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Another Tuesday night to forget sees QPR frustrated by Blackpool – full match report
Another Tuesday night to forget sees QPR frustrated by Blackpool – full match report
Wednesday, 1st Oct 2008 18:35

QPR’s alarming decline in form and performance level after the Aston Villa cup win continued apace on Tuesday night as Blackpool took a 1-1 draw from Loftus Road.

As much as things change they stay the same’ has been the theme running through much of the content on this website during the past seven days and that's not about to change now.

It was typical of QPR to play well in three away games and then lose the next one at home convincingly, typical to win the most difficult one out of Coventry, Villa and Derby and lose the other two, typical that progress on the field is met with further set backs and gaffes off it. Just when it starts to feel like it is going away from being your club they do something that only QPR could manage just to let you know they are still Rangers at heart.

We should therefore have been prepared for another below par midweek performance and poor result under the Loftus Road lights. After all we’ve saved some of our worst performances in recent memory for night matches just lately – Vauxhall Motors, Cardiff 0-4, Leicester 2-3, various defeats to Coventry and Crystal Palace. Whether it is the lights, the rush hour traffic, the fact that it is past Emmanuel Ledesma’s bed time by the time the match kicks off who knows? Whatever the reason I find myself saying for the umpteenth time – how very QPR-like the whole thing was.

Devoid of shape, balance and ideas in the first half Dowie was pressed into action at half time and though the second period saw distinct improvements you can’t give a team under the guidance of somebody has astute as Simon Grayson 45 minutes off and a one goal head start and still expect to come back and win the game. Rangers were so awful in the first half and so much better in the second that they could reasonably to said to have been unlucky not to win and seriously fortunate not to lose in equal measure.

Dowie made two changes from the Derby game, taking out Matt Connolly and replacing him with Peter Ramage and removing Akos Buzsaky in favour of Lee Cook. I can only assume Connolly was injured as he wasn’t on the bench either and hasn’t put a foot wrong since returning from his one match ban. In my view Daniel Parejo was lucky to survive the three substitutions on Saturday and was even more fortunate to get back in the team for this one – the return of Cook was understandable and necessary but it seemed at the start that we’d sacrificed the wrong player to do it and that’s certainly how it turned out.

So Ramage was the right back alongside Stewart, Hall and Delaney in defence with Cerny in goal. Mahon and Parejo started as holding midfielders again with Rowlands, Cook and Ledesma more advanced behind Blackstock the lone striker. Kaspars Gorkss had to make do with a place on the bench against his former club.

Blackpool brought former QPR centre half Ian Evatt back to Loftus Road but two other QPR old boys, Daniel Nardiello and Zesh Rehman, were denied a chance to impress against their former employees by injury and the terms of a loan agreement respectively. Top scorer Ben Burgess, QPR fans may remember him as a Stockport and Brentford player from our League One days, led the attack along with Steve Kabba.

Determined not to let the set back against Derby play on their minds Rangers started the game pretty brightly and created three decent chances in the first ten minutes. First a cross from Lee Cook bobbled up off Evatt for Blackstock to try his luck with inside the area but he snapped at the chance before the ball had dropped sufficiently and consequently could only screw his effort wide. Likewise Martin Rowlands who really should have done better from six yards out when Blackstock chested Cook’s cross into the path of the onrushing midfielder – again he could only find the side netting when well placed to do better.

Cook also had an effort on goal himself in this spell but that flew wide – still a decent start to the game from QPR, Cook was getting on the ball and looking lively and we’d already created more decent chances by the time the clock reached double figures than we had in the whole of the Derby match. Blackpool for their part forced two corners early on but couldn’t threaten from either of them.

Frustratingly Rangers couldn’t build on that start. Once again passes started to go astray, the midfield are looked crowded and unbalanced, Daniel Parejo was having a poor game again as was Martin Rowlands. Emmanuel Ledesma was too preoccupied with flicks and tricks rather than actually getting the ball down and passing it properly or running at his man and as a consequence of all this Lee Cook started to see less and less of the ball wide left leaving Blackstock isolated and waiting for service that never arrived. In short we went away from everything good we’d done in the opening ten minutes and regressed back to our Saturday form.

Blackpool, much like Derby, started to enjoy possession but created few chances until, in the 18th minute, they opened the scoring with their first shot of the game - a spectacular, but very preventable, strike from Gary Taylor Fletcher. A long ball down the middle looked like it would have run through to Cerny with little difficulty but Stewart went for a defensive header anyway, got it wrong and found Taylor Fletcher who took a touch to set and then unleashed an unstoppable half volley into the top corner of Cerny’s net from 25 yards out. Stewart has been in wonderful form recently but he has to hold his hands up to that one I’m afraid, and he didn’t look overly comfortable with Burgess all night to me – it was certainly a surprise to hear him named man of the match just before full time.

