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Late controversy as QPR and Charlton share Boxing Day spoils
Late controversy as QPR and Charlton share Boxing Day spoils
Saturday, 27th Dec 2008 13:12

QPR had a last minute goal disallowed and Charlton a penalty appeal waved away as a pulsating London derby finished all square at The Valley.

There are few feelings quite like celebrating a last minute winner - especially one that is sent flying into the top corner off the underside of the bar no more than ten yards away from your seat. There are several past girlfriends of mine that never even got close to replicating the feeling of complete euphoria achieved with a dramatic, last kick of the match, winning goal from QPR. As Christmas presents go, Emmanuel Ledesma’s stoppage time winner at The Valley on Friday would have surpassed any Ipod, laptop or widescreen television.

Sadly the celebrations were cut short by referee Paul Taylor who capped an eccentric display with a cruel blow to the travelling faithful that have seen their team win just once in 20 road games. It was, to continue the girlfriend analogy, like her Dad turning up midway through. Still, if we’re talking about cruel, Charlton conceded a stoppage time goal against Derby in their last home match so to swallow that bitter pill again would have been tough on their supporters who provided tremendous backing for their side in the second half.

With former Loftus Road announcer Pete Nuttall on the public address system there was a familiar feel to the tone of the team announcements, if not the team itself. Despite beating Preston last time out Paulo Sousa made six changes to his starting eleven, presumably with one eye on the Watford game on Sunday. Damien Delaney and Damion Stewart were dropped from the back four in favour of Fitz Hall and the fit again Matt Connolly. In midfield Italian Matteo Alberti came in for Hogan Ephraim for a long awaited full debut and Mikele Leigertwood replaced Gavin Mahon. Up front Heidar Helguson and Patrick Agyemang made way for Dexter Blackstock and Sam Di Carmine.

Charlton came into the match without a win in 14 matches and partnered Martyn Waghorn and Andy Gray in attack with loaned Sheff Wed striker Deon Burton ready to add to the mix from the bench. Another Sheffield loanee Keith Gillespie, who made his Addicks’ debut at Loftus Road in the corresponding fixture, had to return to the Steel City the day before the game after being recalled by the Blades and was not available for selection. Former R Martin Cranie started at right back. The most notable thing about the Charlton team as it walked out onto the pitch was way several of their players seemed to be carrying excess weight – Jay McEveley, Martyn Waghorn and Martin Cranie all look to be a good few pounds, or in Waghorn’s case stones, over their ideal fighting weight and with Nicky Weaver on the bench as well it is clear that the training ground canteen is doing a roaring trade.

Nevertheless the home side certainly did not look like a team struggling against relegation to begin with, pegging Rangers back and forcing several early corners. Inside the first minute Semedo volleyed wide when the ball dropped to him on the edge of the box but the first real chance of the match went to QPR on the break away. A flowing move from back to front ended with Rowlands sending a cross field ball to Alberti who crossed into the box where Cook had raced forward but he could only find the roof of the net with his header although Elliott in the Charlton goal looked seriously concerned as it floated over his head.

Two minutes later another nice through ball from Alberti who had settled into the game very well had Sam Di Carmine racing, if you can call it that, away from Hudson towards the right corner of the penalty box. In the shooting drills before the match Di Carmine had been shifting similar chances out onto his right foot and hitting across the goalkeeper with reasonable success – it seemed odd therefore that he spurned the first chance he had to do that in the match, turning back inside Hudson onto his left on the edge of the box before being crowded out by the back tracking defenders. The ball went for a corner and when Blackstock nodded down Rowlands’ delivery Hall stabbed an effort towards goal that was blocked in the six yard box.

Rangers took the lead in the eighteenth minute after Charlton conceded two free kicks in their own half. Firstly Di Carmine hit the deck while receiving a ball on the halfway line with his back to goal. QPR worked the ball wide from there and then had a much more presentable set piece to size up as Alberti was tripped by Bouazza on the edge of the box. Martin Rowlands looked the favourite to take it and the QPR fans even sang his name as he lined the ball up but ultimately Lee Cook took on the responsibility and despite being a little hit and miss with similar efforts in the warm up he curled the perfect shot over the wall and into the corner of the net with Elliott well beaten at full stretch. It looked in from the moment it left his boot.

