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Dour Derby draw leaves fans wanting more - full match report
Dour Derby draw leaves fans wanting more - full match report
Wednesday, 24th Mar 2010 12:33

QPR's 1-1 draw with Derby on Tuesday night has drawn criticism from some fans on message boards who were annoyed at the style of play employed by the hosts. Nik Speller was at the game for LFW.

As the half-time whistle blew last night, a text came through from LFW editor Mr Whittingham: “Sounds like the classic example of you must score when you’re on top.” Too true. Against Derby, QPR managed to put on a display which Dr Jekyll himself would have been proud off. Unfortunately, the cliché ‘it’s a game of two halves’ couldn’t be applied here, as QPR dominated the game for only 15 minutes and never took control again afterwards. A couple of terrible referring decisions, yet again, may have left some QPR fans seething, but as Clive said, you must score when you’re dominating a game or face the consequences.

Following the Swansea game on Saturday Neil Warnock saw fit to make three changes to the side, going for a back-four of Connolly, Gorkss, Stewart, and Ramage, in front of the first choice keeper Ikeme. Leigertwood, Faurlin, Cook, and Vine made up the midfield; Simpson and Taarabt started up-front. Vine and Cook began the game on the left and right respectively, which raised some eyebrows amongst the crowd. Hill, Buzaky, Cerny, Ephraim, Balanta, German, and the much loved Priskin, warmed the bench.

Derby had left out Robbie Savage for a desperately dull 0-0 draw at Sheff Wed on Saturday but recalled their captain in midfield for this one. Leading scorer Rob Hulse was left on the bench from the start.

From the first minute QPR were the only team in the game. Taarabt played hell with the Derby defence and midfield, twisting, turning and running into the box, shooting, and forcing the first corner of the game. A couple of good corners lifted into the danger area saw Gorkss go close with his head, and the keeper pluck a Cook cross out of the air. A procession of shots followed from Faurlin, Simpson, and Connolly: the latter running into the box from the left-hand side and testing the keeper at his near-post after a brilliant pass from Faurlin. It was a superb opening six minutes and QPR should have been at least one goal to the good, and the next six minutes presented an equal number of opportunities, albeit with some all-to-common issues beginning to rise to the surface. Firstly, Taarabt, who had started brightly, began to get the blinkers on, accepting a short-corner from Cook, only to run into the box and be smothered by the Derby defence after taking twelve touches too many. Vine followed, with the linesman’s flag waving high each time he was played a through-ball. And the entire attacking line was guilty of failing to follow-up on goal each time a shot struck the keepers gloves. But, the pressure continued: even Peter Ramage managed to surge forward and provide a decent cross.

Then after a quarter of an hour the pattern of play changed. With Rangers finding themselves further and further up-the-pitch, Derby managed to take advantage of the lack of midfield and make one or two breaks towards Ikeme’s goal. Luckily, the defence managed to get back and tidy-up and striker Chris Porter slipped at the crucial moment when presented with a chance six yards out from goal, but it was an omen of things to come, and on 25 minutes, a Derby cross found an unmarked player in the box who managed to plant his header at goal, only to see it deflected behind for a corner.

Derby followed this up with a number of good chances, most of which found their way into the hands of the R’s keeper, including a free-kick taken by Savage from the edge of the box after a foul by Faurlin. Unfortunately, every time he had the ball, Ikeme failed to capitalise on a numerical advantage within the Derby half, with his inability to distribute quickly to a player in blue and white – a trait which caused growing resentment amongst the faithful of the Ellerslie Road.

The half-hour mark was probably not when Warnock had planned to tinker with the formation, but with Connolly signalling to the bench that something was wrong, Hill came on in his place. Connolly had a good half-an-hour, looking tidy at the back and surging forward through the midfield and along the left-side. He was unlucky that his close-range, near-post, shot didn’t result in a goal – he was unlikely to beat the keeper from such a tight angle and I’m sure he would have crossed to an R’s player if any had been making a surging run towards the six-yard box.

Following Connolly’s departure, the game continued in much the same vein, with Derby getting more time on the ball and QPR struggling to bring the match back under their control. After the first 15 minutes, Derby did alter their formation and tighten up both the midfield and defence. Savage became a man-marker on Taarabt, following him across the pitch and preventing him from turning. Taarabt appealed to the referee on numerous occasions about the pressure from Savage, but it was no-more than you would expect from any decent midfielder in the Championship, including the scything tackle on the edge of the centre-circle, which should have earned Savage the first booking of the game. The ref waved all protest away; Taarabt threw his little black gloves off in anger; the fans climbed on the ref's back, and not for the last time. It should have been a booking, but then so should Taarabt's kick on Savage just before – which in many peoples eyes’ could have brought a red card. Taarabt needs to learn to grow up. He is a good player and most teams with any sense will man-mark him out of the game. If he could learn to look up and pass, then he could adapt his game, and learn how to by-pass a man-marker through intelligent distribution rather than silky footwork.

