The First Floodlit Match At Loftus Road

On 5th October 1953, QPR’s President, The Earl Of Cottenham, wrote the following foreword in the souvenir programme: ‘With great pride I write the Foreword for the first game to be played by Floodlight on this ground – truly an historic occasion because Queen’s Park Rangers are the first football club in West London to install floodlighting. This honour is well merited because QPR staged the first floodlit match twenty years ago at the White City. I am proud, too, because we have been honoured, for our inaugural match, by a visit of the Arsenal, surely the most sought-after fixture of clubs throughout the world. Welcome, Arsenal, and thank you ! May this epic match be the forerunner of many thrilling games under the lights at Shepherd’s Bush ! I am sure the great football public of West London and regions beyond will respond to the pioneer spirit shown by the Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club so enthusiastically backed by its Supporters’ Club. Such spirit deserves support not only in the evenings, but also each Saturday afternoon. May the switching-on of the lights tonight signal the commencement of the brightest era in the history of Queen’s Park Rangers – one of the oldest professional clubs in the metropolis. So, switch on those lights !

The R’s team that night was: Gullan, Woods, Ingham, Nicholas, Taylor, Clayton, Mountford, Quinn, Tomkys, Conway Smith and Angell. Alf Bond was the referee who had tragically lost his arm in 1931 at the age of nineteen in a rubber factory accident. Pat Kirkwood agreed to kick-off and when doing so she will, in her own words : “Not kick too hard this time – once before I kicked off, kicked too hard and saw my shoe go sailing in the air.” She was an actress, singer and dancer who was also famous for her legs and an alleged association with the Duke of Edinburgh which she always denied. It must be noted that her third husband was Hubert Gregg, the writer of ‘Maybe It’s Because I’m A Londoner.’

There was a crowd of 16,028 which raised ¬£1,700. The R’s lost the game by three goals to one and the West London Observer headline a few days later read: ‘Floodlight Football Comes To Loftus Road – Occasion Too Big For Rangers – Arsenal Have Easy Victory…..Queen’s Park Rangers drew their largest crowd of the season – 16,000 – on Monday when they played their first-ever floodlit match at Loftus Road, against the famous Arsenal who sent practically their full League side. The famous stage, screen and television star, Miss Pat Kirkwood, kicked off. The game was only marred by the mishap to Wade, the Arsenal left-back, who, in a tackle with Angell after eight minutes, had to be carried off the field, but the injury is not as bad as at first feared, though he is almost certain to miss the important game against Spurs on Saturday.

A thorough job had been made of the installation of the lights and I think a league or cup competition should be arranged if these matches are to continue, to make the inevitable injuries worthwhile. Arsenal held the initiative throughout, mainly due to the half-back line of Forbes, Dodgin and Brown who easily broke up the QPR rugged attacks and always found time to keep their own forwards supplied with beautifully placed passes. Rangers held their own at the start but Arsenal using long, swinging passes, were first to score after 15 minutes. Forbes opened up the Rangers defence with a cross-pass to Marden, whose final pass left Oakes with only Gullan to beat. The home team applied considerable pressure and Kelsey in the Arsenal goal was kept on his toes. The punch of the forwards held little sting, but a good hard shot by Nicholas sailed just over the bar with the goalie well beaten. Roper and Logie (Oakes ? according to the details I have, Logie didn’t play -Ed) gave the home defence plenty to think about and cleverly drew them out of position before passing, whereas the Rangers seemed content to be rid of the ball immediately.

Close on half-time, the Arsenal goal had a narrow escape, Tomkys was being challenged by two defenders and eventually he managed to get his shot in; the ball was virtually in the net when up came Wills, who came on as substitute for the injured Wade, to clear the ball on the line. The 2nd half was a replica of the first, but credit must be given to the Rangers, who stuck to their task. Quinn had bad luck to see one of his shots just pass the wrong side of the post. Twenty minutes had passed of this half when Roper gave Gullan no chance. Still Rangers fought back and three minutes later a misunderstanding between Dodgin and Kelsey let Quinn through to head into an empty net. This put a little more life into the home attack, but they lacked method and a forward who could hold the ball. Milton was a live wire on the Arsenal right wing and usually had Ingham beaten. From one of his perfect centres, Oakes put them 3-1 up, with six minutes left for play.(The programme is from my own collection but I would like to thank Moreno for the loan of his two excellent pics)

Steve Russell

4 thoughts on “The First Floodlit Match At Loftus Road

  1. Great article…What a young looking Mike Tomkys…and an even younger looking Pat Woods!

    Wonderful kit …none of that old fashioned hooped shirts rubbish back then! lol

  2. Colin lol…and just my colours as well.

    I was thinking just four months prior to this fixture.I was sitting on the front wall of our garden in Askew Rd watching the Queen drive past our house during the Coronation event tour!…Eee I were only a nipper when Queen came t’throne.

    Yes the floodlights of Loftus Rd..May they continue to shine on our lives.

  3. The wonderful account of that night is, to the best of my recollection, almost entirely true. Apart from one point. I knew Hubert Gregg fairly well and he assured me that The Duke Of Edinburgh was one of the few pubs that his wife (Pat Kirkwood) never did frequent.

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