The goal should have been a killer for the home side whose confidence must have been at an all time low but with the impressive Bailey driving them on from midfield they forced two corners immediately after falling behind. The first flew all the way across the face of goal without getting a touch, the second fell to Mark Hudson who had a wild swing at the ball and missed it altogether. On the next attack Lloyd Sam stood a ball up to the back post and Andy Gray headed it down into the six yard box but there were no Charlton players there and QPR cleared. The ball eventually fell to Bailey and Leigertwood bravely blocked his volley on the edge of the penalty area.

The sides exchanged bookings either side of the half hour with Alberti carded for a crude lunge on Semedo and McEveley for felling Di Carmine. On both occasions referee Paul Taylor raced across and fished a card out almost instantly which made me think he was going to send both men off, he of course sent Martin Rowlands for an early bath against West Brom last season when a yellow would have sufficed so it was quite unnerving to see him sprinting across and brandishing cards without allowing himself any time to think. Taylor was also guilty of getting a ridiculous amount of simple throw in decisions down the QPR right flank wrong throughout the first half – aided and abetted by a completely clueless linesman down that side who looked like Andy Impey and it seemed was attending his first ever football match. Alberti had been quite impressive on his debut in midfield, passing a nice ball and working hard for the team, his booking seemed to be a product of over eagerness rather than anything more malicious.

Five minutes before half time Rangers were indebted to Kaspars Gorkss, strong in the air and composed on the deck throughout, for snuffing out a very decent Charlton chance in front of the away end. Waghorn, built like Andy Reid’s live in baker, flicked the ball in behind the QPR defence and Andy Gray ran onto it and prepared to shoot but Gorkss got across with a fine block.

In a breathless end to the half Bailey curled a 25 yard free kick wide of the top corner and Elliott saved a header from Backstock before Di Carmine had a shot blocked at point blank range as he turned a mis-hit Mikele Leigertwood shot towards goal.

Three minutes before the half time whistle Lee Cook became the second QPR man to enter the referee’s book in farcical circumstances. Cook lost the ball cheaply in the Charlton half and then set off after Bailey to attempt to win it back. As the former Southend man crossed the halfway line Jose Semedo came across and ran in front of Cook, deliberately obstructing the QPR man, and there was a brief coming together between the two but nothing more than that. Bailey was able to continue on his way unchecked and unbothered by the incident and yet when the move broke down the referee went back and booked Cook, presumably for being obstructed. It was a ludicrous decision most in keeping with the standard of officiating on the day.

Mr Taylor, who also turned down hand ball shouts in the penalty against Ramage, added two minutes to the end of the first half despite nobody receiving treatment and no substitutions being made. That proved costly for Matt Connolly who was very, very harshly booked for kicking a ball away in the very last second of the added time. Connolly seemed to be trying to nudge the ball back to a Charlton player to take the throw to me but even if he did kick it away it took place in time that should not have been added on and the whistle was blown as soon as Charlton threw the ball in so there was no time to waste. It was a really pedantic and officious piece of refereeing from Taylor who had put in a poor first half display and Connolly can count himself very unlucky.

Charlton came out two or three minutes before Rangers at the start of the second half and although Mikele Leigetwood had a shot that flew wide within seconds of the restart the home side were much more vigorous and up for the challenge in the second period. Tackles were crunching in across the midfield and where in the first half Cook and Alberti were impressive influences on the game neither of them could get on the ball in the second and both were withdrawn early. With Bailey and Semedo starting to dominate Rangers could have done with Leigertwood and Rowlands asserting themselves on the game but they did not do so and Charlton were level within four minutes.

Part of Parkinson’s half time team talk clearly featured the need to get the ball wide to Sam more often and he gave Connolly a torrid time in the second half, starting with a dribble and cross into the box in the forty ninth minute that Cerny came for and got nowhere near allowing Bailey to arrive late in the box and head into the empty net. Bailey hit another shot wide of the post as QPR gave the ball away from the kick off – sadly at this stage it looked like only one of the teams really wanted the win and it was not wearing black.

Sousa attempted to wrestle the advantage back by sending on Ephraim for Alberti and Ledesma for Cook. When the changes were made I was worried that this would only make the midfield more lightweight but in the end both new arrivals played very well and QPR did start to come back into the game a little more once they were on.

