QPR promotion party on hold
The hardest part of any race is always the final burst, so thank goodness for QPR’s flying start to this season, because Neil Warnock’s side appear to have hit the wall in recent weeks.
Promotion to the Premier League is almost secure. Not quite, thanks to Monday’s late drama, with David Amoo’s surprise equaliser for Hull and Simeon Jackson’s dramatic winner for Norwich against Derby stopping the Rs fans’ pitch invasion in its tracks.
But almost. A point at Watford on Saturday will end all lingering doubts, and send Rangers up after an absence of 15 years. Even a defeat may not matter, with third-placed Cardiff City having to make up a surely insurmountable 13-goal difference if they are to knock Rangers off their perch. With City only needing to finish second, they are unlikely to worry over their margin of victory against Middlesbrough.
That will be quite a relief for Warnock, whose side seem to be feeling the effects of their marathon season and are running out of breath as the end of the journey edges into sight.
The sluggish manner in which Rangers’ defence allowed Amoo in to smash Hull City’s equaliser, after Wayne Routledge’s ninth-minute opener had seemed to set them on course to victory, smacked of a side feeling the strain, and in his post-match press conference, Warnock wore the look of an exasperated man.
“I’m disappointed not to have tied the Championship up,” he said. “I thought that we had more than enough opportunities to kill the game off.
“To concede a goal like we did from Paddy Kenny’s kick is not acceptable at any level. That’s what makes the Championship so difficult, there’s never an easy match.
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“But I can’t complain, my players have been brilliant. We’re six points clear of third with two games left to go and 13 goals better off – you couldn’t ask for more than that at the start of the season.
“I think the fans know the goal difference is crucial – unless we do something that we haven’t done in a while. It’s a healthy position to be in. It makes the Watford game all the more appetising.”
Thank goodness for goal difference, then, seems to be the mood among the Rs faithful, and thank goodness for the free-scoring days pre-Christmas which establised such a commanding lead at the summit.
Rangers scored 42 league goals before the turn of the year as they threatened to run away with the league, but in contrast have netted 26 times since then.
That early-season form looks certain to be enough to carry Warnock’s side home. A trip to Watford, a ground on which Rangers have been defeated on six of their last seven visits, would normally be met with trepidation. Not so this time.
Such is QPR’s commanding position now, even another defeat would merely delay the inevitable, and the Rs would finally go up in front of their own fans in the last league game of the season against Leeds United.
Rangers are almost at the finishing line, and it can’t come soon enough.