QPR inch closer to Premier League dream
25/04/2011 - 15.00
QUEENS Park Rangers are now tantalisingly close to returning to the Premier League after being held by Hull City at Loftus Road.
A capacity crowd in W12 witnessed Wayne Routledge fire Rangers into the lead inside ten minutes before substitute David Amoo hauled the Tigers level with ten minutes remaining.
A last gasp winner for Norwich City ensured that Rangers are mathematically still a Championship club, but nevertheless QPR's commanding goal difference ensures the matter all-but decided.
Rangers could unfortunately point to their profligacy once more as the reason that promotion was not confirmed on the day - as they seek to secure matters at Vicarage Road next week.
The atmosphere surrounding the ground was somewhat tempered delight - as despite being held at home a mathematical miracle would be required to keep QPR down.
Neil Warnock opted to make one change from the side that heroically picked up a point at Cardiff City with Fitz Hall replacing Matt Connolly at the heart of defence.
Paddy Kenny started behind a back four of Bradley Orr, Kaspars Gorkss, Hall and Clint Hill, with Alejandro Faurlín and Shaun Derry once again partnering in the centre of the park.
Wayne Routledge, Adel Taarabt and Tommy Smith started behind lone forward Heidar Helguson with the front four looking to fire QPR in the Premier League
Hull City made three changes from the side that were defeated by Middlesbrough with Vito Mannone Liam Rosenior and Robert Koren dropping out from the starting eleven.
Matt Duke therefore started behind a back four of James Chester, Jack Hobbs, Anthony Gerrard and Andy Dawson.
The midfield comprised of Richard Garcia, Tom Cairney, James Harper and Corry Evans with Jay Simpson and Matty Fryatt lining up in the forward line.
It was a glorious summers day in West London and South Africa Road was a sea of blue and white in the hours prior to kick off. The excitement and buzz around the ground was one of cautious optimism that they're side could get the job done today.
The spirited display at Cardiff City just a couple of days previously gave an indication as to the spirit in the Rangers camp at present, and despite the tabloid media attempting to upset the apple cart it was evident that the supporters were going to give the utmost to their side.
The weather was set fair for fine conditions as the two sides took to the field - colours were in full view all around the ground with the importance of a potential playoff place in the offing for the visitors Hull City.
From the off it was made quickly apparent that this was to be no formality. Matty Fryatt seems to have a knack for decisive goals against QPR and when he peeled away down the right he forced Paddy Kenny into a smart save with his feet.
It was a warning that would have to be heeded as the former Leicester City man was laid in by former QPR loanee Jay Simpson. Nevertheless play soon switched to the other end and the mercurial Taarabt won an important free kick.
Earlier in the campaign Taarabt was criticised for the petulance that was shown at the KC Stadium, but he dazzled the Tigers rearguard and drew the ill-timed tackle near the corner flag just short of ten minutes.
His subsequent cross saw Heidar Helguson edge away from his marker to plant a glancing header which kissed the cross bar and away behind the goal. It had the fans on their feet once more as they were inches close from the opening strike.
Nevertheless Rangers would not be denied as just seconds later they had the advantage. More fantastic work from the irresitable Taarabt saw him roll the ball through to Wayne Routledge and the winger did the rest - bearing down on goal before clipping effortlessly beyond Matt Duke.
Hull were forced into a change after the ten minute mark as Corry Evans was withdrawn with an injury and Hope Akpan was introduced for the Tigers. The man-mountain midfielder slotted into the middle of the park for the visiting side.
The home crowd was in fine voice in what were testing conditions, with the sun beating down on the Loftus Road surface. It was evidently the hosts that were in the ascendancy at this moment in time as the advantage was nearly doubled minutes later.
Fitz Hall - who had slotted in ably into the back four - fizzed a long throw into the area and Helguson's header drew a smart save from Duke. The 'keeper tipped the effort over the bar from point blank range to preserve the slender advantage for Rangers.
Jay Simpson's spell at Loftus Road last campaign could be considered a success in spells, but he has found life at KC Stadium hard going. The forward's speculative effort dipped over Paddy Kenny's goal but nevertheless it was a sign of Hull's appetite to draw level.
City's defence was being testing as the game ebbed towards half time, as only a smart clearance from Richard Garcia prevented QPR from doubling the lead. Taarabt's corner found Kaspars Gorkss only for the defender's header to be denied by the Australian.
