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QPR's slide continues with lacklustre Birmingham defeat - full match report
QPR's slide continues with lacklustre Birmingham defeat - full match report
Sunday, 5th Oct 2008 18:12

QPR dropped down to eleventh in the table after slipping to a defeat at Birmingham with a lifeless second half display devoid of creativity and drive.

“Much as it is hard for a pessimist like myself to admit I think we are all slowly coming round to the idea that QPR could well be the real deal this season.”

I should have stuck with my core beliefs that disaster lurks around every corner. That was only written ten days ago, after a superb away win in Birmingham against Villa. Rarely have I seen the mood and form of a team change so spectacularly as it has at QPR over the past fortnight. QPR, so fluent and effective with and without the ball at Villa Park, looked disjointed, unambitious and uninspired for most of Saturday’s game at Birmingham.

It all looked good for Rangers midway through the first half as they enjoyed a spell of possession and some half decent chances but a lack of cutting edge prevented any serious inroads being made and when Birmingham upped the tempo Dowie’s men had few answers. In the second half QPR were awful, simply awful, failing to register a serious effort on the goal when supposedly chasing the game. A lifeless and insipid display that got what it deserved, contrary to what Iain Dowie said after the match.

It’s hard to be too critical after a defeat against good opposition on the road – but the manner of the QPR performances in all three games this week, Dowie’s team selections and post match insistence that we’ve played well in parts of all three games, and the lack of goals or any threat of goals is causing deep concern among the fan base.

Once again, and I think this is half the problem at the moment, Dowie made changes to his team from the previous match. Out went Ladesma and Parejo from the starting eleven on Tuesday night, replaced by Leigertwood alongside Mahon in the middle of midfield and Agyemang with Blackstock in a two man attack. Rowlands moved out to the right with Cook on the left. At the back Peter Ramage got the nod ahead of Matt Connolly again with Hall and Stewart at centre half and Delaney at left back in front of Cerny. Dowie is yet to keep the same team for two games running since taking over as manager and yet another change of system, back to 4-4-2 for this one, reinforces my belief that Dowie wouldn’t be able to tell you what his best eleven was if his life depended on it. How we can hope to achieve consistently good performances when we don’t make a consistent team selection I don’t know.

Birmingham had former Arsenal youngster Seb Larsson back in their midfield after a hamstring complaint kept him out of their midweek draw at Derby and started with Kevin Phillips in attack but it was the substitutes bench that really caught the eye for me. QPR arrived with just three goals to their name in the last five matches while Birmingham started with Phillips and O’Connor and had Cameron Jerome and James McFadden to call on from the bench – what a difference even one of those players would make to our squad. Still best not complain too loudly, we’ll probably sign another midfielder.

The first action of the game after two minutes left a really sour taste in my mouth for the rest of the afternoon. Birmingham forced a free kick and brought the big men up from the back, QPR half cleared the ball but Owusu-Abeyie lofted the ball up the back post on the rebound. QPR pressed up trying to play the Birmingham attackers offside but when the flag stayed down a straight contest between Cerny and Ridgewell at the back post resulted. Cerny looked nervous underneath it and Ridgewell probably could have headed it in anyway with the keeper flailing around underneath the ball, instead he put up an arm and tried to con the officials by fisting the ball into the top corner.

For one horrifying moment it looked like Andy D’Urso had bought it and given the goal but the linesman put his flag straight up to signal a handball and Ridgewell was shown a yellow card. I say this left a sour taste in my mouth because it was a blatant piece of cheating and Ridgewell had the nerve to wheel away celebrating and then argue with the referee about the card. He should be bloody ashamed of himself. A pathetic and needless piece of play from somebody who claims to be a QPR fan and a very, very poor reflection on him as a footballer and a person. Sadly Ridgewell went on to have a very good match after this.

After that early moment of excitement the game descended into typical Championship mediocrity that will have had viewers up and down the country reaching for the remote to see if they had anything better saved in the personal planner. QPR were marginally the better side I thought without ever really threatening – Birmingham relied almost exclusively on balls aimed at O’Connor’s head, both Stewart and Hall struggled to beat the Scot in the air all afternoon despite both having a height advantage over him.

Both sides looked most threatening when they got their left wingers on the ball. Lee Cook had another decent game wide on the left for Rangers while Ramage and Rowlands struggled to contain former Arsenal trainee Owusu-Abeyie on the rare occasions Birmingham did get him the ball to his feet. McLeish moved him from left to right midway through the half and he looked lively on that side as well, but QPR coped reasonably well with his balls into the box in the first half.

