Team: Green 7, Simpson 7, Assou-Ekotto 6, Carroll 6, Onuoha 7, Dunne 6, Benayoun 7, Jenas 6 (Henry 6), Austin 6 (Zamora 7), Morrison 6, Hoilett 6 (Kranjcar 6)
Substitutes not used: Keane, Yun, Hughes, Murphy
It was a day of both commemoration and celebration for the early kick-off as the Sky cameras once again visited Loftus Road. The start was delayed by 7 minutes in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and the 96 who lost their lives. A minute’s silence was all but impeccably observed across the stadium. Once again the football family came together to affirm that the victims will never be forgotten.
The minute’s silence
As a welcome antidote to this appropriately sombre backdrop, the QPR Tiger Cubs took to the pitch at half time for their now customary lap of honour. The infectious energy and unbridled joy of those kids serves as the most effective advert possible for the great work of the QPR In The Community trust.
The Forest defence and indeed the whole of Loftus Road was caught cold with an opening goal within the first two minutes. Ravel Morrison passed though to Junior Holiett breaking forward on the left. Hoilett found Tom Carroll inside who took a snap shot which Forest keeper Karl Darlow could only parry. Danny Fox failed to track Yossi Benayoun and the Israel gratefully headed the loose ball home.
Maybe it was due to the early kick off, the disbelief and shock at the goal or perhaps a combination of the two, the game settled into a fairly dull, attritional pattern and the home faithful became very quiet. Rangers played 4-4-1-1 and attacking threat was blunted somewhat by a quiet first period for Morrison. Whilst Charlie Austin made a welcome first start after returning from injury, it was clear to see that he was understandably not quite back up to full match sharpness.
Rangers’ plans were dealt a further knock with Jermaine Jenas being unable to continue after 13 minutes. The former England international was replaced by Karl Henry, a combative replacement but not to everyone’s tastes. Henry is a decent player and will do a job – protect the back four, stop and hold. With that comes sideways balls and a distinct lack of flair.
Forest looked beleaguered too, a ship without a rudder, maybe suffering from the uncomfortable limbo of Stuart Pearce waiting in the wings at the end of the seaon. Jamie Mackie got a rapturous reception from the W12 crowd and proceeded to offer one of the bright spots for the visitors. You know what you’re going to get from Mackie. He may have his limitations but fans love him for the effort and passion. Another bright spot, although not nearly as popular with QPR, was the performance of former Arsenal man Henri Lansbury. He was at the centre of Forest’s attack and forced a couple of good saves out of Robert Green. Apart from that the away team didn’t really threaten.
A popular favourite returns
That was until the 36th minute when a Lansbury corner was met by the head of defender Jamaal Lascelles. Once again Rangers’ frailties were exposed, not for the only time that afternoon.
QPR grabbed back the initiative on 43 minutes. Danny Simpson’s return has been a real boon and he appears to be back to somewhere near his best. He surged across the pitch from right to left in the final third and fed Hoilett who again sought to get forward. The Canadian played a clever one-two with Carroll, and Hoilett finished by tucking the ball low past Darlow. Three goals overall was a good return for a half which was actually pretty turgid and reflective of Rangers’ style of play for most of the second half of this season.
Forest had a good spell of play after the break but failed to make any inroads and made all three of their substitutions within a ten minute spell. Most notably ex Man United and West Brom midfielder Jonathon Greening and journeyman strike Darius Henderson entered the fray. Frustratingly though it was yet another set piece corner on 74 minutes which brought the East Midlanders back on terms. Ben Osborn crossed in to this time find Matt Derbyshire unmarked. He smashed his header straight at Rob Green who could do no more than push it upwards into the net. Game on
Austin was replaced with Bobby Zamora and Hoilett with Niko Kranjcar. Suddenly for the last fifteen minutes of the game Rangers started to pile on the pressure. Morrison came to life as the game opened up and nearly set up Zamora on 81′ with a looping cross. Seconds later Kranjcar hit the top of the goal with a dipping shot from distance.
Rangers broke the deadlock when Nedum Ohuoha retrieved a Henry cross from the byline. Carroll played a clever ball back into the defender who lashed home into the corner of the net with aplomb. A great finish from ‘the chief’ who deputised well all afternoon for the injured Clint Hill.
Forest nearly levelled from yet another corner on 86 minute but Robert Green made a brilliant low clutching save from a Matt Derbyshire. Rangers now went on the rampage and on the 90 minutes Zamora skipped gazelle-like (I kid you not) from his man on the break and played in Morrison who took a couple of touches before burying hard and low to the left to make it four.
Morrison seals the QPR win
Rangers fans were then sent into dreamland as seventy seconds later as scorer turned provider and Morrison laid on Zamora as the Forest defence evaporated. Zamora drilled the ball into the ground to wrong-foot Darlow and make in five for the Hoops.
Zamora rolls back the years with relish
So happy days at last for Rangers fans. It was a wonderful result but we shouldn’t kid ourselves. That result flattered us and also flattered a game which for long periods had little to recommend it. But no matter, the points matter and we remain in fourth with a nine point safety cushion. Whoever we get in the playoffs it’s going to be tough for us as we have struggled comparatively over the last few months. But any momentum we can muster between now and the end of the regular season can only be helpful. Up next over Easter weekend, Rangers seek to spoil the Leicester title party at the Walkers stadium.
QPR MOM: Benayoun – Best performance in a Rangers shirt. Consistently driving forward, providing some of the impetus lost from the absence of Barton.
Forest MOM: Mackie – the returning former player showed us what we have missed – tireless runs and never-say-die commitment.
(Photos provided by Sandra Sayce and are used with permission)