from my perspective; but my presence at QPR was down to a few factors. One, Robyn hadn’t visited Loftus Road; Two Oxford United were playing, and ; Three I could actually get there after work!
Loftus Road and I go back a while. I should use the place’s correct title though, The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, is named after a former youth team player who was stabbed to death in 2006- and the trust is there to support an end to knife crime. Robyn asked when I first visited here; right back in October 1992, QPR beating Leeds a week before Eric Cantona moved to Manchester United from the visitors. QPR beat the then League champions 2-1 with goals from David Bardsley and Les Ferdinand, but my abiding memory was Ray Wilkins coaching Andy Impey from his vantage point in holding midfield.
The stadium has been massively adapted since that day when I stood (yes) behind the away dugouts and if you know where to look appeared on “Match of the Day.” These days you’d compare the ground to Brentford’s former home Griffin Park except here an all-seater stadium has been created in what is a tiny footprint. Of course QPR would like to move, the current idea is to build on the site of the Linford Christie Athletics Stadium at Wormwood Scrubs. That’s a tough call for those in authority but the example of Brentford does at least allow for hope.
Here, I approached from parking at the Westfield Shopping Centre, fully expecting all the annoyances of the modern game. A few years ago I’d watched Vauxhall Motors win on penalties here in the FA Cup and described the experience as “See how many seats you can cram into a confined space” but truth be known, I actually quite enjoyed the experience.
I know a lot of common sense has left the game but the stewarding was notable for trying to be friendly and unobtrusive, and while the concourses are narrow the food and drink was served remarkably efficiently. In fact my only real bugbear was the pitchside advertising. I know the moving pictures are meant to be distracting, that’s why the firms who take the ads pay extra for them. But when those screens are so bright you can’t actually see the ball when the winger dribbles in front of them, isn’t that a case of the cart being put in front of the horse?
But the pricing was fair for a Championship club playing a League 1 club in the League Cup, and I thought QPR handled the whole Oxford 3 QPR 0 League Cup Final 1986 history rather well. Yes I was there, but my wife Robyn hadn’t yet been born and neither were a fair chunk of the attendance. I do wonder when it will be time for both clubs to emphasise the day a little less, even if it was the greatest day of Oxford United’s existence?
I’ve certainly no complaints as to the result. Rob Dickie I think only scored twice during his time at Oxford United but his thunderbolt here showed what most in the ground know, that he’ll be making the step up from Championship football sooner rather than later. Yes Oxford United did make sure there’s a generous sell-on clause, as our fans were extremely quick to point out. Oxford fought well, but always needed that extra pass, or time on the ball, and in the end it told.
We took the loss that I’d fully expected and the egress from the ground and its surroundings was as fast as could be expected from an inner city location. I’d drive here fully expecting to find the facets of the modern game annoying, but save for those screens I really didn’t. That’s no bad thing, as I a have similar ground lined-up.