|Foster wins Zamora duel as Dorrans downs QPR - full match report|
Sun 15th Apr 2012 20:25 by Clive Whittingham
QPR were left to curse the form of West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster who twice denied Bobby Zamora at close range to seal a 1-0 victory for his team at The Hawthorns on Saturday.
QPR’s recent penchant for alternating between inspired and insipid meant a meek defeat against West Bromwich Albion was always a likely outcome following Wednesday evening’s pummelling of Swansea.
Rangers were overly negative in the first half, inviting a tidy but limited home side to carry the game to them and take a lead. That said Mark Hughes’ men did create three excellent chances in the first 45 minutes for Bobby Zamora who was denied twice by fine goalkeeping from Ben Foster and once by his own profligacy.
Hughes released the handbrake for the second half, and allowed his side to attack with more width, but despite dominating to such an extent that I started to wonder if the pitch in fact slanted down towards the goal in front of the 2,700 travelling Rangers fans they struggled to create a meaningful chance to score. Zamora skewed a presentable one off target but first half hero Foster was rarely troubled again.
Hughes had initially started with a tight, defensive three man midfield of Joey Barton, Samba Diakite and the recalled Shaun Derry who returned following a controversial one-match ban to replace Akos Buzsaky. This is a system that is working well for QPR against the better teams in the division, such as Arsenal, but failed at Bolton a month ago and was found wanting again here.
Further forward Bobby Zamora and Jamie Mackie were both passed fit, although in truth neither looked it, and started in attack with support from Adel Taarabt. Heidar Helguson returned to the bench for the first time since the beginning of the year. In defence Hughes’ desire to maintain a settled back four saw him once again lead off with Nedum Onuoha, Clint Hill, Anton Ferdinand and Taye Taiwo ahead of Paddy Kenny in goal.
Pre-match this was billed as the side who couldn’t win away (two draws and eight defeats from the last ten road games for QPR) against the one that doesn’t like playing at home (nine teams have won at The Hawthorns this season and the Baggies have five more points from their away games).
In an effort to solve his team’s form on their own patch Roy Hodgson recalled Marc Antoine Fortune from a loan spell at Doncaster Rovers earlier this season and he now keeps out the marquee summer signing Shane Long. Fortune led the line reasonably well here but it was the support from Peter Odemwingie that really caused Rangers trouble. Nine goals this season hasn’t been enough to save Odemwingie from accusations that his form has curtailed since signing a lucrative new contract but his movement here, constantly sweeping across a broad arc around the edge of the penalty area from left channel to right to hunt for valuable real estate between the QPR defenders, was a constant menace to the visiting team.
Odemwingie could have opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Paddy Kenny found an unusually flat footed Jamie Mackie with a short throw out and the Baggies stole possession deep in the QPR half of the field. Sadly players with excellent ability and movement only tend to end up playing for clubs like QPR and West Brom if there is a deep failing somewhere else within their makeup and with Odemwingie that flaw is a persistently awful decision making process when it come to playing the final ball. Here he dragged a tame shot across the goal, albeit from a very narrow angle.
But Rangers should already have been in the lead themselves by this stage. Three minutes into the game a route one move started by Clint Hill’s clearing header and continued by Mackie’s well won flick on sent Zamora clear behind the Albion defence but his choice of power over precision gave Foster a chance to save one-on-one at close range. The confidence that goal would have brought to Rangers, and the way in which West Brom might have reacted to staring down the barrel of a tenth home defeat of the season, will sadly never be known.
Five minutes before half time Zamora was played in again. A raking cross field pass from Taiwo found the QPR target man in space behind the Albion defence but once more Foster was equal to his powerful shot. Barton fed the rebound wide to Mackie who won a corner that Hill headed over the bar.
Sadly in between those two outstanding chances of the opening half the ball was almost exclusively with West Brom. QPR’s modus operandi at the moment is to sit deep, absorb pressure and counter attack but there was rather more of the deep sitting and far too few counter attacks in the first period here. The three man midfield, with Shaun Derry particularly culpable, looked lost and leaden footed in the face of a more enterprising and mobile threat posed by Chris Brunt, Youssouf Mulumbu and Graham Dorrens. QPR keeping to a narrow defensive shape also allowed Hodgson to push his full backs on and mop-haired Billy Jones looked particularly enterprising playing as a second auxiliary right winger at times.
