Two from two for Warnock as Taarabt torments Pilgrims - full match report Wednesday, 10th Mar 2010 12:58
QPR moved further away from the relegation dog fight with a second win in four days and first clean sheet in 25 attempts against struggling Plymouth at Loftus Road on Tuesday.
All hail the messiah - otherwise known as Neil Warnock. Within a week of taking over the reins at Loftus Road Warnock has turned a nervous, fragile and lifeless QPR side into a team which would no doubt be pushing for a play-off spot if he had been brought in when Jim Magilton left.
Rangers’ performance against an admitedly poor Plymouth side at Loftus Road on Tuesday night bore all the signs that we associated with them in the autumn - classy in possession, strong in the tackle and hugely threatening going forward. But what would have pleased Warnock the most would have been the defensive performance. The first clean sheet in 25 matches was probably more down to the poor Plymouth Argyle attacking play rather than top class defending but you can only beat what is put in front of you and Rangers' performance was a professional one sprinkled with moments of magic by Adel Taarabt.
Unsurprisingly Neil Warnock named an unchanged side to the one that beat West Bromwich Albion – the only contentious decision was maybe Ephraim keeping his place following Buzsaky’s cameo from the bench on Saturday, but the former West Ham man was given another chance to impress. Meaning Buzsaky missed out on playing against his former employers from the start and had to make do with a place on the bench.
Gary Sawyer, Alan Judge and World Cup bound Rory Fallon who missed a great chance to win their game against Preston late in the day on Saturday came in for the Pilgrims, who included Chris Barker in their ranks, another in the long line of crap full backs signed by QPR.
QPR attacked the School End for the first period which was filled with 863 Argyle fans who had made the 600 mile round trip.
Rangers’ first attempt on goal came on twelve minutes, after a threatening counter attack fizzled out, Ephraim re-ignited the move as he latched onto a slip by Karl Duguid and beat Richard Eckersley before firing a tame effort straight at one time QPR transfer target David Stockdale in the Plymouth goal.
QPR continued on the front foot as Plymouth failed to gain any sort of possession.Taarabt fed a Faurlin-esque ball through to Jay Simpson who couldn’t quite adjust his body according to fire an effort to test Stockdale.
Plymouth seemingly had no interest in keeping hold of the football and Rangers showed them how it should be done with a move that got Matt Connolly in but his shot from 20 yards flew over. The visitors only threat came from set-pieces and a Judge free kick from the far touchline was glanced over by Carl Fletcher when he should have done better.
Rangers' attacking formation throughout the first period seemed to be rotating, with Priskin and Taarabt exchanging positions on the right flank and in the “hole”. As the second half wore on Taarabt became more central and entertained the crowd with some delightful skills. At one point he managed to beat three players twice over before firing into the side netting which was greeted with a standing ovation from some sections of the home crowd and groans from the other. He continues to divide opinion but he was at his entertaining best on Tuesday.
Priskin on the other hand just continued to frustrate - his hold up play and aerial ability was at times Sunday league standard. However, on 34 minutes he did finally decide to use his size to good effect as he won the penalty for the opening goal. Connolly once again joined the attack down the right flank and delivered a beautiful cross and Priskin was stupidly held by Argyle centre half Kari Arnason. There was no need for the challenge as Priskin looked as though he was struggling to reach the ball anyway. Referee Tierney pointed to the spot and Taarabt grabbed hold of the ball, despite a half-hearted moan by Priskin, and coolly slotted the ball home to give Rangers the lead they richly deserved.
The next ten minutes was probably the most dominant spell of attacking play Rangers had produced in three months. Plymouth couldn’t get near the free flowing Rangers and they really should have doubled their lead. Brimming with confidence Ephraim first beat the full back before crossing for Simpson who was inches away from connecting with a diving header. Minutes later a Faurlin set piece nearly kerchinged my Stewart anytime goal scorer bet but he somehow diverted a Gorkss flick on over the bar from six yards. Faurlin and Taarabt also threatened with long range attempts but neither seriously threatened Stockdale.
