QPR 3 Norwich City 3: Rowlands ruins Hunter's brief reign

Click to follow
The Independent Football

A mayfly, the TV ad says, having a life span of only 24 hours, tries to make the most of every second. Martin Hunter, similarly, lived life to the full in his one game in charge of Norwich before Peter Grant takes over as Nigel Worthington's full-time successor tomorrow.

"Frustrating," was Hunter's one-word summary, but that was far from the full story.

"It was the old end-to-end football, to use the cliché," he added. "A great one for the spectators, but it was horrible sat on the bench. There were some very good pieces of play and some poor defending."

That pattern was evident as early as the fourth minute, as Lee Croft touched Dickson Etuhu's pass on to Darren Huckerby, who calmly tucked his finish under Paul Jones. Having conceded five while playing for Wales against Slovakia last Saturday, the keeper would have been forgiven for fearing another embarrassing afternoon, but he made a superb save plunging to his right to keep out a Rob Earnshaw header six minutes later, and that seemed to spark QPR into life.

Jimmy Smith equalised midway through the half, cleverly dropping off as Norwich's back four retreated and sidefooting a firm finish after gathering Lee Cook's pass in space just outside the area. Martin Rowlands then thumped in a free-kick to put the home side ahead in first-half injury time.

The introduction of the 37-year-old Dion Dublin turned things back Norwich's way, the veteran - who eight years ago was signed for Aston Villa by the QPR manager, John Gregory - levelling from an Andy Hughes cut-back with 18 minutes remaining. When Zesh Rehmann then hauled down Huckerby to earn a penalty that Rob Earnshaw converted, Norwich were dreaming of a first away win of the season.

Hunter bafflingly spoke of them having shown more "steel" than previously this season, but the announcement of five minutes of injury time induced panic. QPR swept forward, a half-blocked shot fell for Rowlands, and his first-time effort from a narrow angle squirted in off Paul Gallagher to extend Gregory's unbeaten start to life at Loftus Road to three.