I’ve heard the arguments about keeping a winning team and system, but I’ve also heard more salient talk about picking a horse for a course. What worked against Arsenal and Swansea at home was never necessarily going to work for West Brom away and at times in the first half it looked as though QPR had turned up for a steeplechase with a flat racer, if you’ll excuse the pun on this Grand National weekend.
In the tenth minute the twinkle toed trio at the heart of Albion’s midfield strung an eye catching one touch move together on the edge of the QPR penalty area that ended with Fortune crowded out of possession at the crucial moment. Two minutes later Odemwingie fired over the bar from range and another 120 seconds later a first QPR corner of the afternoon swiftly turned into a West Brom counter and two wide set pieces of their own both of which were headed away by the in-form Clint Hill.
Rangers did at least then last four minutes before they had to scramble around in their own penalty area again. In the eighteenth minute a foul by everybody’s favourite escaped mental patient Samba Diakite gave Dorrans a chance to whip in a low delivery that boyhood QPR fan Liam Ridgwell, up in the opposition penalty area from his left back position, flicked into a chaotic six yard box but found no team mate on hand to convert.
Which all made the only goal of the game, scored four minutes later after 22 minutes of play, feel rather inevitable. Some recurring themes were at play in setting up the chance for Dorrans – Odemwingie sweeping into the left channel to find space, QPR outnumbered in a wide area – but when the ball eventually worked its way back infield to the Scottish midfielder Paddy Kenny will be disappointed he didn’t do better with a shot from 25 yards out that carried plenty of venom but the keeper nevertheless got two gloves to. Still, it was no more than West Brom deserved for a relaxed and enterprising start to the game.
That decision making in the final third which keeps Odemwingie and Adel Taarabt with the more meagre clubs in the Premier League, rather than the leading lights, shone through in two incidents immediately after the goal. The pair exchanged shots when crosses would have been more appropriate, Taarabt dragging one wide and Odemwingie blasting into the side of Paddy Kenny’s goal with an orderly queue of Albion players left waiting.
Mulumbu had a shot blocked up into the air and down into Paddy Kenny’s arms on the half hour mark but in general Rangers struggled to get anywhere near their hosts in the first half. The LFW match report notes simply read “far too easy” following an incident ten minutes from half time when Brunt cut in from the flank unchecked and set up Odemwingie for a shot that was blocked by Hill. The resulting corner was cleared but former R’s loanee Jerome Thomas was then afforded time and space for a shot that rolled straight to Paddy Kenny.
At the other end, with giant Swede Jonas Olsson missing and replaced by the far less experienced Craig Dawson at the heart of the Albion defence, Bobby Zamora should have done far better with a virtually free header from a very decent Joey Barton cross. Ultimately he couldn’t even find the target with a poor effort and for all of his excellent hold up and lay approach work outside the area Zamora can only be judged on Saturday on four excellent chances missed.
The third of those, from Taiwo’s cross field pass, followed shortly afterwards hinting that Rangers might be belatedly getting to grips with the task in hand and this was swiftly followed by Mackie poking wide from the edge of the box and then working hard wide right to set up Diakite who hammered a shot into the side of Foster’s goal.
But two minutes before half time the status quo was restored when Taarabt was crowded out of possession and Ferdinand had to swoop in to deny Odemwingie a sight of goal. The resulting corner was partially cleared but returned with interest and Rangers were fortunate that Gareth McAuley’s header bounced straight to Kenny and not into the net.
Nobody inside The Hawthorns could possibly dispute that 1-0 was a fair reflection of the balance of play as the teams disappeared below decks for oranges and bollockings.
I’d like to tell you that QPR emerged for the second half refreshed, revitalised and with renewed purpose. But they didn’t. All the same problems from the first half remained: too deep and narrow in midfield, a lack of movement when in possession, Zamora often isolated in attack, West Brom constantly outnumbering Rangers in wide areas and Nedum Onuoha not playing at all well.
