SIMON Ireland was left to reflect on what might have been for QPR Under-18’s, as they bowed out of the FA Youth Cup at the third round stage on Tuesday night.
With the tie evenly poised at 1-1 midway through the second half, the award of a controversial spot-kick ultimately proved to be the turning point at Loftus Road, as the young Hoops eventually went down to a 3-1 defeat to Charlton Athletic.
Ireland told www.qpr.co.uk: “The penalty was the turning point really. It came out of nothing.
“It seemed like an honest attempt to win the ball in the air and it just hit his arm, but there was certainly no intention.”
Earlier, the Addicks led on 23 minutes courtesy of Luke Carey, only for Leandro Ribeiro to draw QPR level six minutes later with a well-taken equaliser.
Charlton enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges in the second half and after having two penalty appeals turned down, it proved to be third time lucky for the visitors when R’s right-back Kayden Williams-Lowe was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box, and Albie Morgan stepped up to fire home.
Late on, with Rangers chasing a leveller, the Addicks clinched victory courtesy of Alfie Doughty’s stunning long-range strike from inside his own half!
Ireland added: “It was disappointing to concede in the manner we did for their opening goal, but the reaction thereafter was positive.
“To get ourselves straight back into it, so soon after they scored, was all credit to the lads.
“We showed good composure on the ball, were nice and patient and if anyone looked like getting a second goal before the break, it was us.
“At half-time, at 1-1, we were happy with things.
“I said to the boys at half-time to keep doing what we'd been doing for the last 20 minutes of the first half, showing good movement and asking questions of them.
“We persevered again after the penalty, tried to get the ball down and play, but in the end we were hit with a sucker punch third goal in the final minute when we were pressing for an equaliser.
"Sometimes that just happens in football.”
Despite the defeat, Ireland was keen to look at the bigger picture, commenting: “It's disappointing to go out of the competition, of course it is, but there were positives on the night.
“You could see the philosophy that we're trying to approach the game with.
“This game is just one part of the jigsaw for these young players – it's not the be all and end all.
“These young lads will take inspiration from seeing young Ilias (Chair) make his debut in recent weeks – that will give them all a big boost. People like Ryan Manning too, who came through last season.
“There is a pathway for these young players, some of whom have already trained with the First Team squad at times this season.
“That's the end goal for these players."