Ten man Queens Park Rangers scored a dramatic late winner to seal a result for an immediate return to the Premier League with a 1-0 win over Derby County.
In the most expensive game in the world, there were bound to be nerves on both sides, and so that proved the case. QPR started the brighter of the two, settling early with so many ex Premier League players like Joey Barton, Rob Green and Richard Dunne making up the spine of their team.
Derby meanwhile had only nineteen Premier League appearances between their entire team, and early on it showed. In fact, it took about twenty-five minutes for them to find their feet. Nineteen year old Will Hughes however, was easy on the eye going forward as he looked to make things happen for his team.
The first half passed with little in the way of goalmouth action, a wild Barton half chance summarizing the half. Derby felt they could have had a penalty too, Hughes appearing to be brought down in the area by Dunne. Replays however showed that there was little to no contact.
The second half started with much more of a bang however, Charlie Austin going close for QPR when presented with a chance. Meanwhile at the other end, every time Derby tried to create something, Irishman Dunne snuffed out the danger. On the rare occasion the play did get beyond him, Green was on hand to keep the opposition at bay.
The turning point of the game came in the sixtieth minute, when Gary O’Neil received a straight red card for bringing down Johnny Russell as he looked set to unleash a venomous strike. Although the challenge took place just outside the box, O’Neil was the last man and so received his marching orders. QPR players did little to complain.
From there, Derby seemed to believe the victory would come to them. Derby’s player of the year Craig Bryson was introduced, the sixteen goal midfielder receiving a loud cheer from the Derby fans. Immediately he made a impact, taking a pop at goal. Although QPR were camped in their own half, the final piece to County’s attacks that would produce the goal was lacking.
A neat counter attacking move saw Barton again try from long range with two minutes left, in what was a rare venture into Derby’s box. The move seemed to inspire Rangers to have one last go, and with Junior Hoilett twisting and turning before delivering a decent ball into the box. Richard Keogh failed to clear properly which left substitute Bobby Zamora to pop up with what had seemed such a unlikely winner at one point.
Queue wild celebration at the final whistle as Zamora’s strike proved enough to send QPR back to the big time.