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QPR gatecrash the second coming of Clough – full match report
QPR gatecrash the second coming of Clough – full match report
Sunday, 18th Jan 2009 20:39

QPR secured a long overdue away win at Derby on Saturday, ruining new Rams manager Nigel Clough’s first game in charge. The victory came at a cost though as Martin Rowlands suffered a bad knee injury.

“What would your Father say,” sang the jubilant QPR fans as Nigel Clough stood forlornly on the Pride Park touchline. Harsh, but funny all the same.

People have been queuing up this week to state how unfair it is to judge Clough against his father, most have then gone on to do just that with the Telegraph this morning even rather harshly pointing out that Clough Senior won his first match in charge of the Rams and Nigel is therefore already on the back foot. Ridiculous really, and yet inevitable.

Whatever Derby say it is unlikely that Nigel would have been given this job if his Father wasn’t Brian Clough however well he has done at Burton, and he certainly did do a fabulous job there. You would never guess it from the quality and attitude of the players but Derby County is a Championship club, recently a Premiership one, and to appoint a Conference manager with no league managerial experience at a time when relegation to League One is still a possibility seems, well it seems that Adam Pearson and the Derby board might have been blinded by the name.

Had County gone for Histon manager Steve Fallon, currently second in the Conference and doing an equally superb job with no resources, I doubt very much whether fans would have been talking about “destiny”, “only man for the job” and “outstanding candidate”. No, I expect the QPR fans would have had to fight their way through angry car park protests on Saturday if not before then certainly after a match which Rangers dominated from start to finish – cruelly and clinically exposing the lamentable attitude of the Derby players and laying bare the size of the task facing Clough junior.

Clough has a squad of 38 players at Pride Park, the largest in the division. Most are obviously not good enough even for this level and the ones that are lost motivation long ago. They couldn’t even raise themselves for their new manager’s first job and to make it all the more frustrating for the home fans they showed against Man Utd ten days ago exactly what they are capable of if they would only put their minds to it.

QPR, with no away wins in any competition in eleven attempts and only one success on the road in 13 games so far this season, were vastly superior to the Rams in every department and richly deserved their two goal success that lifts them to eighth in the table. It was a complete role reversal from the 2-0 win Derby enjoyed at Loftus Road under Paul Jewell – it was difficult to imagine a home team playing worse than QPR that day but Derby plumbed new depths on Saturday afternoon.

The QPR team that so comprehensively outplayed Derby featured four changes following a desperately unlucky midweek cup defeat at Burnley. The goal scorer in that game Sam Di Carmine was dropped to the bench, Heidar Helguson started alone up front with support from widemen Wayne Routledge who replaced Matteo Alberti and Lee Cook who came in for Emmanuel Ledesma. The midfield three of Leigertwood, Mahon and Rowlands remained intact while Matt Connolly replaced Fitz Hall at right back alongside Gorkss, Stewart and Delaney. Radek Cerny kept his place in goal despite his howler at Turf Moor, there was still no place even on the bench for former Derby stopper Lee Camp.

Derby included Miles Addison in their midfield, the ink still wet on his new contract signed before the match and if there is a bright light of hope in an otherwise dismal season for the Rams it is the emergence of the powerful youngster as a first team player. He was one of the only Derby players, if not the only one, that could come off the pitch at the end of this game with his head held high. Derby were without both full backs Paul Connolly and Jordan Stewart, Mo Camara and Martin Albrechtsen came in for them and with Routledge and Cook returning to the QPR line up right and left that looked to be an obvious weak area for the R’s to target.

The game started at a League Two pace in a Premiership atmosphere. The Derby fans always back their team noisily when we come here, a giant section of singers gathering around the corner flag to our right, and QPR had travelled in reasonable numbers as well. On the pitch though the game struggled to get going with Heidar Helguson requiring early treatment for a head injury. Derby fashioned the first chance of the game in the tenth minute when one time QPR transfer target Kris Commons intelligently hooked a volley over his shoulder after a cross from Albrechtsen was played behind him – Cerny read the winger’s intentions and saved comfortably down to his left. Cerny was called upon again a few moments later to deny Commons, this time from a direct free kick, but the Czech had his wall and angles just right and was able to easily gather the ball.

