QUEENS Park Rangers valiantly battled from two goals behind to defeat injury-stricken Derby in a six goal thriller live on the BBC.
Over a decade since the R’s were last on the BBC but it was surely worth the wait after a sensational comeback at Pride Park.
A tale of three free-kicks saw the Rams into a two goal advantage with Robbie Savage feeding Paul Dickov for the opener, before slamming home the second himself.
Rangers struck back with a set piece of their own before half time with Adel Taarabt’s powerful effort bamboozling Stephen Bywater.
Magilton’s words at the break were inspired as ever as Gavin Mahon tapped home from close range to draw Rangers level, before Jay Simpson waltzed through the defence to put the R’s infront.
Ákos Buzsáky killed the game off late on from the penalty spot after the inspired Wayne Routledge was felled by Dean Moxey.
Rangers continue their mesmerising run into a playoff place and 12 goals in three games cap off a truly memorable couple of weeks as a Queens Park Rangers supporter.
Jim Magilton was forced into a solitary change to the team that defeated Reading during the week with Ben Watson being replaced by the rejuvenated Gavin Mahon.
Radek Cerny sat behind a back four of Peter Ramage, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart and Gary Borrowdale, while Mahon was partnered by Alejandro Faurlín in the middle of the park.
Wayne Routledge, Ákos Buzsáky and Adel Taarabt sat behind lone striker Jay Simpson with Mikele Leigertwood taking his place on the bench after returning from a virus.
Depleted Derby lined-up with Stephen Bywater in goal and a back four of Paul Connolly, Frederick Stoor, Shaun Barker and Dean Moxey.
Debutante Bryan Hughes started in the middle alongside Robbie Savage, with Gary Teale and Lee Croft occupying the flanks. Paul Dickov made his second start of the season partnering Rob Hulse.
Kick Off: Derby County v Queens Park Rangers
The game started somewhat sluggishly as both sides attempted to assert a foothold on the fixture. The hosts were using the width effectively with Lee Croft finding space to work his magic down the right.
The former Norwich City and Manchester City wide-man seemed to have the beating of Gary Borrowdale on numerous occasions with the full-back left exposed in the early offing.
Derby were getting up a head of steam and the fans started making their voices heard with the hard-working Robbie Savage epitomising the early effort.
After a decent early showing from the Rams, Rangers started to stamp their authority on the fixture with the movement of the trio Taarabt, Routledge and Buzsáky beginning to create space for Simpson.
The ball seemed to start sticking for Rangers after an early period on uncertainty, with Gavin Mahon central to the visitors’ effort in the middle of the park.
Despite the R’s growing in confidence in attack and their overall possessional play Derby were starting to build some concerted pressure and a baffling refereeing decision handed them an opening.
Lee Croft was played in down the right and raced away in behind Borrowdale, the referee called the play back much to the protestations of Croft and some of his team-mates.
Robbie Savage played the kick early with the Rangers defence clearly slumbering and Paul Dickov was able to ghost in and slam the ball past Radek Cerny from close range.
GOAL: Derby County 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
The Rams had the lead on the ten minute mark but the R’s supporters grew in voice in the away end despite their inferior numbers, they were evidently audible to their side.
Routledge was beginning to find his feet in the fixture, and after taunting Mo Camara last year, he gave Dean Moxey a tough time today. He beat the former Exeter City man and crossed deep for Gavin Mahon, whose header was misguided from close range.
Despite Rangers continued positivity they were struggling against the aerial threat and movement of Rams forward Rob Hulse. Indeed Teale’s ball from the left was into the path of Hulse who drew a magnificent save from Cerny, who clung onto the ball at the second attempt.
Rangers were given a set-piece on the edge of the Derby area moments later, and Buzsáky and Faurlín were stood over the kick. It was the latter who struck the ball into the side netting, with some in the away section believing the ball had hit the back of the net.
The visitors were beginning to reconstruct their attacking play, cut down in its prime by the Derby opener, with Mahon once again central to the efforts of the R’s epitomising his recent fine form in a Rangers shirt.
A disappointing decision once again saw Rangers under pressure moments later when Paul Dickov saw his leaning post Damion Stewart move away and ultimately the former Arsenal and Manchester City man was sent tumbling.
Surprising then that the referee awarded a free-kick, but even more surprising that a card wasn’t issued with Stewart seemingly the last man.
It mattered not as what could only be described as a 10-man wall couldn’t keep out a curling free-kick from Robbie Savage whose effort nestled beautifully in the top left hand corner.
GOAL: Derby County 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers remained positive as a team and as a set of supporters, with their players visibly reacting well to the double setback.
