QUEENS Park Rangers were languishing at the wrong end of the table, but were showing signs of recovery under new management.
Queens Park Rangers were languishing at the wrong end of the table, but were showing signs of recovery under new management.
Teams: Swansea City v Queens Park Rangers
Date: Saturday January 31, 1981
Competition: Football League Second Division
Venue: Vetch Field, Swansea
The R’s were struggling near the foot of the Second Division after a sluggish start to the 1980-81 season. Manager Tommy Docherty had struggled to get the best out of the R’s and subsequently departed before the turn of the year.
Former player Terry Venables came from Crystal Palace after a successful four-year stint at Selhurst Park. His immediate impact could be felt around Loftus Road with three wins on the spin reviving the R’s fortunes, having to previously wait 15 games for a trio of wins previously.
Under John Toshack, Swansea City were proving formidable opposition for Second Division sides, with only three defeats coming at the Vetch Field all season. However they were without a win in three games, accompanied by a thumping home defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough in the FA Cup (6-0).
Rangers themselves were on a run of five games without a defeat, including the confidence boosting home wins over Chelsea (1-0) and West Ham United (3-0). Only two victories on the road during the season so far was a slight cause for concern as the R’s travelled to the Vetch.
QPR named an unchanged side from the team that defeated local rivals Chelsea, with the on-form Tommy Langley, fresh from his goalscoring exploits against his former club, starting up front alongside Simon Stainrod.
On a clear day in South Wales Rangers surprised many by taking the game in a very positive fashion to Toshack’s Swans.
Indeed the form of Tony Currie in the middle of the park was particularly impressive as he pulled all the strings at the heart of midfield. The tackles continued to fly in thick and fast in an ill-tempered affair with the Vetch becoming rapidly intimidating for fans and players alike.
It was the R’s who drew first blood, a goal that incurred the wrath of the home faithful. Steve Wicks’ perfectly weighted header fell kindly for Tommy Langley. He span unmarked to fire past keeper Scottish international David Stewart despite furious protestations from supporters that the forward was offside.
Swansea equalised courtesy of defender Nigel Stevenson, which gave the hosts hope that they could get a foothold on a game that was slipping away from their grasp.
If the first for QPR was dubious the second was fortuitous with home supporters cursing their luck. Ten minutes before half time the normally reliable Stewart dropped the ball at the feet of Andy King, and the forward reacted gleefully to drive home from close range.
Rangers never looked like surrendering their lead thereafter with a stunning display of exhibition football epitomising Venables’ positive beginning to his QPR management reign.
Indeed chances further chances for Andy King, Simon Stainrod and Tommy Langley went amiss but with the Swans rarely displaying the cutting edge they had provided throughout the season, Rangers were able to canter to victory in a comfortable second half.
The R’s finished the season in positive fashion at Loftus Road with a 5-0 home win over Cambridge United. After the final whistle supporters were encouraged to take up parts of the turf with the infamous ‘omniturf’ being laid down the following season.
A finish of eight place epitomised the revival that Venables had overseen in W12 and promised much for the following season after a year of upheaval.
Swansea City finished in third place with 50 points and were promoted to the top flight alongside West Ham United and Notts County. They edged out Blackburn Rovers on goal difference on the final day.
Final Score: Swansea City 1-2 Queens Park Rangers
Swansea City: Stewart, Attley, Hadziabdic, Mahoney, Charles, Stevenson, Giles, James R., Curtis, Toshack, James L.
Queens Park Rangers: Burridge, Shanks, Gillard, Fenwick, Wicks, Roeder, Langley, King, Stainrod, Currie, Silkman.
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