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Spirited Rangers denied at the death - full match report
Spirited Rangers denied at the death - full match report
Tuesday, 15th Dec 2009 11:31

QPR, surely the Championship’s most unpredictable team, followed up thrashings by Middlesbrough and Watford with a creditable draw at title chasing West Brom on Monday.

You had to laugh. Roberto Di Matteo stood patiently in the tunnel in a designer suit and dark grey scarf swept across his shoulders - tanned, confident, calm - waiting to shake hands with his opposite number before kick off. A week ago that would have been Jim Magilton, emerging from a dressing room that he had apparently lost altogether judging by the performances of the team immediately before and after his departure, but on Monday the Italian was greeted by the somewhat nervous and dishevelled looking figures of Steve Gallen and Marc Bircham in a rag tag mixture of club tracksuits, shorts and beaney hats.

They didn’t look like a Championship managerial duo in the making, more a couple of dads helping out at the kids football, but with the talent available to whoever picks the team at QPR any flaws or lack of experience can easily be covered up if you can get the players in the mood to play for you. On Monday Rangers had Jay Simpson looking a little lost out of position on the wing, and Patrick Agyemang lumbering round like a drunk buffoon in the lone striker role, but still had more than enough to not only match title chasing West Brom but also come within 30 seconds of beating them.

If further evidence were needed that Jim Magilton’s position at the club is untenable, and I’m not sure it was to be honest, then this was surely it. It seems our team can flick their form on and off like a light switch depending on whether they actually want to play for the man in charge. Over paid, mercenary bastards? Certainly, but what you going to do? Fire all the players? The manager has to go I’m afraid, whatever went on in that dressing room last week the players have sent the message out loud and clear and the contracts we have given them mean they have us by the testicles.

The caretaker management duo made four changes to the line up prior to kick off. Fitz Hall was finally, mercifully, dropped in favour of last season’s partnership of Gorkss and Stewart. Gary Borrowdale’s abdominal injury meant a reprieve at left back for Tommy Williams with Ramage at right back and Cerny in goal. Across the midfield Wayne Routledge and Jay Simpson started right and left with Watson and Leigertwood paired in the middle. Patrick Agyemang and Adel Taarabt began in attack. Alejandro Faurlin was very harshly dropped despite being the top man in recent games.

West Brom were forced to start with Dean Kiely in goal as Scott Carson was suspended following a head butt (theme of the week) on Michael Chopra against Cardiff last Tuesday. Jerome Thomas returned to the line up against the team with whom he spent time on loan earlier in his career after missing the Cardiff defeat with a back injury.

Unsurprisingly it was West Brom on the attack first, Chris Brunt shooting wide from some distance after Tommy Williams had been beaten in the air by Luke Moore, then Jerome Thomas repeating the trick after picking the ball up on the edge of the area. The new look managerial duo were then faced with their first problem of the night when Radek Cerny kicked the turf taking a goal kick, injuring his foot in the process, and visibly struggling with a limp from that point on. Rhys Taylor began warming up, looking scared, and Cerny underwent lengthy treatment on his ankle.

The first quarter of an hour was pretty much one way traffic and Simon Cox should have done better with a header from eight yards out after good work from Thomas wide left, but the former Swindon man could only head straight at the keeper. QPR’s attack only appeared in fleeting glimpses with a low cross from Williams all the way through the penalty box about as good as it got for Rangers.

Strangely, having been second best for most of the first 20 minutes, the first real genuine goal threat came from rangers when Adel Taarabt let rip from 25 yards out and forced a flying save out of Kiely. Rangers then won a corner when Mattock’s cynical attempts to buy a free kick failed and from that Agyemang was unlucky not to win a penalty as he was wrestled in a headlock by two Albion defenders.

Stung by that Albion immediately went on the offensive and Cerny needed two attempts to save a shot from Moore after Stewart had done his best not to foul Thomas on the edge of the box – the home striker really should have scored with this presentable one on one opportunity. The hosts’ clearest sight of goal came on the half hour when Brunt found Zuiverloon with a ball in behind Williams who was out of position but the West Brom full back could only fire over from inside the penalty box.

On the rare occasions Rangers attacked they looked firstly to Taarabt’s skill and then to Agyemang’s power. That strong running of the target man almost yielded a penalty just before the break when Mete got caught the wrong side and then climbed all over Agyemang in the penalty box. Had the QPR man gone down a penalty would have been almost certain but he was honest, stayed on his feet and fired a terrible shot wide of the goal. This was the second time in the game Agyemang could, and probably should, have made more of serious contact in the penalty area and while his honesty is commendable we deserved at least one spot kick for the fouls on him if not two. There was less honesty on show from Taarabt a moment later as he first of all dived for a free kick that was given, and then jinked into the area and dived again after receiving it short but referee Anthony Taylor waved the appeals away.

The R’s escaped a scare in a minute of injury time when Thomas skinned Ramage for the first time and delivered low to the near post but Moore was muscled out of it by Gorkss and Cerny recovered possession.

Undoubtedly the new look Gallen and Bircham managerial team would have been happier than Di Matteo at half time. West Brom had enjoyed the better of the play and the chances but Rangers had looked more solid and committed than a week beforehand and survived what had been thrown at them without too much trouble.

It was inevitable that the Baggies, fresh from the half time team talks, would come out all guns blazing and Radek Cerny was lucky to survive a scare in the first minute of the second half when he spilled a low drive from Brunt and Gorkss managed to smuggle the rebound behind for a corner. Rangers looked unsure, uncomfortable and uneasy but Gorkss got back at Dorrans to deny him a shot on goal and was rewarded with a goal kick when a corner was the obvious decision after two minutes and the frustration started to build among the home ranks again.

Having weathered the initial storm Rangers then took the lead in fortuitous circumstances just before the hour mark. Adel Taarabt saw an ambitious long range shot deflected wide and while he was complaining about a perceived stamp from Mattock in the build up Watson hit a corner towards Gorkss and heavy pressure from the Latvian forced Olsoon into a flying header into his own net. Replays suggested that Gorkss had been very physical with Olson and in all honesty had probably fouled him but referee Taylor gave nothing and there were few complaints from the home side as QPR players gathered around the penalty spot for a sheepish celebration.

That goal seemed to suddenly give QPR the belief that a win was there for the taking and with West Brom looking a little shell shocked the R’s went on the offensive again almost immediately after the restart and were unlucky not to bag a second when Taarabt launched a fearsome 25 yard drive that Kiely did superbly to tip onto the under side of the bar.

The game had suddenly turned completely on its head and it was now QPR in the ascendancy. The Londoners made it 2-0 six minutes after bagging their first goal. Zuiverloon fouled Simpson midway inside the West Brom half and when watson whipped a devilish low free kick into the penalty area that eluded a crowd of players Kiely could only parry it down into the turf and it bounced kindly for the unmarked Kaspars Gorkss to cap a fine individual performance with a powerful header into the unguarded net. After waiting 18 months for his first QPR goal Gorkss now has two in his last four away games.

What QPR really needed to do now was close the game out, sadly for Gallen and Bircham on the sideline they conceded a soft goal within five minutes. Not for the first time in the game a high ball to the back post found Williams wanting in the air, Brunt headed the ball back across the face of goal and despite several QPR players having opportunities to get a clearance in Jerome Thomas was able to swivel and hit a low shot that Cerny allowed to squirm under him and into the net., The keeper will almost certainly feel he should have done better with it and Rangers had contrived to set themselves up for a nervy last 20 minutes.

The timing of the Thomas goal was unfortunate. Rangers really could have done with keeping a two goal advantage for ten minutes just to really kill the atmosphere off once and for all. West brom have been beaten three times at home this season and haven’t scored in any of those games, the crowd were clearly not shy of getting on their own team’s back and had we held on for a few minutes the home fans probably would have done much of our work for us. The goal gave them, and Jerome Thomas, an obvious lift, and clearly buoyed by his goal the former Rangers loanee cut in from the left 20 minutes from time and fired wide after skinning Ramage on the edge of the box.

Rangers didn’t go into their shells completely though, and only a wonderful save from Dean Kiely prevented the R’s going three one up when Wayne Routledge skipped across the edge of the penalty and launched a seemingly unstoppable left footed shot towards the top corner only to see the veteran stopper somehow stretch out and get a finger tip to the ball to force it round the post.

Routledge was clearly pretty confident after that but taking on three West brom players on the edge of his own box with just 12 minutes left probably was not the best way to show that. The former Spurs winger lost the ball and QPR were lucky to survive as a cross to the back post found Zuiverloon who looped a header back over Cerny and agonisingly wide of the far post, possibly even brushing the woodwork on its way past.

Radek Cerny summed his night up perfectly ten minutes from time by making a horrendous mistake followed by a superb save. First he allowed a cross from the right by Brunt to squirm through his fingers and into the six yard box where luckily Damion Stewart was able to mop up before Cox pounced. Then when the former Swindon man did get a sight of goal 30 seconds later he let rip with a seemingly unstoppable half volley from the edge of the penalty area that Cerny did magnificently to flick over the bar one handed. It is very hard to mark Cerny for his performance on Monday because after picking up a foot injury early in the game he looked wholly uncomfortable at times and completely unbeatable at others. A real Jekyll and Hyde performance from the Czech keeper.

Both managers showed their hands with six minutes to go. Di Matteo removed full back Zuiverloon and sent on giant driveway drug dealer Roman Bednar while QPR replaced Agyemang with Pellicori. I would say ‘the tiring Agyemang’ but it’s impossible to tell with Dave as he looks knackered pretty much from the kick off. He had tried his best to lead the line but should have gone over for at least one penalty and I still cannot shake the belief that he should only ever be used as a 20 minute impact sub towards the end of matches. Had we started with Simpson, who looked a little lost wide in midfield, up front alone and then replaced him with Agyemang late in the day on Monday we’d have been much better off I think and that idea was given further weight by Pellicori’s completely ineffective nine minutes on the field during which time only his chronic lack of pace and fitness were on show. He too looked completely knackered within seconds of arriving on the field, not a desirable attribute for somebody presumably sent on to work the centre backs and prevent them knocking long balls into our area unchallenged.

Still for all of that criticism one reasonable penalty shout from Roman Bednar, who fell like a mighty oak under challenge from Gorkss in the penalty area, was about as scary as the final five minutes got for Rangers as stoppage time approached.

Gallen and Bircham threw on Fitz Hall in three minutes of added time instead of Jay Simpson to try and combat West Brom’s increasingly desperate approach to the game which now consisted of packing big lads into the penalty area and launching the ball in there every time they received it. Hall was straight into the action with a fine clearance at full stretch but the defence just could not hold out and 12 seconds beyond the allotted stoppage time, extra extra time allowed for the sub of course, Rangers finally cracked. Faurlin, sent on for Taarabt earlier and reasonably impressive and composed to this point, conceded possession in the West Brom half when he should have been looking to the corner flag and that gave the Baggies one last chance to put the ball in the danger area. When they did just that Bednar caused havoc and was able to turn a crack a loose ball goalwards, cerny flung himself to his left to save but the rebound fell kindly for Cox who slammed it into the unguarded net to break QPR hearts. There wasn’t even time to kick off again.

Throwing away a two goal lead and conceding with the last kick of the match is always very tough to take, and there’s no doubt that this feels like a bitter defeat even now the following day. However we must bear in mind that a draw was the least West Brom deserved from the game and before kick off we expected absolutely nothing from it - worse than nothing, in fact, most QPR fans expected a damn good thrashing. If offered 2-2 before the kick off we’d have grabbed it, run off home and made love to it so while it is undoubtedly devastating to have three points there in our grasp only to have them snatched away this is a splendid point for us.

For me our three best players were Stewart, Gorkss and Leigertwood - three guys who have been played either out of position or not at all in recent weeks. Gorkss and Stewart are clearly our outstanding centre half partnership and although neither of the West Brom goals was exactly a defensive masterclass they played well apart from that and I am sure if given time to settle down together again rather than being constantly chopped and changed they will soon be back to their formidable best. Legs, for the first time since being given the armband really, actually gave a captain’s knock. He tackled everything that moved, held the midfield and his own position well, and led the team - it was his best performance for some time. Cerny was sublime at times and ridiculous at others, Ramage and Williams both had very tough nights against Thomas and Brunt but just about managed to get through it, although Ramage got rinsed a couple of times and Williams’ lack of ability in the air and poor positioning was shown up on several occasions. Watson and Routledge weren’t involved as much as I would have liked and I didn’t think Simpson wide in midfield worked particularly well as a concept. He should be up front where Agyemang was, and I’m afraid Dave once again for me proved that he should only ever be used as an impact sub. Taarabt had a reasonably impressive night.

For me the players sent a very clear message out on Monday. The lack of organisation and commitment seen in the last month was gone and replaced by a work ethic and team spirit that almost saw us through to a famous victory. The restoration of Gorkss and Stewart to the centre back positions certainly helped but it was the all round attitude of the team that was so different to the double header debacle last weekend that made the real difference here. Even Taarabt was working hard and chasing back for the team and they all looked genuinely gutted at the end as opposed to the shrugged shoulder attitude on display after the Boro and Watford games. This was another very clear example that Jim Magilton has lost that dressing room and the improved performance will surely not have gone unnoticed at boardroom level ahead of the big decision on Jim’s future later this week.

Links >>> Interactive Player Ratings >>> Have Your Say >>> Message Board Match Thread

West Brom: D Kiely 8, G Zuiverloon 7 (R Bednar 85, -), A Meite 5, J Olsson 6, J Mattock 5, C Brunt 6, G Jara 6, G Dorrans 7, J Thomas 8, L Moore 5 (C Wood 64, 6), S Cox 7
Subs not used: R Allsop, M Cech, F Teixeira, Y Mulumbu, S Martis
Booked: Brunt (foul), Cox (dissent)
Goals: Thomas 67 (assisted), Cox 90+3 (assisted Bednar)

QPR: R Cerny 6, P Ramage 5, D Stewart 7, K Gorkss 8, T Williams 6, Routledge 6, M Leigertwood 7, B Watson 6, J Simpson 5 (F Hall 90, -) A Taarabt 7 (A Faurlin 81, -), P Agyemang 6 (A Pellicori 84, -)
Subs not used: R Taylor, R Vine, M Alberti, J Parker
Goals: Olsson own goal 56 (assisted Watson), Gorkss 62 (assisted Watson)

QPR Star Man - Kaspars Gorkss 8 Back to his commanding best in defence and forced two goals at the other end as well. It is so obvious that Gorkss and Stewart are our best centre half partnership it is painful and their performances here showed the folkly of seperating them to include Fitz Hall so far this season. Give them a run of games together and we’ll be back to our solid best I’m sure. Good to see Kas finally scoring as well after a barren spell following his move.

Referee: A Taylor (Manchester) 7 Not too bad overall although he turned down very decent penalty shouts from Agyemang twice and Bednar late in the game. It could easily be argued that Gorkss fouled Olsson for his goal but Taylor was at least consistent in always allowing physical contact from corners and that’s all you can ask really. Allowed the game to flow, showed few cards, hardly noticeable for long periods.

Attendance: 21,565 (500 QPR approx) The West Brom fans seemed very fickle and keen to get on their own team’s back despite a great season so far. QPR fans could be heard on odd occasions from up in the corner.

Photo: Action Images

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