QUEENS Park Rangers snatched an incredible point from the jaws of defeat to maintain their position at the summit of the npower Championship.
Derby County had seemingly edged a closely fought encounter as make-shift striker Kris Commons poked home the opener before James Bailey doubled the advantage with a well-taken effort.
Rangers epitomised the fighting spirit instilled in them by boss Neil Warnock, as first Patrick Agyemang returned from the wilderness to net a neatly-taken effort.
Not even the most optimistic of QPR supporters would have predicted Jamie Mackie snaffling home an equalising goal to maintain their unbeaten record at Pride Park.
Despite not being at their vintage best, the visitors engineered a point in stunning fashion and displayed the hallmarks of promotion hopefuls by snatching a breath-taking result.
Neil Warnock opted to remain unchanged from the side that picked up their third successive maximum against Scunthorpe United last weekend.
Paddy Kenny sat behind a back four of Bradley Orr, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly and Clint Hill with Shaun Derry, Alejandro Faurlín and Adel Taarabt making up the midfield trio.
Jamie Mackie and Hogan Ephraim supported lone striker Heidar Helguson with Patrick Agyemang returning to the bench at the expense of youngster Josh Parker.
Derby lined-up with Stephen Bywater behind John Brayford, Dean Leacock, Shaun Barker and Gary Roberts with James Bailey and pantomime villain Robbie Savage in the middle of the park.
Paul Green, Connor Doyle and Dean Moxey played just behind lone striker Kris Commons as County also retained the same side and shape from their defeat at Coventry City.
Brayford – Leacock – Barker – Roberts
Bailey – Savage (c)
Doyle – Green – Moxey
Orr – Connolly – Gorkss – Hill
Faurlín – Derry
Mackie – Taarabt (c) – Ephraim
Kick Off: Derby County v Queens Park Rangers
On a blustery afternoon in Derby, Rangers took to the field leading the pack in the Championship with a trio of maximums without response. Indeed they were there to be shot at as a wounded County would evidently take the field with purpose given their form.
The players were greeted by a rapturous reception from a sizeable travelling army from West London – given the R’s performance in their previous away clash at Sheffield United, they looked to be in for an eventful afternoon at Pride Park.
A positive opening from the visitors nearly yielded a deserved goal as Clint Hill’s hopeful pass was fed to Adel Taarabt via Hogan Ephraim and the Moroccan danced past Robbie Savage to draw a smart save from Stephen Bywater at his near post.
The rebound fell to Jamie Mackie who managed to engineer an opportunity, only to be thwarted once more by the former West Ham United ‘keeper who passed his early test with flying colours. It seemed that Rangers, as against Scunthorpe, were looking to press for the advantage in the early offing.
Derby had a clear tactic in mind for dealing with Taarabt with the ever-popular figure of Robbie Savage shadowing the R’s playmaker. The infuriating midfielder certainly wasted no time in making his presence felt on some of Rangers more creative players.
While having Savage among their rearguard, the talent of Kris Commons in the forward line was something for the visitors to be wary of. Notably when the former Nottingham Forest man surged forward with great purpose.
His run wasn’t curbed by a defence trying to cover the various options before him, but luckily the left-foot of Commons didn’t prove to be quite as reliable as billed when he scuffed a tame effort wide of Paddy Kenny’s left hand upright.
The game itself was not proving a vintage affair with an error-strewn performance from both sides seeing possession gifted one way then another. It would take a moment of class to separate the teams and Taarabt hoped to be that spark of inspiration.
The Moroccan was over every set-piece and as the skipper was at the centre of the majority of QPR’s play. His free-kick was cleverly passed aside for Faurlín to strike, but the Argentinean’s left-footed drive flew over the bar.
Shaun Barker then went close for the Rams after a moment of confusion in the Rangers rearguard. A Dean Moxey corner was only half cleared and when the ball broke the Barker on the far post, all he could do was fluff his lines into the side netting.
