QPR rack up decade of cup pain with Sheff Utd horror show - match report Thursday, 14th Jan 2010 09:05
By the time QPR play in the FA Cup again it will be ten years and 14 matches since they last won in the competition after a second half collapse against Sheff Utd at Loftus Road on Tuesday.
You have to go back to the days of a Chris Kiwomya winning goal nine years ago for the last QPR FA Cup victory. Much like a tea bag, Rangers are never in the cup for long.
Sheffield United were the latest side to profit from Rangers’ cup hoodoo, despite making heavy weather of it. The Blades led 3-0 with 20 minutes remaining, thanks to goals from Lee Williamson, Jamie Ward and Richard Cresswell, but the home side’s spirited response came far too late.
A penalty from Akos Buzsaky and a Damion Stewart header gave the home fans that remained an exciting last couple of minutes, but they couldn't quite produce a miracle comeback.
Rangers manager Paul Hart came on the end of a barrage of abuse from the home fans, who were unhappy with his decision to replace Alejandro Faurlin with Adel Taarabt.
Hart said: "It was a case of getting another forward on and I think there was an improvement on the team's performance. People are entitled to their own opinions and I would say there are entitled to be extremely disappointed with our defensive performance. I haven't really asked anyone if there booing me or the team, as I see it we've got a difficult job to do and it won't be done overnight."
Lee Williamson had given United a first-half lead which came against the run of play.
Hart incurred the wrath of the Rangers faithful with his bizarre substitution in the middle of a crazy three minutes midway through the second period, in which three goals were scored.
Kevin Blackwell showed Hart how it should be done with a substitution that had instant rewards. Within seconds of replacing Williamson, Jamie Ward was on hand to convert Stephen Quinn's cross to double United's lead with a shot that goalkeeper Radek Cerny should have done better with.
Ward then turned provider a minute la
ter, with a pin-point cross that was stroked home by Cresswell. Rangers continued the goal a minute rate, with their next attack. Just as a large number of the 5,780 who bothered to make the trip started to stream out of the gates, Buzsaky converted a penalty following a handball given against Derek Geary. Stewart powered a header home from a Buzsaky free kick with three minutes remaining. Rangers were then denied an equaliser with the last kick of the game, as lively sub Antonio German's shot was pushed to safety by Mark Bunn.
That is now 16 games without a clean sheet for QPR and problems already seem to be mounting for Hart, both on and off the pitch.
For United, a fourth round tie at the Reebok Stadium against Bolton Wanderers awaits.
For me, despite the roar of abuse from all three sections of the crowds aimed at Paul Hart, this was far from a disasterous day at the office. Using Ian Holloway's famous example - Hart was out at a bar, got chatting to a half decent looking lady, he was entertaining her, she was interested, but Paul made sloppy mistakes - for instance he nipped the toilet at the wrong time and an Italian stallion came along and scored with the lady. Leaving Paul Hart-broken.
Plenty of positives from the game – Faurlin again was a cut above the rest when we got the ball down. Gorkss, heart on sleeve stuff as usual – should be made captain. But the biggest positive was the switch to 4-4-2, in the first 30 minutes we bossed the game and should have been ahead. Take note Mr.Hart.
QPR Star Man - Patrick Agyemang 7 Real gutsy display from the big forward, who actually looked up for the battle. I will as far to say that his hold up play in the first half was faultless. Made Morgan look more useless than he actually is. More of the same please.
Referee - Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire) 4 Fussy, melodramatic and the fact he missed a blatant penalty for Sheffield in the first half then gave us a highly debatable one, gives him a four when he really should be nursing a one. Awful.
Attendance - 5780
Thoughts from message board regular Neil Dejyothin:
I can’t even describe in words the sound that emits from my mouth to sum up this performance. It’s sort of like a cross between shock, surprise and dismay and gosh it was horrible.
It takes a lot to get me out of my seat, but I was up and yelling. Not at the players or anybody else, just to myself in utter disbelief at what I was seeing. There was one point when I saw not one, but two Sheffield United strikers standing completely free and unmarked without a Rangers man in sight. They were crying out to be played in for what would have been the easiest run in to goal they would have had in their careers. I literally couldn’t believe it. Fair enough, by this point, we were already three goals down, but you still need to have discipline and desire. You still have to play properly.
I’m usually the first to defend the players, but there was a total lack of organisation and communication tonight and it was embarrassing. Over the years we’ve been treated to some pretty dire performances, but that was when we didn’t have any money and we had to accept players of limited ability, so it was part of the deal. This kind of display should never happen for the current squad, which contains much more quality. And they are good players and we are a good team.
Sheffield United’s opening goal summed up our problems this season. For 20 minutes we were probably the better of the two sides and had created some good opportunities ourselves to take the lead. But we’ve got that knack of being quite solid around the edges but soft in the centre, and as soon as they went on the attack we were at sea at the back and inevitably conceded. You could smell the goal coming long before Lee Williamson fired it in. Williamson almost doubled his tally with an identical situation, only for Peter Ramage to block twice by taking the ball in the chest at close range. But that was about as good as it for Peter, because his next piece of defending was suicidal when he tried to play Ched Evans offside and got it all wrong, leaving £3m worth of striker free and honing in on goal. Luckily for us, he struck the crossbar when he really should have put the game to bed.
