|Rangers shoot down Canaries|
Sunday, 23rd Oct 2005 19:08
Rangers finally clicked into gear with a thrilling three nil home win over a poor Norwich City team.
"There's a bit of a funny atmosphere around here at the moment," said Ian Holloway after his side had swept an inept Norwich team aside at Loftus Road yesterday. He's not wrong. Tenth in the league and two points from the play offs, yet the knives have been out for Holloway since the capitulation to Crystal Palace a fortnight ago.
Rangers have produced a response of sorts this week, outplaying if not out classing Preston only to concede in injury time, enjoying the better of things against Plymouth but lacking a cutting edge and then finally a thumping good win, where everything went right at last.
Yet even before this one Holloway was attracting the wrath of the crowd. His strange decision to leave Richard Langley out altogether didn't meet with great acceptance from one fan in the Loft, or it seemed the player, and Holloway spent twenty minutes before the match dashing round trying to talk to everybody about the move.
The team he did select was the same one that had started Tuesday's game here with Plymouth. That meant Marc Bircham had passed a fitness test on his back but there was no place for the allegedly fit again trio of Milanese, Rose or Hislop. Lloyd Dyer continued at left back ahead of them with Ian Evatt and Danny Shittu in the centre and Bignot right. Cook, Doherty, Bircham and Gallen made up the four man midfield with Nygaard and Furlong the forwards. Simon Royce kept goal despite a sore neck, Jake Cole moved to the bench in place of Langley just in case.
The signs were good for Rangers early on, lumbering defender Gary Doherty crawled all over Furlong twenty five yards from goal in the opening minute and from the free kick Lee Cook sent a curling effort wide of Green's bottom left hand corner.
Ten minutes later and Cook was again involved as Rangers surged into the lead. Released down the left hand side by Lloyd Dyer, Cook picked out Gallen racing in at the back post with a deep cross and when Kevin nodded the ball back into the six yard box Marc Nygaard was on hand to steer the ball into the corner with a brave diving header. After pummelling Plymouth for so long on Tuesday with no reward, the relief that Rangers had broken through so early was palpable around Loftus Road.
Norwich responded immediately, a poor back header from Doherty had Huckerby racing in behind Shittu and although Danny stuck with him the former Man City forward was able to find Ashton who in turn moved possession right to the unmarked Henderson who dallied over his shot and eventually saw the ball deflected behind by Lloyd Dyer. From where I was sitting Dyer clearly handled the ball, stretching both arms above his head to execute a tremendous save and send the ball spinning wide but referee Olivier missed it and the R'shad survived their first scare.
This let off inspired the home team and sent them steaming off down the field again. Marcus Bignot was crudely felled by Simon Charlton after eighteen minutes and when Lee Cook produced a well flighted delivery Paul Furlong was able to flick the ball on and into the bottom corner off the inside of the post. That's two goals for the season from Furs, and four assists so far this campaign from Cook.
Norwich were a spent force. Huckerby and Ashton had looked vaguely interested to begin with but now, with their team mates' heads firmly down, they were behaving like a couple of spoilt little boys who'd had their toys taken away. Ashton had a five minute long rant at the referee, pointing to a rip in his shirt as evidence of some rough treatment from Evatt and Shittu who barely stifled a laugh at the former Crewe forward's behaviour. After another battering from Rangers' giant centre backs Ashton left the field to have a head injury strapped up but after spending most of the afternoon swinging his own arms here there and everywhere he was hardly entitled to complain.
Huckerby meanwhile was just whinging at anybody who came close. The ref, Bignot, his team mates and the QPR fans all felt the sharp end of Huckerby's tongue - clearly morale is at an all time low at Carrow Road.
When City did eventually force a free kick in a dangerous area Dean Ashton let his ego get the better of him. Huckerby was clattered by a combination of Bignot and Doherty, probably keen to just shut him up for a few minutes, and Bignot picked up a yellow card. Norwich had plenty of presence in the box waiting for a cross but Ashton decided to send a tame, low effort wide of the post.
Rangers though were starting to have a few problems of their own. Marc Nygaard had been struggling since the second goal went in and after lengthy treatment from Prav he was replaced by Dean Sturridge. It's a good job Rangers had two goals in the bag already by this stage because Nygaard is becoming a key focal point of everything good that Rangers put together and had started this match in flying form. Sturridge on the other hand seems to hang around the edge of the action in games, never threatening anything, and that proved to be the case over the next hour. Never once did Sturridge threaten to score a goal, make a tackle, or win a header.
It got even worse for Rangers on the half hour when another substitution was forced on Ian Holloway. Marc Bircham had passed a fitness test on his back and was enjoying his best game since Sheffield United at home in the middle of the park but his lack of fitness got the better of him eventually and on thirty seven minutes he was replaced by Georges Santos.
Santos was booed onto the pitch by a minority of short sighted, thick as pig muck "supporters" who should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Now of course in an ideal world Ainsworth would have come on for Bircham with Gallen moving to the centre of midfield and the flowing football would have resulted in a 4 or 5 nil demolition job. But at 2-0 up why did Rangers need to chase Norwich any more? Most teams would have shut up shop altogether by now (I'm looking at you Plymouth) and Santos' introduction, to steady things down and secure our position at a time when the team was being shuffled here there and everywhere by injuries and enforced changes was a sound one.
