Team: Cerny, Ramage, Stewart (Simpson), Gorkss, Tosic, Leigertwood, Buzsaky, Faurlin, Ephraim, Taarabt (Parker), Priskin.
Subs Not Used: Putnins, Brown, Oastler, Cook, German.
A terrible clash of heads resulted in Damion Stewart, worryingly, going down for some time before being rushed to hospital ! We didn’t realise how serious it was at the time. Simpson came on, Ramage went to centre back and Leigertwood moved over to fullback. Cerny was back in goal and he looked very comfortable throughout. He appeared very confident and made a great save in the 1st half to deny the home side. We took the lead amidst great celebrations when Buzsaky received a knock back from Priskin on the edge of the box following a cross from Ephraim. It was the sweetest shot I have seen for a while, absolutely wonderful. We played some very neat, intricate football and enjoyed a lot of possession.
There was a lovely moment when the Palace Girls team (U9’s?) ran round the pitch perimeter at half-time and as they approached the R’s section, one of the girls with a huge smile on her face, lifted up her Palace shirt to reveal a Rangers top underneath amid roars of laughter.
On the hour mark, their keeper thought that his scrambled header off the bye-line had saved the corner. No said the ref, he was behind the line and after much remonstration, Gorkss then headed home to double our lead. Good to see Josh Parker come on, be it only for a few minutes. NW kept a low profile and didn’t seem to receive a lot of abuse from the home fans. Maybe what he said pre-match cooled some of the expected antagonism. He wouldn’t even respond with a wave. Great support from nearly 2,500 R’s fans, an all-round professional performance after that terrible injury to Damion Stewart and oh, I think we’ve found a fullback.
I met up with Steve’s Russell and Rapjohns, Alan Barnes, Ron Hill and Steve Rapjohns mates for the short journey from Shepherds Bush to Selhurst Station. Alan Barnes seemed very excited about being on a shiny new train and by Wandsworth Common he was headbutting the glass window for some reason !!! I really hope Palace stay up as this journey was so easy it was ridiculous, and we got a seat, which never happens when you go via Victoria. I met up with some long standing Palace mates for a few pre-match beers. All the talk was of Warnock and Taarabt. I got the feeling that Warnock was going to get a warm reception from the Palace fans and it turned out so and fair play to them. They also wanted to know how good Taarabt was as they had obviously read about him. I told them ‘on his day’ he is unplayable, but can frustrate fans when he is marked and loses his head a bit. I also said that being a relegation scrap, it wasn’t going to be pretty at times, so he may have an off day. I was to be proven wrong thankfully. When my mates eventually turned up with the tickets, it turns out that I was sitting in the Holmesdale Upper (gulp). I did have about ten Palace mates up there as well, but I would have rather been in the main stand all the same. At least my nephew was a QPR fan !
Warnock made three changes to the side that capitulated on Easter Monday. In goal, Radek Cerny returned for his first start since 12th January when we got thumped by Sheffield United in an FA Cup replay. He received a great reception from the 2,462 QPR fans in the Arthur Waite Stand. Matt Hill was replaced by new boy Dusko Tosic at left-back and Cook made way for Buzsaky. I was a bit perplexed for the second time recently when Warnock again opted to play with Taarabt and Priskin as the front men, meaning we had no recognised striker on the pitch. But as I said in the pub beforehand, NW has enough experience after all these years and that’s why he’s the Manager and I’m not. Whatever plans we had for this game immediately went out the window after about 5 seconds when Palace having kicked off, launched a ball into our half and Damion Stewart and Calvin Andrew went head-to-head so to speak, and a sickening crunching of bone ensued. Stewart lay pole-axed on the turf while Andrew did manage to get to his feet, although he looked very groggy. In fact, he had to be replaced on 23 minutes as he couldn’t shake off the after effects of the collision. Stewart wasn’t so lucky. He lay on the side of the pitch receiving medical treatment for about 5 minutes and was eventually strapped onto a stretcher and led away along the pitch to an awaiting ambulance I guess.
In the meantime, Simpson had come on as sub, meaning we had to reshuffle our team. Leigertwood went right back, Ramage centre back and Simpson up-front obviously with Taarabt dropping off the front two. Anyway, enough of that, a game started 5 minutes ago !!! Simpson was immediately into the action and was put through at a tight angle but scuffed his shot and it dragged wide. On 11 minutes, Ephraim worked his way down the left and crossed into the danger area, Palace didn’t clear properly and Priskin nipped in front of his marker, and shielding the ball to goal, laid a perfect pass into the path of Akos some 20 yards out. Without even thinking, he drilled a superb shot low and hard and it beat the dive of Speroni as it would of any keeper.
