QPR labour to long overdue FA Cup victory - full match report
Wednesday, 18th Jan 2012 22:37 by Clive Whittingham
A first FA Cup win for 11 years was achieved by QPR at the expense of MK Dons in a Third Round replay at Loftus Road on Tuesday night, although the visitors have good reason to feel they deserved more from the game.
I couldn't help but think that the whole thing reminded me of my first sex.
An odd thing to ponder perhaps after a couple of hours spent watching 25 men (plus substitutes) huffing and puffing through the freezing West London night air but those familiar feelings of youthful lust all came flooding back as Rangers secured their first victory in the FA Cup since the last ice age.
The years of waiting, the longing and anticipation, the excitement about what it might be like when it finally happens sadly all followed by some embarrassing fumbling on a dark night, a distinct lack of penetration and, ultimately, an overriding feeling of shame and disappointment.
QPR are indeed through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. Chaos theory deems that all manner of atrocities are about to befall somebody somewhere far away as a result of such a monumental moment in history. The last time Rangers progressed in this competition their opponents on Tuesday night, MK Dons, didn't actually exist and the manner in which this runt of a club came into being means that Tuesday was probably the first time they have ever experienced a moral victory of any kind.
MK, two divisions below QPR and managed by their league' youngest manager Karl Robinson because Paul Ince walked away citing the meagre playing budget available to him, were the more confident, progressive and attractive side for the majority of this contest. They created more chances, posed more threat and looked the more likely for most of the game but sadly for them, and luckily for new QPR boss Mark Hughes, the only part of their play that was League One in standard was their finishing and it cost them. Charlie MacDonald, who scored his first ever goal in senior football for Charlton Athletic to knock the R’s out of the FA Cup in the late 1990s, could have had a hat trick and Jabo Ibehre had lodged his contender for miss of the season before Danny Gabbidon headed in his first goal in seven years of football to condemn them to defeat. Scarcely deserved.
Mark Hughes said this game would give him another opportunity to have a look at what he's got at the football club. That hinted at a raft of changes ahead of a crunch game with Wigan on Saturday for this cup tie that came just 48 hours after a long trip to Newcastle but in fact he selected much the same team he had done on Sunday. Federico Macheda replaced veteran front man Heidar Helguson but otherwise Rangers were much the same as they had been against the Magpies.
Paddy Kenny started in goal behind a back four of Luke Young, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon and Clint Hill. In midfield Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jamie Mackie played wide with Shaun Derry and Akos Buzsaky in the centre.
Jay Bothroyd was Macheda's partner in attack and therein laid the first of many problems Rangers found themselves up against on the evening. The lack of any forward planning or joined-up thinking in QPR's transfer policy over the past decade (or more) is all too well known but in Bothroyd and Macheda we have inadvertently managed to saddle ourselves with two centre forwards who like to drop into deep lying positions on the left wing.
One couldn't help but shake one's head, bury one's face in one's hands and wish for a swift and pain-free death as time and time again the pair of them found themselves wide on the left flank, with a left winger and overlapping left back for company just for good measure, looking up hopefully to a penalty box with a similar population level to Chernobyl. A striker, a striker my kingdom for a striker. Or an automatic weapon. At times last night I'd have gladly taken either. Wanted, nasty selfish bastard to loiter in opposition penalty area - apply within.
Nothing annoys me more than when people privileged enough to be paid to commentate on football games complain about being bored (Alan Green) but I’ve been to book club meetings more exciting than the first 20 minutes of this one. Diligently waiting pen in hand for action I noted a petulant foul and mouthful of dissent from Federico Macheda that referee Phil Dowd made a public point of clamping down on, and a weak shot from Luke Chadwick that dribbled straight through to Paddy Kenny. When Macheda did win the ball cleanly he then released Jay Bothroyd who cut into the area well before blasting a shot high over the bar.
And that was it for the first 20 minutes. Tepid, turgid, insipid, nonsense excuse for football. I contemplated catching up on some kip.
