Derby County 0 – 1 Queens Park Rangers : As it happened
Monday, 26th May 2014 18:37 by Clive Whittingham
As-live, minute by minute, coverage of QPR’s historic 1-0 win against Derby County at Wembley Stadium in the Championship play-off final.
Derby County 0 Queens Park Rangers 1
17.30 Queens Park Rangers are back in the Premier League. A year after they dropped out of the top flight in a horrendous mess, after a season of just four victories, with a squad of overpaid mercenaries, the R’s have recovered sufficiently to scrap out a victory in unlikely circumstances in their first visit to Wembley for 28 years against a much fancied Derby side.
An even first half notable only for a weak penalty appeal by Will Hughes against Richard Dunne looked like being replicated in the second until Gary O’Neil was sent off for deliberately bringing down Johnny Russell as he threatened to run through on goal.
It was backs to the wall for Rangers thereafter, with Robert Green making three fine saves and Richard Dunne a colossal presence at the heart of the defence. Penalty kicks looked QPR’s best hopes, although whether you’d have backed them to make it through another 30 minutes of torturous attack v defence is debatable.
In the end, they didn’t need the extra time. Derby switched off from a throw in with a minute left to play and after mistakes from Jake Buxton and Richard Keogh, substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home a majestic winning goal with his left foot to spark jubilant scenes among the 40,000 QPR fans behind the goal.
QPR chairman Tony Fernandes says: “It was a scary day, most scary being up on Joey’s shoulders because I’m a heavy boy. Today we were under pressure, we came back, the sending off, I kept thinking about the Man City game, when they put so much pressure on us. I thought it might come in extra time. When that came, Bobby Zamora, a player I’ve believed in all season, he paid us back big time today. The whole club has earned this moment. We were hammered, attacked in the press, told we’re stupid, we kept digging in. We have a good manager no matter what everybody says. The hard work starts again, we’re a bit smarter and wiser this time. Today I’ll enjoy the moment. These fans don’t taste success very often, like the big clubs. These are real fans. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I’ll die a very happy man.”
Derby manager Steve McClaren says: “I’m so proud of my players. We dominated frm the first whistle. We were patient. Eventually I could see us getting the win. We didn’t and eventually with two minutes to go, maybe we were waiting for extra time, there was a lack of concentration. When that happens you know it’s not your day and you’re not quite ready. The players were magnificent and showed great humility at the end. It’s a cruel experience, I’ve had many, we’ll be stronger for this.”
Gary O’Neil, a relieved man, says: “I was absolutely devastated, it was a split second decision, I knew I was getting a red card if I caught him but I thought he’d score if I left him. I’ve never been sent off before. I hope the fans don’t hold it against me, I did it for the best of the team. If he’d scored I didn’t see us coming back. Who knows? Maybe we were destined. Maybe it helped out. This is the best way to go up if you can guarantee doing it. I really enjoyed the game up to the 60 minutes, I thought me and Joey were doing well against their three. I’d love to stay at QPR, it’s a fantastic club.”
Captain Clint Hill says: “Twelve, 13 years ago I let a lot of people down here, I got sent off and didn’t get to walk up the steps, I’ve regretted it ever since. These lads have made me a proud captain today, giving me a chance to go up those steps and make amends. It’s more relief if anything else. We’ve been questioned all year about our mentality – big timers, earning too much money, do they really want it? We’ve shown over the last three games when it matters that we do care, we do want it. My contract is up, I don’t know, I’m not thinking about it, I got a chance to lift a trophy at Wembley Stadium, which I never ever though I would do. Whatever happens I don’t care – I’m going missing for 48 hours now that’s all I know.”
17.11 Barton, ambitiously, has picked Tony Fernandes up on his shoulders. It doesn’t last long, and Fernandes almost goes for a Burton on two occasions. Barton staggers away, telling Clint Hill his back has gone. Hill covers himself in silver streamers. A grown man. Wonderful scenes. We Are the Champions rings out…
Midfielder Joey Barton says: “Derby probably deserved it, they played great, we had to dig in there, we’ve found a way. What an effort from the lads. Bobby has changed games all season for us and he deserves it, he’s worked tremendously hard to get back in this set up. People have questioned us all season, but we always knew. We came together as a group a few weeks ago and spoke about finding a way to win football matches.”
