Taarabt fires Rangers to verge of promotion but final hurdle looms large

Cardiff City 2 Queen's Park Rangers 2
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And so begins a fortnight which, for whatever reason, promises to be among the most notable in the 123-year history of Queen's Park Rangers.

Today, victory over Hull City will trigger the Loftus Road promotion party – although, with their goal difference, even a point would be enough to render acceptable a mass popping of corks. But then will follow the hearing which could see their euphoria and anticipation transformed into bitterness and recrimination.

In private, QPR officials say they are confident of avoiding a points deduction when an independent regulatory commission rules on seven charges brought against them by the Football Association. But if the gavel was to drop hardest – which would bizarrely happen two days before the end of the season – then the same officials also admit to being prepared to start an almighty legal wrangle to rival any in the FA's history.

QPR might refuse to play in the play-offs until the appeal is heard. It is a scenario so messy it is barely worth the consideration.

Fortunately for the Hoops faithful, the players have clearly decided to do just that and instead act as Neil Warnock has urged – "worry only about the football". Even Alejandro Faurlin has managed to do so, the Argentine midfielder at the centre of the third-party ownership controversy.

While he was influential enough in limiting Cardiff City to a solitary point – when these other automatic promotion chasers in the Championship were so desperate for all three – this was the Adel Taarabt Show. Appropriately enough, really, seeing as this has been the Adel Taarabt Season.

True, Craig Bellamy did rival the Moroccan in the man-of-the-match stakes which a lung-busting performance which augurs so well for the Bluebirds' final three-match charge to overhaul Norwich's one-point advantage and claim second place. But the manner in which Taarabt twice struck back – first after Jay Bothroyd's spectacular curler and then late on after Bellamy's own clinical conversion – was bound to steal the headlines.

The neutral should hope for QPR's elevation to be sealed as it will be so intriguing to see how Taarabt copes in the Premier League. Put simply, he is delightful to watch. As was this entire 90 minutes.

"Those first two goals you wouldn't get in the Champions League," Warnock said. "What an advert for the Championship. Both clubs have a great appetite for the game this year. It'll be interesting to see what happens in the run-in now.

"But the champagne hasn't been anywhere near the ice for us yet," Warnock added. "We have the hardest match of anyone on Monday as Hull went 17 matches undefeated. We'll just play it by ear."

Their opponents, meanwhile, head to Preston, whose manager, Phil Brown, has promised Cardiff that: "I can guarantee there won't be a repeat performance of how we played against Millwall."

Preston's 4-0 embarrassment on Saturday did raise the hopes, but having lost second place and therefore the old "destiny in our own hands" optimism, Cardiff may well be vulnerable against a side aware they are but one match above the relegation zone. Yet Dave Jones, a former Preston player, is adamant this will not be the case.

"We're not going to wallow in self -pity just because we didn't get maximum points today," said the Cardiff manager, who claimed QPR "were taken to the cleaners".

"Yes, we've lost the advantage and given it to somebody else – but let's see what they can do with it because there's a lot of twists and turns to come. We are already guaranteed a place in the play-offs, so we've done stage one. Now the aim is to get to stage two."

Cardiff City (4-4-2): Bywater; Quinn, McNaughton, Keinan, Samuel; Burke (Emmanuel-Thomas, 77), McPhail, Olofinjana, Whittingham; Bellamy (Chopra, 87), Bothroyd. Substitutes not used: Heaton (gk), Rae, Hudson, Blake, Matthews.

QPR (4-4-2): Kenny; Orr, Connolly, Gorkss, Hill; Routledge, Derry, Faurlin, Smith (Agyemang, 69; Taarabt, Helguson. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Buzsaky, Hulse, Ephraim, Miller.

Bookings: Cardiff Whittingham, Quinn.

Man of the match Taarabt.

Referee L Mason (Lancashire). Attendance 26,058.

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