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QPR Game 1 2012

After clinching Premiership survival at the Etihad in Manchester the previous day in such dramatic fashion, there was further drama to be seen at Loftus Road as the QPR Away team emerged victorious in equally dramatic circumstances. With the hard fought match finishing 1-1 after goals by Paul Freeman and QPR legend Marc Bircham, and the Away side feeling they had the better of play, the stage was set for the nightmare of any English football fan, the dreaded drama of a penalty shoot out!

But it was the Away side that were able to hold their nerve and record an epic 3-1 penalty shoot out victory to their clear delight. Away keeper Lee Croucher will have been waiting by the phone for a summer call up by Roy Hodgson after saving 3 separate penalties to clinch his team victory in thrilling fashion.  

Date: Monday 14th May 2012
Venue: Loftus Road
QPR Home vs QPR Away
Kick Off: 1:30pm
Match Officials: Steve   Worsley, Gordon Manning, Peter Munt & John Feenstra
Legend: Marc Bircham

The Home side wearing the famous Blue and White hoops kicked off Game 1 at Loftus Road, and as with the previous Football Aid events this calendar year, the rain was making an appearance and making playing conditions more challenging by making the surface very quick to play on. The ever supportive QPR community coaches were present in both dugouts, and made both sets of teams feel like they were playing for the QPR first team with their constant dugout support, encouragement and passion for the game.

The game itself was end to end in the early stages but with both sets of defenders winning every challenge and nullifying their opposition's attacks it was clear from the outset that the match was going to be very closely fought.

The first goal was recorded after 10 mins and arrived in very unfortunate circumstances. A pass from Home No 10 Gary Jones to the offside Matteo Tiedo was flagged by the assistant referee just outside the area. Away goalkeeper Lee Croucher passed the free kick short to Gary Thomas who was then able to carry the ball closer towards the halfway line for the Away team to clear their lines. However, Thomas got caught on the ball after great pressure by Paul Freeman, who was then able to take a few touches, drop a shoulder and get a quick right footed shot away at the edge of the box, with the shot able to find its way through Matthew Leigh and Gary Thomas. The goal bound effort curled away from Away keeper Croucher and finished in the far bottom right corner. Paul Freeman was clearly delighted with his opportunist and clinical finish. (1-0)

Steve Lofty, responding for the Away side had a great few touches of the ball and was trying to get his team back into the game and force the equaliser straight after. A few minutes later, Matthew Leigh took a free kick on the far touchline after Matteo Tiedo, with a forward's tackle, clipped the heels of Steven Diggory. From the free kick the ball was floated in and with the Home defence and goalkeeper not communicating, both players went for the same ball with defender Gregory Loomes heading the ball out. The ball however found Adam Vessey, who controlled the ball on his right thigh but as he was setting up for a clean strike, the ball skidded off the turf too far to really get a true connection and the ball blazed over the bar.

With 19 mins on the clock the Away team were at the Home defence again, this time with Steven Diggory involved, attempting a through ball to Steve Lofty, but the ball was just too far ahead and goalkeeper Alex Nash anticipated very well to clear the ball away from any danger, out for a throw-in.  

The game continued to alternate between the two sets of teams as they struggled in the rain to get any fluency to their passing. Excellent defending was also a major contributor with Home Centre Half Gregory Loomes and the Away team's Adam Vessey exhibiting some great positional play and sheer effort to defend their team's goal.

Steve Lofty, who had been excellent so far in the half, was able to track down and regain possession of the ball and pass to the highly efficient Colin Peach on 23 mins. ‘Peachy' weighted a fantastic pass to Diggory, who had time to look up and hit an effort from just outside the box. However the shot forced a good save from the Home keeper Nash, who was keen to maintain a clean-sheet.

Three mins later and it there was a very similar passage of play from the Away team as Peach was able to quickly put the ball into the danger area for Lofty to chase down and beat the offside trap. The Home team were unlucky to concede a foul as Marc Bircham was deemed to push Lofty off the ball after great tracking back. The resultant free kick on the far edge of the box was taken, only for Paul Buckland to produce a great defensive header. The ball broke however, to Peach who was able to control the ball and get away a great strike, but the ball narrowly missed the keeper's right corner, resulting in a goal kick.

A great long ball by Bircham to Matteo Tiedo on 28 mins saw the Home Striker take a great touch past Paul Blakebrough for a run in at goal. However he was put under great pressure from the recovering Blakebrough as he went through on goal, and Gary Thomas, making a mends for his earlier mistake, was able to get across the edge of the area to put in a fantastic, perfectly timed sliding challenge to put the ball out for a throw-in.