QPR had been warned before the first match to pay special attention to young right back Adam Smith who has shown a real penchant for attacking from deep lying positions since moving to the Dons on loan from Spurs. He has two goals in 15 starts at right back already this season and at the midway point of the half here he seized on a hospital pass to Buzsaky from Derry and accelerated to the edge of the area before dragging a shot well wide.
He was somewhat more effective a minute and half later though when afforded time and space to do as he pleased after receiving his own throw in back to his feet on the right flank. On this occasion he produced a cross with real fizz on it and Charlie MacDonald was rightly disappointed to plant a powerful near post header wide of the target with Kenny powerless to do anything about it.
Rangers finally mustered a meaningful response of their own after this wake-up call. Jay Bothroyd collected the ball wide on the right flank and worked a fine pass into Macheda on the edge of the box. The young Italian held up the ball and fended off the attentions of Williams before turning an excellent pass into the area for Shaun Wright-Phillips to race onto but his wait for a first QPR goal goes on thanks to diligent tracking back by Luke Chadwick who produced a sound block to deny the little Rangers winger.
Another QPR man thought he’d got his first goal for the club from the resulting corner. Having no doubt watched videos of Rangers playing this season, and then facing up to them for 90 minutes in the original tie, MK Dons could be forgiven for not paying close attention to the marking at set pieces given how consistently awful they have been at Loftus Road this year. But their failure to spot Shaun Derry loitering unmarked in the six yard box could have cost them when the midfielder turned in what would have been his first goal since November 4, 2006, had referee Phil Dowd not penalised him for an infringement on the goalkeeper David Martin. Replays showed that Derry had indeed, needlessly, reached behind him to hold the goalkeeper in place and annoyingly he probably would have scored anyway had he not done so such was the quality of the delivery from Buzsaky.
Quality? Delivery? From a corner? Be still my beating heart.
After a comatose start to the game things were really starting to liven up at this point. Within three minutes of the Derry incident MK Dons had carved Rangers apart at the other end and if Charlie MacDonald was disappointed to miss with his earlier header he’ll need to put on suicide watch once he sees this chance again. A simple long ball down the centre of the park from Gleeson found the QPR defence at sixes and sevens and with the offside flag planted firmly by the linesman’s side MacDonald had all the time in the world to advance into the area and pick his spot. Sadly, picking his foot was more of an issue as it turned out. He bizarrely went with the outside of his right boot, sending the ball curling away from the goal and harmlessly away for a goal kick, when a conventional shot on his instep would surely have brought greater rewards.
MacDonald could possibly be excused his poor technique given the level he plays his football at. What Shaun Wright-Phillips’ excuse is at the moment only he will be able to tell us. This was another hugely frustrating performance from the diminutive winger who, to his credit, isn’t hiding or shirking the challenge but at times can’t do right for doing wrong at the moment. On the stroke of half time MK Dons found their defence similarly square and Wright-Phillips racing away on goal as MacDonald had done earlier having been released by a well judged pass from Akos Buzsaky. If anything Wright-Phillips actually had more time to make a decision than even MacDonald had been afforded but his final decision and execution betrayed his chronic lack of confidence and Martin was able to produce a reasonably routine save to prevent the opening goal.
Half time came and went with the temperature dropping still further and the soul warmed only by a long overdue return of fat men to round-the-pole.
Whether Mark Hughes thought his second match was too early for a half time dressing down for his team I doubt’ we’ll ever know but there was a little more purpose about Rangers when they begun the second period. A good, deep cross from Clint Hill tempted Jamie Mackie to the back post but MK were able to scramble the ball to safety. Two minutes later the ageing left back was at it again, this time centreing for Bothroyd to plant a firm header straight at Martin. He did well to generate enough power to trouble the keeper at all to be fair to him. Adequately populating the penalty area when the ball is an attacking wide area remains a chronic problem.
When Wright-Phillips then caught Doumbe pathetically falling to ground to try and win a free kick while shepherding the ball out of play Rangers looked like they were in for their best chance of the game but Wright-Phillips lacked the confidence to go for goal himself and instead tried to tee up Buzsaky who laughably lost his footing as he shot and spooned an embarrassing - but very fitting given the quality of the performance - shot wide of the post.
