Gorkss opens his account to secure ugly Wednesday win - full match report Sunday, 8th Nov 2009 20:22
QPR discovered their plan B and ability to win ‘ugly’ with a scrappy 2-1 success at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, a result that lifts the R’s to fourth place.
It has been suggested by the regulars in The Green that LFW match previews could hold the key to a vast fortune in gambling returns. For example having spoken at length about QPR’s excellent disciplinary record when compared to Swansea before the two met at the Liberty Stadium I suppose it was inevitable that Rangers would quickly find themselves down to nine men after two red cards.
Then this week, no sooner had I finished writing about the lack of a plan B and ability to win games when not playing well, QPR picked up three points from a trip to Sheffield Wednesday despite being a million miles away from their best. Only really at Scunthorpe this season have QPR been able to grind out a win when not playing well – we should, for example, have escaped with a draw at Bristol City and Plymouth away could have been won with a little more ruthlessness to our play. Essentially when not at our best we have so far found a way to let the opponents take things from us.
Until Saturday QPR lacked that gritty resolve to go with their flowing football. While we’re certainly more like the Jean Tigana Fulham side that won this division so handsomely in 2001 it is worth remembering that West Brom won promotion three years later with 17 1-0 wins. Successful teams grind out results when things aren’t going well for them and on Saturday at Hillsborough QPR did just that. Disjointed at times, outright poor at others, and only really able to start stringing bits and pieces together when Alejandro Faurlin was introduced in the second half Rangers were ultimately successful thanks to a rare headed goal from a corner – something else QPR really should be able to do a lot more.
Jim Magilton was forced into a change before the match began. Gary Borrowdale was the latest victim of the viruses and stomach bugs sweeping the Football League at the moment and that exposed QPR’s lack of cover at left back. Matthew Connolly was only fit enough for the bench after a dose of glandular fever and that meant Peter Ramage was pressed into service at left back rather than his favoured right sided defensive role. I felt sorry for Ramage throughout the game as he clearly found the task very difficult but he did it reasonably well, held his own you might say, while Leigertwood at right back struggled badly with his worst performance in that position so far.
Gorkss and Hall were the centre halves in front of Cerny. In midfield, despite a man of the match performance on Tuesday night against Palace, Alejandro Faurlin made way for Gavin Mahon alongside Ben Watson – possibly to give Rangers a more solid look across the middle after Palace bullied us somewhat during the week. Buzsaky, Taarabt and Routledge switched between the wide roles and the hole in behind Jay Simpson at the top of the team.
Sheffield Wednesday players were ordered to stay away from their training ground during the week to prevent the spread of a virus that had affected eight players prior to their 1-1 draw at Bristol City last week. Etienne Esajas and Mark Beevers were left on the bench as Brian Laws kept faith with the same team from Ashton Gate – Luke Varney partnered Marcus Tudgay in attack with Leon Clarke, former QPR loanee and scorer of the winner in this fixture last season, waiting to make an impact as a substitute.
After an early attack ended with Akos Buzsaky blasting the ball high over the bar from the edge of the area Rangers took the lead in the tenth minute. Buzsaky fed Adel Taarabt on the edge of the area and, as was to be the Wednesday tactic with the Moroccan all afternoon, he was swiftly surrounded by three opponents. It mattered little, the loaned Tottenham man retreated five yards into space, then turned and played a perfect through ball for Jay Simpson who looked suspiciously offside but made the most of the lack of a flag by clinically finishing across Lee Grant and into the bottom corner of the net.
Sadly for the visitors Wayne Routledge could not show the same composure when played in by Taarabt (pulling the strings despite the excessive defensive attention) a minute later and clipped the post with his cross shot and Rangers then conceded an equaliser almost immediately. Taarabt was too casual in trying to touch Fitz Hall’s through ball off to Ben Watson on halfway and Darren Potter seized on possession and played the ball in behind Mikele Leigertwood. There was only ever going to be one winner in a race between Leigertwood and Sheff Wed’s jet healed winger Jermaine Johnson, who gave the QPR right back a torrid time all afternoon, and sure enough Johnson surged into the penalty area and finished neatly across Cerny and in off the far post.
While Leigertwood was having all on keeping hold of Johnson, Fitz Hall also seemed to be struggling with Luke Varney. The former Crewe forward is hardly noted for his blistering pace but after twenty minutes he roasted Hall and hit the post, possibly via a touch from Cerny, then did so again moments later but let himself down with a ridiculously obvious dive attempting to win a penalty that really should have brought a yellow card. As Varney toed the ball past him for a third time in as many minutes Hall, in fairly typical style, collapsed to the ground clutching his groin and that was the end of his afternoon.
It is a regular problem for Hall and although he initially waved the stretcher away and attempted to play on it was clear he could hardly run about and in truth his decision not to just take his medicine and go off straight could have cost QPR another goal had Sheff Wed attacked him in the two minutes he spent limping around. Matt Connolly was prepared but there seemed to be some disagreement between Hall and Magilton as the sub was made – whether Hall was angry that he’d been made to stay out there when barely able to move, or whether he thought he could somehow stay on and run the injury off is unclear but he was very unhappy moaning and testiculating as he left the field. Connolly’s introduction solidified QPR at the back and Varney was much less effective, while still one of Wednesday’s biggest threats, thereafter.
This is obviously a shame for Hall, and it is frustrating having somebody earning so much money who plays so little football. However the simple fact is we have four centre backs capable of playing in our first team and Hall is the worst of those four. Connolly and Gorkss looked so much more secure as a partnership than Gorkss and Hall it wasn’t true. Even when he is playing well Hall somehow has the knack of gifting opponents goals, as he did at Bristol City and against Palace on Tuesday, whereas Connolly and Gorkss are much less accident prone. Like I say, a shame for Hall but probably the best thing for the team in the long run.
The half settled down after that with speculative efforts from Watson, saved by Grant who got up well to then catch the follow up that had been headed goalwards by Ramage of all people, and Johnson, not quite bar wide, the only real action of note as the temperature started to drop. In two minutes of added time at the end of the half Wayne Routledge added the latest one on one miss to his collection when he was played into the right channel of the penalty area but could only fire straight at Grant. He really, really needs to work on his finishing because everything else in his game is excellent at the moment but he is just spurning too many chances – our goals for column would be unbelievable if he could show the same ice coolness in front of goal that Simpson has perfected in bagging his seven for Rangers. Anyway, 1-1 was probably a fair reflection of the first half going into half time.
On a day when the heavyweight championship of the world was fought for in Germany you’ll perhaps excuse me a boxing analogy to describe the start of the second half. In much the same was as they had done in the final 20 minutes of the first period the teams spent the early periods of the second half posturing, dancing round each other, exchanging occasional jabs but ultimately looking a little bit afraid to go all out and attack in case it left them vulnerable to a knock out counter punch. Adel Taarabt skipped into the Wednesday area but fired into the side netting with team mates calling for a pass, and Darren Potter curled a free kick wide of the top corner from the very edge of the penalty area after a foul by Mahon on the otherwise quiet Tudgay – a similar chance to the one Buzsaky saw saved against Palace on Tuesday and one he really should have found the target with.
On the hour great feet from Simpson on the edge of the box bamboozled both Hinds and Buxton at the heart of the Wednesday defence but Grant saved the subsequent shot comfortably. Four minutes later Wednesday came as close as they would all afternoon to getting a winner when the impressive Tommy Miller drilled a shot in from twenty yards and then held his head in his hands as it smacked against the base of the post and rebounded away to safety – the third time on the day that the sides had hit the woodwork.
Both managers showed their hands with 20 minutes left to play. Jim Magilton replaced Buzsaky with Faurlin and initially I could not understand this move. Buzsaky had not played particularly well but in the five minutes before he was withdrawn he had come into the middle of the field and played off Simpson, his best position in my opinion, with Routledge wide right. That is our best set up as far as I am concerned and it almost yielded a second goal when Routledge brilliantly reached the byline and cut a ball back to the near post where Watson could only side foot a shot right across the face of goal and wide from a yard out when it seemed easier to score.
Buzsaky and Simpson had also combined nicely on the edge of the box a couple of times, Grant got down well to hold a 20 yard effort from Simpson seconds before the change. Nevertheless the Hungarian was withdrawn, Faurlin came on, and it is to Jim Magilton’s huge credit that this change completely revitalised the QPR side. Suddenly we were passing the ball properly at last, getting players into the game in dangerous areas. Faurlin was a picture of calmness and composure, defying the stereotypical view that somebody from his part of the world “won’t like a cold November day in Sheffield” that was bandied around when we paid the money for him in the summer. He settled us down, helped us maintain possession, and guided us around the field. He was excellent.
Now while this change clearly improved Rangers Brian Laws’ made three switches that seemed to really weaken Sheffield Wednesday around the same time. One was enforced, Frankie Simek, just back from injury, went down with cramp and was replaced by Richard Wood who seemed to be booed by a section of the home support whenever he touched the ball, possibly owing to an ongoing contract situation that may see him drop down two division and join big spending Notts County. Wednesday certainly didn’t look as secure at the back after that but the really strange one for me was taking off Tommy Miller, second only to Johnson in the quest for Wednesday’s man of the match award in my opinion, and replaced him with full back Sean McAllister. So while QPR sent on somebody to run their midfield, Wednesday took off the guy that was doing just that for them. Perplexing, and I can only assume injury or illness was to blame. Not quite as perplexing as the decision to then take Johnson off as well five minutes later and send on big, lumbering Leon Clarke instead. So just to recap that’s Wednesday’s two outstanding players both taken off within five minutes of each other and, rather than put some more pace and tricks against Leigertwood who’d been toasted all afternoon by Johnson, Laws left Esajas on the bench and sent on Clarke who Kaspars Gorkss could mark out of a game in his sleep. One wondered whether Laws had a QPR win on his coupon, or was perhaps receiving substitution tips from Rafa Bentiez via text.
Just as a side issue when Simek went down with cramp Taarabt was in behind Wednesday and running into space towards goal – he sportingly stopped and kicked the ball out. This did my head in as Simek was clearly suffering with nothing more than fatigue, the referee was happy to play on, and when we did restart we got the ball back some 80 yards down the field with Radek Cerny. The rule is you play until the referee deems play should be stopped for treatment and we should certainly have adhered to that on this occasion.
Eight minutes from time and with many QPR fans more than happy to settle for a point and get home the R’s produced a winner from nothing. Adel Taarabt blasted a shot over from the edge of the penalty area and referee Miller awarded a corner when it was hard to see where it had taken a touch off a defender. Moments earlier a goal kick had been awarded after Wednesday shot wide, and this was then bizarrely changed to a corner when three Wednesday players besieged the referee – so much for the officials never changing their minds. Wednesday didn’t make the most of their award, QPR certainly did. Alejandro Faurlin whipped the corner into the near post where Gorkss stooped low to powerfully head home his first ever QPR goal in this his fifty first appearance from six yards out.
Wednesday spent the remaining eight minutes peppering the QPR box with long balls aimed at Leon Clarke, but like I say the R’s were much better equipped to deal with that than the speed and tricks of Johnson and it only served to further highlight how badly Laws’ substitutions had affected the home side. Clarke did find the side netting with one chance by four minutes of added time passed with only one minor scare as a long range free kick dropped in the QPR area before Gorkss cleared his lines but that was about it.
