QUEENS Park Rangers travelled to rock-bottom West Bromwich Albion in a bid to pick up a rare win on the road.
Queens Park Rangers travelled to rock-bottom West Bromwich Albion in a bid to pick up a rare win on the road.
Teams: West Bromwich Albion v Queens Park Rangers
Date: Saturday November 9, 1985
Competition: Canon Football League Division One
Venue: The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
All change once again at QPR in the summer as caretaker boss Frank Sibley made way for Oxford United manager Jim Smith.
Sibley himself was standing in after a turbulent spell under Alan Mullery that came to an end after six months – Rangers finishing 19th with only 13 wins to their name all season.
Smith took the helm at Loftus Road after leading the U’s to the top flight and was hoping to help revive Rangers to their former selves in the top division.
Albion by comparison were struggling under manager Nobby Stiles. He had replaced Johnny Giles in September but it was fair to say that the desired effect hadn’t taken place as they sat at the foot of the table.
The R’s came into the game on the back of an indifferent run of form. After starting the league with three wins in four, Rangers’ form started to slump, winning only three more in 11 outings.
On their way to the Hawthorns, Rangers had slumped to defeats away at Manchester United (0-2) and Southampton (0-3), while being held at home to Manchester City (0-0) and Sheffield Wednesday (1-1).
West Brom were doing some serious fire-fighting at the foot of the table as they came into the clash, but a confidence-boosting home win over Coventry City (4-3) helped raise belief among the Baggies’ fans.
After failing to pick up a home win in six attempts, West Brom had picked up back to back victories against Birmingham City (2-1) and the aforementioned Coventry clash.
Young midfielder Gary Waddock was out for the remainder of the campaign following a knee-ligament injury away at Sheffield Wednesday.
The midfielder, who sustained the injury in a block tackle, was replaced by Terry Fenwick in the line-up against West Brom, with Robbie James replacing Martin Allen in a straight switch.
West Brom, meanwhile, could look to the strike force of Imre Varadi and Garth Crooks, supported ably by former Manchester United and Chelsea wide-man Mickey Thomas.
Two sides that were struggling for form, and from Rangers’ perspective, goals. The R’s hadn’t struck since August on their travels and were looking for a confidence-boosting strike.
It was a fine sweeping move that saw Rangers take the lead with Gary Bannister and Ian Dawes combing well in the middle to put ‘the fastest thing on two legs,’ Wayne Fereday, down the flank.
He raced clear down the left before feeding the unmarked Michael Robinson and he drove past Paul Bradshaw in the Albion goal.
Rangers were looking more likely to assert their advantage with Bradshaw forced into a succession of smart saves to deny the now confident visitors.
West Brom weren’t out of the game however and pressed the visiting side. They nearly levelled the scores when Tony Grealish was spurned twice in a spell of Baggies pressure.
Home hopes were damaged when Jimmy Nicholl managed to talk his way into the book, twice in quick succession as West Brom were forced to play the last hour with ten men.
They never truly recovered as Rangers started to assert their loftier credentials with Martin Allen replacing John Byrne in a bid to exploit their numerical advantage.
Rangers never truly recovered from their bout inconsistency with only a couple of wins coming in their next 15 games.
They rallied to go undefeated in eight games including a 3-3 draw against Milk Cup final opponents in a precursor to the big day at Wembley – finishing 13th in the First Division.
Sadly for whatever reason Rangers didn’t perform and Jim’s former club Oxford ran out clear victors on the day in 1986 to compound what was a disappointing season overall for the R’s.
Albion finished with the worst record in their history, bottom of the division with 24 points – and they spent the longest period in their history outside the top flight before returning in 2002.
Final Score: West Bromwich Albion 0-1 QPR
West Bromwich Albion: Bradshaw, Whitehead, Statham, Hunt, Bennett, Nicholl, Valentine, Grealish, Varadi, Thomas (Palmer 50), Crooks
Queens Park Rangers: Barron, McDonald, Dawes, Robinson, Wicks, Fenwick, James, Fillery, Bannister, Byrne (Allen), Fereday.
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