Routledge strikes twice to edge QPR closer to the promised land

Queen's Park Rangers 3 Sheffield United 0
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As Queen's Park Rangers ease ever-closer to the Premier League, attention has begun to focus on how they might fare in the top flight, and in particular how Adel Taarabt will do. Rangers are not, though, a one-man team and this was amply demonstrated last night as they swept aside Sheffield United.

Taarabt, troubled by stomach pain, had a relatively quiet night but that mattered not as Wayne Routledge, Alejandro Faurlin and Tommy Smith tore the visitors apart with their passing and movement. Routledge is on loan from Newcastle but may well make his move permanent in the summer. Like Smith he has never quite established himself in the top flight and QPR may provide the stage for him to finally do so. Faurlin, though, could make the biggest impact. The Argentine is also the player at the centre of an FA investigation into transfer irregularities that might cost Rangers points, but probably will not.

Even a deduction looks unlikely to deny Rangers promotion. Victory moved Neil Warnock's team 13 points clear of the play-off places and three wins from their remaining seven games will confirm promotion.

Warnock, who will be celebrating his seventh promotion with six different clubs said: "It's in our hands. Other teams do their talking, we do ours on the pitch. That is the best way to do it."

For Sheffield United, however, relegation looms. They remain seven points adrift of safety. The decision to fire Warnock in the wake of the Blades' relegation from the Premier League four years ago looks ever more misguided.

"We are a soft touch away from home," said Adams, the fourth manager at Bramall Lane since Warnock was forced out. "We make too many errors and you can't do that against good players. Unfortunately that's been the story of our season. But we have to keep going, we have four home games left and that'll be key."

While the gap in quality was immediately apparent, the Blades did not lack endeavour and the leaders initially found the breakthrough hard to fashion.

Nevertheless Faurlin and Clint Hill had both spurned chances before the deadlock was finally broken. Faurlin played a lovely first-time pass out to Heider Helguson on the right. The Icelander chested the ball down before picking out Routledge who provided a clinical finish.

To the disgruntlement of their support, Rangers failed to press on and might have paid with Stephen Quinn, breaking from midfield, and Daniel Bogdanovic, from close in, squandering opportunities to level either side of the interval.

Sheffield's wastefulness proved costly. Seven minutes into the second period Matt Lowton failed to properly clear a corner and Faurlin cracked a first-time shot past Steve Simonsen. Eleven minutes later Faurlin, Smith and Helguson combined to set up Routledge who drove the ball inside the far post. There should have been more but Patrick Agyemang somehow blazed over from 10 yards and Simonsen denied Routledge a hat-trick with a sharp save. Nothing, though, could dent the joy of the Rangers' fans as they headed into the west London night.

Queen's Park Rangers (4-2-3-1): Kenny: Orr, Gorkss, Hall, Hill; Derry (Buzsaky, 85), Faurlin; Routledge, Taarabt (Aygemang, 71), Smith (Miller, 81); Helguson. Substitutes not used Cerny (gk), Ephraim, Chimbonda, Shittu.

Sheffield United (4-4-2) Simonsen; Nosworthy (Riise, 59), Collins, Lowton, Mattock; Montgomery, Doyle, Quinn, Bogdanovic (Yeates, 64); Evans (Bent, 79), Henderson. Substitutes not used Aksalu (gk), Cresswell, Kozluk, McAllister.

Referee K Stroud (Hampshire).