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QPR's late show too much for young Saints – full match report
QPR's late show too much for young Saints – full match report
Monday, 15th Sep 2008 00:08

QPR came home with a wet sail to eventually hammer a youthful Southampton team 4-1 at Loftus Road on Sunday afternoon.

It seems 4-1 is the theme of the week. After England’s superb victory in Croatia on Wednesday night QPR kept the smiles firmly fixed to the faces of R's fans everywhere with an identical victory, in scoreline if not performance.

There are 4-1 wins and there are 4-1 wins. I remember coming away from West Brom in the late 90s after being beaten by that scoreline and thinking we were pretty unlucky not to have won the game. Then again we’ve all been to those matches where you’re back in the pub shortly after half time and looking forward to an early train home.

Sometimes the losing side is lucky to get their one and the winning team unfortunate not to get two or three times as many. It could reasonably argued that but for Kelvin Davis, redeeming himself after years of treating QPR to soft goals, Rangers could indeed have had twice as many goals as they ended up with but even the four was harsh on Southampton.

The Saints looked bright, even when reduced to ten man after a horrendous two footed lunge from debutant Lancashire, and deserved their equaliser when it came just before the hour. In the end two brilliantly timed and well chosen substitutions by Iain Dowie swung the game back the way of QPR and in the last half an hour the extra man started to tell, as did QPR’s ability and experience advantage over their fresh faced visitors, and although 4-1 was harsh the points deservedly stayed in W12 and the Super Hoops are up to fourth.

There was again no place for Martin Rowlands in the QPR starting eleven – the club captain left on the bench. This seemed strange to me with Hogan Ephraim replacing the suspended Emmanuel Ledesma as part of the three behind Dexter Blackstock and Leigertwood and Mahon again partnered at the base of the midfield – Rowlands is easily better than the three of them in both those roles and proved it by increasing the quality, tempo and cutting edge of the QPR performance massively after his second half introducting. A sure starter at Norwich on Wednesday night you would think.

Parejo and Cook were the other two behind the main striker along with Ephraim while the now usual back four of Ramage, Stewart, Connolly and Delaney started in front of Cerny in goal.

Southampton have appointed former Dutch international Jan Poortvliet as manager this year because of his record of developing youth team players and getting first team results at the same time. Poortvliet permanently wears the expression of somebody taking their dog to the vets to be put down and with one victory from their first six league games and a defence leaking alarmingly that’s understandable. He included nine players aged 22 or under in his starting eleven and brought another two on from the bench in the second half but I couldn’t help but think that even the addition of Chris Perry to the defence may have helped them a little – especially with Chelsea youngster Jack Cork playing in his stead despite a season spent at right back and midfield at Scunthorpe last term. Promise, effort and style of football couldn’t be faulted, but they offered naivety in bucket loads and defending worthy of Fred Karno’s circus.

It took Rangers just 38 seconds to deliver the first harsh lesson of the day to their juniors. Gavin Mahon launched a long throw into the penalty area and with the entire Southampton rearguard sucked into the near post the ball was allowed to bounce once over Lee Cook’s head and roll agonisingly along the edge of the six yard box before Dexter Blackstock brought the farce to an end with an unstoppable finish into the roof of the net. Cook should have scored himself, but for a ball to be loose in the penalty area for that long without a defender ever entering the equation will be a source of much debate on the south coast this week I’m sure.

Strangely enough that seemed to be just about the worst thing that could happen to QPR. From that moment on the R’s seemed to be on the back foot, lulled into a false sense of security and not playing or attacking with the same pace and vigour that has been seen in other games this season. We were back to the bad old habits of the Barnsley home match. It was almost as if the players thought it was going to be too easy. A massively wayward clearance from Ramage dipped down under his own cross bar and needed dealing with by Cerny who caught it well, but flapped and punched at the next two balls into played into his vicinity. He did save smartly to deny Lallana an equaliser after 17 minutes though.

