|Lifeless Rangers thrown to the Wolves|
Tuesday, 30th Aug 2005 18:39
Rangers slipped to a comfortable defeat at Wolves as the bad run of form continues.
Wolves brought to an end a traumatic fortnight in the history of Queens Park Rangers, crushing Ian Holloway's men in every department and earning their most comfortable three points for some time. Wolves haven't lost at the Molineux since Glenn Hoddle took over before Christmas and despite Rangers enjoying good possession in the second half, and breaking their recent scoreless run through Kevin Gallen, they never looked like surrendering points here.
Carl Cort bagged the three goals but it could have been much, much worse. Danny Shittu put through his own net only to be incorrectly spared by a linesman's flag, Simon Royce twice denied Miller one on one, Clarke, Cort, Miller and Rickets all went close - it was a case of 3 for 1 declared. Wolves spent the second half allowing Rangers possession in the centre circle safe in the knowledge that QPR had nobody on the pitch capable of doing anything with it, and if they fluked one well Wolves could probably add another couple of goals if they needed to.
It wasn't so much that Rangers lost the plot, they never received it. Ian Holloway picked a bizarre starting eleven featuring three players miles out of position and Wolves responded by embarrassing them in the first half. Simon Royce was the goalkeeper but then things started to go awry. Marcus Bignot was pushed forward to right wing for the first time I can remember, Ian Evatt the centre half started right back. Georges Santos passed a fitness test and started at centre half with Shittu, Milanese was the left back.
Alongside Bignot in midfield Bircham and Doherty played in the middle and Stefan Moore the centre forward played left wing. Kevin Gallen partnered Paul Furlong up front. So just to recap, man of the match of Friday Gareth Ainsworth dropped for a right back playing out of position, Ian Evatt given his debut in the Championship out of position, Stefan Moore out of position with a perfectly good left winger on the bench and two terribly out of form strikers playing his rightful spot.
Holloway probably had reasons. Perhaps Evatt was there to neutralise the height of Kennedy and Bignot could help him there, Moore could use his pace. Who knows? What we do know is it didn't work, in fact it was a massacre. It took Wolves just six and a half minutes to make their visitors look utterly stupid.
Rohan Ricketts had already forced a fine save in the bottom corner from Royce when he lined another effort up from the edge of the box totally unchallenged. Royce again saved the shot but Ricketts beat him to the rebound as the defence stood and watched. The former Tottenham man didn't panic, turning in the six yard box and crossing for Leon Clarke who despite being unmarked took a fresh air shot at the ball, inadvertently diverting it to the unattended Carl Cort who lashed goalwards. Royce allowed the ball to ricochet into the top corner off his chest.
Rickets unchallenged, no reaction when his shot came back off Royce, Clarke unmarked, Cort unmarked, a terrible effort at keeping the ball out by Royce. It was an absolute shambles.
Rangers' fans had feared the worst before kick off and after this capitulation in the defence those fears looked set to be realised.
Not so, Rangers showed some character and passion for the first time since Sheffield United at home and levelled the game with their first attack in the twelfth minute. Chasing an aimless long ball down the flank Stefan Moore did magnificently to reach the ball by the corner flag and despite losing his balance produced a world class cross with his left foot. Gallen climbed over the static Lee Naylor and headed in from eight yards out.
Great credit must go to Moore, the only Rangers player to start the game well, and to Gallen whose rare header was a seriously well taken goal.
The home side rocked back on their heals a little, within two minutes Rangers poured forward again. Naylor was back in the Wolves team after injury but after allowing Gallen to head home looked wholly uncomfortable. He allowed Furlong to bring the ball down and turn inside the Wolves half and from their he set off on a run similar to the one that resulted in the goal of the season at Sunderland last August. Furs quickly reached the edge of the box but his low drive went straight at Oakes who saved. Furs did have Bignot screaming for the ball on the overlap but was right to take the shot on, last season it would have flown in, this term his luck is out.
