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Derby rammed by rampant Rangers – full match report
Derby rammed by rampant Rangers – full match report
Sunday, 25th Oct 2009 18:04

QPR scored four goals for the third consecutive game on Saturday night as their talented team turned on the style for the BBC cameras at Derby County.

Derby have injuries you know. Lots of them. They’re managed by Nigel Clough as well, that’s Brian’s son you know. And Robbie Savage is playing well isn’t he? It’s like he’s got a new lease of life. He was on loan at Brighton last year you know.

Of course you know, because you either stayed at home and watched our wonderful side dismantle Derby on the television last night or you rushed home from the demolition job at Pride Park and stuck the recording on straight away to relive it and that’s all the bloody presenters and commentators could talk about. Do you know at one stage last week Derby only had 16 players fit and available to train? Yeh, of course you did.

QPR were missing seven themselves yesterday – including both their central midfielders. Martin Rowlands, Ben Watson, Hogan Ephraim, Lee Cook, Allesandro Pellicori, Matthew Connolly and Angelo Balanta all unable to travel, Mikele Leigertwood, Fitz Hall and Gareth Ainsworth only just back from injury on the bench, Jay Simpson passing a late fitness test. But then where’s the story there? Jim Magilton is nobody’s son.

While the BBC tagged on the fact that QPR were far superior to Derby in every single department for the entire match, should never have been two goals down in the first place and in the end could have scored more than the four they declared at as a mere afterthought to the Clough and Derby love in I’ll bring it in right at the top I think. Rangers were, once again, magnificent. Superb to watch, creative and confident, passing the ball to death, maintaining possession for what seemed like hours at a time, scoring another superb goal at the end of a ten pass move that started in their own penalty area – brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

While Derby were apparently roping people in off the street at twenty past five trying to make up a team, Dean Leacock’s mumps the latest cataclysmic disaster to grossly undermine Clough’s otherwise relentless right of passage to the very summit of the English game, QPR stuck with their settled starting eleven. Gavin Mahon, harshly dropped in favour of Watson against Reading on Tuesday, was back in the midfield with the Wigan loan man now suspended again. That was the only change with, as I say, Jay Simpson passing a late test on his injury and able to take his place in attach with Buzsaky, Routledge and Taarabt rotating between the supporting role and the two wide midfield positions. Faurlin made up the midfield four. At the back Borrowdale and Ramage remained at full back with Stewart and Gorkss at centre half ahead of Cerny.

The game very quickly settled into a pattern it would follow for the entire 90 minutes. Derby looked for their main striker Rob Hulse every time they got the ball with one long ball after another punted down the field in his general direction. Paul Dickov, (remember him?) buzzed around Hulse’s feet looking for knock downs and opportunities to irritate people. Without the ball the Rams aimed to press QPR high up the field and restrict their possession with Savage the impressive beating heart of their midfield.

QPR were much more patient, choosing to build from the back and feed the ball into the feet of their danger men in areas where they could do damage. The flowing move in the seventh minute that ended with a lovely cross-field pass from Mahon to Taarabt who in turn fed the ball into the box for Buzsaky typified the set up – on that occasion Buzsaky’s first touch took him wide of the goal and his snap shot on the turn was held by Bywater.

It was Derby’s choice of tactics that drew first blood. Nine minutes into the game a bizarre piece of refereeing from our official for the day Mark Haywood presented the Rams with the opening goal. One of those long balls towards Hulse drew a free kick midway inside the QPR half even though Gorkss had seemed to do little wrong and Hulse had actually been able to release Lee Croft wide down the right for an obvious advantage. Derby were initially not happy to be awarded the free kick but when Robbie Savage took it quickly (no sendings off for that in this game apparently) he found Rangers asleep and Dickov was able to turn in space and fire home with Cerny’s goalkeeping questionable.

Mr Haywood says in his profile that he would like to be known as a “safe pair of hands” for the big games. Well I would not want him carrying the crockery the next time I move house. On the quarter hour Dickov crudely slid through the back of Damion Stewart on the halfway line long after the ball had gone – play on was waved as QPR kept possession but the referee did not so much as speak to Dickov once the game had stopped. Then he got in the way of a fine Robbie Savage pass that looked destined to release Teale down the left flank. Then after Buzsaky was clearly chopped down on the edge of the very edge of the box right in the centre of the goal he waved advantage on even though the ball was with Routledge out by the corner flag and came to nothing when just ten minutes earlier for the Derby goal he’d brought them back in identical circumstances and, even had he not, how can Wayne Routledge being penned in by the corner flag be more of an advantage than a free kick 18 yards from goal in the centre of the pitch? He was making my teeth itch by this stage as you can probably tell – this the referee who allowed Chris Eagles to punch in the only goal of the game when we were at Burnley last season you may recall.

Both sides had good headed chances for goals around the quarter hour mark. A good QPR move ended with Routledge crossing and Mahon heading over under pressure, then at the other end a fine inswinging ball from Teale found Hulse whose flicked header was parried by Cerny right under his cross bar and the Czech keeper managed to smother the rebound as Dickov attempted to sniff out a second with an overhead kick.

Undeterred, QPR kept going and kept playing their football. Twenty minutes in they were denied a shot at goal when Taarabt tricked his way down the left flank and teed Buzsaky up for as shot right on the edge of the box only for the Hungarian to be brilliantly tackled by the referee who may as well at this stage have slung a white shirt on and started kicking the ball for Derby as well. Mr Haywood attempted to even things up a bit by awarding Faurlin a soft free kick on the edge of the box that the Argentinean took himself and curled into the side netting with Bywater beaten and a good portion of the 600 travelling QPR fans celebrating what they believed was a goal to the considerable amusement of the large home crowd. That happened again ten minutes later when Taarabt brilliantly fed Routledge whose shot was saved and Buzsaky lashed in the rebound only for the flag to go up for offside earlier in the move.

Another flowing move saw Mahon feed Simpson in the box but he was crowded out of the chance by Barker and Connolly in the Derby defence. Derby’s best attack of the half in open play came on the half hour and ended with a fine cross from Croft that Hulse headed over the bar at full stretch under pressure from Damion Stewart at the near post.

I apologise for returning to the match official at this point, regular readers will know I don’t routinely slag off referees on here, but he was right in the thick of the action for the remaining 15 minutes of the half giving several perplexing decisions including two that lead to goals. Firstly Gary Teale was allowed to absolutely crunch into Wayne Routledge on the touchline in frustration at losing the ball without being booked, secondly Adel Taarabt was clearly fouled on the edge of the Derby box at the end of a fine move and no free kick was awarded, thirdly he then awarded Derby a free kick in their own box when it was clear that Connolly had simply lost his footing and Simpson had made no contact with him whatsoever. It was from this latest farce that Derby doubled their lead.

The Rams, just for a change, punted the ball long and straight down the middle towards Hulse from the free kick. He won the flick on but the ball had too much pace on it and carried through to Cerny easily. Between Hulse and the QPR goalkeeper Dickov theatrically, and quite comically, threw himself to ground over the back of Damion Stewart. Contact was minimal, Dickov’s chances of getting to the ball were almost non existent, it was a blatant dive, and yet a free kick was awarded and Robbie Savage needed no second invitation to curl the ball over the wall and into the top corner off the post with nothing anybody on the QPR side could do to prevent it. A fine finish and just rewards for Savage’s eye catching first half performance but in context it was a complete joke.

As was the goal that got QPR back into the game five minutes before half time. After waving away two nasty tackles on Buzsaky and Taarabt on the edge of the area Haywood then awarded one to the loaned Tottenham man when contact, while certainly there, was pretty meagre. Stephen Bywater did a horrific job of setting up a wall that was clearly too far to his right and missing at least one brick from the left side and that was all the encouragement Taarabt needed to curl the ball low around the defenders and into the bottom corner with one bounce.

To compound a half of at times infuriating and frustrating refereeing Paul Dickov was then allowed, for the second time in the game, to hack a QPR player down with a tackle from behind without a free kick or card being shown. Alejandro Faurlin, excellent and composed at the heart of the QPR midfield again, was the victim this time.

The Taarabt goal really seemed to knock the stuffing out of Derby who hadn’t been playing particularly well or maintaining possession at all even when two nil up and were simply awful for the rest of the game. Once QPR opened their account on the afternoon the Rams sat very deep, left Hulse isolated, and conceded possession remorselessly. QPR finished the half very strongly, taking advantage of three minutes of added time to craft first a chance for Jay Simpson whose flicked header from Routledge’s cross was comfortably saved by Bywater, then Borrowdale who stung the keeper’s hands from distance, then Taarabt whose long range effort deflected wide for a corner from which Gorkss saw a close range header blocked, and then Routledge who had a shot in the box repelled by some desperate defence.

Derby did force their first corner of the game, and Teale really should have done better than volley over from eight yards out from that set piece, but the home side were more grateful to hear the whistle than the away one and the general consensus in the QPR end at half time was that Rangers could not only get a point from this losing position, but they could quite easily go on and win the game.

