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More cup heartbreak spells the end for Waddock
More cup heartbreak spells the end for Waddock
Tuesday, 19th Sep 2006 16:24

The final game of Gary Waddock's brief reign as manager and, like so many other games before, QPR were beaten.

It's not often Mrs Clive treats herself to a QPR game - although she feels it is important to attend with me every now and again to keep a sense of perspective for her own team. However bad things are at Ipswich there's more debt, a heavier defeat and a lower crowd down at QPR. It's comforting for her.

Well she tagged along with me to Port Vale on Tuesday night and, when I moaned like hell about doing the match report afterwards, offered the following to post on the site. "Port Vale turned up, QPR didn't. Port Vale wanted to win, QPR didn't. Port Vale played as a team, QPR looked like somebody had slept with somebody's wife and they kept arguing and refusing to pass the ball to each other. It was cold. The pies were horrible."

That's about the fairest assessment you'll get of this latest sorry chapter in our club's recent history. Another cup defeat was no surprise but the manner in which the goals were conceded, through a defence missing what many message board users have determined to be the weak link, was criminal.

After a gutless display on Saturday, which at times was basically Marc Bircham and Lee Cook versus Colchester and half of their supposed team mates, Gary Waddock made changes. Matthew Rose went from captain to substitute, mercifully, and was replaced by Marcus Bignot. Zesh Rehman was dropped in favour of Pat Kanyuka who partnered Stewart and Milanese stayed at left back in front of Jake Cole in goal.

In midfield Baidoo was dropped, Ward moved to the right and Bailey brought in alongside Bircham in the middle. Cook played wide left. Up front Nygaard and Czerkas were the pairing this week with Ray Jones dropped to the bench. Quite what Nygaard brought to the side on Saturday which Jones didn't I don't know but there you go.

Rangers actually started the game pretty decently. Bircham and Bailey were keen to get stuck in during the early stages and the ball was regularly finding its way out to Ward and Cook on the flanks. Even Nygaard was showing a decent touch and some nice lay offs in the opening exchanges.

Rangers' new found passion for the game resulted in the first booking of the night after six minutes - Stefan Bailey executed a wild lunge on former Scunthorpe midfielder Paul Harsley and although play was initially allowed to continue Vale were forced to put the ball out of play to allow Harsley to be treated and the referee went back and booked the QPR man.

In the ninth minute QPR took a shock lead. Port Vale keeper Mark Goodlad spent an age with the ball at his feet on the edge of the area and ultimately Nygaard walked over to hurry him along. To everybody's complete surprise Goodlad panicked and kicked the ball straight into Nygaard who ran around him and lobbed the ball into the empty net - no small achievement from the angle he was at.

Hope sprang eternal among the 250 die hard Rangers fans in the away end - perhaps a long and drawn out corner was finally being turned. Lee Cook picked up where he left off on Saturday with a jinking run past two men but his cross to the near post which resulted in a clash between Goodlad and Nick Ward only yielded a goal kick.

The cracks soon started to emerge through the papering though. Akpo Sodje, a black man with bright white hair, was winning everything against Stewart and Kanyuka and looked to be well in the mood for a battle, letting out a high pitched screetch at the referee after every decision for or against his side.

Sodje was one of four bodies in the six yard box in the nineteenth minute when a curling cross from the right by Danny Whittaker flashed right across the face of goal to the unmarked Jeff Smith who calmly dispatched an unstoppable volley into the top corner from eight yards. Neither goalkeeper nor defenders took charge of the situation and they all got sucked under the cross allowing Smith the time and space he needed to finish. Another very basic defensive error across the board from QPR.

In the twenty seventh minute Vale tried their luck from the other side. In the total absence of anybody at right back Smith took his time and picked an ideal spot for a cross which Stewart and Kanyuka left, Cole flapped at and eventually after a scrap on the goal line and a rebound off the inside of the post Constantine and Whittaker bundled the ball home from half a yard out. Everywhere I've looked today Whittaker has been given the goal but I'm sure it was Constantine - maybe it's the beer talking although it would be difficult to get the pair mixed up.

In the thirty third minute another cross field ball into the right back area found Bignot absent without leave. Cole rushed from his goal and flung himself headlong towards a bouncing ball. Whittaker hit the deck but Cole clearly got his head to the ball. Somehow the linesman decided it was worthy of a free kick and, once Cole had finished having his face patched up, Sodje headed wide after being left unmarked.

A short time later Paul Harsely's long range drive finished a six pass move through the heart of the QPR side but Cole parried it wide.