Marc Bircham had a tame shot caught by Oakes but normal service quickly resumed at the other end. Wolves forced the first corner of the game which Royce came for and missed spectacularly, they failed to take advantage of this but went back in front after twenty two minutes. Kenny Miller showed Evatt up for what he is - NOT A BLOODY FULL BACK - by twisting him left and right and then sent in a low cross which Royce ignored when he could have claimed, Santos and Shittu failed to pick up the only Wolves man in the box and Cort scored his second.
The defending for this was pathetic, embarrassing, shambolic - the kind of goal you know the footballing world would laugh at us for. Why was Evatt playing full back? Miller made him look a prize prat. Why did Royce not come for this cross? A moment earlier he'd hopelessly missed a corner he should never have attempted to get near and yet here he was with a simple pick up which he allowed to drift along his six yard box. Cort was unmarked throughout the move, why did Shittu or Santos not think to stand near him at any point? So bad it defied belief.
There was never any danger of a second equaliser for Rangers, it was all Wolves now. Sweeping from left to right and back again with beautiful flowing football they had Rangers chasing shadows. Leon Clarke drilled a low shot a yard wide and then forced a fine save from Royce, Rohan Ricketts then played a wonderful one two with Cort on the edge of the box but bent a curling twenty yarder wide of the post with Royce stranded.
Rangers were thankful to go in at the break down by only one.
At half time Ian Holloway made some startling moves. Marcus Bignot the right back went to right back (shocking) Ian Evatt the centre back went to centre back (stunning) Georges Santos went to the centre of midfield and while he's more of a centre back these days at least he'd played there before.
Suddenly Rangers had a foot hold in the game. Darren Anderton, who'd pulled all the strings for Wolves in the first half, was suppressed by the presence of Santos, Bircham and Doherty in the centre of midfield. The problem was, those three offered all the creation of a bag of cement allowed to set in a damp garden shed. Stefan Moore moved upfront to form a three with Gallen and Furlong but it was to no avail. There was absolutely nothing coming their way from midfield.
Granted Rangers were without Cook and Rowlands but we heard all summer about how we had two players for each position and their replacements, Brown and Ainsworth, both sat on the bench as Rangers huffed and puffed, strung a few passes together without getting anywhere, and ultimately failed miserably.
Another low cross by Kenny Miller was turned into his own net by Shittu mid way through the second half. Danny had endured an abject night in front of the watching Stuart Pearce and this capped his performance. That he was let off by a linesman unfamiliar with the new offside rule barely spared his embarrassment. Though Cort was clearly offside when Miller played the ball the fact that he never touched the it should, under the new rules, have seen the flag stay down.
In truth it was a miracle that Cort was offside at all. For the whole second half Rangers played the worst offside trap ever seen in football. Shittu went up by himself, Milanese stayed back by himself, Evatt and Milanese stayed while Shittu and Bignot went and vica versa. Here's an idea, work on it in training, and until you've got it perfected don't bloody do it! Concentrate on marking and tackling until you actually know how to play offside boys.
Kenny Miller could barely stifle his laughter as twice in two minutes the rusty offside trap creaked into action hours after he'd run. Luckily he put on display the exact reason he's playing in the Championship and not the Premiership. First he tried to slip a low effort under Royce which the keeper saved with his right foot, then he tried a high, handsome, powerful effort on goal which Royce did brilliantly to turn away one handed. Miller worked tirelessly all night, tracking back and tackling superbly, but his finishing was dire.
His profligacy didn't matter. Rangers were playing some good football, probably their best since Ipswich at home, in the midfield but the final third was limp. Every time the ball reached Furlong or Gallen then were robbed of possession. A through ball from Doherty almost had Furlong in but Lescott came across and just as Furs looked set to lob the ball home he got his body in between Furs' and the ball, then crashed to earth winning a free kick.
Shittu may be attracting all the attention from scouts this season but while he laboured to his worst performance in months at one end, Lescott was a tower of strength, composure and ability at the other. Big Dan was lucky not to concede a penalty when a wild high boot caught Kenny Miller as he ran into the box again. At first glance Danny looked to have kicked the ball as well, but replays showed he got all of Miller and none of the ball.
