Queens Park Rangers 2 Ipswich Town 0
Rumours of Queens Park Rangers’ demise as promotion favourites were dispelled
at Loftus Road when Clint Hill emerged as the unlikely match-winner to maintain
a healthy five-point lead at the top of the Championship.
Rangers had drawn their previous two games and Ipswich, showing new guile
under Paul Jewell, looked to have done enough to take a point. But two goals
in the final 13 minutes, with Heidar Helguson adding to Hill’s earlier goal.
Neil Warnock may boast the tightest backline in the Championship but Rangers’
maverick yet endearing manager took the step of dropping twin central defenders
Kaspars Gorkss and Matthew Connolly after openly criticising them recently.
That Rangers went into this game having conceded just 20 goals meant little
to Warnock, who introduced Fitz Hall and Danny Shittu, the latter making his
first appearance since leaving Rangers in 2006.
There was much anticipation about the meeting of style and skill of Adel
Taarabt, 21, Rangers’ former Spurs midfielder, and Connor Wickham, Ipswich’s
17-year-old prospect. Both began quietly as Rangers looked to consolidate
their position as promotion favourites while Ipswich attempted to continue
their recovery programme under Jewell.
Rangers were the first to threaten, with two loanees testing the visitors.
Ishmeal Miller, on loan from West Bromwich Albion, fed Wayne Routledge, but
the Newcastle player, under pressure, chipped the ball narrowly wide.
Ipswich began to settle and when, in the 31st minute, Grant Leadbitter despatched
an outswinging corner, Hill had to make a timely clearance. Leadbitter went
close again for Ipswich, his shot rising just wide of the right post, and
then Gareth McAuley was similarly close with a header.
Rangers hinted at taking the lead during a goalmouth melee that saw four
home players have shots blocked as they found Ipswich’s defence in resolute
Jimmy Bullard, on loan at Portman Road from Hull, had a chance before the
interval but his shot, from 20 yards, struck a team-mate to bring a relatively
poor opening 45 minutes to a disappointing conclusion.
Warnock clearly said something to motivate his side; within the opening five
minutes of the second half they almost scored twice.
Firstly, Routledge set up Miller but Marton Fulop, the Ipswich goalkeeper,
saved well on his line. And from the resultant corner, Shittu sent the ball
back into the area and Helguson, on his 350th appearance in English football,
attempted a spectacular diving header but directed the ball just off target.
With an hour played Paddy Kenny made the game’s best save, the Rangers’ goalkeeper
diving to his right to parry Lee Martin’s precise shot and gathering at the
With time running out Rangers pressed for a late winner and Shittu attempted,
again, to mark his return with a goal only for McAuley to make a superb interception.
But in the 77th minute the goal arrived when, from Taarabt’s well-flighted
corner, Damien Delaney failed to clear and Hill became the unlikely antidote
to Ipswich’s doggedness, his brave header beating Fulop from close range.
Hill then turned provider, his cross allowing Helguson to claim his 10th goal
of the season.
John Ley (The Telegraph)