Buzsaky's brilliance inspires QPR's Wigan win - full match report
Monday, 23rd Jan 2012 05:29 by Colin Speller
QPR secured a first league win since November, and moved out of the bottom three in the process, when they beat bottom of the table Wigan 3-1 at Loftus Road on Saturday. Colin Speller was there for LFW.
The 16,000-odd QPR fans weren’t the only ones gripping the sides of the seat and wishing it was all over on Saturday afternoon. While the R’s were locking horns with Wigan LFW hero Clive Whittingham had swapped his favoured position in the South Africa Road stand for a seat on a Virgin Atlantic flight to the USA at the insistence of his weekday employer.
As QPR did their very best to make a mess of this home fixture with Wigan, Clive was somewhere over the Atlantic sleeping off the effects of a pharmaceutical ‘stiffener’ or two whilst no doubt occasionally twitching as his fevered mind wondered about the wisdom of letting me have access to his Twitter feed.
Meanwhile back on terra firma, the game in question came at the end of another difficult week off the field for QPR. Wind back six days and we had all been given cause to consider our own reaction to heights simply by virtue of climbing 250ft into the air to take our seats at St James’ Park. As we froze to death in the rarefied air it was obvious even from our distant view that Mark Hughes had his work cut out to turn the available players into a competitive side at Premiership level. Before and after his arrival Hughes and the various representatives of the senior management of the club promised reinforcements. A laboured win over League One MK Dons did little to encourage anyone and by Thursday afternoon it was pretty clear that, apart from a returning Joey Barton, Hughes would have nobody new to draw into the squad for Saturday’s game.
This failure to sign a new player prompted the most extraordinary wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the most vociferous of the QPR brethren on the various ‘virtual’ media. Now, whilst I am as disappointed as anyone that we have not signed anybody, I have to say that some of the reactions have been pretty amazing even by the standards of the wilder end of our support. I have nothing but admiration for Clive and the work he puts into this site, not least because he talks huge volumes of sense, and he has already deconstructed at great length the difficulties of doing transfer business in the January window and what’s happened thus far has simply underlined the points he made. I want some more quality in the squad, but not at any ridiculous price and I am prepared to give Hughes and the board time to try to make some decent deals. OK, so they haven’t helped themselves by clearly promising quick signings, nor did the Chelsea ticket prices help the mood much either, but let’s at least give them a chance.
With all this brewing nicely, enter Neil Warnock who, despite displaying a dignified discretion hitherto, used a BBC interview to grumble at some length about the circumstances that led to his sacking. His revelations were seized upon and reported widely with some outlets even claiming that he had been sacked by text message.
Then came Joey Barton. I don’t have to write very many words of an article for LFW before a Simpsons story gets quoted and in this case I can’t help thinking of the episode where there is a talk show hosted by a bear called ‘Gentle Ben’. Whilst Ben initially carries out his role of carrying the microphone into the Jerry Springer style audience without incident, he is eventually ‘spooked’ and starts running amok. His handlers can be heard to cry ‘No, Ben, no...’ before stopping him with a sedative dart. For Gentle Ben at the talk show, read Joey Barton on Twitter. His tweets rumble along dispensing news of his daily round along with the occasional plea to support a good cause until suddenly it all kicks off and, Gentle Ben style, he is running amok albeit, sadly, without anyone to administer the equivalent of the drugged dart. On Friday he hit back at Warnock with a series of shots and the already tense fan base retaliated with pleas for him to stop tweeting and start playing better, alongside pleas to Fernandes, Bhatia and Beard to get him banned from Twitter altogether.
All in all, then, it seemed probable that we would turn up to HQ to find a disappointing team selection being read out to boos all round, prior to watching a game conducted in an ugly atmosphere with heaven-knows-what to kick off should QPR fail to win. It seemed a pretty grim prospect.
As it was it’s a fair walk from the new lunchtime pub to the ground so having watched Norwich and Chelsea grind out a 0-0 draw we scurried along to the ground to arrive just in time for kick-off. There was a pleasantly reasonable atmosphere as things got underway and, fortunately, the afternoon shaped up in a way that allowed the bile to be stored away for potential future tweets and message board rants probably, knowing QPR, to be prompted by some new issue this week.
