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Defensive mistakes cost QPR first ever win at Forest – full match report
Defensive mistakes cost QPR first ever win at Forest – full match report
Sunday, 8th Feb 2009 18:46

QPR have still never won at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground and after scoring twice, hitting the post and having two cleared off the goal line on Saturday they may never have a better chance to do so.

“1-0 to the famous team” sang the Forest fans for the two minutes their team managed to hold that advantage against Queens Park Rangers. They were famous once of course, but watching Forest these days is like watching visiting an elderly relative. Once a magnificent specimen capable of anything and admired by everybody, now a shrivelled and withered shadow of their former self fumbling and bumbling around the place vaguely aware of what they are there for and what they’re meant to be doing but possessing little means of actually accomplishing it.

Quite apart from the arrogance of being a self professed ‘famous team’ rejoicing in a one goal lead with half the game left to play is unwise at the best of times, let alone three days after you have blown a lead twice as comfortable against your big local rivals. QPR took precisely five minutes of playing time to turn that 1-0 to the famous team into 2-1 to the better team on the day.

Forest’s effort was admirable, you would expect nothing less from a Billy Davies team, but they are clearly a limited side and with injuries biting into them hard before and during the match resulting in an increased reliance on teenagers QPR will never have a better chance of ending a twenty seven game winless run on this ground. Only defensive mistakes from Alberti in the first half and Camp in the second allowed the home side to take anything from this game at all. Rangers are now unbeaten in nine league matches but that soft underbelly away from home does continue to show itself from time to time.

Both teams were without key players coming into the game. Liverpool loaned winger Paul Anderson and Robert Earnshaw, who has always loved a goal against QPR, were the headline absentees from the home side but Davies was without as many as seven first team regulars depending on which morning newspaper you picked up and he lost Nathan Tyson to a nasty facial wound inside the first quarter of an hour. QPR lost Heidar Helguson to a training ground calf injury and Dexter Blackstock was only fit enough for the bench. Lee Cook served a one match ban for accumulated bookings.

That left Sousa with only Sam Di Carmine to select up front by himself. In midfield Matteo Alberti came in for Cook wide on the left rather than Hogan Ephraim, Routledge started on the right with Leigertwood, Mahon and Miller in the centre. At the back the now usual back four of Connolly, Gorkss, Stewart and Delaney started in front of Lee Camp who was given a terrific reception by the home crowd following his loan spell here before Christmas. “Lee Camp is a Forest fan” they sang, he’s not of course but then the Forest fans also bizarrely spent a long time signing “come and get your peanuts” at the travelling fans for reasons known only to themselves.

QPR kicked towards their own fans in the first half and should have gone in front after five minutes. Liam Miller swung a corner to the back post where Kaspars Gorkss was on hand to hook it back across the goal to Di Carmine whose first time effort was blocked on the line by Moloney. The rebound was forced goalwards by Alberti but Joe Heath repeated Moloney’s goal line clearance and Forest were able to clear.

Apart from that the game struggled to get started with four Forest players requiring treatment in the opening quarter of an hour. The home fans did not take kindly to QPR’s physical approach to the game and both the home strikers, Joe Garner and Nathan Tyson, suffered blows to the head early on. Tyson came off particularly badly from his clash with Gorkss and was replaced after a quarter of an hour by Adam Newbold with blood pouring from a nasty head wound.

Referee Darren Deadman was copping some fearful abuse from the home fans during all this but he did not seem to get too much wrong to me. To compound matters from the home fans’ point of view the only booking of the first half went Forest’s way - Moloney got one for fouling Alberti.

Just before the substitution Forest had their first effort on goal when giant centre half Wes Morgan headed wide of the post from a corner, then Thornhill was inches away from connecting with a through ball from Joe Heath. Play soon switched to the other end of the field again with Miller bringing the ball down in the penalty box and Leigertwood hooking it over his shoulder and against the base of the post. Paul Smith the Forest keeper appeared to leave it thinking it was going wide. He could have done with the same support the home fans offered to Lee Camp - the QPR keeper responding to chants of his name with waves. On this evidence though Forest have five or six positions in more pressing need of strengthening than goalkeeper.

The game looked to be heading into the break deadlocked. Garner was played in behind the QPR defence by Heath but Stewart recovered well to deny him a shot on goal and then Mahon dived full length to head a corner from Routledge wide of the post.

