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QPR finally make it a double at Barnsley – full match report
QPR finally make it a double at Barnsley – full match report
Sunday, 25th Apr 2010 19:40

Rangers secured their first double in two years at Oakwell on Saturday, beating lowly Barnsley 1-0 thanks to a fine strike from Mikele Leigertwood in the first half.

On paper this game was absolutely meaningless, and for the most part it played out as such, but don’t underestimate the importance of QPR putting this tidy little run together at the end of a tumultuous season.

As I said in the preview form is not something that can just be flicked on and off like a light. Remember the disastrous end to the 2005/06 season we had with Gary Waddock at the helm where we won none of our last 18 matches? Waddock said everything would be different the following season when he got his own players in. But losing becomes a habit, losing breeds bad feelings, and three months off during the summer doesn’t necessarily cure all of that. There will be changes this summer, big ones, at QPR but at a conservative estimate I would expect eight of the starters from Saturday will be involved in the first team next year.

If we’re going to do well next season we have to foster a winning attitude and habit now, and QPR have successfully turned round a dire run of form to win three of their last four matches without conceding a goal. The introduction of Peter Ramage to the centre half position, and the recall of Radek Cerny have certainly been big factors in this and both must surely be playing their way into Warnock’s thinking for August.

Barnsley on the other hand, for all the great work done by Mark Robins so far, risk going through the last ten games of the season without a victory and that should be of concern to the Oakwell faithful who must know that their team isn’t good enough to simply turn it back on immediately when it matters against in August. That they are the only team QPR have done the double against this season, the first time we’ve achieved it since consecutive 1-0 wins against Charlton the season before last, says much for their limitations this season.

There were changes to the QPR team prior to kick off with both teams safe and having little to play for. Warnock used the opportunity to give a full debut to young Josh Parker. Now when the teams were announced it seemed as though Leigertwood would be right back, Buzsaky and Faurlin in the middle of midfield with Parker wide right, Priskin and German together in attack. However once the game started it was clear that Parker would be starting at right back with Ramage and Gorkss in the middle and Tosic at left back in front of Cerny. In midfield Faurlin and Leigertwood held the middle with Priskin right and Ephraim left. Up front Buzsaky played through the middle with German.

Starting out of position, away from home, on his full debut was a big ask for Parker but he did himself no harm at all with a competent and self assured performance. He also has a Stoke-City-like long throw in his arsenal that he brought out on a couple of occasions.

Without a win in eight matches and on the back of a comfortable defeat at Swansea City last time out Mark Robins made three changes to his Barnsley starting eleven – taking out Martin Devaney, Andy Gray and Ryan Shotton dropped out, Jon Macken, Bobby Hassell and Jacob Butterfield came in.

Barnsley could and should have opened the scoring after two minutes. Iain Hume, easily the hosts’ best player on the day, broke the QPR offside trap to run in behind the last man and through on goal but his low shot was tipped away by Radek Cerny, brushing the base of the goal post as it went. That was to be the start of a frustrating day for Hume, and an impressive performance from Rangers’ Czech goalkeeper.

The R’s responded in kind with a cross from Mikele Leigertwood that was cleared away for a corner with Antonio German ready to pounce, and then Akos Buzsaky had a free kick comfortably saved by Luke Steele after he’d been crudely upended by Nathan Doyle wide on the right flank. Barnsley players, management and fans were very unhappy with the wildly inconsistent performance of referee Russell Booth during the game, but they were lucky to escape yellow cards for a number of bad fouls on Priskin and Buzsaky wide on the Rangers right in the first half. Eventually Doyle was booked for a wild lunge on Priskin tight to the touchline just before half time.

German was denied a clean sight of goal after a quarter of an hour when Faurlin and Buzsaky exchanged passes and then played him in behind the defence but Foster got back at him and toed the ball away for a corner.

After that early exchange of fouls and tame shots the game went into a bit of a lull before Rangers missed the best chance of the match so far just before the half hour. A lovely move down the left flank saw Buzsaky slip a ball in behind Hassell for Tosic to charge onto and the Serbian full back marauded up to the penalty area before producing a perfect low cross to Antonio German who was totally unmarked in the six yard box but could only kick the ball against his standing foot and watch in horror as this absolute gift of a chance went begging.

