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Wayne cuts loose as R’s Rout Exeter – full match report
Wayne cuts loose as R’s Rout Exeter – full match report
Wednesday, 12th Aug 2009 18:35

QPR eased into the second round of the League Cup with a clinical second half performance at Exeter on Tuesday. Wayne Routledge scored his first senior hat trick in a 5-0 win.

Professional, clinical, comfortable – it was nothing like anything the long suffering QPR fans behind the goal had seen before, and Jim Magilton strode across the pitch at the final whistle looking as if he was not quite sure what all the fuss was about. Sorry Jim, we are just not used to this.

QPR are the original cheap tea-bag team – never in the cup for very long. It’s a joke coined by Ian Holloway who played in a Rangers side beaten by Stockport County in the 1990s when we were two divisions apart, and managed them to numerous knock out competition disasters most notably against Vauxhall Motors. Rangers have gone through a few bosses since then and although Iain Dowie had a stab at a cup run last year he was sacked before being able to see it through.

We don’t like cup runs, the whole idea makes us uncomfortable. Normally first round draws at the likes of Orient, Northampton and Exeter City present us with the ideal opportunity to bow out quietly and focus on drawing league games nil nil before the inconvenience of the FA Cup rears its ugly head in January. Everything seemed to be going according to the script at the real St James’ Park on Tuesday night with the scores deadlocked at half time, Exeter giving as good as they were getting and QPR struggling to put three passes together. A few choice half time words and five goals in 35 second half minutes later though and Rangers were through as the biggest scorers in the competition on the evening leaving the travelling 800 or so somewhat shell shocked.

Exeter were more than a match for QPR in the first half, but crumbled under pressure in the second and capitulated after a sending off and subsequent penalty dispatched for a hat trick by Wayne Routledge. Ultimately only three goal line clearances in the final ten minutes prevented QPR hitting seven or eight.

This all came after Jim Magilton had made wholesale changes to his starting eleven following the weekend draw with Blackpool. With Heidar Helguson and Adel Taarabt both away on international duty Patrick Agyemang and Rowan Vine started in attack, with first starts following injury for Mikele Leigertwood and Akos Buzsaky in midfield. Damion Stewart and Matt Connolly came into the back four and the expense of Hall and Ramage leaving only Radek Cerny, Gary Borrowdale, Kaspars Gorkss and Wayne Routledge as survivors from the Blackpool fixture.

Exeter had striker problems coming into the game with summer signing Barry Corr suspended following a sending off at Leeds on Saturday, last season’s top scorer Adam Stansfield injured and pacy former Ipswich front man Richard Logan fit enough only for the bench. That meant the familiar face of veteran Marcus Stewart got the nod in attack against the new look QPR back four.

The home side started the game in lively fashion but almost fell behind in the seventh minute when Rowan Vine went close to scoring seemingly quite by accident. Wayne Routledge put over a cross from the right that Vine did well to get a head on at all and the ball then looped up into the air, over Paul Jones in the City goal and, almost in slow motion, onto the top of the cross bar and out for a goal kick. Vine had probably just been trying to help the ball back into the danger zone but it was mighty close to being the opening goal of the game.

Rangers went close again on the quarter hour when Matt Connolly read the play well and intercepted an Exeter pass on halfway before feeding it into Rowan Vine’s feet. With his back to goal 40 yards out Vine turned possession round the corner to his left for Routledge to race onto. His ball into the area seemed to be covered by Jones but when the keeper fumbled right out at the edge of his own box it seemed as though Agyemang was favourite to slot it into the empty net. In the end the keeper dropped on the loose ball at the second attempt to bring an end to the unsightly shemozzle.

On Boxing Day 2007 just down the road from Exeter referee Steve Bratt turned in a thoroughly abysmal performance as Rangers crashed to a late defeat against Plymouth. The young match official was quieter on Tuesday, his first QPR fixture since then, but gave Hogan Ephraim a roar deal with two decisions either side of the 20 minute mark. First Ephraim was crudely chopped down on the edge of the penalty area by Richard Duffy as he drove towards goal and received no free kick, then seconds later Duffy took a theatrical tumble under no contact at all from Ephraim and was awarded a relieving set piece. Overall though he refereed this reasonably well and QPR got the game’s big decision given their way in the second half.

Although they enjoyed a couple of chances in the first half hour and were completely untroubled by Exeter at the other end QPR were really not very good in the first half if truth be told. Magilton’s message on how he wants the game played, who he wants to have the ball where and when, and how he wants us to react to certain situations is clear as day already. Numerous small incidents in both games so far this season have had his signature all over them – be it the full back receiving the ball short from the goalkeeper, the crossfield passes trying to get Routledge one on one with an opponent whenever possible, the insistence that the centre halves play through midfield rather than lumping the ball up, or even the fact that players tight to the touchline are now permitted to play a ball inside and backwards if no other option is available rather than simply heave it away down the line as many Championship sides tend to do and we did last season.

