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Fans start to lose faith as Rangers draw again – full match report
Fans start to lose faith as Rangers draw again – full match report
Sunday, 13th Sep 2009 18:12

In front of the lowest crowd for a Saturday league game at Loftus Road in more than a year QPR fought out yet another 1-1 draw, their fourth of the season already, with Peterborough United at the weekend.

Going to watch QPR at the moment is a bit like taking your kids to one of these new fangled non-competitive school sports days. The participants complete tasks, run round in circles, all have a jolly nice time and at the end of the day everybody gets something to take home regardless of whether they are a potential Olympic runner or that fat kid that everybody picks on. At Loftus Road this season everybody goes home happy with a point regardless of ability.

I’m not sure ‘nobody loses’ business is quite what CEO Ali Russell had in mind when he spoke about an “improved matchday experience” for our extortionate ticket prices – and judging by Saturday’s pitiful crowd of 11,817 it is not what the long suffering W12 support want either. Manager Jim Magilton says his players are a little nervous. Whatever the reason, not one player in blue and white hoops could say they did not play within themselves on Saturday against a Peterborough side that was denied a deserved late winner only by a controversial offside decision. Every single one of those QPR players can play better than they did on Saturday.

Another day, another couple of changes to the QPR starting eleven. Fitz Hall’s groin injury meant a recall for Damion Stewart at centre half alongside Matt Connolly. Peter Ramage was also dropped to the bench in favour of Mikele Leigertwood at right back which, considering Ramage’s early season form and Leigertwood’s piss poor display at Scunthorpe, seemed very harsh to me. The removal of Leigertwood from the centre of midfield created space for Ben Watson to make his debut, Martin Rowlands returned from injury on a bench that also included Akos Buzsaky and Rowan Vine.

Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson made a harsh change of his own – winger Chirs Whelpdale was immediately recalled to the starting eleven after recovering from a hernia op at the expense of Shaun Batt who played very well and scored against Crystal Palace in their last match. The three super signings they have made from non-league Criag Mackail Smith, Aaron McLean and George Boyd all started in attack. Former QPR man Tommy Williams started at left back.

Watson wasted no time in introducing himself to the Loftus Road crowd with a long range free kick from left of centre on the edge of the box after Lee Frecklington had diverted a through ball away with his hand. That shot, and another a moment later from Taarabt from similar distance, flew straight at Joe Lewis in the Peterborough goal.

The first serious threat on goal came from Peterborough in the thirteenth minute. Scrappy play around the edge of the QPR penalty box saw the home side fail to clear as Frecklington and Diagouraga tried to craft something. Eventually Craig Mackail Smith saw a crisp volley deflected just wide of the goal by Matt Connolly after a poor defensive header from Gary Borrowdale.

Peterborough then took the lead after a quarter of an hour, and sadly it was down to a sloppy piece of play by debutant Ben Watson. Clearly the instruction was for Watson to come deep, pick up possession from the defenders and then drive Rangers forward with his passing game but when he failed to a control a routine short pass from Gary Borrowdale on the edge of his own box Peterborough swooped in to steal possession, worked the ball wide to Williams on the left and his magnificent cross was headed into the bottom corner by the impressive Aaron McLean.

Predictably Williams got a bit of stick from the QPR fans, especially in the second half when playing in front of the Q, P and R blocks, but he was excellent here on the day, putting over better crosses than any of the QPR players could manage and completely outshining our own left back Gary Borrowdale who was poor again in my opinion.

The goal seemed to stun the home side with the fans now almost totally silent and heads dropping on the pitch. Whelpdale forced a low save out of Cerny soon after McLean’s goal – although the shot looked like it may well have been going wide. Then on the half hour McLean ran onto a lovely cross field pass from Boyd and hit an instinctive first time volley over his shoulder, but comfortably over the cross bar as well.

QPR were putting some nice things together – Taarabt was a threat, Simpson worked very hard in attack to hold the ball up and bring others into play, some of Faurlin’s passing was excellent, but it was like a car with a misfire; it just would not click.

