BRIAN Clough’s dream of a third First Division title were flickering away as Nottingham Forest visited Loftus Road.
Brian Clough’s dream of a third First Division title were flickering away as Nottingham Forest visited Loftus Road.
Teams: Queens Park Rangers v Nottingham Forest
Date: Saturday March 14, 1987
Competition: Today League Division One
Venue: Loftus Road, London
Clough had picked up titles in 1972 with Derby County and 1978 with Forest but now had his sight set on a third top-flight success. Standing in his way were run-away leaders Liverpool who didn`t look like dropping a point as they cantered to commanding lead.
Jim Smith`s QPR were sitting comfortably mid-table and welcomed the arrival of a lesser-known striker to the ranks during the week. Rangers fended off competition from Brentford to sign striker Les Ferdinand from Hayes in a £15,000 deal.
Smith`s side sat mid-table because of their sporadic league form, three league wins in a row against Aston Villa (1-0), Newcastle United (2-1) and Manchester City (1-0) were tempered by the defeat against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane (0-1).
At Loftus Road however Rangers were a formidable force, only having lost four games in W12 all season against West Ham United, Leicester City, Liverpool and Everton.
Only one defeat in six for Clough`s Forest gave them an outside chance of breaking Liverpool`s dominance of the league, but the overall impression was that they had left it too late to make significant inroads.
Losing at home to Chelsea (0-1) was a hammer blow in Forest`s fleeting title hopes, despite managing to hold Liverpool (1-1) at the City Ground, but conversely dropping points against Luton Town (2-2).
Jim Smith made a solitary change from the side that lost at White Hart Lane the previous Saturday, with Sammy Lee slotting back into the defence in place of Gavin Maguire. Rangers` strike force of Bannister and Byrne were looking to add to the 17 goals they had accumulated between them so far.
Forest had their own strike force to behold with Garry Birtles and manager`s son Nigel Clough striking up a useful partnership. Clough Jnr had achieved England Under 21 honours and the talent being displayed in his early days had many tipping him for full honours before long.
A mean defence including Stuart Pearce, signed from Coventry City in 1985 and youth product Des Walker started at Loftus Road, with a view to shutting out a talented Rangers attacking line.
Before the match Chairman David Bulstrode gave his assurances to the supporters that there would be a bright future for QPR under his tenure, and this seemed to rub off on the players as they took to the field.
The hosts had the lead shortly after the half-hour mark with Gary Bannister taking his tally into double figures for the season, slamming the ball past Steve Sutton. When Wayne Fereday popped up with the second ten minutes after the break Forest appeared dead and buried.
A spark of hope came as Forest got a foothold back in the fixture. Defender Johnny Metgod, signed from Real Madrid in 1984 got himself on the scoresheet – not with a trademark free-kick, but this time with a headed effort.
It was a Rangers defender who sewed up the fixture as a contest when Northern Ireland international Alan McDonald, a player who had cemented his place in both international and club football, slotted home with pin-point precision.
Rangers` season eventually petered out to disappointment as they finished 16th in the top flight, only eight points away from the eventually relegated Leicester City.
Far from being title challengers Forest ended up finishing eighth place, behind Luton Town and Wimbledon, with Everton steaming past city-rivals Liverpool to take the title by nine clear points.
Metgod has since rejoined Clough on the coaching staff at Derby County after stints with Feyenoord and Portsmouth.
Final Score: Queens Park Rangers 3-1 Nottingham Forest
Queens Park Rangers: Seaman, Neill, James, Lee, McDonald, Fenwick, Allen, Fillery, Bannister, Byrne, Fereday.
Nottingham Forest: Sutton, Fleming, Walker, Fairclough, Pearce, Mills (Starbuck), Metgod, Bowyer, Clough, Birtles, Carr.
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