18 April ~ Pride Park was where many QPR fans realised that this season was going to be different. As the game entered injury time, Derby were 2-0 up and comfortable. The Rs had offered little while Robbie Savage had kept Adel Taarabt under lock and key. We had won our opening three games but this game was reminding us that we weren't as good as we thought. But then a hopeful long ball resulted in a Pat Agyemang goal and, in the game's final attack, Jamie Mackie powered past two defenders to slam home an equaliser. It was a glorious robbery, a point conjured out of nowhere.
It had little to do with skill and lots to do with the new-found character of QPR under Neil Warnock. We had discovered that knack of getting results even when they haven't been earned. Somehow our unbeaten record had survived; it would be four months and 15 matches before it was broken. It's the return fixture tonight and while Rs fans hope for the win that might just seal promotion, Derby supporters can only look forward to the summer. They hit a bad slump after looking genuine promotion contenders at one point and recent wins over Leeds and Swansea have hinted at what might have been.
Our formidable home record suggests that tonight will be straightforward but, with safety virtually secured, Derby come to Loftus Road without pressure and with plenty of players keen to prove a point. Cardiff, Hull, Watford and Leeds mount up to a tough run-in for QPR; Warnock and his players would dearly like to go into those games with the job done. And then there's QPR's tradition of melting down in front of TV cameras.
If there is, however, to be a major collapse in our fortunes, it is most likely to come in a courtroom rather than on the pitch with the FA having charged the club with various offences relating to the signing of Argentinian midfielder Alejandro Faurlin in 2009. Rangers fans divide into three camps on this issue. Firstly, there are the optimists who are so swept up by euphoria and a belief that "this is our season" that they refuse to believe that we will end up with anything worse than a gentle slap on the wrist. Then there are the pessimists, hardened by years of underachievement and suspicious of how well this year was going. Now they have found their hitch. They talk ominously (and without evidence) about the FA wanting to set an example.
I'm a member of the final group, the "don't-knows". I am fairly sure that we are guilty of something; the FA's investigation appears to have been thorough and chairman Gianni Paladini has a reputation that could be reasonably described as colourful. The decision to delay the judgement until May 6 makes a points deduction seem unlikely. Surely the FA would not want to alter the league table on the day before the final fixtures? Yet the FA has long had its own perverse logic.
I can sympathise with the irritation of some of our rivals as Alejandro Faurlin is a vital player. In addition, I think the FA are right to take a strong line against the unattractive idea of third-party ownership. But here is a huge gulf between a fine and a substantial points deduction. The former is a slight annoyance for wealthy owners while the latter overturns the outcome of a 46-game season. When creating these regulations, the FA failed to be specific enough about when points deductions will apply. Whatever decision they come to will now seem arbitrary. One thing is certain – the lawyers are getting ready for the long-haul. Andy Ryan reversesweptradio