Keith Southern struck a shot wide of the mark and there was the now weekly argument between Stewart and Cerny as the defender attempted to let a ball run through to the keeper who was slow off his line. The natives were starting to get restless at this point with fans all over the stand around me picking on players at random for abuse. Nobody was safe, but Dexter Blackstock was public enemy number one.

Rangers threatened in fits and starts; Blackstock was denied an equaliser by a scrambling tackle from Edwards when again he probably should have scored, from the resulting corner Mahon hit a half volley into the nearest Blackpool man, Martin Rowlands hit a shot wide and Emmanuel Ledesma spooned one horribly up into the Blackpool fans with team mates waiting for a pass. Despite these chances, and another absolute sitter missed by Blackstock five before half time when he shot instead of going with his head and dragged the ball horribly wide of the post from eight yards out, the tempo had gone from the QPR game and Blackpool looked reasonably comfortable to me and could easily have doubled their lead just before half time.

More confusion in the QPR defence saw Cerny racing from his line for a ball he was never going to get which gave Kabba the chance to run round him and pull the ball back into the danger area with the keeper nowhere to be found. Ultimately good scrambling defence from Hall and Stewart and a poor first touch by the recipient of Kabba’s pass Clause Jorgensen denied the visitors.

For the second successive half at Loftus Road, and despite Martin Rowlands’ pleas in the programme, QPR were booed from the field by their own supporters as the whistle sounded.

Whether you agree with the reaction or not it was clear that something wasn’t right and needed to change. Blackstock was again isolated on his own up front, bullied out of the game by Evatt, and in midfield Rangers just couldn’t get it together. Luxury players are fine when they are bringing something to the table in addition to the flicks and tricks but when they play as Ledesma and Parejo did on Tuesday they upset the performance of the entire team. Parejo doesn’t seem suited to Championship football at all, especially in a holding midfield role, and his first half performance here was every bit as bad as his rank showing against Derby and probably worse. Ledesma is increasingly blowing hot and cold now after starting the season in consistently blistering form – against Blackpool his icy breath could be felt on the back of necks in the F Block. The fans spent the last five minutes of the half pleading with Dowie to return to a basic 4-4-2 formation.

Somebody with a sense of humour put Bonnie Tyler’s ‘I Need a Hero’ on for the teams to run out to in the second half and it was no surprise to see QPR changing the system and personnel at the break. Patrick Agyemang joined Blackstock in attack and Mikele Leigertwood came into the midfield with Parejo and Ledesma making way. Fans placated and team reinvigorated the home side about righting the wrongs of the first half and, with a debate on the greatest ever Bonnie Tyler song in full swing at the front of the F Block, they went close to an equaliser when a swashbuckling run and cut inside by Cook finished with a low shot that Rachubka did brilliantly to turn round the post as the ball tried to seek out the far corner.

Cook and Agyemang combined to set up Blackstock for a back post header that bounced once and ended in the keeper’s arms before he got one right, only to be denied by the referee. Rowlands, now detailed to play wide right, took an inswinging corner to the back post which was headed home powerfully by Dexter Blackstock – a late decision by referee Hegley to penalise the striker for climbing over Camara cut the celebrations short. It looked like the right decision.

Leigertwood cracked a trademark low shot from the edge of the box wide of the post as the hour mark approached and despite Agyemang playing well and unsettling the Blackpool defence it started to look like the away side had weathered the initial storm. Martin Rowlands summed up a frustrating evening for the crowd, and himself, by hacking a well placed free kick on the corner of the penalty box over everybody and into the stand and then conceding possession with, of all things, a foul throw over on the Ellerslie Road side of the ground. Rowlands’ worst game for some time this I thought.

He wasn’t alone. Both QPR’s full backs had poor games, Ramage in particular who time and again sent crosses out on the full or too close to the goalkeeper. Sadly he and Delaney are convincing less and less people with each passing game and it is the one area of the team where we really have absolutely no cover whatsoever – an obsession at our club and in football in general with full backs being beaten in the air under cross field passes has yielded us a defensive unit made up entirely of people who started their career as centre halves and it shows. Neither Ramage nor Delaney could put a decent cross into the box if the Grim Reaper himself stood beside them and gave them each three attempts to save their lives.

