QPR restored their 9 point lead over second place Norwich with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Neil Warnock’s former club Sheffield United. In doing so, it opened the trap door for the Blades to no doubt take up hostilities with their city neighbours next season in League 1. Two goals from Wayne Routledge and a 20 yard thunderbolt from Alejandro Faurlin gave Rangers their 22nd win and their 22nd clean sheet of the season with no doubt more to come. It’s amazing what you can read into football statistics. Had you not watched this game, be it live or on Sky TV and just relied on the stats, you would of come to the conclusion that Micky Adams’s Sheffield United were hard done by. You would have come to the wrong conclusion as well.
Since the advent of Sky TV running football in this country, we have seen a plethora of ideas brought into the beautiful game. From ‘fantasy football’ to OPTA stats to the fact that football didn’t exist pre-Sky, hence all the records being along the lines of ‘the first player to score 100 goals in the Premier League’, the ‘most clean sheets in the Premier League’. I’ve always said it, but if Brentford were to win 25-0 on Saturday, Sky would lead with the story that Wayne Rooney scored a tap-in goal from 6 inches and describe it as the best goal scored since his last best goal or something ridiculous. The fact that we were back to a home game on a weekday evening following two consecutive Saturday 3pm kick offs is another bugbear of mine, but I digress. The ONLY OPTA stats I care about from this game were in the GOALS Scored/Conceded column. I’d also like to take to task the person from OPTA assigned to log every stat from the match, because if Sheffield United had 9 shots on target and 10 off target then I must have been in the toilet for longer than the 2 minutes I imagined.
To say that this game was one sided would be an understatement. I don’t recall Paddy Kenny making one worthwhile save all evening let alone 9 !!! I do recall a header at the far post from a corner being chested down 3ft off the line by Derry and NOT on the line as reported by the Press. This was in the 44th minute if I recall and just before that Hall had dived in and blocked a goal-bound shot from the edge of the box. The only decent save I recall in fact was when a shot from Ched Evans went sailing over the bar and some bloke six rows in front of me leapt salmon like to pluck the ball out of the air. Kenny would’ve applauded it had he bothered to look behind as the ball sailed wildly over.
As early as the 3rd minute, Tommy Smith tried his luck from 20 yards, but his shot went just wide following some great work by Taarabt, Hill got on the end of Adel’s low ball across the face of the goal, but couldn’t connect fully and United escaped. Rangers were playing some great stuff, but just had to be patient it seemed. Their patience was rewarded on 28 minutes when Faurlin sent a reverse pass to Helguson that only Faurlin had spotted running into the box. As the ball reached the bye-line, Helguson hooked the ball back to the penalty spot and found Routledge lurking with intent. The ball was volleyed low into the goal giving Simonsen no chance. I’m glad the betting shop wouldn’t let me have my bet on Derry for the first goal now as the game has already started. I blame the man from OPTA Stats for that as well.
As I may have mentioned earlier, Sheffield United decided to venture into our half for the last 15 minutes, but our rearguard stood firm every time. Not once were we ever in danger of conceding a goal and as United had lost every game this season where they’ve conceded first, this game was never in doubt, even before we scored. Bradley Orr almost doubled the lead when he cut inside onto his left foot and sent a curling shot just wide of the keeper’s right-hand post. It was a professional performance from the whole team 1st half, more of the same in the 2nd half and we would no doubt score more goals. I thought that Faurlin was running the show with decent performances from Smith, Routledge and Orr, but no one played badly. Half time 1-0.
The 2nd half started with more of the same with the R’s pressing the ball from the front and not letting the opposition dwell on the ball too long. After such pressure we forced a corner with Adel assigned to deliver the ball as usual. His cross to the far post hit a defender, who seemed to be daydreaming, and as the ball reached the edge of the box, Faurlin hit as sweet a shot as you’ll see all season, back into the bottom of the goal giving Simonsen no chance. I even ran to the TV screen in the Lower Loft to watch it over and over again from every conceivable angle. That’s one thing that Sky can be proud of though.
Then on 66 minutes, came the piece de resistance with the best piece of play of the night. Faurlin fed Smith, he in turn found Helguson, who laid the ball into the path of Wayne Routledge. He took one touch and then hit a right-foot shot to the far post and well beyond the keeper’s reach. A couple of minutes later, Helguson set up Routledge for the third time, but his instant shot was saved superbly by Simonsen. On 72 minutes, Helguson was found with a cross, but his header went just over, then Faurlin tried his luck again from the same position that he had scored from, but the keeper got down low to make a save. Then in the 82nd minute, Ishmael Miller, on for Tommy Smith two minutes before, burst into the box, but could only hit the side netting with a powerful shot. Full time: 3-0.
A routine win as expected, but Warnock will not allow the players to take anything for granted between now and Saturday 7th May. A thoroughly professional performance by all involved. Irrespective of how good or bad the opposition may be, this team has set about every game with the same attitude since the Barnsley game back in August. We’re back at Loftus Road for another live game in two weeks and I’m expecting a bigger crowd for some strange reason when they’ll be more than 3 points up for grabs. Before that, we have the small task of completing two more ‘doubles’. We can almost see the finishing line now and we just have to keep focused and the sky’s the limit.
Team: Kenny 6, Orr 7, Hill 7, Hall 8, Gorkss 6, Routledge 8, Taarabt 6 (Agyemang 6), Derry 7 (Buzsaky 6), Faurlin 9, Smith 8 (Miller 6), Helguson 8.
MOTM: Faurlin (just). He started two moves that led to Wayne’s two goals and scored a belter. End of.
Referee: Mr Stroud 7.
Attendance: 14,535 (including 415 away fans, allegedly – unless they counted those in the Lower School End).