Promotion against Cardiff would be redemption for QPR
THERE have been plenty of moments to savour for QPR this season. Monday night’s draw with Derby was not one of them, but Saturday’s trip to Cardiff might just top the lot.
The Hoops produced a lacklustre display against Nigel Clough’s side, in a match where victory would have ensured that, should Norwich fail to win the East Anglian derby against Ipswich tonight (Thursday), Neil Warnock’s side would have been promoted to the Premier League.
Instead, a single point means that QPR must win at second-placed Cardiff on Saturday to effectively clinch promotion.
That will be no easy task. But for Rangers fans victory would lay to rest the ghost of one of the most painful moments in recent history.
No-one in a Hoops shirt will ever forget the moment eight years ago, when, in the 114th minute of the 2003 Division Two play-off final, Andy Campbell scored the goal to send Cardiff up to Division One, and leave Ian Holloway’s side devastated.
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The passing of time has done little to ease the pain of that afternoon at the Millennium Stadium, but winning at the Cardiff City Stadium would banish the memories.
Should Rangers slip up again, their next chance comes on Monday, with a home game against Hull City. With Rangers’ nearest rivals Norwich City, Reading and Cardiff all playing on the same day, that could yet be the afternoon which decides the Rs’ season.
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But a win on Saturday would surely be enough, and Neil Warnock believes his side can cope with the pressure.
“This is what we’re in it for,” he said. “Everybody talks about pressure, but I’m enjoying it and loving every minute of it. Full house. Eight points clear with four games to go? There’s a lot worse pressure.
“I think we’ve got four great games to come. There will be end-to-end stuff and chances galore. Cardiff have to beat us with Norwich and Reading breathing down their neck.”
Ironically, Rangers’ chance for redemption has come about thanks to arguably one of their poorest home displays of the season.
The most eye-catching moments of the first half came through Adel Taarabt’s at times comical battle with Derby’s Robbie Savage, with the two clashing several times in the opening 45 minutes, and the Welshman picking up a booking.
Heidar Helguson and Tommy Smith both went close to connecting with Taarabt’s dangerous deliveries, before the Moroccan’s delicate shot with the outside of the boot forced a terrific save from Brad Jones in the Derby goal.
But they were relatively rare chances for the Rs, and Derby themselves wasted two excellent opportunities to leave west London with a shock win.
Towards the end of the first half, Theo Robinson was clear on goal only to slice his shot wide, while after the break Stephen Pearson forced a brilliant point-blank save from Paddy Kenny.
Taarabt meanwhile, was kept virtually anonymous by the relentless Savage, and was substituted 20 minutes from the end, a move which summed up an uninspiring evening for the home side.
So the champagne is on ice; promotion, for now, must wait. Rangers must do it the hard way, by winning in Cardiff on Saturday.
The majority of Rs fans might just prefer it that way too.