QPR flirt, but fail to score at the debutante ball – full match report
Tuesday, 13th Sep 2011 22:20 by Clive Whittingham
QPR's five high profile new signings clicked immediately to deliver a sparkling performance against Newcastle at Loftus Road on Monday night, but drew a blank in front of goal.
It was a night to savour.
It was a night when QPR looked good, when QPR passed the ball with a crispness and inventiveness not seen in these parts for many years, when QPR marched Newcastle up and down the pitch and from left to right just as they used to do when Les Ferdinand was the tormenter in chief, and when QPR attacked with a vim and vigour and verve that the most recent two generations of fans could struggle to recall.
It was a night when Loftus Road felt like home again, when the crowd buzzed and sang, when the team and supporters actually seemed to be together in the same aim for once, when I didn't hear a negative word said about any player all night. It was a night they'll talk about in these parts for years.
Under the lights and in front of an expectant television audience Loftus Road took on the feeling of the student flat the evening after the housemate from hell has moved on, or the family home where dad has finally slung the evil step mother out: "Can we have our cat back now then dad?" "Yes son you can, here he comes now with eight Oriental air stewardesses just as you remember him."
It didn't actually feel like QPR at all. There was no trace of incompetence or farce and although Jason Puncheon will need to lose his Serena Williams sized backside before he's given another outing and Matthew Connolly was back to playing like a kid who needs to sleep with a night light it was hard to fault a single player for effort or performance.
To play like that and fail to win though was pure Rangers. A disappointing and yet reassuring twist to the night.
QPR have tried this trick of slinging five new players into their team for a mid-season match before. Few who were there will ever forget Ian Holloway's last hurrah at Elland Road before a spell on gardening leave that featured such luminaries as Keith Lowe, Steve Banks, Marcin Kus, Andy Taylor, Sammy Youssouf and Leon Clarke pulling on hooped jerseys for the first and, in a couple of cases, only time. We're not in Leeds any more Toto – Joey Barton, Shaun Wright Phillips, Armand Traore, Anton Ferdinand and Luke Young are so much better than the motley crew who surrendered 2-0 in Yorkshire it's scarcely believable that they play the same sport.
They're a cut above what we have here at QPR now as well. Last season was fabulous for everybody connected with Rangers but even the players that achieved that title win against the odds would hold their hands up to being a little short at the highest level. Extra quality was needed and has belatedly been provided by a new owner who seems to have stepped straight out of a Carlsberg advert.
The effect was astonishing. On this ground in the last league game QPR were beaten 4-0 by Bolton Wanderers and although plenty who were there left, rightly, pointing out that this rather flattered the visitors few could deny that a long hard season lay ahead. Here they took Newcastle United to the cleaners in every measure except the scoreline. And for all the exciting new toys how satisfying was it to see the performance underpinned and the tempo maintained by two men who did more than most to get us here in the first place – Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurlin?
Those two, so different in appearance age and background but such a beautiful combination, sat at the base of a midfield at the heart of a team that was completely unrecognisable from the match before. Only two other starters from Wigan a fortnight ago, centre half Danny Gabbidon and goalkeeper Paddy Kenny, began this game. Gabbidon was reunited with his former defensive partner from West Ham Anton Ferdinand with Luke Young on the right and Armand Traore left. At the very top Jay Bothroyd led the line with support provided in a whir of rotating positions by Shaun Wright Phillips, Adel Taarabt and Joey Barton captaining the side on his debut against the club that allowed him to leave for free.
Newcastle's last game as a Championship side came on this ground the season before last and they started this latest meeting with exactly the same strike force that played that afternoon – Shola Ameobi and former R's loanee Leon Best. On paper, and in practice, they scarcely look like a top flight pairing and there has been anger on Tyneside that money from the sale of Andy Carroll has not been reinvested in a replacement over the summer. Mind you, having sat through Bryan Ruiz's tortured Fulham debut on Sunday they may have had a lucky escape there.
If Newcastle’s ambition had waned somewhat by the end of the game, you couldn’t fault it to start with. Ryan Taylor, full back and free kick taker extraordinaire, stepped up and whacked a seriously ambitious shot well wide of the target from the thick end of 45 yards out in the opening minute of the game with the first set piece awarded by referee Phil Dowd.
Dowd is never shy of producing a card or four in a game and quickly whistled his yellow one out here when Shola Ameobi objected rather too vehemently to the award of a QPR free kick for a foul by Ryan Taylor on Shaun Wright Phillips. You’ll forgive the over-use of Christian names in this report I’m sure, given the presence of two Taylors and two Ameobis in the Newcastle matchday squad.