With Barton back from suspension, Derry made way in midfield. Gabbidon was injured in training during the week so Fitz Hall took his place, thus offering the online betting sites yet another in-play market – at which point in the game will he retire injured. As it happened the winning bet was ‘played full 90 minutes’ at very long odds indeed. Up front everyone’s favourite fall-guy Jay Bothroyd was replaced by DJ Campbell and QPR lined up, thus, in Hughes’ favourite 4-4-2. Surprise inclusion on the bench was Peter Ramage, fresh back from his loan spell at Crystal Palace.
For Wigan there were three changes from the Monday night defeat to Man City – Gohouri replaced Alcaraz, Boyce replaced Stam and former QPR loanee Ben Watson replaced Crusat. Wigan played with a five-man midfield with Rodallega ploughing a lone furrow up front.
Now the last thing QPR needed was to concede an early goal yet they did their best to do just that. Within two minutes of the start the dangerous Moses was fouled by Luke Young, Gomez swung in a free kick and Gohouri tip-toed through a static Rangers back line to stroke the ball wide of the far post. He should have scored. Then in the seventh minute, Moses skinned Young and pulled an excellent ball at pace across the face of the goal, but it eluded players of both sides and went out for a throw on the far side.
Strangely, given all that had happened in the build-up, the reaction from the crowd was pleasantly positive and Rangers started to get into the game. There was a long-range shot from Helguson that went well wide and then cross from Luke Young drifted into a shot that Al Habsi turned over. There was then a chance for DJ Campbell that he took too early and the ball went harmlessly wide. Another highlight was a fantastic spin by Akos Buzsaky that left the defender for dead before a trade-mark dipping shot that went just wide. All this promised much but when the goal arrived it did so in comedy fashion.
The ever-enthusiastic Mackie unleashed a shot that Al Habsi saved in the manner that suggested he had seen it late, or it had swerved. He got it round the post, though albeit more by luck than judgement. I shall return to the subject of set pieces later but given the quality being delivered by Buzsaky it was to the surprise and disappointment of the T Block jury that Barton ran across to take the corner. A fairly standard delivery sailed into the area and for some reason best known to himself McCarthy, under no particular pressure, waved a hand at it and made contact. McCarthy was booked, Helguson stepped forward to take the penalty and despatched it to Al Habsi’s left. What was notable was the way that Al Habsi stood stock still as Helguson ran up thus denying Helguson his usual trick of rolling the ball to the side the goalie has just left. This ability of Al Habsi to move late was to be crucial later on.
So, a 1-0 lead. We’ve been here before, but it was a good start and the mood of the church was benign. We even heard what was probably the first use of the word ‘thrice’ in a football song, or if not the first altogether certainly the first since the nineteenth century. We are going to beat Chelsea three times, apparently...
It was pleasing to see Buzsaky looking like his old self and in the thirty-ninth minute he was given the chance to take on a free kick from outside the box. He hit it with some venom and Al Habsi did well to turn it round the post. Then in the forty third minute a promising break from QPR looked to be about to fizzle out due to indecision when Gohouri upended DJ Campbell just outside the box to give Buzsaky another shooting chance and earn himself a yellow card. As the wall formed Buzsaky was all concentration, standing well to the left of the ball and very much lined up to put the ball to Al Habsi’s right. This he did, spectacularly well, clearing the outstretched fingers of the goalie and hitting the inside of the post. There was a worrying moment as the ball seemed to bobble along the line but it then clearly hit the side netting at the other side of the goal and HQ erupted.
So, 2-0 at half time. Such heady heights are difficult to recall and there was an air of disbelief in the massive scrum for the toilet in the area of the Ellerslie Road stand that qualifies for – ahem – Gold prices.
The second half began with two substitutions. For Wigan, Conor Sammon replaced James McArthur and for QPR an injury to DJ Campbell forced Hughes to make a change and he brought on Tommy Smith. He went to the left of midfield and SWP moved into a position just behind Helguson. The change was not a good one and QPR did not have the same fluency as they did in the first half. The possession was mostly with Wigan and, whilst no doubt set up to strike on the break, there was little fluency to the attacks. Having said that, Buzsaky nearly scored a wonder goal. His first touch to a sharp cross field pass was not of the best but as the ball sat up he lashed it at goal and Al Ahbsi clawed it away from the top corner.