The attacking trio was beginning to come in its own with Taarabt dazzling but fruitless once more, but nevertheless wave after wave of pressure was building on the Rams rearguard.
Another soft free kick was given by referee Haywood, and this time Buzsáky strode away for Faurlín and Taarabt to weigh up the options.
Indeed Adel Taarabt strode up to fire a powerful effort low and to Bywater’s left to halve the deficit at Pride Park with little over five minutes of the half remaining.
GOAL: Derby County 2-1 Queens Park Rangers
From then on it was the Alamo as the game creeped towards the break. The visitors were evidently buoyed by the goal and nerves were setting in for the hosts.
Routledge caused more menace down the right flank to pick out an early cross for Jay Simpson. The Arsenal front-man’s glancing header was well stopped by Bywater at close quarters.
The Rams nearly made it three on the break moments before half time, but only Gary Teale’s profligacy prevented this as he volleyed well over from close range.
Nevertheless there was no mistaking the fact that the visitors were in the ascendancy with Derby hacking the ball away numerous in the final few stages as a succession of corners were launched in.
Derby were evidently pleased to go into the break with their advantage intact but R’s fans seemed more than pleased by their side’s effort and application in the first period despite the inferior scoreline.
Half Time: Derby County 2-1 Queens Park Rangers
Clough called for his side to keep it tight at half time in the face of what was bound to be an attacking presence by QPR in the second period.
More of the same, but minus the errors must have been the rallying cry from Magilton as the passes began to stick for the R’s after an initial shaky period.
It was creative, expressive football that Rangers took into the break, and indeed into the second half and it seemed a matter of time before they levelled.
Taarabt once again shone down the flank before feeding Routledge – he guided the ball into the path of the onrushing Gavin Mahon to guide home past Bywater.
GOAL: Derby County 2-2 Queens Park Rangers
The confidence was visibly drained from the hosts and the opposite effect was in place for the visitors who were now rampant in front of their boisterous support.
The constant shifting of the trio was giving the Derby defence no end of trouble, with Adel Taarabt seeming to be able to scythe the rearguard open at will.
The Spurs man fed Routledge down the right and with the angle ever decreasing he stuck a venomous effort which was beaten away by the Rams ‘keeper Bywater.
It was easy to see the side in the ascendancy as Rangers attacked at will with little response, every ball knocked forward from County was fielded by the high line led by Gorkss and Stewart.
The two were in imperious form since their early demise, and very little looked liked wavering the first choice duo at the heart of the Rangers defensive effort.
Rangers kept the ball with breathtaking ease, with even the persistency of Robbie Savage beginning to wane, and it seemed once again a formality that the lead would be taken.
To the elation of the away fans the Derby defence failed to deal with an incisive through ball, giving Routledge time to spin off allowing Jay Simpson to charge through the defence.
The Arsenal loanee has hit red-hot form of late and continued his goalscoring run with a well-placed low finish to Bywater’s right to hand Rangers a deserved lead.
GOAL: Derby County 2-3 Queens Park Rangers
A weary Peter Ramage was forced to make way for Mikele Leigertwood to bolster the defence and further add to the R’s attacking options.
Moments later it was Rangers again on the front-foot with Adel Taarabt spurning an opportunity for a brace, forcing Bywater into a save at his near post once more.
The Rams were already ruing a howling miss from Hulse when well placed just a few yards out from goal, when Kaspars Gorkss once again came to the rescue in a period of prominence for the hosts.
A deep cross from the right saw Cerny come out and fluff his lines infront of Hulse, the forward’s looping header was wonderfully nodded from the line by Gorkss who had stepped up his game since the break.
The away fans continued to grow in voice despite the hosts’ period of dominance, as teeth chattered and nails were being bitten in the away end – could there be another twist in the tale?
Rowan Vine and Patrick Agyemang were on the park in favour of Taarabt and Simpson with Magilton once again displayed his intentions not to relent with the attacking line-up.
It paid dividends in the final minute of the game as an incisive pass gave Routledge an opportunity in behind Moxey – the makeshift defender felled the former Tottenham man and attentions turned to the linesman.
The assistant flagged like man but was yet to indicate either a dive or a penalty, eventually he pointed to his chest as the commemorative shirts reigned down from the home supporters.
Ákos Buzsáky stepped up to roll home his second set piece of the season in the absence of skipper Martin Rowlands and send the travelling support into raptures.
GOAL: Derby County 2-4 Queens Park Rangers
Fans had witnessed their side’s second victory in as many seasons at fortress Pride Park, with Rangers having only lost in Derby once in the last 21 years.
