|Rangers unlucky to lose at Selhurst|
Tuesday, 14th Feb 2006 01:02
Rangers lost narrowly at Crystal Palace on Tuesday evening in Gary Waddock's second game in charge.
Queens Park Ranges put on a spirited display at Selhurst Park on Valentines Day but could not overcome an injury ravaged Crystal Palace side. This was Waddocks first away game in charge since his appointment as caretaker manager.
Waddock rang the changes from the team that started against Millwall with a defensive 4-1-4-1 line up. Jones was in between the sticks behind a back four of Bignot, Shittu, Evattt and Milanese. Then Rose was put in front of the defence behind a midfield line up of Donnelly, Lomas, Langley and Cook. Nygaard the only forward to start.
Palace have been suffering with injuries of late with no Andy Johnson in the start up due to his legs being racked at Wednesday the Saturday before. Also missing was Marco Reich who ran QPR ragged at Loftus Road. But even with these two talisman like figures missing for the opposition the task in front of Rangers was always going to be a tough one.
Around 700 brave souls risked the wrath of their loved ones to travel to Selhurst to support the R's. And they were in fine voice out singing their opposite number from the start.
The game got off to a rapid start from Palace as it seemed they were in a hurry to get us under the cosh. Palace spent the first 3 minutes of the game in the QPR half and we looked startled and surprised with no answer to the constant barrage coming from the men in claret and blue. A corner was won by Palace but the resulting free kick came out to nothing.
Palace then took the lead through Clinton Morrison after Darren Ward made a run down the right wing and passed the ball into the penalty area for Morrison to slot home past Jones. Rangers looked shell-shocked as did the fans at this quick fire score from Palace. Obviously, Dowie had them fired up for this encounter after their drab performance in their previous game. 4 minutes in Palace 1 QPR 0.
Straight after the goal Rangers made their first foray into the Palace half exerting some pressure, winning a corner with Langley firing over the bar.
Palace took up possession in midfield again with no product going forward. Rangers were defending deep inviting Palace to attack. Palace players had plenty of time on the ball to pass it around and challenges from the Rangers midfield were few and far between. The Palace midfield and defence outnumbered Nygaard, the sole striker, so when Rangers lost possession the ball would come straight back towards goal.
On 14 minutes Freedman came on to replace Macken who must have been injured to come off so early.
Better play by Rangers resulted in Nygaard getting the ball towards the left of their goal and he fired in a low shot that flashed wide of the post. 15 minutes gone and Rangers were growing in confidence with good passing play and possession.
It was at this point that I noticed that the man in green was having a good game. His anonymity was quite refreshing. But alas it was not to last - more on this later.
Milanese was booked for a challenge on Wayne Andrews that looked a little harsh. A good passing move by Rangers came to nothing as Nygaard missed the final ball.
Hoof ball became evident from Palace which was strange to see as they had earlier won the midfield due to our line up and the space we had given them. Was this the first sign of seeds of doubt?
But on 31 minutes Palace extended their lead to 2-0 with McAnuff taking the ball well in the penalty area from a headed on pass from Freedman that looked blatantly offside. This happened right in front of the Rangers faithful sitting to the side and in line with this passage of play. Our calls for offside fell on deaf ears and the goal stood.
Obviously, Waddock didn't like what he was seeing so he took Bignot off for Furlong to revert back to a more standard 4-4-2 formation with Rose moving to right back. So now we had the two tallest strikers at the club up front.
Shittu was having an immense game winning most of the high balls that came his way. Paul Jones, on the other hand, was having a bit of a nightmare as his kicking boots were letting him down. His goal kicks and clearances were going astray all half.
Palace enjoyed another spell of possession with more probing play but no final product to show for it. A shot over the bar, or a misplaced pass was all too evident.
Rangers grew in confidence as the half wore on and were granted a free kick to the right of the goal a few yards from the D but the chance was wasted as it is shot over the bar.
Cook challenged strongly just outside of the QPR area to thwart another Palace attack just before the break.
The second half started with Palace players falling over very easily in an attempt to fool the referee and his assistants and it worked a number of times much to the annoyance of the away supporters.
Awful defending by Rangers nearly gifted Palace another goal but again the final product was not there. If it was Rangers would have been at the wrong end of a much heavier score line.
With Rangers attacking, the ball was fed into the penalty area and clearly struck the hand of a Palace player but the referee and his assistants did not give the decision. Instead we are granted a corner which was wasted. Palace gained possession from the corner and take it right up the other end of the field to force a good save out of Paul Jones.
Andy Hall, the referee, started to revert back to form by giving free kicks to Palace for the most innocuous challenges and being tricked by their play acting. The Rangers faithful were getting irate at this.
Nygaard and Leigertwood square up to each other after what looked like a fairly innocuous challenge. Players from both sides rushed over to join in. I have to say I was impressed with the Palace keeper, Kiraly, for intervening and shielded the extraneous players away from what could have turned into a free for all. After Leicester and Stoke Rangers do not need another FA enquiry.
