Same old story as City punish QPRâ€™s profligacy â€“ full match report Wednesday, 19th Aug 2009 21:25
QPR fell to their first defeat of the season at Bristol City on Tuesday after missing a catalogue of chances. Adel Taarabt missed the best of them, striking the post with a close range shot in the second half.
As I said during the summer the definition of insanity is to repeat the same actions and expect different results. It was foolish of me even to go for a draw in the prediction league, how and why anybody could possibly walk into Ashton Gate on Tuesday night expecting anything other than what we got is a mystery to me.
QPR are an excellent team in this division, possibly the best side in it on their day. Radek Cerny is a steady goalkeeper, we have choices at centre half most other clubs in the league would kill for, we have more quality, creative midfield players than you can possibly fit in one side and in the opening three matches of this season we have played an attractive brand of open football.
The problem is at one end the manager has tinkered with a previously water tight defence and it is now leaking, and at the other the line is being led by strikers lucky to be playing in this division at all. The latter problem is not a new one, it has been common knowledge around QPR for some time, but having made all the right noises about working with what he has and amidst a whole lot of bluster and bullshit about Adel Taarabt’s ability to lead the line when he is clearly (yet another) attacking midfielder it must very quickly be dawning on Jim Magilton that with two weeks of transfer window left that problem burns brighter than ever.
Other than actually putting the ball in the back of the net QPR are doing everything right. It is just when things arrive at the penalty box that they become farcical. Magilton himself did not help matters on Tuesday at Bristol City by rewarding Patrick Agyemang for his rank half an hour at Plymouth on Saturday with a full start here while Heidar Helguson, who did actually score at the weekend, was dropped. There should be a law against dropping strikers straight after they have scored. It has happened twice now to Helguson since he arrived here - no wonder he hardly ever does find the net, he probably wants to stay in the team. Like I say, repeating the same actions and expecting different results is a bit daft - Agyemang was absolutely dire again on Tuesday.
Twice in the second half balls were superbly cut back into the six yard box, the first by Agyemang to be fair, but nobody was there. Countless times Ramage, Faurlin, Buzsaky or the excellent Routledge put good quality into the box only to see it cleared or, more frustratingly, flash all the way across the face of goal without a touch. Goal scorer required - mean, ruthless, horrible, selfish bastards apply within.
So there were changes after the late heartbreak at Plymouth. In defence Damion Stewart returned for his first league start of the season at the expense of Kaspars Gorkss - initially this looked like a very harsh knee-jerk reaction to Gorkss’ unfortunate own goal at the weekend however almost as soon as the game began it was apparent exactly why Magilton wanted the pace of Stewart in his team to go up against Bristol City’s Olympic sprint standard front pairing Danny Haynes and Nicky Maynard. Fitz Hall partnered him with Ramage right and Borrowdale left in front of Cerny.
Now here is where it gets complicated. Mikele Leigertwood held the centre of the midfield but forward of him the ridiculous unbalanced nature of the QPR squad was there for all to see. Four attacking midfielders took to the field, with Alejandro Faurlin on his debut slightly deeper than Buzsaky, Routledge and Taarabt with Agyemang starting alone at the top. This set up proved to be very fluid to not much affect in the first half, lots of swapping and changing of positions with few results, but started to come into its own in the second half when the parade of missed chances began.
As well as the lively Maynard and Haynes partnership City had new signing from Rangers Andrius Velicka on the bench awaiting his debut.
Both teams started the game in the mood to pass the ball and there was good tempo and quality to the game early on. Thing burst into life for the first time in the eighth minute when QPR’s pretty football through midfield came unstuck on the halfway line when Leigertwood was robbed of possession after being played down a blind alley by his team mates. That allowed City to release Danny Haynes behind the QPR back four for the first time. The flag stayed down, although judging by that particular porky linesman’s performance on the rest of the evening that does not necessarily mean he was onside, but Maynard could only hammer a very presentable chance over the bar as he made his way into the area unchallenged.
From the goal kick QPR worked the ball wide and then through to the edge of the City box with some crisp passing but Agyemang could only fire into the City fans himself from 18 yards out. Buzsaky did likewise with a similar chance a minute later at the end of a splendid passing move that took QPR from left to right and back again through ten passes moving forwards all the time.
