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Dire Rangers slump to Donny defeat - full match report
Dire Rangers slump to Donny defeat - full match report
Wednesday, 11th Mar 2009 12:18

QPR slipped to a poor 2-0 defeat at Doncaster on Tuesday night - the third consecutive game Rangers have failed to score in.

"If you want to achieve the project of the board - the Premier League - you need players who have a lot of personality. It's a good moment to analyse that." - Paulo Sousa, 10/03/09

A native of this part of the world might have put it rather more succinctly: “Our lads didn’t fancy that much.” And they didn’t.

Players get managers the sack. I can sit here and write about formations, team selections, interference from board members, potential signings, tactics, bad luck, season ticket prices, inflated expectations and weather conditions all night but when it all boils down the man on the touchline is at the mercy of his playing staff. If Paulo Sousa is to be removed from his position before the end of the season, and Flavio Briatore’s hasty seventy eighth minute exit from the director’s box at the Keepmoat Stadium on Tuesday looked ominous for the rookie boss, then I doubt some of his players would be able to look him in the eye as he left.

Paulo Sousa has made mistakes since joining QPR. Many, many mistakes. There have been some poor team selections in my opinion, some poor formations, poor tactics, poor substitutions and so on. He has cost us points and we are no further on than we were when Iain Dowie left. Although I found myself signing up to our message board’s petition for him to stay on as manager I did wonder whether my desire to see Sousa succeed is actually secondary to my worry that we may be about to sack yet another manager and the affect that may have on the club and the team.

But for all the mistakes by the manager he could scarcely legislate for some of the things QPR did on Tuesday night – summed up perfectly by a farcical opening goal. I would say eight or nine of the starting eleven were abysmally below par. The knocking of balls into channels and concession of possession hints at low confidence. The bottling of tackles and lack of competition for second balls in the centre of the park hints at low commitment. Either way QPR look like an empty shell of a football team and are in danger of allowing their season to peter out into a dire league position. Doncaster gave a lesson in playing the basics of football. They were no world beating side but they were superior to Rangers and deserved their win.

Changes were made to the QPR starting eleven before kick off – hardly a surprise given our propensity to chop and change throughout this season. Liam Miller and Jordi Lopez dropped out of the midfield from Saturday to be replaced by Matteo Alberti and Gavin Mahon. At the back an injury to Damien Delaney saw Peter Ramage recalled at right back, Matt Connolly moved to left back, Stewart and Gorkss were the usual centre halves ahead of Cerny in goal. Mikele Leigertwood and Wayne Routledge made up the midfield numbers with Blackstock and Di Carmine up front.

Rovers themselves made three changes following a three goal pasting at Cardiff on Saturday. Brian Stock dropped out through injury and was replaced by Mark Wilson. Paul Heffernan, who once scored a hat trick against Rangers for Notts County, came back into the attack instead of Jason Price and Adam Lockwood replaced John Spicer in defence.

Prior to kick off the travelling QPR fans, their number swelled by the chance to visit a new ground, were treated to the sight of Rowan Vine on the field – warming up and partaking in shooting drills with the rest of the team. He will play in a behind closed doors match between the youths and reserves this week before playing for the second string next week I am told as he continues his comeback from a broken leg. The positives started and ended right there.

Rangers actually started the game in a reasonably positive frame of mind. Di Carmine brought a ball down in the penalty area, spun and smacked a deflected shot just wide of the post from twelve yards out and then Blackstock headed the resulting corner fractionally wide - although the lack of pace on the header made a goal unlikely. QPR got another chance from a corner when young centre half Sam Hird bizarrely hacked a bouncing ball in his own area thirty feet up in the air and then headed it behind under minimal pressure but the set piece was poor, as all QPR set pieces are at the moment, and the danger passed.

Matteo Alberti then spoiled a decent move with an overhit cross that sailed out for a goalkick and sadly that was about it as far as excitement for the travelling fans went on the night. QPR quickly regressed, looking laboured in everything they did. Ramage swung over two good crosses in the first half and neither striker attacked either one of them. They just sort of stood there on the edge of the box looking a bit perplexed by it all. For a man supposedly desperate for a regular starting berth Dexter Blackstock’s current performance level is far below that required of a Championship striker.

Doncaster looked a lot keener. Whenever a perceived threat in the QPR team, basically Routledge, got the ball they immediately surrounded him with two or three defenders and with no QPR player willing to go across and offer an option for a pass any move we did manage to string together quickly broke down on the halfway line.

