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QPR crash to Scunthorpe defeat as unrest grows at Loftus Road - full match report
QPR crash to Scunthorpe defeat as unrest grows at Loftus Road - full match report
Sunday, 31st Jan 2010 19:37

QPR’s season continued to nosedive on Saturday as Scunthorpe United boosted their survival chances with a 1-0 victory at Loftus Road. The Iron are now just a point behind the R’s in the table.

It may be a strange thing to think of as your football club goes a goal behind at home to Scunthorpe United but as Flavio Briatore beat a hasty retreat from the directors’ box under a hail of abuse from QPR fans on all sides I was draw to the electric chair scene in The Green Mile.

It is, for those who haven’t seen it, one of the most gruesome ten minutes of film you’re ever likely to witness as a condemned man is led into the electric chair by a cruel prison guard who deliberately fails to add water the victim’s head sponge so he is barbecued in a gratuitously graphic way rather than simply electrocuted. As the guard responsible turns away from his crime his colleagues force him to watch and frankly as Briatore lolloped off up the steps I felt like crossing the F Block, grabbing him by his mullet and forcing him to sit there for the last 15 minutes of this latest heartbreaking catastrophe to afflict our club. This is, after all, largely his doing.

With talk of a clown themed protest against Briatore and his regime the Italian really needed the team to get a result on Saturday. It tried, I don’t think we can level lack of effort at many of the players on Saturday, but a lack of cutting edge in attack identified by us mere “£20 supporters” repeatedly over the last two years came back to haunt the club. How Gianni Paladini, who has put this squad together, escaped mention in the chants during the game and protests on South Africa Road afterwards is beyond me.

Scunthorpe grew in confidence as the game went on, had a goal disallowed just before getting a legitimate one and were ultimately decent value for the three points.

After Tuesday’s capitulation at Nottingham Forest Mick Harford restored Rowan Vine to his team alongside Jay Simpson in attack. Taarabt and Buzsaky played wide in midfield with Quashie and Faurlin in the centre. Faurlin certainly seemed to revel in hi return to the middle early on, with three hard tackles won in the first minute alone, although he faded as the game went on. At the back Mikele Leigertwood played right back, Connolly replaced Stewart at centre half alongside Gorkss and Matt Hill made a home debut at left back. Carl Ikeme also made his first Loftus Road appearance in goal.

Scunthorpe came into the game in good form with three wins and a draw from their last four league games including a 2-0 win against Sheff Wed during the week. They partnered Gary Hooper and Paul Hayes in an attractive and dangerous looking attack. The pair of them wasted no time in setting to work on a QPR defence without a clean sheet in 17 matches coming into this game. Hooper drilled a low shot on goal after four minutes when the ball fell loose 12 yards out that Ikeme did well to turn around the post and then from the corner Paul Hayes picked up a weak clearance, did a couple of keepy uppys, and then lofted a volley over the bar and onto the roof of the net with Ikeme struggling to scramble back.

QPR’s first serious attacking move of the match saw first Taarabt try and feed a ball through for Simpson only for Jones to beat him to it on the edge of the area. Then when the ball was won back by Faurlin Taarabt was able to collect it and ghost into the penalty area before firing a tempting low cross right through the six yard box and out for a goal kick with nobody choosing to gamble and get into the goal mouth for an easy tap in. This happened three or four times on the day.

The just after the quarter hour Buzsaky fired high over the Scunthorpe bar after strong work in midfield from Quashie. The R’s tested Murphy in the Scunthorpe goal for the first time shortly after that when Simpson played a great ball out to Taarabt on the left and he took a shot on after jinking into the area only for the United keeper to palm it away with his left hand. Taarabt had beaten Murphy for the only goal when these sides met at Glanford Park in August of course. Scunthorpe’s attacks were few and far between but Togwell did try his luck from long distance after robbing Faurlin of possession in the centre circle – his attempted lob sailed well wide of the goal and Ikeme seemed to be well positioned to cover it anyway.

