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Plymouth bore draw brings up half a season of goalless matches for QPR – full match report
Plymouth bore draw brings up half a season of goalless matches for QPR – full match report
Sunday, 26th Apr 2009 20:57

In one of the worst games ever staged at Loftus Road QPR and Plymouth laboured to a desperately dull goalless draw on Saturday. This is the twenty third time this season Rangers have failed to score in a game.

I take it back, last week at Wolves was not the perfect way to end the season and send a message to the club about what is required for the next campaign – this was. For the fourth time in five matches and twenty third time overall this season QPR failed to score, or even look like scoring, and with Plymouth every bit as poor and unimaginative an eleventh 0-0 of the season was inevitable from the moment the game kicked off.

Half a season’s worth of games without scoring a goal, a quarter of a season’s worth without seeing a goal at all at either end – the claim made at the start of the season that sky high ticket prices were to pay for an improved product looks even more laughable now than it did then.

“It was a typical end of season game,” said caretaker manager Gareth Ainsworth afterwards. That’s is professional way of saying the players didn’t/don’t give much of a toss and their lamentable attitude to both this match and the Player of the Year dinner later in the evening made it a day to forget all round. It seems that they are as sick of the sight of us as we are of them and I think I speak for everybody in saying the forthcoming three month break is most welcome – although the die hards do have one more round of punishment at Preston next Sunday when presumably we can expect more of the same half arsed rubbish.

So to the game, and this really shouldn’t take very long at all. The first piece of news to note was the new kit – dispatched promptly to the early birds among the crowd before the game and looking extremely smart on the team on the field. That team showed several changes from the defeat at Wolves with Rowan Vine and Hogan Ephraim dropped altogether for reasons unknown and Adel Taarabt back with Spurs for surgery to an ankle injury sustained in training last week.

Mikele Leigertwood started at right back for the first time since Gareth Ainsworth was last in caretaker charge. Peter Ramage dropped to the bench, Damion Stewart and Kaspars Gorkss lined up at centre half, Matt Connolly at left back and Radek Cerny was the goalkeeper. In midfield Liam Miller was given a surprise recall as part of about the most uninspiring central midfield partnership I can ever recall paying to see alongside Gavin Mahon. Wayne Routledge started wide right, Lee Cook wide left and up front Patrick Agyemang made a return after tree months out with a ruptured thigh muscle alongside Heider Helguson.

Plymouth had giant centre half Krisztian Timar back after an illness but he only made the bench with former QPR plodder Chris Barker preferred at centre half. Rangers’ January transfer target Rory Fallon only made the bench despite a brace for the reserves and plea to Paul Sturrock to make better use of his squad during the week – Mackie and Barnes were preferred in attack with loaned Blackburn forward Paul Gallagher again utilised as a wide man rather than central striker.

It was Gallagher that had the most clear cut chances in the first half – twice in the first ten minutes he could have scored but he missed the target with one effort from the edge of the penalty area and forced Cerny into a save with another. Neither chance was as good as the one he then laid on for Karl Duguid though – the former Colchester man sidefooting wide of a gaping goal. Ten minutes in and Plymouth could easily have been a couple in front and the mindset of the QPR side was already very apparent.

QPR’s best attacking threat came from the unlikely position of right back. Mikele Leigertwood was man of the match when he played there at Reading earlier in the season so it seems strange that we have had to wait until now to see it tried again. He was steady this time, nothing more than that, and he managed two efforts on goal from his new position in the first half – first firing into the sparsely populated lower School End from distance and then finding himself crowded out in the penalty area after neat approach play with Wayne Routledge.

Rangers could count themselves lucky not to be behind on the half hour. Carl Fletcher, who has had a season of loan deals from his parent club Crystal Palace and had previously made a debut at Loftus Road for Nottingham Forest, cracked a volley from fully twenty five yards out when a loose ball dropped his way. It looked to be travelling with some vigour towards the top corner but it cracked against a team mate on the edge of the penalty area and although that changed the direction of the ball and wrong footed Cerny it also took all the pace off the ball and allowed the Czech keeper time to change direction and calmly collect the ball before it got close to the goal.

The QPR set up looked a bit of a mess to tell you the truth, particularly across midfield. To begin with Lee Cook was seeing so much of the ball I thought it was 2006 again. Cook did various things with his possession, some good, some bad, but with so much play going is way we then saw the bizarre situation of Wayne Routledge going over there to try and get involved himself. That unbalanced the Rangers team and drove Cook into more central areas which in turn left a gap wide left when Routledge returned to the right so at one stage we actually had Cook playing central midfield and Mahon wide on the left. Like I say, a mess. QPR only really put one proper passing move together in the first half – Wayne Routledge sticking to the right side this time and picking up a good pass from Leigertwood before crossing for Helguson who could only get a weak header in on Larrieu while under pressure from Barker.

Helguson had a quiet game, and was on the end of some pretty rough treatment in the first half. He got a free kick from referee Nigel Miller when Barker crashed through the back of him on halfway but was then denied one in bizarre circumstances when Seip chopped him down and then kicked the living crap out of him to try and free the ball from underneath him. No free kick for that, one of a number of perplexing decisions from our referee on the day.