Lee Naylor was rightly booked for some terrible time wasting towards the end but it mattered little, the third Wolves goal was inevitable, and it arrived in stoppage time. Ricketts slipped the ball through to Cort, again onside and unmarked, and he showed Miller how to finish with a low effort to complete his first senior hat trick.
Wolves are undoubtedly the division's best team and while Ipswich proved last year that that doesn't always mean you'll go up, they should have enough about them to secure the top two place which eluded the Tractor Boys. Rohan Ricketts is a steal from Tottenham - for nothing - and the man he humiliated last night Marc Bircham is apparently worth £450k! Darren Anderton can pass a lovely ball when fit, but when he's not they have Mark Kennedy. Christ the best player in the league last year Seoul didn't even play last night!
With that in mind it's hard to be too harsh on QPR. With no Rowlands or Cook we didn't really expect Rangers to get anything, but taken alongside the Coventry, Northampton and Sheff Wed games there are some serious questions to be asked.
What in the name of Christ was that team selection all about last night? Marcus Bignot on the right wing? What the hell was that meant to achieve? When he went to right back and Santos to midfield in the second half Rangers looked quite steady, perhaps we would have gone in at half time level if that had been the team in the first half. What Holloway had in mind with those tactics other than a hefty defeat is a puzzle. I'm Holloway's biggest fan, and the 'Holloway out' stuff on the message boards this morning is hilarious, but last night he showed himself up in the first half.
He must be kept as our manager for many a long year. The players he's bought, the way he's turned the club around, the spirit and everything else make him the best man for the job. I just wish he'd play people in the right position.
The second half was much better, but why did we suddenly decide at half time to sling a shambolic offside trap into action? Wolves could quite happily sit back and let us knock it around, they knew if we managed to score again our defence was a liability and they could breeze through at will.
That's another thing, 'if we'd managed to score.' With what? Furlong is playing terribly at the moment, Stefan Moore looks good but is never played up front. What happened to Holloway's pre-season claim that "if he's given a good run of games up front he'll be flying." Give him a good run then for the love of God, we need someone to start flying quickly!
The last three away games have seen Rangers concede nine, score one, and never ever once look like even getting even a draw. You couldn't say that about many games last year. Burnley maybe. We even took the lead at Leeds!
If I was Holloway I'd be making the most of this ten day break. Get the lads away. Spain, Greece, Norway, Bognor, the arctic circle. Somewhere together, just the squad, for a break. Bit of team building, good night out. They need to get away from the off the field rubbish that's going on at the moment and start again. Get back to what we're good at, otherwise it's going to be a long hard winter.
Wolverhampton Oakes 7, McNamara 7, Lescott 8, Edwards 7, Naylor 5, Anderton 8 (Ndah 80, 6), Ricketts 9, Kennedy 7, Miller 8, Cort 9, Clarke 7 (Olofinjana 62, 7).
Subs Not Used: Gyepes, Ikeme, Davies.
Goals: Cort 8, 24, 90.
QPR Royce 7, Bignot 5, Evatt 6, Shittu 3, Milanese 6, Doherty 6 (Ainsworth 76, 6), Bircham 5 (Bean 76, 5), Santos 6, Gallen 6, Moore 7, Furlong 4.
Subs Not Used: Cole, Brown, Shimmin.
Goals: Gallen 12.
Ref: N Miller (Co Durham) - 9 - The Wolves fans were going a bit mad with him but they do that with every ref! Miller could have been awarded a penalty but it was a fifty fifty call and in letting the game flow and keeping the cards in his pocket this guy is a good bet to top our referee league come May. One point deducted for an appalling effort at a moustache.
Man of the Match - Stefan Moore - 7 - Best of a bad bunch. Good pace and control, beat his full back a few times, great assist for the goal. Not great, but better than anybody else. If only he was allowed to play up front for ten consecutive games so we could really see what he's capable of.
Photo: Action Images
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