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QPR fortunate to escape with anything from Swansea - full match report
QPR fortunate to escape with anything from Swansea - full match report
Wednesday, 22nd Oct 2008 05:02

QPR escaped from Swansea with a fantastic point on Tuesday night, but good God only knows how they got it after turning in a shocking performance littered with errors.

In the interests of starting the match report on a positive note let’s look at the result alone for a moment. A point and a clean sheet at Swansea on a cold October Tuesday night is never a bad result, especially as the league leaders were annihilated 3-1 here last time out. Had you offered me this scoreline before the match I would have snapped your hand off and stayed in the pub.

However had you also offered me a performance with no ambition, with aimless long hoofs played time and time again, without a serious shot on goal in the entire match including an hour where Swansea played without a recognised goalkeeper, with the team looking shapeless and devoid of motivation and ideas, and I could go on – well then I might have been tempted to snap my own hand off just so I could spend the night in Swansea hospital rather than the Liberty Stadium.

A point is a fantastic result here, but I will never know how we got it as long as I live and anybody who dares to suggest that QPR deserved anything from this game needs to spend some time in a padded cell. Rangers were awful, truly awful. The attitude of the players towards possession of the football was unprofessional, the number of actual moves where five or more passes were strung together can be counted on the fingers of one hand, every single QPR throw in resulted in Swansea possession within two touches – it was mind blowing to watch at times, a million and one miles away from how any Rangers fan, player, manager or board member should want the team to play. Some of the things we did were criminal and had Swansea, a free flowing, attractive and attack minded side that luckily lacked a cutting edge in attack, had any kind of striker in their team this could have been a defeat every bit as humiliating as the last time we came to this city.

Yet again Dowie made changes to his starting eleven – Angelo Balanta was rewarded for his goal scoring return to the side on Saturday by being dropped so that Gavin Mahon could come into midfield. So the record of QPR not picking the same team for consecutive games now extends to 15 matches and as well as the personnel change there was a switch in system as well – back to the 4-5-1 tonight after the 4-4-2 on Saturday. In fairness to the players is there any wonder they look disorganised, confused and disjointed when the team and the formation changes every single bloody match?

Mahon joined Leigertwood as the holding midfield pair, Rowlands supported Blackstock through the middle with Buzsaky right and Cook left although this soon changed to Rowlands right and Buzsaky through the middle. Mind you the ball spent so little time in the Swansea defensive third you’d have been forgiven for not noticing that. At the back Ramage, Hall, Stewart and Delaney formed the four in front of Cerny.

Swansea boss Roberto Martinez returned Jason Scotland to his starting eleven in the only change following a 2-2 draw at Ipswich on Saturday – Gorka Pintado was the man to miss out. Tom Butler was passed fit to play and started on the bench, but there was no space amongst the reserve five for a back up goalkeeper. Still, you never really need a back up goalkeeper. Do you?

QPR did actually start the game reasonably well and strung a move together in the first five minutes that ended with Cook hitting a cross too deep, Mikele Leigertwood rescuing it at the back post and Buzsaky crossing for Blackstock to head wide of the far post. That was encouraging stuff but sadly Rangers quickly dropped very, very deep into their own half leaving Blackstock terribly isolated up front. They spent the rest of the match pinging long balls down the field – some of them went near Blackstock and he lost out in the air, those that he won flicked off his head straight to a Swansea player, and some of them simply went plum onto the head of a Swansea defender who could calmly bring the ball down and begin the move again.

It was soul destroying to watch after all the good football we’ve seen at Rangers during the past 18 months, and my heart sank even lower when a glance to the bench after another hoof, this time from Stewart, showed Dowie clearly pointing for the aimless and pointless long punts down the field to be wider, and into the channels, rather than packed in altogether once and for all and replaced with some actual proper bloody build up play.

One thing Swansea City weren’t short of was classy build up play. They kept wingers tight to the touchline on both sides and switched play widthways quickly and attractively, stretching QPR right across the pitch and causing no end of problems for the Rangers full backs - particularly Ramage who started the game badly and fell away after that. Swansea played the game how we’d all like to see QPR playing and only the lack of a cutting edge, Scotland certainly doesn’t look up to this level just at the moment to me, cost them a victory here. Any kind of striker would have buried Rangers on the night and would probably have the Swans challenging at the very top of the table. They look a better side than us on this evidence.