Zamora was warned for dissent by referee Jon Moss, who I actually thought had a very decent game, which betrayed the striker’s frustration with his performance and that of those around him. Dorrans shot at Kenny after Diakite had been caught in possession during a prolonged wait for a team mate to offer a passing option. The in the next attack a delightful back heal from Odemwingie found Jones on a trademark late run from deep and although he beat Kenny with a scuffed shot it rebounded back into play off the goalkeeper.
The teams then swapped yellow cards: Mulumbu took one from Jon Moss for chopping down Nedum Onuoha who sadly looked very much like a centre back playing out of position in this game, then Diakite’ late hit on Fortune brought him his weekly booking. West Brom played on through that foul and Thomas should have done better than crossing to nobody at the end of a flowing move.
Diakite’s numbers are intimidating. He has received eight yellow cards and one red in nine matches as a QPR player, taking his total to 16 yellows and a red from 28 appearances for Rangers, Mali and Nancy this season. Should Rangers stay up and Diakite sign on we’re highly likely to see a first ever four match ban for the accumulation of 20 yellow cards next season. Sadly this latest misdemeanour didn’t have the creative, classy play on the ball of recent weeks to redeem it although the lack of options for a pass often had more to do with than anything Diakite did wrong.
There was a needlessly cynical aspect to West Brom’s approach in the second half. Fortune, clearly hurt by Diakite, left the field for treatment but to avoid his team playing with ten men asked to return to the field of play and then sat straight back down again to force a stoppage in play so he could be replaced by Shane Long. Ben Foster was pretty flagrant with his time wasting as well but that was nothing compared to the behaviour of Liam Ridgewell on the hour.
Awarded a throw in when he wanted a free kick Ridgwell spent an inordinate amount of time sitting on the floor tending to his socks, then ignored the young boy who was trying to return the ball to him and allowed it to roll onto the pitch, and finally took time out to gesture towards Mark Hughes who was questioning just why on earth a routine throw in was taking this long. Referee Jon Moss watched all this, and then showed the left back a yellow card. Credit to the official.
The substitution of Fortune also provided Hughes with a chance to shuffle his pack. He sent on Shaun Wright-Phillips for Shaun Derry who, sorry to say, was embarrassingly off the pace of this game and something of a liability in the heart of the QPR midfield. Wright-Phillips is, justifiably, much maligned by the QPR supporters and although he started promisingly here, seeing a powerful volley blocked before it could reach Ben Foster’s goal, he quickly reverted to type and contributed little.
However, despite this, the change of formation his introduction brought about worked an absolute treat. The added width and ambition from Rangers, possibly coupled with a more reticent approach from the Baggies, saw the Londoners completely take the game over for the final half an hour. Taiwo, really coming into form at the moment, crossed deep to the far post immediately and although West Brom cleared Barton swooped in on the edge of the area and volleyed wide. Barton also lifted a shot over from a deep Adel Taarabt corner after pulling away into space at the back post. Despite the improvements QPR were once again indebted to Clint Hill for a fine chase and tackle on Shane Long as he streaked away on the counter attack threatening to put the outcome beyond doubt.
Zamora’s fourth, and worst, miss of the day came after he’d engaged in some excellent approach work with Taarabt. His hold up play and ball wide to the Moroccan was faultless, sadly when the ball was returned to him in the penalty area his skewed finish was anything but.
Dorrans was booked for fouling Wright-Phillips and, with his manager perhaps sensing that the midfield game they’d controlled so well for the first hour was now running away from his team, immediately withdrawn and replaced by Keith Andrews. Dorrans was nevertheless named man of the match by the home sponsors, tough on Ben Foster but an excellent way of highlighting the extent to which they put the cue on the rack in this game with a third of it left to go.
