Thorpe header puts Rangers in reach of the summit

Queen's Park Rangers 1 Brentford 0
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The Independent Football

The nerve ends were jangling a touch towards the end, but the closeness of the scoreline does not tell the story. Queen's Park Rangers dominated at Loftus Road last night, playing by far the better football, and could have had the game won long before half-time.

Tony Thorpe's goal won it and took them to second in the table, but the outstanding player was the winger Kevin McLeod.

An exciting game progressedat a terrific pace, roared on by a passionate crowd. Rangers v Brentford? It was more like Rangers v Celtic.

QPR attacked with vigour, moving the ball forward at speed from midfield and always seeking to use the full width of the pitch. McLeod looked particularly dangerous on the left, always taking on his opponent and whipping in wicked crosses. Brentford were left searching for possession, and only fine goalkeeping by Paul Smith kept them in contention.

Twice in the first half he denied Martin Rowlands, with an excellent low stop when he burst through early on, and an even better one-handed save as Rowlands' glancing header from a free-kick flashed towards goal.

In between was an even better chance for QPR, McLeod's accurate cross finding Marcus Bean unmarked but his header struck the post. Brentford were struggling to maintain their grip on the game andeverything they did in the first half bore the look of a harassed commuter in a rush-hour jam.

There was one exception: Jay Tabb was a picture of Brazilian composure in an isolated Brentford attack as he swung in a superb overhead kick that brought a good save out of Chris Day. But the dam had to break. A free-kick confused Brentford's defence on 42 minutes, McLeod knocked the ball down and Thorpe swept it in from close range.

Thanks to Smith's earlier good work, the game remained balanced in the second half, but it became scrappy and niggly as tension rose. Brentford attacked with aggression, gathering more possession, and they almost equalised when a cross from the left set up Kevin O'Connor but the goalkeeper made a reaction save to repel his hurried shot.

In an entertaining last 15 minutes, Rangers rediscovered their earlier form. Three times McLeod burst through to shoot; they all missed, but it did not matter. Rangers look on course for a return to the First Division.

The Rangers manager, Ian Holloway, is as passionate about the club as the fans and was moved by their magnificent support. "We need them to make as much noise as that against Plymouth on Saturday," he said. "The fans are lifting the roof off at the moment. I was a player here for five years and they never made that much noise, not even against Chelsea.

"I think it's coming off the back of adversity, when we thought we were going to lose our beautiful club."

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Day; Edghill, Forbes, Carlisle, Padula; Rowlands (Ainsworth, 69), Bean, Bircham, McLeod; Thorpe, Gallen. Substitutes not used: Culkin (gk), Palmer, Sabin, Pacquette.

Brentford (4-4-2): Paul Smith; Dobson, Kitamirike, Sonko, Somner; O'Connor (Evans, 66), Hutchinson, Tabb (Wright, 66), Hunt; May (Harrold, 81), Rougier. Substitutes not used: Julian (gk), Jay Smith.

Referee: R Pearson (Co Durham).