Adel Taarabt was the first QPR player to try his luck on goal. Those wondering how he would react to no longer being the big fish in the small pond, or the captain, quickly had their answer in his best performance of the season so far. In the fifth minute he tried a trademark hopeful long shot on goal that Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal saved easily. Taarabt has immediately shot to the top of the Premiership rankings in the ‘most shots without scoring’ category with 14 prior to this game but that selfish streak that undermines his talent seems to have calmed a little now he has players of equal ability to pass to. His link up play with Shaun Wright Phillips in particular was a highlight of the night.
Memories of false assurances from Michael Fish were brought about by the Sunday evening weather forecast which talked of hurricanes heading our way, and while the violent storm that battered the rest of the country last night failed to touch base with the capital it was still rather blustery around W12. A sharp wind blew down the field from the School End, carrying an early Krul clearance deep into the QPR penalty area where Paddy Kenny claimed bravely under a heavy challenge from Best. Having picked himself up QPR’s Irish goalkeeper then launched a kick of his own down the field that sailed to the halfway line, hung in the wind, and then dropped five yards inside the Rangers’ half. Sadly this advantage was denied QPR in the second period as a calm night weather-wise set in around W12.
The trick early on was to keep the ball on the ground and Rangers did that with some aplomb in the eighth minute as Alejandro Faurlin spread a fine move wide to the left where Traore tricked his man and delivered a superb cross into the six yard area that was begging to be headed home but sadly landed plum on the head of somebody not renowned for his aerial ability and Shaun Wright Phillips headed over.
Those promising signs would all have counted for nothing four minutes later though had Paddy Kenny not produced a fantastic one handed save low to his right after Leon Best had somewhat embarrassed Danny Gabbidon on the edge of the area with a smart turn. Gabbidon was probably the best of a mediocre QPR bunch in August but whether it was a decline in performance level or simply playing alongside better players he didn’t look half as good in this game.
Relieved at their narrow escape (little did we know at the time that Kenny would have little else to do all evening) Rangers quickly went back on the offensive with slick passes flowing downfield in another eye catching attack. Jay Bothroyd could hardly have asked for a better cross from Wright Phillips on the quarter hour and a goal would have been just rewards for some excellent build up but on his weaker right foot the former Cardiff man scissor kicked high over the bar from close range after being left unmarked. He should have scored.
Within a minute Wright Phillips was on the charge again. His slight frame and speedy exuberance made him look like the son of an office worker brought along to make up the numbers in his dad’s midweek five-a-side game and subsequently running rings around the other overweight bankers and another jinking run ended with a low shot that Krul had to turn the ball behind at his near post. Dowd awarded a goal kick and then screamed back in the face of any player who dared to argue.
And so it continued. Taarabt, at his outrageous best, spun away from a challenge from Coloccini and then humiliated Tiote before spreading it wide to Wright Phillips and his low cross was just out of Jay Bothroyd’s reach as it sliced agonisingly through the penalty box. There was a whiff of blood in the air, and the ground was starting to rock.
More Taarabt and Wright Phillips magic in another flowing move at the mid-point of the half ended with the latter crossing for Bothroyd again. This time the tall striker controlled the ball in the six yard box with his back to goal before teeing up Alejandro Faurlin rushing in with a shot that deflected over the bar when it seemed easier to score. From the corner, worked short, Wright Phillips crossed towards Bothroyd for a third time and this time he was denied his first QPR goal only by the width of a post as his downward header kissed the woodwork and stayed out.
You’d have been forgiven for thinking you’d seen this film before, the one that ends with a 1-0 away win, but there was no sign of it as Wright Phillips tired of providing chances for others to waste and instead took on a volley himself that flew over the bar on the half hour.
It had been 20 minutes of solid QPR pressure and dominance with the only black spot coming when Shaun Derry picked up a yellow card for a tackle on Leon Best on halfway. Referee Dowd didn’t seem like he was even going to give a free kick at first but when Best rolled over he duly obliged, and then when Best stayed down he handed out a yellow card as well. Ridiculously harsh that one, especially given Best’s sudden and miraculous recovery once the punishment had been metered out. He, unsurprisingly, played on well into the second half without a further problem.
