QPR now stand on the finishing line of promotion following a third consecutive draw, this time at home to Hull City. And for the third game in a row they were made to rue the chances missed both on the pitch and in the Championship table. Wayne Routledge gave them the perfect start and once again they should’ve been home and dry by half time, but let the visitors dictate the last 30 minutes as Hull needed to win to stay in the play-off hunt for themselves.
A near full-house came in anticipation of a promotion party, but were left to wait another five days to confirm their return to the Premier League. Warnock made one change to the starting X1 that had faced Cardiff 48 hours earlier with Fitz Hall coming in for Matt Connolly. I’ve no idea whether he was dropped or had a knock, but Connolly was on the bench along with Danny Shittu following Ishmael Miller’s return to his club as his loan had ended 24 hours earlier.
Hull came to town with the second best away record in the Division having been unbeaten on their travels since September and they almost took the lead within two minutes. Barely 90 seconds had elapsed when ex-QPR loanee Jay Simpson received the ball on the half-way line. He took a touch and sent Matty Fryatt clear with a through-ball with our back-four nowhere in sight and as the Hull No.12 bore down on goal from the wing, he elected to shoot and forced Paddy Kenny into a save using his right foot. We obviously hadn’t learnt from Cardiff where we were exposed on about three or four occasions with a simple ball behind the defence. It was something that was going to come back and bite us on the backside !
On 7 minutes, Richard Garcia committed his first of many fouls when he blatantly tripped Taarabt right on the corner flag by the Paddock/School End. Although I used the word ‘blatantly’, it didn’t stop Hull’s No.7 protesting his innocence. He even did a Marcel Marceau imitation by making the shape of the ball with his hands. He seemed to forget that the ball didn’t in fact move when the challenge came so either he’s a liar or thick. Or possibly both ? From the resulting free kick Taarabt found Helguson lurking with intent at the near post, but his glancing header landed on the roof of the net.
Two minutes later, the ground erupted as we took the lead. Faurlin won the ball off James Harper and found Taarabt who held off Harper’s attempt to win the ball back and found Routledge running into space at full speed. QPR’s winger left all opponents for dead and as he headed into the box I couldn’t help thinking of the similar chance that he missed at Scunthorpe recently. With me thinking ‘don’t hit it at the keeper put it to his left or right’, he ignored my wishes and hit it straight down the keeper’s throat with such venom that the keeper was left helpless. I was slightly gutted as I had Derry down for his first goal at 33/1 !!! It was enough to make grown men hug total strangers, or in my case the bloke who has sat next to me for the past ten years. Okay, he’s not a total stranger as such, but I still have to look at his name on his seat when I speak to him.
The crowd were now in full voice in every part of the ground. We were playing some lovely football and were in control for the rest of the half. On 19 minutes, we won a throw in front of the West Paddock and as Hall’s long throw reached the edge of the 6-yard box, Helguson got in front of his marker to bullet his header just under the bar, but Matt Duke managed to tip it over for a corner. Just before the half hour, Routledge and Taarabt combined down by the corner flag and Taarabt put in a very inviting ball into the danger area that had Hull panicking. But we had no one to put in a challenge. Then on 31 minutes, Garcia fouled Taarabt once again on the corner of the box and claimed that he was hard done by. Just like he did earlier, Taarabt put in a great cross which eluded everyone in the 6-yard box, but was met by Helguson at the far post. Instead of electing to go for goal, he put the ball back across the goal from whence it came where Gorkss jumped highest and got his header on target from all of two yards. But by hook or by crook Hull’s defence first blocked the ball on the line then hoofed it away from danger. The scene resembled a game of ‘bundle’ that we used to play in the playground many moons ago. To this day I haven’t got a clue who blocked it, but whoever it was, I hate you ! Fifteen bloody years and all that.
A couple of minutes later, Routledge was fouled 40 yards from goal and as Taarabt lined up to take it some fans in the Lower Loft were shouting ‘shoot’, but surely he’s not that ambitious ? The answer is that he is as he hit a powerful right foot shot that was swerving as it left his boot, but ended up six yards wide. Just before half time, we had an injury scare when Paddy Kenny went to collect a routine high ball into the box. As he jumped, he shouted which only left Fitz Hall to get out of his way, but wasn’t quick enough and he first landed on Hall’s shoulders then fell awkwardly on his shoulder as he hit the turf. He had to have about 3 minutes of treatment and while he was on the ground some home fans started singing ‘one arm, he only needs one arm !’ Half time: 1-0. So far, so good, although it should’ve been over already.