Certainly the team seemed to believe this too and the R’s were back on terms within two minutes of the restart with a goal that is becoming typical of our recent style of play. Kaspars Gorkss began the move on the edge of his own area, Wayne Routledge added penetration to it with a burst of speed and show of strength that took him past three would be tacklers in midfield, then after an exchange of passes on the edge of the box Taarabt cross to the back post, Routledge touched it back across the face of goal and Gavin Mahon arrived right on cue to slide home the equaliser.

From talking about trying to “hang on” at half time Nigel Clough suddenly had nothing to hang on to. The folly of ever assuming Derby could simply sit deep and contain QPR for a full half of football was shown by the amount of time it took Rangers to score. It may be a little harsh to say ‘Conference tactics from a Conference manager’ but you’ve got to have more in your locker than one long ball to a big centre forward and hassling opponents high up the pitch when not in possession against the better sides in this league. Even allowing for the injuries they have Derby did not help themselves with their approach to the second half and got exactly what they deserved: a sound pasting.

Buzsaky tried his luck from distance five minutes after the break but screwed his shot high and wide, then Adel Taarabt played a perfect ball in behind Moxey for Routledge but Bywater stood tall and blocked his shot with his chest at the near post. Taarabt and Routledge were at their unplayable best for me on Saturday – terrorising Derby from first to last.

We finally saw the first yellow card of the afternoon just before the hour for yet another agricultural hack through the back of a QPR player by one of the leaden footed Derby defenders. Connolly received it, Taarabt was the victim.

Rangers took the lead for the first time in the game on the hour. Buzsaky threaded a ball through to Simpson on the edge of the box from the halfway line and when Connolly’s attempt to slide in an intercept that failed Derby were always in trouble. Simpson ran into the penalty area, taking advantage of a rugby league style obstruction from Routledge on Barker, and wrong footed Bywater as he slid the ball home.

There then followed a lengthy stoppage for a nasty looking facial injury to Derby full back Stoor. This enabled the away fans to engage in prolonged celebration and both managers to make changes to their team. Leigertwood came on for Ramage at right back for QPR, the Geordie seemed to have picked up a knock, and Livermore came on for the stricken Stoor in the home line up.

QPR picked up where they had left off after the restart with flowing football producing a cross by Routledge, a touch back by Buzsaky and a blocked volley from the edge of the area by Faurlin after good strength from Simpson. That was enough for Clough who sent on Davies and Pearson for Dickov and Hughes and that did indeed seem to give the Rams a bit more punch through the middle for a while. When Borrowdale was penalised for a foul on Croft with 20 minutes to go Gorkss had to be strong to deny Hulse a free header at the back post, Faurlin cleared the resulting corner after it had been nodded down into the six yard box.

Mikele Leigertwood’s first real impact on the game actually came in attack rather than in his right back position. A swashbuckling run from there to the halfway line was followed by a defence splitting pass to Taarabt who raced into the area before having a near post shot saved by Bywater as Savage, clearly Derby’s outstanding player, worked hard to narrow the angle.

The closest Derby came to an equaliser was 12 minutes from time when Croft’s high, hanging cross tempted Cerny from his goal and the keeper needed Borrowdale to rescue him with a headed goaline clearance as Davies beat him to the ball with a header. That was swiftly followed a glorious chance for Hulse who looked to have fouled Gorkss under (yet) another long punt down the field but was allowed to go on and pick up the knock down but could only fire very high and wide. Hulse had started the game really, really well but faded badly as it went on and looked thoroughly demoralised and lacking any confidence at all by this stage – an afternoon of lone striker play against Stewart and Gorkss will do that to a man.

As he had done against Reading on Tuesday Jim Magilton looked to further sap a tired defence by introducing Vine and Agyemang for Taarabt and Simpson, who had carried a knock into the match but played well all the same. Five minutes from time after a foul on Routledge by Moxey tight to the touchline Vine almost set up his substitute partner with a low cross to the near post that Agyemang hammered wide under pressure.

The game, which was heading for what would have been a very tense period of at least five added minutes, was killed as a contest in the final moments of normal time. A great tackle by Gorkss by his own corner flag denied Derby an attack and then Akos Buzsaky released Routledge at the other end with a miraculous 80 yard pass that split Derby clean in two. Routledge raced into the area where he was then bundled to the ground by Moxey for a clear penalty. Mr Haywood initially looked and seemed set to wave it away but was then advised by his linesman that it was indeed a spot kick and so QPR were belatedly given a chance to make it four for the third consecutive game, an opportunity gleefully seized by Buzsaky who rifled the penalty straight down the middle and into the roof of the net.