Santos is a very useful substitute to have as he can fulfil so many roles. If we're losing he can play the nuisance forward role, if we're winning he can provide an extra defensive body. What anybody hopes to achieve by booing him on I don't know.
Luckily the Big Frenchman made them look as brainless as they really are by making it three nil with virtually his first touch of the match. Norwich failed to clear a corner from Kevin Gallen adequately and Santos calmly hammered the ball through the crowded penalty area and into the bottom corner past the despairing Robert Green. The shock of what was happening in front of him was too much for one supporter who ran onto the pitch to congratulate Georges with a hand shake, then a bizarre cart-wheel/hand stand.
At the Loft End Royce did well to claim a couple of Huckerby crosses under pressure but Norwich never once looked like coming back into the game and as the biggest crowd of the season so far at Loftus Road gave the Hoops a standing ovation at the break, Nigel Worthington was already planning two changes.
The visitors removed Henderson and McVeigh at half time, introducing promising young forward Ryan Jarvis and former Rangers loanee Dean Marney in their place.
Whether it was the changes or Rangers simply relaxing at three nil, Norwich did have a couple of chances to get back into the game early on in the second half. Marney sent an effort wide when placed to do better and then missed a guilt edge chance after Ashton's low shot was parried by Royce leaving the Tottenham midfielder with an open net which he blasted the ball over.
"What a load of rubbish," was the call from a massive contingent of Norwich fans in the School End. "We forgot that you were here," retorted the Q and R blocks who were also on fine form with various songs about Delia Smith and Jamie Oliver.
Still at least Ashton seemed to have pulled his finger out after half time and with twenty minutes to play he produced a flying two handed save from Royce but the game was definitely up for the away side. Rangers executed a flowing move a short time later to emphasise the point, Lee Cook beautifully cutting the defence in half with a through ball that had Doherty racing in on goal. The defensive midfielder isn't noted for his goal scoring and a lack of conviction here, eventually skying the ball over the top, was a good indication of why.
Holloway brought on Ainsworth for Cook for the final ten minutes and the part time rock star was unlucky to see a goal ruled out for pushing when he headed home Kevin Gallen's corner at the back post.
The final whistle was greeted with sighs of relief and cheers from three sides of Loftus Road. For the first time since Ipswich and Sheffield United were beaten in the opening week Rangers actually produced a decent footballing performance. My only hope is the injury to Nygaard isn't too serious because he seems to be a catalyst for everything the team does well lately - and who would have thought I'd be saying that six weeks ago when a lumbering, out of shape, waste of space put in a half hour of football at Southampton worthy of Gary Thompson?
There were stars all over the pitch for Rangers today. Simon Royce was excellent in the second half when Norwich rallied slightly, Shittu and Evatt look to be forming an excellent partnership in defence and our two full backs were superb.
Doherty had his best game for a while, Gallen pulled all the strings and Cook had a big hand in two of the three goals.
Norwich on the other hand look to be in real trouble. A team with Simon Charlton in midfield is never going to do exceptionally well at this level but there's talent there for a top half finish, shame the attitude smacks of relegation. Players like Huckerby and Ashton who should be able to drag sides up to some sort or decency at this level on their own were more bothered about moaning and getting on to their team mates' backs in the first half and although Ashton improved after the break, Huckerby ended the game as he'd started it; moaning like hell and playing like a prat.
They're clearly not playing for Worthington and his days look numbered. Ian Holloway on the other hand bought himself some time with this one, and if the team can now consistently find this level we could well be battling at the right end of the table come April wondering what all the fuss was about in September and October. It's a big "if" though!
QPR Royce 8, Bignot 9, Evatt 8, Shittu 8, Dyer 8, Gallen 8, Bircham 7 (Santos 38, 7), Doherty 7, Cook 7 (Ainsworth 82, 6), Furlong 6, Nygaard 8 (Sturridge 26, 6).
Subs Not Used: Cole, Moore.
Goals: Nygaard 11, Furlong 18, Santos 42.
Norwich Green 5, Colin 6, Doherty 4, Fleming 4, Brennan 5, Henderson 5 (Marney 45, 5), Charlton 3, Hughes 5, Huckerby 4, Ashton 6, McVeigh 6 (Ryan Jarvis 45, 6).
Subs Not Used: Ward, Louis-Jean, Rossi Jarvis.
Booked: McVeigh, Hughes.
Ref: R Olivier (W Midlands) - 7 - Not too bad at all. Kept the cards in his pocket most of the time, wasn't picky, allowed the game to flow and kept control well. Missed one blatant penalty when Dyer hand balled but also harshly disallowed Gareth Ainsworth's last minute header. Not the best but definitely far from the worst.
Man of the Match - Marcus Bignot - So many candidates today, Shittu, Doherty and Gallen were all excellent, but for sheer consistency over the season and a near faultless display against supposedly one of the division's best players Biggy gets my vote. He even seemed to enjoy himself going forward today which isn't a part of the game he's noted for. Some good crosses and even a spot of show boating at 3-0 add up to a really solid and enjoyable display from Marcus - the one QPR player you can always rely on.
Photo: Action Images
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