With five minutes to go, Derby began a time-wasting ritual which would continue throughout the second half once they had equalised. Their goalkeeper, in particular, infuriated all (except the Derby fans) by altering which side of the field he wanted to take his goal kick and building himself a little mole-hill each time. At the same time, Warnock saw fit to change the tactics, bringing Vine to the centre, Cook to the left, and Simpson wide-right. Deep into injury time, this change paid off. Taarabt took the ball from a throw, and with pace, turned Savage, beat another Derby player and laid the ball perfectly to an unmarked Cook on the left-hand side, who brought the ball towards the middle and unleashed a brilliant low and curving left-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal. This was the last action of the game, and on the basis of the first 15 minutes would have been thoroughly deserved. As it was, Derby fans can feel aggrieved that they would, and should, have gone into the half-time dressing room with honours even, had their players’ minds not already been in their two minutes beforehand.

The second half began as the first had. QPR attacked, but only managed to sustain pressure for ten minutes this time, with no shots on goal, before Derby came back into the game. A catalogue of errors from Ranger’s players followed. Taarabt was once again guilty of failing to pass the ball, waiting until Faurlin had run off-side before releasing him down the left-wing, following some excellent work by Vine in the centre. Ramage and Stewart were surprised to see the ball run away from them on a soaking wet surface after they had allowed it to bounce. Cook played a terrible ball back to Hill, resulting in a Derby corner, from which Ikeme let the ball squirm through his hands, which was prevented by nothing but mud and mucus from crossing the line. The R’s keeper maintained his solemn vow not to play the ball early, even when Simpson was free on the right-side. And Leigertwood failed to clear the ball when he won it in the R’s penalty area, and was spared his blushes by winning a soft free-kick.

Then came the moment all had been waiting for. On the hour, the prodigal son returned - German replaced Cook and took up-residence in the centre alongside Taarabt, with Vine moving to the left-side. German’s first touch proved why he is much loved in W12. He was more than a match for the physical presence of the Derby defence, took the ball brilliantly on his chest, shrugged off a Derby player, and could have opened up the attack with a pass to Ramage (maybe we should underline 'could', as the possibilities which 'could' have resulted from a Ramage cross are endless, but unlikely to lead to a goal). His physical presence and ‘up-and-at-them’ mentality is perfect for this league, and a minute later he left a Derby player sprawled on the floor requiring treatment, after the two had clashed jumping for the same ball. Compare this to Vine, who had one of his better days, but is still second to most balls, and doesn’t have the speed, strength, or stamina to make himself count in a centre-forward position.

Derby continued to press, even with German attacking them at the other end. Gorkss was more than a match for their aerial balls (although Stewart had a wobble or two). However, when Derby played the ball to feet, it was a different matter. With the ball played to a Derby player on the QPR left, Hill was left in a muddle, tangled with the player in question and both ended up on the floor. I’m not sure if this was a free-kick or a tangle with legs, but Hill was definitely beaten and made a mess of trying to recover. Derby whipped the ball in to a crowded box, Stewart failed to clear the ball further than the edge of the box and Barker, lying in wait, flicked the ball over the on-coming Stewart and volleyed past Ikeme’s left hand. Stewart was at full-stretch when he made the clearance and can’t be blamed for the short distance the ball travelled; why Barker had enough time to volley the ball so high in the air and still get a comfortable shot on goal, only the QPR defence can tell. The Derby goal summed-up the story of the second-half: Rangers were second to every ball.

For the ten minutes following the goal, QPR never had the ball under control. Instead, whenever we managed to pick the ball up, in one pass it went back to the defence, usually Gorkss or Hill, and was hooked forward, high into the air, down the left-channel towards Vine. Gorkss had a good game defensively, but his inability to control the ball with his feet is his weakness. Whenever the ball arrived, he didn’t have the ability, or perhaps confidence, to bring it to ground and play it wide to Stewart or Ramage who were in acres of space on the right-hand side. But then, who can blame him. The midfield had gone walk-about, with Faurlin and Legs not only ineffective, but non-existent. Although the latter did try and win some headers in midfield, he was second to every ball. With this shambles in front of them, Ramage and Stewart would have had little option but to mimic Gorkss with a punt down-field.

