It’s hard to think of a more sickening way to seal your fate: battle with ten men for most of the match, score a superb late goal, then give up the equalizer deep into stoppage time from a needlessly-conceded free kick.
As the clock ticked past 90 minutes at Loftus Road this afternoon, QPR had genuine hope that a miracle comeback in the final weeks of the season was truly on. At the final whistle, they were toast.
There’s not been a lot of positives for QPR this season. Those padded chairs in the dug-out look comfortable. Having the smallest stadium in the Premier League minimizes the number of spectators forced to suffer by watching the Hoops in person. Good subway connections allow fans to make a quick getaway. Jersey numbers that are almost impossible to read from distance lend the roster’s motley crew of overpaid, underperforming mercenaries a degree of anonymity. Apart from that, we’re struggling.
So it seemed too good to be true when Harry Redknapp’s side coped admirably against Wigan Athletic despite the 20th minute red card for striker Bobby Zamora, who was dismissed for a high challenge on Jordi Gomez. His first red card since January, 2007.
Much too good to be true when, on a devastating counter-attack in the 85th minute, Loic Remy claimed his fifth goal in eight club games with a sublime one-touch finish from the edge of the box into the far corner.
All QPR had to do was hold on for five minutes plus stoppage time against anaemic opponents who until Remy’s strike had looked to be settling for a point after squandering their best chance with 77 minutes gone when James McArthur headed straight at Julio Cesar.
But no, in the 93rd minute, Stephane Mbia idiotically had to shove Shaun Maloney to the ground on the edge of the area. And yes, Maloney had to fire a brilliant free kick high into the net after crumbling brick in the wall Adel Taarabt turned his back on the shot. The goal and its build-up were a perfect fusion of QPR ineptitude and Wigan excellence. It makes you think QPR are fated to go down – as if the standings hadn’t already offered that distinct impression since, oh, let’s say, September.
With six games left, QPR are second-bottom, seven points adrift of Sunderland, the club just outside the drop zone. Wigan are level on points with Sunderland but behind on goal difference, though Roberto Martinez’ men have a match in hand. And Wigan’s escapology credentials just earned yet another boost, even though they really ought to have done better against ten men for so long.
QPR? They’re next away to Everton. Think they can get a win at Goodison Park, especially after this devastating confidence-wrecker? No, us neither.
Realistically, QPR need to win their next four fixtures, just to stay in the avoiding-relegation conversation. And they’ve only won four league games all season.