As half-time approached both teams defended as if their lives depended on it to keep the attacking threats to a minimum and the Away team would have been proud of their 1st half performance, as even after conceding an early goal it was the team in bright Orange that were looking more likely to grab the game's next goal.

Half-Time: QPR Home 1 - 0 QPR Away

The Home side started the 2nd half well and won themselves a free kick in a great position on 48 mins after an attempted challenge (by the now Away side's) Legend Marc Bircham on the edge of the box, sliding in to to win the ball. The referee awarded the free kick deeming Bircham had led with his studs showing to win the ball from Dean Skipsey. Gregory Loomes took the free kick, but with too much power behind the strike, the ball went over the bar and out for a goal kick.

A minute later and it was the Away team's turn to press for their equaliser. They went on a counter attack started by Bircham, before a few passing interchanges in midfield allowed Matthew Leigh to play a ball down the right wing for Diggory, who put in a great cross which was missed by two incoming Away players before the ball bounced to Michael Lee who had the composure to chest it and send a right foot volley goal-wards. Lee must have thought his strike was going in, but Nash pulled off a fantastic, instinctive close range save to deny the Away No 15 his goal and the Away team's equaliser.

The goal that the Away team were searching for was scored just after 70mins by QPR legend Marc Bircham, against his first half teammates. The ball was received by Matthew Leigh on the near touchline after a throw-in, before he switched play to the far side for Bircham to control. The former Rs hero was given time and space to play a give and go with Diggory, before hitting the 20 yards strike from the edge of the box and into the bottom right corner. It was a great finish by Marc Bircham, who clearly didn't want to be on the losing side. (1-1)

The Away team almost got their second goal five mins later after great work again by Bircham, who was noticeably enjoying today's game, despite the previous night's celebrations! He picked up the ball in the centre circle after a loose pass, to enable him to run at the defence. After putting the ball through John McDonough legs, Bircham squared the ball across the goal for the incoming Diggory. However the impressive midfielder's left footed drive just went wide of the post and to the relief of the Home team, out for a goal kick. Loomes and Thomas doing very well to close down the space and put pressure on Diggory's 12 yard shot.

With less than 10 mins to go another great chance fell to Vessey after a great penetrative run by Christopher Suggett on the left wing. Beating his man for pace, Suggett looked up and chipped in a great ball across the edge of the box. Vessey instantly controlled the ball with his left foot whilst turning, and the ball dropped invitingly in front of him. Unfortunately for the Away Midfielder, the strike had just too much power, and went over the bar and into the stands. 

The Away team continued to press and had more of the possession in the final stages, but solid defending by the Home team kept their shots at a distance and their efforts didn't worry Nash too much. The final whistle ended a hugely entertaining game of football and with the scores all even it perfectly set up the first Football Aid penalty shoot-out of the calendar year.

And so to penalties and the dramatic conclusion that gave the QPR Away team victory over their battling opponents. Both keepers did excellent to save numerous penalty kicks, but the agility and confidence from keeper Lee Croucher to save 3 penalties gave Steve Lofty an opportunity he wasn't going to pass up. The Away No 8 stepping up to score the winning penalty, giving his triumphant Away side the opportunity to celebrate their dramatic win in style.

QPR Game 1 Penalty Shoot-Out as it happened

Penalties: 

Away Team: X 0 X 0 0
Home Team: X 0 X X

1. Steven Diggory (A11) - Penalty Saved
2. Dean Skipsey (H17) - Penalty Saved
3. Michael Lee (A15) - Penalty Scored
4. Gregory Loomes (H5) - Penalty Scored
5. Matthew Leigh (A4) - Penalty Saved
6. James Gadd (H7) - Penalty Saved
7. John Wood (A6) - Penalty Scored
8. Gary Jones (H10) - Penalty Saved
9. Steve Lofty (A8) - Penalty Scored

Full-Time: QPR Home 1 - 1 QPR Away * (Away Team Win 3-1 on Penalties)

Man of the Match Home: Gregory Loomes
Man of the Match Away: Colin Peach
Moment of the Match: Steve Lofty

Home Team: Nash, McDonough, Bircham (1st Half), Buckland, Loomes (C), Swift, Gadd,
Masterson-Andrews, Freeman, Jones, Tiedo, Young, Loomes, Thomas, Skipsey 
Home Mascot: Bradley Masterson-Andrews

Away Team: Croucher (C), Billing, Bircham (2nd Half), Leigh, Thomas, Wood, Bambrough, Lofty, Coleman, Peach, Diggory, Vessey, Lee, Blakebrough, Suggett
Away Mascot: Luke Bambrough