|QPR and Reading deadlocked again â€“ full match report|
Monday, 2nd Feb 2009 01:49
QPR and Reading drew 0-0 for the second time this season at Loftus Road on Saturday. Heidar Helguson missed the best chance for the home team.
On a weekend when the forty third Super Bowl brings everything that is brash and demonstrative in sport screaming into living rooms across the world, in one corner of West London the unsung heroes shone as QPR held title chasing Reading to a goalless draw.
American Football games are normally won and lost by the quarter backs and QPR had a chance to win this eye catching fixture through a conventional source of their own when Heidar Helguson steamed in at the back post after ten minutes. The Icelandic striker, ice cool in the sleet at Blackpool on Tuesday, fluffed his lines on this occasion and headed wide leaving the biggest crowd of the season so far at Loftus Road to look elsewhere for positives.
The man that crossed him the ball was certainly one. The often maligned, not least on this website, Damien Delaney had his best game for quite some time on Saturday. Likewise Gavin Mahon who anchored the midfield well and suffocated Reading who can go to town on teams in this division when given the chance – they had scored 58 goals to QPR’s 31 at the start of play but rarely looked like adding to that here. Liam Miller too, a player not wanted by Sunderland to such an extent they paid him to come to QPR, excelled on his home debut and directed his new side around the field well.
It may have been a nil nil draw, another one, and QPR may once again have failed to threaten a goal in a home game very often but against Reading and in the midst of a one defeat in twelve game run this was a good result and a performance to be positive about.
I asked after the win at Blackpool whether the five man midfield system that was suddenly working so well on the road would translate to home matches. The chance to find out was presented immediately as Paulo Sousa kept faith with the team that had done the job at Bloomfield Road. That meant Lee Camp remained in goal with Radek Cerny injured, at the back Connolly and Delaney were the full backs with Stewart and Gorkss the centre halves. The five man midfield was made up of Mahon holding, Leigertwood and home debutant Liam Miller further forward, Lee Cook and Wayne Routledge on the wings. Up front Heidar Helguson was left to do it alone again after a brace of goals midweek had taken him to five for the season.
Reading gave a rare start in attack to Leroy Lita with Noel Hunt ruled out by an ankle injury. There was no place in their sixteen for either of Steve Coppell’s January signings Dan Harding from Ipswich and Jay Tabb from Coventry – Tabb really impressed me when he played here for Coventry earlier in January.
QPR started the stronger of the two teams with an early free kick from Lee Cook cleared and a tenth minute shot by Mikele Leigertwood was deflected fractionally wide of the post.
Rangers created what would turn out to be their best chance of the entire match after eleven minutes. Lee Cook took two men to the corner flag and touched the ball back to Damien Delaney who swung over a tremendous cross to the back post with his supposedly weak right foot and Heidar Helguson headed wide when it seemed easier to score. He really should have torn the net off the posts with that chance, perhaps the thought of being clattered by Reading keeper Adam Federici played on his mind but the Aussie stopper had remained routed to his line and looked dodgy throughout – especially with his kicking. Sadly Rangers rarely tested him.
Still it was nice to see some quality service coming from our full backs for a change. This cross was just the beginning for Delaney who went on to have his best game of the season both going forward and defending against Jimmy Kebe – at last a glimpse of the form he showed after first arriving at the club a year ago.
Reading hit back straight away and went within a whisker of taking the lead themselves in the eighteenth minute with their first serious chance of the game. Kevin Doyle collected a long throw on the edge of the penalty area with his back to goal and then after turning benefited from a series of fortunate ricochets first off Gorkss, then Delaney and finally Stewart to play him into space in the penalty area. The Irishman fed midfielder Cisse whose mishit shot was tipped onto the base of the post by Lee Camp’s finger tips to keep the scores deadlocked.
Both teams had half chances to take the lead either side of the half hour. First at the School End a foul by Hunt on Mahon set up a thirty yard free kick in the centre of the field that Lee Cook smacked straight and true but Federici watched it all the way and saved comfortably. There was nothing comfortable about Lee Camp’s effort at the other end when Lita reached the byline and cut the ball back into the area. The QPR keeper dealt with it in unorthodox fashion, fisting it out to the edge of the box where Cisse tried to turn it back towards goal with little success.
After that the first half petered out somewhat with QPR dealing with an increasingly difficult playing service marginally better than their visitors.
The second half began with a pathetic incident. Michael Duberry lumbered across the pitch just inside his own half and was confronted by Heidar Helguson. The QPR striker challenged him for the ball at which point Duberry flung himself to the ground and let out a scream so loud and high pitched that it had proprietors of all girls’ boarding schools across Western Europe rushing to the dormitory’s fearing a break in by Russell Brand. Duberry’s collapse and yelp was so dramatic that the Reading club doctor was robed up and prepped for surgery before he had even hit the ground and so it was something of a surprise when the screaming and knee clutching came to an immediate halt when the referee awarded a free kick at which point he immediately leapt up and raced off down the field to contest the resulting set piece in the QPR penalty area.