Radek Cerny was the first goalkeeper called into action on the night after 15 minutes. Danny Haynes was up to his old Ipswich tricks on the corner of the penalty box, cutting inside Borrowdale and then as the QPR man withdrew his boot Haynes hurled himself into the air, contorted his back and shoulders at 90 degrees to his legs and belly flopped onto the floor with an anguished expression. That was enough for a free kick despite the lack of contact and with everybody expecting a delivery into the crowded six yard box Hartley instead decided to cut it back short to the edge of the area where Maynard struck a low shot that was well saved by Cerny who also held the ball when he could easily have spilt it to onrushing attackers.
City went closer still two minutes later when centre back Lewin Nyatanga came up from the back to meet McAllister’s well flighted corner (remember what they look like?) and head goalwards. The ball fizzed past Cerny and looked a goal all ends up until Buzsaky leapt from his position on the back post, flew across the goal line and cleared the ball with a miraculous diving header the likes of which I can scarcely recall ever seeing before.
Cerny flapped nervously at a routine save from another McAllister corner before City missed the chance of the half in the twenty fifth minute. After a mistake by Stewart Bradley Orr slipped the ball through and the offside trap was beaten again by Haynes who raced through into a simple one on one situation with QPR’s Czech goalkeeper but inexplicably dragged a tame shot wide of the goal altogether. As ever with Haynes the pace and threat was of Premier League standard, the finishing barely warranted a contract in the Conference South.
QPR were lucky not to be behind at this stage in truth. If you have two players through on your goal and one bullet header fly past the goalkeeper from a corner you expect to be behind. The possession, when QPR were able to control it, was attractive and progressive but too often City hounded us out of that too close to our own goal and broke with speed. The same thing could be said of just about every QPR player on the pitch – played some nice passes, made some silly mistakes. City looked really pumped up for the game and were much the better side at this point, it felt like only a matter of time before the goal came.
Things seemed to pick up for the visitors from about the half hour mark, starting strangely enough with a booking for the new boy Faurlin. He had passed the ball very nicely when given time to do so but had frequently been bypassed by the pace and physicality of those around him. He dished a bit of his own out though when he lost out in one tackle and then rashly dived straight into another on Elliott that received an immediate and deserved booking.
There was no card for Cole Skuse a moment later though when he crudely interrupted a typical Adel Taarabt run right on the edge of the Bristol City penalty area. Whether Skuse was struggling with an injury at the time I’m not sure but he was replaced a short time later by Liam Fontaine as Gary Johnson was forced into a first half change. In the meantime Akos Buzsaky hit the wall with a free kick, and then fired a foot or so over the bar when Rangers worked the ball back to him in the same position.
The second half started at a frenetic pace with QPR seemingly really in the mood to get their first win of the season. The R’s crafted three terrific chances in the first five minutes, starting straight from the kick off when Faurlin laid a ball into the penalty area to Agyemang who brought the ball down well, held off his man and then back healed the ball into acres of space right in the middle of the penalty area with no Bristol City player in site. Of course there was no QPR player either and City were able to clear but it is alright, Jim is happy to work with attacking options we have. No need for a mean, ruthless, goal scoring striker here, move along.
Less than sixty seconds later Buzsaky raced to the edge of the area before shifting the ball to his right for Routledge who attempted to drill a ball low past Gerken in the City goal as he had done at Exeter a week earlier but the keeper made a smart save down by his near post. Routledge was probably the most impressive Rangers player on the night, tormenting McAllister and forcing a yellow card for the City full back later in the second half after cruelly teasing him once too often.
Routledge had no time to reflect on that missed opportunity as he was quickly on the ball again, skipping past McAllister as if he was not even there, reaching the byline and then delivering a ball into the six yard box that missed a plethora of bodies at the near post but found Taarabt at the far. Searching for his first goal of the season Taarabt thrust out a leg and watched agonised as the ball flew back across the face of goal, off the inside of the post and back out into play. Desperate Bristol City recovery work resulted in a free kick right on the edge of the area but Buzsaky could only find the wall once again.
In amongst all this fatty the flag waver managed to miss Bristol City running the ball out of play at the far end of the field, an incident that quickly led to a Bristol City throw when it should have been ours. From that Bradley Orr volleyed wide from the edge of the QPR box but there was only one team in it at this stage and it was not wearing red. Rangers just had nobody capable of finishing off all the build up work.
With that in mind Magilton made his first move with 25 minutes left to play. The ineffective Agyemang and tiring Taarabt went off for Pellicori and Vine. The Italian got some idea of what he was up against straight away when Wayne Routledge stood a ball up to the back post, Pellicori headed the ball back perfectly into the six yard box and again there was nobody there and City survived. That, and a procession of crosses that flew right through the penalty box without getting a touch, further highlights the lack of a goal scorer in the QPR team.
