Ten man Forest fight back to deny QPR – full match report
Monday, 14th Feb 2011 01:35 by Clive Whittingham
QPR were held to a draw at Loftus Road by Nottingham Forest on Sunday despite the visitors conceding first and then having a man sent off.
For the second time in as many home matches I was drawn to the reaction of the visiting team’s goalkeeper at the full time whistle.
Last time out at Loftus Road we had Jamie Ashdown, the Portsmouth custodian, attempting to hoof the ball over the main stand as an expression of his own frustration having lost his team the game. On Sunday we saw our former charge Lee Camp with his fists pumping, slapping high fives with anybody he could get within touching distance of, celebrating this result with a smile as wide as the goal he’d protected very comfortably through the second half.
It was the Forest fans who could be heard at the full time whistle – cheering loudly as Mark Clattenburg brought proceedings to a close and then giving their heroes a standing ovation as they walked to the School End to receive the acclaim of a sizeable travelling support. Manager Billy Davies was happy too, delighted even, and it occurred to me that anybody tuning in to Sky Sports early for the Bolton v Everton game and witnessing those scenes must have surely thought that in form Forest had made it eight wins in a row, closing the gap still further on QPR and indeed taking the title race out of Rangers’ hands for the first time this season.
When you go a goal down away from home against the league leaders, and then have a man sent off, it’s perfectly understandable that escaping with a draw is a cause for some celebration. By contrast having lead the game and enjoyed more than an hour with a numerical advantage in a home match it’s to be assumed that the majority connected with QPR would be disappointed with this result.
But for me this was just as much of a missed opportunity for Forest as it was for QPR, and their attitude to the second half here where they didn’t so much park the bus as stack it on bricks in front of their goal, betrayed a lack of self belief.
Last week at Reading, a match against a team with one defeat in 15 matches on a ground where QPR have never won, Rangers went down to ten men before half time themselves. Neil Warnock’s response was to continue attacking and trying to maintain possession of the ball. He threw on Ishmael Miller, a striker, safe in the belief that even with a player less QPR had it within themselves to win the game. He was rewarded with three points.
Faced with a similar situation here Billy Davies did the opposite. Forest were actually better with ten men than they had been with eleven at the end of the first half and to be honest it was QPR who were more grateful to hear the half time whistle. Marcus Tudgay and particularly David McGoldrick had absolutely dominated Kaspars Gorkss and Matt Connolly from the tenth second onwards and despite the dismissal of Radowslaw Majewski for an evil hack at Adel Taarabt Forest had continued to threaten and look dangerous. By removing Tudgay at half time, surrendering all attacking intent, and settling for a point Forest passed off a terrific opportunity to win this match – not something to celebrate with any great gusto.
Prior to kick off Neil Warnock was forced to change his starting 11 because of a suspension for Hogan Ephraim, the man sent off at the Madejski Stadium just over a week ago. The three match ban for the former West Ham man wasn’t a total disaster as the man he replaced in the side originally, Tommy Smith, was fit and ready to return to the attack alongside Adel Taarabt and Wayne Routledge. Rob Hulse was surprisingly preferred in the lone striker role rather than Ishmael Miller who was on the bench along with Heidar Helguson.
Further back things had a more familiar look about them with Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurlin an in form holding midfield partnership and Bradley Orr, Connolly, Gorkss and Clint Hill the regular back four in front of Paddy Kenny.
Forest spent much of the pre-match lamenting the loss of their midfield enforcer Guy Moussi to a thigh injury which is likely to rule him out for the rest of the season. He was replaced by former Preston man Paul McKenna, a man with a history of good performances against QPR to his name and, following in the footsteps of Graham Alexander, Liam Lawrence, Jem Karacan, Matthew Milles, the latest player to come to Loftus Road with the intention of both playing and refereeing the match. Fortunately Premiership referee Mark Clattenburg, who has twice refereed crucial QPR promotion games with positive outcomes against Oldham and Sheff Wed, was on hand to ignore McKenna’s constant (and I mean constant) volleys of abuse and advice and keep a firm grip on the game.