Cook was at the heart of QPR’s first real threat on the goal, tricking his way to the edge of the area and delivering a cross into the near post that Blackstock was beaten to by Ridgewell. The ball rolled back out to Cook and he hit a strike straight at Taylor when he may have done better. QPR had a half chance to take the lead on the half hour when a long ball towards the penalty area from Ramage was chested into the danger zone by Leigertwood and after both he and Blackstock were crowded out and denied a shot on goal in the ensuing scramble the ball broke loose to Mahon who fired wide from the edge of the penalty area.

Another attack followed soon after with Damien Delaney bundling his way to the penalty area and pulling a ball back to Agyemang who couldn’t get a shot away from 18 yards out so laid it into the path of Rowlands to fire a shot over the bar when there were other options for him in the area.

Leigertwood also fired wide from the edge of the box and QPR were playing quite well at this point but with ten minutes to go before half time Birmingham upped the tempo noticeably and QPR never regained their foothold in the match again after this. The first warning shot across the bows came from Agustien who climbed on his man to head goalwards at the back post – Cerny gathered the ball under the cross bar.

Andy D’Urso added one minute to a half where there had been no goals, substitutions or injuries and Birmingham made the most of that time, presumably awarded out of the goodness of D’Urso’s heart, to take the lead with a really soft goal from a QPR point of view. Murphy the full back lofted a hopeful ball down the line and although QPR shouldn’t have been turned around so easily there seemed to be little danger as Gary O’Connor collected the ball in the corner with his back to play. Fitz Hall though allowed the man to turn, stood off him, put in a terribly weak tackle and the rest is history – Phillips had run in unchecked by Leigertwood who was marking him at the start of the move and he slammed the ball in from a yard out.

Vintage stuff from Phillips, his first really meaningful touch of the ball all afternoon, but a terrible goal defensively and one Fitz Hall should be forced to watch over and over again. What on earth he had in his mind I just don’t know but he broke every golden rule there is going, allowing a man to run in behind, allowing him to turn and allowing a cross to come into the box. After working hard to frustrate Birmingham all half to concede such a poor goal right on half time was so disappointing.

Birmingham were out a couple of minutes early after the break, QPR on the other hand stayed in the dressing room for the thick end of 20 minutes which meant the home side spent some time out on the pitch re-warming up and passing balls around while waiting for the visitors. In the away end Amit Bhatia, probably glad to be at the football instead of the office after £16billion was wiped off the family fortune last week, joined the QPR fans at the back of the stand.

The home side were certainly keen to get on with the game and they came out of the traps at a really high tempo in the second half. Whatever Iain Dowie said to his team at half time God only knows, but I’d appreciate it Iain if you could keep such thoughts to yourself in future – QPR were abysmal in the second half, sluggish and negative when in possession, lazy and lacklustre without it. For a team chasing a game after going in one down at the break not to register a serious shot on the goal in the entire second half should be a criminal offence.

Birmingham rarely looked troubled and had numerous chances and half chances to add to their lead. On the hour a hopeful long ball into the penalty area from Carsley was allowed to drop at the feet of Phillips unchallenged and he touched it back to Murphy who was also unmarked and had time to drill a half volley fractionally wide of the top corner. That summed QPR up in the second half for me – they just couldn’t be arsed. Carsley had to be replaced due to injury shortly after this, Nafti came into the Blues’ midfield for him, but the change failed to disrupt Birmingham’s relentless forward momentum.

Dowie sent Buzsaky on for Mahon after 65 minutes but it was a good five minutes before he even got a touch of the ball as QPR again showed an unwillingness to do anything other than play balls into the channels. The lack of good service to the strikers a direct result of our unwillingness to give good possession to people like Cook, Buzsaky and later on Ledesma in good areas. Agyemang and Blackstock worked hard, but could make little affect with the lack of service against two players that are very good centre halves at this level.

Leigertwood was booked for a tough aerial challenge on Agustien, the way D’Urso went for his pocket made me think for a moment it may be a red card, then with a quarter of an hour left for play Birmingham went close to doubling the lead. A long ball into the area from Parnaby found Jaidi, still up in attack after a previous free kick, and his powerful downward header was clawed out of the bottom corner by Cerny. Blackstock had a back post header of his own after a deep cross from Delaney and Taylor saved well in the top corner but D’Urso had whistled for climbing anyway so had it gone in Blackstock would have had another goal disallowed just as he did against Blackpool on Tuesday. Strange that Agustien wasn’t penalised in the first half for an identical incident.

