Queens Park Rangers broke a run of 16 games without a victory at the weekend, beating west London rivals Fulham 2-1 to move off the bottom of the table.
While the team’s performance as a whole was vastly better than anything witnessed so far this season, it was inspired by an incredible performance from Adel Taarabt.
His first goal a few minutes after half-time was Rangers’ first stroke of luck all season, and the least the R’s deserved for their dominant display.
Yet his second was an outstanding moment of individual brilliance, as the Moroccan scythed effortlessly through the Fulham defence, leaving Brede Hangeland in his wake before casually slotting past Mark Schwarzer.
The sheer arrogance and impudence of the run and shot, an early contender for goal of the season, summed up exactly why Taarabt holds the coveted No.10 shirt.
Furthermore, it demonstrated that with the guidance of manager Harry Redknapp, Taarabt could be crucial in what is already being dubbed “the great escape”.
Thus far, said escape has yielded three draws and a win, but Redknapp is slowly beginning to turn the screw and engineer a dramatic change of fortune in W12.
Cracks such as the gaping chasm at the back have been quietly sown up, and it was deeply unfair that the excellent defensive performance on Saturday was not rewarded with a clean sheet.
While the focus was rightly on Taarabt, behind him a figure emerged in an equally pivotal, albeit less obvious manner.
Said individual was Stéphane Mbia, who added the balance so sorely lacked in the Rangers midfield by acting as a “human shield” in front of Clint Hill and Ryan Nelsen.
Recalling Alejandro Faurlin to the starting XI also proved what a wonderful player the Argentine is, and left supporters in no doubt as to whether Esteban Granero should be played ahead of him.
Whether the team’s failure was down to fear, incompetence, a lack of morale, tactical ineptitude, fitness deficiencies, poor team spirit or another cocktail of excuses, we will never know.
However, the extraordinary weight of the abysmal winless run having been lifted means a new lease of life and the possibility of big changes in January.
Redknapp has already stated publicly that without one or two wins in December, there would be no point in splashing out during the transfer window.
His track record, however, suggests that the former Tottenham Hotspur boss would not have even taken the job without a guarantee of a war chest.
He may even perhaps have reminded a few players that they would do well to impress before the New Year in the interests of remaining in contention.
This would certainly explain the performance at the weekend, but the real test is yet to come. While winning at home is one thing, away trips have remained exercises in futility all year.
With Newcastle United up next, a side that have lost six out of the past seven league games, there will not be a better chance to break another unwanted hoodoo.
Three points at St. James’ Park and safety will be in sight, along with the guarantee of a few presumably costly additions to strengthen vital areas.
Fail to turn up as per usual on the road, and the pressure will be back on very quickly indeed. It is remarkable how quickly an unbeaten run can turn into another winless streak.
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Originally published on Sky Sports on Thursday December 20 2012.