PETER Skapetis scored a dramatic late winner to fire QPR Under-18s into the Professional Development League 2 play-off final with victory at Leeds United on Saturday.
Clear-cut chances proved hard to come by in a tightly-fought contest at Thorp Arch as extra-time loomed until Skapetis’ last-gasp intervention.
The R’s striker proved the difference with an instinctive finish at the death, netting with seconds to spare to set up a final showdown at Loftus Road against fellow semi-finalist winners Huddersfield Town.
Steve Gallen’s side began brightest in Yorkshire, carving out an early opportunity through wideman Michael Petrasso. The Canadian couldn’t direct his shot on target, firing just over the bar.
Rangers enjoyed long periods of possession in the opening stages as Petrasso’s compatriot Dylan Carreiro found Skapetis - captain for the day - whose curling effort was well held by United goalkeeper Eric Grimes.
The hosts responded by forcing the R’s opposite number into action as Joe Lumley was called upon to smother Lewis Walters’ 20-yard drive.
Play soon returned to the other end as the woodwork denied Rangers a superb opening goal on the half-hour mark. Petrasso once again proved the creator, cutting in from the left before seeing his goalbound effort tipped onto the post as Leeds survived.
Rangers dominated proceedings in midfield and another flowing move saw Carreiro sting the palms of the Leeds custodian with a swerving shot from outside the area.
Gallen’s youngsters found themselves somewhat on the backfoot after the re-start as Leeds twice came close to finding the breakthrough.
Cole Kpekawa first cleared the danger with a terrific blocked challenge before Lumley came to the R’s rescue, standing firm to deny Leeds striker Luke Parkin bearing down on goal.
Momentum began to swing back in the R’s favour in the final 20 minutes as a succession of corners threatened the Leeds rearguard after Skapetis saw a shot clawed around the post.
Petrasso again blazed wide with a volley while Harly Wise’s towering header was comfortably dealt with by Grimes as extra-time loomed large.
There was still time for one final opportunity, though, as Skapetis struck in the first of two minutes added time. Petrasso's knock-down wasn’t cleared by the hosts, allowing the in-form Australian to swivel before firing low into the corner to the delight of the R’s dugout.
The final whistle rang out moments later as Rangers celebrated victory, setting up a dream date at Loftus Road with a fairytale ending.
QPR: Lumley, Furlong, Monthe, Hunt-Laurent, Wise, Kpekawa, Young, Mitchell, Skapetis (c), Carreiro (Fitzpatrick 68), Petrasso.
Images courtesy of Andrew Varley.