QPR got back to winning ways and notched up their 20th win of the campaign following the midweek blip against Millwall. Two goals from Heidar Helguson put paid to Dougie Freedman’s Crystal Palace attempts at winning away for the first time since before the clocks went back. Warnock recently completed his first year in charge and in that time he has seen his latest team beat his old team on all three occasions. I wish he’d joined 20 years ago personally.
Rangers made two changes from the loss at Millwall with Tommy Smith, back from injury, replacing Akos Buzsaky and the miraculously fit again Fitz Hall replacing the suspended Danny Shittu. The rest of the team picked itself as usual. The match was officiated by Alex Ferguson’s best mate, Martin Atkinson.
The first incident of note was on 6 minutes when James Vaughan quite rightly went into the ref’s book for a late and clumsy challenge on Kaspars Gorkss. A minute later, we created our first chance as Derry found Taarabt with a slide rule pass inside the box, but Adel’s snap shot went just wide with Sperono unfazed. Then on 15 minutes, some excellent work by Taarabt out wide right saw him work his way into the box and ping an inch perfect cross to the far post where Helguson was lurking with intent. As everyone rose from their seats to celebrate, a Palace player got a touch and the ball ended up ricocheting off Heidar’s head and then wide unfortunately.
We only had to wait 5 minutes more to get out of our seats properly though as Adel and Heidar combined once again with a mention in despatches for Shaun Derry. Derry found Adel with another pass into space in the box, Adel then hit a low cross-cum-shot to the far post and as it eluded both the defender and keeper as it went across the face of the goal, Helguson was lurking again at the back stick and slid in and put the ball into a gaping goal. Palace fans to a man claimed offside, but then they would. They then decided that the ref would now be the centre of their attention along with Adel and all our ex-Palace players.
A few minutes later, Adel was at it again, teasing the Palace defence and ending up with a 20-yard shot that went just wide. After another 5 minutes, Orr found him with a pass and Adel hit another decent shot, but Speroni saved comfortably. Adel was definitely up for it. Then on 35 minutes, the best piece of play from the home team saw Adel (who else ?) find Smith out on the left with a peach of a pass. Smith controlled the ball and sent a beautifully flighted cross to the far post, but Helguson’s far post header went over. We were so in control it was embarrassing. Or so we thought.
On 38 minutes, the visitors strung some decent passes together in our half and before you knew it, James Vaughan was clean through on goal. Thankfully the Everton loanee was flagged offside, but it didn’t stop the forward taking about another five touches before shooting past Kenny who was standing non-plussed waiting to take a free kick. Vaughan then went into what can only be described as ‘Premiership Prima Donna pose’ as he protested his innocence that he hadn’t heard the whistle and putting his hands together like Oliver Twist when he asks for more. Martin Atkinson, being the top Premiership referee that he is, didn’t even notice what Vaughan had done. Neither did the assistant referee who had originally flagged for the offside.
Home fans were enraged, even more so when Vaughan then scored a minute later. Palace again strung some beautiful passes together down our left side and as the ball went across the edge of the box, our defence was thrown a dummy and Vaughan was all alone to ghost into the box and slip the ball under Kenny. R’s fans appealed in vain for offside, but it looked ok to me. Martin Atkinson then ignored the fact that Vaughan had then decided to run to the home end, taunting R’s fans and then took a big kick at the corner flag. As Palace players celebrated by the corner flag, the ref then had words and warned Neil Danns, who had been booked 3 minutes prior, for his behaviour. Clueless !!! Just before half time, Routledge had a decent effort on goal, but it cleared the bar and then the ball went up the other end and following a cross into our box, it was panic stations at first, but it was eventually cleared by Hill. Half time: 1-1
There were no changes at half time and it was Palace who created first with Darren Ambrose hitting a decent shot on 46 minutes, but Kenny made a comfortable save. Then the game changed on 53 minutes. Wayne Routledge hit a lovely through ball from the half-way line over Palace’s back four, not too dissimilar to the pass for Miller’s goal last week against Leicester. This week it was Adel’s turn to outpace and outmuscle his marker, but as he got the better of Patrick McCarthy, he was scythed down from behind. The ref had no hesitation in either awarding the penalty or brandishing a red card to the Palace defender. Heidar Helguson then strolled up and sent the keeper the wrong way for his 12th goal of the season, 3 of which have come against Palace. Palace fans then had no hesitation in throwing various objects at Paddy Kenny at the other end of the ground. One object seemed to be a bottle full of liquid. Premiership referee Atkinson didn’t even seem to notice, quelle surprise ?
Palace then replaced Iversen with man mountain Claude Davis to shore up the back four no doubt. Davis is remembered for his head high kung fu style kick on Di Carmine at this ground that saw Manager Paulo Sousa sent to the Stand, while the then Palace Manager reckoned it was a fair challenge. Whatever happened to him eh ? Mind you, he reckoned Speroni was the best keeper outside of the Premiership last season whilst this year it’s Paddy Kenny. No bias shown whatsoever then !!!
Back to the football then and what we hoped would be a rout. The fact it didn’t materialise was because Palace retreated into their half while we just didn’t have the guile to unlock their defence. For the first 20 minutes following the red card, we controlled the game by keeping possession and playing short passes in and amongst the Palace rear guard, with the intent of tiring their players and then we’d create more chances. When it didn’t happen, we decided on about 70 minutes to go long at times with Kenny not throwing the ball out once. The one time we came close was when Tommy Smith got to the bye-line and crossed into the near post for Helguson to score his hat-trick, but a combination of Speroni’s foot and the post denied him his 13th goal, how unlucky ? Another time, Faurlin was found in space outside the box and he bent a lovely left-footed shot around the defence, but the Championship’s 2nd best keeper made a good save down by his right hand post. Also Gorkss should’ve done better when Adel sent a lovely cross to the far post, but he headed wide.
On 83 minutes, Adel was flagged offside and he stupidly kicked the ball into the Loft End for a ridiculous and inevitable yellow card. Alex Ferguson was unavailable for comment on the decision, but for once the ref got it right, but I would never accuse him of double standards, oh no sireee. We only had one slight scare right at the death as we gave the ball away on the edge of Palace’s box and they raced up our end and forced a corner. It was Palace’s last throw of the dice, but as the corner came in there was Derry to head clear as he did all afternoon. Both Buzsaky and Ephraim made cameo appearances in the closing minutes to replace Smith and Taarabt and were in the thick of the action as we spent the last 5 minutes standing on the ball by either corner flag, not that anyone should complain about that. Full time: 2-1.
Team: Kenny 7, Orr 7, Hill 7, Gorkss 7, Hall 7, Derry 8, Faurlin 8, Taarabt 7, Routledge 7, Smith 7, Helguson 8.
MOTM: Shaun Derry, proving me wrong when I said that he should retire as Adel nutmegged him for the second time last April at Selhurst. It was a close run thing though with Faurlin and Helguson.
Referee: M. Atkinson 6.
Attendance: 18,116 (including 3,185 Palace fans).