Sheffield Utd 2 QPR 3: Blades off the rails in the final furlong

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The Independent Football

Yesterday, United went behind early, recovered to lead 2-1, but then missed a penalty and conceded an own goal before the veteran striker Paul Furlong fired in a 74th-minute winner for Rangers.

The consequence is that the gap between the Sheffield side and the nearest pretender to second place is down to seven points following Watford's win over Cardiff. None the less, Warnock says his side should not allow doubts to undermine them.

"If we'd known before the season started that we would be in this position with 10 games left we would have been delighted," he said. "It is how we react to this that is important but if we look after ourselves we needn't fear Leeds or anyone else." Their fans do not see things the same way. After Marc Nygaard had beaten Paddy Kenny at the second attempt to give Rangers a sixth-minute lead, some supporters vented their frustration and Warnock admitted that his players had been affected.

Rangers surrendered their advantage in the 22nd minute with a soft goal. Their goalkeeper Paul Jones was caught flat-footed by Michael Tonge's cross and Ade Akinbiyi beat him with a looping header.

If that was a gift, United's second goal required even less work, the mere presence of the captain, Chris Morgan, at his shoulder was enough to force Marc Bircham to turn Chris Armstrong's inswinging corner into his own net. It was an advantage to which United should have added five minutes following the restart after Morgan had been hauled down by Ian Evatt inside the Rangers penalty area. But Jones dived to his right to save Paul Ifill's penalty kick.

Even QPR's temporary manager, Gary Waddock, admitted that a 3-1 lead for United would have been difficult to overturn. Instead, the cost of Ifill's miss increased seven minutes later as Morgan put the ball into his own net. With 16 minutes left, Lee Cook set up Furlong to send a diagonal shot beyond Kenny and win the points for Rangers.