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Ref justice for Rangers as Reading strike late - full match report
Ref justice for Rangers as Reading strike late - full match report
Wednesday, 17th Mar 2010 09:28

Referee Gavin Ward was at the centre of attention on Tuesday night as QPR, reduced to ten men in the first half, suffered their first defeat under Neil Warnock thanks to a late Reading penalty.

One of my favourite Whittingham-isms is the use of the phrase lobotomised gibbon to describe Sheffield United’s knuckle-dragging simian Chris Morgan (see last weekend's Sheffield United match report). Unfortunately for QPR, higher primates missing their frontal lobes do not just play football they can also referee as well.

The primate in question, Mr Gavin Ward, oversaw his first QPR match last night, and I hope it is his last. He was inconsistent throughout the night, bought dives, missed handballs, threw yellow cards around like chicken feed, and couldn’t tell the difference between a corner and a goal kick. His decision to send Damion Stewart off in the forty fourth minute of the first half ruined what was becoming a tight and interesting encounter between two teams of a similar league standing and skill level.

QPR were unchanged for the fourth straight game following two wins and a draw last week. The improving Carl Ikeme was in goal behind a back four of Connolly, Stewart, Gorkss and Hill. The midfield was made up of Faulin and Leigertwood central and deep, Ephraim, Taraabt and Priskin pushing further forward and interchanging with striker Jay Simpson.

Full back Andy Griffin passed a late fitness test and started for Reading.

Reading started brightly and, with the help of four free-kicks in the first six minutes, pressed Rangers back into their own penalty area, albeit with little effect. The Warnock tactic was to soak up this early pressure and try and hit Reading on the break. And it looked like it could work, with a flurry of chances for Priskin, Taraabt, and Simpson, all of which found the keepers gloves, were deflected behind, or were hit wide – Simpson should have done better with a Taraabt through ball, but his flicked shot bounced harmlessly off Federici.

These chances were generally the result of some nice movement from Taraabt in the centre, Priskin or Ephraim out wide, or Mr Ward getting whistle happy on the edge of the eighteen yard box. Reading had relatively few chances during this period, but should have produced something after Leigertwood’s appalling back-pass was punted straight against the arse of a Reading striker by Ikeme.

Then, on thirty one minutes, the silliness began. Mr Ward, who had not thirty seconds earlier given Shane Long a ticking-off for his tackle on Faurlin, booked Damion Stewart for raising a boot in a challenge with Long. It was a 50/50 ball, one player went with the head, one with the foot, and the result should have been a whistle and a quiet word, based on the free-kick which had gone before. Unfortunately, that yellow card was the opening of Pandora’s Box. Like a flasher in a rain mac with no zip, his card came out again and again and again. Faurlin was next in the book for an unfair challenge, which again did not warrant a yellow, and on 44 minutes, Stewart went in the book for the second and final time of the evening.

From where we were sitting, it seemed as if the goalkeeper simply ran into Stewart whilst clearing the ball. The linesman, and surprisingly Neil Warnock in his post-match interview, had different ideas. The linesman flapped, the ref glanced to look, and without any dialogue with his assistant (although perhaps they spoke via radio) the decision was made. Stewart, who had a good first half, except for hooking a simple clearance out for a corner, is either an idiot or on the receiving end of a referee whose decision making was as poor as poor can be – one would have to look at the video replay.

The red-card was the final action of the first 45 and the half-time break gave the players a chance to remonstrate with the officials and gave the QPR fans a chance to get up close and personal with the home supporters. Throughout the first half, a few pockets of Rangers fans had exchanged cross-stand abuse with their opposite numbers. This was about the only noise the contingent of 2,000 QPR fans made, even when Reading fans began chanting “Warnock’s full of shit”. The stewards, in their wisdom, had removed some of the safety netting dividing the two sets of supporters to create some more room for the away fans and during the break more QPR fans than you can shake a stick at chose to occupy those seats so their voices could be heard. The stewards were idiots. I can’t believe Reading sold more tickets than they had seats for and I can’t believe that the stewards thought that one small fence and one old man who looked the spit of Mr Barraclough from Porridge were going to stop any trouble. As the second half began, the abuse between the fans became worse, but actually this helped liven up the away fans who, for the majority of the second half, began to dominate the ground in voice.

As the match re-started, Warnock’s changes became apparent: Connolly moved to the middle of defence, with Leigertwood dropping to right-back, Ephraim to the centre of midfield, Taraabt and Simpson as the wide-men, with Priskin as a lone striker. This proved to be an ineffective formation, with Priskin non-existent up-front, failing to win the long balls that were punted at him, Ephraim and Faurlin losing the midfield battle, and Simpson and Taraabt unable to influence the game from wide positions. However, Rangers held their nerve against a Reading side which became increasingly frustrated with their lack of chances, considering the possession they were having.

A couple of substitutions didn’t help matters, and the Reading fans began to get on their players backs. QPR were able to take advantage of some poor Reading play in midfield and when the ball ended up being played back to Federici, Simpson pounced, forcing the keeper to punch the ball to the edge of the area. Ephraim should have done better with an open goal. If he had kept the ball on target, it would have been one nil.

Following the best chance in the second half, Priskin was felled on the half-way line and needed treatment. Most of the QPR fans began screaming for Priskin to be carried off. In the first half, this would have been hugely unfair given that he was no better or worse than anyone else, providing some neat touches and good hold-up play from the wide positions he wandered into. However, in the second half, I agreed. Priskin does not have the strength, stamina, or skill to play as a lone striker. He doesn’t jump particularly well and rarely chases anything. At this point, he should have been replaced by Buzsaky or Cook, with Simpson moving into the middle. In the first half he did a good job, but in the second he was clearly played out of position.