A third change was made by Warnock 13 minutes from time. Simpson, who was stranded on the right-wing for much of the second half, was replaced by Ephraim. Vine went right and Emphraim left. Taarabt came back into life for the last ten minutes, winning the ball and setting off on runs, but again, his final ball let him down. Then Vine produced the only shot in the second half. A pass from Ephraim saw him in space and the ball blistered against the cross-bar with the keeper beaten. Aside from the shot, German was still the only real threat Derby had to counter, and they did this by man-marking yet another one of our players, although this time with far more shirt-pulling and physical contact than should have been allowed. German had already complained to the ref about being held down by a Derby player, and in the last minute of the game, as he broke through into the box after hunting the ball down, a clear shirt pull which was seen by half of the 12,569 fans inside the ground, was completely missed by both linesman and referee. It was such a nailed-on penalty, that the Derby keeper held his head in his hands when the ref pointed for a goal-kick, thinking it was for a penalty.

Four minutes of added time saw little in the way of goal threats: Legs was kicked in the head, but nothing was given; Leacock was finally booked for time-wasting, after having a three-day conference to decide who was to take a throw; and Taarabt managed to scamper into the box and throw himself on the floor as the ref blew the final whilste, leaving the rest of us looking for a sniper in the School End.

In conclusion, the last 2,000 words have been a complete waste. For those who didn’t see the game, but want to experience without paying for QPR-player, bake a cake of one part chocolate to five parts horse-shit, eat and you will get the full experience.

QPR were sublime for the first 15 minutes. Incredible. Passes flowed between one player and another. Players beat the opposition with little thought. Crosses always beat the fist man. After that, they lost the plot. Second to every ball. Passes going astray. Crosses, when there were some, didn’t just beat the first-man, but sailed over into the Lower Loft. Many fans leaving the ground could be heard mumbling about the ref. Yes, he was to blame for not awarding us a penalty, but it should never have come down to a nintieth minute winner from the referee. Derby should have been buried a long time before that, but in failing to capitalise when we had the upper hand, they grew in confidence, altered their tactics accordingly, and restricted our play.

Warnock had no answers to this and kept faith with a formation which was not paying dividends. The Faurlin and Legs partnership has finally dried-up and in my opinion should not be tried again. Ineffective use of the forward players was also an issue: Simpson should never grace the touch-line, as he is a striker, and Vine should never play upfront as he is not. Taarabt could have been the saviour of the game, but his immature tantrums at the aggression shown from Savage, and his inability to distribute the ball in an effective way demonstrate why he is still not Premier League material. The defence had a good game, expect for the goal, but lack confidence when the forward players are not holding the ball up and the midfield go missing.

Hill is still a worry. He has been caught in many positions where he is able to shirk blame for opponents goals – the ball hit him on the head against Swansea, the leg against Coventry, and last night was a tangle of legs – but I have to pose the question, is his positional sense the weakness in his game which leads to trouble? Should he had been running at his own goal with his back to the ball on Saturday? Should he have turned his back on an on-coming shot against Coventry? And should he have been caught out by a simple pass last night? We search for answers to these questions and more at Preston on Saturday.

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QPR: Ikeme 7, Ramage 7, Stewart 7, Gorkss 8, Connolly 8 (Hill 33, 6), Faurlin 5, Leigertwood 5, Cook 6 (German 59, 7), Taarabt 7, Vine 6, Simpson 6 (Ephraim 78, -)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Buzsaky, Balanta, Priskin
Booked: Faurlin (foul)
Goals: Cook 45+2 (assisted Taarabt)

Derby: Bywater, Anderson, Barker, Hunt (Davies 61), McEveley,Tonge, Pearson, Savage, Green, Sunu (Leacock 46),Porter (Hulse 82)
Subs Not Used: David Martin, Teale, Moxey, Dave Martin
Booked: Leacock (time wasting)
Goals: Barker 67 (unassisted)

QPR Star Man – Kaspars Gorkss 8 Has to be Gorkss. He cleared everything in the air at the back and could have scored at least one in the first 15 minutes. His one problem is getting the ball to feet and intelligent distribution. Too often he punted the ball into the stand or long to a player who wasn’t available

Referee - Mike Russell (Hertfordshire) 5 Had a good first-half, notable by the absence of whistle and cards (although he should have booked Savage). His second half performance was not so great. Cards should have been produced for the Derby keeper, who spent most of his time digging the pitch-up, and free-kicks and a penalty should have been awarded for the constant tugging of German’s shirt.

Attendance: 12,569 (783 Derby) Very quiet inside Loftus Road, with the performance and the weather dampening spirits. Derby were loud in the second half, but quiet in the first.

Photo: Action Images

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