Crystal Palace 1 – 2 Queens Park Rangers
Saturday October 2nd 15:00
With three of the previous four meetings ending with the points shared, George Burley's men could be forgiven for taking a point coming off the back of a 5-0 hammering from Nigel Clough’s Derby County. That wasn’t to be as Palace’s inexperience came to the fore yet again.
With seven wins and two draws from their opening nine games, QPR have made their best start to a campaign since 1947 and have the best form of any team in the country. Ex-Palace boss Neil Warnock had been keen to praise his former employers coming into the derby, with his flying side unchanged for the fourth consecutive game.
Dutch veteran midfielder Edgar Davids made his home debut, and had an immediate impact on the game after his deflected free kick found Julian Bennett who crossed for the unmarked Andrew Doorman, whose snap shot hit the inside of the post from eight yards.
Soon after QPR keeper Paddy Kenny reacted quickly to make a solid double save from Wilfred Zaha following a Palace counter attack.
QPR’s star man and Captain Adel Taarabt continued to be a thorn in Palace’s side; his sparkling run and long range effort bringing a decent stop from reported Arsenal target Julian Speroni. Jamie Mackie followed up, and Speroni was their yet again to save his side.
On 15 minutes Kieron Djilali wasted a good opening after more neat work from the Palace midfield. After the opening stages the home side looked far from relegation candidates.
After a sloppy opening half hour from the table toppers, Taarabt began to influence the game, firing over from a Hogan Ephraim cross.
As the half went on, the Eagles began to look characteristically shaky at the back, with centre half’s Patrick McCarthy and Alex Marrow struggling to deal with the threat posed by inform strikers Jamie Mackie and Heidar Helguson.
On the stroke of half time a QPR corner resulted in a goal mouth scramble. Helguson broke free, clipping a ball into the crowded six yard box which deflected off the head of Palace’s Fitz Hall and onto the crossbar with Speroni stranded.
Palace then broke and should have scored first through Dorman, whose goal-bound effort was stopped by a majestic block from full-back Clint Hill. The resulting corner saw Julian Bennett’s header cleared off the line.
Just a single minute into the second half QPR’s Jamie Mackie pounced on a poor Edgar Davids back pass. Mackie coolly rounded a stranded Speroni and centred to Taarabt who couldn’t miss from two yards for his fourth goal of the season.
George Burley responded by taking home debutant Davids off and replacing him with Anthony Gardner as Palace searched for the equaliser.
The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of a previously belligerent Palace outfit, as the Hoops controlled the opening period of the second half though Taarabt and Ephraim.
The home side showed few signs of life until a sharp break from Alex Marrow ended with his cross going out for a corner on 67 minutes. The set-piece skipped up into the midrift, close to the arms of Helguson, resulting in furious appeals for a penalty from the home fans and players alike. Replays showed that a penalty would have been harsh.
This seemed to invigorate Burley’s side, as they searched for a much needed equaliser.
Shortly after, Djilali was fouled on 75 minutes, and the resulting set-piece from the lively Owen Garvan on 75 minutes evaded everyone, including Paddy Kenny, but flew agonisingly wide of the far post to the anguish of the home faithful.
An equaliser continued to evade Palace, with Calvin Andrew coming close with his head from a corner on 82 minutess.
It finally came one minutes from time after a great and cross from the promising Wilfred Zaha found the flying shin of substitute Kieron Codogan, leaving Kenny with no chance.
Tragically struggling Palace couldn’t hold on as Speroni flapped at a harmless cross from Tommy Smith allowing Helguson to nod the ball home comfortably on 93 minutes. The goal came against the run of play but Burley will be less than pleased with his sides defending. Speroni claimed foul to no avail.
Despite another loss, Warnock is certain his old side can survive this season.
He said: “If they played Neil Warnock every week they’d be in the playoffs. What they have to do now is put in performances in like that against everybody else.
“I can see them finishing mid-table,” he continued.
In contrast to the chirpy Rangers chief, under pressure George Burley was in reflective mood.
The former Ipswich manager again stated the severe injury problems his side face. His opposing manager urged Palace to give him time, saying he thinks it will take years for his former employers to get back on track.
Burley said: “we’ve played two top sides in Cardiff and QPR and done pretty well.”
However, he admitted that his young side had been naïve in letting their opponents score so easily with just seconds to go.
After a capable display, Palace’s tricky winger Kieron Djilali was in pensive mood after facing the manager who gave him his debut. “I’m pleased personally but the lads are very disappointed at the minute.”
“It’s a learning curve,” he said.
The youngster seemed resentful over some of his treatment from QPR’s defence: “A lot of dirty challenges were going in that the ref wasn’t noticing so we went to him and addressed that.”
The home side will feel hard done by, and arguably had the better of the game. But Warnock’s and QPR’s experience showed against an injury ridden Palace outfit. The struggling Eagles will welcome the return of talisman Darren Ambrose as the pressure builds on manager George Burley as his side slip ever closer to the foot of the table.
QPR maintain their unbeaten start as Warnock’s snatch and grab victory keeps them at the summit of the championship table.
01 Speroni, 02 Clyne, 05 McCarthy (C), 19 Bennett, 10 Garvan, 11 Dorman, 20 Davids (31 Gardner -59), 21 Djilali, 30 Marrow, 16 Zaha, 30 Counago (15 Cadogan – 45).
Unused substitutes: 13 Price, 24 N’Diaye, 28 O’Keefe, 12 Andrew
01 Kenny, 03 Hill, 13 Gorkoss, 15 Walker, 16 Connolly, 04 Derry, 07 Taarabt (21 Smith – 72), 10 Buzsaky (06 Leigertwood - 83), 25 Ephraim, 09 Helguson, 12 Mackie.
Unused substitutes: 24 Cerny, 26 Barrowdale, 14 Rowlands, 19 Agyemang, , 33 German.
Palace: Dorman, Speroni
QPR: Ephraim, Hill,
Referee: Mr K Friend