Martin Woods was first to fire a warning of what was to come - he blasted over the bar from the edge of the area, sending the ball spinning down one of the exit tunnels and onto the concourse below the stand opposite us in the process. Then skipper Richie Wellens sent an inswinging cross to the back post from the Doncaster left that Matt Connolly had to flick behind for a corner with Cerny steadfastly refusing to leave his line and overlapping full back James Chambers approaching with menace at the back post.

The goal, when it came in the twenty second minute, was nevetherless totally out of the blue and a complete and utter farce. An aimless long ball down the field by Mills should have posed QPR little trouble but as Cerny came charging off his line and Stewart started to back pedal you could see it coming a mile away. It happened so slowly and deliberately I even had time to say “oh he’s going to head it over him isn’t he?” before he did it. Sure enough Stewart planted the perfect lobbed header over his own goalkeeper and into the back of the net via two bounces. If Cerny called for it then it is Stewart’s fault, if he didn’t then it is his own. Either way it was a thoroughly pathetic way to fall behind.

The quest for the equaliser began immediately but Di Carmine’s path to goal was blocked by a crude lunge from Mills who knew he had been skinned and was in trouble - the defender’s foul was of the professional and deliberate variety and brought the first yellow card of the evening from referee Colin Webster. Di Carmine dusted himself down to take the free kick and cracked a low shot straight at the wall . Again I was forced to wonder why players moan about the distance of a wall for two minutes and then touch a free kick to the side before hitting it - thereby allowing the wall to race eight yards closer to the ball before the strike.

Rangers fell two behind within eight minutes. A corner from Woods conceded by Ramage after a cross from Chambers caused absolute havoc in the QPR penalty area and resulted in a second Doncaster goal. A poor clearance from Gorkss smacked Sam Hird on the side of the head and rebounded perfectly for Paul Heffernan to head into the net past the helpless Radek Cerny. Heffernan then just failed to connect with a low cross into the penalty box after Rangers had conceded possession straight from the kick off. At this stage a collapse and big score against looked likely - QPR looked disinterested and incompetent.

In the final five or six minutes of the half the visitors did, mercifully, come back into the game. Mikele Leigertwood was dreadfully unlucky to see a classy 25 yard volley spin an inch wide of the top corner with Sullivan well beaten and Dexter Blackstock headed onto the top of the cross bar from a stoppage time corner although that does the effort more credit than it deserves - it was another mistimed head/shoulder effort from the striker and never looked likely to trouble Neil Sullivan.

The QPR fans, constantly vocal and supportive during the first half, could barely muster the energy to boo or applaud their players at half time. Both the team and the supporters just skulked off - resigned to their fate.

At the start of the second half Blackstock had a shot deflected wide and the corner was kicked to the Doncaster defender at the near post. Play was quickly flowing the other way though and a lovely Doncaster move that ended with the impressive Coppinger chesting a ball down for Heffernan to strike at goal from the edge of the area ten minutes after the break - Radek Cerny produced a fine save high to his left but needed two attempts to gather the ball.

As is becoming the Sousa custom now changes were made five minutes into the half. Kaspars Gorkss, having his worst game since the Sheffield United debacle in August, was withdrawn and replaced by Jordi Lopez who slotted seamlessly into the pattern of remorselessly hitting the Doncaster defender at the near post with every corner. Sousa also took off Matteo Alberti, poor again in my opinion, and replaced him with Ramone Rose who looked keen and eager to please but nervous and inexperienced as well. He endured a tough half hour against Chambers, Doncaster’s excellent right full back.

Rose was just one of several players to try his luck from long range during the second half. He dragged two efforts wide, as did Wayne Routledge on the hour mark while Di Carmine had a shot comfortably saved by Sullivan. The R’s actually worked the ball into the penalty area twice during the second period - first Blackstock fell over his own feet in blasting a presentable chance over from the corner of the six yard box and then later, with five minutes remaining, Di Carmine did get a shot on target but was denied by Sullivan who thrust up an arm to divert the goal bound shot away with the save of the night.

Doncaster though never looked unduly troubled and after stringing a nice passing move together on the edge of the area had a great chance to add a third goal with twenty minutes left to play. Richie Wellens, a dominant force against QPR’s tissue-paper-like-midfield, ran in behind Connolly and received a good ball to feet but saw his shot from an angle brilliantly tipped away by Cerny at full stretch. Rangers were just about able to muscle up and smuggle away the rebound. Leigertwood was booked for fouling Wellens on the hour mark, although the card seemed to be for the repetitiveness of Leigertwood’s offences rather than the viciousness of that particular one.

With ten minutes to play Sousa replaced him with Liam Miller with little affect.