17.06: Austin catches Tony Fernandes and douses the chairman in champagne. The entire QPR team, coaching staff and board are huddling together on the pitch.
Charlie Austin says: “It’s unreal to be honest. When it fell to Bobby, that’s some finish. I left Burnley in the summer to come to QPR and try to get to the Premier League – obviously they’ve done it, I’m chuffed for them, but I was totally focused on getting QPR there and we’ve done it. I don’t think I’ve really caught the eye playing left midfield. We couldn’t get out of our half, but that’s a great finish from Bobby.”
17.04 Interesting/reassuring to see Lakshmi Mittal on the balcony with his wife, looking so thrilled.
17.03 Jesus, there’s Yun Suk-Young. Hide him. We’ll get this taken off us if Fifa see him there.
17.00 Joey Barton and Clint Hill hoist the cup into the air. A scratchy CD of Pharrell Williams kicks into action. 40,000 QPR fans are in raptures. Derby have stayed on the field to applaud their opponents.
16.55 Queens Park Rangers are walking up the steps of Wembley for the first time since 1967. Led by Clint Hill, sent off on his last appearance at Wembley for Tranmere Rovers 14 years ago. The R’s have changed into blue and white hoops to make the climb. Chairman Tony Fernandes waits to greet them with bear hugs at the top.
QPR manager Harry Redknapp says: “We were hanging on with ten men. We were looking to hang in there and maybe take the game to penalties. We were hanging in for our lives. We’ve ended up with a fantastic goal to win the game. I couldn’t be more pleased. I’d be a liar if I said I could see us scoring. They were probing, Green was making saves, we were hanging on, then we go and score a worldie. I thought we were bang in trouble. They showed great character. That’s what makes this the greatest game in the world, you can never tell. I wanted to do it for the people here and the owners who are fantastic people. We can look forward to playing in the Premier League next season. It means everything to me.”
16.50 Lovely to see Ale Faurlin out on the field celebrating with the team, hugging Joey Barton, who he’ll be hoping to team up with in the Premier League again next season. Richard Keogh and Jake Buxton, whose mistakes led to the goal, are in floods of tears. Totally inconsolable.
Man of the Match Richard Dunne: “It’s amazing. It’s been a long hard season. So many knockers, so many people against us, the way the game was progressing it looked difficult, but Bobby deserves that goal because he’s worked so hard. We know how good we can be defensively, last few weeks we’ve worked really hard on it. Hopefully this is the start of a bright future for the club.”
Goal scorer Bobby Zamora says: “It sat up perfectly for my left foot, that’s the one I want to curl balls with and whip them with. I never thought it would happen again. I’m delighted for this set of lads, they’ve worked hard all year. We’ve dug in over the last couple of months, what a team spirit we have now.”
FULL TIME DERBY COUNTY 0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1 – QPR ARE PROMOTED
The QPR players go absolutely mental. They’re piling on top of Bobby Zamora, an unlikely hero. A half-hour rear-guard effort led by exemplary performances from Richard Dunne and Robert Green capped with a goal on the counter attack. Rangers return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
90+3 min Into added time at the end of added time. Bamford launches an attempted bicycle kick in the area. Joey Barton puts his face in the way and concedes a corner. Grant is up for this one. It falls to Keogh at the back post but he overcooks his return and it goes out for a throw in.
90+1 min McClaren, who will surely have those earlier substitutions queried, sends on Patrick Bamford for Jamie Ward. The Rams look beaten. To the left, silence, to the right, a sea of blue and white.
GOAL!!!!! Derby County 0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1 (Bobby Zamora 90 min)
Do not adjust your set. Derby switch off at the throw in allowing Hoilett to reach the byline and ride a tackle from Jake Buxton. He cuts the ball back into the area, Richard Keogh fluffs his clearance, Bobby Zamora, with the ball rolling towards him and no Derby players in the picture, strokes a perfect left footed finish around Grant and into the far corner. The QPR fans into an absolute frenzy. It’s QPR’s first shot on target in the entire game. Zamora, who scored a winning goal for West Ham in a play-off final against Preston, buries himself in the masses behind the goal and is booked for his troubles. Derby are shell shocked. QPR are on cloud nine. It’s the ultimate smash and grab.
