TWO of the First Division’s front-runners clashed in W12, as high-flying QPR hosted Ipswich Town.
Twp of the First Division’s front-runners clashed in W12, as high-flying QPR hosted Ipswich Town.
Teams: Queens Park Rangers v Ipswich Town
Date: Saturday February 21, 1976
Competition: Football League Division One
Venue: Loftus Road, London
Rangers entered into what was hoped to be one of the more prosperous in their history, with manager Dave Sexton looking to take the R’s to new heights.
Pre-season victories over German and Portuguese Champions, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Benfica respectively, sparked hope that it could be a big season for Rangers.
This was then highlighted by an opening day victory over previous runners-up Liverpool – the first Rangers victory over the Reds in their history of meetings.
Ipswich meanwhile were being guided by Bobby Robson as they sought to get back in and among the chasing pack.
They had hit a difficult patch just after the turn of the year but the Tractor Boys were now looking a good bet to compete with Rangers and the remainder of the chasing pack for Derby County’s title.
After a run of one win in four games it appeared that Rangers title chase may well have started to come off the rails, but while the results weren’t desirable the football remained, as Rangers were famed for their slick passing play.
They responded to the dip in form with three successive victories over Aston Villa (2-0), Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-2) and Tottenham Hotspur (3-0) as they hosted Town in W12.
Town meanwhile had suffered only one defeat in 13 – dating back before the 1-1 draw with Rangers at Portman Road in mid-November.
Victories over Burnley (1-0) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-0) helped stabilise the promotion charge after a home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur (1-2).
Unsurprisingly Dave Sexton named an unchanged line-up from the side that beat Spurs convincingly with a now consistent and familiar line-up that can be recounted even in modern day.
Ipswich themselves made one change from the team that comfortably brushed Wolves aside with flu-victim Allan Hunter replaced by John Wark at the back.
A crowd of over 22,000 packed into Loftus Road looking to see Rangers spur on their title hopes, and it was the hosts that took the lead in fortuitous circumstances.
A Gerry Francis centre evaded John Hollins but Wark was on hand to steer the ball into his own net with all the precision of a centre forward.
Rangers were putting on a show with an outstanding display of passing football, and at times Ipswich were struggling to cope – but the finishing was lacking and was punished to great effect.
Mick Lambert equalised for the visitors after useful build up play involving George Burley and Terry Austin, but from then on Rangers showed why they were a side to fear.
Goalkeeper Paul Cooper produced a howler colliding with Mick Mills before dropping the ball at the feet of defender Dave Webb – he wasted no time in prodding home from close range.
The game was complete when Dave Thomas surged through the midfield and hit a sublime left-footed effort into the bottom right hand corner.
Rangers came up inches short after leading the division on the final day. The coveted title slipped from their grasp against Norwich City, where despite dominating Rangers were condemned to their seventh defeat of the season, with Liverpool sewing up the title after the last day.
Ipswich finished on 46 points, 13 behind second-placed QPR – in their sixth placed finish, with Manchester United, former champions Derby County and Leeds United making up the top six.
Final Score: Queens Park Rangers 3-1 Ipswich Town
Queens Park Rangers: Parkes, Clement, Gillard, Leach (McLintock 46), Hollins, Webb, Thomas, Francis, Masson, Bowles, Givens.
Ipswich Town: Cooper, Burley, Beattie (Johnson 69), Mills, Pedelty, Wark, Woods, Osborne, Austin, Whymark, Lambert.
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