Queens Park Rangers beat Leicester 1-0 with an Ishmael Miller goal

Ishmael Miller provided Neil Warnock with the perfect anniversary present at Loftus Road, popping up with an 88th-minute winner – his first goal for the club – to extend QPR's lead at the top of the Championship.

Queens Park Rangers beat Leicester 1-0 with an Ishmael Miller goal It meant a double celebration as the striker, on-loan from West Bromwich Albion, was celebrating his 24th birthday.

It is almost exactly a year since Warnock took the reins at Loftus Road. Then, QPR were a relegation-threatened club where expectation regularly outstripped achievement. Now they are 11 games away from a return to the top flight for the first time since they lost their Premier League status in 1996.

"It feels a lot of water has gone under the bridge," said Warnock of a whirlwind first 12 months in charge.

Miller's goal, after the striker charged on to Wayne Routledge's superb through-ball and outmuscled Leicester's Sol Bamba, came two minutes after his introduction from the bench, a substitution that represented Warnock's final throw of the dice at the end of an entertainingly even game that could have swayed either way.

Goalkeeper Paddy Kenny was arguably the home side's best player, superbly tipping over Yakubu's lob in the first half and doing likewise with Andy King's header in the second. The bear hug Kenny received from his manager at the final whistle was fully deserved.

"What a snip. You won't find a better goalkeeper in the country," said Warnock of a player he has signed for Bradford Park Avenue, Bury, Sheffield United and, most recently, QPR, for £750,000. "I wouldn't swap him for anyone in the Premier League. I've told Arsène [Wenger] about him a few times, but I'm glad he's not listened to me."

Ricardo in the Leicester goal had less to do, although Heidar Helguson was a gnat's wing away from poking home Adel Taarabt's cross 20 minutes from time.

QPR were also grateful for some profligate Foxes finishing – twice Martyn Waghorn got the better of Matt Connolly, twice he slashed shots over the bar with Kenny at his mercy.

Leicester's manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson, felt the result was harsh on his side, and Warnock concurred he could have had few complaints had the visitors taken the spoils. Defeat leaves City five points from the play-offs, though very much in the hunt having enjoyed their own revival in five months under the Swede. The visitors certainly contributed to the spectacle.

"It was a fabulous game, you couldn't take your eyes of it," said Warnock. "There were two cracking sides – that's as good a game as I've seen all season."

Hyperbole, perhaps. But given the spacewalk-sized stride towards promotion this result represents for QPR, you could forgive their manager for being a little excited.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by John Ashdown at Loftus Road, for The Observer on Saturday 5th March 2011 19.55 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch