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QPR hit four again in Reading blitz - full match report
QPR hit four again in Reading blitz - full match report
Wednesday, 21st Oct 2009 20:36

QPR were in irresistible form again on Tuesday night, sweeping aside Reading with a breathtaking hour of football despite being reduced to ten men by our old friend Andy Hall midway through the first half.

Back when Championship Manager games ran with text updates on the screen, rather than animated figures playing the match, there used to be a line the game would trot out when your all conquering side was brushing all before it that went something along the lines of: “the critics are running out of superlatives to describe their recent performances.” And they are, I am. What on earth is there left to say?

Following Saturday’s comprehensive annihilation of Preston another four goals were scored against a feeble Reading side on Tuesday night, another hour of scintillating football was served up, the ground was alive, people were smiling, birds were singing.

There are few certainties in life, although you would hope the brave lady you proposed to her husband via the use of a message on the big screen at half time was pretty confident of success, but one thing you can always be sure of is referee Andy Hall will never pass up an opportunity to apply the absolute letter of the law when it can be used to stick the boot into QPR. His mindless, robotic approach to the game of football robbed QPR of Ben Watson after half an hour but it mattered little. Even Hall and his ample beer belly could not stand in the way of the free flowing Rangers on Tuesday night. They scored from the free kick that Watson was dismissed for taking too quickly and kept scoring at regular intervals thereafter.

The R’s declared at four when they could have had eight, the dangers of coming into a game against this side low on confidence and work rate there for all to see as Brendan Rodgers’ beleaguered Royals were torn asunder.

The Reading fans, those that bothered travelling and frankly desertion on the scale of the loyal Royals is something the French military would be proud of, chanted for the sacking of Rodgers and sarcastically celebrated their rare shots on target. They were very poor, clearly missing their departed stars and struggling to come to terms with a new system and style of play, but then they were swept aside with no greater or lesser degree of difficulty than in form Barnsley and fifth placed Preston before them on this ground so perhaps QPR are just really, really good at the moment. Actually, there’s no perhaps about it.

Rodgers doesn’t seem to be helping himself with some bizarre team selections. Reading were toothless in attack and dominated physically by Gorkss and Stewart while Rasiak sat on the bench, they were overrun in midfield while Jay Tabb played at full back and they only looked anything like a football team when Brian Howard came on from the bench in the second half. Some, not all, of the answers would seem to be a little more obvious than Rodgers is making out.

Whether he gets chance to put things right after his side conceded its fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh goals of the week remains to be seen. Life, on the other hand, is pretty damn wonderful at the moment for Jim Magilton. He took a gamble in changing his winning side from Saturday by replacing the impressive Gavin Mahon with Ben Watson who was back from suspension - that gamble backfired when Hall struck, but the sending off galvanized the home side rather than hindering it. Watson played in the middle of midfield with Faurlin with Buzsaky and Taarabt wide on the flanks behind Routledge and Simpson in attack. At the back Stewart and Gorkss were again preferred to the fit again Fitz Hall with Peter Ramage continuing to deputise for Mikele Leigertwood at right back and Gary Borrowdale on the left. Radek Cerny kept goal.

Both teams chanced their arm with involvement from the match referee, traditional scourge of QPR, Andy Hall in the first two minutes. Radek Cerny flapped at the first Reading corner of the night but was impeded and awarded a free kick, then Jay Simpson was clearly hauled to the ground on the edge of the Reading box by Mills but Faurlin could only dolly the free kick straight into the arms of Federici in the visiting goal. The Australian stopper was tested much more seriously in the eighth minute when Adel Taarabt skipped past two Reading defenders in the penalty box, worked room for a shot and then unloaded a powerful effort across the face of the goal that the Reading keeper did well to repel with two hands.

Taarabt dragged a shot wide after a quickly taken free kick (watch out for more of those later) was passed to him. Clearly his performance and goal against Preston, and renewed good relations with the QPR crowd, had restored his confidence after the Barnsley debacle. Rangers certainly did not have things all their own way though. Jobi McAnuff always seems to play well against QPR regardless of form or circumstance and after taking Ramage to the byline and beating him for skill in the tenth minute the former Watford winger really should have done better than just hammer the ball into the side netting.

He had another go two minutes later when a loose header from Damion Stewart, the only one of the night, set him up for a run towards the penalty box on the counter attack that was crudely interrupted by Faurlin. McAnuff took the free kick himself but skewed his effort high into the Loft.

Faurlin was fortunate to escape without a booking from this notoriously card happy referee but he soon had the notepaper in hand as first Watson and then Borrowdale were carded for lunging tackles on Long and Kebe respectively. Borrowdale could have few complaints about his deliberate and cynical attempt at stopping a counter attack but another referee probably would have given Watson a warning and sent him on his way.