89 min Three added minutes before the half hour of extra time. Good work by first Hoilett and then Zamora wins QPR a valuable throw in deep in the Derby half.
88 min Loose ball on the edge of the Derby box is dispatched wide of the post by Joey Barton. Bugger me, there’s a penalty box at that end of the field as well. I’d forgotten.
87 min QPR starting to look tired. Charlie Austin, wholly uncomfortable in his wide left role, loses the ball in a bad area but Green claims the cross from Bryson.
86 min Hendrick shoots form 30 yards. It takes a deflection that on any other day could divert the ball beyond Robert Green and into the net. Today it diverts it straight to the goalkeeper.
85 min A record play-off final attendance of 87,348 off the pitch. On it, a rare patch of space found by Bryson is wasted as he rushes a cross into the box and Traore covers in behind his centre backs and hacks it away. Extra time looms.
83 min Steve McClaren actually looks like he’s turning into Harry Redknapp with all the stress. Jowls sagging deeper than the QPR back four. If Dunne and Onuoha get any further back here they’re going to have to pay for seats on the front row of the stand behind the goal.
82 min And so it continues. Thorne, guiding Derby this way and that from the base of midfield. QPR, deep and solid. Green’s handing immaculate from a low Dawkins cross. Onuoha and Dunne repelling all comers. A poor pass from Dawkins trying to free Wisdom down the right sails out for a throw in – first suggestion that Derby might be running out of ideas.
79 min Traore, not rated as a particularly good left back since arriving at Loftus Road, is doing a sound job on Ward here. This time he wins the ball back, turns his man and wins a much needed free kick. For the first time in 20 minutes, noise from the QPR end. Is belief returning for the Super Hoops?
78 min Corner number 13. Wonder who’s going to win this header? Oh, it’s actually Zamora this time. Nice to mix it up a bit sometimes.
77 min QPR weren’t exactly flooding forward before the sending off, now they’re showing all the ambition of a 45 year old heroin addict from a sink estate. Deep, narrow, with Charlie Austin playing as a second left back, and nobody any further forward than 30 yards away from Rob Green’s goal. Derby bring up the dozen on the corner count, but Richard Dunne plants a firm header away. Derby return the ball to the area and Dunne wins the header again. It’s not human. How can he be in the right place every single time?
74 min Ball breaks to Dawkins in the area, he tries to search out the far top corner but he’s being too cute and Green makes a flying save. The ball falls to ward who cracks a low shot at the goal only to see it deflect wide off the substantial arse of Chris Martin. Not Derby’s day?
70 min Traore, racing towards his own goal with the ball at his feet and Ward snapping around his heels, calmly lets the ball roll into Green’s arms. Half-hearted appeals for a pass back are rightly ignored.
68 min Or perhaps not. First touch of the ball for Bryson and he’s into space in the penalty area, unloading a low shot that Green saves well and parries behind. Second touch he’s teeing up Martin for a powerful first time shot that Green tips wide via the post. Screws being turned. How do you like your Chinese water torture?
67 min No surprise, given that QPR can only go with what they have now, to see Derby immediately make changes to their own set up. It’s a real shock to see the two players withdrawn though. Johnny Russell and Will Hughes, both excellent in the league game at Pride Park between these two, and in the former case a real pest so far today, are going off to be replaced by Simon Dawkins and Craig Bryson. Odd. Perhaps weird Dutch Schteve is on duty today rather than the tactically astute genius we’ve seen this season.
66 min In actual fact, Clint Hill seems to have made the decision for them. The captain signals to the bench and he’s going to go off. Armand Traore drops back. Joey Barton is now the captain. Karl Henry solidfies the midfield. All the substitutions have now been burned, and Ravel Morrison cannot be brought on to make an impact, but QPR have kept their attacking players on the field.
