Andre Gray scores Rooney-esque stunner with back to goal to give QPR 2-1 win over Rams
QPR climbed up to third in the Championship with a laboured 2-1 win over Derby County.
Former Watford striker Andre Gray came off the bench to score a sensational goal in the 90th minute after Chris Willock had cancelled out Tom Lawrence’s early goal.
Winning when you are not at your best is the mark of a side with all the credentials to sustain a serious promotion challenge.
QPR boss Mark Warburton had described tonight’s game as the toughest challenge his Hoops would face all season.
And the articulate QPR manager knew what he was talking about as Wayne Rooney’s men hadn’t lost in three games, taking five points off Bournemouth and Fulham and with nothing to left to lose after a 21-points deduction for going into administration and other financial troubles.
Derby County showed more purpose early on and cut QPR’s defence open after Max Bird intercepted a wayward pass from Yoann Barbet before picking out Max Lawrence with a delicious pass into space.
The Welshman beat the offside trap and, with the majority of the Derby faithful getting off their seat and ready to celebrate the opener, he made no mistake, finding the top corner with a thumping effort which cannoned in off the crossbar.
QPR looked ponderous and tired after picking up 10 points from their last four league fixtures. They had to be invited onto the pitch.
Warburton’s men struggled to play through the lines and this was due to Wayne Rooney’s Rams making the distances small and not allowing them to play through the lines.
QPR had to work very hard for any kind of territory. And it took the West Londoners a staggering 37 minutes to set the first alarm bells ringing.
And Charlie Austin powering a free header over the crossbar after Ilias Chair picked him out from a free-kick was the best QPR had to offer in the opening 45 minutes.
But they came out all blazing in the second period and only five minutes into the restart the Hoops were level when Austin teed up Chris Willock for a sumptuous first-time volley at the back post.
The diminutive Chair was then picked out by Willock in the 72nd minute for what would have been an almost indentical goal but missed a header at the far post with the goal gaping despite a good connection with the ball.
The boo birds were out in full force when Austin made way for Gray.
The former West Brom striker celebrated unapologetically after teeing up Willock’s equaliser, turning towards the home crowd and pretending to wipe tears from his eyes. That gesture did not go down well with the home supporters but with hindsight they must wish that he had stayed on the pitch.
Gray may have only scored three goals in the league this season but he knows better than anyone else that goals in football are weighed and not counted.
And, after his goal separated QPR and Cardiff in a crucial 1-0 win for the Hoops early this month, he was back to devastating effect in the East Midlands tonight.
Chair flicked a header against the post but the former Hornet, with his back to goal, swivelled before volleying home the winner with Rams goalkeeper Kelle Roos rooted to the spot.
With one single kick three teams have been left in their wake as QPR have their eyes firmly set for a return on Match of the Day for the upcoming 2022/2023 season.
All the success-starved QPR fans need is a new song to cheers on the players. The Bobby Zamora chant, as legendary as it may be in those parts of the capital, is a little too outdated.