Warnock: Heidar’s hot as Hel
Crystal Palace 1 QPR 2
NEIL Warnock sang the praises of Heidar Helguson after the Icelander’s last-gasp header preserved QPR’s six-point lead at the top of the Championship.
Helguson stunned the Selhurst Park crowd with an injury-time winner – his fifth goal of the season – just minutes after Palace substitute Kieron Cadogan seemed to have earned his side a point.
It was harsh on the Eagles, who arguably created the better chances throughout the match – but Rangers’ luck is certainly holding at the moment and it brought Warnock a second triumphant return to Selhurst Park since his departure seven months ago.
“It’s got to be the best header I’ve ever seen for my guys to win the game,” the QPR boss reflected. “I thought Helguson was outstanding and I wish I’d had him a few years ago.
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“If Palace were playing against Neil Warnock’s team every week, they’d be in the play-offs – they were fantastic. You could say we were fortunate but I thought we were very solid and we died to keep our goal intact.
“If it was 1-1 you couldn’t have complained but they don’t know when they’re beaten, my lot.”
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Warnock’s suggestion of one goal apiece was a conservative estimate on the first half alone as both sides hit the woodwork and Paddy Kenny and Julian Speroni more than proved their worth.
Kenny was first to show with a double block from Wilfried Zaha, although he had been helpless a few minutes earlier when Andrew Dorman’s left-foot strike rebounded off the post.
But Speroni made Kenny’s saves look ordinary as he stretched to push away a piercing Adel Taarabt drive and then did enough to foil Jamie Mackie when the striker looked favourite to reach the rebound.
Apart from that moment of freedom, Taarabt found himself tightly shackled by former Dutch international Edgar Davids and, while Rangers saw plenty of the ball, they were unable to do much damage.
Yet both sides might have broken the deadlock just before half-time, as Helguson’s cross struck the bar via the head of Kaspars Gorkss and, at the other end, Hogan Ephraim nodded Julian Bennett’s header off the line.
Ironically for Palace’s youthful side, it was the experienced Davids who cost them a goal three minutes after the resumption, presenting Mackie with a sloppy back-pass and QPR’s top scorer manoeuvred the ball around Speroni to supply Taarabt with an easy tap-in.
Helguson might have increased the visitors’ lead, heading Taarabt’s corner wide and testing Speroni with a snap shot but, for all Palace’s energy and appetite, it was hard to see Rangers surrendering the lead.
Gorkss, who produced an outstanding display at the heart of defence, threw his head and body in the way of anything Palace could muster – until the final 10 minutes or so.
Finally the tricky Zaha – who had forced another good save from Kenny – got clear on the right and clipped in a cross for Cadogan to volley home and breach the QPR defence for the first time in nine and a half hours.
But Palace’s jubilation was abruptly halted in the second minutes of added time as Rangers substitute Tommy Smith swung a cross to the far-post for Helguson to outjump Speroni and make it eight wins from 10 games.