Cheating. No other word for it. And it was not the first time. Duberry is a fairly hefty guy, in the same way as Lisa Riley is fairly hefty, but the way he consistently collapsed to the floor and moaned to the match officials was embarrassing. I was embarrassed for him. The Duberry v Helguson battle was the one area of the game I thought referee Jon Moss got wrong on the day – Helguson ended up with a booking for repetitive fouls against the big useless lump when often the offence was minimal if it happened at all.
Still Duberry got his comeuppance later in the second half when he attempted to fend off Hogan Ephraim and shelter a through ball out for a goal kick. Somehow Ephraim, built like a chicken stick, managed to not only shift Duberry, built like a kebab shop owner, but also kick the ball off him and win a corner which Rangers promptly wasted. Duberry, wouldn’t you just know it, thought Ephraim had fouled him and was booked for suggesting to the referee that he had given the corner on the say so of the home supporters in the Loft End.
Down at the other end the first serious threat on either goal in the second half came seven minutes in when Lita cut into the penalty area from wide on the right and fired a low cross in that deflected off Gorkss and looked destined for the bottom corner until Camp changed direction and parried it out for a corner. That actually makes the save sound more difficult than it really was – a pretty routine stop for the stand in keeper in truth.
With the chess match continuing out on the pitch attention shifted to the touchline midway through the second half where manager Paulo Sousa appeared to be having a stand up row with a QPR fan in the South Africa Road stand. I was not close enough to hear what was said but the word going around was that somebody had given the manager an earful for failing to add Dexter Blackstock on and go for the win. Sure enough within a few minutes the vocal blocks of the Loft and Ellerslie Road, no doubt backed up by a collection of terrific CV’s on Championship Manager, started chanting for Blackstock’s introduction. I should not laugh really but whenever Blackstock is on the pitch he cops fearful abuse for his touch, work rate and heading ability from all sides of the ground so there really is just no pleasing some people.
It is a game of opinions and Sousa needs to learn that the manager really just has to put up with the ‘back seat drivers’ in the stand, rather than turning around and arguing with them. He may have won the Champions League twice and played for Portugal and all the rest of it but it does not mean he cannot be criticised by fans of his current club and it is part of his job to stand there and take it whether he likes it or not. My opinion, and I sense I am thinking along the same lines as the manager here, was that had we gone to two up front and taken a body out of midfield then we may have left ourselves too open to a goal at the other end. Reading are a very, very good team in this league and a draw against them is a good result – had we gone to 442 I think a goal against would have been far more likely than on in our favour.
Rangers looked totally solid and rarely troubled by their visitors, although Reading did go very close to snatching a winner eighteen minutes from time. A deep cross to the back post from left back Chris Armstrong found Kebe who was allowed to head a ball down into the six yard box despite clearly pushing Delaney in the back to do so. The ball fell to Gorkss but his hurried clearance hit Kebe on the back and looped back into the six yard box over Camp where Doyle seemed certain to score but Connolly was brave and committed in getting the ball off the line and away to safety.
Another cross into the area a minute later caused further panic when Camp spilled it under pressure from/while being fouled by Lita and Hunt stabbed the loose ball wide of the open goal while simultaneously screaming for a penalty for a late tackle by Gorkss. Moss showed no interest in the complaints from either Camp or Hunt.
QPR struggled to threaten much at the Loft End. Wayne Routledge was having another eye catching game wide on the right and with Gavin Mahon holding the midfield superbly and Liam Miller making us tick with another tidy passing display. The team looked organised, solid and attractive in possession. There was no cutting edge though and too many times Routledge came to the cross only to check back while waiting for more support to arrive.
Damien Delaney, confidence clearly growing thanks to a good performance at left back, tried his luck twice from long range but only found the front row of the Upper Loft on both occasions. Liam Miller also found himself played in behind the defence twice but never even looked like having the pace to make the area and shoot and checked back both times. Heidar Helguson tried his luck from the edge of the area with a quarter of an hour left to play but fired several yards wide.
Sousa did show some ambition by replacing Mahon, who I thought was excellent as the holding midfielder, with Hogan Ephraim. QPR had looked most threatening at Derby and Blackpool when Ephraim was on the pitch and he was unlucky not to start in my opinion but Miller played well in his stead and Ephraim looked neat and lively but little else after coming on. Blackstock got the last five minutes in Helguson’s place and Di Carmine played stoppage time instead of Lee Cook but it was all to little effect.
