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R's tamed after promising first half
R's tamed after promising first half
Wednesday, 28th Sep 2005 18:56

Rangers took a point from a lacklustre London derby at The New Den on Tuesday.

As expected there was a couple of changes from the team on Saturday, the on-loan Lloyd Dyer made his first start at left back while Dean Sturridge returned in place of Paul Furlong. Big Marc Nygaard continued up front and was the vocal point for much of our attacking play and set pieces.

There was the usual welcome at London Bridge, with rows of police keeping a close eye on those making their way to South Bermondsey - and workers returning home looking on in amazement. After the short train journey from London Bridge, you came out of the station and into the walkway for the away fans. It¡¦s not inviting, and isn¡¦t pretty either but it appears necessary for those wanting to follow their team. What else did you expect really?

The Rangers fans were housed in the upper tier, where there is a decent view, but there was nowhere near the sizeable support of last year. It did fill up as kick-off approached though and lots of banter took place between the R¡¦s and the small but noisy Millwall lot to our left hand side.

We started well and overall were dominant in the first half. Saying that, it is very frustrating that the goal came at a perfect time for them and an awful time for us. Millwall came out for the second half with added impetuous and attacked us. We seemed happy to sit back and rarely looked interested in breaking away.

After a poor start to the season, Millwall have recently recorded a couple of wins and picked up a point at home to Cardiff at the weekend. Recognisable names in the Millwall line-up included one time QPR target Barry Hayles, Don Hutchinson, Carl Asba and ex-trialist Jamie Vincent.

We forced an early corner with no more than a minute on the clock. Dyer and Sturridge combined down the left and won a corner. From the resulting kick, Shittu got clear of his marker but sent his header wide. Ten minutes later, we had another chance from a Langley free kick but Santos could only direct his header wide of the goal.

Again from a cross, we had another chance only for a Millwall defender to clear the ball before Nygaard could attack it. From the resulting corner kick we took the lead. Cook delivered the ball and Nygaard powerfully attacked and headed the ball home from a few yards out. He was clearly delighted and is revelling in his new-found goal scoring streak; he may become a cult hero yet.

Having missed the Leicester game and only seen brief substitute appearances from Nygaard, this was my chance to see the big man start. After admittedly being unsure if he was up to the pace ¡V he is coming on leaps and bounds. At 6¡¦5 his style of play is never going to be attractive but I can¡¦t really fault him in terms of effort tonight. The man is all arms and legs and is quite often clumsy, so he gives away plenty of free-kicks. But he made himself a nuisance and was always a danger in the air.

He is better on the ground than I expected as well, on a number of occasions he had his back to goal and calmly switched the ball to one of our wide men. Hardly spectacular, but its miles better than running into dead-ends and giving the ball away.

We looked confident after the goal and continued to press for another. Yet again a corner kick caused chaos in the Millwall backline but this time the ball was scrabbled away. For all our possession we didn¡¦t test the keeper enough ¡V a point which has been made in many games this season.

With just minutes of added time remaining in the first half, Millwall popped up and equalised. We fell asleep and were far too sloppy down the Millwall right hand side. It looked as if Dyer got dispossessed after a Santos pass and Millwall then attacked down the wing. Santos moved over to close down, but before he could Asba crossed the ball for the unmarked Hayles to head into the back of the net. It was a criminal piece of defending all round as Bignot was the closest defender to him and he didn¡¦t appear to be marking Hayles.

Hayles was their most dangerous player all evening and the guy doesn¡¦t need those sorts of chances twice. Millwall were delighted, we looked shell-shocked and felt sorry for ourselves - this told the tale of an uninspiring second half performance.

Millwall continued where they left off from the goal and provided far more attacking moves than ourselves. We looked subdued and had little to offer in forward options. There are only so many balls you can punt up to Nygaard before the opposition are going to cotton on. Sturridge chased balls but the guy isn¡¦t going to win headers against big lumbering centre halves.

With 64 minutes gone, Holloway decided to change things slightly. He stuck with the same formation but brought on Ainsworth for Langley. It looked like Langley had tired during the second half and by now was having far less of an impact on the game.

At this point it looked as if we were playing for a point and I think the Ainsworth substitution carried on with the line of thinking. He will battle for everything and when under pressure I guess that was what Holloway was after. Unfortunately Ainsworth didn¡¦t have the best of evenings and gave the ball away too much for a team hanging onto the lead.

Sturridge also came off with 8 minutes remaining and it could quite possibly be another injury to add to his collection! Moore was already warming up but he was quickly replaced after pulling up.

So, from two away games are we happy with four points? Well, after the poor Leeds performance I would have probably taken four points out of a possible six. Having said that, neither Leicester nor Millwall are going to be troubling the play-offs this season so are both ¡¥winnable¡¦ games for us. At the end of the season we may just look back to Millwall away and think with a bit more attacking play we could have come away with three points.

But, that is now three away games unbeaten which isn¡¦t bad considering our shocking away form. It was a long way from games such as Coventry, Wolves and Northampton where we were easily beaten and caved in all too easily.

The first half performance was pleasing enough and we should have built on this during the second period. Unfortunately the goal knocked the stuffing out of us, but the players should have come out ready to go after half time. Millwall attacked more and looked far more interested in winning the game.

Millwall were nothing special though and will struggle this season, so were there for the taking with the right approach. We still have the same problems with that bit of creative magic or individual brilliance, hopefully Langley can find his feet again and bring that to the team. Rowlands will be much missed over the next few months as well.

We also seem to struggle to break teams down and often revert back to the long ball up field or onto Ainsworths head. This is going to be a continued problem with playing two ball¡Vwinners in midfield, while we rely far too heavily on our wide men for inspiration or a decent ball in at dead-ball situations.

We now face Palace at home next Monday live on Sky Television - always a recipe for disaster really! With Holloway seemingly unsure of his best current eleven there may be more changes ahead with Gallen and Furlong to return. The turnover of players is huge at Rangers and is one that Barry Fry would be more than pleased about. Since we signed Sturridge towards the end of last season we have snapped up a further 12 players. Staggering really ¡V lets hope the team gets settled again.

Millwall: Marshall, Ifil, Lawrence, Williams, Vincent, Wright, Hutchison (May 69), Dunne, Livermore, Asaba, Hayles.
Subs Not Used: Phillips, Fangueiro, Braniff, Jones.
Booked: Hutchison
Goals: Hayles 45.

QPR: Royce 7, Bignot 6, Shittu 7, Santos 6, Dyer 7, Cook 7, Lomas 6, Bircham 7, Langley 7 (Ainsworth 64, 6), Nygaard 8*, Sturridge 6 (Moore 82 N/A).
Subs Not Used: Evatt, Cole, Shimmin.
Booked: Shittu.
Goals: Nygaard 25.

Att: 10,322.

QPR Man of the Match: Marc Nygaard: Two goals in two starts now for the big man. He used his height to full advantage and is no doubt a complete nightmare to play against. Took his goal well and was involved in some nice link-up play during the first half. Could give away less free-kicks¡K.but plenty to build on for him and an encouraging start.

Ref: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire) 7 Only two bookings throughout, which is a rarity with some of the officials we have nowadays. On the whole let the game flow very well and did nothing to spoil the match, not that either side were playing free-flowing football that is!

Photo: Action Images

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