Watson was having a more positive impact on the game after 25 minutes when Taarabt and Faurlin linked up nicely down the left to produce a ball across the face of the penalty area that Watson met sweetly only to see it blocked away by a defender. His next involvement in the game would not be such a happy one.

On the half hour a passage of play ensued that would go on to change the game. First Reading were awarded a free kick on halfway for a foul, the Royals took the free kick quickly and laid a ball through to Kebe when Hall wasn’t actually even watching the play. The flag went up immediately and Kebe was penalised for being offside – a free kick which was again taken quickly, by Cerny this time, while the referee was dealing with other things. Play switched to the other end where Simpson was fouled by Tabb for a free kick some 30 yards away from goal well to the left of centre. Again the free kick was taken quickly, this time by Watson, but as QPR had asked for the wall to be marked out referee Hall produced a yellow card for taking it without his permission and as Watson had already been booked he was sent off for the second time in as many games.

Now I’m not going to stick up for Watson here – having asked for the yards it was a daft thing to do to try and get a quick one off, particularly on a yellow card. Nor am I going to deny that to the letter of the law Hall was right to book him. But pur-lease. An actual red card and two game ban for taking your own free kick (supposed to be an advantage to you) too quickly? Do me a bloody favour. Has it really come to that? A thoroughly pathetic decision and one crying out for a referee to show common sense and give Watson a bit of a stern look and a lecture on how daft it all was. Sadly common sense has never been a strong point of Andy Hall’s – I bet he knew about the beach ball rule at the weekend, I bet he knows every single rule in the book and can quote them to you in his sleep, and I’ll bet he’s never done anything other than apply them to the absolute letter at all times however ridiculous that makes him look. I very much doubt our referee on Saturday Mr Booth would have dismissed Watson on Tuesday night and I know which style I prefer between his laid back, give the game a chance method and Hall’s letter of the law, don’t do that, stop that, pack that in, that’s disgusting whistle-a-thon.

In the end the decision actually strangely seemed to benefit QPR. First and foremost with the ball returned to the scene of the crime and Watson going down the tunnel it was left to Akos Buzsaky to strike and the Hungarian curled a glorious opening goal of the night over the wall and into the bottom corner of Federici’s net. The goalkeeper’s footwork left plenty to be desired but it was a fine goal and from baying for the referee’s blood one second the Loftus Road crowd was suddenly in raptures – booing and celebrating in equal, bizarre measure.

Secondly it seemed to act as the kick up the backside Rangers badly needed. While still the better team with something to spare QPR were not nearly as good in the opening half hour here as they had been against Preston on Saturday. Part of that was down to Reading pressuring the home player in possession much quicker and higher up the field than North End had done but mainly it seemed that QPR were just far too confident in themselves after scoring four on Saturday and simply expected it to happen for them rather than going out and making it so. That all went out the window after the red card and for the final hour the R’s were virtually unplayable.

Another thing Hall does like to do is even things up and with the crowd screaming at him to do just that Ivar Ingimarsson picked up Reading’s first card of the night for tripping Jay Simpson. It was the third time Ingimarsson had done it but again I wonder if a card was strictly necessary for what was a nothing foul truth be told.

Simpson had picked himself up and got on with it on the numerous previous occasions that Reading had singled him out for rough treatment and he did so again, scoring a fabulous second goal five minutes before the break. Jim Magilton’s philosophy on how the game should be played was stamped all over the move that started with the QPR centre halves playing it around between themselves under pressure, then Radek Cerny doing the same thing, and suddenly with most fans watching with horror between their fingers the R’s were flooding forward. Buzsaky played a glorious ball out to Routledge, he produced the perfect back post cross, and Jay Simpson hammered it in from close range with a first time half volley. Loftus Road erupted while Magilton and Gorman embraced on the touchline. It was such a wonderful goal to see, the kind I always wished my QPR side could score. To do it with ten men as well made it extra special, and drove another nail into Reading’s coffin lid.

It’s an old cliché, but had you walked into the ground at this point you would never have guessed QPR were the side playing a man light. The confidence and dominance was personified by Taarabt who wowed the crowds with a trick or five down by the corner flag to torment the Reading defenders. All very fine and funny now, but if he does that to Chris Morgan he’ll be waking up two days later on a drip.

It was important having moved up through the gears and scored two fine goals that QPR got into the break with the advantage intact. They were fortunate to do so when Faurlin cynically hauled back McAnuff on the edge of the area as he threatened to break for goal and presented the visitors with an inviting free kick. Young striker Simon Church took it, curling the ball round the wall and Cerny but off the post and away to safety. It rather summed up Reading’s night.