At the start of the 2nd half, it was Hull’s turn to have an injury worry of their own when Tom Cairney appeared to have been seriously hurt by Shaun Derry as they tussled in midfield. Aaron McLean was stripped off almost immediately and replaced him. For the next 20 minutes we seemed to be content on keeping the ball rather than go for a second goal and played on the counter-attack. On 61 minutes, Faurlin gave the ball away very sloppily on the edge of the Hull box and within seconds we were on the back foot. Harper had spotted Fryatt making another run behind our back-four and found him with a 35 yard hoof upfield. The Hull forward left Fitz Hall for dead and headed into the box and as he lined up to shoot Hall managed to make up lost ground and execute a perfect sliding tackle and put the shot out for corner.
Halfway through the 2nd half, Hogan Ephraim replaced Tommy Smith. On 70 minutes, Helguson found Taarabt on the centre spot with a square ball and Taarabt produced a drag back to leave his marker bamboozled and ran at full pelt into the box, but took one touch too many and as the defender breathed down his neck, he wasted the chance by hitting the side netting. Ten minutes later, we were made to pay for our profligacy in front of goal. McLean cut in from the left wing and found Hope Akpan in centre midfield and he then lobbed the ball over our defence behind Bradley Orr where David Amoo was unmarked and had a clear run at goal. Waiting for the bouncing ball to come down, Amoo hit an unstoppable volley into the roof of the net to almost total silence bar the noise from the away fans in the upper tier of the School End.
Now was the time when all QPR fans looked to other results and the fact that Derby were holding Norwich at Carrow Road with about 8 minutes to go was the good news we all wanted to hear. But my mate countered ‘you watch them score in the 100th minutes as usual’. I’m going to get his lottery numbers on Saturday ! With 3 minutes remaining Patrick Agyemang, who had replaced Helguson ten minutes before, wasted the chance to go into Rangers folklore and become an all-time hero when he snatched at a chance rather than take his time when almost clean through. Faurlin had found him running into space with a lovely lofted ball over the midfield, but he hit a lobbed shot that never even went near rippling the net and landed in the seats behind the goal. It’s easy to speak retrospectively, but as he received the ball various fans were shouting out things like ‘take a touch’, ‘bring it down’ and ‘take your time’.
As the 4th Official indicated that 5 minutes would be added on, Norwich were still drawing according to my mate’s iphone. Two minutes into added time, Taarabt (who else ?) was fouled by Jack Hobbs 25 yards out and Anthony Gerrard decided to argue with the referee for some odd reason when it was a blatant foul. A yellow card was the result of the argument. As Hull lined up their wall, Taarabt mysteriously walked away and left Faurlin as the only protagonist at the set piece. This gave the keeper only one option as to where the ball was heading in my eyes and I was right. The Argentinian starlet hit a perfect curling ball left footed over the wall and to the keeper’s left as I had predicted and just as I was ready to hug the bloke next to me and probably give him a big kiss, this time Matt Duke saved my embarrassment and the bloody ball, the party pooper. I hate you Matt Duke, I could live with the embarrassment believe me and I’m sure my neighbouring fan would forgive me. But no, you had to ruin my day didn’t you !
To make me feel even more pissed off, the news then filtered through that Simeon Jackson had scored the inevitable late goal for Norwich ! As the final whistle blew, it was an eerie feeling, but those who hadn’t heard the news flooded onto the pitch from all sides of the ground. I’m reminded of a recent front cover of ‘A Kick Up the R’s’ which said ‘are we there yet ?, are we there yet ?, are we there yet ?’ Little did Dave Thomas know, but that’s just what we were all saying after these last three games. As we are all aware, it’s all over bar the shouting with Cardiff now needing snookers and with us on the black with the ball in the jaws of the pocket so to speak. Let’s hope that the Football League don’t call a foul shot next week.
Team: Kenny 7, Orr 6, Hill 6, Hall 8, Gorkss 7, Derry 6, Faurlin 7, Taarabt 7, Routledge 7, Smith 6 (Ephraim 6), Helguson 7 (Agyemang 5)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Connolly, Shittu, Buzsaky, Hulse
MOTM: Fitz Hall. Credit where its due as he’s not a fans favourite, but he won every header and his block tackle on Fryatt in the 2nd half was superb.
Referee: C. Webster 7
Attendance: 17,399 (including 1,109 Hull fans)
(The above pics were taken by Martin Percival and used with his permission)