Thankfully Rangers did string something together and draw level on the half hour and it was no surprise to see Taarabt, Simpson and Routledge heavily involved. It could easily have been two nil at the Loft End as McKail Smith raced through on goal only to be robbed of possession just as he was about to shoot by a superb sliding tackle from Watson, making amends for his earlier error. Watson then sprung a counter attack the other way in a terribly stretched passage of play and Taarabt was able to jink past Whelpdale before feeding a great ball into the area that Simpson touched back and Routledge calmly slid home past Joe Lewis and Morgan on the goal line.

Before half time Whelpdale had a half hearted penalty appeal waved away, Zakuani was rightly carded for a clumsy foul on Simpson and Ephraim burst into the penalty area but dragged a low shot across the face of goal and wide of the far post.

The teams exchanged half chances straight after the break with Mackail Smith firing straight at Cerny and Matt Connolly heading over Watson’s corner when he really should have found the target at the very least. Easy to see why Connolly, who lashed a long range effort over the bar in the first half as well, is still waiting for his first goal in the QPR shirt.

Jim Magilton then sprung into life with a double substitution and, to be honest, I was very surprised with the decisions he made. Taarabt, who had looked our most threatening player to this point in my opinion, was removed and replaced by Vine while Faurlin, who had strung one or two nice passes together but found the physical nature of the game a bit much to cope with, went off for Martin Rowlands. QPR were never as threatening again for me and Vine was, once again, very very poor. A pale shadow of his former self.

The changes seemed to make QPR a lot worse and Peterborough could have taken the lead soon after when Radek Cerny survived a hairy moment – shifting his feet to kick away a long range shot from Diagouraga that looked simple enough when he first hit it but moved all over the place in the air after taking a deflection and almost caught out the Czech keeper who looked unusually nervous to me all day.

Within ten minutes another change had been made – Buzsaky on for Ephraim who had a pretty poor game and probably should have gone off in the first place instead of Taarabt. Sadly though Buzsaky went wide rather than central and bizarrely Routledge went wide left instead of wide right. Buzsaky introduced himself to the game with a woefully short touch back to Mikele Leigertwood that the QPR defence did well to muscle up and cover for but he soon got into the game with a low cross to the near post that Zakuani poked wide of his own post when an own goal could easily have resulted. Ten minutes from time Buzsaky cut in from his flank, ghosted between two men on the corner of the box in vintage style and then fired an awkward ball into the near post where Lewis did well to keep the shot out under pressure from Simpson.

Peterborough sent on Tommy Rowe for George Boyd themselves but the R’s could have wrapped up a first home league win of the season five minutes from time when Simpson controlled a low cross from Mikele Leigertwood well but could only find the Lower Loft with his instinctive turn and snap shot. Simpson then got stuck under a cross from Routledge on the byline and headed up and over when had he been two or three feet further back he could have got over it and headed for goal. The fans near us seemed to get on Simpson’s back a bit on Saturday but I thought he played the lone striker role pretty reasonably, holding the ball up and bringing others into play. It is just a shame his good approach work could not yield more than one goal for either him or a team mate.

Cerny comfortably tipped a Morgan free kick over the bar but when the same player headed wide from a corner he was a mile away from it and was then grateful to see Rowe’s low shot deflected wide of the target later in the half. Certainly it was Peterborough rather than Rangers who came home with a wet sail. Connolly and Borrowdale were both booked for fouls on Frecklington and Batt respectively as frustration grew around Loftus Road.

They thought they had won it in stoppage time as well when Cerny again spilled a long range shot, this time from Batt possibly with the aid of a deflection, and Mackail Smith nipped in to slam home the rebound. The celebrations in the Peterborough dug out, away end and team were long and raucous but their joy was short lived as a linesman’s flag denied them a first league win of the season. Many QPR fans had up and left as soon as the ball hit the net and there were still supporters on the tube home afterwards who believed we had lost the game. We were lucky not to.