On a night when Jude the Cat was the name on the lips of many younger supporters it’s worth mentioning that while Dowd was busy being an inconsistent idiot, an actual moggy made its way onto the pitch and off down the tunnel where one can only presume it was rather startled to find itself face to face with a six foot version of itself and a cartoon tiger.
Once play resumed the attacks continued to flow down towards the School End with unprecedented frequency. That Taarabt and Wright Phillips combination worked to perfection again three minutes before the break as the former found the latter who then rode a rough challenge from Coloccini before chipping the onrushing Krul forcing Ryan Taylor into a desperate headed clearance from underneath his own bar.
Rangers had enjoyed the best of the first half against Bolton on day one, although certainly not to this extent, only to be undone by a fine Gary Cahill goal in injury time. There was no legislating for that one, but Neil Warnock’s lads would only have had themselves to blame had Newcastle scored in three added minutes at the end of the first half as first Danny Gabbidon and then Alejandro Faurlin played loose passes deep in their own half presenting the visitors with dangerous possession. You won’t see a Premiership team give the ball away twice on the edge of their own box and get away with it very often this season so be grateful that we did here. Still, the ovation at half time was richly deserved - QPR had been magnificent.
The second half initially threatened to be much more of a showcase of the QPR team we’ve come to know and love. It began with a false kick off where Adel Taarabt subtly touched the ball and ran off into the Newcastle half expected, presumably, Derry to carry it from the centre spot forwards – a move that was somewhat contrived to start with and farcical in its execution. When Taarabt and Faurlin then tackled each other on the edge of the Newcastle penalty area I wondered if things were going to unravel but the Moroccan took charge, and possession, and sent an early effort into Krul’s midriff.
Newcastle then strung a rare move together themselves that resulted in a deep cross to the back post where Leon Best nodded it up in the air and a scramble ensured in which Gutierrez had a half chance to score and Paddy Kenny just about managed to flap the danger away.
That incident may have increased nerves, and in trying to allay those Armand Traore seemed to do himself no good at all. The former Arsenal man charged forward on what became a typical attacking run on the night (although he took one or two few too many risks in possession in his own half for my liking) but immediately pulled up afterwards and had to be replaced by Matt Connolly. Cramp, apparently, although that seems a little farfetched after only 50 minutes considering he was playing in Arsenal’s first team before he arrived. Matt Connolly, another Gunners exile, came on to replace him and looked very nervous and overawed by the occasion – Rangers certainly lost some impetus down that side after the change.
The Newcastle fans know all too well what it’s like to have your club run by a big, fat, obnoxious, clueless idiot. They also appreciate that QPR provided them with two of their best players at the height of their Keegan inspired powers and so in many ways they were ideal opponents for this big night in the Bush. No chants about “wastes of money” or “where were you when you were shit” were forthcoming, even though their own players had given them precious little to sing about. Perhaps that explains the overly vociferous appeals for a penalty from the School End five minutes into the second half when Ameobi had obviously backed into and fouled Gabbidon. Dowd rightly signalled for a QPR free kick.
One of the best goals QPR scored last season was a winner against Coventry at the Loft End where Adel Taarabt’s exquisite through ball and Wayne Routledge’s immaculate first touch turned one point into three. The R’s almost crafted a fine replica before the hour when Faurlin dollied an equally well crafted ball in behind the Newcastle defence but Wright Phillips ignored the Routledge precedent and went for a first time volley that he failed to connect with.
Whether Wright Phillips tired in the second half, failed to receive the service he had in the first or was the subject of some specific Newcastle defensive tactics I couldn’t be sure but he wasn’t quite as effective after the break despite going close later on with a long range shot after he’d happily skipped past two defenders.
Newcastle won a rare corner after the hour but Rangers quickly accelerated away on the counter attack with Joey Barton who was unceremoniously hacked to the ground by Tiote. Dowd booked Tiote for that one, but the former Twente man had already committed four previous infringements without punishment and yet Shaun Derry was carded for one of his first.
I think there is a debate to be had about how the rules are applied here because I saw something similar in the Arsenal v Liverpool game where Emmanuel Frimpong was sent off, but not before he’d spent the best part of an hour systematically fouling any Liverpool player who dared to cross the halfway line. These midfield destroyers are proving to be very popular at the moment, and Tiote himself was allegedly in demand over the summer, but why are they allowed to get away with five, six or seven fouls before getting a card when players in other positions are booked for first and second offences? And yes I am aware it’s about the severity of the foul rather than the amount of them committed but can anybody honestly tell me that the three fouls Tiote committed in the first half weren’t worthy of a yellow card cumulatively but Shaun Derry’s tackle on Leon Best deserved one by itself?
