RANGERS promotion dream continued to fade as they travelled to Ninian Park in search of a confidence boosting win.
Teams: Cardiff City v Queens Park Rangers
Date: Saturday 24 April 1982
Competition: Football League Division Two
Venue: Ninian Park, Cardiff
See Also: QPR 3-0 Cardiff City – 09-11-79.
Both sides came into the fixture preparing for their relevant big cup finals. The R`s were preparing to take on Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup final while Cardiff City prepared for their Welsh Cup final clash against rivals Swansea City.
The R`s came into the game on a good run of home form, but it was their form on their travels that was a cause for concern. They had lost six out of their last seven away games with their only victory coming at Carrow Road against Norwich City.
Nevertheless Rangers were formidable at Loftus Road – the only reason their faint promotion hopes were still alive. A crushing 4-0 win over Charlton Athletic displayed their dominance on home turf.
A change of managers saw Len Ashurst replace Graham Williams in February 1982 in a desperate bid to avoid the drop. It seemed to be doing the trick for the Bluebirds as four successive home wins helped propel them to a position of relative safety.
The Bluebirds could call upon youth product Tarki Micalleff who was beginning to emerge as a talented young player at the heart of the Cardiff midfield. Striker Wayne Hughes had to make to with a place on the bench as Cardiff opted for a more defensively minded formation.
Earlier on in the campaign a Simon Stainrod double condemned the Bluebirds to defeat in W12, he came back into the side with Steve Burke making way. Ian Dawes and Tony Currie also made way from the side that beat Shrewsbury Town 2-1 at Loftus Road; they were replaced by Ian Gillard and John Gregory.
Rangers hadn`t scored in their last five visits to Ninian Park but soon made a mockery of their poor record in the Welsh capital by taking an early lead. It came from the reliable boot of Clive Allen.
Allen was continuing to relish life at Queens Park Rangers and after latching onto a deft flick on by strike partner Simon Stainrod he raced towards goal. Finishing appeared merely a formality as he flashed his shot across Ron Healy and into the bottom corner.
Rangers were full of hustle and bustle in the middle of the park with Gary Waddock and Gary Micklewhite at the heart of the R`s engine room epitomising the efforts of the Rangers side. Shortly before the half-hour mark the effort dividends as the R`s doubled their lead.
Allen turned from scorer to provider as his teasing cross found forward Simon Stainrod whose header skimmed off the inside of the post. Whether it was over the line or not was a question for debate but Micklewhite didn`t hand around to find out as he slammed home.
Cardiff were left shell-shocked by the R`s early showing and struck back themselves in style. The aforementioned Tarki Micalleff added to his growing reputation by completing a surging run from the Rangers half with a 30-yard blockbuster that left stopper Peter Hucker rooted to the turf.
After the break Cardiff lost Micalleff to an injury and their creativity was stifled as a result. Despite their possession they struggled to create any chances of note. The central defensive pairing of Steve Wicks and Glenn Roeder were proving worthy of their places as the hosts struggled to break down the R`s resistance.
It was backs against the wall stuff at times in the final 20 minutes with the Rangers rearguard having to deal with some heavy spells of pressure. However City couldn`t crack a solid backline and Rangers walked away with a crucial away victory.
Rangers rounded off the season in fifth place, only two points of third placed Norwich City – with the promotion campaign going down to the wire. They went on to lose their cup final clash with Tottenham Hotspur on a replay at Wembley.
Cardiff by contrast couldn`t escape the clutches of relegation as they fell to the third division with 44 points – just two points from Bolton Wanderers and safety. A double whammy of disappointment came as the Bluebirds lost the Welsh Cup Final to rivals Swansea City – victors for the second year in succession.
But what of Tarki Micalleff I hear you ask? – Unfortunately for him his ambition was never truly fulfilled despite two spells with Cardiff and then with Gillingham and Bristol Rovers. His career was finished off at Barry Town without so much of a whimper in the late 1980s.
Final Score: Cardiff City 1-2 Queens Park Rangers
Cardiff City: Healey, Jones, Polycarpou, Pontin, Micallef (Hughes 51), Mullen, Grapes, Henderson, Kitchen, Bennett, Maddy.
Queens Park Rangers: Hucker, Fenwick, Gillard, Waddock, Wicks, Roeder, Micklewhite, Flanaghan, Allen, Stainrod, Gregory.
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