The second half became scrappier as the minutes wore on and the wonderful Gavin Ward reacted by booking yet another QPR player. This time it was Leigertwood for an unfair challenge on Rasiak, although possibly for Leggs’ reaction to the free-kick rather than the challenge itself. Seconds earlier, Ephraim was elbowed in the head and Faurlin had been fouled having won the ball twice in midfield from two separate Reading players - neither incident warranted a free-kick from Mr Ward. In amongst all of this pencil scribbling from the wonderful referee, Reading had a number of shots and headers cleared from the line by first Ikeme, then Hill and finally Connolly spectacularly with his head. Reading were pressing and QPR were throwing themselves in front of everything - Gorkss in particular deserves a mention as he pressed Reading players across the whole length of our defensive line.

Then came the penalty. Simple. Reading corner, QPR clearance, Reading player back into the box, chopped down by Hill. Hill received a card, and while you’re at it may as well flash one to Connolly for dissent. Penalty awarded. Goal. Sigurdson's spot kick was well placed in the top corner, well out of the reach of Ikeme who did dive the right way.

QPR reacted quite well to the goal, with German coming on for Prisking (forty one minutes too late), and punted a number of free-kicks into a QPR laden Reading box. The best chance fell, unfortunately, to Peter Ramage - who had come on for Taraabt on 80 minutes and was playing a central role in midfield - he managed to turn in the area and fire the ball up into the chest of a Reading player. Eight minutes later, and a yellow card for Rasiak just to even things up, and it was all over. The Reading fans didn’t cause any more trouble – they went home. The Reading players didn’t stay to celebrate – they went home. The QPR fans cheered their team from the park. The QPR players clapped, Ephraim handed his shirt over, and we left the ground to join the queue of traffic heading out of Reading’s premier retail park, many QPR fans on the Iphones, presumably searching for the address of a Mr G. Ward.

The game could have been so different, and after a slightly dull first 45, everyone could see that perhaps in the second half the pace would pick up. Not so. The sending off did change everything. Without 11 men, QPR were forced to really play for the draw. Sit back and hit Reading on the break. Unfortunately, the tactics employed by Warnock after the sending off blunted whatever chance we had of creating a second-half goal. Taraabt and Simpson, who had looked good in the first half, rarely saw the ball in the second. Warnock kept them playing wide and grew frustrated when they came inside to support Priskin. The problem was, playing them wide shut them both out of the game, especially as the midfield failed to stamp any authority on the game and in doing so failed to provide much more than a punted ball for the striker and wingers to chase.

It was inevitable that we wouldn't hold on to a clean sheet in this game. A Reading goal, it seemed, was only moments away. They struggled more than they needed to. When the crowd jumped on their backs they struggled even more. But their goal was probably deserved after all of the goal line clearances which preceded it. From my seat, the penalty looked to be just that. Someone should have pushed on the Reading player sooner, rather than trying to hold ground in the box. It seemed that as long as Reading kept crossing the ball, the likes of Connolly and Gorkss could mop up with headers. As soon as Reading played the ball along the ground inside the box, we were in trouble.

In a different time, one in which competent men referee football matches, this would have been one point for the R’s with a goal apiece. Neither side would have deserved much more on the first-half display. And who knows, had we kept 11 men, Reading may have fallen to pieces as they threatened to do at points in the second half. Still, seven points from a possible 12 is better than we have managed since October. Only the little issue of Swansea at home to contend with next.

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Reading: Federici, Griffin, Mills, Ingimarsson, Bertrand, Kebe,Tabb, Sigurdsson, Howard (Rasiak 61), McAnuff, Long (Church 67)
Subs Not Used: Hamer, Gunnarsson, Matejovsky, Robson-Kanu, Khizanishvili
Booked: Rasiak (diving)
Goals: Sigurdsson 85 (penalty)

QPR: Ikeme 7, Connolly 7, Stewart 6, Gorkss 8, Hill 7, Faurlin 7, Leigertwood 6, Priskin 6 (German 87), Taarabt 7 (Ramage 80, -), Ephraim 6 (Cook 90, -), Simpson 7
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Cook, Vine, Buzsaky, Borrowdale
Booked: Faurlin (foul), Leigertwood (repetitive fouling), Hill (foul), Connolly (dissent)
Sent Off: Stewart (two bookings – foul, obstructing goalkeeper)

QPR Star Man – Kaspars Gorkss 8 Perhaps a little high, but this is the morning after and I am slightly more positive about the performance. Quiet in the first half, although had a couple of chances on goal. Seemed to be everywhere in the second half: hassled Reading players, made it up for free-kicks, and generally seemed to play out of his skin.

Referee - Gavin Ward (Staffordshire) 1 And that is for being able to tie his shoelaces. The guy was awful. Truly awful. This may sound like the rant of the defeated, but he bought everything from both sides, except in the second-half when QPR couldn’t win a free-kick for love nor money, missed countless handballs from both sides, gave throw-ins the wrong way, gave corners instead of goal kicks, goal kicks instead of corners, and finally, threw yellow cards around like confetti, unfortunately only to one side. On his basis of awarding yellow cards, plenty of challenges on either side should have been bookings.

Attendance: 16,886 (2,000 QPR approx) Reading ground looks like it was made of Lego. One side is a hotel, one side is a Waitrose, they presumably use the pitch to unload items for both. I hope we never make such a soulless bowl our home ground (although it was better than Coventry). The Reading fans made some noise in the first-half and some more once the penalty was converted, but QPR fans out-sang them for much of the second-half, which was to be expected considering the numbers who turned up. A little bit of trouble once the goal went in, with a bottle or two thrown, but nothing serious. Stewards proved their incompetence by acting out an Anthony Gormley sculpture whenever anything threatened to boil over.

Photo: Action Images

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