Football: Loftus rogues and lofty ambition

Queen's Park Rangers 1 Bradford City 3
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The Independent Online
IN THE end there was a portion of everything at Loftus Road on Saturday: four well-taken goals; two red cards in the final minute for behaviour more threatening than actual; a large slice of commitment from both teams; and a dash of skill and cunning from the experienced Steve McCall that proved the most significant difference between two clubs perhaps still heading in opposite directions at the season's end.

Should their respective hopes and fears be realised it remains to be seen whether Bradford will be good enough for the Premiership or QPR too good for the Second Division, but certainly on Saturday's evidence it would be a negative response on both counts.

Bradford deserved the points all right, and considering the occasion they did well to control their nerves and leapfrog over Ipswich back into second place in the First Division table. But Rangers were scarcely the most testing of opponents, only mounting a sustained challenge once they were two goals behind following McCall's outrageous free-kick, scooped up over the wall and eventually finished off by Ashley Westwood. It must be said that, with seven players missing from the team that won 3-0 in Bradford in November, Gerry Francis has a severe injury crisis on his hands (and where have we heard that before?).

However, QPR will need more self-belief than this to avoid relegation in their last two games, starting with next Saturday's six-pointer at Port Vale and culminating in a London derby with Crystal Palace on the final day of the season.

In all there are eight teams fighting to avoid ending up in one of the three ejector seats. "It's going to be a very pressurised last two games," Francis said. "The teams that can handle that pressure will be the ones that stay up."

At the other end of the table it has come down to a two-horse race for the second automatic promotion spot, and Bradford have hit the front once more with two laps to go. Conceivably they could clinch it next weekend with victory over Oxford if Ipswich lose at Birmingham, and after the body blow of a home defeat by lowly Crewe - a result that served to increase Rangers' despair - who now would bet on Ipswich?

If things turn out that way there is bound to be sympathy for the East Anglians, who would then face the nightmare prospect of defeat in the playoffs for the third year running. But for Paul Jewell's Bradford, all the "phoenix from the fire" headlines that will come their way would surely be justified to mark the club's first season back in the top flight for more than 70 years.

Goals: Beagrie (32) 0-1; Westwood (62) 0-2; Gallen (79) 1-2; Watson (90) 1-3.

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Harper; Breacker, Ready, Maddix, Baraclough; Jeanne (Linighan, 90), Kulcsar (Murray, 63), Peacock, Rowland (Dowie, 63); Slade, Gallen.

Bradford City (4-4-2): Walsh; Wright, Westwood, Dreyer, Jacobs (O'Brien, 38); Sharpe, McCall, Whalley, Beagrie; Mills (Watson, 86), Blake (Windass 74).

Referee: R Styles (Waterlooville).

Bookings: QPR: Maddix, Kulcsar, Dowie. Bradford: Dreyer. Sent off: Westwood, Ready.

Man of the match: McCall.

Attendance: 11,641.

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