Birmingham freshened their attack up fifteen minutes from time with James McFadden coming on for Owusu-Abeyie who is for some reason insisting that everybody should know him only as “Quincy” now he’s back on these shores. I wondered if they’d play the theme music if he scored, luckily we didn’t get to find out. Cameron Jerome came on for Phillips five minutes later, the veteran striker doing exactly what we’ve come to expect over the years – fairly quiet game, few nice touches, winning goal – how QPR could do with a marksmen of that quality in their team at the moment.

QPR did start to push forward a little more as the clock ran down into single figures. Ledesma came on for Rowlands wide on the right and, bizarrely, Connolly for Ramage at right back – Rowlands looked less than impressed at being replaced after an afternoon in his unfavoured position. Frustratingly though the service into the penalty remained nothing short of rank. After taking the whole half to force a corner QPR got two in two minutes but Ledesma but the first one high and over everybody, straight out for a goal kick with no interference, then later Buzsaky found the first Birmingham man at the near post. That second set piece had come from a straighter free kick from Buzsaky that Birmingham had cleared behind, the R’s had half hearted appeals for a penalty underneath that all as Stewart appeared to be wrestled to the ground but D’Urso showed no interest.

Once again the amount of stoppage time added to the end of the half was perplexing – D’Urso deciding on four minutes for a half with one injury, no goals and six subs. QPR could have used that time to pile forward in search of an equaliser but that wouldn’t have been in keeping with their attitude to the game so instead they decided to try and concede another one instead.

A long ball into the penalty area by Matt Connolly was easily dealt with by Jaidi and his clearing header set up a two on two counter attack with McFadden and his fellow sub Jerome striking away into the QPR half. McFadden bided his time before crossing for the former Cardiff striker and in the end he delayed too long enabling Ledesma of all people, deserving of credit here for hard work and tracking back, to cover in and slide an interception back to Cerny.

The danger seemed to have been averted but a first touch worthy of Devon White from Cerny sent the ball flying back at Jerome and resulted in a clash between keeper and striker that left Jerome down in a heap. Suddenly I was getting deja vu because the last time we played here Jerome spent most of the stoppage time rolling around on the floor like a stricken tart demanding treatment as well and, despite there being rock all wrong with him, he did it again here. Cerny was having none of it and rolled the ball out for QPR to attack. The home fans were furious and had we scored I don’t think we’d have made out of the ground alive but QPR hadn’t looked like scoring all half and were not about to change that at this late stage. The attack petered out, Jerome got his leg rubbed by the physio and, shock horror, got up and played on.

D’Urso blew the whistle almost as soon as Jerome got up, adding no further time for that stoppage, and that riled Ledesma who first kicked the ball at the referee and then stormed over to him to remonstrate about the additional time, eventually he was dragged away by his team mates. He was lucky to escape without further punishment there I thought, fortunately the ball missed D’Urso by some considerable distance when he kicked it at him – even a frustrated pot shot at the referee missed its target, nicely summing up QPR’s afternoon.

Birmingham didn’t have to play particularly well, but they didn’t have to. You’re certainly not going to get the fireworks and goals at St Andrews this year that you might see at say Reading or Wolves but they will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season simply because they have so much quality in the team. I’ve already mentioned the four strikers they had in their matchday squad for this game, all of whom would be the star man in attack if they were at QPR, but with people like Seb Larsson and Owusu-Abeyie behind them and a solid defence with Ridgwell and Jaidi at the back very few teams will take much from matches with McLeish’s team however dull they might be.

From a QPR point of view we now have two weeks off before a match with the current worst side in the league Nottingham Forest. During that fortnight I’d hope to see several things happen. Firstly Iain Dowie must decide what his best team is – both personnel and system. If he thinks that is 4-5-1 then he should bloody well play 4-5-1 and bollocks to what the fans or Flavio think of that. If it works every body will be happy, if it doesn’t he’ll get the sack, but at least he’ll be doing it his way.

Once he has decided on his team and system stick with it. We haven’t kept the same team for consecutive matches this season and this constant chopping and changing of personnel and systems seems to have taken its toll. Very few players in our team on Saturday gave the impression of being very sure of their roles.

Thirdly lets stick to what we’re good at. Long balls into the channels is all too Ian Holloway like for me and proved to be completely ineffective on Saturday. Get the ball to people like Ledesma, Buzsaky and Cook in good areas and lets get some decent service played into the penalty area. Our strikers fed off scraps at Birmingham and the football we’re playing is moving further and further away from the free flowing, creative attacking play of last season with each passing match.