65 min Mason stops the play at a Derby throw in, but the indecision continues, and it’s now play on without the change being made. Kevin ‘Bondy’ Bond is now loading names into the tombola machine.
63 min Onuoha goes someway to making up for his mistake before the red card with a fantastic tackle to deny Ward a clear run in on goal. Conversations ongoing down on the bench.
62 min Karl Henry is stripped and ready for action but Redknapp, Bond and Joe Jordan are deep in conversation about who to remove in order to get the former Wolves man on to fill the gap left by O’Neil. Traore and Zamora have only recently stepped off the bench themselves, they’re surely not likely to remove Charlie Austin, Junior Hoilett would appear to be the favourite but he’s been playing well…
60 min Jamie Ward, one of the other three to be sent off in these finals, cracks the free kick round the wall but not past Dunne who deflects it behind. Martin is penalised from the resulting corner to relieve the pressure. QPR have 30 minutes and one substitution to play with here. A real shame for O’Neil, who was having his game of the season before that.
58 min Gary O’Neil is in trouble. Just as QPR seem to be getting a foothold in the second half Nedum Onuoha concedes possession in his own half and suddenly Russell is into the space behind the back four and racing towards goal. Gary O’Neil comes across and deliberately upends the Derby man right on the edge of the area. Is Hill covering across? Mason awards the free kick and is immediately surrounded by Rams players. The referee takes his time… He’s going across to speak with his linesman. The result… It’s a red card. The first of O’Neil’s career. QPR are down to ten men. Only the fourth ever play-off final red card.
57 min A slack pass from the left seems to have Ward ready to counter attack into space but Barton races across the field and crunches the Derby man with a proper, old fashioned tackle. Now it’s Hoilett’s turn to attack once more and a low ball to the edge of the area finds Austin who just can’t generate the required accuracy with a first time shot on the turn from 18 yards out. Better from QPR.
55 min QPR’s best chance of the game. Buxton, impeccable so far, beats Austin to the first ball but QPR keep the pressure on with first Doyle and then Traore who cuts a fine ball back into the area from wide left for Austin to arrive on late and unmarked. A scuffed effort beats Grant but bobbles wide of the post. Zamora replaces Doyle. Two of three substitutions used.
54 min Onuoha tries to shepherd the ball behind and seems to get a late touch. Mason hasn’t seen it but guesses it’s a Derby corner. It’s a safe bet, everything is a Derby corner at the moment. This time Austin clears and Hoilett and Traore can’t quite combine for a counter attack.
52 min It’s been five minutes since QPR have been more than 30 yards away from their own goal. Harry Redknapp summons Bobby Zamora. Kevin Bond, clutching an Reader’s Digest Book of the Road, asks Zamora whether he’d go North Circular and A40, or M1 and M25 to get round to the M3 from here, then wishes him good luck.
50 min Ward releases Russell. “He might have the pace to worry Richard Dunne,” cries the commentator. Yes, I suspect so. I’ve seen trees with the pace to worry Richard Dunne. The giant Irishman toes the ball behind, but then shows where he is strong by winning a towering header at the back post as the corner is delivered. What he says as Danny Simpson then heads the ball straight behind for another corner under no pressure probably isn’t worth repeating. Dunne clears this one from Hughes, who collects the loose ball and wins another wide set piece. This is becoming a siege. Hughes delivers again. Dunne wins the header again. Hughes knocks it back in. Dunne beats Keogh in the air. Wisdom knocks it back in, Dunne boots it away. He’s like a solid 100ft tall concrete monument to the art of defending.
49 min Gary O’Neil picks up where he left off, winning two challenges he was a distant second favourite for in quick succession, like an energetic puppy, eager to please, racing around, wide eyed, biting people. Presumably this is the Gary O’Neil QPR thought they’d signed. The only Derby player unaffected seems to be George Thorne, who’s a real cut above this level.
47 min Derby piling forward early on. Danny Simpson, flustered, kicks the ball into the stand and yells “for fuck’s sake” into a handily placed Sky microphone. QPR’s turn to be slow out of the traps. Joey Barton wins a pressure relieving free kick on halfway.