Forest though found a way through and took the lead on the stroke of half time with a terribly soft goal from a QPR point of view. Rangers failed to clear their lines adequately and the ball was collected 30 yards from goal by the excellent Lewis McGugan who chipped it back in behind the ramshackle back four looking for the run of Luke Chambers who had got the wrong side of Matteo Alberti. The ball seemed destined for the arms of Lee Camp but Alberti hauled Chambers back anyway - an obvious foul and penalty. Camp hammered the ball into the ground in frustration because there really did not seem any need for Alberti to do what he did. The Italian was booked for the foul.

Camp and McGugan probably faced each other in this situation several times in training during the keeper’s loan spell with Forest but the inside knowledge benefited the taker rather than the keeper and McGugan sent him the wrong way for the opening goal of the game. It was no more than McGugan deserved – he was the most impressive Forest player on the day for me along with Chambers, driving the home team forward and directing them around the field from the centre of the park. He impressed me at Loftus Road as well.

With forty five minutes already played it looked almost certain that Rangers would be going into the break behind despite being the better team. Not so. One thing I noticed in the aftermath of the first goal was Billy Davies ordering his whole back four to rush down to the other end of the pitch to celebrate – at the time Wes Morgan was busy telling them all to concentrate and keep it tight and it seemed strange that Davies would not encourage that, although obviously he thought they could run the clock down by taking all ten outfield players down field to party. It backfired. In three minutes of time added on the R’s stormed down the other end and bagged an equaliser with Alberti making immediate amends for giving the penalty away.

Wayne Routledge collected the ball wide on the right and cut in field before feeding it into Di Carmine on the edge of the box with his back to goal. He touched it back to Miller who in turn fed Connolly and the full back’s dangerous low cross missed Di Carmine at the near post but was hammered into the net via a slight deflection by Alberti from eight yards out at the far stick. A really lovely passing move and goal that one and for the second time in as many games I find myself writing about a wonderful cross from one of our full backs – after Delaney’s sumptuous ball to the back post against Reading that should have resulted in a goal for Helguson I am inclined to think Sousa has had his wide defenders out on the training ground working on this obvious weakness in their game.

At half time the mood in the away end was considerably better than it might have been had gone in at half time behind. After hitting the post and having two cleared from the goal line that would have been very harsh on the visitors.

Things got even better for Rangers immediately after the break when Alberti bagged his second goal of the game. Thornhill headed over Camp but wide of the post in the first minute when the keeper came for a cross he was never going to get and then Rangers stormed down to the Trent End of the ground and took the lead for the first time. Again the goal was sparked by Wayne Routledge cutting infield from the right wing. The former Palace man lofted a terrific ball in behind the Forest defence to Alberti who had run infield from the left flank and surged into the penalty area ahead of his marker Brendan Moloney. Alberti took a terrific first touch to control the ball and keep it at arms length from the Forest man and then tucked a super finish into the top left hand corner giving Smith no chance at all.

Routledge added that assist to his total despite Forest putting two and at times three men against him. Davies had clearly picked him out as a danger man before the match and shackled him well, although those tactics possibly resulted in the Alberti goals as he had much more space down the other flank. Not a good game for Lee Cook to miss this one, the space afforded to Alberti would have been ideal for him. Routledge got free again minutes later and hammered a low drive across the face of Smith’s goal and out for a goal kick with nobody able to get a touch.

Rangers suffered an injury blow of their own just before the hour when Sam Di Carmine slumped to the ground on the halfway line. He required lengthy treatment and left the field on a stretcher with a leg brace – there has been no indication as yet of how serious it is but it did not look good and QPR are running low on strikers again. Di Carmine did some good things and bad things while on the field – occasionally he held the ball up well and linked the play but too often he hit the ground theatrically looking for free kicks and Darren Deadman was right to ignore most of his appeals. Dexter Blackstock came on for him.

The change did not upset QPR’s rhythm and Damien Delaney, putting in another impressive display as his return to form continues, took the ball to the edge of the box and fired over via a deflection in the sixty fifth minute. Newbold picked up a yellow card midway through the second half for a nasty tackle on Delaney. Gareth McLeary followed him into the book, also for fouling Delaney, after he had been introduced instead of the ineffective Joe Garner.

QPR seemed to be in control but they let the lead and two points slip with a goal even softer than the one they had given Forest in the first half. Again Alberti was caught out defensively, his man Chambers able to reach a ball on the byline ahead of him and deliver a deep cross to the back post. Lee Camp back peddled to try and catch the cross but never looked capable of doing so and barely left the ground, admittedly under some pressure from the Forest players, as Cohen rose highest to head the ball back across the goal and into the far bottom corner.