The first major incident of the game came in the eleventh minute when QPR lost captain Martin Rowlands for the rest of the game, and probably the rest of the season. He twisted his leg awkwardly and collapsed to the ground after an innocuous challenge with Addison and it was immediately apparent that he was in big trouble. A couple of minutes of treatment followed before Rowly was removed from the field on a stretcher to generous applause from all four sides of the ground – QPR now face the very real prospect of playing out the season without Vine, Buzsaky and Rowlands and if you could pick three players to lose to long term injuries from our squad I would suggest they would probably be close to your bottom three.

Paulo Sousa threw caution to the wind with his enforced change, brining on Hogan Ephraim to support Helguson and although the loss of Rowlands was a blow the change worked to Rangers’ advantage and they were the better team from that point on. Routledge fired the first warning shot across the Derby bows when Helguson flicked a long ball by Stewart in behind the home defence and the little winger smashed a volley into the side netting – in truth the angle was always against him but with the byline fast approaching and no support with him in the box an unlikely attempt on goal was the best he could manage.

The R’s went in front within six minutes of the substitution with new man Ephraim at the heart of the move. Routledge collected a loose pass from Varney on halfway and fed the ball left for Ephraim to launch an incisive counter attack through the middle of the park. His low ball into the area looked to have played Heidar Helguson through on goal until Albrechtsen came up on his blind side and executed a tackle – that only served to send the ball flying across the face of the Derby goal though and Routledge had shown the piece of mind to continue his run while Camara his marker had stopped. With Carroll stranded Routledge was left to drill a first time volley into the open goal.

QPR doubled their lead ten minutes before half time. The play was stopped yet again for an injury, this time to Ephraim, but when it got going again Derby were fast asleep. Connolly, turning in his best performance for some time at right back, played a super ball down the touchline to set Routledge up with a chance to take Camara on one on one again. The former Villa winger made a complete idiot of his opponent again wide on the Rangers right, taking the full back to the byline and beating him for skill before cutting the ball back into the area where Mikele Leigertwood arrived on the scene late to smash in an easy second. The goal was just rewards for Leigertwood who was outstanding for the third consecutive game and Routledge who was simply a class apart from Camara and gave the full back a torrid time all day. In fact with Connolly starting the move this was a goal fashioned by the three outstanding QPR players on the day.

Rangers could and should have gone three nil up before the break when Ephraim tormented Derby again and played in Lee Cook who found himself in space on the edge of the box but fired straight at Carroll – the Derby keeper, who has never really been a favourite of mine, needed two attempts to gather this simple shot. With Camara being embarrassed at left back and Andy Todd doing his very best impression of a pub footballer at centre half Derby were looked vulnerable every time QPR came forwards. The home side just could not cope with the presence of Ephraim drifting between the midfield and attack.

Derby were a totally spent force by this stage, a boxing referee would have retired them in their corner at half time, but QPR did their usual trick of arriving back out for the second period in dribs and drabs some two minutes after their opponents. We do this every game at the moment and every game it has the same result – we look slow and lethargic to start with and the opposition come flying out of the traps. Rangers were indebted to Radek Cerny who made a terrific save at full stretch to deny Addison whose diving header from 15 yards had looked destined for the bottom corner in the first minute of the half. That could easily have been 2-1 and a nervy second half to come when Derby had hardly looked like scoring before that and rarely did again thereafter – we must work on the way we start the second half of matches.

The pattern of play soon reverted to type with Routledge cruelly tormenting Camara. The full back obviously had not learnt anything from his footballing lesson in the first half as he dived in on Routledge and then hauled him back by his shirt after he’d gone around him – referee Kevin Wright had enjoyed a quiet afternoon up to that point but had little option but to produce the yellow card for the first time.

Clough sent on former Tranmere man Steve Davies for the ineffective Luke Varney and Paul Green sent a long range shot into the empty seats between the two sets of fans but QPR rarely looked troubled by their hosts. Rob Hulse’s glancing header from Barnes’ corner on the hour was as close as the R’s came to conceding, Hogan Ephraim underlined the importance of a man on the post at corners with a fine headed clearance on the goal line with Cerny well beaten.