46 min Early cross from Ward flies right through the QPR penalty box. Sunshine poking out from behind the storm clouds – literally, not metaphorically.
16.04 QPR kick us off for the second half.
15.55 A half of two halves, and all sorts of clichéd bollocks like that.
QPR sprung a surprise with their starting 11 – keeping faith with the line up and system that didn’t work against Wigan and required three substitutions to correct. That meant a start for Niko Kranjcar ahead of Ravel Morrison despite the Croatian struggling with a hamstring injury – he lasted half an hour, Armand Traore has had to come on, and QPR have just two changes left to make. Shrewd.
Nevertheless, the R’s were well on top early on, pressing high up the field with Gary O’Neil having his best game for the club so far, and unashamedly pumping the ball directly down the field early on to pen Derby back and turn them around. Kevin Doyle has won every header, Junior Hoilett is playing as well as he’s managed since arriving from Blackburn two years ago, but Charlie Austin has seen little of the ball.
Stats >>> Derby six shots on goal (two on target) >>> QPR seven shots on goal (none on target) >>> Derby four corners, QPR one >>> Possession 54-46 in favour of Derby
It took Derby 20 minutes to get started at all. Richard Dunne and Nedum Onuoha have taken lone striker and top scorer Chris Martin out of the game, denying them an attacking focal point. They’ve been indebted to Buxton and Thorne – both superb at the back – and have grown into the match as it’s gone along. They’ve forced the outstanding save of the game so far from Robert Green – denying Jamie Ward whose inswinging free kick looked like it might go all the way in.
The Rams also had a penalty appeal for an alleged trip by Richard Dunne on Will Hughes but the young albino dived and was lucky not to have been booked.
Half Time – Derby County 0 Queens Park Rangers 0
45 min We’re going to have an extra minute at the end of the first half – just for shits and giggles – and QPR’s hopes of spending that on the attack are thwarted by George Thorne, a colossal presence at the heart of the Derby side, who slides in on Kevin Doyle ad robs him of the ball cleanly on the edge of the area. Thorne has been outstanding.
42 min “You do sense it’s going to be a long afternoon for Tony Fernandes,” says our commentator as the camera cuts to the QPR owner up on the directors’ balcony. He looks like the mythical figure of death. His team, after dominating the first 20 minutes, are coming under increasing pressure from the Rams now. Mind you, here comes Armand Traore, piling forward down the left wing after good work by Clint Hill. Panic. Rushes the shot on the edge of the area. No composure.
39 min Ward gets a receipt with this one. The diminutive Derby winger toes the ball past Nedum Onuoha and then runs into his back. Lee Mason obliges with a free kick which Ward is going to take himself… An inswinging right footer from the left wing is an inch away from Keogh’s head in the area, and looks destined for the far bottom corner anyway until Green flings himself a cross to make a smart save. The keeper did well to watch that one all the way and not commit too soon. He catches the corner as well, although in vintage Green style then rushes a throw out and hands possession straight back to Derby. And that’s why he plays for QPR.
37 min Eat, sleep, rave, repeat – Hoilett attacking the area at speed, Buxton the only Derby player able to execute a clean tackle on him.
34 min This is as well as Junior Hoilett has played for QPR. Touch and control not usually associated with the Canadian carries him into the area but he finds immovable Jake Buxton there waiting for him and the ball is cleared.
33 min Armand Traore replaces Niko Kranjcar. The gamble to start the Croat despite him suffering with a hamstring injury has not paid off. It’s cost QPR a substitution, and possible Kranjcar his place at the World Cup.
32 min Long, weaving, ambling run from Hendrick gives Hughes a chance to stride onto a loose ball on the edge of the area but he shoots over. QPR starting to blow a little bit. They need to get this change made.
30 min Slack pass from Barton on the edge of the area has Austin in trouble and Dunne has to swoop in and clear the danger. QPR now far too deep, Derby’s turn to pen their opposition back. Kranjcar continues to stretch his hamstrings, Redknapp is calling Armand Traore back from the warm up.