Barnsley made the most of the let off and created two great chances in quick succession on the counter attack. First Iain Hume fired wide from the edge of the penalty area, then the Canadian stole in between the R’s centre backs to seize on a cross from Hugo Colace. His first touch carried the ball just too far in front of him and allowed Cerny to race from his line and block but a goal seemed certain as the ball rolled out to Jon Macken, unchallenged on the penalty spot, but his low shot was blocked away by Peter Ramage. Once again on Saturday I struggled to find any evidence to support Macken’s case of remaining a Championship level striker – what exactly does he do?

Barnsley were punished for not taking these chances when Rangers took the lead on the half hour. Hogan Ephraim did well by the corner flag, holding the ball and drawing two markers to him, before slipping a nice back healed pass to Leigertwood on the corner of the penalty area. He checked inside to create space for himself and then unleashed an unstoppable 20 yard piledriver into the net off the underside of the bar. A fine goal, very similar to the one he scored against Nottingham Forest at Loftus Road earlier this season.

Barnsley responded positively. Radek Cerny was in the right place at the right time to make a difficult save from a Jon Macken header at the back post from Hammill’s cross look easy, and then the Czech had to be in fine form to deny newly crowned Barnsley Player of the Year Colace who ran in behind the QPR defence, took on a shot early when it seemed sensible to go closer and was denied by a flying one handed save to Cerny’s right.

After Doyle finally picked up a yellow card for his repetitive fouling down the QPR right the sides exchanged tame shots with Devaney, brought on for the injured Hammill five before the break, drawing another save from Cerny while Parker volleyed high into the Barnsley fans hunting his first senior goal.

Referee Booth was at the centre of attention at the start of the second half. Within minutes of the restart Tosic sent in another good cross, a real strength of his it seems, and Akos Buzsaky controlled and finished low past Steele only for the goal to be ruled out for handball. It was a free kick, a little deflection on the cross just took it away from the Hungarian and the ball bounced against his hand, but for the referee to then show him a yellow card, considering some of the physical stuff he’d allowed to go in the first half, was ridiculous in my opinion. Fair enough if Buzsaky had punched a ball into the net but I’m not sure he could even get his hand out of the way and a free kick would have sufficed. When a Barnsley defender then did the self same thing on the edge of the box in the next attack only for Booth to wave play on frustration grew among the away ranks, and Barnsley were non-too impressed either when Priskin collapsed theatrically, the referee bought the dive as he did all afternoon, and Luke Potter was booked for kicking the ball away in frustration. Not the finest five minutes of refereeing you’re ever likely to see.

This wasn’t the finest half of football there has ever been either. In fact only the glorious South Yorkshire sunshine made the second 45 minutes bearable as the teams bumbled back and forth without really creating anything. QPR lacked any real presence in attack, while Barnsley made life easy at the other end by playing straight, aimless long balls that Cerny was able to just stride out and claim time and time again.

When they did get the ball on the ground Hume was at the centre of anything positive Barnsley did, but became visibly increasingly frustrated with what was going on around him. Colace took a total air shot at a ball squared to him on the edge of the area and Potter fired wide as the hosts threatened in fits and starts. Cerny held a shot from Butterfield before Robins sent on Carl Dickinson, on loan from Stoke and returning from a knee injury, to a rousing reception and chants of ‘sign him up’ from the home crowd. It was about as excited as they had been all afternoon.

Warnock sent on Lee Cook for Hogan Ephraim and Jay Simpson for Antonio German but the changes had little effect on the game – Darren Moore was commanding at the back for Barnsley and Ramage the same for Rangers at the other end comprehensively cancelling all threat out of the game. That’s a damning indictment on Rangers strikers really – because even a modicum of pace and skill has Moore looking like a lumbering oaf these days so for him to excel highlighted the lack of opposition and why Warnock is so keen to rack and stack striker signings this summer.

A bad foul by Butterfield on Faurlin gave Buzsaky a chance to strike at goal from 30 yards but his direct free kick was totally mishit and it bounced three times before bobbling well wide and into the away end. One of the worst free kicks ever taken - it rather summed the half up.

The Tykes felt very aggrieved at an offside flag against Devaney with time ticking down. Leigertwood appeared to have played the winger onside and manager Mark Robins raced down the touchline to confront the linesman as he raised the flag – this resulted in a stern talking to from referee Russell Booth, but he was allowed to remain on the touchline.