However whether it’s because some of the players are not good enough to do it or because they have not had time to get used to it yet too often in the first half last night these moves broke down. I happen to think it is the latter personally because the chief offender at St James’ park was Rowan Vine, who we all know is an excellent player particularly when receiving the ball to feet and yet last night, and through pre-season by all accounts, he has not been performing at all well. This style of play should suit him right down to the ground but he has been poor so far and will do well to keep his place in the team ahead of Helguson and Taarabt on Saturday. He’ll come good again I’m sure though, it may just be he needs more time and patience to recover from injury. On a similar theme Akos Buzsaky never really got going against opposition he should just about be able to beat by himself.

With all that in mind it was no surprise really that Exeter came back into the game with three decent efforts on goal in the final fifteen minutes of the half. First a monumentally bad piece of control or ill advised pass back, it was not clear which, from Damion Stewart gave Marcus Stewart possession in the penalty area but with Kaspars Gorkss right at his back all he could do was hook an ambitious volley over his shoulder and straight at Radek Cerny from twelve yards out.

Ten minutes before the break Stewart was calling Cerny into action again with a diving header at the near post that the keeper read well and saved right down in the bottom corner. No sooner had the Czech stopper returned the ball into the field of play than it was coming back at him at speed with Bertie Cozic trying his luck from distance and drawing a comfortable two handed catch on the stretch from the QPR man.

Although there must have been one or two hearts in mouths around the ground when Goldbourne steered a diving header a couple of feet wide of his own net with Jones well beaten right on the stroke of half time the corner came to nothing and Exeter could leave the field happy with their evening’s work and confident that an upset was there for the taking. They had grown in confidence through the first half while QPR had been lacklustre, dysfunctional and lacking fluidity. The second half could not have been more different.

Although the second stanza started in frustrating fashion with Ephraim picking up a stupid yellow card for getting in the way of a quickly taken Exeter free kick there was a hint of better things to come when neat build up through midfield released Agyemang on the edge of the box but the big striker was just crowded out. Although Exeter were able to break from that and unload an effort on goal of their own, Marcus Stewart hit a tame one straight at the keeper, the Agyemang chance was merely a warning of more to come.

The deadlock was broken seven minutes after half time by Wayne Routledge. Mikele Leigertwood executed a splendid through ball that cut between the two Exeter centre halves and took them totally out of the game. Jones rushed from his line but Routledge had already ghosted in behind the back four from his right wing position and the keeper’s advances offered him the opportunity of a first time lobbed finish into an unguarded goal that he took with aplomb.

That goal seemed to be the release and confidence booster that QPR needed, although Exeter really should have drawn level when a back post cross from Duffy almost straight from the kick off was met powerfully at the back post by McAllister but he could only drop it straight into Cerny’s arms with the whole goal to aim at. That was to be the last serious threat Exeter posed on the night with half an hour still to play and within a minute QPR’s lead had been doubled.

This time it was Agyemang the provider, bumbling to the edge of the box in ungainly fashion and drawing two defenders to him leaving enough space to his right into which he could slip a nice pass that gave Routledge all the time he needed to drill a low, first time shot under Jones’ body and into the net in front of the jubilant Rangers fans.

A minute after that it was three. A corner from Akos Buzsaky found Gorkss at the back stick, his downward header clipped the inside of the post and looked destined for the back of the net until Goldbourne spooned it off the line with his left hand. QPR players and fans appealed that the ball had crossed the line anyway or that it was handball and a penalty in equal measure and between referee Bratt and the linesman directly in front of where I was standing a spot kick was indeed awarded and inevitable red card produced. There followed a bizarre argument between Duffy and the linesman over one of the easiest decisions he has ever had to give - Goldbourne looked guilty as sin as he trooped off - before Routledge stepped up to take the set piece and seal his hat trick.

Personally I am not a fan of players using such opportunities to complete a personal milestone, your penalty taker should take the penalties in my book regardless of circumstances. Although thoughts did drift back to Fitz Hall’s miss in similar circumstances against Barnsley last season Routledge made no mistake in drilling the ball low into the corner with the keeper heading the wrong way. The first hat trick of Routledge’s professional career meant QPR were cruising by this point and the right winger was immediately removed and rested by Jim Magilton who sent on Gareth Ainsworth in his position to the delight of the travelling fans and Alessandro Pellicori for Rowan Vine.

Rangers could easily have racked up a cricket score in the final twenty minutes, scoring twice more and having three cleared off the line. The first attempt was from Ainsworth – a looping back post header that seemed to have the keeper beaten all ends up but as Rachubka had done against us on Saturday Jones bent his body backwards and just about got it off the line with a combination of his hand and Richard Duffy’s head. Having been denied by an illegal save on the goal line earlier Kaspars Gorkss was made to wait a little longer for his first competitive QPR goal as he too was denied by Duffy back on the line who managed to get the Latvian’s powerful header behind for another corner.

Gorkss was involved in the fourth goal five minutes from time – he nodded Buzsaky’s overhit corner back into the area for Damion Stewart to turn and hit into the six yard box where Pellicori was on hand with a close range volley and his first goal in English football. Pellicori had earlier blasted a one on one sitter into the QPR fans although had long since been flagged offside so it would not have counted.

