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Maloney's late equalizer robbed QPR of three vital points in their battle for survival. Brendon Netto discusses the implications of the result and the Londoners' bid for survival.

 Brendon Netto
 Comment | England
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A group of quality players doesn’t always guarantee a strong team and no club epitomizes that better than Queens Park Rangers. Despite the wealth of talent at their disposal, The Hoops look destined for the drop. Their latest 1-1 draw at home against fellow relegation scrappers Wigan Athletic has all but condemned them to Championship football next season as manager Harry Redknapp virtually branded the game a ‘must win’ in the build-up.

In many ways, the encounter summarized QPR’s season from their inspiring best to their erroneous worst. Bobby Zamora, the striker Rednkapp rates so highly and who just recovered from injury, was sent off after just twenty minutes. The red card was symbolic of QPR’s tendency to shoot themselves in the foot like they did earlier on in the season when they were reduced to ten men in successive games.

The red card was a setback

Then came the battling performance coupled with some neat football, traits that the team have often displayed under Redknapp. Loic Remy has been in fantastic form since joining the club in January and scored a marvelous goal in a swift counter-attack which was largely engineered by Stephane Mbia who powered forward with the ball. With only five minutes of normal time remaining, it looked as if that goal would secure all three points for the hosts and propel them towards safety.

However, the disastrous side of QPR then reared its ugly head. Mbia who played a huge role in their goal went from hero to villain in a blink of an eye. He needlessly bundled Shaun Maloney to the ground with a barge from behind and gave away a free-kick in a dangerous position in stoppage time. Maloney dusted himself off and scored with a majestic effort in the 94th minute that left Julio Cesar no chance.

Maloney equalized deep in stoppage time

At the final whistle, there were no celebrations from the QPR fans like there were on the final day of last season, which was the last time they conceded a 94th minute goal in that dramatic game at the Etihad stadium. No, this time they were made to dwell and regret their late lapse as they shared a slice of the agony Manchester United would have endured after that thrilling conclusion to the last campaign.

This time, the boos wrung around Loftus Road, Redknapp wore an expression of discontent and Clint Hill sat on his haunches as the heart-break started to settle in. The question now is where do QPR go from here?

QPR gutted by the late strike

Mark Hughes was sacked 12 games into the season after he failed to pick up a win and had lost 8 along the way. Following the high-profile signings of players like Robert Green, Park Ji-Sung, Julio Cesar, Esteban Granero, Stephane Mbia and Junior Hoilett, those results clearly weren’t good enough. Redknapp was the top candidate to replace him and so he did. After three consecutive draws, he finally picked up QPR’s first win of the season against Fulham.

The team began to show a few promising signs, even beating Chelsea away while drawing against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at home. Despite further reinforcements arriving in January in the form of Remy, Jermain Jenas, Christopher Samba and Andros Townsend, the London based club have struggled to turn draws into wins which has been their biggest problem. In fact, only Norwich City, Everton and Stoke City have drawn more games this season.

With some of the football QPR are playing at the moment, they don’t look like a side doomed for relegation but the magnitude of their errors says otherwise and so does the league table. ‘Harry Houdini’ has pulled off some great escapes before but the draw to the ultimate escapologists Wigan would have taken a huge bite out of even his belief. Rednkapp has made a name for himself by rescuing teams from the clutches of relegation but has he met his match in Roberto Martinez?

'Houdini' meets his match?

Given the money Tony Fernandes has pumped into the club and the financial rewards on offer for Premier League clubs next season owing to the new TV deal, relegation would be disastrous for QPR. However, if anyone can lift the players’ spirits after such a heart-wrenching result, it’s Redknapp. His man-management has always been his biggest asset and he’ll need it now more than ever.


QPR's upcoming fixtures
Apr 13
Everton (A)
Apr 20
Stoke City (H)
Apr 28
Reading (A)
May 4
Arsenal (H)
May12 Newcastle United (H)
May19
Liverpool (A)

QPR are seven points away from safety with only 6 games remaining, three of which are against Everton, Arsenal and Liverpool. They’ll need to string together some remarkable results but in all fairness to them, they have the tools to do just that. If they can just cut out some elementary mistakes, they’ll have a decent chance of surviving and pushing on in the next campaign.

Such is the quality of their players that despite their sorry state of affairs at the moment, there are still more than a few who believe that the team can stay up. QPR find themselves in a strange situation where they may get relegated for running out of time and not for being short of quality. Perhaps if there were an additional 3 or 4 games in the league, they'd fancy their chances of staying afloat but as it happens there might not be enough points on offer for them to take advantage of and save themselves.

The Premier League is not lacking in London clubs but with their financial backing, unpredictable nature and the big names on their payroll, QPR would certainly be missed if they are unsuccessful. Nevertheless, there’s still hope for the Rangers and with Harry at the helm, there’s every chance that we could witness his greatest trick yet; are you watching closely?

Can QPR survive? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.

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