|R's collapse at the Ricoh Arena|
Sunday, 21st Aug 2005 01:38
Rangers suffered their first defeat of the season in spectacular fashion as Coventry opened their new stadium with a bang.
The week leading up to the game has been dominated by off-the-field news and talk of boardroom power struggles. In fact, it was nice to get back to some football. On the way up to Coventry I read in the newspapers about Holloway's new idea for training - teaching the players how to walk across hot coals and learning to focus their minds.
Well, on the basis of this display the players may as well as had their feet cut off, as little they did seemed to produce anything of any quality. It was a toothless performance from a team who seemed to lack in motivation and determination.
The Ricoh Arena is very impressive; we arrived in plenty of time and had a painless journey in from the Jaguar park and ride car park. Walking around the stadium we saw Jimmy Hill and the man was happily signing autographs. Little did we know he would later be on the pitch singing along as the Arena was officially opened!
Whilst waiting for the turnstiles to open a Coventry fan walked up to us and said: "Impressive isn't it?" we all nodded and agreed with the guys comment. He then replied: "The team doesn't deserve it though!" - "No?!" we said - shocked at such openness - "You'll see what I mean" he added before strolling off across the car park. Well the guy probably fell off his seat after this performance!!
Coventry were first to everything and from the kick off it was evident they wanted this game more than us. Coming off the back of a poor display last week and having Stephen Hughes suspended, things could have gone two ways for Coventry. They could have either been overawed by their new stadium and their fans could have got on their backs…… or………the team could have rallied together and wanted to make amends. Unfortunately for us, it was the second option - but the most difficult thing for those that went was the manner of the defeat.
Holloway had to make a couple of changes which were forced on him due to injuries. Royce started in goal behind Bignot, Shittu, Shimmin and Rose. Shimmin was making his debut in places of Santos. Rowlands and The Doc were missing so the midfield consisted of Brown, Bircham, Gallen and Ainsworth with Furlong and Moore up front.
Before the teams had even kicked off there appeared to be animosity between the sides. Shittu was having a row with a Coventry player and the two players had to be broken up. This seemed to affect his performance as Big Dan wasn't his normal self today, normally he would have Adebola in his pocket but today he managed to get the better of him.
Coventry started strongly and immediately made the running and dictated the pace of the game. I think Rangers produced their only bit of fight in the first few minutes when Gallen tracked back and saw the ball safely out of play for a goal kick. It was good to see Kev tracking back and helping the team out - unfortunately it went rapidly down hill from then.
Coventry took the lead on 11 minutes, Shimmin and Bignot got drawn out to the right hand side to deal with McSheffrey. This left a gaping hole in the centre of defence and Jorgensen met the cross perfectly to head into the bottom corner past the stranded Royce.
McSheffrey was by far the most dangerous player Coventry had in Ibiza and it appears we have learnt absolutely nothing from that outing. Things didn't get much better as we created very little. The tackles were flying in though and Matt Heath was rightly booked for a disgusting challenge right through the back of Furlong.
Shittu and Adebola were having a right old battle and there seems to be no love loss between the two. Adebola grabbed the second after an innocuous ball down their right channel. Rose was chasing the ball but got out paced and out battled by Adebola, who cut inside and stuck a shot past inside Royce and the post.
It was a shocking goal to give away, Rose was made to look an idiot by Adebola - who at best is an average striker in this league. He out-muscled Rose far too easily and it seemed an area that Coventry tried to exploit on more than one occasion.
Our defence has appeared quite steady so far, but today they were run ragged. Shimmin had a shaky start to the game and he needed Shittu to guide him through today. Dan wasn't his usual self though and the partnership looked flimsy. Just as Shimmin started to gain some confidence and see some of the ball - disaster struck.
A ball was pumped into the box from Scowcroft, Shimmin sliced the ball and in slow motion it rolled onto the post only for Adebola to pounce for his second. A freak goal to give away and this summed up the day really. I'm sure Shimmin will be a good player but this performance is going to knock his confidence a bit. He took a while to get to grips with the physical side of the game - but I'm sure he will come good for us. I just hope he didn't take any notice of some of the abuse coming his way from the travelling R's - yes he made mistakes but there were far worse culprits out there today. Leave the bloke alone for now, he is only 17 and it was only his first performance after all!