To compound the frustration referee Grant Hegley departed from his previously lenient stance to dole out a harsh booking to Mikele Leigertwood for a run of the mill foul on halfway only to then return to a policy of appeasement as several Blackpool players were allowed to escape with worse tackles punished only with a free kick.

Blackpool attacks were few and far between in the second half but with 20 minutes to go a twice deflected shot from Southern finished up in Cerny’s arms down at the base of the post – had the ricochets added pace rather than taking it off the shot it could have been on of those disastrous midweek goals against that we seem to specialise in. Still, with Burgess dominating aerially and Rachubka blatantly wasting time with little comeback from the match official, who only added on three minutes at the end despite warning the keeper several times and overseeing three substitutions during the half, it looked like QPR were set to be frustrated even without a second Pool goal. With a quarter of an hour remaining Dowie summoned Akos Buzsaky and withdrew Gavin Mahon.

To be honest I didn’t see the point of waiting until halftime to get Agyemang and Leigertwood on – an additional striker and change of system was obviously required very early on and by leaving it and effectively playing out time from the Blackpool goal to the break robbed us of 25 minutes that could have been used to attack with more force. Likewise Buzsaky could easily have been brought on after an hour or perhaps even earlier. Still, with the Hungarian mercifully allowed to play in the middle of midfield rather than wide QPR started to ramp up the tempo once more in search of an equaliser.

Finally, with little more than ten minutes remaining, QPR broke through. A foul by Jorgenson on Cook thirty yards from goal set up the chance and while the Blackpool man argued vehemently about the decision and the placing of the subsequent free kick Akos Buzsaky maintained a clam focus and prepared to strike he ball. Head firmly in hands I backed the Lower Loft as a likely destination but my mate Andy was slightly more positive and went for a woodwork strike – an unusually accurate guess from him. Buzsaky’s effort was struck hard and true, over the wall and onto the cross bar almost snapping it in two. With the keeper committed the rebound dropped invitingly into the goal mouth melee and Dexter Blackstock stooped to head it into the unguarded net.

With time to spare Loftus Road sensed a turn around might be on and with Buzsaky and Cook both whipping in superb corner kicks in the final ten minutes, including a spell where we had four consecutively, it seemed a miracle that one of the giants in the six yard box couldn’t force the ball home. Ultimately Blackpool survived, introducing former QPR loanee Marlon Broomes as an extra presence at the back to deal with the bombardment of the Blackpool box from QPR’s corners which certainly improved immeasurably in quality once Buzsaky and Cook started taking them.

In the end QPR will wonder how they didn’t win the game in stoppage time. Cook caused Blackpool problems down the left again and sent in a wicked cross that deflected off a defender and dropped stone dead on the edge of the six yard box. Blackstock and Rachubka converged, a scramble ensued, the referee obliged Blackpool with a generous free kick although as the ball steadfastly refused to cross the line the decision was not as controversial as it might have been. A late penalty appeal was also waved away although that looked to be the right decision.

The reception at full time was muted, neither much booing nor applause. The players I thought did at least deserve some recognition for a much improved second half showing but there seems to be an unhealthy level of expectation around Loftus Road at the moment whereby if we don’t beat everybody three nil then booing, swearing and abusing our own players is apparently acceptable – and I speak as somebody with pretty low standards on such things myself as the poor people that sit with me will testify to. The atmosphere at Loftus Road on Tuesday was unhelpful to the team, unpleasant to be a part of and nasty at times. There was a decent argument and a bit of a dust up just where I was sitting in the usually tame F Block so God only knows what it was like elsewhere.

Blackpool were not a bad side, certainly better than Barnsley, Doncaster and Southampton who have been to Loftus Road this season. Evatt reaffirmed my belief that he was harshly treated by QPR with a solid performance alongside Edwards at the back and Ben Burgess led the line very well. They once again look like they might have enough about them to survive.

On now to a very tough looking fixture at Birmingham. As a variation on the ‘typical QPR theme’ wouldn’t it be just like us after these two fairly dire home games to go up to St Andrews and play them off the park? To do that there are a number of things that need to be addressed. Firstly there isn’t room for Cook, Ledesma, Parejo and Buzsaky to all play in the same team, even in a five man midfield. Buzsaky certainly should be in ahead of the Spaniard and Cook is always worth having wide on the left whenever we can. I’m not convinced Rowlands is the best man to be supporting the striker in the more forward thinking part of the midfield, he’s be a better bet than Parejo at the base of the five in my opinion. There are a lot of square pegs in round holes in the current system – of the midfield, only really Gavin Mahon could say last night he was playing in a position that suited him best.

