They say it’s the hope that will kill you more than the disappointment, and it’s that low that QPR fans are feeling today. After the two back-to-back wins which had breathed new life into Rangers survival mission, they were brought back down to earth this afternoon with a bump as Aston Villa ended the day the victors in the mother of all six pointers.
Of all the must win and must not lose games QPR have had this season (and there’s been plenty of them), this perhaps was the biggest, and unfortunately they ended the day achieving neither and it was the home side who took the spoils in this pulsating football match. Full of the twist and turns we’ve come to expect (and love unless your team is involved) from Premier League relegation scraps.
The frustrating thing for QPR and their brilliant travelling faithful is that could have had the game sewn-up at half time. After a jittering start, Rangers bossed most of the first period and took the lead through Jermaine Jenas, who had been recalled ahead of Junior Hoilett. The less documented transfer window signing has made an impressive start to his QPR career, and his bursting midfield run was rewarded with his second Rangers goal in successive matches. The Super Hoops had further chances to extend their lead too, with Chris Samba forcing Brad Guzan into two top-saves and Loic Remy also testing the American. Then in first half stoppage time Jose Bosingwa hit a curling free-kick that spanked the Aston Villa post. If any of those would have gone in, it would have be curtains for Villa and Rangers would have closed the gap on their hosts to just a point.
This game we love so much is full of margins though, and just seconds after Bosingwa’s set-piece smacked the woodwork, QPR gave in to the cardinal sin and let Villa back in it on the stroke of the half time whistle. Gabby Agbonlahor finding too much room in the box to head in an equaliser that gave Paul Lambert’s men the momentum going into the second half. A momentum they quickly took advantage of and unsurprisingly took the lead on the hour mark, with a neat finish from Andreas Weimann. And suddenly Rangers bright start had gone up in smoke, and the gap between them and Villa stretched to seven points.
Credit to Harry Redknapp’s men however, that they did momentarily find themselves back in to the game. When another of January’s less talked about signings Andros Townsend hit a shot that deflected past Guzan to put them back on level terms with 19 minutes to play. It’s the kind of comeback and spirit we wouldn’t have seen from Rangers earlier in the season, and if there’s any silver lining to take from the game it will be the fight shown from today’s players.
It was a game of few positives though and none more so than the shocking defending that allowed Villa to find the games winner. Weimann once again found it too easy to wriggle through the Rangers backline and his cut-back found Villa’s most dangerous player, Christian Benteke completely unmarked to slot the ball home and probably condemn Rangers to Championship football next season. It’s defending like that why QPR have spent most of this campaign routed to the bottom of the Premier League.
So where does that leave QPR? Well the defeat means there’s a seven point gap from Villa and thanks to Southampton’s win over Liverpool the same gap to safety too. Most will say that it’s now game over for Harry and his Houdini mission, and that the gap it too wide to make up. The optimist will point to eight more games to play for, and as Harry has said five more wins could yet still be enough for his QPR team - especially if they play the way they did in today’s first.
Personally I’m a realist and think that yes there’s still a glimmer of hope that we’ll see Premier League football for a third season at Loftus Road next season, as long as we make the most of remaining home games. But ultimately today’s result may have left us and the rest of the bottom three with too much to do. I hope that I’m wrong, and I hope there’s more twist and turns before the season ends. However, as we all know it really is the hope that kills you the most.