For the most part this was a very frustrating game. QPR were far, far better than this on Tuesday night against Palace and only drew. We certainly did not need to be at our best to beat a mediocre Sheffield Wednesday team who themselves can play so much better than they showed on Saturday. They looked dangerous when Johnson had the ball running at Leigertwood, and initially when Varney got going at Hall, but didn’t offer much else. I assume Esajas’ illness prevented him from featuring because had Laws slung him on to run at Ramage down the left, with the right side of the defence already struggling with Johnson and Varney, I think they probably would have beaten us by a couple of goals. Similarly had they put him on when they took Johnson off I’m not convinced they would have lost – sending on Clarke and going more direct played into our hands. Wednesday have been poor on the three occasions I’ve seen them this season (on Saturday, at Watford and at Sheff Utd) and I’ve come away from all three games wondering why Laws cannot find room in that team for both Esajas and Johnson – Wednesday fans will probably give me a list of reasons a mile long but like I say I think had they played left and right against us on Saturday we would have lost.
In the end, as stated in the match preview prediction, this game could easily have gone either way and it was settled by one goal from a corner that should have been a goal kick. Moments earlier Wednesday had a corner that should have been a goal kick as well so it could easily have been a home win in identical circumstances. It is important that we are able to grind these wins out of poor performances if we are to make the play offs and we have done it twice now at Scunthorpe and Hillsborough – this result lifts us up to fourth.
Rangers were pretty disjointed throughout. Connolly and Gorkss were very solid at centre half together but both full backs. Leigertwood in particular, had difficult afternoons. The midfield struggled to really get hold of the game – Mahon played reasonably well, Watson can do better, and it was only really when Faurlin came on that we settled down and started to pass the ball properly, maintain possession for any length of time and spread the play into wide areas. At the time the change was made I thought Buzsaky, having moved into the centre, was just starting to have an impact on the game but credit to Magilton for making a substitution that maybe just swung the game our way. I thought Jay Simpson led the line splendidly and looked really up for it against a team he almost joined in the summer while Routledge and Taarabt blew hot and cold – the latter’s assist for the first goal was superb though.
Essentially the only real positives here are the result, the fact that we had the determination to get it while playing at about 30 per cent of our true potential, the fact that it was away from home and we now already have four road wins to our name having only managed three in the whole of last season, and the league table which shows us sitting nicely in fourth going into the international break. Bearing that in mind, and the time spent pre-match discussing the need for QPR to start ‘winning ugly’ it would be churlish to complain.
QPR Star Man – Kaspars Gorkss 7 I’ve given Faurlin a higher mark but it’s hard to award man of the match to somebody who was only on for 20 minutes. Gorkss seems to be a slow starter – he was poor at the start of last season before finishing as runner up in the Player of the Year poll, and has been below his best in the first few months of this season. He was back to his old commanding self on Tuesday and played well on Saturday as well – capping a solid display, that improved further when Connolly came on, with his first goal for the club.
Referee: Nigel Miller (Durham) 6 I’ve never been to Hillsborough when the home fans haven’t a) screamed for at least three penalties as if they’re the most blatant fouls ever committed, b) booed a referee from the field at the end of the game and c) moaned about the match official costing them the game on the tram home. That was the case once again on Saturday and although Miller did indeed make some odd decisions at times (he remains a very eccentric official) particularly the two corners that were probably goal kicks just before the QPR goal – one of which came to appease protesting players, the other resulted in a goal – he wasn’t too bad overall keeping the cards in his pocket and not affecting the game too badly.
Attendance: 19,491 (600 QPR approx) QPR fans were in the lower tier of the away end this year having always been in the upper before. The view from there was terrible compared with our usual seats and the shallow tier, with QPR fans spread out along the byline and effectively out in the open, made creating any kind of atmosphere very difficult. At the other end of the ground the Kop was in pretty decent voice but Wednesday’s policy of leaving huge banks of seats empty to the right and left of the away end makes creating the sort of intimidating atmosphere the home players may find helpful difficult. Ultimately with less than 20,000 people in a ground built for twice that it is always going to be a bit library like and the football wasn’t brilliant enough to stir the Christians from their slumber too often.