28 min Derby starting to take the game over here. Kranjcar is crowded out by four white shirts giving Ward a chance to shoot from range and it deflects wide off Richard Dunne. Kranjcar appears to be struggling – is Harry Redknapp going to be forced into his first change of the game? Third Derby corner of the afternoon in the meantime…. Onuoha clears the first delivery and Rangers survive.
26 min First big decision of the game for Lee Mason. A tidy reverse ball into the area by Jamie Ward has Will Hughes in space. Richard Dunne goes with him but he looks old and cumbersome against a technically superior, younger player and foolishly hangs a leg out as Hughes turns back inside. The Derby man hits the deck and 40,000 fans from the north appeal for a penalty. Mason says no. The replays, sadly, suggest it’s a dive from a player you wouldn’t normally associate with such behaviour. Sad to see. Should have been a yellow card. Dunne did give him that chance though.
25 min Chris Martin, trying to fix you, carries a 25 goal threat as Derby’s lone striker but he’s not been given an inch by Dunne and Onuoha yet. We’ve hardly seen the Rams’ top scorer.
23 min And has that lack of a free kick turned the tide? Derby fans making some noise, Jamie Ward wins the first corner of the afternoon for the visitors. Dunne heads the first delivery away, Ward crosses again to the back post where Forsyth is loitering but the angle is too tight for him and the danger has passed.
22 min Doyle runs forward with the ball at his feet and men in support after Niko Kranjcar wins back possession on halfway. He appears to have been fouled by George Thorne but mason is having none of it and now Derby can attack. Wisdom’s cross is overhit so it comes to nothing, but the Rams should really be setting up at the other end to defend a set piece.
20 min More enterprising play from QPR gets Hoilett to the byline. He cuts a low cross back into the area, it takes a slight deflection directing it behind Charlie Austin and Kevin Doyle into space in the area but nobody is arriving late from midfield to convert. Where’s Stuart Wardley when you need him?
18 min O’Neil, who has given the ball away almost as if he’s been sponsored to do so in recent weeks, is playing like a man possessed here. Derby think they have a throw in deep inside the QPR half but O’Neil appears from nowhere, launches himself into the air, rescues the ball before it crosses the touchline, and then passes it from a horizontal position on the ground infield to a team mate. Perhaps this is like that Naked Gun and this is the ghost of Leslie Nielsen rushing around, with the real Gary O’Neil tied up back in the dressing room.
17 min O’Neil’s tireless running rushes Grant into a scuffed clearance which gives Doyle a chance to strike from long range but it’s blocked. In the next attack Joey Barton is miles off target with an ambitious effort when he had Danny Simpson available to his right for a pass. QPR have, nevertheless, started well.
14 min First big chance of the match for the London side as Austin turns inside Keogh on the edge of the box and crashes to earth under heavy contact. Free kick, 24 yards out, right of centre, Rangers are unfortunately short of left-footed options for this. Kranjcar and Barton stand over the ball… Kranjcar is the dummy runner, Barton strikes the ball into the wall.
11 min QPR’s tactic is clear, and effective so far. Two banks of four with Barton and O’Neil rushing around in the centre of midfield, denying Derby time and space to play. Once won the ball is immediately launched very directly towards Austin and Doyle, who are both decent in the air, to push Derby back deeper into their own half. Doyle has won three headers already. The Rams haven’t got started yet.
7 min Austin gets what Ron Atkinson would have no doubt referred to as a “loosener” in nice an early with a 30 yard barnburner a few yards over the bar.
5 min QPR get onto the front foot with Austin feeding Hoilett wide on the right. The Canadian runs Craig Forsyth back into his own area and wins Rangers’ first corner of the afternoon. Mason delays the restart to tell a crowd scene in the penalty box to behave themselves. It’s an outswinging, right-footed delivery from Barton and George Thorne manages to scramble a header away as Richard Dunne piles in. Kranjcar tries to return the ball to the area but skies it into the stand for a second time. “He’s overhit that by a very long time,” says Don Goodman, who is on fire here.