Cook, who had been enjoying relatively free reign, made a darting run past several Palace players, dodged several challenges and forced a save out of Kiraly soon afterwards.
Finally, Rangers started to pressure in midfield causing Palace to give the ball away. The first few signs of Palace faltering that I witnessed in the first half were more to the fore here.
Shittu was clattered to the floor by an unruly Palace player on 55 minutes and went down injured. But the big man got on his feet and carried on. After his ACL injury a few years ago I always cringe when he goes down injured.
Another passage of neat passing play resulted in Langley curling the ball just wide of the far post. The Rangers faithful could sense a goal was coming as the ball was continuously in the Palace half at this stage.
And the goal, when it came, was most welcome! Rose and Donnelly neatly interchanging the ball with the final pass being sent across the area for Furlong to head home the best goal he has scored this season. The Rangers massive rose to their feet in unison in rapture…
Rangers were now on the up and playing the better football. Just after the Furlong goal Nygaard came close to equalising with a snap shot that was blocked by the legs of a Palace player.
Palace then began to defend deep and this invited Rangers to push for another goal. You could sense that Palace were running scared and were desperate not to concede again. Their neat passing play from earlier in the game had deserted them.
Andy Hall was now in full 'referees from hell' mode giving away free kicks for no reason aided and abetted by his two noble assistants. Offside decisions went against us and the rare occasion of a free kick granted to Rangers was met with rapturous applause by the away fans.
Rangers won a corner due to unrelenting pressure but the resulting cross and shot was easily saved by Kiraly. However, with Rangers pushing forward and Palace playing hoof ball, we were vulnerable when the ball came flying back down to earth with icicles attached. Evatt intercepted a dangerous attack and a corner was given to Palace. Shittu headed the in swinging ball over the bar for another corner. The next corner was much less effective and Rangers cleared.
McAnuff shot over the bar after another high ball came flying into the Rangers area. Palace were getting back into the game more effectively at this point. Another Palace attack resulted in a shot over the bar into the crowd.
Shabbazz Baidoo came on for Donnelly after 70 minutes to add some much needed pace. Rangers had been running all night and a fresh set of legs is what was needed to liven things up a bit and Shabbazz did just that. He ran at them down the wing crossing the ball into the box and Rangers won a corner.
This is the point when Rangers nearly equalised. The corner curled into the box as it heading goal bound Kiraly somehow managed to shuffle the ball up onto the underside of the bar and the ball stayed out. More Rangers pressure told as Kiraly was forced to make another save as the ball was hit low towards goal.
Rose, who had not been having one of his better games up until this point, made a fantastic defensive header to prevent a goal scoring opportunity for the opposition. The resulting corner was then headed to safety by Langley.
Andy Hall and his band of merry men came up trumps again when Shabbazz was attacking in the area having his shirt pulled off his back by the Palace defence. A more competent set of officials would have given a penalty as it was blatant and totally unprofessional.
Chances were going from end to end until the final whistle. Rangers fans stayed behind to clap the team off the field after a thoroughly entertaining game in which a point apiece would have been a fair result. The players reciprocated our applause.
I came to the game expecting us to lose but the standard of play that I witnessed from the team in the second half was some of the best football I have seen from a Rangers side for a long time. Long may it continue. Gary Waddock has stated that he has learned from the game and I hope he takes what he has learnt and takes Queens Park Rangers forward.
QPR: Jones 7, Bignot 6 (Furlong 37, 7), Shittu 7, Evatt 6, Milanese 6, Rose 6, Donnelly 7(Baidoo 70, 6), Langley 6, Lomas 7, Cook 8, Nygaard 7
Subs not used: Thomas, Kus, Santos
Bookings: Milanese, Nygaard
Scorers: Furlong 55
Crystal Palace: Kiraly, Ward, McAnuff, Macken (Freedman 15), Morrison, Leigertwood, Watson, Borrowdale, Soares, Boyce, Andrews (Hughes 76).
Subs not used: Speroni, Fray, Andrews.
Scorers: Morrison 3, McAnuff 30
QPR Man Of The Match: Lee Cook 8. Just edges it as he made some attacking runs that frightened the life out of the Place defence and midfield. Also put in a few decent challenges.
Ref: Andy Hall 2. Andy Hall is infamous along the corridors of Loftus Road. I will not repeat his previous indiscretions here but suffice to say that when he was announced as the referee for this game I went to find the cat to kick her (I didn't!). Hall was quite anonymous in the first half letting the game flow but he cancelled all that out in the second half by being constantly fooled by Palace players falling over and by not giving us any crucial decisions - namely the two penalty shouts. The two points I have awarded here are for his reasonable first half performance and the other is for the fact that he did not send any of our players
Photo: Action Images
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