Still it was somewhat against the run of play when QPR retook the lead with twenty minutes left to play – and it all came from another diabolical decision from the officials. Hogan Ephraim skipped down the wing and as he was preparing to cross Bailey cleaned him out with a tremendous full blooded tackle. Embarrassingly for all concerned the dopey linesman gave a Charlton throw in which drew laughter from all four sides of the ground and both sets of players. While the away fans to his right let the linesman know exactly what they thought of that shambolic call Charlton got on with the throw, heaving it down the line straight to Mikele Leigertwood who looped a header in behind the static and out of position Mark Hudson. That allowed Blackstock to race in on goal and although his touch seemed to have taken the ball too far in front he still had the confidence and ability to lift it past Elliott and into the far corner of the net. Such is QPR’s propensity to throw the ball straight to the opposition whenever we do get a throw in it was probably best that the linesman was a completely incompetent arse.

A couple of minutes later, presumably with the woman in the refreshment kiosk about to close up, Waghorn was withdrawn so he could feed and Deon Burton came on in his place. Charlton looked frustrated that their second half improvements had only landed them right back where they started again though and they picked up two bookings in quick succession. Firstly Martin Cranie crudely slid through the back of Di Carmine and then Semedo got involved with Ledesma off the ball, raising his hands to the Argentine and wrestling him to the floor off the ball. It looked like a blatant red card but it was clear right away that despite only being three yards away Taylor had absolutely no idea what had happened. A quick glance to Andy Impey with the flag yielded only another gormless look and so Taylor, yet again, guessed and booked him. Quite what he will write on the form I don’t know because if he ticks the yellow card box and then writes ‘striking an opponent’ as an explanation it will be sent straight back to him.

Still QPR’s attitude to taking the lead was, once again, lamentable. All the attacking intent, possession of the ball and team shape went to pot and was replaced with a quivering wreck of a side lined up on the edge of its own penalty area. I have never known a team that shatters its own confidence by taking the lead. It did not help that Di Carmine was offering us absolutely nothing up front, falling over under minimal contact and failing to hold the ball up when it was played to him, but still he was not alone. Sousa seemed to sensibly be summoning Heidar Helguson from the bench with ten minutes to play but Charlton beat him to it with a second equaliser.

Martin Cranie drifted a cross over from the right which Cerny flapped at and for the second time in the game Bailey was able to profit from a goalkeeping error and send a header into the empty net. After months of good form I am sorry to say that Cerny returned to his flappy form of earlier in the campaign on Friday and he was at fault for both goals in my opinion.

Charlton could not believe their luck and poured forward in the remaining eight minutes looking for a winner. They had two very loud shouts for handball turned down as QPR players frantically tried to block the numerous shots that were raining down on Cerny’s goal. Sam cut in from the right and hit a shot that seemed to strike Gorkss’ arm, then Gray saw a chance whipped away from him apparently by the arm of a defender. Despite the home fans going absolutely spare Taylor continued to wave the appeals away. The Addicks should have taken it out of the referee’s hands in the final minute when substitute Grant Basey swung over the perfect cross to the back post for Sam who, despite being unmarked, contrived to head the ball down into the ground, all the way across the face of the goal and wide of the far post. It was a really bad miss.

Four minutes of stoppage time was advertised and it was eventful to say the least. Charlton had been pressing prior to the board being raised but they had conceded with the last kick of the match against Derby in their last home match and the sight of the fourth official on the touchline seemed to paralyse the home team with fear. Suddenly it was QPR on the offensive and in the first additional minute they should really have won the game.

In a carbon copy of the second QPR goal Heidar Helguson received a through ball in behind the Charlton defence down the right side of the penalty area. He cut in towards goal and like Blackstock before him beat Elliott with a low shot however on this occasion the ball rolled agonisingly across the face of goal and hit the base of the far post. Blackstock looked ideally placed to tap home the rebound but somehow allowed the ball to bounce past him and then he wrestled with Cranie who was trying to close the ball down as Ledesma arrived on the scene with a rasping finish into the net off the underside of the bar. The away end erupted, it seemed a last minute winner had been scored, however the celebrations were cut short when referee Taylor deemed that Blackstock had fouled Cranie and awarded a free kick.

There was much gnashing of teeth and protesting from QPR fans and players alike, and Paulo Sousa raced down the touchline to remonstrate with the linesman, but to be perfectly honest I thought Blackstock did foul Cranie and it was one of the few decisions the referee got right. I await the replay with interest but my first thought was that it was a foul.

