‘Singing In The Rain’ – Crystal Palace v QPR

Strange how the walk back to Thornton Heath in the pouring rain after didn’t feel so arduous as expected, when Palace had seemingly nicked a point right at the death. I was almost skipping at one point with a grin like the Cheshire Cats’ in Alices’ Adventures. And that obviously was due to Heidar Helguson’s 5th goal of the season deep into injury time. Most teams would have seen the added 5 minutes out with neither side going over the half-way line as they both protected the point they had. But we are made of sterner stuff it seems this season and fair play to Palace, they were going for the win as well.

QPR were unchanged for the 4th game in a row and went into the match on the back of 5 consecutive clean sheets, yet Npower didn’t think Paddy Kenny was worthy of a nomination for Player of the Month for September. Buzsaky took up the injured Faurlin’s rightful place again while Walker filled in for Bradley Orr, although if Walker extends his loan, Orr will struggle to get his place back. Shaun Derry and Clint Hill were returning to their old club for the first time since crossing London. Palace had a very young team out by the looks of it due to suspensions and a heap of injuries. They also had a 37-year-old Edgar Davids making his home debut following two years out of football. He was expected to deal with Taarabt.We’ll see ?

I just managed to make the kick-off having finished work at 2pm and made my dash from SW18 to SE25 and a brisk walk from the station in the driving rain didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for what I expected to be a cracking London derby. And so it was.

Both teams started brightly and in the first 10 minutes the score could’ve been 2-2 with the game very open, too open for my liking and I bet for both Managers too. Palace had the first chance on 4 minutes when following a Davids freekick, the ball ping-ponged around our box and the ball fell to Andrew Dorman about 12 yards out. He hit the ball first time into the turf which then hit the right hand post with Kenny motionless. Then two minutes later, Ephraim threaded a though ball to Mackie in the box but Speroni was quick off his line to smother the ball at his feet. From our corner, Speroni made an easy catch and released Owen Garvan to run at our defence, some of whom were still in the Palace 18-yard area.

Garvan ran the length of the pitch and fed 17-year-old wonderkid Wilfried Zaha in the box. The teenager found himself one-on-one with Kenny and hit a shot to the near post which was parried and then Zaha hit the rebound back from whence it came and again Kenny was equal to it. Then the ball was back up the other end with Taarabt hitting a stinging 25 yard shot which Speroni did well to save but he could only parry it into the path of the Championship’s leading scorer, Jamie Mackie, but somehow Speroni saved his second effort on target.

The game was only 10 minutes old by now !!! And Palace fans were singing: ‘Where Were You When You Were Shit ?’ Thankfully the game settled down for the rest of the first half with equal amounts of possession for both sides. From one of our five corners in the first half, Helguson missed a free header from about 6 yards when the ball was directed downwards but unfortunately it bounced up and over the bar. Then during a goalmouth scramble, Walker fed Helguson who beat the right-back and chipped the ball into the 6 yard box. The ball seemed to smack a Palace player full in the face and then hit the goal frame. Then up the other end and a Palace breakaway saw Dorman line up a shot from about 12 yards but Hill threw his body in the way of the ball to concede a corner. From the corner, the cross was met by Julian Bennett who headed the ball to the far post but thankfully for us, Hogan Ephraim was in the right place at the right time. Both teams had given as good as they got with Shaun Derry absolutely outstanding in the middle with notable contributions from Walker, Gorkss, Ephraim, Kenny and Helguson. Derry was even playing two roles in the first half as Buzsaky appeared to go missing for large parts and was forever losing possession. Half-time: 0-0.

The second half started like the first as the rain was hammering down. Four minutes in and we took the lead from what appeared to be a bad mistake from Davids. Under no pressure, he tried a back pass from about 40 yards straight into the path of Mackie, who skirted round Speroni, took the ball to the bye-line and walked the ball towards the goal for what looked like an easy tap-in for goal number 9. I was even screaming “shoot” when he played the ball into the path of Taarabt to tap-in for his 4th goal of the season and the first from open play.

“Come On With The Rain, I’ve A Smile On My Face.”

To compound Davids’ misery, he was replaced 7 minutes later by a central defender as Burley changed his formation. Helguson should’ve made it two moments later when he put another free header from a corner wide of the goal. Both teams were going for it in the second half with both defences getting the better of the skirmishes. One time we did get the better, Helguson hit a dipping 25 yard shot which Speroni did well to hold. On 65 minutes, the home crowd found their voices for the first time since the goal and Palace began to exert lots of pressure but without any true clear-cut chances as our defence was blocking everything. The Palace fans sang: ‘You Only Sing When You’re Winning.’ I turned to Dave Thomas and said: “That’s been quite often this season !!!”

The nearest Palace came to an equaliser was on 79 minutes when an in-swinging free-kick by Dorman missed everyone in the box and just trickled wide. By now, Tommy Smith had replaced Taarabt, surprisingly as Buzsaky was again a passenger in the second half, but Smith added some energy to a slightly tired looking team. Smith was showing some lovely touches in his best game so far, it’s amazing what match fitness can do for you. Both teams were still going for it in the last 10 minutes. Just as the TV screen said 1 minute left, Zaha managed to wriggle free of Hill in a packed area and smashed a cross shot into the goalmouth where Cadogan volleyed home for Palace’s first goal in over 8 hours of football and the first we had conceded in almost 10 hours.

“Let The Stormy Clouds Chase, Everyone From The Place”

Unbelievably, the 4th official then indicated 5 minutes would be added on. Where they got that from I’ll never know but it gave us enough time to go for the win, as were Palace. Another 3 minutes had passed when Smith, finding space on the left, then floated a perfect cross for Helguson to challenge Speroni in the air. How Helguson got there first is beyone me, but get there he did. All QPR fans were waiting for the goal to be disallowed but it was given and sent 3,342 of us into absolute ecstacy. Speroni was booked for protesting but even the Palace website said that he was at fault.

“What A Glorious Feeling I’m Happy Again”

Like I mentioned earlier, the walk to the station after in the pouring rain was a joy. I got home absolutely soaked but who cares because as we sang all through the game: ‘Top Of The League, We’re Top Of The League, We’re Queen’s Park Rangers, We’re Top Of The League.’

Team: Kenny 7, Walker 8, Hill 7, Gorkss 9, Connolly 7, Ephraim 7, Derry 9, Buzsaky 6, Mackie 8, Taarabt 7, Helguson 8.Subs: Smith 7, Leigertwood 6.

Subs Not Used: Cerny, Rowlands German, Agyemang.

Attendance: 17,171 (3,342 R’s fans).

QPR’s MOM: Toss up between Kaspars Gorkss and Shaun Derry, but I went for Derry who was outstanding once again from start to finish. When we were under the cosh, he calmed things down with some timely interventions and was always talking to the younger players, giving advice. And fair play to the home fans for giving him a great reception when he took a throw-in right in front of them.

“Do Be Doo Doo, Doo Be Doo Be Doo Doo”