That’s if we stick with the 4-5-1 system of course. Against Birmingham I think I would despite the protestations from fans on Tuesday night. Away from home it gives us a more solid look and feel that we were sadly lacking in a similar game at Sheff Utd earlier in the season. However after an international break we’re then back at Loftus Road for a game against Nottingham Forest, a team likely to be bottom of the table when we face them. If we play one up front in that match when people will have a right to moan because while this fancy system works well away from home it does not at Loftus Road and twice now against Southampton and Blackpool we’ve only looked like winning the game once Agyemang was brought on to support Blackstock in attack.

This draw drops us down to eighth, out of the play off places, and that’s a pretty fair reflection on where we are at the moment I think. Capable of beating the best, but unsure of our ideal starting eleven, wildly inconsistent and carrying one or two passengers.

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QPR Cerny 6, Ramage 4, Hall 6, Stewart 6, Delaney 5, Mahon 6 (Buzsaky 7) Parejo 4 (Leigertwood 7), Ledesma 4 (Agyemang 7), Rowlands 5, Cook 7, Blackstock 6
Subs not used: Camp, Gorkss
Bookings: Leigertwood 69 (foul)
Goals: Blackstock 80 (assisted Buzsaky)

Blackpool: Rachubka 7, Southern 6, Evatt 7, Edwards 7, Camara 6, Vaughan 6 (Broomes 84, -), Taylor-Fletcher 7, Jorgensen 5 (Fox 90, -), Barker 6, Kabba 6, Burgess 7
Subs Not Used: Coid, Hammill, Gow
Goals: Taylor-Fletcher 18 (unassisted)

QPR Star Man – Lee Cook – 7 Brings something extra to the team and is starting to play pretty well now after a poor start. He represented Rangers’ biggest attacking threat all night and was unlucky not to score himself at he start of the second half. Still cuts inside too much for my liking but he’s pretty effective when he does so and was at the heart of everything QPR did well on the night.

Referee – Grant Hegley (Hertfordshire) 6 Maintained his reputation as a lenient official by only showing one yellow card, and even that one seemed to come on the say so of a linesman. Let the game flow too much in truth with one or two fouls ignored and a couple of Blackpool players lucky to escape without bookings but I’d much prefer this kind of refereeing every week to the card happy, game ruining style of officiating exhibited by Mike Riley in the two big Premiership games last week. Disallowed a QPR goal and waved away a late penalty claim but both looked to be the right decisions to me.

Attendance – 12,500 (400 Blackpool approx) A good two thousand lower than it would have been to watch a fifth placed QPR at sensible prices but still they won’t be told will they? Blackpool brought their excellent drummer again and he’s always good for entertainment. The atmosphere was unpleasant for the most part, poisonous at times and not conducive to good football being played.

Discuss this story on the Message Board

Three users have commented on this story. Click here to add your thoughts:

I think one of the reasons for the poor attendance was the fact that it was the Jewish New Year and this kept my son and I away. Having said that I agree with Clive re the 4 5 1 system at home. We must have a more possative approach. Finally we do still feel very resentful of being turfed out of our great D block seats after nearly 28 years and we are not to happy with the atmosphere now high up in F Block. -pwhaw

I agree 100% with the match report. These reports are quite the best reviews of a football match I have read - better by far than the official bland site and better too than the formulaic press reports. I get a real sense of having been there and a balanced, sensible opinion. I live in Cornwall so it's a ten-hour train ride to get to home games - what a joy it was last Saturday. The train was great, the team was awful. Parejo and to a lesser extent Ledesma are not coming through and I thought the comment about all the defenders being centre-halves was very perceptive. Thanks for these reports from one who can't get to too many games - a supporter of more than 30 years. -Mike

I stumbled across this site via NewsNow last season, and I always come back here for the excellent and incisive match reports. I must say though, from where I was on Tuesday (Upper Loft towards the Ellerslie Rd side) the atmosphere didn't seem as unpleasant as the report suggested. Given the dross being served up on the pitch for much of the match, I was suprised how vocal, and constant, the support was. Ok, not all the songs were supportive - but "Dowie, sort it out" was only towards the end of the first half and - let's be fair - was a good call. In fact that, along with "4-4-2, 4-4-2, 4-4-2" and "we never win with one up front" showed how knowledgeable the fans are! But apart from that brief spell there was a lot of support. We had a long "Ian Dowie's Blue and White army" and the Buzaky song (which I still don't know all the words to) was belted out. Yes there was some booing (not me) at half time, and it was a muted finish, but applause for the one or two players that came over to the corner at the end. The Blackpool fans were in good voice, especially for such small numbers - but the drum was starting to get on my wick by the end. -zen58132

 

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