Saturday, 7 May 2011
QPR 1 Leeds United 2
Neil Warnock’s team got their hands on the npower Championship trophy, a week after they clinched it, following the Football Association’s announcement that they would not be docked points over the Alejandro Faurlin affair.
The club were found guilty of two of the seven charges facing them surrounding the alleged third-party ownership of the Argentine midfielder.
But fears of potential 15-point penalty were not realised, leaving the way clear for a belated promotion party which could not even be spoiled by a final-day defeat against Leeds.
The FA have been heavily criticised for not hearing the case until the final week of the season and then delaying the verdict, leaving the club sweating on the outcome long after they had secured promotion.
Yet somehow, their timing was impeccable as an hour before kick-off, the news from Wembley filtered through and suddenly Loftus Road was rocking.
It is not often a club with a recent history as calamitous at that of Leeds becomes merely a sideshow - after all, they know a thing or two about having points deducted themselves.
The Yorkshire side had in fact travelled south still harbouring slim hopes of a play-off place.
That looked even more unlikely after just 27 seconds, however, as a QPR team no longer playing under a cloud cut through their defence straight from the first whistle.
Akos Buzsaky burst forward and played in Tommy Smith, whose shot was saved by Kasper Schmeichel but fell to the feet of Heidar Helguson for a simple tap-in.
Faurlin, who has admirably gone on to play a pivotal role in Rangers’ promotion despite the furore surrounding him, almost made headlines for the right reasons with a fierce 20-yard drive but Schmeichel palmed his effort away.
Even referee Mark Clattenburg looked like he was in no mood to spoil the party, turning a blind eye when last-man Matt Connolly tripped Billy Paynter with the striker about to charge through on goal.
But after 38 minutes Leeds found an equaliser when Max Gradel beat home goalkeeper Radek Cerny to a hopeful long ball and dinked it into the net.
Rangers skipper Adel Taarabt was a conspicuous absentee from the starting line-up, but the mercurial midfielder made his entrance to huge acclaim 10 minutes into the second half.
Schmeichel then pulled off a fine save to keep out a Smith header on the hour mark.
But Leeds edged in front in the 68th minute when Ross McCormack’s shot deflected off Kaspars Gorkss and left Cerny wrong-footed as it floated into the net.
McCormack also shaved a post while Rangers went closest to an equaliser when Smith was once again denied by Schmeichel.
Warnock’s response was to throw centre-half and cult hero Danny Shittu into the attack.
It was a tactic unlikely to reap too many rewards in the Premier League next year, but at least they will be there.