|Defences on top in Cardiff stalemate|
Saturday, 25th Mar 2006 01:10
QPR's wind down to the summer continued with a dull draw against play off chasing Cardiff.
This was Rangers' fourth consecutive draw underlining further what everybody at the club already knew. Firstly why Ian Holloway insisted on picking Rose and Santos in the back four every week remains a mystery and secondly if we had even a half decent goal scorer amongst our ranks we'd be up with Cardiff looking for that final play off spot.
Cardiff were certainly no better than us. At the back Scimeca is laboured and slow while Glenn Loovens remains the worst player I've seen us play against this season. Neil Ardley has certainly tubbed up a bit recently and apart from Koumas a midfield also containing Joe Ledley and Kevin Cooper posed about as much threat as an old mop.
Cardiff are where they are because of Koumas, who was subdued well by Bircham and Lomas on Saturday, and Jerome who for the second time this season posed minimal threat to Danny Shittu.
Stick Koumas and Jerome in the QPR side and it would be us chasing play offs and Cardiff bobbing around mid table because apart from those two there's nobody on either side who are really any good.
Rangers named Sammy Youssouf in attack alongside Marc Nygaard for the first time in a desperate attempt to find some goals. Ainsworth returned to his former club on the right with Cook on the left Bircham and Lomas in the middle. At the back Ian Evatt and Danny Shittu were the centre halves, Bignot and Milanese the full backs and Paul Jones continued in goal ahead of Royce.
The game started at a pedestrian pace. Cardiff would knock a long ball up for Jerome who would be comprehensively beaten in the air by Shittu and then Rangers would put two passes together before finding Nygaard standing offside.
Indeed the only time Nygaard did manage to get in behind Cardiff in the first twenty minutes without being pulled back by the linesman the only thing in any danger was the corner flag which he took out comprehensively with a wild lunge. Five minutes passed as the corner flag received treatment and was eventually substituted.
With eleven minutes gone Sammy Youssouf sprung the offside trap after some great play in the Rangers midfield but Purse was alive to the danger and cleared.
The first real chance of the game took twenty minutes to arrive. Lee Cook lost possession in midfield and Cardiff broke down the left, Cameron Jerome beat Milanese out on the flank and whipped a devilish cross over which Steven Thompson fired wide when placed to do better.
Within minutes Joe Ledley launched another strike on goal which sailed wide from twenty five yards out - the Cardiff fans on the far side of the ground thought it had flown into the bottom corner which amused the little gang of travelling QPR fans no end.
The first booking of the match came moments later and in truth only the honesty of Gareth Ainsworth prevented Loovens taking an early bath. At Loftus Road in December Loovens had been simply terrible, hacking around wildly and showing no footballing ability whatsoever. Here he was beaten to a ball on halfway by Ainsworth but continued to execute an ugly flying tackle on the Rangers man which sent Ainsworth flying. It was as bad a challenge as you could hope to see but Ainsworth bounced straight back up and perhaps this reaction saved Loovens from the red he deserved.
QPR's best chance of the half came on thirty minutes. Great link up play between Nygaard and Youssouf saw the latter tear into the Cardiff half and chip a lovely pass across the face of the penalty area to Lee Cook. The little left winger looked to be in a good position to shoot himself but instead teed up Bircham and his low first time effort was blocked away by Purse with Alexander scrambling across his goal line trying to reach it.
Jason Koumas had been a total non-entity up to this point but he finally escaped the clutches of Bircham and Lomas five minutes before half time, jinking his way down the left and slinging the perfect cross into the back post. Cameron Jerome was on the end of it and looked certain to score but somehow Bignot beat him to the ball and headed it up and over his cross bar. After last week's disastrous own goal this was a real shot in the arm for Biggie.
Rangers came into the game more as the break approached and in first half injury time another great passing move saw Lomas release Ainsworth down the right. Wild Thing carried the ball to the edge of the area but never looked confident or sure with what he was going to do and eventually sent a tame low shot wide of the post when the move deserved better.
Half time brought the now customary bizarre taste in music over the Cardiff public address system, including three separate renditions of the Oompa Loompa song, and plenty of chavs running round the pitch patting the top of their heads so it was a blessed relief when the players finally emerged for some more conventional entertainment.
Rangers looked a much better team right from the start of the second half as they played down towards their gang of supporters on the terrace. Gareth Ainsworth dragged another long distance shot wide before being presented with the chance of the match to this point.
