A 19 game unbeaten run has seen Queens Park Rangers deservedly rise to the top of the Npower Championship table. Greg
It could have been so different for Cardiff. Kaspars Gorkss’ thirteenth minute slip allowed Jay Bothroyd to set up Craig Bellamy, the Manchester City loanee clipping the ball past Paddy Kenny into the net. Gorkss, however, atoned for his mistake just five minutes later as he rose unmarked to power home a headed equaliser. The Welsh side certainly had their chances in the second half – both Bothroyd and Chris Burke were denied by Kenny before the England striker had an ostensibly valid appeal for a penalty turned down. Adel Taarabt’s winner, however, consigned Cardiff to their second consecutive victory, a third defeat in four league fixtures.
It was Bothroyd’s penalty shout that dominated Dave Jones’ post-match analysis: “How can the referee not see it? And if he doesn’t see it, how can the linesman not see it? They’re the big decisions that matter in tight games like this.” Replays show that Jones does have a case but his opposite number Neil Warnock instead preferred to focus on the performance of his side and, in particular, that of his midfield playmaker’s.
Taarabt is finally proving to be the player that he has long been telling everybody that he is. The volatile Moroccan, previously more renowned for his off-field diatribes than his on-field ability, is the driving force behind the London team’s title challenge. In addition to his position as the league’s leading goal provider, Taarabt is now QPR’s top goalscorer. The enigmatic midfielder has developed something of a reputation for scoring wonder-goals, a reputation which would have been enhanced by the stunning strike that downed Cardiff – his ninth of the season. “Nobody else on the pitch could have scored that goal,” claimed Warnock, the man who has finally harnessed the fiery Taarabt’s undoubted talent. Indeed, it was a goal fit to grace any top-of-the-table encounter – Taarabt nicked the ball from the left back before cutting inside, beating a man, and firing a left-footed rocket into the roof of the net; it was the latest entry in his own private goal of the month competition.
If Taarabt and QPR can keep up this level of performance for another 19 games then the Championship pace-setters are likely to secure a long-protracted return to the Premier division of English football. Conversely, Dave Jones and Cardiff must ensure that they exorcise the demons of consecutive defeats – their next fixture at home to bottom club Preston gives them the perfect opportunity to do just that.