City made a change of their own around the same time when Velicka came on for his debut instead of McAllister, who Johnson presumably feared was on the verge of a red card as Routledge continues his one man massacre of the City defence down that side. We saw very little of Velicka though as he swiftly collapsed on the edge of the penalty box at the far end of the ground and then left the field on a stretcher in a leg brace after five minutes of stoppage time.
That lengthy stoppage and bad blow actually seemed to galvanise City rather than encourage QPR and the reds went in front with nine minutes of normal time left to play. Rangers conceded possession trying to play the ball out of defence, Damion Stewart missed a chance to tackle Clarkson wide right and then a slip by Fitz Hall, excellent otherwise on the night, allowed Maynard a sight of goal and he walloped a fierce drive past Cerny and into the roof of the net. Maynard struggled somewhat in his first season at this level but already has three goal to his name this and looked full of confidence – he could have had a second within two minutes but fired a foot or so wide of the post trying to beat Cerny in the far corner.
The frustration was too much for Buzsaky and Stewart, the former was rightly booked for a crude tackle on Maynard that another referee may have shown red for. The latter was also booked although many officials would not even have awarded a free kick for his foul on Clarkson.
Magilton sent on Helguson for Faurlin at this point, bunched Pellicori, Vine and the Icelandic international together in a three man attack and started to pepper Bristol City with balls into the penalty area. Hartley and Nyatanga were both booked, the Scot for cynical time wasting at a QPR throw in the Welshman for a foul on Routledge but the chance had gone though. You must score when you are on top and Rangers had been punished for not doing so for the third league game in a row.
Just to really put the tin hat on it all, QPR saved their most glaring miss for the seven minutes of stoppage time created by the Velicka injury. More easy on the eye, intricate build up play saw Mikele Leigertwood pick up the ball 40 yards out, play a long one two with Rowan Vine and collect the ball back in the penalty box. With the Bristol City defence melting away in front of him a goal seemed certain and he even had the time and space to take a touch to set himself but he just waited and waited and waited some more until he was too close to Dean Gerken and the keeper chucked himself down at Leigertwood’s feet and made a fine save. The away end heaved in mass disappointment, a goal seemed absolutely certain, how had he missed? It summed the whole evening up - near perfect approach work, with the cutting edge of a wooden spoon.
Things could have been worse had it been Maynard and not Haynes that worked a late chance past Hall in the QPR penalty box but Cerny was equal to the former Ipswich man’s shot.
What more is there to say? Everything but the goal. Somebody somewhere will get a proper hiding from this QPR team if it continues to play like this – the chances we are creating, and the frequency at which they are coming, makes it inevitable. However consistently, over the course of 46 matches, QPR will not score enough goals to win enough matches on this evidence. Everything is in place except the striker at the top end of the pitch to finish all the chances of. This is not a new problem, it has been the case for a good 18 months, and we have allowed the likes of Ched Evans to join our rivals this summer while we have done nothing. What makes it worse is that while Matt Connolly still cannot get in our team, we have started shipping very soft goals – after the farcical equaliser at Plymouth Maynard’s fine strike came from QPR conceding possession on halfway, and both Hall and Stewart could have made better attempts to challenge.
In the three games we have played so far we have dominated for long periods. Only this game with an attractive Bristol City team could be said to be anything like even – we should have at least seven points on the board and nine goals minimum. Instead we have two points, won from not especially good opposition, and two goals one of which was a cross. I don’t know how much more obvious it has to become before something is done.
Thoroughly irritating – because this is a good QPR team one player short of great things this season.
QPR Star Man – Wayne Routledge 8 QPR’s most threatening player throughout, gave McAllister a torrid time and probably would have got him sent off had he stayed on. Produced numerous good crosses into the box but was let down by those charged with finishing the chances. In great form, looks confident.
Referee: Phil Gibbs (West Midlands) 6 No argument with any of the bookings, however there were some strange decisions at times and the linesman in front of the away end was an absolute joke. Bought rather too many dives from Taarabt and Haynes to be awarded a higher mark than six.
Attendance: 14,571 (1100 QPR approx) The best atmosphere I have experienced at a Championship match for some time. The City fans, particularly those to the right of the away end, were brilliant, backing their team noisily throughout the game. The QPR fans too travelled in good numbers and did their best to make themselves heard. Excellent all round.