|Saints stalemate extends unwanted records - full match report|
Sunday, 15th Mar 2009 21:32
QPR extended their run without a win to nine matches, and their run of games without a goal to four and a half, with a nil nil draw against Southampton at St Mary’s on Saturday.
Since Southampton moved from The Dell one of the few certainties of the football season has been QPR getting a result at St Mary’s and the sun shining on a large away following from Loftus Road. Even with QPR in a form trough stretching back eight matches and Southampton in desperate need of points that remains the case this morning, although few who were there on Saturday will be able to remember much of this dire encounter between two teams criminally low on quality for the level they are playing at.
In the glorious South Coast sunshine QPR rarely looked like scoring or conceding in a game that had nil nil written all over it from very early on. Both teams lacked sufficient quality, guile and confidence to create any chances to miss and what ensued was a ninety minute long snooze-a-thon that made you feel sorry for the ball.
I have seen better games than this at Hallam Borough. That’s the non-league club that plays at the end of my road and, bless them, built their two sided ground in such a way that you can get a better view of the pitch for free from the adjacent car park than you can if you pay £5 and go and sit in the main stand. That is an irrelevant detail really but to be honest I can see me being fairly short of things to write about this dirge so I might go off on one or two tangents as the mood takes me.
It won’t surprise you to know that QPR made some gratuitous changes to their starting eleven – Rangers have kept the same starting eleven for consecutive games only once this season. Radek Cerny kept his place in goal behind the same back four that played at Doncaster on Tuesday : Ramage, Stewart, Gorkss and Connolly. The team reverted back to five men in midfield, abandoned with disastrous consequences at Barnsley and the Keepmoat Stadium, with Routledge, Lopez, Miller, Leigertwood and Ephraim getting the nod. Dexter Blackstock started alone up front with Antonio German and Adel Taarabt awaiting debuts from the bench. Still no sign of Lee Cook or Heidar Helguson.
Southampton, second bottom with time running out at the start of play, made one change following a midweek draw at home to Derby County. Morgan Schneiderlin dropped out in favour of Adam Lallana, scorer of a tremendous goal at Loftus Road earlier this season when the R’s won 4-1 under the management of Iain Dowie.
QPR were a defensive shambles in the first half at Doncaster on Tuesday and there was more indecision in the backline as early as the second minute as Jason Euell got a clear sight on Cerny after Stewart made a mess of a through ball on the edge of the box, ultimately though the former Wimbledon man’s touch and finish let him down and the chance brought only a goal kick.
QPR’s first threat of the game came when a cross from Dexter Blackstock was deflected scarily close to his own goal by Chris Perry. As the ball rebounded out Leigertwoo saw a shot blocked away. As ever though when we play a lone striker Blackstock looked isolated for much of the match – when we take a man out of midfield and add another attacker we look too open defensively and still don’t score enough, but when we play a lone striker we look more likely to fly to the moon on the team bus than outscore our opponents. We could do with getting the Derby and Blackpool videos out and looking at how we did it then – certainly the form of Wayne Routledge would be the big difference between then and now in my opinion, and the absence of Vine and Buzsaky from the five man midfield continues to be a massive handicap.
Jason Euell had the ball in the net but had long since been flagged offside and Wayne Routledge poked a half chance wide either side of the quarter hour mark but this game was already settling down into a dire midfield battle between two poor sides.
Having said that Rangers really should have taken the lead n the twentieth minute when a good corner, yes that’s right we took a decent set piece, from Lopez was headed back across goal by Gorkss and Routledge nodded it over the bar when from where I was sitting at the far end of the ground it looked like he should have done better.
In the meantime both sets of managers had ordered their various substitutes to start warming up giving the QPR fans a chance to get a first look at Adel Taarabt and Antonio German. It also gave Bradley Wright Phillips a chance to trot up and down the touchline in front of the away end. I don’t think the QPR fans noticed the controversial striker at first, if they did I’m not sure they thought very much of it, but rousing renditions of supportive songs from the Southampton spurred the visiting fans into life. For those that don’t know Wright Phillips has been accused of theft from a bar maid’s hand bag at a night club and the assault of a Southampton fan this season – charges were dropped on both occasions. It’s probably not legally safe for me to report the songs that were subsequently directed at him by the QPR fans but a few of them raised smiles. I’m not really sure about Wright Phillips laughing, grinning and dancing around to them though – charges dropped or not.
Still it gave us something to focus on in a first half that seemed to be lasting for hours. The rejuvenated Peter Ramage denied Euell a sight of goal with a sound block after a good run through the heart of the QPR defence by Lallana, not the first time he has done that this season, and then Radek Cerny got down well to deny Gillett who had tried his luck from long range.
The only real incident of note in the whole half came five minutes before the break – a first yellow card of the season for Kaspars Gorkss. The foul on Euell looked fairly innocuous and to me it looked like Gorkss had been booked by referee Mike Jones, steady but a little fussy throughout, for kicking the ball away. A very harsh card indeed in my opinion – Gorkss can count himself very unfortunate.
Rangers did manage a scare of sorts at the far end of the field when Ephraim tested Davis at his near post but it was Southampton that finished the half stronger and Radek Cerny was lucky to get away with spilling a routine low shot from Euell after a nice through ball from David McGoldrick. The keeper recovered as Saganowski tried to pounce.
