Wes Brown came to the rescue tonight, as you probably know. That's why there's a picture of him here. It's not random.
It's two wins out of three for new manager Martin O'Neill, and a crucial away win. It was a strange old game wasn't it too? For long periods of the game we seemed fully in control. Defending superbly, and as a unit whilst counter-attacking at speed, at pace and with some purpose.
We did go about things the long way though. Having got to 2-0 and cruising we surrendered the lead and offered QPR the chance to come back into things further, but we managed to get over the hump and Wes Brown's header sealed what on reflection, was a deserved victory.
Here's our recap, complete with player ratings and more...Not many surprises in the starting line-up for the lads as earlier rumours that Jack Colback & Phil Bardsley were making way for James McClean and Craig Gardner proved untrue. Colback did indeed miss out, as did Connor Wickham through injury. Notorious bad-boys Lee Cattermole and Nicklas Bendtner came in to replace.
A scrappy, but wholehearted performance as far as we were concerned opening ten minutes ensued. Shaun Derry went close(ish) for the home side with a header, whilst Seb Larsson fired in a few dangerous crosses which Kieran Richardson couldn't do anything with. On the plus side things were going well in midfield. Lee Cattermole was still flying in to challenges, but seemed to actually win a few for a change.
On the fifteen minute mark, it should have been 1-0. Seb Larsson delivered the ball flat and with pace, David Vaughan with the deftest of flicks and Bendtner, completely unmarked stooped to head the ball against Paddy Kenny's post from all of eight yards. He should have scored, though if you were going to make a defence of it, it did arrive at him rather quickly.
Minutes later, Bendtner made ammends. A whipped corner from Richardson allowed Bendtner to get across his marker and rifle a header into the roof of the net from six yards. For those who watched at home you should get this, his celebration could have been considered "the dogs bollocks"...
It was almost two moments later. Richardson winning the ball straight away from the restart and marauding forward unleashed pile-driver, only to see it go agonisingly wide from 25 yards. Superb play from the in-from player, and it was just the start of a continued spell pressure from us. The most notable being a lovely turn by Larsson which was just nicked away from the toes of Richardson before it could be 2-0.
QPR crept back into things slightly with Joey Barton taking a well earned break from the Nietzsche quoting to put in some good free-kicks, Shaun Wright-Phillips lashed one wide, but generally as the half-hour approached we seemed very comfortable, both in possession and defending.
Another chance for it to be two came and went on 35 or so minutes when Westwood's kick fell fortuitously to Stephane Sessegnon, who beat one man all ends up, and would have beat Paddy Kenny had it not been for a deflection off Danny Gabbidon who had scrambled back and keep his side in things.
As the half drew in, we were in full control aside from having the lead. Something we've not seen in an away game for quite some time. Full marks went to everyone in a red and white shirt for putting up what seemed an impenetrable wall at the back, breaking with pace and purpose, and generally being very good.
The second half started as the first finished. Every QPR attack snuffed out quickly and purposefully, whilst Sessegnon dragged a decent shot a bit wide, whilst Richardson should have made more use of the acres of space he found himself in on a counter attack, as opposed to shooting well wide from 20-odd yards as he did.
Heidur Helguson nearly drew things level in the 50th minute, when he climbed well to nod Armand Traore's cross beyond a well beaten Westwood. However, Titus Bramble was back covering to clear from the line superbly. How the hosts would go on to rue that miss...
From the ensuing corner, it was 2-0 to us. Westwood launching the ball early for Bendtner. The Dane actually missed it but luckily Gabbidon was on hand to flick the ball on to Sessegnon. Diamante Noir raced clear of the defence, sold Kenny a delicious dummy and found the empty net.
Helguson did manage to pull one back just after the hour. Faurlin playing the ball across goal and into the path of the Icelandic hitman. Bit of a dodgy goal to give away really considering how well we'd been doing. Westwood just seemed to completely misjudge it as Helguson stole a march on Brown to slot in from close range. How we'd react to this would prove to be a big test.
We didn't react well. Jamie Mackie equalised only a minute later as Faurlin again played it to Helguson, this time in the air, and he nodded across for the Scotsman to thump it in from close range as the likes of Bramble & Co appealed in vain for an offside.
Game well and truly on, and from our stand point an absolute disaster considering the position we'd put ourselves in.
QPR seemed a different side as Westwood's goal came under a constant battering, Adel Taarabt going close to putting the home side in front on more than one occasion when striking from distance. The barrage certainly needed arresting as O'Neill introduced the fresh legs of Jack Colback for David Vaughan.
Another substitute, Craig Gardner had the chance to put us 3-2 up, but an outstretched hand of Kenny just came to the rescue of the home side. After giving us a good shoeing for 10-15 minutes or so, the seemed to forget to defend as Sessegnon set-up a three-on-two situation. The way things we going, and chances becoming more scarce for us, you felt we needed to start taking those.
Further opportunity came with a free-kick 20 yards out, and much to everyone's chagrin Seb Larsson was off the field. If he was on, you'd have felt things might have went a little better than seeing Gardner smash it into the feet of the wall, but finally we seemed to be coming back into things.
An end-to-end last 10 minutes came as Bendtner headed on to the roof of the QPR net from close range, corners came in abundance for us, whilst the home side were by no means out of it, with the main threat coming from free-kicks and a Barton to Helguson connection.
Bardsley went close with one of his 'trademark' long range strikes following some superb one touch football from Richardson and Sessegnon, and with two minutes to go you still felt there were goals in it. There was...
3-2 to us, and Wes Brown, a man long overdue a goal flicked in a near post header from a corner following that Bardsley shot, and finally you felt you could breathe. Well a little anyway, six minutes were added on to compensate for the injury to referee Andre Marriner.
Stephane Sessegnon nearly knocked PAddy Kenny off his feet in an attempt to make it four, whilst Jamie Mackie fired wide on an attempt to draw things level.
Finally a pulsating game was brought to an end after seven minutes of stoppage time. Football... Bloody hell!
Team (Ratings in brackets)
Staring XI: Westwood (6); Bardsley (6), Brown (8), Bramble (7), O'Shea (6); Larsson (7), Vaughan (7), Cattermole (7), Richardson (8); Sessegnon (9), Bendtner (7)
Subs Used: Colback (6), Gardner (6)
Man Of the Match: Stephane Sessegnon - A thoroughly deserved goal, as Sess was a constant pain in the backside for the QPR back-line. A pain in the R's if you will, as he out-witted the defence all day long, and after some mild criticism in some quarters, his decision making was spot on all night, proving he can do a job from a central position. Richardson, Bramble, even Cattermole and Bendtner also had good games.
And relax... On reflection over the whole game, I'd say the victory was deserved. We played very, very well for long spells, and you can really start to see the basis of Martin O'Neill's ideas forming. We seem to now defend as a team, people seem to run around a lot more and we seem set on attacking quickly, only a few touches in and around the area before getting a shot off.
If this is what's to be over the next few weeks, months and years, I'll be delighted. It wasn't easy tonight, but it was bloody good, and the signs remain extremely positive for the future.
Ha'way The Lads.