With Stewart and Gorkss both on the line and the ball hardly travelling at breakneck speed Rangers seemed to have enough men back to get the ball away but a combination of the bounce of the ball and Gorkss’ momentum going the other way meant the Latvian just could not get a toe to it and it rolled agonisingly into the net in slow motion. Camp appealed in vain for a foul, he will know he has to take a large slice of responsibility for that one. The keeper went someway towards redeeming himself when he got down smartly to his right to deny Cohen a second goal when the former West Ham man cut in from the Forest left and fired a low shot on goal from the edge of the box.

Rangers continued to dominate despite the equaliser. Blackstock poked a close range volley straight at Smith and the Forest keeper was then forced into a fingertip save at full stretch when Leigertwood headed Routledge’s corner goalwards at the back post. Leigertwood met the resulting corner at the back post as well but this time headed wide of the mark. Sousa introduced Ephraim and Balanta for Miller and the tiring Alberti in an effort to push for a winner and Leigertwood and Routledge both had efforts on goal only to be denied by Smith and Kelvin Wilson respectively.

For their part Forest sent on veteran centre half Ian Breckin and pushed Wes Morgan up front to supplement a more direct approach in five minutes of stoppage time but all he succeeded in doing was sliding nastily through Matt Connolly and picking up a yellow card.

Overall then plenty of positives and negatives. I thought Gorkss played excellently at centre half again and Mahon and Leigertwood were really solid in midfield as well and that system with Mahon sitting in front of the back four continues to give us a really solid and uncompromising look which goes a long way to explaining our improved form on the road.

Routledge had perhaps his least effective game for us so far although he was still involved in both goals and did remarkably well considering the attention he had from the home side – Forest had two and at times three men on him and clearly pinpointed him as our main danger man. That worked to our advantage on the other side where Alberti often had more space to work in – he deserves praise for his two goals and criticism for his hand in both of Forest’s but he is still learning the game at this level and can be reasonably pleased with his day’s work. I wondered if Sousa considered at any point swapping Routledge and Alberti over to try and shake up Forest’s double teaming against him.

Up front I thought Di Carmine spent too much time on the floor to be too effective but he showed one or two nice touches before his injury. Assuming it is as bad as it looked we are starting to look very short in attack again – thankfully we have two weeks until our next match so hopefully Helguson will be back by the time we play Ipswich, I thought we might have won had he played here. Even without him we should have done and both goals were very poor from our point of view.

Still nine matches unbeaten now and we look reasonably solid and good on the ball. I still think we may just fall short this season but things are looking increasingly good for the next campaign.

Have Your Say >>> Interactive Player Ratings

Nottm Forest: Smith 6, Chambers 7, Morgan 7, Wilson 6, Moloney 6, Heath 6, McGugan 8, Cohen 7, Thornhill 6 (Breckin 90, -), Tyson 5 (Newbold 15, 6), Garner 5 (McCleary 66, 6)
Subs Not Used: Gamble, Byrne
Booked: Moloney (foul), Newbold (foul), McCleary (foul), Morgan (foul)
Goals: McGugan 45 (penalty) Cohen 67 (assisted Chambers)

QPR: Camp 5, Connolly 7, Stewart 7, Gorkss 8, Delaney 7, Routledge 7, Leigertwood 7, Miller 6 (Ephraim 70, 6), Mahon 7, Alberti 7 (Balanta 83, 6), Di Carmine 6 (Blackstock 59, 6)
Subs Not Used: Hall, Rose
Booked: Alberti (shirt pulling)
Goals: Alberti 45 (assisted Connolly), 48 (assisted Routledge)

QPR Star Man – Kaspars Gorkss 8 Some have said he could have got the second goal off the line but having watched the replay a few times I think his momentum had just taken him too far the other way and bounce of the ball beat his outstretched leg. Other than that he was unbeatable in the air and composed in distributing the ball on the ground. Stewart and Mahon worthy of mentions as well – Mahon in particular is in great form.

Referee: Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire) 7 The Forest fans gave him plenty of stick in the first half for not clamping down on the physical nature of the QPR defending and perhaps we were lucky to get away with one or two things but overall there seemed to be a lot of moaning about not very much. The penalty was the right decision as were all the bookings. Did very little wrong all day really.

Attendance: 25,859 (1996 QPR) The structure of the City Ground always creates a unique atmosphere with home fans surrounding the away end left, right and above. There was plenty of noise from both sets of fans throughout the game although I’m afraid the Forest chant of “come and get your peanuts” was completely lost on me and the chant of “1-0 to the famous team” not only smacks of arrogance but isn’t something you should boast about when your team defends leads as poorly as Forest do. Still good banter and atmosphere throughout.

Photo: Action Images

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