The referee was then called back to the touchline by the fourth official for a second time in the match, presumably he had endured a lonely Christmas and was desperate for somebody to talk to, and after a ridiculously long discussion Charlton manager Phil Parkinson was sent to the stand much to the disgust of the Charlton fans around the dugouts. After the delayed restart QPR forced three corners, Hogan Ephraim skilfully skipped in behind the defence and saw a deflected shot saved by Elliott for one of them, and had been awarded a fourth when Mr Taylor decided to bring the game to an end - despite pissing away 90 seconds of the stoppage time chatting on the touchline and removing a manager for the last few seconds of the game. Pedantic, petty, incompetent, farcical. It encapsulated the performance of all four officials on the day very nicely.

Really this was two points dropped. QPR led twice and should have scored right at the end even before the ball bounced out to Ledesma. Once again our attitude to leading a match stank and cost us twice – everything we do to get us into a winning position immediately goes out of the window when we get there. Charlton had the two outstanding players on the pitch in Bailey and Sam but with Gray and fat Waghorn up front they were toothless and they looked seriously ropey at the back as well with Hudson in particularly poor form.

Sousa I felt made just too many changes. I understand the need to rotate and give others a chance when you have so many games in such a short space of time but six changes was a lot and perhaps had we kept even just Helguson or Agyemang in instead of the woefully ineffective Sam Di Carmine I think we would have had enough to win. We were the better team in the first half and after the three subs in the second half but still only got a point, and we had to survive two late penalty appeals and a missed sitter from Sam at the death to get that.

It is only really a good point if we now collect three against Watford on Sunday.

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Charlton: Elliot 7, Cranie 5, Fortune 6, Hudson 4, McEveley 5, Sam 8, Semedo 7 (Holland 89, -), Bailey 8, Bouazza 6 (Basey 80, 6),Waghorn 4 (Burton 71, 4), Gray 4
Subs Not Used: Weaver, Shelvey
Booked: McEveley (foul), Cranie (foul), Semedo (off the ball incident)
Goals: Bailey 49 (assisted Sam), 79 (assisted Cranie)

QPR: Cerny 4, Ramage 5, Hall 6, Gorkss 7, Connolly 5, Leigertwood 6, Alberti 6 (Ephraim 60, 7), Cook 7 (Ledesma 67, 7), Rowlands 6, Blackstock 6, Di Carmine 4 (Helguson 81, 7)
Subs Not Used: Mahon, Agyemang
Booked: Alberti (foul), Cook (off the ball incident), Connolly (kicking the ball away)
Goals: Cook 18 (freekick), Blackstock 68 (assisted Leigertwood)

QPR Star Man – Kaspars Gorkss 7 Cook and Alberti were competing for this at half time but both drifted out of the game in the second half leaving Gorkss to take the plaudits again. Completely dominated Gray in the air and on the ground to the point where the Charlton striker was getting stick from his own supporters. In a somewhat shakey defensive performance from QPR overall I thought Gorkss remained strong and composed.

Referee: Paul Taylor (Luton) 3 An irritating and attention seeking presence throughout. I have so many complaints about his performance this could take a little while. Firstly the speed with which he produces his card leaves him open to rushes of blood to the head – he should give himself some time to think. Secondly the amount of complete guesswork that goes into his decisions is depressing, I lost count of the amount of times he just completely guessed which way a throw in was and on three or four occasions he got very simple decisions wrong through doing that. He guessed with the Semedo yellow card and got that wrong, the booking for Cook was absolutely laughable and the one for Connolly was not much better. Six yellow cards in a game with two bad tackles. Charlton should have had a penalty for me at the end, the last of the handball appeals looked like a legitimate one to me, and the disallowed goal at the end is open to debate. He was assisted by two completely incompetent linesmen – the Andy Impey look-a-like at the far end was a joke, constantly looking to the referee for assistance and getting decision after decision totally wrong. The balding one at our end was marginally better but the QPR goal came from a blatantly incorrect throw in decision from him. Throw in a lonely fourth official who wanted to speak to the referee every two minutes and all in all this was a pretty shambolic performance from all four officials who seemed desperate to all be the centre of attention.

Attendance: 21,023 (2500 QPR fans approx) The Charlton fans produced a good atmosphere in the second half as their team upped the tempo. The QPR fans were somewhat muted but travelled in good numbers.

Photo: Action Images

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