Mark Hughes responded in kind by replacing Adel Taarabt with Heidar Helguson and Taye Taiwo with Armand Traore. Unfortunately, neither change had a positive effect. It was wonderful to see leading scorer Helguson back in action after three months out (an absence that has done little for the size of his backside it seems) but going extra direct into the heart of a defence that included McAuley and Dawson was never likely to yield tremendous rewards and so it proved. Taarabt was just starting to have some serious influence on the game when he was withdrawn. The idea of sending on a more attack minded Traore for Taiwo made more sense, but the Nigerian is playing well at the moment and his Senegalese replacement was patchy on his return to action. Hindsight is bloody marvellous isn’t it?
Traore won a corner ten minutes from time that Barton took and Helguson headed wide, but for all the possession and pressure gilt edged chances were thin on the ground. In fact as time ran down into a generous four minutes of added time West Brom actually started to get more joy on the counter attack – Moss’ harsh decision to penalise Hill for holding down Long gave Brunt a free kick opportunity that he beat the wall with but not Kenny, and then Long went himself in open play but was worried out of the shot by the attention of Nedum Onuoha who did well covering in behind his centre backs.
If Rangers continue their current form of winning at home and losing away then two victories and two defeats will follow in the remaining four games leaving the them with 37 points. Relegation would only follow if Bolton took nine points from their remaining six matches and Wigan seven from their four.
Taking goal difference into account two wins would almost certainly be good enough to save QPR but they’re not making it easy for themselves and they must hope the incompetence that unites the five teams at the bottom of the Premiership continues to prevail over the closing weeks. A 3-0 defeat for Blackburn at Swansea on Saturday suggests it just might but we’re at that horrible, stomach churning point of the season now where strange things start to happen – although apparently not quite as strange as a QPR away win, make that nine defeats and two draws from 11 road matches now.
West Brom: Foster 8, Jones 7, McAuley 6, Dawson 6, Ridgewell 6, Brunt 7, Mulumbu 7, Dorrans 7 (Andrews 71, 6), Thomas 7 (Scharner 80, -), Fortune 6 (Long 59, 6), Odemwingie 7
Subs Not Used: Daniels, Shorey, Hurst, Cox
Booked: Mulumbu (foul), Ridgewell (time wasting), Dorrans (foul)
Goals: Dorrans 22. QPR: Kenny 5, Onuoha 5, Ferdinand 6, Hill 7, Taiwo 7 (Traore 77, 6), Barton 6, Diakite 6, Derry 5 (Wright-Phillips 56, 6), Mackie 6, Zamora 6, Taarabt 6 (Helguson 75, 6)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Gabbidon, Buzsaky, Young
Booked: Diakite (foul)
QPR Star Man – Clint Hill 7 A man really on top of his game at the moment. His limitations are well known to him and everybody else but he’s yet to be caught out for pace while playing at centre back this season and his aerial ability, positional sense and leadership of an otherwise rickety defence is excellent. A Becoming a strong candidate for the club’s player of the year award.
Referee: Jon Moss (W Yorkshire) 8 Given QPR’s recent luck with referees, and Moss’ abject performance at West Ham v Birmingham last weekend, this appointment didn’t thrill me greatly when the list came through earlier in the week. However, thankfully, I thought he controlled the game very well indeed. The bookings were justified, especially Liam Ridgwell’s and he clamped down further on West Brom’s time wasting with a big chunk of added time at the end of a second half that had included just one injury. Moments of dispute but no serious controversy, very decent all in all.
Attendance: 25, 521 (2,700 QPR approx) There were substantially fewer QPR fans at the Hawthorns more than a decade ago shortly after Ray Harford’s defection from the Baggies to W12, but those who did make the trip that day can never possibly have considered West Brom a ‘friendly’ club since. The two old-enough-to-know-better idiot patrolling the aisle of the 1837 from Snow Hill back to London after this match spoiling for a fight with anybody who looked like they might be a QPR fan suggests that mindless hostility hasn’t quite dissipated yet. But the Baggies are a hard club not to admire on and off the field for the way they’ve developed their stadium and team and a near capacity crowd here deserve their Premiership safety. QPR travelled in decent numbers, made a fair bit of noise, and applauded a beaten team off the field for the ninth time in 11 away trips. That away season ticket is turning out to be a fabulous investment.
Pictures – Action Images