I have steered clear of criticising Jim Magilton too much so far this season on LFW. I am aware that I was very vociferous in my criticism of his appointment during the summer and do not want to be seen to be jumping on his back at the first possible opportunity screaming ‘I told you so’ at the top of my voice and making dodgy hand gestures at those who disagreed with me. I have actually liked a lot of what I have seen of Magilton’s team and heard from the man himself this season but I am afraid he has to shoulder a lot of responsibility for this latest failure to perform to our full capability and win the game.

There was talk in The Green before the match of the nine wins from 11 game run that we went on under Ian Holloway the last time we had a dodgy start to a Championship season. That started with a scrappy 1-0 win at Gillingham and following a similar success at Scunthorpe last week there was hope amongst our group at least that this match could be the equivalent of the 3-2 home win against Plymouth that followed in 2004. The key goals that day came late, and I think we would have squeezed home here had Magilton left well alone in the second half.

Sadly he didn’t and with every substitution made our team got progressively worse. Taarabt was looking confident and playing well and even when things did not come off for him he drew two or three Peterborough players to him creating space for others. Rangers hardly threatened at all when he went off with his replacement Vine looking a shadow of his former self – lacking control, pace, confidence, movement, anything really. If you told me that this was actually a Rowan Vine lookalike who had never played football before in his life I would not be surprised. There was a moment in the second half when he tried to pass a ball ten yards back to the Peterborough goalkeeper so play could restart and he ended up screwing even that simple ball away past Lewis and off towards the corner flag.

Buzsaky and Rowlands are also coming back from injury – the former was once again wasted wide while Rowlands had next to no impact whatsoever. Wayne Routledge, player of the season so far, was inexplicably moved to the left side where QPR gave him the ball once (if that) in the final half an hour of the game. As the team stood at half time we were not playing well but I felt we had enough about us to just about squeeze through. As it stood at the end we were carrying passengers and were fortunate not to lose.

The season continues to teeter on the brink. String a couple of wins together and suddenly we will be up in the top half of the league with only one defeat to our name, lose a couple and we will be embroiled in a relegation battle with only a single victory. I still think we are not that far away from clicking and Watson and Simpson both added plenty to the side on Saturday – but it just won’t happen for some reason and whether the players, board, management and fans have the patience required with each other to wait and see if it ever will is doubtful if the crowd, atmosphere and performance on Saturday is anything to go by. Crystal Palace, beaten 4-0 by Scunthorpe on Saturday, is now a massive match on Tuesday night.

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QPR: Cerny 5, Leigertwood 6, Connolly 6, Stewart 6, Borrowdale 5, Routledge 6, Watson 6, Faurlin 6 (Rowlands 58, 5), Ephraim 5 (Buzsaky 69, 6),Simpson 6, Taarabt 6 (Vine 58, 4)
Subs Not Used: Heaton, Ramage, Mahon, Pellicori.
Booked: Connolly (foul), Borrowdale (foul)
Goals: Routledge 34 (assisted Simpson)

Peterborough: Lewis 6, Martin 6, Morgan 6, Zakuani 6, Williams 7,Whelpdale 6 (Batt 70, 6), Frecklington 7, Diagouraga 6, Boyd 7 (Rowe 65, 6),Mclean 8, Mackail-Smith 6
Subs Not Used: McKeown, Coutts, Keates, Pearce, Day
Booked: Zakuani (foul), Batt (foul)
Goals: Mclean 16 (assisted Williams)

QPR Star Man – Adel Taarabt 6 Best of a mediocre bunch in my opinion. Looked the most likely to make something happen, set the goal up with good positive play, drew Peterborough players to him thereby creating space for others. Seemed a very strange decision to take him off to me.

Referee: Oliver Langford (W Midlands) 8 Very little to referee in his first ever Championship match but he seemed calm, in control and willing to give the game every chance to flow. Very few complaints about his performance at all.

Attendance: 11,814 (1000 from Peterborough approx) Lowest attendance for 18 months for a Saturday league game at Loftus Road and the positive early season atmosphere has all but gone from Loftus Road now – it was like a morgue for most of Saturday’s game.

Photo: Action Images

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