Barnes was replaced by Barazite a short time later but QPR remained the better team and Sousa gave the dire Derby backline something else to think about when he sent Di Carmine on for Helguson. The Icelandic international had won plenty of flicks ons and worked reasonably hard, Di Carmine picked up where he left off – steady, unspectacular line running. Di Carmine drew a second booking of the game, for Andy Todd this time, when he outwitted the leaden footed centre half and then crashed to earth under a heavy tackle.

Shortly after the change Rangers could and perhaps should have gone three up with a flowing move from back to front. Leigertwood and Mahon, finally playing well together in the middle of midfield, combined with Cook to set Ephraim away – Carroll again needed two attempts to save the resulting shot.

In the final ten minutes Davies hit one low shot a couple of yards wide from the edge of the box and saw another shot comfortably saved by Cerny down in the bottom corner but thousands of Derby fans had already made their exit by that stage leaving the travelling Rangers fans to celebrate a rare away win with the jubilant players down on the pitch.

It had been so long since our last away win I had almost forgotten what it felt like to celebrate one, but in truth this one was a very easy one to achieve. There were plenty of positives for QPR, but against such limited opposition it is important not to get too carried away. Matt Connolly played well at right back, the first time we have had a full back play well in a match for some time. He has always been sound defensively but he actually passed the ball nicely on Saturday as well which has been the main downfall for him and Ramage this season.

In midfield Leigertwood and Mahon actually played well together. Mahon held the midfield and Leigertwood broke well from deep resulting in another excellent performance and his first goal of the season. It is a shame that it has taken transfer speculation to improve Leigertwood’s performances but on the evidence of the last three games we would be mad to let him go. Starting a transfer window with him in midfield and finishing it with Liam Miller would be a backwards step in my opinion.

Sad as it was to see Rowlands go off, and it’s a massive blow to lose him for the season, the introduction of Ephraim as a link man between the midfield and Helguson actually improved us considerably and QPR’s best play came when Ephraim and Routledge combined down the right. Obviously the key battle of the game was down the QPR right where Routledge was just far too good for Camara.

It would probably be greedy to hope that we can win away again in our next match but if we play like this again at Blackpool there is no reason to think we can’t do so. Sadly it’s consistency that players like Leigertwood, Mahon, Connolly and Ephraim have lacked so they could all easily relapse into previous bad habits as quickly as the next match. It could be worse though, you could be Nigel Clough this morning facing up to the massive task of turning round the ailing Rams.

Have Your Say >>> Interactive Player Ratings

Derby: Carroll 5, Albrechtsen 5, Todd 4, Nyatanga 6, Camara 3, Barnes 6 (Barazite 70, 5), Green 6, Addison 7, Commons 6, Varney 4 (Davies 59, 6), Hulse 5

Subs Not Used: Bywater, Savage, Teale

Booked: Camara (foul), Todd (foul)

QPR: Cerny 7, Connolly 8, Gorkss 7, Stewart 7, Delaney 7, Routledge 9, Leigertwood 8, Mahon 8, Rowlands 6 (Ephraim 12, 8), Cook 6 (Alberti 90, -), Helguson 6 (Di Carmine 64, 6)

Subs Not Used: Hall, Blackstock

Goals: Routledge 22 (unassisted), Leigertwood 36 (assisted Routledge)

QPR Star Man – Wayne Routledge 9 I was tempted to give it to Leigertwood for the third game in a row as he dominated the midfield and scored a terrific goal but Routledge made the difference with a well taken goal and super assist for another. He gave Camara a torrid afternoon and really looked the part.

Referee: Kevin Wright (Cambridgeshire) 9 Not a referee I have a lot of time for normally but it is hard to think of a decision he got wrong in this match. Both bookings were justified and he did not interfere unduly with the play. Probably the best so far this season.

Attendance: 28,390 (1400 QPR fans approx) Derby are still attracting huge attendances to Pride Park though that has more to do with their very reasonable ticket prices rather than the quality of their team. The home fans were in fine voice until QPR took the lead after that it was all about the pocket of travelling support behind the goal that gave its team great support throughout.

Photo: Action Images

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