The industrious Paul Green was proving a constant thorn in the QPR side, along with supporting midfielders Moxey and Conor Doyle who were also proving an aerial threat. Green however was the key figure as Derby took the advantage.
His direct run and cross down the left fell perfectly for the unmarked Kris Commons in the heart of the area. The make-shift centre forward was composure personified as he dinked over the sprawling bodies, beyond Paddy Kenny and into the back of the net.
GOAL: Derby County 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers could consider themselves somewhat unfortunate to be behind given the finely-balanced nature of the game. Nevertheless the sheer lack of openings and opportunities in the game meant a ruthless streak would be required, and Commons displayed that in abundance with an excellent finish.
The score-line could not lie however as the Rams had the upper hand at Pride Park – as they did last year – and Rangers would need to step up after the break if they were to claim some points and henceforth remain at the summit of the table.
Half Time: Derby County 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
The second half brought renewed hope and vigour as Warnock encouraged his charges at the break. They would have been boosted by the fact that Commons was forced to withdraw with Tomas Cywka taking his place in the forward line.
The R’s were looking positive in their early endeavour with Hogan Ephraim winning a rather fortunate free-kick on the right-hand side of the area. Taarabt’s excellently-taken free-kick was forced behind by the Derby defence who now found themselves on the back foot.
The game appeared to ebb and flow with Rangers attempted to break down what was proving to be a stubborn defence, while the hosts continued to prove a danger on the counter-attack. Cywka in particular was proving sprightly on the break.
Conor Doyle was replaced by Dave Martin and he played a role as Derby broke away for the second with Cywka at the heart of the move. The former Wigan man burst forward before laying the ball aside for midfielder James Bailey who notched his first career goal with a fine curling effort into the bottom right hand corner.
GOAL: Derby County 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
The goal appeared to really take the wind from the Rangers sails and Warnock reacted fast in an attempt to reduce the deficit with Hungarian Ákos Buzsáky replacing Shaun Derry. Buzsáky was holding deep somewhat to collect the ball before orchestrating going forward.
Eventually the tide told for Taarabt who despite his endeavour was marked effectively out of the game, he was replaced by Leon Clarke, with Patrick Agyemang also replacing lone forward Heidar Helguson who had an ultimately fruitless day.
It seemed a final throw of the dice from Warnock and more for experimentation than hope and the dividends wouldn’t become apparent immediately, with the latter duo finding it difficult to make a genuine impact on proceedings.
Clarke sent a couple of low testing crosses from the left, but they were comfortably dealt with by the Rams back-line. Soon after though came a glimpse of joy, a spark of hope as a goal for QPR was carve with such effective simplicity.
A hopeful long-ball was nodded down by Clarke into the path of Patrick Agyemang. The forward, who had done relatively little to date, wasted little time in soaring past his marker and clipping an excellently-placed toe-poke into the bottom right hand corner.
GOAL: Derby County 2-1 Queens Park Rangers
It was cheered in the away end and if nothing else made the score-line more accurate and respectable. There was a minor melee in the goal-mouth as Clarke and Ephraim attempted to retrieve the ball for the kick-off, but what was to follow was nothing short of incredible.
The four minutes of injury time signalled initially was met with groans, now the R’s fans were pleading with the referee to continue as they attempted to carve out an unlikely equaliser. They nearly paid the price as a QPR corner was cleared and Derby counter-attacked.
Bailey charged forward for County and after receiving the ball through on goal ushered himself to the right hand side of the target before forcing Kenny into an excellent reaction save to his left hand side – how important that one moment proved to be.
A change from Derby and various other minor stoppages in injury time meant that Mr Haywood allowed more time on top of the four minutes initially allocated, and hope sprang eternal as Jamie Mackie hustled and bustled in the area.
He somehow stole into the area, out-muscled two defenders and drilled beyond Stephen Bywater. To say that the away end were sent into delirium would be an understatement of epic proportions as the away end was a cauldron of noise.