Three minutes of stoppage time was advertised and the game ended with tempers fraying on both sides. Kebe attempted to trick Leigertwood on the halfway line and lost the ball. As the QPR man broke towards goal Kebe hit the ground dramatically and remained laid out on the turf demanding the play be stopped and a physio allowed on. The subsequent QPR attack broke down but rather than kick the ball out for their team mate the Reading team attempted to play on and lost the ball again. At this point Kebe realised he was getting no sympathy so leapt back to his feet – Leigertwood did not realise this and kicked the ball out for him anyway at which point he flung himself back to the floor again. After treatment on this mystery disappearing reappearing injury Kebe was replaced by Gunnarsson and play resumed with a throw in. Rather than return the ball to QPR in time honoured fashion Liam Rosenior decided to try and play on to the fury of QPR players and supporters alike. The ball went straight back out of play for another Reading throw and Rosenior apologised to everybody claiming he did not realise what was going on – before doing exactly the same thing again with the next throw in.
Probably as sick and tired of the farce as the rest of us Jon Moss decided that was enough and blew the final whistle seconds later. QPR had shaded the first half, Reading the second, in the end a draw was a more than fair result.
So another 0-0 draw, our sixth of the season and second with Reading this term. QPR rarely looked like scoring a goal to change that but at the same time Miller, Mahon and Leigertwood dominated the midfield and Gorkss and Stewart were rarely troubled by a Reading strike force that is arguably the best outside the Premiership. QPR fans moaned at the game and afterwards about the perceived lack of ambition from Sousa who only introduced top scorer Dexter Blackstock with five minutes to play and took Helguson off for him when he did but I think we need to be fair to Sousa. Reading are an excellent team that I think will win this league, a draw with them is a good result and had we opened things up by adding an extra striker at the expense of a midfielder we would have been far more likely to lose than win in my opinion.
One criticism I would have though is that we now have two good wingers, Cook on the left and Routledge on the right. Both got into good crossing positions with great regularity on Saturday but on almost every occasion they looked up and saw only Heidar Helguson in the box. Now that is obviously a product of playing one up front but it need not be that way – the winger from the other side can come into the back post, Mikele Leigertwod is good in the air and could go in there to add a threat, Liam Miller could also go further forward. Liverpool, staunch users of a 4-5-1 system, had four players in the box for a cross when they scored their first against Chelsea on Sunday. I am fine with a one up front system against a good team like Reading, but with our attacking strengths lying in wide areas we must send more players forward when they are in a position to cross the ball.
I expect us to go with this system again on Tuesday when, weather permitting, we play Swansea City at Loftus Road. Swansea are a very attractive side that like to attack quickly and spread teams width ways across the pitch. A five man midfield set up would therefore probably make sense again and unless we do suddenly start getting more bodies in the box for crosses I would certainly not back against another 0-0 against the Welsh side.
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QPR: Camp 6, Connolly 7, Stewart 8, Gorkss 8, Delaney 8, Routledge 7, Mahon 8 (Ephraim 77, 6), Leigertwood 7, Miller 8, Cook 5 (Di Carmine 90, -), Helguson 5 (Blackstock 85, -)
Subs Not Used: Hall, Alberti
Booked: Helguson (repetitive fouling)
Reading: Federici 6, Rosenior 7, Duberry 5, Pearce 7, Armstrong 7, Kebe 7 (Gunnarsson 90, -), Harper 6, Cisse 6, Stephen Hunt 6, Lita 6, Doyle 6
Subs Not Used: Andersen, Matejovsky, Bikey, Long
Booked: Stephen Hunt (foul), Duberry (dissent)
QPR Star Man – Liam Miller 7 Two or three candidates for this with Gorkss and Stewart excellent at centre half, Delaney having his best game of the season and Mahon holding the midfield really well. However Miller was the one that made us tick and moved us around the field – good, tidy passing game, deceptively strong in the tackle and also won his fair share in the air despite giving several inches to all the Reading midfield players. A good start to life at QPR, hopefully it will continue.
Referee: Jon Moss (W Yorkshire) 8 Not too bad at all, very good in fact. I did feel however that he bought a lot of the play acting, particularly from Kebe and Duberry, and the booking of Helguson was harsh.
Attendance: 17,120 (2,800 Reading fans approx) A big crowd but a quiet atmosphere. We heard little from the impressive numbers of Reading fans and the QPR crowd only sparked into life every now and again. It took the row between a fan and Sousa and the subsequent gestures from the manager towards the crowd to rev people up. QPR have a magnificent defence and a poor attack and while that means we won’t lose very often it isn’t very easy to get excited about.
Photo: Action Images
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