Friday 1st January 2016 – Queens Park Rangers 1 – 2 Hull City AFC
Championship @ Loftus Road, London
First away day of 2016 and a first win on my travels since the start of November, which also came in West London. This wasn’t a classic, and Lady Luck had as much of a foot on the ball for the final goal as Diomande did, but three points nonetheless.
This was a Premiership fixture last season; both sides spent big to stay up, but both went down. The fortunes of Hull City and QPR since then have taken slightly different turns; whilst Hull arguably made some shrewd investments, retaining the likes of Dawson and Hernandez, who have excelled at Championship level, QPR did not, with their hopes of securing a return to the top-tier hinging on Charlie Austin finding the net.
He wasn’t fit for this one, so my pre-match prediction of 0-0 based on the fact Hull being crap away, and QPR being crap at home, started to look more likely.
West London is an old stomping ground for me, and consequently Loftus Road is a place I have visited quite regularly down the years. This was to be my second visit of the season in fact, having attended QPR’s 2-2 draw with Blackburn in the home end back in September, accompanying a colleague from work.
It was that colleague I also met with for this one, though not in the home end. Pre-match drinks were planned in The Defector’s Weld, one of my favourite West London pubs. Alas however I cannot add this to ‘Worth a sup…‘. Upon arrival I was asked for proof I was a home fan, to which I responded I wasn’t going to the football. This worked pre-match, but not post-match, where nobody was allowed in unless you had a ticket in the home end! Not good news if you fancied a quiet pint that night I guess!
In fairness though, Shepherd’s Bush is full of decent pubs and places to eat, which don’t employ such draconian rules (and which appeared to be the exception in the area).
Like Selhurst Park and Brentford, Loftus Road is another good old-fashioned ground that appears from nowhere as you approach through the Shepherd’s Bush back streets. It is small and compact, but when it gets going, the noise can be heard a good couple of miles away. The club have talked about moving to a shiny new stadium (I sense this may have dampened given they failed to reach the Champion’s League…) however I can’t imagine the club not being in Shepherd’s Bush. Both the club and the area are unfashionable and a bit grimy – they suit each other, and hence a trip to QPR normally makes for a good day out.
This was a tea time kick off for the Sky cameras. Also being on a Bank Holiday, and the evening after NYE parties, I wasn’t expecting much of a turnout. I wasn’t wrong. Whilst the home end looked fairly full, there were plenty of empty seats in the away end, and in honesty, not much of an atmosphere. Though that was true of the home fans also. Perhaps many were still nursing hangovers from the night before.
Or perhaps it was the football…
The atmosphere at Loftus Road is intrinsically linked to how the team are performing on the pitch, more so I have found than elsewhere. I’ve been there when QPR have played well, of note the match at the end of the 2010/2011 season (a 1-1 draw) where the home fans prematurely invaded the pitch thinking they had been promoted (Norwich ensured they had not). The place was rocking. Conversely, at the match against Blackburn earlier in the season, where QPR had a stinker against a team which was back then relegation fodder, the crowd were constantly on the players’ backs; “You facking mug”, “You c**t”, “You facking melt”. They are a tricky lot to please, but at least they care.
The away end at Loftus Road is behind the goal in the School End upper tier. My match ticket said it was a ‘Restricted View’, which for £32 I was bit annoyed about. Whilst there are pillars blocking the view in some seats, mine thankfully wasn’t one of them. Being an old ground, the concourse is very small. Food and drink is the standard football fare, and nothing special. But with what is available outside the ground, is not really needed.
The other ‘quirk’ of the away end is the chap to the left of the away fans who sits behind the flag of Morocco, but who wears a sombrero. Perhaps I am stereotyping, but I didn’t think Moroccans wear sombreros? I don’t recollect him ever not being there when I’ve been to Loftus Road; in previous visits he has made a lot of noise via drums and horns, but this time just shouted a bit.
The first half was dire and I was glad to be shut of it. The absence of Charlie Austin meant the home team had little bite up top, and Hull looked a tad nervous, no doubt as a result of some serious soul-searching following recent performances at Rotherham and Preston.
The second half started no better, but an opener did come on 61st minute via Abel Hernandez, who slotted into the bottom right corner following a well worked move.
“…he came from Italy, to play for Hull City…”
Not long after the goal, Snodgrass came on for Elmohamady, a substitution notable for two reasons. Firstly, this was Snodgrass’ return to the ground where in the previous season he sustained a season ending injury. Secondly, Elmo seemed to take an absolute age to walk off, to the annoyance of the away end as much as the home. His future at the club has been subject to a fair few column inches and a departure in January wouldn’t be unexpected. Was this his somewhat petulant farewell?
The match picked up a bit following the goal, though in truth Hull dominated; my expectation was it would stay 1-0.
But it didn’t. The home side equalised shortly before the 90th minute, an unmarked Polter heading in from close range. It felt harsh, but Hull were shortly after gifted a winner, when a mix up in the area saw the ball hit summer signing Diomande and fall into the back of the net. 2-1. The lead was defended during the unquantifiable six minutes of injury time, and Hull went back to East Yorkshire with the three points.
Not a classic, but another game under the floodlights at an old-fashioned ground to be enjoyed.