Anyway back on the pitch Alan Pardew removed the lumbering Ameobi in favour of summer signing Demba Ba – an athletic figure that everybody in the game knows is one mistimed lunge away from his knee exploding into a million pieces.
One of the many improvements in evidence on Monday night was in the quality of QPR’s set pieces. Sadly it seems we’ve spent so long smacking every corner straight to the defender on the near post that the lads in the box have forgotten exactly what to do when we miss him out. Shaun Derry twice in quick succession found himself unmarked and striding onto Joey Barton corners but his first effort bounced into the ground and wide and his second, a gilt edged chance, skewed off his head horribly and sailed to safety. Anton Ferdinand would be a better bet than Derry in the penalty area, but his quicker pace means he’s also a safer man to leave at the back than the veteran midfielder.
The second missed chance came after Barton’s world class through ball sent Wright Phillips skipping into the area and although he again beat Krul with a chip it was a cross rather than a shot this time and Bothroyd was muscled out of the situation by Coloccini.
Bothroyd was then replaced by DJ Campbell a short time later – right player coming on, but I’d have played him with Bothroyd rather than instead of him. That script I was talking about earlier where Newcastle snatch a winner against the run of play threatened to become reality around the time of the change as first Gutierrez volleyed a presentable chance wide of the target when a ball fell loose on the edge of the area and then Connolly (twice) and Derry contrived to create another nervous moment with poor clearances from their own area that sliced straight up in the air but their team mates regrouped and escaped when Obertan headed wide of the target.
Much of the debate in the North East before the game had been about whether Italian full back Davide Santon would start the game instead of Ryan Taylor. Santon is potentially a fantastic signing, a talented youngster who burst onto the scene at Inter Milan before losing his way, but Taylor, who was seemingly only bought by Newcastle in the first place because he kept scoring against them, has made a decent start to the season in his position. A goal against Sunderland is always likely to win you friends on Tyneside and he had an ideal chance to repeat that feat here with five minutes left on the watch.
Again I have to criticise the referee for rank inconsistency. At the Loft End DJ Campbell did magnificently wide on the QPR right to skin his man and accelerate into the penalty area with the Newcastle player yanking him back by the shirt the whole way. Campbell escaped and an advantage was rightly played but when the move broke down a split second later Dowd ignored pleas to bring it back for a Rangers free kick. Fair enough, we had an advantage and lost it. But then, within seconds, an identical situation emerged at the other end when Faurlin fouled Obertan on the edge of the box but the ball rolled to Gutierrez and advantage was waved on. When the Argentinean then lost possession Dowd happily pulled the play back and awarded a free kick. I cannot recall such a stark piece of one-rule-for-one-one-for-another officiating since Trevor Kettle disallowed a QPR goal for a challenge on Southampton keeper Kelvin Davis and then two minutes later allowed the Saints to bundle home a winner in identical circumstances.
Taylor stepped up but could only find the top of the wall with his shot and Kenny was able to claim. Dowd then had to get involved again as Stephen Taylor cynically prevented Kenny from releasing the ball downfield by shoving him to the ground – the most obvious yellow card we’ll see all season.
Pardew sent on Shola Ameobi’s seemingly more talented younger brother Sammy and had already introduced Sylvain Marveaux for Leon Best before this point but any ambition they had of pushing for a winning goal had dried up long before. Goalkeeper Tim Krul spent the final half hour of the game flagrantly timewasting, including two separate occasions when he wasn’t happy with the pressure of the ball and so hoofed it off into the main stand. New players or no new players we’ve only been in this league for a month and Pardew should be embarrassed to be clinging on for a point at Loftus Road as the Newcastle United manager. Still, a lot of this nonsense could be stopped by a small change in the rule that says you have to take goalkicks from the side they go out on.
Warnock sent on Jason Puncheon for an unhappy cameo and Rangers again had cause to feel aggrieved with the referee when Adel Taarabt stuck the ball in the net only to find the play had long since been pulled back to the halfway line for an unseen offence that nobody in F Block could even hazard a guess at.
No matter what flood, fire, plague or pestilence befalls a game these days you can pretty much guarantee that four minutes will be added onto the end of the second half and referee Dowd, despite much exaggerated posturing and watch gesturing during Krul's increasingly blatant clock running, duly obliged with the standard offering. For one reason or another the ball was barely in play for a quarter of that time and both teams were forced to settle for a point – Rangers left to curse their finishing, Newcastle grateful to get back on the bus and go home.