The away side were forced into a change after 20 minutes when Lee Holmes picked up a game ending knee injury in a tackle with Ramage and was replaced by Nathan Dyer. Holmes is a tidy little player and had been heavily involved to this point but the change actually benefited the away side as Dyer always seems to play well against QPR and did so again here – Southampton had been knocking balls cross field towards Ramage as often as possible to this point anyway and that only increased with Dyer out there. Immediately after coming on he cut inside Ramage and fired a shot in on goal from the corner of the penalty area but Connolly produced a fine block to deny him. Overall lots of flicks, tricks and threat from Dyer – little end product though and twice before the break he worked room for a cross only to find the front row of the stand.

For all Southampton’s possession QPR always looked more dangerous when they did have the ball and Blackstock might have done better when a trademark cross from Lee Cook found him goal side of his man at the back post but his diving header was pushed away by Kelvin Davis in the Saints’ goal. Davis has been somewhat accident prone against Rangers in recent times but certainly redeemed himself in this match – this save was just the beginning for him.

Unfortunately for the in form keeper Southampton’s task got a lot more difficult just before the half hour mark when they were reduced to ten men. QPR had enjoyed terrific possession down the left flank a number of times in the first half and after another marauding run by Damien Delaney young Ollie Lancashire trotted across to execute one of those strong tackles he’s heard all about – a let them know you’re there sort of thing. Sadly the youngster was far too enthusiastic and his two footed, scissor like hack was wild, late and dangerous, leaving Delaney in an agonised heap and referee Kevin Friend with little option but to offer the debutant first use of the bath water. Unfortunately for the boy he can have few complaints.

QPR set about making the extra man count but were thwarted by Davis twice in quick succession before half time. First Delaney flicked a 20 yard effort goalwards after a pass inside by Cook but Davis was equal to it with a one handed save under the cross bar. Then Delaney posed an attacking threat again when he got to the byline and cut the ball back to Blackstock whose close range effort looked destined for the back of the net until the keeper thwarted him with a finger tip save onto the post and back out to safety.

Despite this, and it sounds churlish to be saying it with Rangers one up against ten men and only a form goalkeeper away from a massive half time lead, Southampton were well in the game and QPR were below par. This was Gavin Mahon’s worst game of the season so far for me, likewise Danny Parejo, and Ephraim and Cook were hardly tearing up any trees to this point either. This continued to be the case after half time with Rangers lacklustre and Southampton keen to press on for an equaliser.

The second half started with a goalmouth scramble at the Loft End that Blackstock and Leigertwood both looked set to finish with a second goal only to be denied by some desperate last ditch defending in the six yard box. Then came a poor challenge by Wotton on Parejo in the middle of the park. On another day this could have been a red card as well but Mr Friend waved play on and didn’t return to the incident once play had come to a close. Parejo was angered by this and lost the plot for a good five minutes, first having to be stopped by Damion Stewart from seeking retribution on the player, and then attending a referee and captain conference as the guilty party in a dissent case. He can certainly spray a pass around the park, but he is a mardy git at times and did little of any real note in this match.

Once the referee had made it clear, with loud, slowly spoken English and hand actions, that Parejo should be quiet for a bit McGoldrick struck a free kick into the wall from the edge of the area when well positioned to test the keeper – Surman looked a better bet for that one to me. Still the away side didn’t have to wait long for a deserved leveller. Davis started the move with a quick throw and with the QPR midfield scattered far and wide the impressive Adam Lallana was allowed to race down the middle of the park and finish from just inside the penalty area after a one two with Gillett. A classy goal from back to front and nothing more than Southampton deserved.

Hogan Ephraim had a snap shot clawed out of the top corner by Davis but for the second time in the game a goal turned out to be the worst possible thing for the team that scored it. QPR’s early opener built a false sense of security, Southampton’s equaliser sparked Iain Dowie into life with two substitutions that won the game for QPR. Martin Rowlands came into the midfield instead of Ephraim, Parejo was replaced by Patrick Agyemang, and suddenly the R’s really started to look the part.

