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Loftus Road Stadium
Queens Park Rangers v
Norwich City
Premier League
   Monday, January 2nd 2012, 3pm

By Mark Knowles
(Norwich City fan)

1.QPR and Norwich had a good rivalry last season and came up to the Premier League together so I was looking forward to a competitive encounter to round out the Christmas holidays. Having beaten QPR 2-1 at Carrow Road back in November there was also the prospect of the first “double” of the season for City. As I’ve previously visited all the “big” London clubs (with their modern stadia and megastores) I was also looking forward to something a bit different in the capital.

We parked at Cockfosters tube station (Piccadilly line) as it’s just off the M25, usually has plenty of spaces and is reasonably priced (only £1.50 for the day as it was a bank holiday). From here it took just under an hour to cross town out to Shepherds Bush (Central line). We would have preferred to get the train all the way, but engineering work on the Norwich to London line meant this would have taken a lot longer and involved the dreaded rail replacement bus service.

On arriving we had a wander along the cosmopolitan Uxbridge road and eventually found somewhere to eat – there’s loads of choice so you can afford to keep walking until you find something you fancy. There were also plenty of restaurants along the south side of the huge Westfield shopping centre just north of Shepherds Bush station.

The ground itself is tucked in between residential streets so we couldn’t really see the away end until we were in it. There were no turnstiles as such – we were searched and had our tickets checked in a fenced off area off the street before entering the ground proper through an alleyway.

Once inside, the ground had a fairly retro feel and is getting a bit tatty, but the low roof and proximity to the pitch made for a good atmosphere in the away end, as well as giving us an excuse to sing “My garden shed is bigger than this”. Our seats were in the very back row of the upper tier, but still felt close to the action – the only downside was an obscured view of the left corner flag. The leg room was also fairly limited but this wasn’t too much of a problem as the stewards were happy to let us stand more or less throughout.

When the action got underway, the first half turned out to be an untidy affair. QPR went ahead slightly against the run of play, but the turning point was a red card for everyone’s favourite Twitterer, Joey Barton. Obviously we took great pleasure in saying goodbye to him, almost as much as when we equalised shortly afterwards.

The concourse was very cramped indeed so we didn’t bother with refreshments at the break, but the prices and selection seemed fairly standard. One thing that did raise a chuckle was the half-time entertainment – instead of the more usual crossbar challenge, competitors had to make themselves dizzy by running round a post on the halfway line ten times, then try to stay upright as they sprinted to the box and tried to beat the keeper. Unsurprisingly there was some very wobbly running involved!

In the second half, Norwich took control but weren’t able to create clear chances, while QPR still threatened on the break. The deadlock was eventually broken when Norwich switched to three at the back, allowing them to overload the wide areas – as the crosses flew over Steve Morison grabbed the winner with less than ten minutes left, giving us our first Premier League “double”.

After the final whistle the narrow concourses and a one-way exit system meant it took a while to get out of the ground, but after that it was an easy walk back to the tube stations. We headed slightly further down the road to Wood Lane (Hammersmith & City) and to our surprise the  platform was almost empty, so we had a very easy journey back to the car.

Overall Loftus Road is fairly easy to get to and from, so makes a good away trip. For most supporters it should be straightforward to reach entirely by public transport if you’d like to enjoy a drink or two (we would have done this if it wasn’t for engineering work). While it’s perfectly comfortable for watching the game, the ground itself doesn’t have particularly great facilities; however, the excellent range of eating and drinking options nearby more than makes up for this.

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