Team: Roberts, McDermott, Brevett, Ready, McDonald, Barker, Brazier, Peacock, Sinclair, Spencer, Dichio
The R’s travelled to the Alfred McAlpine Stadium on 21st December 1996 and Robert Gledhill’s match report appeared two days later:
‘Lack of strength in depth rather than controversial refereeing decisions is the major factor behind Huddersfield Town being sucked towards the First Division relegation zone.
Manager Brian Horton is well aware of the need to strengthen but funds are limited as most of his cash went on two of the players on the lengthy injury list, dominant defender Andy Morrison and class striker Marcus Stewart, who should be back in training today.
Unlike Barnsley, who went to the top on Saturday, Horton simply does not have cover for each position and is constantly having to shuffle his resources and playing patterns.
Horton looked to have got it right against a QPR side brimming with talent and Town certainly deserved a share of the spoils in this FA Cup Third Round rehearsal.
They were however driven to distraction by QPR’s opener in first-half stoppage time and referee Chris Foy bore the brunt of their anger and exasperation. Kevin Gray was adjudged to have brought down Chelsea loan player Gavin Peacock 25 yards out.
Town built a five-man wall, which was joined by a couple of QPR players. Scottish striker John Spencer ran towards them, the referee moved in to sort out the jostling and, in the meantime, full-back Tom Cowan was making shuttle runs on and off the line in an attempt to spring the offside trap.
While all the commotion continued Daniele Dichio produced a stunning curled free kick over the wall and into the part of the net Cowan should have been guarding. Town striker Andy Payton was booked for dissent as a protest raged and Horton also raced onto the pitch to make his feelings known as the half-time whistle blew.
Town were adamant that no signal had been made for the free kick to be taken but Foy said: “It was perfectly legal. The whistle was blown. I moved my position and they took the free kick. The time delay is what caught them out.”
Former England Under-21 striker Dichio confirmed: “The referee told me to take it and blew his whistle and that’s it, I took it.”
QPR manager Stewart Houston admitted however that he could well have been annoyed had a similar goal been scored against his side. “It was a rehearsed free kick. You win some, you lose some but games can turn on them,” he admitted.
The referee was barracked throughout the second-half and one fan was arrested after marching onto the pitch to vent his feelings. Town who had created the better first-half chances in spite of playing against a strong wind, were fired up for the fight but terrible defending soon allowed Brazier to make it 2-0.
Both centre-backs were missing and right-back Jon Dyson was too slow to react as Brazier stooped to squeeze home a near post header from Spencer’s cross.
Town’s response was swift, Wales full-back Steve Jenkins, operating in central midfield on his 50th league appearance for Town, drove down the left and crossed for Payton to rise between two defenders and head home. It was the 12th goal of the season for Payton, who is doing a tremendous job without the assistance of a recognised front man alongside him.
The commitment throughout the side could not be questioned either, Paul Reid, in for virus victim Darren Bullock, excelled on the left especially with his coverage of England winger Trevor Sinclair whenever Cowan was on his forward forays.
However QPR dug in and comfortably held on for a fourth successive win even though Gray was unfortunate not to win a penalty when he appeared to be pushed as he challenged for a deep corner.
Dichio, who had been booked earlier, was also fortunate to stay on when he kicked the ball away after conceding a free kick. This time, there was not sufficient time delay between the whistle and contact with the ball for the St. Helens official to deem the action had been deliberate.’
In that FA Cup tie two weeks later, the R’s drew 1-1 at Loftus Road and in the replay Alan McDonald scored a dramatic winner.
Barnsley were defeated 3-2 in the next round when Trevor Sinclair scored his amazing overhead 20-yard bicycle kick. Rangers’ cup run was to end against Wimbledon.