Shortly after, Simpson was put through, and again at an angle, he looked up and decided to drill a shot which went straight at Speroni who was covering his near post, with Priskin unmarked at the far post being the easier option, and rightly so, Tamas was furious with Jay. We were playing some great stuff and hopefully we were going to lay the ghost of never having won there in 20 years. That last time in ’89 saw the debut of Ray Wilkins playing alongside Peter Reid, who was playing his last game for us. I remember that day as these two combined to rip Palace apart with Sinton being totally unplayable. Today we had Faurlin and Buzsaky as Wilkins/Reid and Taarabt was taking up the ‘unplayable’ mantle.
Twice in the 1st half, he bamboozled Palace players by nutmegging them as they tried to get too close to him. The one on Derry even had Palace fans around me applauding. We were so in control it was unreal. Palace did fashion a decent chance on about the half hour mark when Ambrose sent Clint Hill racing into our box and he hit a diagonal shot high to Cerny’s left hand and Radek made a great reflex save, forcing a corner. It was to be Palace’s only decent shot on goal all afternoon. They seemed to have no answer to our midfield though with Ephraim putting in an excellent shift along with the other three mentioned.
Tosic was also bombing forward and assisting Hogan down the left flank, although he royally pissed me off when got booked for ‘simulatuon’. Believe me, it’s not simulation, it’s downright cheating. He tussled for the ball, right in front of the away fans section, and went to ground holding his face as if he’d been hit with a baseball bat. When the referee gave Palace the free kick, he got up, and sprinted 30 yards to get back into position. Considering what his teammate Stewart had gone through some 40 minutes before, it was a disgrace. Hopefully Warnock will have words as we don’t do that type of thing at QPR. Priskin was also putting in a decent shift, proving he can tackle and hold the ball up even with a ugly defender breathing down his neck.
Speaking at half-time, one Palace fan commented: “If Palace can’t get psyched up for (a) – a relegation 6-pointer (b) – a London derby and (c) – the return of a former Manager, then they don’t deserve to stay up.” I said what Palace needed to do was try and compete with our midfield, attack the two fullbacks, one of whom was out of position and the other was making his debut, and basically throw the kitchen sink at us, and they might get back into the game. The second half started as it did the first, albeit that we kicked off this time ! We controlled the game in all areas of the pitch and anything Palace threw at us, no kitchen sink though, was dealt with comfortably by our back four. We were also creating some good chances.
Taarabt put a ball through to Simpson to chase, but a defender got there first, sending a high ball back to Speroni, who tried to keep it from going for a corner. The linesman (they are not ref’s assistants) gave a corner. Taarabt swung it to the near post and Gorkss got a yard in front of his marker Lawrence, to plant a header to the far post which was amazingly uncovered, something Palace didn’t do when Warnock was in charge. Hart 0 – Warnock 2. For the next 30 minutes, Palace huffed and puffed but were basically very poor in everything they did. I know this because the home fans were getting restless. This was their worst performance at home all season apparently. It couldn’t have come at a better time obviously, but credit must go to all our players as we made them look poor. Taarabt even had the temerity of nutmegging Derry for a second time !!!
We were the only team in the second half who looked like scoring as first Priskin, who was left unmarked as he collected a ball wide right and bore down on goal. He seemed to lose control of the ball as he stopped, looked up and as a Palace player eventually then decided to close him down, he hit a ferocious shot to the near post which forced Speroni in palming it out for a corner. Then, with the match almost over, Taarabt sent a lovely ball again to Simpson, who had got beyond the last defender, beat the on-rushing keeper as well but saw his shot roll narrowly wide of the goal frame. There was enough time added on for Josh Parker to make his full debut, coming on for the un-playable Adel Taarabt.
As much as it was enjoyable to win at our nemesis at last, I can’t help thinking of Damion Stewart. His season is obviously over, and I would like to think the players did that for our Damion. We’ll still be in the Championship next season and hopefully Damion will be a part of that squad. On a day when we needed players to fight for the cause, Damion went that extra mile. A thoroughly comprehensive win means we don’t have to sweat so much now for the remaining games. Every player worked their sock off and a clean sheet was very welcome indeed.
Player Ratings: Cerny 7, Leigertwood 8, Stewart 10, Ramage 7, Gorkss 8, Tosic 5 (would of been 7 but for the cheating), Ephraim 7, Buzsaky 8, Faurlin 8, Taarabt 9, Simpson 7, Priskin 7.