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Loftus Road Stadium
Queens Park Rangers v
Aston Villa
  Premier League
Sunday, September 25th 2011, 4pm

By Ben Taylor

(Aston Villa fan)

I always look forward to away days with the Villa, particularly in London, and more so on this occasion being Loftus Road is one ground I have not visited for a first team game; during my days working for a League Two Club we did play a reserve match at Loftus Road about 4/5 years ago, but in front of four empty stands!

My friend and I are Brighton based season ticket holders at Villa, with that said QPR away is as near to a ‘home’ game as we can get. I hardly ever drive to away games, so it was Brighton to Victoria on the train, underground to Hammersmith and change for Shepherds Bush Market, then to the front door of the Walkabout pub. It took in total about an hour and a half. Happy days!

After a pint and some pub food outside Victoria Station, I knew Shepherd’s Bush Green was the place for us thanks to this site. We arrived at Shepherds Bush Market around 1pm and we were walking into the Walkabout just three minutes later, very easy to find. The place was packed already full of Villa fans who were in good voice, and a bonus for me being the Formula 1 was showing on what I can only describe as the biggest screen I have seen in my life!

We staggered out of there about 3.45pm and followed the crowds on the ten minute walk to the ground, again it was very easy to find. I think in terms of walking distance from the station to a drinking venue and onwards to the ground, Loftus Road is one of the shortest and easiest walks I have experienced on away days.

I was a bit confused though with the large amount of Police on duty around the ground either side of the match; they were everywhere, but as far as I know there has never been any trouble between the two sets of fans and there was certainly no trouble in the air on this occasion. I have seen far less Police at Villa Park where we on average attract double the size of crowd than at QPR; a complete waste of Police resources in my opinion.

On first sight of the Ellerslie Road Stand and School End I was wondering whether I was walking into a Premier League ground or an old rusty industrial unit. The concourse areas are extremely tight at Loftus Road. At half-time it was a complete nightmare, we came down five minutes before half-time and we could barely squeeze into the toilets and there was no chance of queuing for food. I do wonder how a place like that has a health and safety certificate, £45 a ticket for facilities like that is a joke! There’s more room in a baked bean can!

Villa fans were housed in the upper tier of the School End, which gives you a great view of the action, and the roof is quite low so a great noise can be generated. The rows and seats are quite tight, but a part of me does like Loftus Road; it’s small but it has its own character and history.

With their recent promotion to the Premier League, takeover of the Club and a number of exciting signings, I was expecting the home fans to be in great voice for this game but I was quite disappointed to be honest. The section of the Ellerslie Road Stand nearest to the Villa fans made some noise but even they were more interested with what the Villa fans were up to and  reacting to that.

As for match itself a lot of Villa fans, including myself, came into it dreading the worst. We were unbeaten in the League, but there had been too many draws and the football had been poor and negative. While on the other hand QPR were coming off an impressive 3-0 victory over Wolves and fielded the likes of Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips who were just two among Rangers’ recent signing spree.

The first-half saw a terrible performance from Villa; one of the most disappointing and negative performances I have seen from a Villa side. QPR fans broke into a ‘boring, boring Villa’ chant at one point which was clapped by the Villa fans! However, despite striking the post once QPR failed to really test Shay Given and we escaped to half-time still at 0-0.

Second-half was a complete u-turn in performance from the Villa; our performance had 100% more effort and we appeared to easily push Rangers on the back foot. Villa took a 1-0 lead from the penalty spot via Barry Bannan on 58 minutes; “1-0 to the boring team” was soon rattling out of the Villa end. While luck was with us for two Alan Hutton handballs which the referee adjudged to be accidental or simply did not see, luck deserted Villa in stoppage time when a Stephen Warnock clearance cannoned off Richard Dunne and into the net; 1-1 it finished and probably about the right outcome.

I think the ticket prices and facilities would put me off going back to the Loftus Road anytime soon but it was an enjoyable day and would recommend visiting to anyone as a one-off if you have not seen your team at QPR already.

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