Half time brought another dose of water for the magnificent playing surface and a chance to dip below decks out of the blazing sunshine. QPR came out well after their opponents for the start of the second half, as we always seem to do, but rather than being a pre-curser to a slow start Jordi Lopez quickly got a shot away that Davis dealt with comfortably. I’m not sure what to say about Lopez’s performance really – he passes the ball nicely but his set pieces are often poor and he’s only got one speed that is not particularly quick. Steady I suppose, nothing more than that.
Southampton started the second half with two quick fire bookings as Jones got a little bit whistle happy. James and McGoldrick for fouls on Ephraim and Lopez respectively. Whether it was these cards or the lack of threat from QPR but the home crowd started to stir on both sides of the away end which, combined with plenty of noise from the back of the away end, made for quite a decent atmosphere despite the swathes of empty seats around the ground.
Southampton responded with a couple of half chances – a spectacular diving headed clearance from Stewart denied Saganowski a sight of goal and then Euell was denied at the back post by a well timed block from Ramage who, as on Tuesday, played reasonably well. Stewart became the second QPR player to be booked just after the hour for pushing Kelvin Davis as he tried to get a quick clearance from a corner away down the field – the home crowd bayed for a red card initially and Stewart was clearly riled about something but Jones played safe with a yellow.
Jones had two penalty appeals to deal with in the second half. The first was for a foul on Blackstock by Saeijis that looked to me like it could easily have brought a spot kick but was waved away. Later in the day when Bradley Wright Phillips had been brought on he too hit the deck in the penalty area but brought little response from the match official – that one was too far away for me to judge. Sorry, turned into Arsene Wenger for a moment there.
Both managers tried to change things twenty minutes from time with a succession of substitutions. Mark Wotte sent on Thomson and pantomime villain Wright Phillips for Lallana and Saganowsi. The former had not been nearly as impressive as he was at Loftus Road earlier in the season. Paulo Sousa for his part gave debuts to Antonio German and Adel Taarabt instead of Ephraim and Miller.
The general consensus from the Spurs fans seems to be that Taarabt is a talented lad but suffers from junior school play ground syndrome of trying to take too many players on and shooting when there are better options available. That was immediately apparent, but not in a particularly bad way – heaven knows we need a bit of creation and invention in attack. I the quarter of an hour he was on the field he cracked one shot into the side netting and then forced Davis into a save at the near post after tricking two men on the edge of the box. I look forward to seeing more of the boy.
After the changes it was Southampton looking the most threatening. Only last ditch defending and poor finishing denied Surman, Euell and Wright Phillips goals in the final ten minutes and probably sensing that a point was the best we were going to get Sousa then reversed his earlier positive changes by sending on Mahon for Lopez to tighten things up. Surman’s was the best chance, picking up on a miscued effort by Thomson to fire straight at Cerny.
A close range effort by Surman headed clear by Stewart and the second of Taarabt’s efforts was all that we had to show for four minutes of time added on and the final whistle came as a blessed relief.
This match had a real end of season feel to it which from our point of view is understandable – our season basically ended some time ago. For Southampton though times are tough and I expected them to come after our lacklustre team with a bit more vim and vigour of their own. I do believe a large part of the current problem is the lack of confidence in our team and consistency in our team selection. The players don’t seem sure of the roles they are being asked to play and poor results as a consequence of that have resulted in loss of confidence. The problems this chopping and changing was designed to eradicate are still obvious – this was our ninth goalless draw of the season and the eighteenth time we have failed to score in a game.
We look like a team that wishes it was summer already and with two home games this week against talented Swansea and Bristol City teams that could be a dangerous thing.
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Southampton: Davis 6, James 6, Saeijs 6, Perry 6, Skacel 7, Lallana 6 (Thomson 74, 6), Gillett 6, McGoldrick 7, Surman 6, Euell 5, Saganowski 5 (Wright-Phillips 77, 6)
Subs Not Used: Forecast, Wotton, Liptak
Booked: James (foul), McGoldrick (foul)
QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 7, Stewart 6, Gorkss 7, Connolly 6, Ephraim 6 (Taarabt 78, 7), Miller 5 (German 71, 6), Lopez 6 (Mahon 87, -), Leigertwood 6, Routledge 5, Blackstock 5
Subs Not Used: Hall, Alberti
Booked: Gorkss (kicking ball away), Stewart (obstructing goalkeeper)
QPR Star Man – Peter Ramage 7 Hard to pick really in such a dull and mediocre display but I have been impressed with Ramage’s attitude and application since he came back in so I will give him the nod again. Strong defensively and improved going forward.
Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire) 6 Didn’t do too much wrong but got a little bit whistle happy in the second half to the point where he was blowing it every thirty seconds at one point which, in a game of already poor quality, became very irritating. I did not agree with Gorkss’ booking but the others were fair enough. Blackstock’s penalty appeal looked like a reasonable shout to me.
Attendance: 18,691 (2490 QPR fans) Lots of empty seats at St Mary’s these days but a decent atmosphere at our end of the ground. The QPR fans were in good voice and Southampton had a gang of singers on either side of the away end so banter flowed back and forth.
Photo: Action Images
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