Ailing Routledge delivers the right tonic for QPR
Queen's Park Rangers 1 Leicester City 0
Monday 07 March 2011
The margins of success are slim in the Championship as this tale of two substitutes underlined. Three-quarters into a tight but entertaining match Sven Goran Eriksson sent Martyn Waghorn into the fray. The striker's first act was to rob Matt Connolly and advance on goal only to shoot narrowly over.
Twenty minutes later, a draw seemingly inevitable after Waghorn had missed an even better chance, Neil Warnock brought on Ishmael Miller. His first involvement was to run on to a through ball from Wayne Routledge and score.
Warnock revealed it had been a toss-up whether to put on Miller or Tommy Smith. With the dugout divided, the deciding vote went to assistant manager Mick Jones in the stand. He said Miller. The rest was hysteria as the biggest crowd of the season at Loftus Road celebrated Miller's goal, and the subsequent victory, with unbridled joy.
An important win over the division's form team became even more significant with the three clubs immediately below Rangers all losing. That extended QPR's lead to eight points with 11 matches to play. Fifteen years after they dropped out of the elite amid such financial distress that they subsequently fell into the third tier, a return to the top flight seems certain.
Only complacency, or dramatic loss of form, can halt them now but neither is likely in a dressing room overseen by Warnock and including battle-scarred veterans such as Shaun Derry, Clint Hill and Paddy Kenny, as well as flair players like Adel Taarabt and Akos Buzsaky. It makes for a well-balanced unit that hung in against an often superior Leicester side to record an 11th successive unbeaten league match.
That resilience was highlighted by Routledge, who was sent home from training on Friday with a bag of antibiotics and told to get fit for tomorrow's match at Millwall. Instead he rang Warnock on Saturday and said he wanted to play. The winger proceeded to nullify the threat of Kyle Naughton, as well as lay on the goal. "I said to him in the dressing room in front of the rest of the lads, 'That was a team performance you put in for us there'," said Warnock of his loanee. "When you've got lads like that, who do more than they should do, it shows you how much character you've got in your squad."
Defeat was hard on Leicester, who had the game's most polished performers in Jeffrey Bruma and Andy King. Poor finishing and Kenny's keeping denied them victory and Eriksson consoled himself by saying: "If we play like that in the remaining 11 games we'll have a good chance."
No one will fancy facing Leicester, who were in the relegation zone when Eriksson took over in October, should they reach the play-offs. QPR were also threatened with the drop when Warnock took over 12 months ago but while it has been quite a year the champagne remains on ice, for a few weeks at least.
Queen's Park Rangers (4-2-3-1): Kenny; Orr, Hall (Connolly, 31), Shittu, Hill; Derry, Faurlin; Taarabt (Miller, 86), Buzsaky (Ephraim, 90), Routledge; Helguson. Substitutes not used Cerny (gk), Hulse, Smith, Moen.
Leicester City (4-3-1-2): Ricardo; Naughton, Bruma, Bamba, Mee; Oakley, Abe, Wellens; King (Gallagher, 79); Vassell (Waghorn, 66), Yakubu (Dyer, 86). Substitutes not used Weale (gk), Vitor, Texeira, Berner.
Possession QPR 49% Leicester 51%
Attempts on target QPR 4 Leicester 5.
Man of the match: Kenny. Match rating 7/10.
Referee R East (Wiltshire). Attendance 18,068.
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