Please log in or register. Registered visitors get fewer ads.
Leadbitter beats Rangers again
Leadbitter beats Rangers again
Saturday, 14th Apr 2007 22:02

For the second time this season high flying Sunderland needed a goal from Grant Leadbitter to defeat a stubborn QPR side.

"Most boring Premiership match" was one of the many debates on the message board last week. Middlesbrough v Aston Villa got a richly deserved mention - one of the many, many fixtures that our 'best league in the world, throws up to induce sleep in the British football watching public.

Boro took on Villa in the north east yesterday and produced four goals, which isn't half bad, but neither team went anywhere in the league, not at the top, not at the bottom. Dull, dull, dull.

The thing is, at the moment I'd kill to be bored. QPR's recent run has pushed us towards the boredom I crave, a nice relaxed end of season. They seem determined to keep us hanging on right to the death though, conceding a late winning goal down the road from Middlesbrough at Sunderland just as the hard work looked to be over on the day that Barnsley and Leeds both picked up a full three points each.

Villa won their game at the Riverside thanks to a goal and performance from substitute Luke Moore. What his brother Stefan wouldn't give for a similar impact as his second big second chance at QPR continues to stutter and stammer. He partnered Dexter Blackstock in attack yesterday but saw little of the ball, when he was eventually replaced Paul Furlong came on and conceded a plethora of needless free kicks including in the one that resulted in Leadbitter's winning goal. As if John Gregory needed reminding, a new partner for Blackstock is a top priority this summer.

Elsewhere in the side Martin Rowlands made a come back from injury wide on the right but Lee Cook and Michael Mancienne both missed out again. Adam Bolder and Steve Lomas started in the middle of midfield with Inigo Idiakez fit enough for a place on the bench and nothing more, Jimmy Smith started wide left. At the back Cullip and Stewart played between Timoska and Bignot in front of Camp.

The players were led out by the world's most enthusiastic mascot who executed a perfect flying Klinsmann dive in front of the away end before revving the away fans up and encouraging them to sing louder. He then proudly marched into the away end past all the Sunderland fans in his full QPR kit. Good lad!

Sunderland recalled Dean Whitehead to their side as they looked to make it 16 league games without a defeat. The former Oxford midfielder scored one and could have had another in the opening minutes as the home side flew out of the traps.

Danny Cullip bravely blocked his first effort but there was no stopping him second time around. Nosworthy carried the ball out of the Sunderland defence unchallenged and slipped it through to Connolly. Damion Stewart was too far away from Connolly, and standing the wrong side of him, which allowed the Irishman to lay a pass through to Whitehead who himself had been permitted a free run on the goal by Bignot who was also standing off the wrong side of his man. Whitehead calmly made his way into the area and slotted past Camp with consummate ease.

Sunderland welcomed a crowd of almost 40,000 to the Stadium of Light for this game - some 13,000 more than for QPR's last visit. Heaven knows where these 13,000 extra fans have come from, or what in the name of God they found to do in Sunderland while the team was shit, but they certainly made a hell of a row once the 'Black Cats' had taken the lead.

Sunderland have apparently flogged 32,000 season tickets for next season - their first Saturday home match of this season only pulled in 24,377 in total. Best fans in the world up there, Richard Keys says so.

Those in search of glory certainly had the scent of another victory in their nostrils as Daryl Murphy twice went close to doubling the lead before the 20 minute mark. Sunderland were getting a lot of joy targeting Marcus Bignot and by giving the ball to Carlos Edwards. Murphy headed a cross from the Trinidad and Tobago international wide when he should have scored. Desperate defending by Timoska and Cullip kept first Murphy and then Wallace at bay as the home team threatened to run riot.

It took a full 20 minutes of the game for QPR to get into the game but within seconds of making their first foray into the Sunderland final third they were level. Moore did well to take the ball to the byline first of all, but Nosworthy beat Blackstock to the pull back at the near post. The resulting throw in came to nothing as Lomas set up a long one but threw it short and lost possession. As Sunderland looked to build from the back though Simpson also gave the ball away.

Moore collected possession and tried to thread a ball through to Blackstock. It looked to be too hard and off target but a deflection gave Dexter half a chance and after the striker bust a gut to make it to the ball first goalkeeper Gavin Ward tripped him up and referee Jones had no choice but to award a penalty. Only Blackstock running away from the goal saved Ward further punishment.

Rowlands stepped up to take, incredibly, QPR's ninth penalty of the season so far and planted the ball to the keeper's right as he went left.

Murphy, Connolly and Dwight Yorke had shots off target and Whitehead was denied his second of the game by Timoska's goal line clearance but QPR's equaliser clearly wasn't in the script. Sunderland looked a little stunned and their massive support went from an ear drum bursting decibel level to almost completely silent after the scores had been levelled. As the team grew more anxious and started to misplace passes the moans and groans grew louder - another QPR goal and the mystery 13,000 might have up and left again.

Murphy missed another great chance just before the break, hammering a low shot across the face of goal and wide, the fourth time a cross shot had flown through the QPR six yard box without getting a crucial touch.

The half ended with three blows for QPR. Cullip and Bolder both picked up deserved bookings for lunging tackles and then the former collapsed in a heap and had to be substituted. Cullip has had a career littered with injuries but has stayed fit throughout his time with QPR so far - it looks like that run is about to come to an end. With Camp sure to be recalled by Derby on Monday the spine of the team that has been so successful over the past few games is suddenly being dismantled. Pat Kanyuka came on to replace him at centre half.