Rangers continued in the same vein in the second half, Taarabt once again mesmerised the Plymouth backline with first a nutmeg and then a sidestep to fool Damien Johnson who found the only way to stop him was to hack him down. Duguid was next to oblige with a crude tackle on the Moroccan 35 yards from goal which resulted in a deserved yellow card. Taarabt brushed himself off and curled in a majestic delivery which was duly headed home by my new hero - Damien Stewart – who thumped home the header to seal the points for Rangers and pay my phone bill.
The goal ended the game as a contest as Plymouth looked like a side waiting to be relegated. It was all QPR as they completely tore through the League One bound side. Faurlin was a man possessed as he tried his utmost to open his Rangers account – first he bundled his way into the box and shot straight at Stockdale before two more lung bursting runs by the Argentinean resulted in fluffed shots at goal. Taarabt was next to get in on the act as he fired a stinging 25 yarder just over the top.
Rangers seemed to be enjoying themselves as Plymouth started to leave more gaps at the back. Simpson so nearly steered a Leigertwood cross inside the post before Taarabt once again went close after he linked up well with Ephraim.
A flurry of yellow cards came and went with Mr Tierney seeming to lose control of the game which was a shame as he produced a near perfect refereeing performance in the first half. Matt Hill was the first Rangers player to succumb to the fussy second half performance, as he was booked for a harsh looking handball. Connolly was then carded for a soft looking foul on Judge.
Plymouth, who had four booked themselves in the second half, were the worst side I have seen at Loftus Road in a long time, they worked hard but had no attacking options resulting in a failure to have any shots on target – but what would you expect from a midfield consisting of Damien Johnson, Karl Duguid and Carl Fletcher.
Buzsaky, Cook and Vine were introduced for the final quarter but none of the trio saw enough of the ball to impress – Vine continues to look a shadow of his former self as he failed to complete a pass to feet in the ten minutes he was on the pitch.
Simpson could and should have made it three with the clock ticking down as he profited from a mix up between Stockdale and Arnason, however with the empty goal gaping he slid the ball wide from a tight angle.
Richard Eckersley summed up Argyle’s night in the final minute as he wastefully delivered a set piece from the corner of the area out for a throw in. Carl Ikeme dealt with everything that Plymouth threw into the box but the quality of the delivery made it a very easy night for the on loan shot stopper – he didn’t have one serious save to make all night.
The final whistle was greeting with celebrations around Loftus Road, as relegation fears are now seemingly a distant memory. Once again the players celebrated with the fans as Warnock individually congratulated every single one of them. Matt Hill threw his shirt to a lucky Rangers fan which was a nice touch - the jury is still out on Hill but he does seem to appreciate the fans contribution which is refreshing.
The night belonged to Adel Taarabt who was simply outstanding. When Warnock took the reins Taarabt must have thought his Rangers career had come to an end. Warnock, with the greatest of respect, is an old school manager. He demands commitment, work ethic and professionalism – all of the above are traits that you would not associate with the flamboyant Moroccan. But two games into his QPR adventure the 61-year-old has surprisingly taken a shine to the player he calls “Taara”.
It was full of the usual entertaining nutmegs and the exquisite close control, but despite the occasional continental whine, he seemed to understand the concept that football is a team game with the occasional pass to a team mate – which has been a rarity so far this season.
With plenty of points still to play for – can Rangers seriously make a late push for the playoffs? It’s getting late - I should really get some sleep, I’m not thinking straight.
QPR Star Man – Adel Taarabt 9 Pushed close by Leigertwood who put in a solid performance in midfield against lackluster opposition however. But the Moroccan was at his absolute best; everything he tried came off and made the ageing Argyle midfield look like pensioners. Even had the audacity to look up and pass the ball on occasions. Scored the penalty and set up the second – more of the same please.
Referee – P Tierney 5 During the first period I failed to notice the referee which means he played a blinder in my opinion, the penalty decision was the major talking point and he got that spot on. Second half Mr Tierney was replaced by a fussy, card happy chap who turned a free flowing game into a niggley affair.