Rowlands wasted little time, four minutes infact, before making an impact. A harsh decision to penalise Wotton for a foul on Blackstock set up a free kick 40 yards out left of centre. Rowlands stepped up and whipped a devilish delivery into the far post area where Damion Stewart ghosted in behind and slammed home his first league goal of the season – replays showed him to be at least three yards offside when the ball was played, a poor decision from the linesman but just the breakthrough Rangers needed.

From that point on there was really only one side in the game. Rowlands was everywhere in midfield and Agyemang added a crucial extra body to the attack against the numerically challenged Saints backline. Soon the football started to flow and Leigertwood should have done better when a glorious move ended with Agyemang crossing to Blackstock who set the midfielder up with a chested lay off – Legs hammered his shot into the upper loft on the half volley.

Referee Friend burst back into life after the Stewart goal with Southampton probably still feeling rightly aggrieved to be behind again. Schneiderlin, Leigertwood and Delaney were all booked in a two minute flurry of discipline for fouls on Rowlands, Lallana and James respectively. Southampton then sent on loaned Tottenham striker Tomas Pekhart as part of their quest for another equaliser but that only served to open the game up more and QPR had more space to play in and put the game to bed.

Agyemang was right in the thick of things in the 77th minute when Rangers killed the match off with a third goal. Lee Cook finally showed a quick flash of the form we all remember him for with a lovely trick and turn on the halfway line and his through ball got Agyemang in behind the last man and racing away on goal. Big Pat held off his man well and will have been disappointed, and no doubt a little surprised, when Davis thrust up an arm to keep his powerful drive out at close range. The loose ball rolled behind Agyemang to Blackstock and he calmly banged in his second of the game against his former employers.

Agyemang must have been wondering what on earth he had to do to score when Rowlands played him in and Davis produced another world class save at full stretch to deny him at the end of the next QPR attack. He got his goal eventually though, racing to the edge of the area in the first minute of stoppage time and hitting a low shot with such venom that even Davis was unable to do anything about it. After a lacklustre pre-season and injury hit start to the season it was good to see Agyemang back in full flight and good form against a team he loves to play against – five goals against them last season alone – hopefully this goal will set him off on another scoring run.

Cook had a goal disallowed for offside after firing in from just inside the penalty area – he looked level on the replays but we’d had our fair share from the linesman already and Davis had long since seen the flag and given up by the time Cook found the top corner.

Saints could have registered further consolation when Leigertwood gave the ball away on the edge of his own area but Pekhart was crowded out and the R’s were left to celebrate a win that flattered them on the first hour of play, but was just reward for Iain Dowie and his coaches for making the right subs at the right time. The introduction of Rowlands and Agyemang changed the game, improved QPR immensely and meant they were able to go on and win comfortably after previously looking ripe for a defeat against ten inexperienced lads from one of the division’s bottom three clubs.

I’m happy to praise Dowie now, but if Rowlands is again left out on Wednesday it will be impossible to do the same again in the Norwich match report. Rowlands is certainly better than Mahon and Leigertwood and on this evidence he’s better than Parejo, Cook and Ephraim again. He’d be the first name on my team sheet all day long and I’m unsure why our manager doesn’t see a place for him in the team. With Ledesma available at Carrow Road on Tuesday Dowie now has a selection headache but we really must find a place for Rowlands if we can – there are players being picked ahead of him at the moment either because of who they are or because Dowie likes them but we’re a better team with Rowlands in it.

Overall then a terrific result, and a super half an hour of football after the substitutions. Stewart and Connolly continue to look solid, Leigertwood was better than he has been and Blackstock is absolutely on fire at the moment. On the negative side of things Ramage was poor, and Southampton clearly targeted him with first Holmes and then Dyer so other teams are picking up him as a weak link on the video it seems. Mahon also had his worst game of the season while the attacking three behind the striker wasn’t nearly as dangerous without Ledesma – Ephraim did little to suggest he is worth a permanent starting role at the moment.