There was so much to admire about this performance it's difficult to know where to start summing up. Firstly, as I've often prattled on before, it makes a huge difference to a team having two full backs who are reasonably quick and comfortable on the ball going forwards. I thought Luke Young was terrific and Armand Traore also impressed while he was on, although he did take a number of risks in possession in his own half that he may well not get away with in future.
Derry and Faurlin, as previously mentioned, were excellent at the heart of the midfield – Faurlin in particular bossed the match against more experienced, and notoriously physical, opposition in the heart of the Magpies' midfield. They were, however, helped in their quest by a numerical advantage in QPR's favour in that part of the pitch brought about by the contrast in formations. Times will get tougher for both.
Shaun Wright Phillips was the star attraction at the other end, tormenting Newcastle throughout a first half performance that will have really made a few people who may have written him off sit up and take note. Jay Bothroyd played two of the three parts of the lone striker role faultlessly – he won the vast majority of ball in the air and his hold up and lay game was exceptional but his finishing badly let him, and the team, down.
Which just leaves Adel Taarabt and Joey Barton – the former tipped to sulk now he's no longer the big fish in the small pond, the latter widely expected to tear one of his former team mate's throat out at the first possibly opportunity. Barton was visibly restrained and reserved and I think that maybe affected his game a little bit, Taarabt on the other hand showed glimpses of his sensational best and also a welcome willingness to work hard and pick out passes rather than slob around and take too many people on.
The only downside was the scoreline which brought to mind the LFW theme of the season so far – QPR's fixture list is not structured in a way that will be particularly forgiving if we continue to spurn point winning opportunities against the likes of Wigan and Newcastle at this end of the season.
QPR: Kenny 7, Young 8, Ferdinand 7, Gabbidon 6, Traore 7 (Connolly 51, 6), Derry 7, Faurlin 8, Wright-Phillips 8 (Puncheon 88, -) Barton 7, Taarabt 8, Bothroyd 7 (Campbell 80, -)
Subs Not Used: Murphy, Hall, Buzsaky, Smith
Booked: Derry (foul)
Newcastle: Krul 6, Simpson 7, Steven Taylor 6, Coloccini 7, Ryan Taylor 6, Cabaye 6,Tiote 7, Obertan 6 (Sammy Ameobi 88, -), Gutierrez 6, Best 6 (Marveaux 82, -),Shola Ameobi 5 (Ba 64, 6)
Subs Not Used: Elliot, Santon, Guthrie, Lovenkrands
Booked: Shola Ameobi (dissent),Tiote (repetitive fouling),Steven Taylor (foul)
QPR Star Man – Shaun Wright Phillips 8 Seemed to dire and drift out of the game as the second half wore on but for an hour here he was unplayable, tormenting Newcastle to the beat of his own song as it boomed out of the P,Q and R blocks. On this evidence we’ve bought ourselves a real quality player.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire) 6 The predicted card fest, that looked even more likely than it had done before kick off when Ameobi was booked after four minutes, failed to materialise and overall Mr Dowd was not too bad. However, as already discussed, the Derry booking was a result of player reaction rather than anything the referee had seen, the failure to clamp down on Krul’s time wasting or punish him with some proper stoppage time was poor, and the late chance for Taylor from a free kick came from a terribly inconsistent application of the advantage rule.
Attendance: 16,211 (1,500 Newcastle approx) The best atmosphere inside Loftus Road for a long, long time but empty seats remain. Where are these people who were so desperate for Leeds tickets in May? Those that were there contributed to a really upbeat, positive feel around the place with the new Shaun Wright Phillips song catching on very quickly indeed.
Photo: Action Images
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When Saturday Comes #9 by wessex_exile
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When Saturday Comes #8 by wessex_exile
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When Saturday Comes #7 by wessex_exile
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When Saturday Comes #6 by wessex_exile
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When Saturday Comes #5 by wessex_exile
“Well, I can tell u my son was stood nearer the back of the Holker Street end and although he couldn't see who was responsible, he was disgusted and was very clear in telling me that the 'N' word was used by someone stood directly behind the goal nearer the front. I'm sick of hearing this, no one but the player being abused heard anything so maybe he was mistaken crap. This shite still exists despite everything that the authorities try to do because unfortunately there are still racists in every, city, town, village and hamlet in this country. [SwearFilter] scum of the earth.”
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