RANGERS were significantly under performing as they hosted Bristol City in an important First Division clash.
Rangers were significantly under performing as they hosted Bristol City in an important First Division clash.
Teams: Queens Park Rangers v Bristol City
Date: Saturday October 7, 1978
Competition: Football League First Division
Venue: Loftus Road, London
The R’s were seeing the demise of their once great side as Dave Sexton had left to take charge of Manchester United – and the remnants of his squad was slowly ebbing away.
Former player Frank Sibley was charged with taking Rangers into a new era, but after a year made way for Steve Burtenshaw. The former Sheffield Wednesday boss started the season in a similarly disappointing fashion to his predecessor.
A disastrous start to the season saw Rangers winless in five as they slumped towards the wrong end of the First Division. Burtenshaw’s Rangers lacked the talent of former eras and it was beginning to show on the pitch.
By comparison Bristol City were enjoying a positive start to the 1978-79 season. Manager Alan Dicks had only had his achievements matched by Harry Thickett – only the second manager to lead the club to the top flight in a period of steady building.
In over ten years in his role at Ashton Gate, Dicks had eventually achieved promotion with the Robins and set about establishing them as a top-flight club.
The hosts started the season with back to back defeats against Liverpool (1-2) and West Bromwich Albion – coupled with the 5-1 thumping at Arsenal, it made for a disappointing start for QPR fans.
Some comfort came with back to back wins over Middlesbrough (2-0) and Aston Villa (1-0) as Rangers looked to put their season back on the rails and haul themselves away from the dreaded relegation zone.
City were prospering at the right end of the table however, with Dicks’ men sitting in a comfortable fifth place in the First Division – buoyed by only two defeats in their opening eight games.
Wins over Bolton Wanderers (2-1), Aston Villa (1-0), Southampton (3-1) and Ipswich Town (1-0) helped bolster the Robins’ league position as they thrived on their new-found prosperity.
Burtenshaw made one change from the side that were defeated away at Wolverhampton Wanderers, with Derek Richardson dropped and Phil Parkes returning between the posts.
Ron Abbott was also replaced on the bench by Martyn Busby with Rachid Harkouk able to continue up front despite suffering from illness.
City’s formidable strike force of Joe Royle and Jimmy Mann were proving a handful for the division’s best defenders, epitomised by their excellent start to the campaign. They started at Loftus Road along with fellow influential talents Tom Ritchie, Clive Whitehead, Gerry Gow and Trevor Tainton.
In windy conditions at Loftus Road, there was little grounds for the classy play that Rangers had built up in previous seasons at home. Indeed the game provided few chances, with Stan Bowles creating the majority of the R’s early opportunity.
Shortly before half time Don Shanks had a big chance to put Rangers in front, with goalkeeper John Shaw injured in the goal-mouth. He placed a header goal-bound only to be denied by a spirited clearance from midfielder Gow.
Even the second half could provide little in the way of inspiration for either side, with the visitors not able to make their pressure on the fixture count. Indeed they had the ball in the net when Ritchie netted from a Royle flick-one, but referee Taylor ruled out the effort for offside.
In the second half Burtenshaw was forced into a change when Harkouk seemed unable to continue with illness. Martyn Busby came on and made the desired impact just moments from time, when he lashed home an arguably undeserved winner.
Manager Steve Burtenshaw said: ‘Harkouk was ill on Thursday and Friday, but he was 100 per cent better before the game – He wanted to play so that was that.
‘But he was not all that well, so I took him off – and wasn’t it a brilliant substitution!’
Meanwhile Alan Dicks reflected on the goal that never was: ‘The player thought it was a good goal, for he had raced in behind the defence,’ he said.
It was one of only six wins taken by QPR that season as they were relegated alongside Birmingham City and Chelsea with a mere 25 points from their 42 games.
It didn’t go unnoticed by chairman Jim Gregory who dismissed Burtenshaw before the end of the season and replaced him with a shock choice in Tommy Docherty – a man who had previously walked out on QPR after 28 days.
City by comparison finished 13th – their highest finish for a number of years, and indeed the highest of the Dicks era thus far as they looked to consolidate their top flight position.
Final Score: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Bristol City
Queens Park Rangers: Parkes, Shanks, Gillard, Hollins, Howe, Cunningham, Eastoe, Francis, Harkouk (Busby 67), McGee, Bowles.
Bristol City: Shaw, Sweeney, Gillies, Gow, Rodgers, Hunter, Tainton, Ritchie, Royle, Mann, Whitehead.
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