My thirteenth birthday was on the horizon and it was time to make a decision regarding my main present from my parents. There was little hesitation on my part when I opted for a day trip to Ashford Town with all expenses paid, to see Rangers take on the Kent non-league minnows in the FA Cup 2nd Round tie. My Father was not exactly overwhelmed with my choice:”You mean to tell me that I have got to take you all the way down there to see that load of rubbish when I could be watching quality top division football over at Craven Cottage instead ! Why can’t you make do with a Hornby Train Set, a Meccano or Scalectrix like most normal boys of your age ?” No not me ! Even in those days I was never a machine person, ‘Up The R’s’ and to hell with all that toy gadgetry and technology.
So on the bright crisp morning of Saturday 25th November 1961, a slightly reluctant father with a very keen son in tow, set off for Charing Cross to board the football special to Ashford. There was no doubt amongst our fellow Tube passengers who I supported. My blue and white bobble hat and scarf festooned with QPR FC insignia said it all.
When the football special pulled into Ashford Station just before 1pm, the mass hordes of Rangers fans spilled out on to the platform and headed their separate ways to the town centre and the Essella Park Stadium, most I suspected via various pubs enroute. My Dad suggested we eat lunch at a nearby ‘Greasy Spoon ’and I agreed provided that ‘Giant Killing Stew’ and ‘Cup Surprise’ were not on the menu.
The game itself was not all ticket although a 5,000 crowd was expected. We arrived at the ground early in order to get a decent view, even paying an extra one shilling and thruppence to sit on a wooden bench just a few feet from the touchline. What a surreal experience that proved to be. I was so close to the play I thought I was playing at outside right ! Following the removal of blue and white balloons from the centre circle together with a rather rotund R’s supporter wearing a top hat in the club’s colours, the game got underway. The locals roared on their team and Ashford in their green and white strip, put Rangers under extreme pressure. We were being given the runaround. The old legs of veteran full backs Tony Ingham and Roy Bentley could not cope and twice the woodwork came to the rescue of our keeper Ray Drinkwater. What was going on ? This was not in the script ! Roll on half time.
The 2nd half was a different story though. At last the R’s got to grips with the opposition. In the end, goals from Bernard Evans, John Collins and John McClellend, with the help of two errors by the Ashford keeper Les Haydon, saw us home as 3-0 winners. It was however a flattering scoreline and on our exit a disgruntled Ashford supporter commented that we would not get any further and damn it, he was right ! In the next round we were drawn away to the eventual finalists and Football League runners-up Burnley and were thrashed 6-1. It was also going to be sad news for my Father a few more months down the line because Burney defeated Fulham 2-1 in a FA Cup semi-final replay. Hmmm thirteen candles on my cake…unlucky for some maybe.
Bernard Lambert (Kerrins)
Bernard kindly sent me a copy of the programme and inside it states that: ‘Today’s game is being covered by the local and national Press and the BBC will be broadcasting a few candid comments about the game during ‘Sports Session’ at 6.15pm on the Home Service this evening.’ There was also a nice tribute to Alec Stock: ‘They are managed by Alec Stock, a good type of Manager who has the golden touch and knows how to get the best out of any player. A psychologist type, a man who has been very astute in his transfer dealings whilst at the Orient and the Rangers, yet at heart a very human man.’
For the record our team that day was: Drinkwater, Bentley, Ingham, Keen, Rutter, Angell, McClellend, Bedford, Evans, Collins and Towers. The attendance was given as 5,000 and the scorers were Collins, McClellend and Evans. Rangers drew at Barry Town in the 1st Round courtesy of an own goal but won the replay at Loftus Road 7-0. Brian Bedford got a hat trick with Collins and Evans scoring a couple each. As Bernard has mentioned, the R’s went down 6-1 at Turf Moor in the 3rd Round. There were 28,352 in attendance and Bernard Evans scored our goal.