Cometh the hour, cometh the near total collapse of the home team. The three minutes of football around the hour mark of this game were really quite extraordinary. It’s no exaggeration to say the visitors should have scored three times in 180 seconds. First the impressive Smith sent over a perfect cross to the edge of the six yard box where Ibehre seemingly had a simple task of tapping home from close range but somehow contrived to miss the target altogether. Not for the first time this season Luke Young was guilty of allowing a forward he was initially marking to run in towards goal unchecked as a ball was delivered from wide.
Warning heeded? Not on your life. From the resulting goal kick the Dons retook possession, attacked once more and this time Gleeson made the most of the acres of space between the QPR defence and midfield to drill a speculative long range shot that was touched by MacDonald en route and ultimately missed the bottom right hand corner of Paddy Kenny’s goal by the width of a gnat’s cock hair. Mark Hughes sets his teams up in straight lines and the shape was very regimented throughout this game – if MK Dons can find this sort of space between those lines just think what Premiership teams will be able to do.
Hughes had seen enough. He quickly readied Tommy Smith and sent him on for Jamie Mackie but the change failed to stem the growing tide of red shirts flowing towards the School End goal. Adam Smith, again, marauded forward once the ball had been returned to play and having made it to the edge of the box unchallenged he should have done more than simply plant a tame shot wide. When Anton Ferdinand then sloppily conceded a corner while trying to prevent a throw in midway through the half and Chadwick fired over from a MacDonald knock down in the area the natives were understandably restless.
So step forward Akos Buzsaky. One of the few positives for QPR on the evening was the improved quality of the set pieces, and that probably had a lot to do with the Hungarian taking the majority of them. Buzsaky, probably QPR’s top man on the night, came as close as anybody to scoring in the seventieth minute when he was fouled fully 35 yards out from goal and decided to have a lash with the resulting free kick himself. The ball dipped wickedly under the cross bar and required a save from Martin as impressive as the shot itself to claw it out from the jaws of the goalmouth and away for a corner.
Crowd, for once, up and noisy Buzsaky then trotted across to take the set piece in the Q Block corner only to then be called back to the touchline by Mark Hughes so he could be replaced by Heidar Helguson. The supporters, who'd been calling for Helguson's introduction for some time, revolted immediately and booed the new manager's decision. Buzsaky has hardly completed 90 minutes over the past three years and had played for more than an hour at Newcastle on Sunday. Clearly (I would hope) this was a decision based on fitness, but it didn't save Hughes from the wrath of the Loftus Road faithful.
That all left Shaun Wright-Phillips to take the corner, which he did very well indeed – planting the ball plum onto the head of Danny Gabbidon on the edge of the six yard box and he could hardly miss with a firm header that flew into the net despite the efforts of a man on the line. Funny game football, had Buzsaky stayed on he'd have taken the corner and probably done something different with it. Maybe Hughes is a genius. Maybe not. Gabbidon's first goal of any sort for seven years, since his Cardiff days in fact. A night for firsts and record breaking.
Buzsaky, much like Angelo Balanta, is somebody QPR fans can often be heard championing for more regular starts. I’ve not been one of them, simply because QPR have gone through so many managers recently and none of them have picked either of them so there must be a reason for that. With Buzsaky that reason has often been injury, but even when he has played he’s rarely matched the performance level he did under Luigi De Canio – no great surprise considering the serious nature of all the injuries he’s had. However I’d like to see him selected ahead of Derry for the next few games at least.
I’ve often said that QPR simply don’t have the players to play a 442 system and that seemed to be the case on Tuesday night with Macheda and Bothroyd forming no kind of partnership up front and Shaun Derry struggling badly in midfield – I thought the veteran midfielder was going to get one of his team mates badly hurt such was the frequency and quality of the hospital passes he played all evening. Hughes will quickly find that there’s no place in such a system for Adel Taarabt either. But there might be for Buzsaky who has done his cause no harm at all over the last two matches.
MK Dons boss Karl Robinson immediately sent on Daniel Powell for Luke Chadwick and later Jay O’Shea (would you really call your kid Jay if his last name was O’Shea?) for the hero of the first match Dean Bowditch but there was a sense now that they would do well to take anything from a tie having passed up so many opportunities to win across both games. The frustration of the situation probably had a lot to do with Ibehre’s late lunge on Shaun Derry that justifiably brought a first yellow card of the night from referee Phil Dowd.
