It was the final game in QPR’s run of ‘winnable’ matches which had only yielded 5 points from a possible 24. The importance of the fixture could not be overstated, with both sets of fans and players realising that a victory could provide a huge springboard for the remaining 10 games of the season. And it was Bolton that ran out eventual winners in a game that was full of controversy.
Mark Hughes made two changes from the side that drew with Everton last week, with Samba Diakite and Djibril Cisse replacing the injured Adel Taarabt and the unfortunate Akos Buzsaky. It was only the second time that Hughes had been able to call upon both Zamora and Cisse – a front two that most QPR fans had pinned their survival hopes on.
Bolton started the brighter of the two sides, with the impressive on-loan Arsenal youngster Ryo Miyaichi causing problems. However, the first clear chance of the game fell to the visitors when Cisse linked up well with Zamora and the former Fulham striker saw his shot cannon off the crossbar.
QPR continued to press and it was in the 19th minute that the biggest talking point of the weekend in the Premier League happened. A Joey Barton corner was whipped into the near post and was met with a bullet header from Clint Hill. Bogdan managed to get a hand to it and palm the ball out onto the crossbar – but only after the ball had crossed the line by about two feet.
Even from the far end of the stadium it looked like the ball had gone in, purely from the way the keeper had pushed the ball out and on to the crossbar. Clint Hill was clearly stunned that the goal had not been given. Bolton may point to the fact that the corner was wrongly awarded in the first place, but it’s no excuse for the linesman not being in a position to award the goal. At corners, linesmen position themselves so they are directly in line with the goal line. He seemed to say he had two players in his way but from the replays it’s clear that wasn’t the case. The first goal was always going to be crucial in a match of this magnitude and I’m sure QPR would have gone on to win the game if it had been awarded.
The incident seemed to affect the QPR players and Bolton took the lead on 37 minutes through Darren Pratley. QPR failed to deal with a set piece and the ball broke to Tim Ream on the left. He put in an inch perfect cross and Pratley could not miss with his header from six yards out. It was appalling defending all round by the QPR defence, there wasn’t a player within 5 yards of the Bolton man.
QPR had two chances to level before half time with Shaun Wright-Phillips failing to hit the target when well placed and Bogdan making a decent save from Nedum Onuoha. The half-time whistle blew and the officials left the pitch to a chorus of boos from the visiting supporters.
The controversy continued straight after the restart. On 48 minutes Wright-Phillips picked up the ball in the middle of the Bolton half and played a through ball to Cisse, who smartly finished to level the scores. However, replays showed that the QPR striker was just offside and Bolton have every right to feel aggrieved that the goal was allowed to stand.
QPR looked the most likely to grab a winner as both managers made attacking substitutions with around 15 minutes left. Jamie Mackie almost made an immediate impact when the ball fell to him after a goalmouth scramble, but his shot was deflected over by David Wheater. Well, I say deflected over – everyone in the stadium could see it took a deflection except the incompetent officials.
Despite pressure from QPR, it was Bolton that snatched a late winner. Miyaichi picked up the ball on the edge of the QPR area and played a delightful through-ball to substitute Ivan Klasnic. He made no mistake when confronted by Paddy Kenny and you could see from the celebrations just how important the goal was.
There was still time for yet more controversy. In injury time QPR were denied a clear penalty when Nigel Reo-Coker bundled into Nedum Onouha. However, Martin Atkinson waved the QPR protests and Bolton held on for what could prove to be an absolutely vital 3 points.
The result lifted Bolton out of the bottom 3 and pushed QPR into the relegation zone for the first time since the opening day of the season. For Bolton, Ryo Miyaichi was the star man and could prove to be vital in their battle to avoid relegation.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for QPR. There is no doubt that Clint Hill’s ‘goal’ was the turning point in the game. If it had been correctly given then I’m positive we would have gone on to claim all three points. However, a mixture of poor defending and wasteful finishing after the incident meant we went home empty handed.
The run-in looks extremely daunting and it will take a minor miracle for us to survive now. We’ve not had the rub of the green throughout the season, including poor decisions against us and injuries to crucial players like Faurlin, Taarabt and Helguson. Liverpool at home in 10 days time is yet another ‘must win’ game. Surely we are due a bit of luck of soon?