When we worked ourselves into good positions, two things plagued us; a lack of quality in the pass and the decisions we made when making those passes. Our ball retention in this match was in a word, abysmal. A combination of direct-percentage style play and most of the players having terrible days at the office when it came to finding their team-mates, led to a performance littered with the most basic of errors. Combine that with comical defending and you have a recipe for disaster. When you have that many players struggling with simple five yard passes, it’s very difficult to build a platform to go on and take control of the game and practically every player was guilty of needlessly giving the ball away. I lost count the amount of times the defence, Mikele Leigertwood, Akos Buzsaky, Wayne Routledge and Jay Simpson misplaced passes.
Routledge managed to burst past his man with considerable ease on two or three occasions, but his final ball was poor and spoiled any chance of converting his good work into a goal. Despite that, we rarely got the ball to him or to his feet, so he did well with the little he had to scrap off. Defensively it was just a shambles. All of them were being pulled all over the place or getting caught out of position and the two centre-backs, particularly Damion Stewart, were guilty of letting the ball bounce too often and creating dangerous situations for themselves to have to deal with. I didn’t think Leigertwood screened or protected them well enough though and the shape and unity between the back four and midfield was just all over the place.
If you lose possession, the easiest way to reset is to get behind the ball and revert to two banks of four. But the wide-men never tucked in and covered their full-backs and it was all a bit lopsided, which is why in certain passages of play the defence were sucked in to one side and left Sheffield United’s winger on the other side free and easily picked out. That happened for the first and second goals, but there were other occasions that the Blades didn’t capitalise on too.
We just didn’t have any pattern to our play going forward. The ball was either hit long or direct for players to chase and try and get a hold of, or moves broke down due to the misplaced passes. It just looked entirely random, although on a few occasions, although Alejandro Faurlin was largely anonymous throughout, when he did get on the ball he was just about the only one who showed any quality on the night. He tried to keep it simple and on the ground and our best play came whenever he was at the heart of it. It was a travesty that he was taken off when others around him were putting in performances that would give themselves nightmares later.
That substitution and the condemning from the crowd seemed to distract our players who, having just conceded the second, switched off and lost focus completely. The Blades stole possession from us right from kick-off and put the game beyond doubt almost instantly with their third.
It was by now a total and utter shambles and it doesn’t happen often to me, but for a brief moment afterwards I took my eyes off the action and simply had my head in my hands and didn’t see why we were awarded a penalty soon afterwards. Just shortly before we went 2-0 down, Mick Harford had his head in his hands as well, it was that bad and I have to say, the opening 20 minutes of the second-half was some of the worst football I’ve seen in a long time.
But, after Buzsaky had pulled one back from the spot, we galvanised ourselves a little and rallied for the final 10 minutes. I was very disappointed we didn’t see Angelo Balanta on the pitch, but it was good that Adel Taarabt was on because it was clear someone of his ability was needed at the top end and for once, a bit of ball hogging up there would have went down a treat, given how sloppy our passing was.
It was Antonio German who gave us the spark though, who is just a boy, but played with the enthusiasm and energy you would expect of a young lad trying to make a name for himself in the game. He did reasonably well, chasing with desire and winning the free-kick that led to Stewart’s goal. German was unfortunate himself not to get on the score sheet with two efforts, one a fine turn and shot from outside the box and another from close range right at the depth that could have easily gone in. Had he scored I am not sure how we would have done in extra-time, but in any case, the two goals we got are not going to paper over the big cracks we have in the side at the moment. We need to take stock and just step back for five minutes to look at what’s going wrong and start working on it immediately. In my opinion, I didn’t think the defence were too bad with the way we were playing earlier in the season.
The main problems we have had were simple. We are not great defending set pieces or crosses from wide areas, so some work needs to be done here. In dead play situations, we need to tighten up and organise quickly at the back, and know how to break fast if we win the ball or slow it down to ensure we get our shape right. In open play, it’s not rocket science, the wingers have got to help the full-backs a lot more and they or the full-backs must close down the crosses much earlier. Let’s work a bit more on not letting them cross at all rather than relying on the centre-backs to get us out of jail.
The other issues are confidence related. If as a defender you just let the ball bounce, particularly from the keeper just pumping it upfield, then you shouldn’t really be playing at this level. We’ve got to work harder and ensure we’re prepared to fight for that first ball and that all the men around you are ready to compete and win the second. At the moment we’re just reactive and not anticipating what is about to happen. That’s why from the stands you can sense something is coming. The players must feel it too, but they’re not seeing what they’re supposed to do to help reduce the probability of danger.
In terms of going forward, let’s work on ball retention starting with working out what to do when we’ve got a defensive or attacking throw in. Practice them if needs be and regularly, because conceding from these situations is criminal and the amount of times we’ve done it this season and some of the horrendous throws I saw from Peter Ramage and Gary Borrowdale in this game are not clever. You may as well just foul throw and shape up afterwards rather than throw it to them and have everybody out of position. These are basics, which appears to be the word of the day and the performance related theme, so lets work on them.
And of course our general passing and perhaps we need to shadow-walk on the training ground and explain to the players where they are expected to be when we’re in possession, and of course, if we lose it, where and how fast we’re expected to retreat.
Frustrated, yes. Because we have good players who are more than capable and they’ve got to stop feeling sorry for themselves and perform. They have had a hard time with all the changes and the current apathy amongst the crowd, but they are the ones who can directly impact and influence that to something more positive and they will get the fans back on board quickly with just one proper performance. If they can do that consistently then we will be fine and back on our way.
We cannot afford to let our season derail because it will impact what happens in the future. I really hope we can turn our fortunes around as quickly as possible, as fast as it’s happened to go sour will do just nicely!