QPR champagne left on ice after last-gasp twist
Queen's Park Rangers 1 Hull City 1
Tuesday 26 April 2011
The multitude, bedecked in blue-and-white hoops, were already celebrating on the Loftus Road pitch when Simeon Jackson scored in the 96th minute at Carrow Road, 120 miles away, to delay QPR's return to the Premier League. It would take an implausible turn of events, involving a 13-goal turnaround, but Norwich's last-gasp victory over Derby, combined with Cardiff's success at Preston, means QPR are not yet promoted.
Football folk are the last people to tempt fate, and Neil Warnock is as superstitious as any, so the public address had to tell the club's joyous fans the players would not be coming for a lap of honour, and they should all go home.
They will return in 11 days' time, when Leeds United are the visitors, in the hope that promotion has already been secured. QPR, who are at Watford on Saturday, need one more point. Even should they lose both remaining games, Norwich and Cardiff will have to win both of theirs, and the latter manage a goal difference swing of at least 13 goals. It is possible, but highly unlikely.
"It's a great position to be in, five points clear with two games to go," said Warnock. "We'd have taken that at the start of the season, but I'm disappointed we haven't tied the Championship up. A few words were said in the dressing room – their goal was Sunday league defending – but the players have been fantastic all season so I can't fault them really."
Had Rangers taken advantage of their first half superiority the mathematics would have been irrelevant. Wayne Routledge, running onto a beautiful through pass from Taarabt, put them ahead after nine minutes with an emphatic finish. Rangers, who had already gone close through Heider Helguson, continued to dominate. For a while, with the sun baking down as the blue-and-white hoops passed the ball around with speed and elan, it was 1976 all over again with the parts of Don Masson, Gerry Francis and Stan Bowles being played by Alejandro Faurlin, Shaun Derry and Taarabt. All that was missing was the punk soundtrack.
Neil Warnock's team are unlikely to reach the heights Dave Sexton's did when coming within a whisker of the old First Division title – not unless Messrs Ecclestone and Mittal decide to open their Swiss bank accounts – but they have the same attacking mien and Helguson, Kaspars Gorkss and Taarabt all threatened to close out victory.
Hull last won at Loftus Road in 1963, the year their manager Nigel Pearson was born, and had been beaten 4-2 at home by Middlesbrough on Saturday. That result all but scuppered their play-off chances and, said Pearson, was the reason they began so poorly. However, having reached half-time still in touch he changed to 4-4-2 and, he noted, "we recovered our composure and looked a different side".
So did QPR, who began to look more interested in preserving their lead than extending it. This handed the initiative to Hull and it was no great surprise when, in the 82nd minute, the unmarked David Amoo ran on to a simple long pass from Hope Akpan and lashed in the equaliser.
It was the 20-year-old's first league goal, but he took it with such aplomb one could see why his parent club, Liverpool, paid Millwall up to £1m for him four years ago.
Patrick Aygemang and Faurlin both went close to restoring Rangers' lead but it was not to be. Hull were little happier with a point than Rangers.
"We have to win our games and need others to slip up now, it's probably too much," said Pearson – but they can look to next season with confidence, having climbed from 23rd place in November. For Rangers next season has even greater promise, but first they must complete this season's mission.
QPR (4-2-3-1): Kenny; Orr, Gorkss, Hall, Hill; Derry, Faurlin; Routledge, Taarabt, Smith (Ephraim, 68); Helguson (Aygemang, 77). Substitutes not used Cerny (gk), Connolly, Buzsaky, Shittu, Hulse.
Hull City (4-3-3): Duke; Chester, Hobbs, Gerrard, Dawson; Evans (Akpan, 12), Harper, Cairney (McLean, h-t); Garcia, Fryatt, Simpson (Amoo, 71).
Substitutes not used Oxley (gk), Devitt, Solano, Belaid.
Referee C Webster (Tyne & Wear)
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