Rangers thought they had taken the lead in the 24th minute when Quashie fired a fine low ball to taarabt who controlled perfectly and turned his man before freeing Simpson who waltzed around Murphy and slid the ball home only to be denied by the offside flag. The replays are inconclusive but it looks a very, very tight decision. Simpson returned the favour to Taarabt in the next attack but the Moroccan’s shot from 20 yards flew wide of the post. Rowan Vine had the ball in the net on the half hour after more terrific approach work from Taarabt but on this occasion he had run the ball out of play.

As a team QPR looked a bit like a footballing equivalent of a drunk driver. They clearly knew what they were meant to be doing and by and large they were playing quite well but everything was too slow, too laboured, always taking an extra touch or playing an extra needless pass thereby giving Scunthorpe a chance to file back into shape behind the ball. The lack of confidence in the team was there for all to see because despite being the better side in the first half they just didn’t look like they were going to score.

Ten minutes before the break Matt Connolly headed a Faurlin corner wide at the back post, although whether the set piece should have been awarded at all by our match referee Grant Hegley was debatable as Rob Jones appeared to have successfully allowed the ball to run out for a goal kick without getting a touch. Jones was involved in the action at the other end five minutes later when he went up to head a Sam Togwell long throw towards goal after being marked by Alejandro Faurlin – considering Jones is 6ft 7ins and Scunthorpe were on television just a week ago peppering him with long throws and corners this lack of organisation in the QPR defence that left our relatively small Argentinean playmaker charged with marking him was deeply worrying.

That incident led to a Scunthorrpe corner which, again, QPR seemed very disorganised for and after McCann and Hayes were able to work a short one the former raced into the penalty area and saw his cross shot parried out into the danger area by Ikeme who was lucky that Togwell leant back as he attempted to bury the rebound into the largely unguarded net and sent the ball flying high into the Loft. Two let offs for QPR there whose defence was so strong last season but has more holes in it than a sieve this term.

At half time two wondeful personalities in the recent history of the club were brought onto the pitch and thanked for their efforts. Pat Harrison, who is retiring from the supporters club, and Gareth Ainsworth who has been released from his contract apparently to join League One side Wycombe. Ainsworth was given a standing ovation after a typically emotional and passionate speech. How we could do with some more players like him in the team at the moment.

Nigel Adkins made two changes to his side at half time which I can only assume were enforced by injury as Scunthorpe had not had a bad first half at all and had grown into the game more as half time approached. Josh Wright, recently laid low with a virus, came into the centre of midfield and Donal McDermott played wide on the left instead of Martin Woolford after signing on loan from Man City during the week.

Wright was straight into the action with a drifted free kick into the QPR area that was again met by Jones who headed wide – QPR continued to struggle to deal with the giant former Grimsby centre half when he came up for set pieces. At the Loft end QPR’s first attack off the half came to nothing when Buzsaky played in Taarabt who won a corner off Togwell that was then headed over by Gorkss at the near post.

This seemed to briefly lift the otherwise silent home crowd and they were further riled when referee Hegley, whoa actually had a really excellent game overall, overruled his linesman and gave a Scunthorpe goal kick when Jones had clearly toed the ball away from Leigertwood as he reached the byline. From the goal kick determined work by Simpson won the ball back on halfway and he carried it to the edge of the box with Scunthorpe outnumbered and backing off. A ball into Faurlin looked on but he took the shot on himself and Murphy plunged low to his left to parry it away. Simpson again turned down an obvious pass to Faurlin and took on a shot in the next attack but Murphy was able to save comfortably. Vine, having a poor game overall, was the latest man to wonder where his team mates were as he rolled a glorious ball right through the goal mouth without anybody getting a touch just before the hour.

QPR could have been punished for their profligacy when they allowed a long throw from Togwell to bounce in the area and Hooper hooked an effort over his head and towards goal but Ikeme saved. Hooper then skipped past two QPR players on a jinking run into the area that was stopped by Connolly with a fine tackle just as the prolific former Southend man was about to shoot. Rangers could not get set up again though and were fortunate to survive when Hayes crossed and Hooper headed brilliantly into the top corner only for Hegley to disallow it for a meagre push on Connolly – the former Arsenal man has been found wanting for physical presence once or twice when picked at centre back this season and was very fortunate to hear the whistle on this occasion.