The news at half time was not good for either side - at the bottom Leeds, Barnsley and Leicester were in front, at the top Birmingham and Derby led their matches. This seemed to affect Sunderland more than QPR as the crowd grew quieter still and the players looked edgy.

Kanyuka endured a nervy opening to the half - David Connolly was just too much for him. Time after time Connolly pipped Kanyuka to loose balls and skipped past him, Big Pat looked cumbersome, slow and out of his depth. After Connolly had sprinted past him into the area, turned back on himself and danced all the way across to the penalty spot unchallenged before firing over the bar Gregory made a change. Kanyuka was moved across to mark Sunderland's half time introduction Stern John and Stewart went with Connolly. This worked a treat and the home side had much less of the play.

Kanyuka was more effective at the other end - meeting Smith's corner but heading wide.

Carlos Edwards sent a shot straight down Camp's throat when a yard left or right would surely have spelled trouble for the keeper but Keane introduced Leadbitter for Yorke a short time later and he went on to show Edwards how to do it.

Gregory introduced Furlong for Moore, who just wasn't holding the ball up as Rangers needed him to at this stage. Sadly Furlong got himself involved with the centre halves too much and conceded a succession of free kicks that rendered his introduction utterly pointless.

In fact it actually benefited Sunderland. Full back Johnny Evans looked to be in a tight spot with no way out when Furlong and Bignot surrounded him by the corner flag but he wriggled free and was then crudely, and needlessly, hacked down by Furlong who was booked. Edwards took the free kick and laid it back to Leadbitter on the edge of the area and he fired an unstoppable low drive into the bottom corner.

Suddenly the home crowd were alive and they decided that the team was now worthy of their backing again, singing none stop and at great volume through to the final whistle.

QPR had a couple of set piece chances to draw level as time ticked down. One of Martin Rowlands' 'touch and smack' free kicks hit the charger straight in his chest but Furlong was then fouled straight away presenting the R's with an even closer and more dangerous free kick. Gregory quickly prepared Idiakez for action instead of Steve Lomas almost in the style of a Gridiron designated kicker. The Spaniard hit his free kick hard and true around the wall but Ward saw it all the way and caught the ball fairly comfortably.

QPR launched a number of long balls into the Sunderland area, and Idiakez looked in good touch with a couple of fine passes from midfield but a second come back was always unlikely and after three minutes of injury time Rangers were put out of their misery by the final whistle.

A decent following of QPR fans were left to journey home pointless when it looked for so long like they might hang on for an unlikely point. Those fans included in their number Glenn, who I promised a mention - travelling all the way from London to Sunderland despite illness just so Smithy and Murphy could go for free on his GNER employees railcard. Who needs enemies with friends like those eh Glenn?

Sunderland, as Gregory said afterwards, look to be the best side we've played this season and will almost certainly now go up as Champions. Next season will be interesting - two of their best players this weekend were Whitehead and Nosworthy who played for them in the top flight last time and, well we know how well that went. Roy Keane has a substantial war chest at his disposal and won't let that happen again I'm sure.

When they pick up injuries or play poorly, Keane can bring the likes of Leadbitter off his bench. As soon as QPR hit injury and suspension problems we're scraping the bottom of the barrel. That's a worry with Camp surely heading back to Derby after Bywater's rush of blood at Ipswich and Cullip pulling up with an injury. I wouldn't back Stewart and Kanyuka as a partnership on this evidence.

The home crowd could barely contain themselves as news of defeats for Derby, Middlesbrough and Newcastle came through - one of those days you just love to be a football fan. Hopefully we'll have one next week.

We go into the game with Cardiff still nervously glancing over our shoulders. It would take a hell of a run of results to relegate us from here, but not quite such an outlandish run as it would 24 hours ago. Leeds and Barnsley have both moved closer as we've stood still.

Sadly it promises to be anything but dull.

Sunderland: Ward 6, Simpson 6, Evans 7, Edwards 7, Whitehead 8, Murphy 6 (Stokes 77, -), Nosworthy 7, Collins 7, Connolly 8, Wallace 7 (John 46, 5), Yorke 6 (Leadbitter 61, 8)
Subs not used: Fulop, Elliott.
Scorers: Whitehead 7, Leadbitter 76
Bookings: Simpson 80 (foul)

QPR: Camp 6, Bignot 5, Cullip 5 (Kanyuka 43, 4), Stewart 6, Timoska 6, Rowlands 7, Bolder 6, Lomas 6 (Idiakez 83, -), Smith 6, Moore 5 (Furlong 69, 5), Blackstock 6
Subs: Cole, Nygaard.
Scorers: Rowlands 22 (pen)
Bookings: Cullip 41 (foul), Bolder 42 (foul), Furlong 76 (foul)

QPR Star Man - Martin Rowlands 7 Made an impressive return to the side wide on the right. Tucked the penalty away nicely and provided QPR's biggest threat. Now, how do we keep him fit this time?

Referee: Mr M Jones 9 A very accomplished performance in my opinion. Hard to recall an error all day, got the crucial decisions and the bookings right and allowed play to flow where possibly. Hard to fault in any department.

Attendance: 39, 206

Photo: Action Images

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

You need to login in order to post your comments

Queens Park Rangers Polls

About Us Contact Us Terms & Conditions Privacy Cookies Advertising
© FansNetwork 2020