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Looking back at QPR’s run to the 1986 League Cup final

PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 April 2020

Queens Park Rangers manager Jim Smith lines up on the Wembley pitch at the League Cup final. Picture: PA

Queens Park Rangers manager Jim Smith lines up on the Wembley pitch at the League Cup final. Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

From Michael Robinson’s stunner against Chelsea to beating Liverpool in the semi-finals, Dan Bennett looks back at a memorable League Cup run for Queens Park Rangers in 1986.

Coventry City's Dave Bennett heads a shot away from Queens Park Rangers' Alan McDonald (c) and Terry Fenwick (r). Picture: PACoventry City's Dave Bennett heads a shot away from Queens Park Rangers' Alan McDonald (c) and Terry Fenwick (r). Picture: PA

Next Monday marks 34 years since QPR faced Oxford United at Wembley in the 1986 League Cup final.

And while it was ultimately a disappointing afternoon for the R’s, losing 3-0 in front of a massive crowd of 90,000 people, Jim Smith’s side run to the final is fondly remembered by Rangers supporters.

Division One QPR entered the competition in the second round, where they met Division Two Hull City across two legs.

Rangers set out their intention in the competition right from the first whistle, securing a comprehensive 3-0 win over Hull in September of 1985 at Loftus Road thanks to goals from David Kerslake, Ian Dawes and Gary Bannister.

Oxford United captain Malcolm Shotton (left) raises the League Cup after beating QPR. Picture: PAOxford United captain Malcolm Shotton (left) raises the League Cup after beating QPR. Picture: PA

With the tie already in hand, Smith’s side made sure complacency did not set in for the second leg of the round, picking up a 5-1 win to advance into the third round with an aggregate score of 8-1.

Kerslake again impressed by scoring another two to take his cup tally to the season to three while Leroy Rosenior also scored twice and Mike Fillery added another.

The R’s were presented with a more difficult task in the third round as they were drawn to face fellow Division One side Watford away from home.

In a tight game, QPR came out on top thanks to John Byrne’s well-taken winner, cutting inside before firing into the top right corner to send his side through.

Next up for the R’s was a home clash with Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, who had beaten rivals Derby County in the previous round.

But when the two sides met in November 1985, Smith’s team would prove too much for the Reds and secured a 3-1 victory to set up a clash with west London rivals Chelsea.

The Blues, who had won promotion to Division One in the 1983-84 season, travelled to Loftus Road having beaten Everton, Fulham and Mansfield Town to make it to the quarter-finals.

In a highly anticipated clash between the two rivals, it was the Hoops who struck first in the tie as Byrne repeated his heroics in the win over Watford by curling into the top corner from the edge of the box on 12 minutes.

But QPR were pegged back not long after when Pat Nevin finished from close range after the home side had failed to clear a dangerous corner into the box.

After both sides went in level at the break, Gary Bannister had a golden chance to put Rangers back ahead but shot wide when through on goal early in the second half.

Bannister and Byrne almost found the net before Kerry Dixon’s goal was controversially disallowed as both sides went to a replay.

The R’s travelled to Stamford Bridge a week later to face a Blues side who were forced to play without top scorer Kerry Dixon due to injury.

Rangers took full advantage and scored twice in the second half, Alan McDonald grabbing the first when he headed in powerfully from close range.

Michael Robinson then found the net with a stunning strike from the halfway line after goalkeeper Eddie Niedzwiecki had lost the ball high up the pitch.

On a high from their west London derby win, they were put up against a Liverpool side over two legs in the semi-final, first hosting Kenny Dalglish’s side at home.

Terry Fenwick’s goal was enough to secure a 1-0 win for the R’s in the first leg, meeting an accurate cross to beat Bruce Grobbelaar in the Liverpool goal.

Jim Smith’s side benefited from two own goals in the second leg to draw 2-2 at Anfield, twice coming from behind to set up a final with Smith’s former side Oxford United.

But while the run to the final was certainly a memorable one, the final itself is one Rangers fans are keen to forget.

Before the final, Smith was honest about his feelings heading into the clash with his old side and said: “I’m a professional and I’ve got to set about winning the game, but it would be silly to say that I haven’t still got some thoughts for Oxford.”

Trevor Hebberd opened the scoring five minutes before half-time when he cut in and slotted home before QPR conceded again early on in the second half to Ray Houghton’s close-range finish.

Smith’s side could not find a way a back into the game and Jeremy Charles made sure the silverware went to Oxford with four minutes remaining when he tapped in after Paul Barron’s save fell at the forward’s feet.


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