Wigan pressed pretty consistently and brought on Albert Crusat for Jordi Gomez to liven things up even more. Things got really tense after 65 minutes when Maynor Figueroa was fouled by Buzsaky in combination with Barton in a position not dissimilar to the one from where Buzsaky had scored. The foul looked harsh at the time but Rodallega needed no second invitation, bending the ball up over the wall and down into the net to a motionless Kenny’s left. A brilliant goal to be honest and more fuel for the rant about set pieces that follows later.
In the aftermath of the goal Wigan bought on Ronnie Stam in place of Emmerson Boyce. A few minutes later, Conor Sammon should have equalised but his shot was weak and wide. It’s a fine margin between failure and glory in this game and that was underlined a minute later when referee Moss decided that a pretty routine wrestling match between Caldwell and Helguson was a foul on our hero. It was just inside the box and he pointed to the spot. Now I would not have let Helguson take the penalty. Al Habsi had shown in the first half just how good he was and Helguson’s style was always going to be to his liking. Al Habsi stood stock still until Helguson made his choice then flung himself across the goal to turn the firm shot round his right post.
This was now a serious test of the fragile morale of team and supporters but to the credit of the players they produced a flurry of opportunities that included a shot on the stretch from Mackie, and absolute peach of a shot by Helguson that Al Habsi could only watch scrape paint of the outside of his left hand post and a shot wide by Buzsaky.
Then in the eightieth minute, glorious relief. Tommy Smith, who had not made a particularly positive contribution to that point, brought the ball out of defence before laying it off to SWP who promptly gave it back to him. Smith seemed to consider his options for a moment before striding forward and smashing to ball past Al Habsi from some way outside the box. It was a wonderful goal in every respect – timing, quality and explosive character. For those of us who have lived every moment of frustration of every game in the long barren spell it was a moment of pure joy.
After that there is little to recall really. Hughes promptly withdrew the tiring Buzsaky, replacing him with Derry. Luke Young picked up a booking to add to an earlier one given to Barton. QPR did a fairly good job of keeping the ball in the corner as time ticked down and the ref blew up after three minutes of injury time.
So, what did we learn then kiddies? Well Wigan were pretty poor throughout and we should not get too carried away by the result. QPR were ahead on all the key stats yet could have still conceded two early goals and, thus, made life very difficult for themselves. But, in general the QPR play was livelier than we have seen for some time, especially in the first half. Buzsaky looked a lot like his old self, Helguson delivered another great shift and the defence, the first few minutes aside, was generally solid. SWP still looks as if he is bereft of confidence and Jamie Mackie was yet again all enthusiasm and energy bust still light on skill, vision and touch. Joey Barton, for all his off-field philosophy, did not pull up any trees and several times he was just plain poor. I do subscribe to the argument that his presence helped Buzsaky play, but three times in succession in the second half he completely over-hit simple forward passes and his corners left much to be desired in terms of both option choice and execution. All in all it was effective stuff on Saturday, but Wigan were poor and it’s all still very fragile. But at least Hughes and co now have a week and a half to strengthen the squad before the next Premiership game.
So, what of the management issue? On the evidence of the Newcastle and Wigan games Hughes has brought an air of greater discipline to the side and there does seem to be a slightly clearer idea of what to do in most situations. It should be said, though, that his discovery of Buzsaky as an apparently effective midfielder at this level has as much to do with Faurlin’s injury as it does to any inspired choice on his part. But, Saturday was one hell of a lot better than anything we’ve seen for weeks, and I am optimistic that with time and the right investment he will take us forward. It has to be said, though, that he is short of the former in terms of achieving the latter.
Neil Warnock will justifiably point to the clear shift in the ‘rub of the green’ on Saturday. On another day, Gohouri would have scored, McCarthy would have kept his hands in his pockets, Buzsaky’s free kick would have hit the wall and Smith’s scorcher would have clobbered someone in the Upper Loft. He may have a point.
