QPR extended their unbeaten run to 11 games as a late, late winner from Ishmael Miller put paid to Leicester’s valiant efforts in front of a packed Loftus Road. In the process, we stretched our lead to 8 points at the top of the table following other results and with the Cardiff game still to be played, being an evening kick off. If the truth be known, Leicester were hard done by as they matched us player for player and deserved a share of the points. That they didn’t is down to Neil and the team spirit he has installed in the squad.
It was this corresponding fixture last season that saw the start of our decline in so many ways. That game was in front of the television cameras yet still saw a crowd of 17,000+ turn up to receive free blue and white rattles as they entered the ground. No such extravagance this season thankfully and no fanfare from flag bearing airline stewardesses either. I doubt Neil would tolerate such nonsense until the job is done come May, or even St. George’s Day at Cardiff would be perfect for me personally !
Only four of our players remained from that game last season while Leicester had only three. Thankfully Matty Fryatt wasn’t one of them. We were unchanged from the side that started at Middlesbrough last time out with Fitz Hall defying medical science by starting his third consecutive game alongside Big Dan. Orr and Hill made up the back four in front of Kenny with Faurlin and Derry protecting the back four as normal. Routledge and Taarabt, who had been ill all week passed fitness tests to accompany Buzsaky in an advanced midfield trio, with Helguson upfront. Tommy Smith was fit enough to be named as a sub following his three match layoff due to injury.
The first half saw two very good teams cancel each other out more or less with any decent chances at a premium. Leicester carved out the first chance of the half when, following some work by Ben Mee and Yakubu, the ball fell to Matt Oakley some 12 yards out, but he rushed his shot and it went embarrassingly wide with Paddy Kenny unconcerned. Not to be outdone, shortly after that it was Buzsaky’s turn to have an embarrassing effort go towards the corner flag as well. Strange how fans jeer the opposing player when this happens, but clap their own player when it happens, as was the case on both these occasions.
Also, very early on, Taarabt was on the end of a fierce tackle from Mee out by the Paddocks. In turn, home fans were enraged at the ref for giving a throw-in while Leicester fans were applauding their player for such an excellent tackle, for that is what it was. The fact that Adel ended up in a heap doesn’t necessarily mean it was a foul and the referee got it 100% correct.
The game didn’t come to life as such until 25 minutes when chances were created at both ends. First Orr found Helguson out wide then he in turn played it into the box to Buzsaky with a defender breathing down his neck. Akos held the ball up then lost control, but the ball fell into the path of Helguson who hit a right footed shot low to the keeper’s right and Ricardo managed to clear the ball using his right foot. Then within a minute, following a Ricardo hoof up field, Yakubu was found lurking in space on the edge of the box and the Nigerian lobbed the ball left footed over the keeper as he came off his line. As he’s shown so many times this season, Kenny pulled off a remarkable save by tipping it over the bar from about 6 inches under the bar. From the resulting corner, the ball fell loose to Yakubu again in space, but his left footed pile driver cleared the bar with Kenny rightly giving the two centre backs an earful.
It was shortly after this that Fitz Hall went to ground holding his leg and signalling to the bench. Before he’d even been seen by the physio, Neil brought Connolly on to accompany Big Dan. Then on 42 minutes, Yakubu worked himself into some space and dug a shot out with the ball under his feet, but it was an easy save for Paddy Kenny, but then he makes a lot of saves look easy. Half time: 0-0.
The second half took on a similar pattern to the first with both sides giving as good as they got with some good performances from Faurlin, Hill and Buzsaky for us while Wellens seemed to be everywhere for Leicester and Bamba outstanding at the back. It was an absolute travesty that Bamba was the first one in the ref’s book on 52 minutes for an innocuous challenge on Helguson, but then the ref seemed to even it up by booking Helguson for simply falling over and landing on the ball on 67 minutes.
In between these bookings, we carved out the best chance of the half when Orr out wide, fed Helguson who in turn put a lovely return ball into space for Routledge to run on to. Routledge took a couple of paces and hit a rising shot from an acute angle, but the ball went into the side netting. Then the ball went straight up our end with Waghorn, who had come on 60 seconds before, putting Connolly under pressure as the ball bounced high into the box. As it eventually came down, Waghorn hit his shot too high and it sailed over the bar. Both players should’ve done better.
Then on 70 minutes, Orr overlapped down the wing and fed Taarabt just outside the box. Adel then jinked his way into the box and hit a cross-cum-shot to the far post where Helguson was lurking. Heidar stretched every muscle to get to the ball, but missed by inches. The momentum was growing it seemed, but we just needed a little spark, something special. But that spark appeared at the other end as Yakubu crossed on 75 minutes and King’s header smacked the bar and then went for a goal kick, except the ref reckoned Kenny had touched the ball when he clearly hadn’t.
On 85 minutes, Taarabt was withdrawn and I thought that chance of something special had gone as he was replaced by Ishmael Miller who then went out right as Routledge came into a more central position. With 2 minutes remaining, Routledge fell over as he lost the ball by the dugouts. He got straight up and the ball came to him again. Within an instant he had sent a right footed pass beyond the two Leicester defenders for Miller to chase after. Ishmael did his Usain Bolt impersonation and sped between the defenders, holding off Bamba and as Ricardo came out to narrow the angle, he slid the ball under the keeper and into an empty net. Cue pandemonium all round the ground. Not as loud as the night that Furlong scored against Oldham, but still loud enough to make you go dizzy.
With Forest losing for the first time at home in 36 games, Swansea losing at Scunthorpe and Norwich drawing to bottom placed Preston, you could be forgiven for paraphrasing some TV advert that claimed: ‘Carlsberg don’t do football results, but if they did…’ But forget Carlsberg beer adverts this was more about ‘Miller Time’, cometh the hour, cometh the man. He’s shown in flashes what he’s capable of, but against Leicester he showed us that he can come up with the goods when needed. Some would say that it was an inspired substitution, but it could’ve been an inspired substitution for Sven when Waghorn almost scored earlier. The line between success and failure is said to be very thin. That was how close the game was. Leicester deserved a draw, but QPR this season are a different proposition to the side that lost to them at HQ last season.
The fact that only our four most skilful players, Adel, Ali, Akos and Wayne remain from that game proves that Warnock has done an excellent job in recruiting players that will go the extra mile for him and the cause. And there aren’t enough superlatives to describe a keeper who has now kept 20 clean sheets in 35 league games ? As I mentioned, we are unbeaten in 11 games with 11 to play, the dream continues.
Team: Kenny 8, Orr 8, Hill 8, Hall 7 (Connolly 7), Shittu 7, Faurlin 9, Derry 7, Taarabt 7 (Miller 8), Routledge 7, Buzsaky 7 (Ephraim was on for a minute), Helguson 7.
MOTM: Faurlin, our best kept secret it seems.
Referee: Mr. R. East – 2 silly yellow cards and thinks that Paddy Kenny’s hand is a crossbar, but overall he wasn’t too bad.
Attendance: 18,068 (including 3,237 Leicester fans)