Fourthly plenty of players have to work on individual weaknesses. Peter Ramage should not be allowed to sleep, eat, drink or do anything other than practice crosses and balls down the line to a team mate for the next fortnight. For a right full back his distribution of the ball is an embarrassment to him – it embarrasses me to watch him and it’s nothing to do with me. The obvious answer would be to drop him and play the infinitely more talented and more reliable Matt Connolly but Dowie doesn’t seem to be a fan of simple answers and Ramage should be ashamed of his last two performances enough to practice anyway. Radek Cerny needs to work on his catching and decision making – luckily he’s got a team mate that needs to practice crossing so that’s a nice fit. Damien Delaney needs to be sat down with a few football books and videos of some reasonably competent left backs so he does at least understand how to play the position next time he takes to the field – never have I seen somebody spend so little time in their designated position over the course of 90 minutes as he did at the weekend. Plenty of shooting practice would not go a miss either.

That’s without getting into the shortcomings of the squad that can only be corrected in the transfer window – lack of a decent striker, lack of any kind of full backs. I have to be honest, I have never ever been so glad to have a two week break for internationals in my entire life. It’s much needed, here’s hoping we make the most of it.

Photo Gallery >>> Interactive Player Ratings >>> Have Your Say

Birmingham: Taylor 7, Parnaby 7, Jaidi 8, Ridgewell 8, Murphy 7, Larsson 8, Carsley 7 (Nafti 50, 6), Agustien 6, Owusu-Abeyie 7 (McFadden 75, 6), Phillips 7 (Jerome 80, -), O'Connor 8
Subs Not Used: Doyle, Martin Taylor
Booked: Ridgewell (deliberate handball)
Goals: Phillips 45+1 (assisted O'Connor)

QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 4 (Connolly 87, -), Hall 5, Stewart 6, Delaney 4, Rowlands 5 (Ledesma 80, -), Leigertwood 6, Mahon 6 (Buzsaky 68, 6), Cook 6, Blackstock 5, Agyemang 5
Subs Not Used: Camp, Parejo
Booked: Leigertwood (foul)

QPR Star Man – Lee Cook 6 Star man with a six says it all really, best of a bad bunch, looked the most threatening when he had the ball and worked pretty hard without it but that’s about all you can say.

Referee: Andy D'Urso (Essex) 5 Only two bookings which is a good thing, but on three or four occasions he brought both sides back for free kicks when they had the ball and would have preferred an advantage. His time keeping remains suspect for me, not sure that game warranted five minutes of additional time, and there were inconsistencies in his performance – penalising Blackstock for climbing at the back post in the second half in an identical way to Agustien had done without punishment in the first half the prime example.

Attendance: 18,498 (500 QPR fans approx) Less than half the number of QPR fans that were at Coventry a fortnight ago – loss of form, early kick off, television coverage and the expense of so many games in such a short space of time responsible for that. Those that were there were silent for almost the entire match. Birmingham, as well as charging £3.50 for a bloody programme (I’ll bet that didn’t escape Flavio and Ali’s attentions), have introduced the evil Fulham clapping boards to their ground and those, along with the clapping along in time to the music, gave St Andrews the feel of a gay club for the most part.

Discuss this story on the Message Board

Two users have commented on this report. Click here to add your thoughts:

we are not gay!..... but I agree with your otherwise balanced report... I would add I was very disappointed at QPR... I really was thinking this was going to be a tough game... I have to say the best team so far at St Andrews was Doncaster... your manager is not the right guy and he needs to be changed ASAP - otherwise it will not happen. -Paul

its fair to say i do not think dowie is the right man for the job. for a start, if he was man enough he would never have agreed to take a job where he has little or no say over transfers anyway. also by his insistence on picking that clown cerny over lee camp youd have to ask yourself does he have total control over team selection either? also its glaringly obvious that peter ramage is a league 2 player at best, why is he being selected over the far superior matty conolly at the moment. the other thing i am worried about is that he chose an away game to one of the divisions top sides to revert back to 442. surely if you are going to do that you would chose to do it at home, 451 is ideal for away games where you have to soak up pressure and hit teams on the counter attack, i agree that at home it limits our attacking options abit, but even so, what attacking options do we have anyway? our unwillingness to spend any signifigant money in the window is now coming back to haunt us. i really do wonder where all this is going to end for us, ya flavio saved us last year, there is no doubting that, but now we have a club that has no respect for its fans, a manager who is quiet willing to be undermined by the board and god knows who else on such matters as transfers and even team selection, and a bunch of players who do not look either equiped or motivated enough for the rigours of championship football. -John


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