The home side’s first clear sight of goal came in the seventh minute when Rowlands was fed a hospital ball on the edge of his own area and tried to trick his way out of trouble but ended up conceding possession, and then a free kick. Cerny had a really tough task getting the wall to stand where he wanted it, when it was eventually built Jordi Gomez cleared it, but couldn’t get the ball to dip enough and it flew into the away end.

From that point on there really only was one team in it. In the twelfth minute Gary Monk split the QPR defence with a through ball but Hall, who had another good game, got back at Scotland and forced him to bundle a clumsy effort wide of the post. Scotland later saw a shot from the edge of the area deflected over the bar with Cerny looking nervously over his shoulder and Rangers were forced to defend numerous crosses and corners as the Swans piled on the pressure.

The first flashpoint in what would become a tempestuous match came in the 20th minute when Delaney put in a typically robust tackle from behind on Jordi Gomez on halfway. Gomez’s pathetic antics whenever anybody so much as breathed near him often made it difficult to tell just how bad any foul on him was because he rolled around on the ground clutching his throat regardless but this one from Delaney was clearly late and a bit naughty and deserved a yellow card. After a lengthy chat referee Anthony Bates, living up to his lenient reputation, elected not to show a card and this understandably angered the home crowd and players and spiced up the atmosphere. Things were about to get a whole lot worse though, and the referee’s patience was really tried by the visitors.

Five minutes after the Delaney challenge a hopeful through ball, Rangers played nothing else all night, from Leigertwood seemed to be initially searching for Blackstock who was offside. In the end Martin Rowlands chased the ball through and foolishly launched himself into a lunging tackle on goalkeeper De Vries despite the Swansea stopper clearly getting there well before him. The challenge was late, violent and wholly unnecessary and left the goalkeeper knocked out on the ground – a more blatant red card offence you’d struggle to find and yet as the various bits of De Vries were collected and bagged up by the medical team Rowlands was allowed to get away with a caution.

While all this was going on we noticed that the Swansea substitute that was coming on had to change out of a white kit first and sure enough when the public address system announced the change it was in fact defender Alan Tate who was forced to come on and play in goal for more than an hour. Martinez’s policy of not having a keeper on the bench seemed to have blown up in his face but that reckoned without the sheer incompetence of the QPR team on the night. Ultimately Swansea would have been better throwing another striker on and going without a keeper altogether such was the lack of any sort of challenge posed of the makeshift stopper by the visiting team. Over the course of the next hour or so QPR failed to register a single serious shot on target. Not one. Against a makeshift centre-half-cum-goalkeeper.

Understandably the home fans were fairly irate at this point – robbed of a keeper and yet still playing against eleven men – and the atmosphere was white hot for a while before the break. Referee Bates responded by losing the plot somewhat; booking Delaney for another foul on Gomez that was nowhere near as bad as his first, carding Buzsaky for a nothing foul on Rangel and penalising Lee Cook for a great tackle on the edge of the area. Luckily for QPR Bodde’s subsequent free kick crashed into the end brick in the wall although such was the farcical exchange that took place between Mahon and Cerny setting the damn thing up in the first place it’s nothing short of a miracle that it managed to stop anything at all.

Before half time Gomez tried to get Cook booked by collapsing to the ground and claiming there had been an off the ball incident but his theatrics didn’t impress the referee and only served to increase the nasty element to the game.

Bodde had two further efforts wide of the post and was denied what would have been a simple headed goal at the back post when Hall just climbed high enough to flick a right wing cross away for another corner. The only person happier than QPR to hear the half time whistle was the referee who had started to lose the plot towards the end of the first half and would no doubt have been hoping for some calming words from the managers to their players at half time.

Bates would no doubt have been disappointed that within four minutes of the restart Gomez was down on the floor clutching his face yet again, this time claiming off the ball interference from Leigertwood. After a long consultation with the linesman Bates showed Leigertwood a yellow card and at that point Gomez stunned the world of medical science by making an immediate recovery and return to action. Watch out for this lad in the return fixture, clearly a talented player but a real piece of work with it.