The second half picked up where the wretched first left off and only three quick fire substitutions from Ainsworth and the resulting announcements over the public address system kept me from dozing off in the sun. Angelo Balanta replaced Lee Cook ten minutes in, then Liam Miller collapsed with some form of injury right on time for his weekly substitution an hour in. Antonio German was initially primed to come on but a change of heart saw Ramage introduced and the dynamic Leigertwood and Mahon partnership reunited in midfield. German only had to wait a few more minutes though with Agyemang’s comeback brought to an end. The youth team graduate turned out in, at the risk of sounding like Terry Wogan’s Janet and John stories, a pair of bright red boots.

Matt Connolly blasted a ball a couple of feet wide of the top corner after a short corner routine was worked out to him on the edge of the box and then Heider Helguson carried the ball forwards from deep before also dispatching the ball safely into the seats. In truth only the increasingly eccentric decisions of our referee and the planes coming into Heathrow

Things took a bizarre turn midway through the half when two kids came charging out of the Lower Loft onto the field. There was a lad of no more than ten trailing in the wake of a blond girl who looked from my vantage point to be a little bit young for the subsequent chants about the potential revealing of her chest. Still, if you’re not going to get them out there’s little point in running on there at all. Obviously lulled to sleep by the dire quality of the game the stewards just sort of stood around and watched as they ran around the field, weaving in and out of the players, for a good few minutes. Larrieu in the Plymouth goal remonstrated with them to do something, the most strenuous activity he engaged in all day, and one or two of the visiting players got pretty irate with the unwanted visitors resulting in a pointy finger themed rant that only the fairer sex can deliver. Chris Barker looked like a long suffering husband as the girl turned round and told him exactly where he could stick it. Anyway with those two eventually removed it was on with the turgidity.

Both teams had their best chances of the match in the final eight minutes. First Jamie Mackie robbed Damion Stewart on the edge of his own penalty area before drawing a fine save from Cerny with a low shot – Kaspars Gorkss pounced on the rebound to hook it away from Fallon who was eyeing up an easy tap in, the Latvian somehow managed to scoop the ball up and over the bar while laid flat out on the floor on the edge of the six yard box.

Then at the Loft End with two minutes remaining a fine piece of play from Matt Connolly after receiving his own throw in back from Wayne Routledge carried him past two Plymouth defenders but when faced with a choice between crossing and shooting he could not compute fast enough an ended up sending half of one and half of the other across the face of goal and out the other side without anybody getting a touch. Connolly had, like everybody else on the pitch, had a bit of an off day but that was a fine piece of skill and should really have brought him his first goal for the club.

In a move of supreme cruelty Miller added four more minutes on during which Plymouth managed to pick up two quickfire yellow cards. Judge got the first for hauling back Balanta after the Columbian had turned him, Judge had earlier rattled Balanta’s shins with a sickening blow in the same area of the pitch that didn’t even bring a yellow card. Immediately after the whistle had been blown Fletcher swooped in and turfed the ball away down the field and was promptly booked for kicking the ball away.

The free kick presented QPR with a chance to put a final ball into the penalty area but instead they laid it short to Peter Ramage who launched a ridiculous quest for his first ever QPR goal from the thick end of thirty yards out wit predictable results. The final whistle sounded immediately with the vast majority of fans unsurprisingly forgoing the traditional “lap of honour” in favour of a swift exit instead.

This was shocking. Absolutely abysmal. Moral seems pretty low around the camp at the moment and very few players looked bothered here. Even Matt Connolly, normally a model of consistency and competence, had an off day with misplaced passes and sloppy pieces of play – he was lucky not to concede an own goal in the second half when a ball bounced fractionally wide off his chest. Plymouth just weren’t good enough to take advantage. God is it not over yet? One more match you say? Very well, if we must.

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QPR: Cerny 6, Leigertwood 6, Gorkss 6, Stewart 5, Connolly 5, Routledge 5, Miller 6 (Ramage 62, 5), Mahon 5, Cook 5 (Balanta 56, 6), Helguson 5, Agyemang 5 (German 66, 5)

Subs Not Used: Delaney, Hall

Plymouth: Larrieu 6, Judge 5, Barker 6, Seip 6, Sawyer 5, Duguid 5, Fletcher 5, Gray 5, Gallagher 6, Barnes 5 (Fallon 84, -), Mackie 5

Subs Not Used: Saxton, Timar, Clark, Douala

Booked: Judge (shirt pulling), Fletcher (kicking ball away)

QPR Star Man – Kaspars Gorkss 6 Best of a rotten bunch, takes the award for a goal saving tackle right at the end that would have turned this nonsense into a defeat had he not made it.

Referee: Nigel Miller (Durham) 4 Eccentric. Gave free kicks for nothing very much, waved play on to assaults on Helguson and Balanta to name but two. Also had that annoying habit of awarding the defending team a free kick whenever there was a question mark over the award of a corner – Plymouth seemed to cotton on to this and spent the whole second half appealing enthusiastically for a goal kick for even the most blatant of corners and then being rewarded with a free kick for some offence or other only seen by Mr Miller. All in all a right pain in the arse, all 23 people on the pitch on Saturday were very poor.

Attendance: 14,779 (1700 Plymouth approx) Lovely day in the sunshine and the atmosphere of a golf course for the most part. For a while in the second half a new gang of singers kicked off over my left shoulder where South Africa Road meets the Loft. I wonder if they are going to be a permanent addition? I hope so, made a nice change. Plymouth travelled in good numbers and made a decent amount of noise.

Photo: Action Images

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