Barnsley’s fury with the match officials only intensified 12 minutes from time when they were denied what looked to be a blatant penalty. Another long aimless ball into the penalty area (the Tykes played far too many of those on Saturday) was easy for Radek Cerny to come out and claim. The ball was the goalkeeper’s all day long so why Gorkss felt the need to first chase after and then blatantly shoulder barge Hume to the ground off the ball in the penalty area God only knows but he did, and the Latvian was really fortunate not to have a penalty given against him. It was a needless foul and a clear and obvious spot kick.

As frustration in the home ranks grew Bobby Hassell hacked a long range shot to the back of the stand with several team mates in better positions for a pass. Neil Warnock sent on Lee Brown for a senior debut in some flagrant clock running.

The final whistle brought Barnsley fans streaming out onto the pitch for the traditional final match of the season invasion, but the QPR players stayed out to acknowledge the away fans and in some cases offer shirts to the younger members of the travelling contingent.

This was a very even game. Possession was about equal, both sides missed good chances, and on reflection a draw probably would have been a fair result. The differences between the two teams were, for me, one fabulous goal from Leigertwood and the performance of Radek Cerny in goal for Rangers. He made saves when they had to be made to preserve a clean sheet and Ligertwood’s moment of genius sealed the points.

I was also impressed with Ramage again at centre half, although the opposition from Barnsley was meagre and in the first half he and Gorkss got caught out playing offside on two or three occasions. I liked the performance of Josh Parker on his full debut as well. He and Tosic both did reasonably well in the full back roles, getting forward on the overlap at every possible opportunity. Tosic’s crossing has been excellent so far, and he should have had an assist in this game had German not scuffed his first half finish.

Everybody else was pretty average though. German really needs to improve his first touch, Buzsaky needs to get more involved in games, Ephraim needs to just do more – he showed with the assist for the goal that the skill and strength is there, he’s just far too nice with it. On a couple of occasions he ran a ball to the byline and almost helped the defender to shepherd it out himself when faced with a challenge. This was a particular problem as QPR played a lot of 'channel football' on Saturday where Faurlin and Buzsaky played balls in behind the Barn sley full backs to turn them round and hunt for mistakes, throw ins, free kicks and corners. For that to work you need an Ainsworth type winger to hassle the full back into coneding these things and Ephraim and Priskin just didn't do it well enough. Put a foot in Hogan, be a bit nastier for goodness sake.

We barely did enough to win in truth, and relied on our goalkeeper to get us over the line in the first half and out centre backs in the second. But after a thoroughly dire season, particularly away from home, it’s nice to be winning away again regardless of circumstances.

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Barnsley: Steele 6, Hassell 6, Foster 6, Moore 7, Potter 6 (Dickinson 64, 6), Hammill 5 (Devaney 40, 6), Colace 6, Doyle 6 (Taylor 81, -), Butterfield 6, Macken 5, Hume 7
Subs Not Used: Preece, Shotton, Adam, Kozluk
Booked: Doyle, Potter

QPR: Cerny 8, Parker 6, Ramage 7, Gorkss 6, Tosic 7, Priskin 5 (Brown 90, -), Leigertwood 6, Faurlin 7, Ephraim 6 (Cook 80, -), Buzsaky 6 , German 5 (Simpson 56, 5)
Subs Not Used: Putnins, Vine, Balanta, Oastler
Booked: Buzsaky
Goals: Leigertwood 27 (assisted Ephraim)

QPR Star Man – Radek Cerny 8 A close run thing between him and Ramage but for three first half saves from Hume twice and Colace followed by an excellent command of his area in the second half that took the pressure right off the defence under a series of long, high balls into the box from the hosts. Ramage’s switch to centre half and Cerny’s return in goal really seems to have solidified our previously leaky defence – Rangers have no conceded just once in four games.

Referee: Russell Booth (Nottinghamshire) 5 Not great. Barnsley should have a penalty late on, the Buzsaky booking was harsh and immediately followed by an identical offence from a Barnsley player that didn’t even bring a free kick. Bought every piece of play acting from both teams. Inconsistent – booked a couple of Barnsley players for bad tackles, but let a couple more off with equally bad or worse ones.

Attendance: 11,944 (500 QPR approx) The home fans were very quiet indeed, although the atmosphere inside Oakwell has rarely been very good in my experience. The back of the away end was loud and boisterous all afternoon, even singing the ‘Kevin Gallen’s magic’ song for ten minutes, but Rangers travelled in small numbers and the lack of reaction from the bench to the ‘Warnock give us a wave’ demands (which are getting really old really quickly to be honest) tells me the noise probably wasn’t travelling very far.

Photo: Action Images

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