I fear for Southampton. I feared for them before this but having played well and still lost 4-1 alarm bells are certainly ringing. It seems churlish to be picking fault and grumbling about one or two things that we perhaps didn't do as well as we would have liked when Southampton are left to travel home pointless and well beaten despite bringing a lot to the game. Naivety was the watch word of the day as far as they were concerned. They need a serious injection of experience and ability into that team – or a good map to some of the obscure outposts they will find in League One.

Rangers now face three consecutive, very tough, away games. They couldn’t be going in better spirits though and even when not playing too well we’ve got goals in the team which can only be a good thing. If we can get a win in any of the next three matches I’ll see that as a success – we’re certainly well capable of that and more.

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QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 5, Stewart 7, Connolly 7, Delaney 7, Mahon 5, Leigertwood 7, Ephraim 6 (Rowlands 8), Parejo 6 (Agyemang 8), Cook 6, Blackstock 8
Subs Not Used: Camp, Gorkss, Balanta
Booked: Leigertwood (foul), Delaney (foul)
Goals: Blackstock 1 (assisted Mahon), Stewart 63 (assisted Rowlands), Blackstock 77 (assisted Agyemang), Agyemang 90 (assisted Cook)

Southampton: Davis 9, Wotton 6, Lancashire 4, Cork 5, Gillett 6, James 6, Surman 6, Holmes 6 (Dyer 23, 7), Schneiderlin 6 (Pekhart 69, 6), Lallana 7, McGoldrick 6
Subs Not Used: Bialkowski, Perry, John
Sent Off: Lancashire (30) (two footed tackle)
Booked: Schneiderlin (foul), Dyer (foul)
Goals: Lallana 53 (unassisted)

QPR Star Man – Dexter Blackstock 8 Right back on form at the moment – working hard, scoring goals, always hassling the last man. He looks like the Blackstock of 2006/07 again which is excellent for us and bad news for the rest of the league. Two well taken goals, unlucky not to get a hat trick and at the heart of everything good QPR did in the final third.

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire) 6 Little choice with the sending off in my opinion but got a bit card happy in the second half and Southampton can count themselves very unfortunate not to have the Stewart goal disallowed. Pretty home orientated as always I thought.

Attendance: 13,770 Another sub 15,000 gate with Sky undoubtedly having an effect and Southampton failing to sell out the School End for the first time in a decade.

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What a strange day - Southampton's pitiful away support (they should be ashamed) meant that it was left to the Hoops fans to generate the atmosphere and what a great job we did. Southampton looked exactly what we expected, a neat, vibrant and youthful team. Peter Ramage must have wmodered what had hit him with the amount of crossfield passes to the left flank but I thought he coped very well. As did Delaney, no thanks to the non contribution from Lee Cook who looked bored by the whole thing. I always worry when we get off to a good start as we have a bad habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and for a time it looked like we were going to revert to type. Every thing I have read and heard suggests that Southampton were unlucky - although that is mainly from Southampton fans. They weren't. Yes, they had plenty of possesion but it was only our help (midfield and defence parting like the red sea) that gave t hem a goal that they never really looked like getting. Worst of all has been the constant whingeing about the sending off. Yes, it was probably only a yellow card but if you launch yourself two footed at a player then guess what is going to happen. I have also heard much on the radio and on TV about how poor Southampton are skint and so are having to rely on kids. Well welcome to our world Saints fans. We have had 15 years of misery and if your board are too stupid to learn from our numerous mistakes then you deserve all you get. Their keeper made three or four top class saves remember and we look bright and inventive coming forward. Off the ball we were shocking though, backing off at every opportunity and Lee Cook leaving Delaney exposed time and again. I have seen Cerney several times now and he makes my skin crawl. Justice for the Camp one. - Jeff


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