Scunthorpe almost benefitted from the referee inadvertently in their next attack though when an expansive pass from Quashie that would have set Taarabt away down the flank struck Hegley on the edge of the penalty area and rebounded straight to Hayes who forced a fine save from Ikeme to spare the official’s blushes. That would have been typical of our luck at the moment had that gone in. Hegley then produced his one and only booking of the game for Grant McCann who hacked down Rowan Vine with a crude tackle midway inside the Scunthorpe half – it was a clear foul and obvious booking but for some reason United captain Cliff Byrne decided to race over and aggressively confront Vine as he laid on the ground causing some unpleasant scenes and a bout of handbags. I have no idea what Byrne’s problem was as the foul was clear as day and McCann didn’t seem to protest too much – Byrne was very, very lucky not to be at least booked himself for his idiocy.

Nevertheless heading into the final 20 minutes of the game it was Scunthorpe looking the more confident side and QPR looked like a team fast running out of what few ideas they had in the first place. Hegley played a good advantage after a foul on McCann in the centre circle then brought the play back when Hayes fired over – from the free kick Wright looked for Jones who again rose almost totally unchallenged and Ikeme did well to claw the looping effort out from the top corner of the net with a crowd of players rushing in trying to convert.

QPR attacks were becoming fewer and further between at this stage but they were unfortunate not to score when Leigertwood cut in from the right back spot and unloaded a trademark long range shot with his left foot that Murhpy turned around the post. Connolly won a header at the back post from the corner but when it was poked off the line he could not sort his feet out quickly enough to do anything other than toe the rebound out for a goal kick.

With a quarter of an hour left the moment we’d all feared and dreaded arrived. McDermott lobbed a glorious crosfield pass in behind Hill who seemed to busy waving his arms around in vein appealing for an offside to actually stop Hooper controlling and laying a perfect ball into the area for Gary Thompson to steal in unmarked and sliding the ball low beneath Ikeme and into the net. Looking at the replay it's Quashie that allows Thompson to run past him, and Connolly who plays Hooper on in the first place. A disaster all round. Briatore immediately ran for the exit as the mood turned ugly in the South Africa Road stand but in truth he should probably have left earlier, Scunthorpe were the better and more threatening side in the second half and the goal had been coming.

Once again QPR had contrived to concede a goal just as they were about to make a substitution – this has happened recently against Blackpool and Sheff Utd and on countless other occasions during the season. The changes went ahead anyway with Antonio German coming on for the totally ineffective Rowan Vine and Lee Cook making his long awaited come back from injury instead of Adel Taarabt who had been at the heart of everything in the first half but almost completely anonymous in the second. Cook’s introduction really livened us up, and he tried everything he could after coming on to get QPR back into it – picking the ball up deep and running at the Iron defence whenever possible, and delivering a couple of nice crosses as well one of which was trademark and should really haave been headed on target by Jay Simpson who instead guided it wide of the post.

Harford also sent on Angelo Balanta at the expense of Akos Buzsaky whose performance level remains at about 30 per cent of what he is actually capable of but he could make little impact in the final ten minutes.

Despite a couple of corners and decent territorial possession Rangers’ main opportunity to snatch a point came in the first of three minutes of injury time at the end of the game. Rob Jones slid through the back of Jay Simpson on the very edge of the penalty area, in fact the gash in the turf hinted that it may even have been inside the box, and Lee Cook stepped up to take the free kick. There was to be no fairytale return to action though as the left winger curled a free kick over the wall but straight into the arms of Murphy who read it well. The final whistle was, predictably, greeted with a chorus of boos as QPR’s run of scoring in every home match this season came to an end.