This was the signal for a mass exodus from the home fans, many of whom chose to throw their free t-shirts handed out before the game as a mark of respect for the armed forces as Remembrance Sunday approaches, onto the pitch. This seemed a rather childish and unnecessary response to being beaten by a better side with 16 players out injured but I’m sure they had their reasons and it is hard to criticise a group of fans that again turned out in impressively huge numbers to watch a distinctly average team.

So having potentially been a very nervy period of play the extensive amounts of added time at the end of the game simply served as an extended party time in the away end as stewards did their best to clear the field of t-shirts sufficiently for the game to come to a close.

Yes Derby have injuries, lots and lots of them. But we cannot keep doing this every week – saying Preston were poor and Reading were terrible and Derby had lots of injuries. Barnsley were the division’s form team and we stuck five through them, Cardiff are second and we won there, Preston were fifth when we destroyed them. Let’s, for once, give ourselves some credit. We’re well set up, very settled, playing wonderfully attractive football and have a number of talented players on form that makes them unplayable at the moment. Guided round the field by two central midfielders, Faurlin and Mahon, who have filled in for supposedly more talented and adept first choices with consummate ease, we were able to terrify Derby with Taarabt’s tricks and speed, Routledge’s raw pace, Simpson’s link up work and Buzsaky’s sublime passing game and vision.

Even at two goals down I actually wasn’t that worried, and that’s not me speaking with hindsight because I said as much to the people I travelled with. Both Derby goals came from refereeing decisions rather than anything they did to particularly hurt us and we looked like the better, more dangerous side even at two goals down. Obviously I feared the worst but I’ve never felt so confident and relaxed at two goals down before. It will take a lot to beat this QPR side while it is playing like this, and how long that will be for remains to be seen, but it needs more than a long ball game to a big man and a hard working midfield to do it and that’s all Derby really offered on the night.

Almost impossible to pick fault with QPR again, apart from perhaps the defending for the first goal, and the R’s are now a very potent and dangerous member of the top six with a chance on Friday to lay down a real marker with a game still in hand before everybody else plays on Saturday.

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Derby: Bywater 5, Stoor 6 (Livermore 62, 6), Connolly 6, Barker 7, Moxey 5, Croft 6, Savage 7, Hughes 6 (Pearson 68, 7), Teale 6, Dickov 6 (Davies 68, 7),Hulse 6
Subs Not Used: Deeney, Buxton, Hendrie, Mills
Booked: Connolly
Goals: Dickov 10 (assisted Savage), Savage 36 (free kick)

QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 7 (Leigertwood 60, 8), Gorkss 7, Stewart 7, Borrowdale 7, Routledge 8, Faurlin 8, Mahon 8, Buzsaky 8, Taarabt 8 (Agyemang 75, 6), Simpson 7 (Vine 75, 7)
Subs Not Used: Heaton, Hall, Alberti, Ainsworth
Goals: Taarabt 40 (free kick), Mahon 47 (assisted Routledge), Simpson 59 (assisted Buzsaky), Buzsaky 90 (penalty)

QPR Star Man – Gavin Mahon 8 I came away from the game giving this award to Faurlin but having sat and watched the game back on tape I’ve altered my decision slightly, while still giving both he and Mahon equally high marks. Mahon gave a complete holding midfield performance for me with solid defence mixed with an expansive attacking game that I never knew he had in him until recent games. His passing game was excellent, he scored a crucial goal at a great time and he led the team and it’s that leadership that we really need from him in Rowlands’ absence. Between Mahon, Faurlin and Taarabt for me with the other two unlucky to miss out.

Referee: Mark Haywood (W Yorkshire) 4 Improved in the second half but I thought he was absolutely dire in the first. Free kicks, including two that led directly to goals, were given when they shouldn’t have been while other blatant ones were waved away. Tackles that should really have brought cards did not, advantage rule was applied when it shouldn’t have been and not when it should. In the first 45 I’m actually struggling to think of a decision he got right. Like I say he improved after the break, but he could scarcely have got any worse.

Attendance: 30,135 (600 QPR approx) The Derby fans continue to back their team in terrific numbers despite a lean period over the past two and a half years. The ‘wear white night’ idea initially looked to be a very good one with four sides of the ground, except for a little pocket of R’s behind one of the goals, all in Derby colours. However it turned sour when several hundred of the shirts were needlessly thrown onto the pitch. The QPR fans travelled in decent numbers considering the time of the game and fact that it was on free to air television and made a decent noise throughout – “we gave you two for the telly” raised a particularly broad smile.

Photo: Action Images

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