In the final minute of normal time the first mistake of the night by Ramage, allowing a ball to bounce on the edge of the area, gave Heffernan a sniff of more glory as he dispossessed the full back and ran in on goal. Damion Stewart quickly came across to execute a perfect sliding tackle and deny the striker a sight of goal. It was one of the first things Ramage had done wrong, and one of the first things Stewart had done right.

I left my position at the back of the stand in the third of four advertised minutes of stoppage time, stopping only briefly in the exit tunnel to see our final corner land plum on the head of the Doncaster man at the near post. Our set pieces remain an abject embarrassment to our players and coaching staff. I can coach an under eights team to take corners.

Doncaster are now level on points with us following our third consecutive match without a goal. They were not great, and have spent next to nothing on their team this season, but they were competent and they will be in the league again next year. The sight of Flavio Briatore arriving in Doncaster to watch a second tier match at a ground built in a shopping centre by a man famous for promoting Melinda Messenger’s assets may seem like an unlikely scenario but the Renault F1 boss would do well to learn a lesson or two from John Ryan. Doncaster have had two managers in the time it has taken Rangers to work through seven, and several caretakers. Talk of long term and four year plans are all well and good but actions speak louder than words. Doncaster have a genuine long term strategy, QPR don’t seem to really know what they’re doing at all.

That a player mocked, ridiculed and at times hounded by his own supporters earlier in the season for his poor performances can be the only man to come out of a game with any credit whatsoever tells you a lot about just how bad the other ten QPR players were at Doncaster on Tuesday night. Peter Ramage did not go on any jinking runs, he did not beat three players and smack the ball into the corner of the net and he did not spray spectacular passes around. He did however try hard, play a simple ball when a simple ball was there to be played and cleared any danger when he felt hot breath on the back of his neck. Simple, honest football. Competent. If only his team mates could have followed suit.

The QPR team seemed to be lacking two crucial ingredients - commitment and confidence. It does not take much to run fifteen yards and give a team mate in trouble an option to pass to and yet I lost count of the amount of times a player in black was surrounded and hounded out of possession while frantically looking around for somebody to help. The lack of confidence was clearly shown in the performance of Wayne Routledge who has gone from a tricky and potent threat to a kick and rush footballer with most of the kicks going into touch and most of the rushing therefore utterly pointless.

Sousa must shoulder some of the blame for both problems. He has had players in form this year and either dropped them, as he did with Blackstock and Helguson, or chopped and changed their role in the team to the point of distraction, as with Routledge. But it is not Sousa’s fault that our players cannot be bothered to offer help to a team mate in trouble, or pass a ball ten yards, or take a reasonable corner kick every now and again.

Not his fault, but he may well carry the can for it in the end.

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Doncaster: Sullivan 7, Lockwood 6, Mills 7, Hird 6, Chambers 7, Wellens 7, Wilson 6, Woods 7, Roberts 7, Heffernan 7 (Hayter 86, -), Coppinger 7 (Shiels 89 , -)
Subs Not Used: Spicer, Price, Fairhurst
Booked: Mills (foul)
Goals: Stewart 23 (own goal), Heffernan 30 (assisted Woods)

QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 7, Gorkss 4 (Lopez 52, 4), Stewart 3, Connolly 6, Routledge 3, Mahon 5 Leigertwood 5 (Miller 79, 5), Alberti 3 (Rose 52, 4), Blackstock 3, Di Carmine 3
Subs Not Used: Hall, Balanta
Booked: Leigertwood (repetitive fouling)

QPR Star Man – Peter Ramage 7 Much maligned during his previous spell in the team but easily the best QPR player on show here. Ramage looked like somebody who wanted to keep his place in the team while his team mates looked a lot like people who couldn’t care less whether they get picked or not. Solid defensively except for one mistake near the end, and put in three or four good crosses which Blackstock and Di Carmine stood and watched. Deserves credit for at least trying and deserved better than the support he got from the other players.

Referee: Colin Webster (Tyne & Wear) 8 Very good performance I thought. Right up with the play and never more than a few yards away from any incident. Unfussy and happy to let the game flow.

Attendance: 10,223 (700 QPR approx) QPR took a few more because of the new ground factor and the atmosphere in the away end for the first half an hour was good. A period of silence followed the two Doncaster goals before the travelling fans started singing about Gary Borrowdale, which I thought was pretty funny and an excellent way of expressing dissatisfaction without abusing the team or management. The point and significance of the songs about Furlong, De Canio and others was lost on me though I'm afraid. Like all new grounds the noise from the home fans was minimal although Doncaster did seem to have a gang of singers at the back of the stand opposite us.

Photo: Action Images



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