I cannot imagine what Brendan Rodgers had to say to his troops at half time but I bet it was not too complimentary. It took a while as well with QPR back out on the field and ready to go a couple of minutes before their visitors. When they did emerge Reading had made two changes – Howard and Sigurdsson came on for Tabb and Cisse who had endured poor first halves. Whatever the Reading manager did say went completely out of the window within eight seconds.

QPR kicked off, Simpson took three steps into the Reading half with the ball, Ingimarsson lunged at him and Hall’s eyes lit up – a chance for another card, a chance for further involvement, a chance to genuinely even it all up. He made no attempt to hide the grin as the Reading skipper was dismissed. No doubt that Ingimarsson’s second tackle on Simpson was a bad one, Simpson limped on for a few minutes but was replaced by Vine eight minutes into the half, but like Watson I’m forced to wonder, looking at his offences over the whole game, whether he did enough to deserve a red. I don’t think so personally.

The game was killed as a contest from that point, it simply became a matter of how many goals QPR would get.

Reading did rally briefly with Sigurdsson seeing a shot blocked bravely by Stewart and Long heading McAnuff’s cross over the bar from inside the six yard box when he should have found the target. A neat turn, step and blast over the bar from distance by Taarabt signalled QPR retaking control of affairs before the hour mark.

Following his introduction Vine went close to scoring three times in almost as many minutes. On the first two occasions the chances came from the irrepressible Routledge, playing some of the best football of his career at the moment and an absolute pest to Reading all night. Twice in a minute he jinked into the Reading area, got to the byline, cut the ball back and then watched open mouthed as Vine stubbed both close range efforts towards goal giving Federici just enough chance to keep out the shots with scrambling saves. When Vine did find the net with a crisp shot from the edge of the box after a well worked short corner routine he was denied his much needed first goal of the season by a linesman’s flag from earlier in the move.

Vine has clearly been lacking confidence, and carrying excess weight, since returning from his broken leg at the end of last season. On one occasion on Tuesday he picked the ball up midway inside the Reading half and faced up to a defender one on one – where the old Rowan would have taken him on and beaten him for pace and skill this pale shadow hesitated, spent too long weighing up options, and gave the ball away. Perhaps a goal will do his confidence some good – he did manage one at the fourth attempt 20 minutes from time when he cut inside from the left channel onto a pass from F Block’s new hero Gary Borrowdale and hit a speculative shot to the near post before celebrating as Federici allowed the ball to beat him and find the net. Well struck though it undoubtedly was, no keeper worth his salt should concede in such a way and it merely served to underline the deficiencies in the visiting side once more.

Plenty had gone on in the midst of Rowan Vine’s one man battle with goalkeeper, linesman and his own mind. QPR’s physical, confident, dominant defence produced three great blocks in a penalty box scramble at the School End that then developed into a counter attack that Faurlin was able to shoot at the culmination of and win a corner. The Argentinean was composure personified in the centre of the midfield all night, showing an admirable and highly creative passing game that won plaudits from the stands all evening – he looks a better signing with each passing game he plays.

Damion Stewart produced a wonderful block at the near post to deny Reading’s sub striker Kanu after his own ambitious crossfield pass had been miscontrolled by Routledge setting up a Royals attack. Taarabt cut in from the left and fired over with Buzsaky screaming for a pass at the Loft End – the shot was the right option. That was just about Buzsaky’s last action of the game as he was replaced by Mahon who far from being a ‘what we have we hold’ option actually came on and was just as ambitious and attacking with the passes as Buzsaky had been. You know things are going well when even Gavin Mahon is spraying the ball around.

With 15 minutes left to play and three goals already in the bag Magilton decided to send on Patrick Agyemang for the tiring Taarabt who was given a richly deserved standing ovation by the home crowd. Now I give Agyemang plenty of stick, deservedly so I think, but this is a role he will always fill very well – a big, physical, quick threat against a tired defence with time running out. He is the ultimate impact sub and for a Reading team that looked like it was pining for the warmth of the team coach as its own supporters mocked both the players’ meagre efforts and the manager’s decisions he was the last thing they wanted to see.

Sure enough immediately from the restart he set off on a bumbling run towards the area during which he never seemed to have the ball under control, or full balance, but nevertheless took Mills all the way to the six yard box and looked certain to score until he, Mills, the ball and Federici all met in an untidy shemozzle under the crossbar and the keeper came up with the ball. He would have had another chance to run in on goal ten minutes before the end of the game had a ridiculous offside flag not been raised, ridiculous as he had had to wrestle a Reading player out of the way to get through and therefore by definition couldn’t possible have been offside, but within a minute he was through again and calmly sidestepped Federici before sidefooting home his first goal of the campaign to bring up the four nil scorleine Rangers had won by on Saturday. Agyemang actually did look offside on that occasion, but it was a lovely through ball from Mahon to set him up all the same.