4 min Derby’s first attack sees Johnny Russell gliding forward down the right flank and finding Will Hughes on the edge of the area, Gary O’Neil’s sweeping tackle on the Derby teen looks a good one, toeing the ball away cleanly, but Mason is quickly on the scene with a third Derby free kick in as many minutes and this is the first chance for the Rams to test Robert Green… Russell hits a tame effort into the wall. And breathe.
3 min Croatian international Niko Kranjcar, selected ahead of Ravel Morrison despite a hamstring injury, is dumped to the turf early on, and then launches an ambitious cross-field pass straight into touch.
2 min Sky co-commentator Don Goodman tells us: “The experience of this QPR team could count for everything, or it could count for nothing, we’ll have to wait and see.” Thanks Don. Incisive.
1 min Our referee this afternoon is Lee Mason, who is best remembered by QPR fans for sending off Shaun Derry for daring to go within three quarters of a mile of Ashley Young (who was four yards offside at the time) during a defeat for the R’s at Old Trafford two seasons ago. He was also in charge of the R’s 1-0 win at Chelsea in 2012/13 though so we’ll see what the fat headed, incompetent, Bolton-supporting knob has in store for us today. He starts with a Derby free kick. And another. QPR pressing high.
15.00 And so it begins, QPR go right to left in the first half with their fans at their backs.
14.59: QPR and their amazing technicolour boots, backed by 40,000 flag waving, long-suffering idiots, tossing inflatable bananas around while waiting for kick off, line up in their splendid red and black hooped away shirt. This starting 11 has 1,744 Premier League starts between them, the Derby players boast just 19.
14.57: Please be upstanding for the national anthem.
14.55 The heavens have opened, and the teams emerge onto the field. Harry Redknapp’s suit has only just dried out after the semi-final and is now getting a drenching again. The rain drips from the end of Steve McClaren’s nose and wrecks what’s left of his fringe. A woman stands on the touchline with an umbrella. McClaren points and mouths “keep that fucking thing away from me.” Perhaps.
14.50 Time for the pre-match interviews, which are of course interviews about something which is yet to happen. Eyes down look in, expect this to be highly controversial stuff…
Harry Redknapp: ”It’s a good a feeling, we’re in good shape, two tough games with Wigan, very ‘ard, good Derby team. They play the same system, they won’t change how they play. One up, two wide, that’s how they’ll play, good football team. Relax, go and play, enjoy the day.”
Steve McClaren: “They’re full of experience and Premier League players. We want to enjoy the occasion, play our football and give a good account of ourselves. Don’t focus on the opposition, do the job.”
14.45 Wembley now rocking to Pig Pag now, read all about how that replaced the National Anthem the last time QPR reached the play-off final by clicking here.
QPR leading scorer Charlie Austin on how he almost quit the game while working as a brick layer and playing non-league football: ”I was thinking I don’t want to do this no more, preferred to work Saturday mornings, work five and a half days and get some more money, come home at lunchtime and watch Soccer Saturday. I had a great bond with the Poole manager Tom Killick, it was special down there. Braden away on a Tuesday night, I was up at 6am, came home, drove to Southampton, got the ferry to the Isle of Wight for the game, played the game, home after 1am, then the van came at 6am to take me back to work.”
QPR manager Harry Redknapp: “I honestly don’t know the wages fo the players at QPR, I couldn’t tell you the wages of one player. When you see the attitude of the players the other night and their will to win, to be around that was fantastic. The senior players have been fantastic, there’s some good characters here, I think some of them will go on to manage football clubs. We’ve brought a guy in called Steve Black, a sports psychologist, you know me I’m old school, but he’s come in and I find he’s so enthusiastic and positive and I think it’s rubbed off on everybody. I wish I’d met him many years ago, he’s been fantastic.”
14.30 Shiver. Quick shot of Andy Campbell lobbing Chris Day. Now a cutting interview with Harry Redknapp by son Jamie. First question: “how’s the suit?”
14.20: LFW’s resident betting columnist Andy Hillman examines the form of these two sides going into today’s game. Well, he did during the week anyway, right now he’s in Mabel’s Tavern using the bar for support.