GOAL: Derby County 2-2 Queens Park Rangers
A quite unbelievable turn of events in a game that rarely threatened to reach tepid proportions. Somehow though Rangers displayed the mark of promotion candidates by grinding out the most unlikely of results and sending their travelling army home relatively contented.
The players raced over to the fans after the final whistle with unbridled joy being reciprocated between the two sets of people, and manager Neil Warnock firstly gave a delighted salute to the QPR fans before clapping the Derby fans that had jested in his direction just minutes earlier.
Rangers today laid down a marker for how far they’re willing to do and the effort and endeavour was certainly appreciated by the supporters given their reaction following the game. Surely now Warnock will be cursing his luck that there is an international break disrupt Rangers’ progress.
Final Whistle: Derby County 2-2 Queens Park Rangers
Bywater, Brayford, Roberts, Green, Barker, Leacock, Savage, Commons (Cywka 45), Bailey, Moxey (Ball 90), Doyle (Martin 57).
Queens Park Rangers
Kenny, Orr, Hill, Derry (Buzsaky 61), Taarabt (Clarke 70), Helguson (Agyemang 62), Faurlin, Mackie, Gorkss, Connolly, Ephraim.
6/10 – Paddy did well in difficult circumstances today and despite a couple of minor slips was solid by and large against some tricky set-pieces.
The save in particular against Bailey at the end proved to be invaluable in Rangers equalising exploits. He will have every reason to be pleased.
6/10 – Once again a solid head in the back four, a couple of loose passes and clearances, but by and large displayed why he is the best option in that position.
Having an out and out right back is a distinct advantage and Rangers are already reaping the rewards of his defensive skills.
7/10 – Kaspars was once again strong in the air against an unorthodox attacking line. Firstly Commons and then Moxey were dealt with expertly by the Latvian.
The most frustrating and difficult part for Kaspars would have been Moxey throwing himself into the defender, but he came out with flying colours on the day.
6/10 – Once again he looked solid for the most part but there are errors and judgement issues creeping into his game, something that needs to be rectified.
A couple of times he was caught wanting over the top when he misjudged the flight of the ball – but overall a decent display that can be built upon.
6/10 – Not his best display to date, but solid nonetheless – what else would you expect from the experienced left-back?
He was tough and uncomprimising in the tackle, and despite getting caught for pace occasionally, he showed himself to be a solid left-back.
6/10 – Derry was again good in the tackle today and won a lot of the challenges on the ground and in the air, and was evidently withdrawn for tactical reasons.
The former Palace man linked up well with Faurlín but had to be withdrawn when Rangers needed to gamble in the middle of the park.
Alejandro Damián Faurlín
6/10 – Faurlín looked a little inconsistent today as despite tackling and retaining the ball well, his killer pass was lacking somewhat.
A couple were misjudged with a forward well placed and that’s something he can work on over the break and sharpen up for the Middlesbrough clash.
8/10 – What is to say that hasn’t already been said, he gives 110% every game and justly reaped his rewards today with an important goal.
He is now the R’s top scorer and should he continue to pop up in similar positions, there is no reason why he can’t bag many more.
6/10 – Adel wasn’t as influential today owing to some useful work by Robbie Savage, but nevertheless the Derby man was on his back-side a couple of times, much to the amusement of the travelling support.
While he was being marked two-fold it was leaving space for others to exploit which was highly beneficial.
6/10 – Hogan didn’t create anything that was key today but nevertheless looked to be quite dangerous when given the ball in key areas.
He carved out a chance for Taarabt in the first half and won a few crucial free-kicks in the second. He will be an important figure after the international break.
6/10 – Taken off in the second period, but once again we are seeing the effectiveness of the Icelandic international in the air.
His threat caused Barker and Leacock bother all day and it was missed when he was withdrawn – not too much though evidently! Nevertheless will continue to play a part until Warnock can strengthen in that area.