The voices of discontent grew louder among the ever-decreasing numbers in the ground, and the final whistle was met with a chorus of boos from the home crowd, who continued to throw their shirts on the field.
Contrast that with the elation in the away end as another Magilton masterclass had seen Rangers through in emphatic form for the third game in succession.
Only two defeats thus far this season have helped propel the R’s into a playoff place as they confound the critics to play mouth-watering football not seen in W12 since the heady days of the 70s and 80s.
Final Whistle: Derby County 2-4 Queens Park Rangers
Stephen Bywater, Paul Connolly, Frederick Stoor (Jake Livermore 63), Chris Barker, Dean Moxey, Lee Croft, Robbie Savage, Bryan Hughes (Stephen Pearson 78), Gary Teale, Paul Dickov (Steve Davies 68), Rob Hulse.
Queens Park Rangers
Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage (Mikele Leigertwood 61), Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart, Gary Borrowdale, Gavin Mahon, Alejandro Faurlín, Ákos Buzsáky, Adel Taarabt (Patrick Agyemang 75), Wayne Routledge, Jay Simpson (Rowan Vine 75).
Radek Cerny – 5.7
“Sorry, As a keeper myself I am not convinced” – Lenny367
“He wasn’t at his most confident” – QPR4Me
“Not the most commanding display!” – daveinmelbourne
“Always felt he was going to make a big mistake, came for a high ball he got nowhere near.” – southernhoop
Peter Ramage – 6.7
“Ramage was satisfactory” – QPR4Me
“Competant, not the quickest turner in the world” – daveinmelbourne
“Must be worried as Legs, came on and showed him the way” – southernhoop
Kaspars Gorkss – 8
“Gorkss had his good moments, but has played much better” – QPR4Me
“How cool is this dude?! Latvian Bobby Moore?” – daveinmelbourne
“Not quite “Bobby Moore” but great all the same.” – southernhoop
Damion Stewart – 6.7
“Stewpeas went to sleep too often” – QPR4Me
“Some great challenges.” – daveinmelbourne
“Shouldn’t have played in ice skates but apart from slipping up wasn’t too bad.” – southernhoop
Gary Borrowdale – 6.8
“How did we miss Borrowdale last year? No one had heard of him, he wasn’t played, he was sent out on loan. BUT this year he’s been ABSOLUTELY BRILL. He has to be a starting XI pick.” – ImSitiv
“Impresses more with each game” – Lenny367
“I felt that Borrowdale had a good game” – QPR4Me
“First time I’ve watched him, not half bad.” – daveinmelbourne
“Thought he was supposed to be rubbish, Delaney anyone?” – southernhoop
Gavin Mahon – 8.8
“Forget Watson” – Lenny367
“Mahon was an excellent replacement for watson and must surely have given JM something to think about when Watson’s latest ban is over.” – QPR4Me
“Great work ethic, tops it off with a goal, again simple and effective.” – daveinmelbourne
“On this evidence send Watson back!! In this system he really fits the bill.” – southernhoop
Alejandro Damián Faurlín – 8.8
“Faurlin did a lot of “water-carrying” today, but we needed that” – QPR4Me
“No panic almost always plays the right ball.” – daveinmelbourne
“To have so much time on the ball in the middle of the park just shows how good he is.” – southernhoop.
“gets better and bettter…so calm and assured….” – Lenny367
Adel Taarabt – 7.5
“Taarabt took his free kick well and probably deserved more, but did tire as the game went on” – QPR4Me
“Loved watching him, what an entertainer, gutted he went off!” – daveinmelbourne
“Still keeps the ball too much, don’t boo though in case he goes off crying!” – southernhoop.
Ákos Buzsáky – 7.1
“Slightly disappointed with Buz today, but we are all allowed the odd off day!” – Clonmany_Hoop
“Buz could have been better, but did OK” – QPR4Me
“Always felt he could do something, quiet by his high standards though.” – daveinmelbourne
“Did ok without ever being outstanding, more to come another day.” – southernhoop
Wayne Routledge – 8.2
“Routledge was a major pain in Derby’s butt, even after they tried to kick lumps out of him.” – QPR4Me
“Always a threat, he’s like a little rampaging bull with the ball at his feet.” – daveinmelbourne
“Looked a bit sluggish at the start, probably the heavy pitch, became very good.” – southernhoop
Jay Simpson – 8
“Simpson did well, but may have tired a bit late on.” – QPR4Me.
“Intelligent runner, great anticipation” – daveinmelbourne
“Led the line well and the system works when we play like that.” – southernhoop.