Derby: Derby thrashed Brighton in the playoffs, 6-2 on aggregate – winning 2-1 away and 4-1 at home. Those two wins form part of a run of seven wins and a draw in their last eight games. Derby aren’t exactly amazing on the road though – four wins, four draws, three defeats in their last 11 away from Pride Park. Overall this season they've scored 90 goals – 28 more than QPR – but conceded 54 compared to QPR's 45. They've kept 13 clean sheets to QPR's 18 and failed to score on nine occasions. Derby have scored at least two goals in seven of their last eight games. Since Steve McClaren took over, only Leicester have won more league games across the top four divisions of football. QPR and Derby have only kept one clean sheet each in their last nine games.
QPR: Since the current playoff format was introduced in 1988/89, the team finishing third has been promoted the most often (nine times), whereas the team finishing fourth has been promoted the least often (four times). In fact, the last team to win promotion from fourth place was Charlton Athletic – in 97/98. Only twice previously has a team that’s been relegated form the Premier League gone straight back up via the playoffs – Leicester in 95/96, and West Ham in 11/12. QPR have rather ambled into the end of season knock-out winning four, drawing two and losing three of their last nine games including the semi-final. They've scored 62 goals this season, conceded 45, kept 18 clean sheets and failed to score on 14 occasions. The 15 players that QPR used vs Wigan had a total of 2088 Premier League Games between them as opposed Derby’s 113 Premier League appearances vs Brighton. Of the 15 players that QPR used vs Wigan, only Charlie Austin and Yun Suk-Young have not played in the Premier League.
Derby defender Richard Keogh: “The training has been good, the boys look sharp, everything is ready. We’re not just team mates, we’re good friends. I knew it was a big club, it’s only when you step out for your first game you realise how big a club it is. To walk out at Wembley will be one of my proudest moments.”
14.07 The teams are in, and despite requiring three substitutions to correct a wild selection against Wigan in the semi final, Harry Redknapp has gone with the same line-up again here which means no Ravel Morrison, no Benoit Assou Ekotto and no Yun Suk-Young.
QPR: Green; Smpson, Onuoha, Dunne, Hill; Kranjcar, Barton, O’Neil, Hoilett; Doyle, Austin
Subs: Traore, Morrison, Suk-Young, Hughes, Henry, Zamora, Murphy
For Derby the big news is Craig Bryson, who has scored 16 goals and set up 13 others on the way to winning the club’s Player of the Year award this season, is only fit enough for the bench.
Derby: Grant; Wisdom, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Hendrick, Thorne, Hughes; Russell, Martin, Ward
Subs: Bryson, Eustace, Sammon, Legzdins, Whitbred, Dawkins, Bamford
14.05 Stock Simon Thomas question to begin the Sky coverage. “Put this into context, what does this mean?” Stock answer, from Burnley manager Sean Dyche; “It means everything.” “It’s the ultimate test,” says Thomas. Do me a favour, Discovery Channel have been prepping a doc about a man jumping off the top of Everest in a winged suit, talk to me about ultimate test. Anyway, we’re underway.
14.00 Hello, good afternoon, and welcome. Harry Redknapp returns to Wembley for the first time since winning the FA Cup with Portsmouth. Steve McClaren is back at the national stadium for the first time since he picked Scott Carson in goal for a crucial England qualifier against Croatia and hid from the results under an official FA umbrella. It’s a game that provokes talk of money more than any other, and one thing QPR do like is money. We’re just an hour away….
Photo: Action Images
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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Macclesfield 4/4/92 by wessex_exile
Good afternoon everyone, I sincerely hope you are all doing well? Today would have been a vital home match against Mansfield, struggling at the wrong end of the league this time after a couple of seasons flattering to deceive at the sharp end. Since the last blog, we now know that all football below the National League is cancelled, and the season expunged from records. A tough break for the likes of Jersey Bulls in the Combined Counties League Division 1, who had won all of their 27 matches and already promoted, but then these are very strange times indeed. I sincerely hope the EFL season can be completed somehow, but I’m increasingly pessimistic about whether it will be.
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