What Neil Warnock achieved for QPR earns him a place in our history alongside other hero managers such as Stock, Sexton, Venables, Francis (G) and Holloway. He is a hero and I thank him for all he achieved. In terms of what happened in recent weeks he can point quite rightly to the debacle over the ownership in the summer, the consequent lack of investment and the fact that he would have moved in this transfer window to strengthen the side. Having said that, in taking just 2 points from a possible 27 QPR have played some dire football with the same gormless things going on week after week. I’m afraid I can see why a change was made and under the circumstances I would have done the same thing.
My two particular bêtes noir are as follows. First, the set pieces. If you are a poor team that struggles to create in open play you can still create something from set pieces. Witness what Rodallega did for Wigan on Saturday. Yet, week after week the corners and free kicks have been consistently awful – not just in terms of the execution but also in the sense of sheer bewilderment that was evident before anything was taken. Nobody seemed to know what to do and then, once they had made up their minds, how to do it. This is something that should have been addressed on the training ground and clearly wasn’t. In Warnock’s final game we couldn’t even take throw ins. Hughes and his team do seem to have moved on this one very quickly and the contrast in the approach taken – and the consequent results – was there for all to see.
Still in Hughes’ ‘to do’ pile, though, is my second bugbear – the distribution of the ball from the goalkeeper, where the default position is ‘lump it’. NFL and Rugby League share the concept of kicking the ball away at the point where a team is about to lose possession. QPR demonstrate this concept on the football field every week where nineteen times out of twenty a kick downfield is basically a way of giving the ball back to the other side. I accept the need to kick it in certain circumstances but, contrary to most other teams at this level, there is little or no attempt to seek an alternative outlet. Compare and contrast with the very best teams who always look to roll it out or play a short pass. Now I know that our players aren’t the best and I know it gives us all heart failure when they dick about with the ball in dangerous situations, but I do hope to see clear evidence of a shift in approach with the goalkeeper seeking to make an effective throw or pass and the relevant players making themselves available rather than simply turning their backs and walking away upfield.
The other legacies of the previous nine games – lack of confidence, poor option selection and poor quality of execution will only be improved by hard work on the training field and some good results on the pitch. To that end, a win on Saturday was an important and very welcome first step. ‘Thankyou Neil Warnock’ sang the crowd on Saturday. Thankyou indeed, but now let’s move on and see where Hughes can take us.
QPR: Kenny 7, Hill 6, Ferdinand 7, Hall 7, Young 7, Wright-Phillips 6, Barton 6, Buzsaky 8 (Derry 82 6), Mackie 6, Helguson 7, Campbell 5 (Smith 45, 6)
Subs Not Used: Czerny, Orr, Ramage, Bothroyd, Macheda
Booked: Barton (foul), Young (foul)
Goals: Helguson 33 (penalty, McCarthy handball), Buzsaky 45 (freekick), Smith (assisted Wright-Phillips)
Wigan: Al Habsi 8, Gohouri 6, Caldwell 6, Boyce 6 (Stam 69 6), Figueroa 6, McCarthy 5, Watson 7, Moses 7, Gomez 6 (Crusat 61 6), McArthur 6 (Sammon 45 6), Rodallega 7
Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Lopez, Di Santo, McManaman
Booked: Gohouri (foul), McCarthy (handball)
Goals: Rodallega 66 (free kick)
QPR Star Man: Akos Buzsaky 8There is, in my view, a danger of getting carried away but Buz really looked to be getting back to his old self. The two free kicks from in front of goal were both superb and the second produced a timely and dramatic goal. His shot on the turn in the first half and the top-corner bound blast in the second half were both exceptional. He provided some excitement not seen for many weeks and his corner delivery is much better than anything we’ve had for months. Helguson was a close second because despite the penalty miss he put in a great shift for the full 90 minutes.
Referee: Jon Moss (West Yorkshire) 7 Did not do a lot wrong and kept the game flowing. The first penalty was stonewall, the second more dubious but at least he was decisive. The Wigan free kick that led to their goal looked soft in real time.
Attendance: 16,002 (392 away) A very poor away following for a Premier League club.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
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