We headed north on Sunday 8th April for an Easter weekend fixture at Old Trafford which was, once again, to be shown on Sky Sports at lunchtime. (I am certain we were being punished by all these lunchtime kick-offs way up north !) That we lost the game 0-2 after spending the vast majority of it playing – yet again – with 10 men is almost incidental ! The game is best remembered for yet another appalling refereeing display; for the fighting spirit shown by the ten players for 75 minutes in holding last-season’s champions to “merely” a two-goal lead (through, first, a Wayne Rooney penalty on 15 minutes and a Paul Scholes 20-yard effort on 68 minutes); and for all the QPR fans standing up and loudly joining with the United fans as they sang “stand up for the champions !” (Well, we were, weren’t we ?!)
Ashley Young’s diving display on 14 minutes will be hard-pressed to be bettered by the Olympic divers in the coming Games ! But it was enough to con Bolton-loving referee Lee Mason into awarding a straight red to the innocent Shaun Derry and a penalty to the home side. (The little matter of Young being offside – which was not given when it was even more clearly offside than the dive – is a “minor” point to consider in this appalling display of bias !) In truth, the QPR players spent the rest of the game on the back-foot, fighting for their lives, and with Kenny – back to his best after some indifferent performances since his injury in December – to thank for keeping the score-line respectable. It was a game best forgotten, but that the FA then failed to over-turn Derry’s red card just compounded our sense of unfairness and frustration – were the FA Conspiring to have us relegated perhaps?
Well, the QPR team that faced Swansea at Loftus Road on the evening of Wednesday 11th April, was not about to fulfil the FA’s apparent wishes. We absorbed all that Swansea (the team that had been dubbed “the most beautiful to watch” in the Premier League) had to throw at us and then turned on the charm ourselves. Swansea were resorted to knocking the ball back to Michael Vorm in goal as their “beautiful football” didn’t result in any really meaningful attacks – but we, meanwhile, scored three goals to mark our continuing superiority over the Welsh side at Loftus Road.
Derry was missing from the line-up and sat in the Directors Box looking most frustrated. But he was as delighted as we all were to see goals from, first, Barton (back in the side for Derry) on 46 minutes; Mackie on 55 minutes; and then Buzsaky with a trademark shot into the left-hand corner of Vorm’s goal on 67 minutes. The final score: QPR 3 Swansea 0, ensured another vital 3 points for the Super Hoops and, most importantly, saw us move two places above the relegation zone.
Saturday 14th April saw us visit West Bromwich Albion. I had an interesting pre-match experience – being part of a group, which included Paul Finney, who was interviewed by the BBC for a “Match of the Day “special on QPR. That really was the highlight of the day – because our overall performance and the final result – a 1-0 loss thanks to Graham Dorrans’s first-half strike – really was quite forgettable ! Maybe I am being a little harsh, but I felt that, having done so well at home recently, this away game was winnable and could ease the pressure on our attempt at Premier League survival.
Dorrans scored from 30 yards, despite Kenny getting a touch on the ball but really, should he have been allowed so much space in front of goal ? The defence didn’t close him down properly and, despite the lads in mango and blue having numerous second-half chances, biggest culprit in missing them being Bobby Zamora, we did not have enough in us to pull things around. However, thankfully, our home form was keeping us just clear of trouble: despite this loss we were still sitting in 16th on 31 points and with a better goal difference than those in trouble around us. And there were merely four more games to go !
The next “must win” was a home game against Tottenham Hotspur. The North Londoners had not been having much success in the League, timed perfectly to the departure of Fabio Capello from, and Harry Redknapp’s link to, the England job. And Saturday 21st April was not to be their day, either, as QPR ran out 1-0 winners, thanks to a stunning Adel Taarabt free kick on 24 minutes. Taarabt then managed to pick up two yellow cards which meant that, once again, QPR were left with only 10 men on the pitch.
Thankfully, for a change, the sending off happened on 78 minutes so we “only” had to survive a mere 12 minutes; but with the score still at 1-0 it was most definitely the longest 12 minutes I have ever sat through, particularly because the whole match had been full of chances – for both sides – and Van der Vaart and Jermain Defoe had looked especially dangerous. But at the final whistle we now had 34 points, a goal difference of -18, and only 3 more games to go.
Except that the next match was another away game – at local rivals Chelsea. Sunday 29th April, 1.30pm kick-off, saw me not at Stamford Bridge, but at my best mate’s 25th wedding anniversary party ! (And he calls himself a QPR fan !!!) Amy wasn’t missing this game and took her best mate in my place: he had a wonderful time because he is a Chelsea fan although sitting with the QPR fans he couldn’t show it !
All I will say about this match is that, I had a wonderful lunch; and QPR were humbled 1-6 as Fernando Torres got his first ever hat-trick for the home side, after Daniel Sturridge had opened the scoring inside the 1st minute. Florent Malouda rounded off the Blues’ scoring on 80 minutes and then it was left to Djibril Cisse, on 84 minutes, to try to bring a smile to the R’s faithfuls’ collective faces – but could anything bring a smile when we lost to those dreaded neighbours so heavily ? I suppose the only thing that could was that we were still out of the bottom 3 – but now in 17Th – on 34 points which was the same as Bolton, but with a slightly better goal difference ( -23 to -28).
We were now heading into May and the final two games of the season. Not one single QPR fan dared to predict the final outcome !
Sandy Lerman aka @sandyhoops (also known, on vitalQPR as sandyl)