The growth of 24 hour media means reporters are constantly looking for footballers to trot out quotes reacting to a game that has just gone, or previewing a match that’s approaching. This can become monotonous when you have gone without a win for as long as QPR have because the “let’s turn out season around”, “this can be a springboard for us”, “we’ve got a point to prove” bullshit does tend to wear rather thin with each passing defeat to Norwich City.
Danny Gabbidon had taken his turn to drone on about this sort of nonsense in the build up to this game, but it was universally acknowledged that QPR could really do with a win for some confidence. When they actually strung an attractive attacking move together ten minutes from time it started to feel like a corner had been turned – Wright-Phillips played in Mackie who teed up Young for a low shot that Martin did well to save with his shins.
But at the other end substitute Powell made a poor choice when racing through one on one with Anton Ferdinand with support arriving to his right – Ferdinand did excellently to rob him of the ball and clear. As in the first game I’m forced to say that Powell could be a hell of a player if he had half a brain in his head. That scare was enough for Mark Hughes who sent on Bradley Orr for Jay Bothroyd, ridiculously jeered from the field by home supporters who are fixated with his poor performances above all the other poor performances we’re currently seeing, and set up to hold what he had. Heidar Helguson could have made the game safe when he raced through on goal but what looked like a very suspect offside decision stopped him in his tracks.
That new defensive attitude shone through twice in three added minutes at the end of the game. First Tommy Smith and Shaun Wright-Phillips played keep ball with a late corner, and then Luke Young took a booking on the chin for a professional foul on Ibehre as he threatened to break clear across the halfway line. If only Alejandro Faurlin had done the same against West Brom a couple of months ago, things could all be very different at QPR now. The resulting free kick was headed wide by Doumbe and that was pretty much that.
A win was needed and a win was ultimately attained, but good grief QPR made hard work of it. Hughes knew the result was important hence the team selection, although that is now going to put pressure on a few tired limbs ahead of a much bigger and more important game against Wigan on Saturday. QPR must improve in almost every department if they’re to win that match.
QPR: Kenny 6, Young 6, Ferdinand 7, Gabbidon 6, Hill 7, Mackie 6, Buzsaky 7 (Helguson 72, 6), Derry 5, Wright-Phillips 5, Macheda 5 (Smith 62, 6), Bothroyd 6 (Orr 86, -)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Hall, Campbell, Ephraim
Booked: Young (foul)
Goals: Gabbidon 73 (assisted Wright-Phillips)
Milton Keynes Dons: Martin 7, Smith 8, Doumbe 7, S Williams 7, Lewington 7, Gleeson 7, Potter 6, Chadwick 6 (Daniel Powell 73, 6), Bowditch 6 (O'Shea 83, -), MacDonald 5, Ibehre 7
Subs Not Used: McLoughlin, Flanagan, Baldock, McNamee, G Williams
Booked: Ibehre (foul)
QPR Star Man – Akos Buzsaky 7 Mark Hughes will quickly find that his preferred 442 formation suits neither Adel Taarabt nor Shaun Derry – the latter was pretty awful for most of this game against a League One side. It might, however, benefit Akos Buzsaky who, despite a lack of match fitness and playing a second game in three days, played tidily here and was unlucky not to score with a fine second half free kick. The quality of the set pieces has improved markedly with him taking them too.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire) 8 Makes a big showy song and dance over every free kick and warning which can grate after a while but he refereed this game perfectly well and got very few decisions wrong on the night.
Attendance: 10, 855 (2,000 MK Dons approx) Well that certainly caught me by surprise, 2,000 MK Dons fans travelling to an away game. I’m absolutely astonished. Local pensioners, teenagers and casual football fans wanting to see a league match on their doorstep wandering down to Stadium:MK every now and again I can understand. But to travel to a away game and support them? I don’t understand, I’m sorry. The QPR fans were cold and quiet to start with, cold and restless before the goal, and cold and relieved thereafter.
Photo: Action Images
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