On forty eight minutes Purse was in the middle of executing another comfortable clearance when for reasons known only to himself Scimeca gave Marc Bircham a massive shove in the back right on the edge of the area. It was a totally moronic piece of play by the Cardiff man and it presented the R's with a great free kick opportunity slightly left of centre.
Lee Cook and Gareth Ainsworth stood over the ball offering left and right footed options which kept Neil Alexander guessing right up until the very last minute. It was Ainsworth who took it, curling a powerful low drive around the wall but Alexander had resisted the temptation to take the fatal step to his right and was able to dive left and push the ball around the post.
From the corner Ainsworth swung the ball into the near post where Evatt and Shittu closed in but the referee spotted a foul on the keeper as the ball dropped loose in the six yard box.
Cardiff's first chance of the second half came after fifty five minutes. Koumas, totally frustrated in the centre of the park had now moved out to the left wing and it was from here that he finally found some space with the ball at his feet. Koumas jinked to the edge of the box before seeing a shot blocked, the follow up from Thompson was also blocked by some desperate defence but gaps started to open up and the ball found its way to Cameron Jerome who was totally free inside the area. Jerome bore down on goal, waiting for Jones to commit but the in form keeper stood big and stayed cool which is more than can be said for the Cardiff man who saw a blasted effort lacking in composure palmed away by Jones.
On the hour Rangers spurned an equally good opportunity. Gareth Ainsworth skinned his man down the right and put in a good cross which Youssouf flicked onto the back post where Nygaard waited unmarked. The ball sat right up for the giant Danish forward so he was forced to take a touch on his chest before hammering a low volley goalwards. It looked in all the way but somehow Alexander got a touch to the ball which cannoned off the inside of the post, flashed right across the face of goal just out of Youssouf's reach and away for a corner.
Gary Waddock introduced Paul Furlong for Youssouf with twenty minutes left, a decision that seemed to anger Sammy somewhat but that almost paid off immediately. A long ball from Bignot at right back had Loovens all at sea and Furlong desperately tried to get a toe to the ball on the edge of the six yard box. Luckily for Cardiff Darren Purse was on hand to ease Furlong away and rescue the situation.
After this Dave Jones shuffled his pack, removing the ineffective Kevin Cooper and introducing Rhys Weston who went to right back and Neil Ardley moved into the midfield. The change almost inspired a winning goal when Thompson was fouled on the edge of the box by Shittu but Koumas mishit his dead ball attempt and it went straight into the wall.
This was the last action of any note in the game. Evatt and Shittu were giants at the heart of the R's defence while at the other end Darren Purse looked a real class act. The game had nil nil written all over it from very early on but with Rangers I always expect them to find a way to throw it away and lose 1-0. The lack of any decent strikers also leaves you with the fear that if they get one it's all over.
Richard Langley came on for the final minute of normal time plus four added and although he skinned Barker a couple of times it was all to little effect and Rangers had a fourth straight draw.
Gary Waddock's men now face Stoke on Wednesday and Crewe next Saturday, both at Loftus Road. Six points are really there for the taking against two very poor sides and if Rangers can somehow find two goals and do just that then Waddock's record will look very tidy indeed.
Of course should the R's suffer yet another home defeat in either game the record will look less impressive and with some of the more mentally challenged message board voices already arguing against his appointment Gary cannot afford that.
Cardiff Alexander 8, Barker 7, Purse 8, Loovens 4, Scimeca 5, Ardley 6,Koumas 7, Ledley 6, Cooper 6 (Weston 77, -), Thompson 7, Jerome 6.
Subs Not Used: Cox, Boland, Ndumbu-Nsungu, Worgan.
QPR Jones 7, Bignot 6, Milanese 6, Evatt 8, Shittu 8, Bircham 7,Ainsworth 7, Cook 6, Lomas 7, Youssouf 5(Furlong 72, 6),Nygaard 4 (Langley 89, -).
Subs Not Used: Royce, Santos, Baidoo.
QPR Star Man - Ian Evatt 8 - Both Evatt and Shittu were magnificent at the heart of the QPR defence but I give Danny man of the match a lot so I'd like to take this opportunity to praise Evatt. He won every header, despite a nasty head injury picked up in the first half, and rarely gave the ball away. Well done Ian, an excellent performance.
Ref: K Wright (Cambridgeshire) 7 - Not too bad at all surprisingly. He kept the cards in his pocket although he could quite easily have sent Loovens off for his wild hack on Ainsworth. Allowed the game to flow as much as possible and all in all did a steady job. Most unlike him.
Photo: Action Images
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