Rangers' only further chance of the half fell to Nygaard who found the roof of the stand from twelve yards out after being played through slightly wide of goal. The turnaround in score and missed chance was quite enough for the Dane who was booked for a late tackle and then walked off and up the tunnel with no attention from physio Prav Mathema. He was replaced by Ray Jones.

The remainder of the half consisted of QPR players passing the ball to their hungry opponents and then arguing the toss with each other. Mauro Milanese was particularly culpable in this madness and it was no surprise to see the Italian replaced at half time by Matthew Rose.

After the restart Nick Ward accelerated into the Vale half but fired wide when he had wide men on either side to pass to - just one of numerous examples of players not playing a simple ball to a team mate for no reason. There was a worse one a short time later though when Adam Czerkas ran forty yards with the ball at his feet, all the time with an unmarked Lee Cook to his left, only to simply surrender possession on the edge of the area.

While Rangers played silly Dream Team style games with each other Port Vale got on with the job of finishing the game off. On the hour mark - another corner from Danny Sonner, more flappy goalkeeping, more none existent zonal marking, and a simple header from four yards for Richard Walker. The game was as good as over.

Waddock slung on Baidoo for Ward in a final throw of the dice and things improved slightly, Bailey fired over the bar and they did at least keep the ball for more than three passes at a time. Ray Jones showed some pride in the shirt with endless chasing of lost causes and hard work. It was gratifying to know that at least somebody cared about the shirt he was wearing and the supporters.

Leon Constantine should have finished the game fifteen minutes from time when left unmarked waiting for Whittaker's pull back but Cole made a good save to deny him.

One thing Baidoo did bring to the set up was an increased free kick count in QPR's favour. Thirteen minutes from time a questionable award after what looked like a dive led to QPR's lifeline second goal. Lee Cook swung a great left footed cross over from the right and when everybody failed to get a touch Goodlad was forced to make a one handed save down in the bottom corner. The rebound fell to Stewart who lashed home and as the flag stayed down QPR suddenly had a way back into the game.

Port Vale, for whatever reason, started to get uncomfortable and headers from Jones and Czerkas both flashed just wide as the game reached ticked towards full time. The fourth official indicated three minutes of injury time and Rangers managed to craft out a final chance.

Baidoo cut in from the right and reached the edge of the penalty area. The defence was opening up in front of him and it looked more and more like he might equalise the closer he got. In the end Shabazz snatched at an eighteen yard effort and although Goodlad was totally wrong footed and stranded the ball rolled just wide of the post. It rather summed up Gary Waddock's night, and overall spell in charge. Close but no cigar.

At the final whistle Bircham applauded the fans from the centre circle, Ray Jones and Marcus Bignot came over, the rest buggered off straight down the tunnel - that despite a good number of Rangers fans going to the front of the stand and gesturing to the players that perhaps they might like to come over and thank us for our idiocy in travelling to the arse end of the world to support them.

John Gregory sat and watched events in the main stand and judging by his press conference today he's under no illusions about what's going on.

It would seem to me that Gary Waddock divided and ultimately lost the dressing room. He first task will be to reunite the players, bring the likes of Gallen and Lomas back into the fold and while not playing them (certainly in Lomas' case he shouldn't be anywhere near the side) at least make sure there are no grievances, cliques and arguments festering in the squad.

Quite clearly our squad members don't get along with one another at the moment. Maybe half were playing for Waddock and half weren't? Maybe something else. Whatever, Gregory needs to knock some heads together, and he needs to get to work quickly. Defeat against Hull and we're adrift.

Teams:

Port Vale: Goodlad 5, McGregor 7, Pilkington 6, Walker 7, Talbot 7, Whitaker 8, Sonner 7 (Husbands 83, -), Harsley 7, Jeff Smith 8, Sodje 8,Constantine 7.
Subs Not Used: Anyon, Lowndes, Cardle, Abbey.
Goals: Jeff Smith 19, Whitaker 28, Walker 61.

QPR: Cole 3, Bignot 3, Stewart 5, Kanyuka 5, Milanese 3 (Rose 46, 6), Cook 5,Ward 4 (Baidoo 72, 6), Bircham 6, Bailey 6, Nygaard 5 (Ray Jones 45, 6),Czerkas 4.
Subs Not Used: Rehman, Donnelly.
Booked: Bailey, Nygaard.
Goals: Nygaard 9, Stewart 78.

Attendance: 3,550

QPR Star Man - No award this week, although thanks to Bailey, Bircham and Ray Jones for at least looking like they were trying.

Ref: G Salisbury (Lancashire) 8 - Allowed a combative game to take place without unnecessary interruptions and stoppages. No choice with the two bookings but kept the cards away when other more picky refs may have gone mad. Played a very good advantage rule throughout the match. Well done.

Photo: Action Images



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