The visiting side were offering purely counter-attacking credentials at this stage with the young Tom Cairney and James Harper being marshaled well by the consistent duo of Alejandro Faurlín and Shaun Derry.
Rangers plugged away but couldn't net what could have been a decisive second goal, and had to be contented with a one goal lead going into the break. It promised much for the second period as the R's looked to cement their place at the top.
Nigel Pearson responded to the flow of the game by introducing forward Aaron McLean at half time - the aforementioned Cairney was withdrawn as Hull adapted their formation to accommodate three forwards in McLean, Fryatt and Simpson.
McLean's was floored before achieving a touch and writing around in agony there was a fear that he would have to be withdrawn. But following the clash with Derry and two minutes treatment, he was eligible to continue.
Andy Dawson was cautioned for upending Heidar Helguson before Garcia fell to the same fate barely minutes later. Taarabt and Faurlín were over the set-piece and the former attempted a curling effort. His miserable form from free-kicks continued however, seeing the ball dip over the target.
Nigel Pearson clearly had his charges well-motivated and only an errant effort from McLean maintained the scoreline. The former Peterborough United front-man glanced wide from a Garcia cross.
Hull came again and only a last ditch tackle from Hall denied Fryatt an opportunity at goal. The ball bounced off the R's defender as the former Leicester City front-man looked to get his effort away - the defender atoned for his error clearing away for a corner.
Substitutions seemed to stifle the flow of the game somewhat, with Hogan Ephraim replacing Tommy Smith, while David Amoo entered the field in place of Jay Simpson, the former QPR man receiving a warm reception from the home crowd as he left the field.
The impertus was with the visiting side as nerves was creeping in to Rangers' game. As a result a weary Heidar Helguson was withdrawn for Patrick Agyemang, a player that helped turn the tide at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Rangers thought they had hauled themselves two goals in front when Derry once again fought to win possession in midfield and Taarabt roamed free. His touch was slight but there was nothing subtle about his left-footed strike which rattled the side netting with his weaker left-foot.
Out of nothing with ten minutes remaining Hull City were level, It was a bitter pill to swallow for QPR who had defended manfully and in honesty fairly confidently at times. Two substitutes combined to create the leveller for the Tigers.
A clearance from Paddy Kenny was once again not held up effectively by a tiring front-line and three passes later Hull were level. Hope Akpan picked up the ball before laying in David Amoo and the forward struck beyond Kenny and into the back of the net.
The goal almost punctured the atmosphere the W12, but the hosts came roaring back in search of a winner in what was sure to be an eventful final ten minutes. The fans responded in kind in a bid to urge their team that extra step required.
Agyemang spurned a glorious chance to hand Rangers all three points when he worked his way beyond the City back-line but an attempted lob - somewhat surprisingly chosen - was poorly executed and drifted over the bar to Duke's delight.
Once more chance would ensue however and only a stunning save from Duke would deny Alejandro Faurlín from saving the day. His free-kick, when Taarabt was felled, was set to nestle in the bottom right hand corner, only for Duke to pluck the ball away to safety.
It was the final chance of the game as the R's learned that Norwich's last gasp winner would make it go to Vicarage Road. So it's champagne on ice and the fat lady is clearing her throat - not a comment on the vocal styling of Delia Smith it must be added.
Rangers head to Watford knowing a point sends them into the Premier League both in terms of probability and mathematically - the latter being the only part of the equation missing from today. One more round required for Queens Park Rangers.
Paddy KENNY, Bradley ORR, Clint HILL, Shaun DERRY, Fitz HALL, Adel TAARABT, Heidar HELGUSON (Patrick AGYEMANG 77), Alejandro FAURLÍN, Kaspars GORKSS, Wayne ROUTLEDGE, Tommy SMITH (Hogan EPHRAIM 68).
Matt DUKE, Andy DAWSON, Jack HOBBS, Richard GARCIA, James HARPER, Matty FRYATT, Tom CAIRNEY (Aaron MCLEAN 46), James CHESTER, Jay SIMPSON (Ryan AMOO 71), Anthony GERRARD, Corry EVANS (Hope AKPAN 12).
Needless to say both he and Faurlín have been among the most consistent duos in the Championship so far and he continued his string of performances today.