Swansea thought they’d taken the lead ten minutes after half time when a flowing move between Painter, Gower and Scotland ended with Pratley shooting for the top corner – Radek Cerny produced the save of the match to not only keep the ball out but also catch it and prevent any rebound danger. The same could not be said of his next effort when he parried Gower’s low shot but managed to recover as Pratley waited to pounce. At least Cerny seems to be coming into some kind of form after a slow start to his QPR career.

QPR were struggling to get out of their own half, and whenever they did the midfielders and strikers looked disinterested in anything other than giving the ball straight back to Swansea and then dropping back deep into their own half to repel the next wave of Swansea attack. More than half an hour after coming on, Alan Tate stood patiently and awaited his first serious touch.

On the hour Dowie replaced Martin Rowlands with Daniel Parejo and Lee Cook with Emmanuel Ledesma. Neither player looked particularly enamoured with their manager’s decision but on the rare occasions QPR had got the ball Rowlands had given it away too easily and Cook had failed to produce any kind of quality into the box on the odd occasion he had received possession in good areas. Neither player could have many complaints. Ledesma was just as poor after his introduction, he played very centrally to support Blackstock but succeeded only in removing an option to pass to from the right wing. Parejo didn’t touch the ball for the first 20 minutes but when he finally did get into the game he was at the heart of QPR’s most controlled spells of possession and he really looked the part in the last quarter of an hour – sadly too little too late by that stage, and even this improvement still didn’t result in a shot of any kind testing Tate.

At the other end Cerny endured his one nervy moment of the night in the 65th minute, clawing unsuccessfully at a Mark Gower cross and ultimately helping to scramble the ball away by coming in over a crowd of players fists flailing everywhere.

QPR almost sneaked the against the run of play goal to end them all midway through the second half when a foul on Parejo allowed Buzsaky to swing a ball in on Tate from 40 yards out. QPR players converged on the back post as the ball was delivered but Tate came across and got the ball out of the penalty area with a firm two handed punch. Buzsaky drilled a low shot back in and with Tate committed it deflected off Blackstock’s feet and wide when it could so easily have trickled into an unguarded net.

Rangers were having real problems dealing with Swansea corners. They regularly left them two on one wide enabling a short move to take place and didn’t send a man forward until the very end of the second half allowing the home side to commit more bodies to the penalty area. It seemed strange with everybody in the box and only one person wide facing the short corner routine that QPR should always be outnumbered in the penalty area from corners but sure enough, every delivery into the back post area found a queue worthy of the Post Office on pension day of players waiting to nod home the winner. Sadly for the home team it was destined never to happen for them on the night and when QPR once again stood about and watched as another short corner routine was executed, Jason Scotland crossed for Gary Monk who somehow failed to get the ball over the line – Daniel Parejo worked hard on the line to keep it out and clear the ball away.

With ten minutes left for play Swansea went closer than ever before to taking the lead. Peter Ramage slid in to successfully prevent the ball going for a corner but then while laid on the ground he inexplicably hooked it straight into the middle of the penalty area where Gomez collected, took a touch to move the ball out of his feet and then rifled a low drive past Cerny and against the outside of the post.

The hapless Ramage was immediately replaced by Connolly. Now Dowie is puzzling me in many areas at the moment but none more so in the right back spot where Ramage keeps his place week after week despite playing very poorly ahead of Connolly who always looks confident and assured to me – Ramage has also left the field for Connolly in a straight defensive swap ten minutes from time twice now. Just what on earth is going on here? Connolly introduced himself to the game by immediately picking up a yellow card – after a free kick was conceded down the QPR right Connolly realised that a quick set piece could expose him too high up the field so he ran away with the ball to prevent that and was booked for his troubles.

Cerny was equal to a cross shot from Gower moments later, acrobatically punching the ball away, but was beaten on the next attack and happy to see Gower’s effort flash wide of the upright. At the other end for the second game running Delaney turned down a great chance for a cross into the area and decided to hammer a 30 yard shot into the stand - this brought a serious ticking off from Dowie as he made his way back to the left back position.

Several long range efforts flashed unnervingly close to the QPR net before three minutes of additional time was indicated by the fourth official. As the realisation set in amongst the home fans that their team was not going to break through after all they started to chant ‘boring, boring Dowie’. Most of the QPR fans responded with a round of applause. It was the first time anybody in the away end had clapped anything for 25 minutes.