The thing I noticed about him straight away on this first viewing was that as soon as QPR got the ball he got his head down and made his way to the edge of the six yard box as quickly as possible. This goal hanging is actually a positive thing in our team that has been short of a proper poaching centre forward for some time now. Agyemang, Vine, Di Carmine, Taarabt and to some extent Helguson all like to get involved with the build up outside the area – either winning headers, holding the ball up or laying passes. A big problem for our wide men last year was then amount of times they looked up and saw only one or two QPR bodies in the box against five or six opponents. We need somebody who will provide that penalty box threat, pick up on anything dropping around the goal mouth and score the ‘bread and butter’ goals. Although he denied himself a clear run on goal with a lousy first touch on the edge of the box at one stage there were positive signs here. It is far too early to judge Pellicori, and this was a match played against poor opposition who were down to ten men by the time he came on, but hopefully he can bring a goal scorer’s nose to the team.

By now the warm summer sunshine that had slowly baked the regulars at Newton Abbott race course earlier in the day had dipped behind the small side stand and been replaced with a chill breeze. Exeter’s groundsman had kindly provided some candle light by which we could just about make out the final stages of the game but there was no mistaking the quality of the final goal, scored by Hogan Ephraim, that lit up the whole evening. Facing a battle with Angelo Balanta for the left wing slot in Lee Cook’s continued absence Ephraim pressed his claim for a start at Plymouth on Saturday by cutting infield in the final minute of the game and unloading a glorious right footed shot over Jones and into the top corner of the net for five nil. You don’t save those, as a needlessly aggressive Scottish co-commentator frequently growls.

With confidence flooding through their veins and the whiff of blood in their nostrils the QPR players used stoppage time to hunt for a sixth only to again be denied by Duffy’s goal line clearance masterclass. This time Pellicori was denied by a frankly outlandish clearance from the former Portsmouth man that left him requiring treatment in the goal mouth. The final whistle followed a short time later.

I had predicted this game going the full distance beforehand, and at half time that looked the most likely outcome. Rangers were poor and disjointed in the first half and possible lucky not to go into the break behind. God only knows what was said in that dressing room at half time but it was a totally different kettle of fish in the second – professional and clinical when given the chance. Games like this are won by Championship sides when their quality players show their class – Wayne Routledge is obviously far too good for League One defenders and thankfully after half time he showed that. That really is all you need, which is a good job really as Vine and Buzsaky had mediocre games to put it kindly and they would be the other two players I would lump in with Wayne as being far too good, on paper at least, for the opponents they faced last night.

Exeter may well find the step up to League One too much to cope with this season on this evidence having been in the Conference just over a year ago. It is hard to judge QPR too much against opposition that was spirited but limited in the first half and downright awful in the second.

QPR beat what was in front of them, and beat it well, which is more than you can ask for on occasions such as these. It made a nice change to see us do the job so well after years of problems in the first round of this competition. Rangers now await Wednesday evening’s draw as one of the seeds.

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Exeter: Jones 5, Duffy 7, Seaborne 4, Taylor 4, Golbourne 4, Sercombe 5, Russell 6 (Logan 73, 5), Cozic 6, Harley 5, McAllister 5 (Norwood 72, 5), Stewart 6 (Tully 67, 5)
Subs Not Used: Marriott, Saunders, Burnell, Archibald-Henville
Sent Off: Golbourne (65 – deliberate handball on the goal line)

QPR: Cerny 7, Connolly 7, Stewart 7, Gorkss 7, Borrowdale 6, Routledge 8, (Ainsworth 66, 7), Buzsaky 6, Leigertwood 7, Ephraim 7,Vine 5 (Pellicori 67, 7), Agyemang 6 (Mahon 73, 6)
Subs Not Used: Putnins, Ramage, Hall, Alberti
Booked: Ephraim (obstructing the taking of a free kick)
Goals: Routledge 53 (assisted Leigertwood), 61 (assisted Agyemang), 66 (penalty – handball), Pellicori 85 (assisted Stewart), Ephraim 89 (unassisted)

QPR Star Man – Wayne Routledge 8 A bit of a lazy man of the match award really as a hat trick scorer is always an obvious choice, however in my defence the QPR performance was professional rather than spectacular as the scoreline may suggest and it was the finishing of Routledge that enabled us to pull away and win the game.

Referee: Steve Bratt (W Midlands) 7 Couple of poor decisions, two against Ephraim in the first half for instance, but overall well in control and got the big decision right with the help of his linesman. Much better than last time thankfully.

Attendance: 4,614 (813 QPR) The nature of the result and the balmy summer weather made it more pre-season atmosphere than that expected of a firery cup tie. Atmosphere was tough to generate in the away end with the 800 or so QPR fans spread out right round behind the goal and down the side in a mixture of shallow terracing with no roof and a block of seats in a small wooden stand.

Photo: Action Images

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