Match Information

  • Ipswich Town Under-21 3-3 Queens Park Rangers Development

  • When: Tuesday 9th January 2024

  • Kick-off: 1pm

  • Where: Ipswich Town Training Centre – Bent Lane side, Bent Lane, Rushmere St Andrew, Ipswich, Suffolk IP4 5RF

  • Competition: Premier League U21 Professional Development League South

  • Attendance: 63

Up until 10 or 15 years ago, the training grounds of professional clubs didn’t feature much on my groundhopping radar. They just consisted of multiple unenclosed pitches to facilitate training sessions and Saturday morning youth games.

Reserve team fixtures were staged at the main stadiums or at nearby Non-League grounds embracing the Football Combination for sides in the south of England and the Central League for those up north.

However since Under-21 football has effectively replaced reserve teams, many matches are hosted at training set-ups. Accordingly, some spectator amenities have been developed to accommodate people who want to watch.

Clubs like Manchester City, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol City Southampton, Liverpool, Swansea City Aston Villa, Everton, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City, West Ham United, Stoke City, Chelsea, Peterborough United and Mansfield Town all now possess designated seated grandstands at their respective training headquarters. Hence these venues are certainly worth groundhopping.

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Anyway, I had previously ventured to the Ipswich Town Training Centre at Playford Road on Tuesday 4th March 2014 when Ipswich U21’s beat Queens Park Rangers U21’s 1-0 (attendance 78). I remember walking through the entry gates before being directed to a semi-railed pitch around to the left.

I also recall giving one QPR supporter a lift back to Ipswich railway station after the final whistle and he inexplicably slammed my car door so hard that the handle and lock fell off. Therefore I was faced with an expensive repair bill!

Bringing the story up to date, I read online Ipswich have moved U21 home games to a new pitch across the road on Bent Lane so it was time for me to revisit. Thus I set off on a 180 mile round trip.

Ground Description

Rushmere St Andrew is a village housing 6,000 residents located four miles east of Ipswich. As I pulled up outside the training centre on Playford Road, a pleasant club steward pointed me towards a turning on the right which is Bent Lane.

The new pitch has a separate entrance and car park here. It is railed off on the one side where assorted parents, scouts and fans are permitted to stand. There are a couple of gantries to film the action from too

Another long-standing groundhopper arrived and he justified his presence saying: “This is undoubtedly a different ground to the training centre because a road separates the two sites.”

Programme Details

An up to date colour printed teamsheet was handed out 15 minutes prior to kick-off when supporters were allowed to access pitchside. 

The Match

I was asked to report affairs for the official QPR website and social media platforms so a six goal thriller kept me busy!

On a sunny but cold afternoon, Ipswich Town established a convincing 3-1 lead heading towards the end courtesy of strikes via Matty Roberts 2 (17 & 62 minutes) and Rio Morgan (75 mins). Arkell Jude-Boyd had scored for Rangers in the 32nd minute.

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Yet unexpectedly, the table topping R’s pulled off a seemingly improbable late comeback whereby centre-forward Nathan Jeche supplied close range goals on 88 and 90+2 minutes. A denouement that would have confounded any live betting!

The People

Andy Warren in the Ipswich Town media department was very helpful in confirming in advance this game was going ahead.

I had heard rumours beforehand a few Ipswich U21 fixtures are still held at the original Playford Road complex which I had already groundhopped but Andy double-checked for me that Bent Lane would definitely be in use. 

Additionally, I managed to chat with QPR goalscoring hero Nathan Jeche in the car park afterwards.

I was impressed by his enthusiastic attitude and my photo of him was used on QPR’s official academy Twitter feed. Nathan is a man to follow in future football betting stakes.

*Credit for the photos in this article belongs to Tony Incenzo*

Tony is an experienced football broadcaster who has worked for Clubcall, Capital Gold, IRN Sport, talkSPORT Radio and Sky TV. 

His devotion to Queens Park Rangers saw him reach 50 years without missing a home game in April 2023.

Tony is also a Non-League football expert having visited more than 2,500 different football grounds in his matchday groundhopping.

You can follow Tony on Twitter at @TonyIncenzo.