For me personally this was a very sad day indeed. I have followed Scunthorpe as a second team since I moved to the town when I was 12. For the majority of that time the Iron have been two divisions below QPR and to see them come to Loftus Road as a well run Championship club playing decent football on a budget with an excellent young manager and beat Rangers who are fast turning into a complete shambles was heartbreaking. I never thought I'd see the day and I know my dad and grandad will be turning over in their graves in the North Lincolnshire town tonight.

This season is very quickly turning into a nightmare. We can at least take one or two things out of this performance – it was different to Tuesday night where we quite clearly just downed tools and let Forest do whatever they wanted to us. There was effort and commitment in this performance and one or two decent showings from people like Gorkss, Connolly, Cook and, for the first hour at least, Faurlin. Quashie didn’t do too badly either.

The problem on Saturday was more confidence based than effort although there are still players like Buzsaky, Leigertwood and others who are playing so far within themselves it’s almost embarrassing.. The players just look totally bereft of belief. We tried to play football in the right way, playing out from the back on the ground, as suits the players we have in the team and in the first half we created numerous chances and half chances. Too often though the passing is laboured and the chances snatched at and that’s all down to a lack of confidence in the players. Scunthorpe were there for the taking in the first half but having failed to do so Rangers never looked likely to take anything from the game once the Iron changed things round at half time and stepped up their performance in the second half – Ikeme had made two good saves and Hooper had a goal disallowed just before the one they did get so it wasn’t some smash and grab raid, they were tidy and confident and took their chance when it came along.

The best thing Mick Harford can do in the short term, in my opinion, is get as many ‘honest’ players as he can in the team. Not necessarily the most talented players at the club but people like Connolly, Ephraim, Balanta, Quashie, Hill, Faurlin, maybe even German and Sterling. People who are going to try their best and give their all because at the moment I think people like Buzsaky, Leigertwood, Taarabt (though not in the first half on Saturday), Vine etc are simply not pulling their weight from match to match.

The really worrying thing is we need to be taking points from Scunthorpe, Peterborough, Ipswich and the teams below us to avoid being sucked into the relegation battle. Scunny closed the gap on Saturday, it’s Peterborough away next an then Ipswich next Tuesday. We need to get going again, get some confidence from somewhere, get a win somehow. If we don’t we then start to have games like West Brom at home and Middlesbrough away to contend with and that could spell quite serious trouble for us the way we are playing at the moment.

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QPR: Ikeme 6, Leigertwood 6, Gorkss 7, Connolly 6, Hill 6, Buzsaky 5 (Balanta 80, -), Faurlin 6, Quashie 6, Taarabt 6 (Cook 75, 7),Vine 5 (German 75, 6), Simpson 6
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Ramage, Stewart, Ephraim

Scunthorpe: Murphy 7, Williams 7, Jones 7, Mirfin 6 (Wright 46, 6) Byrne 6, Thompson 7, Togwell 7, McCann 7, Woolford 6 (McDermott 46, 6),Hayes 7, Hooper 7 (Forte 90, -)
Subs Not Used: Lillis, Moloney, O'Connor, Morris
Booked: McCann (foul)
Goals: Thompson 74 (assisted Hooper)

QPR Star Man – Kaspars Gorkss Probably just about the best of a mediocre bunch – strong in the air and on the ground, probably a decent bet for captain at the moment with Leigertwood terminally out of form. Cook livened things up when he came on and probably would have taken the award had he had another quarter of an hour, Faurlin passed the ball beautifully for the first hour but then as soon as I said that in F Block he suddenly started giving the ball away restricting his mark.

Referee: Grant Hegley (Hertfordshire) 8 One card that was thoroughly deserved and only a couple of errors through the game on things like goal kicks instead of corners and vice versa. I like this referee, he gives the players every chance and allows the game to flow well.

Attendance: 13,105 (400 Scunthorpe approx) A morgue like atmosphere inside Loftus Road pierced only by anti Briatore (but not Paladini strangely) chants from the Q Block, some high pitched squeaking from the school children in the upper School End and occasional bursts of excitement from the travelling Scunthorpe fans.

Photo: Action Images

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