With goals clearly there for the taking it was disappointing to see Rangers relax a bit at this point and allow Reading to come back into the game a little. That is criticism in the extreme of course at four nil up with five to play but I’m sure Magilton felt the same. Cerny produced three outstanding saves to deny Howard twice, one a tip over under the cross bar the other a smart block from a long range shot that moved in the air, and another to keep Sigurdsson out.

Five minutes from the end Reading did get their consolation goal. Peter Ramage chased a loose ball down to the Reading corner flag but could not maintain possession. His effort was commendable but it left QPR short down the Reading left and the visitors exploited first that, and then a weak tackle by Mahon in the area, to score through Howard from close range. The Reading fans celebrated with ironic enthusiasm with one joker even running on the pitch to celebrate with Cerny and he was promptly escorted out of the ground. You had to laugh, we’ve been there many, many times ourselves.

However poor Reading were, QPR were excellent again. Not as fluent and effective as they had been against Preston for the first half hour but galvanized by the sending off and magnificent thereafter. Even the players coming off the bench look confident and keen with Agyemang turning in a good performance and Mahon slotting straight back into the midfield with ease. Once again there were numerous candidates for man of the match but for me the stand out performances came from Stewart and Gorkss at the back, Faurlin, Buzsaky, Routledge and Taarabt across the midfield. The centre halves were formidable, not losing a header all night and battering the Reading forwards from first to last. Faurlin’s passing game was a joy to behold, Buzsaky too was awesome and Routledge and Taarabt will have the Reading defenders waking up in cold sweats for weeks.

The win came at a cost with a two game ban now facing Watson and Simpson limping off to further deplete a squad already missing six first teamers going into this match so it remains to be seen whether we can continue this flying form into next week’s televised double header with Derby and Leicester. If we do the watching public is in for a treat because we are quite superb at the moment. In 1992 we beat Man City 4-0 on the Saturday and Leeds United 4-1 on the Tuesday in a Loftus Road double – this is the first time we’ve done it since and I cannot recall a QPR team playing such good football in the intervening 17 years.

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QPR: Cerny 8, Ramage 8, Stewart 9, Gorkss 9, Borrowdale 8, Buzsaky 9 (Mahon 66, 8), Watson 6, Faurlin 8, Taarabt 9 (Agyemang 75, 8), Routledge 8, Simpson 8 (Vine 53, 7)
Subs Not Used: Heaton, Hall, Alberti, Ainsworth
Sent Off: Watson (two bookings)
Booked: Watson (foul), Watson (taking quick free kick), Borrowdale (foul), Faurlin (foul)
Goals: Buzsaky 31 (unassisted), Simpson 39 (assisted Routledge), Vine 71 (assisted Borrowdale), Agyemang 83 (assisted Mahon)

Reading: Federici 3, Cisse 3 (Sigurdsson 46, 6), Mills 5, Ingimarsson 4, O'Dea 5, Tabb 3 (Howard 46, 7), Gunnarsson 5, Kebe 6, McAnuff 7, Long 5, Church 5 (Robson-Kanu 59, 5)
Subs Not Used: Hamer, Karacan, Rasiak, Pearce
Sent Off: Ingmarsson (two bookings)
Booked: Ingimarsson (repetitive fouling), Ingimarsson (foul)
Goals: Howard 86 (assisted McAnuff)

QPR Star Man – Akos Buzsaky 9 Scored a terrific first goal that could not have come at a better time and then did numerous jobs across a midfield shorn of it’s central linch pin for the rest of the game, Played a wonderful pass in the build up to the second goal and was class all night. Taarabt, Routledge, Stewart, Gorkss, Faurlin and others all could easily have taken the award.

Referee: Andy Hall (W Midlands) 3 I just don’t agree with his total, 100%, robotic, by the book approach to refereeing. On Saturday we said perhaps referee Russell Booth could have shown a few more yellow cards and let a few things go that he shouldn’t have done – I gave him a mark of eight. I would so much rather see play allowed to continue and cards stay firmly in pockets than watch a game refereed by a man who wants to get involved at every single turn. Hall is constantly looking for offences, constantly having to explain decisions to players. He’s whistle, whistle, whistle all the time and has all the common sense of a piece of old brick. People do not come to games to see people sent off and although both Ingimarsson and Watson were undoubtedly daft both could have stayed on the pitch in my opinion. A complete pain in the arse all night as always.

Attendance: 11,900 (600 Reading approx) Such a shame that more people have not been at the last three home games to witness spectacular QPR performances but that will surely change if the current form continues. A good atmosphere inside Loftus Road all the same, and although the sheer numbers of Reading fans who have deserted their team the moment things get a bit tough is staggering (their end was sold out just nine months ago) those that did travel were noisy and good humoured in disastrous defeat.

Photo: Action Images

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