The Swansea fans gave their team a standing ovation at the end regardless of the result and that is not something I have seen too often. They recognised though that the Swans have settled well at this level and were by far and away the best team on the night – the football they played at times was a joy to behold and they are only one or two players away from being a top four team in this division I’m sure.

From a QPR perspective, to be honest I am trying my best not to be too critical. You can clearly see across the message boards those that were at the game and those that weren’t – those that weren’t are rightly pointing out that regardless of the performance a point and a clean sheet at the Liberty Stadium is an excellent result. Those that were there are tearing their hair out at the performance which on any other day would have resulted in a hefty defeat.

Contrary to popular belief I am not miserable for the sake of it, I don’t go looking for faults where there are none and I will stick up for the players when I think they’ve done well - Saturday for example, when many people thought we were terrible. However I’m sorry to say that performance was thoroughly abysmal. If there was something to do wrong, QPR did it. To not test a centre half playing in goal, or even get into a position to test him, in an hour of football is something to be abjectly ashamed of.

While the outstanding combination of Britton and Bodde snapped into challenges and sprayed passes left and right for Swansea QPR bottled out of 50:50 balls, instead preferring to lunge into unwinnable tackles and get booked, and settled for pumping long balls down the pitch all night. I hate to say it, but it looked like the home side wanted it a lot more than we did to me.

I really do think the constant changing of the team and its shape is doing us little good – people like Rowlands and Cook just don’t seem to know what their role is or where they are supposed to be playing half the time. Mahon and Leigertwood together has always been a bit of a recipe for disaster and although the former made some brave blocks towards the end of the match and the latter improved when Parejo came on ahead of him that was most definitely the case again.

One of the most worrying things for me was the attitude and body language of a number of players, particularly in the forward areas. They seemed all too willing to give up and all too reluctant not to chase in my opinion.

On now to Reading live on Sky at the weekend and good God only knows what the free scoring Royals will do to us if we play like this. A 300 per cent improvement is the only answer or we could be in for a real walloping.

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Swansea: De Vries 6 (Tate 27, N/A), Williams 7, Painter 7, Monk 7, Rangel 7, Bodde 8, Britton 8, Pratley 7, Gower 8, Gomez 6 (Butler 90), Scotland 5.
Subs Not Used: Brandy, Tudur-Jones, Pintado

QPR: Cerny 7, Delaney 5, Stewart 6, Hall 7, Ramage 3 (Connolly 80, --), Mahon 5, Leigertwood 5, Rowlands 4 (Parejo 59, 6), Cook 4 (Ledesma 65, 4), Blackstock 4, Buzsaky 4. Subs Not Used: Balanta, Cole
Booked: Rowlands (foul), Delaney (foul), Buzsaky (foul), Leigertwood (off the ball incident), Stewart (foul), Connolly (kicking ball away/timewasting)

QPR Star Man – Radek Cerny 7 Two or three good saves and only one flap right at the end, did more than most of his team mates to win the R’s an undeserved point. Only really Fitz Hall ran him anywhere close, most of the team was abysmal.

Referee: Tony Bates (Staffordshire) 4 Lost the plot somewhat in the first half. It all started when he let Delaney off without a booking for his tackle, had a card been shown there it might have calmed things a little bit but he didn’t, then he let Rowlands maim their goalkeeper without getting sent off and after that it descended into a farce as several QPR players were harshly booked – Ron Atkinson might have refereed to the decisions as “eveners”. Everything calmed down in the second half but the cards kept flying and QPR ended the night with six yellows.

Attendance: 13,475 (450 QPR approximately) Once again a match that QPR said was all ticket had away end seats on sale for cash at the turnstile so with that, the distance, the expense, the day of the week etc under consideration it’s a wonder anybody went at all. The atmosphere was very flat in the away end but then you’d expect that the way QPR were playing. The home fans were pretty loud throughout and I was very, very impressed that although they didn’t break through for a winning goal the side stand erupted into a spontaneous standing ovation for their team just before the final whistle, recognising the quality of the performance. I really can’t imagine a Loftus Road crowd doing the same thing under similar circumstances.

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