|Much improved QPR secure victory|
Thursday, 29th Dec 2005 00:43
QPR got their first home win in two months, beating Cardiff 1-0 thanks to a Marc Nygaard goal.
After the disappointing and quite frankly embarrassing display at Brighton, the emphasis was on getting three vital points in the bag - and a confidence building performance would have been the icing on the cake.
It was mission accomplished in terms of three points and was certainly a step in the right direction in terms of the performance. As expected Holloway made drastic changes to the starting eleven. Royce was back in goal behind Bignot, Shittu and the recalled pairing of Santos and Rose. Bircham also returned to centre midfield alongside Langley with Rowlands and Cook occupying the wide spaces.
Meanwhile in attack, it was the big twosome with Furs partnered by the great Dane - Marc Nygaard. The bench was also shaken up dramatically with Cole and Ainsworth, two starters from the Brighton affair, being joined by Baidoo, Donnelly and Milanese. There was no place for Stefan Moore or Marcus Bean - both dropped presumably, or for Ian Evatt - although it was unclear if this was down to injury or his Brighton display.
Cardiff had some familiar names, with Jason Koumas lining up in central midfield, as well as Cameron Jerome in attack and ex-Watford boys Neil Cox and Ardley in defence.
QPR sprung into action straight away and the team decided to stand up and be counted after the recent criticism that has come their way. It immediately became obvious that Nygaard was the focal point for much of our attacks and it was encouraging to see Furs have some support in attack, something that has been missing recently.
Lee Cook had an early drive which Alexander in the Cardiff goal did well to smother. Nygaard too had a couple of early efforts but they weren't enough to really test the Cardiff stopper.
With around 20 minutes gone QPR had their best attack of the game and we were just a whisker anyway from opening the scoring. Rowlands lifted the ball into the box and somehow Nygaard extended his long legs to connect with the ball. It went flying over defender and goalkeeper but unfortunately hit the crossbar.
Langley then tested the keeper when his free kick was deflected, it was heading quickly towards the top corner, but somehow Alexander was there to turn around the post. Already at this stage we had more efforts on goal that in previous games, the only worry was that for all our pressure we hadn't managed to break the deadlock.
Langley had been involved in plenty of action in the centre of the park. He'd also managed to pick up a booking after Koumas fell dramatically. There's no doubt Koumas is a very talented player, one of the best midfielders in this league, but he managed to moan his way through 90 minutes of football - which is incredible really! It was a delight to see him completely bottle out of a challenge with Shittu, there are some battles that you know your just not going to win. And that was one of them! Big Georges also got involved and sent Koumas flying high after a strong challenge.
Alongside Langley, Bircham had made an excellent start to the game and put in the best performance I've seen from him this year. He was dominant in midfield and constantly talked and encouraged his team-mates. Sometimes he ran into brick walls but his determination and application couldn't be faulted. He was still going down too easily but a couple of times when you expected him to roll around on the floor he got straight back up again, which was good to see.
At half time, everyone was encouraged by the performance but the biggest worry was that we hadn't opened the scoring. Just two minutes into the second half all that changed. Cook had the ball at his feet on the left hand side and decided to send in an early ball instead of running at his man. His pinpoint cross found Nygaard charging into the box between two defenders and his bullet header rustled in the corner of the net. It was a great move and Nygaard was absolutely delighted judging by his euphoric celebrations.
Minutes later Nygaard was at it again. With the ball at his feet, he charged down on goal. He managed to beat a couple of men but got a bit cocky and tried a few stepovers! He isn't that sort of player and the chance soon faded away - we had a great view from South Africa Rd and it brought some comedy to the nerviest of second halves.
The tide was quickly turning though and the nerves in the team grew as we defended deeper. Koumas nearly took full advantage and his rasping low shot from long distance went narrowly wide. We looked like a bag of nerves and despite cries from the crowd we defended deeper and deeper.
Shittu and Santos were both having great games and were enjoying the battle with Jerome. However as soon as they cleared their lines it seemed to come straight back at them. Holloway saw this too and decided it was time for some changes - considering the circumstances it seemed the sensible option. Nygaard was tiring up front and needed to come off. At one point in the first half I though he might come off so I was delighted to see him reappear for the second.
Firstly Baidoo came on for Nygaard on 67 minutes and provided some much needed pace up front. He chased everything down and didn't let the Cardiff defenders rest for one minute. Ainsworth then replaced Cook on 72 minutes, this meant that Rowlands was switched out to the left hand side.
Up until this time, Rowlands was having an unusually quiet night and nothing he did came off. However a move to the left found him some space and he made the most of it. After a great run Rowlands put the ball into the box and Baidoo connected superbly with it. Somehow Alexander got a hand to it and saved brilliantly. It was a perfect shot from Baidoo, in fact probably too good, as if he'd sliced it - it may have ended up in the corner of the goal. Rowlands also had a good chance but snapped at his shot and blasted it over the bar.
With eight minutes remaining, Bircham was also replaced. Milanese came on at left back and Rose slotted into central midfield. After some worrying defensive performances recently we did defend well and we looked a lot better once the Italian was on.
Cardiff had a further few chances and when they were awarded a free kick - everyone in the QPR section of the ground had their heads in their hands. Koumas blasted the shot but the seven or eight players in the wall charged it down. The Welsh side also threw on Alan 'elbows' Lee to bolster their options up front. Being a personal favourite of Shittu, this seemed to excel his game further and Lee wasn't given a sniff. In fact the only thing he really did do was elbow people, which is pretty standard stuff from him really.
Four minutes of injury time were added but we managed to hang on in what was a vitally important win for the club. Everyone needed it and let's just hope that the players build on this and some of their confidence returns. There is no doubt that Nygaard is hugely important for us and we just have to come up with a way of keeping the big man fit. For when he is, he's a real handful for anyone in this league.
Everything is by no means fine once again in W12, but hopefully this was a step in the right direction.
QPR: Royce 7, Bignot 6, Shittu 7, Santos 7, Rose 7, Langley 7, Bircham 7* (Milanese 81, 7), Rowlands 7, Cook 7 (Ainsworth 72, 6), Furlong 6, Nygaard 7 (Baidoo 67, 7).
Subs Not Used: Cole, Donnelly.
Goals: Nygaard 47.
Cardiff: Alexander, Ardley, Cox, Loovens, Barker, Boland, Whitley (Parry 80), Koumas, Ledley, Cooper (Lee 70), Jerome.
Subs Not Used: Margetson, Darlington, Ricketts.
QPR Man of The Match: Marc Bircham - After a disappointing season from Birch, it was good to see him have a good game. He's been handed a lot of stick from fans this season so let's give him a bit of praise for once. He hustled and bustled for eighty odd minutes and gave the team a bit of presence in midfield, which has been lacking recently. Special praise also for Shittu and Santos with battling performances at the back.
Ref: M Thorpe (Suffolk): 7 - Only two cards handed out to both teams all evening - something of a rarity these days in games involving QPR. Harshly booked Langley and missed a couple of obvious handballs but not a bad performance from a man in black. We're just pleased to get a win at home!
Photo: Action Images
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