A few minutes after the interval the referee was showing his yellow to Marcus Bignot. Adebola had been running when he hit the deck - it was clear the ref wanted to further utilise his cards after showing them to a number of Coventry players in the first period. It looked a bit harsh on Bignot, but as soon as he hit the ground there was only going to be one decision.
It got worse minutes later when Shittu and Adebola again tangled and the big striker hit the ground in a similar incident to Bignot's. The ref waded in and showed Shittu the red card.
Holloway then made a change immediately with new signing Milanese appearing in place of Aaron Brown, he slotted in at left back, while Rose moved into the centre. The game was really dead and buried now and it was case of keeping the score down as we made few chances at the other end.
Ten minutes later, Bean and Ukah entered the field in place of Bircham and Bignot. This meant that we were now playing with a hugely inexperienced defence, including Shimmin, Milanese and Ukah.
Milanese was quite impressive in fact and looked very steady on the ball. He is quite a big defender and appeared to fit in fairly well considering the situation. The man even took a bang on the head for his troubles and had to get bandaged up. Welcome to the Championship!!
In truth, little of interest took place on the pitch after this from a QPR perspective. Milanese got booked for a late challenge, but considering he hasn't even played a reserve game yet it's not surprising he is off the pace. Some QPR fans had even started to stream out of the stadium while others seemed more interested in what was happening outside the ground.
It was also a largely subdued QPR travelling contingent today, the quietest it has been in a long time. Whether it was the performance, off the pitch stuff or just that no one could be arsed after the first two rattled in I don't know.
This was a woeful performance and a complete shock really. I don't think the excuses of Rowlands and Doherty missing are good enough really. After all we are a supposed stronger squad this year which can handle more injuries. Bircham, Gallen and Ainsworth are all experienced players and Brown is someone Holloway was after for so long that the four of them should have been able to compete with Coventry in midfield.
After an encouraging performance last week, Stefan Moore seemed to take a step backwards today as he was largely a passenger. Along with Shimmin I think he has loads of potential but they both need to be used carefully by Holloway this year. Too often today though Moore got the wrong side of the Coventry defenders and was left out of place for high balls that came his way.
I don't really understand a performance like this as surely any team that Holloway puts out is going to be up for the challenge ahead? After all so much of the team's success is built on team spirit, a good work rate and generally fighting till the death. That was completely missing today.
Much has been said about our so called 'bully tactics' with other teams, I don't go along with this either. OK, Ipswich said we out-battled them and fairly so. But I don't think the challenges that went flying around today were any worse than the ones Coventry put in. The Championship for the most part is a hugely physical league so teams had better get used to it, cause if we don't do it someone else will - as we found out today.
Micky Adams had obviously got his troops well up for today and I'm sure they were keen to make an impression at the new stadium and make amends for the way they lost the game in Ibiza. After the initial goal went in the game didn't really flow either and there were many niggling challenges going in from both sides.
It was a bad day at the office all round and we can ill afford many more like this, both for the teams confidence and supporters sanity. The Watford defeat last year gave the team a jump-start, let's hope this does just the same.
We badly need a cup run so lets hope normal service can be resumed at Northampton on Tuesday night. After that we have two games on Sky against Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves - and we all know about our record on the TV!!
Let's get back to basics shall we.
QPR: Royce 6, Bignot 6 (Ukah 66, 7), Shittu 6, Shimmin 6, Rose 5, Ainsworth 7, Gallen 6, Bircham 5 (Bean 66, 5), Brown 5 (Milanese 55, 7), Moore 5, Furlong 6.
Subs Not Used: Miller, Baidoo.
Sent Off: Shittu (54).
Booked: Shimmin, Bignot, Milanese.
Coventry: Bywater, Duffy, Page, Heath, Hall, Flood (Morrell 73), Jorgensen, Doyle, Scowcroft, Adebola (Osbourne 87), McSheffrey (Wood 77).
Subs Not Used: Ince, Williams.
Booked: Heath, Adebola, Hall, Duffy, Flood.
Goals: Jorgensen 11, Adebola 24, 44.
Ref: A Leake (Lancashire). 6 - Challenges were flying in from all angles and the ref really had to take hold of the game. He struggled to do this - and this resulted in a stop start game which struggled to flow properly at times.
QPR Man of the Match: Gareth Ainsworth - Didn't give him much of a mention in the report but Gaz was all his usual effort. Worked hard and won plenty of headers for the team, unfortunately one man can't take on a team and his efforts largely went unnoticed.
Photo: Action Images
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