Rangers would no doubt have been glad to see the names of Robert Earnshaw and Dele Adebola missing from the Forest line up – Earnshaw scored a hat trick on this ground in his Cardiff days while Adebola has goals against Rangers for four different clubs and presents the type of physical challenge that our centre halves have struggled with this season. As it was they had more than they could handle in the former of McGoldrick and Tudgay. That became apparent within the opening ten seconds as Forest kicked off, quickly lobbed the ball up to the edge of the box and won it, and then struck the inside of Paddy Kenny’s post with a low shot on the turn by Tudgay. The flag had been raised and the goal would not have counted had it gone in, although in all the confusion it appeared to be Matt Connolly rather than a Forest player who poked the ball into his path. This gave McKenna his first opportunity to scream in the referee’s face.
Forest quickly forced two corners, delivered right to the heart of the six yard box, and had clearly come with the intention of seizing the initiative early on. QPR’s first threat came from a free kick after Wayne Routledge had combined nicely with Hulse and then been fouled. Taarabt drilled the ball into the wall and Forest quickly stormed down the other end and won a third corner inside the first four minutes which Rangers did well to clear. Radowslaw Majewski, resplendent in red tights, hacked a volley high over the bar as this alarming start to the game continued.
You certainly wouldn’t have thought QPR were the pace setters judging by the early pattern of play but they got into their stride a little as the time ticked into double figures. Tight to the byline Adel Taarabt produced a brilliant cross, given the circumstances, that was just too high for Hulse in the six yard box but eventually found its way out to Faurlin on the edge of the area and although his instinctive shot was heading on target it was subsequently deflected wide by Tommy Smith. How’s your luck? Roughly 20 minutes later Forest would do the same thing and equalise.
QPR’s problems in this game were two fold. Firstly the centre half partnership of Gorkss and Connolly was poor and ineffective. I’ve felt a bit like a man looking for problems by criticising the pair of them in recent weeks, given that we had kept four clean sheets in five matches coming into this one, but they have looked a little ragged to me recently and did so again here. Too timid in the face of a physical challenge, too hesitant under a high ball, not assertive enough with each other or their opponents. A minute after the Faurlin near miss Connolly headed a ball that was destined for the safety of Paddy Kenny’s hands up in the air and straight to Paul McKenna who tried a speculative shot from distance and missed the target with the aid of a deflection that led to another corner.
There’s a secondly to come later involving Rob Hulse, but as the striker had a decent first half where he did actually hold the ball and lay it reasonably in the manner we require and indeed demand of our lone strikers I’ll leave it for now.
Any concerns that had been stacking up in the opening stages were forgotten in an explosive eight minute spell that should have turned the game well and truly in QPR’s favour. First, after a quarter of an hour, Rangers took the lead. Just as at Reading the goal owed much to the calmness, awareness and quality of Alejandro Faurlin who, when left facing a left flank devoid of QPR shirts, decided that rather than play a percentage ball in behind Chris Gunter and try to turn Forest around he would instead play a beautiful reverse pass on his blind side through considerable traffic to Tommy Smith. It changed the direction of the attack completely, wrong footed Forest, and opened up a corridor of space that Smith dashed through enthusiastically before skilfully bending a low left footed shot around Camp and into the bottom corner. Smith and Faurlin, whose return to form in the last fortnight has been a spectacular delight, were our best players in this game so it was just to see them craft our only goal.
QPR have kept a league leading 17 clean sheets this season and have never lost from a winning position. They’re not the sort of team you want to fall behind against, particularly at Loftus Road, and Forest’s situation worsened within seven minutes. Different teams have taken different approaches with Adel Taarabt this season and it was pretty clear from the first minute here that Forest believed the best way to combat the threat of the Moroccan was to kick him. Repeatedly. At the exact halfway point of the half though Radowslaw Majewski took the niggly tactic that had been well metered out by McKenna and the giant Wes Morgan to this point and went too far with it. Possibly seeking to make an impact so that QPR would remember him in future (the big screen had bizarrely listed him as Gary Majewski on the pre-match team sheet) the Pole left the ground and almost snapped Taarabt in half with a crude two footed, studs up hack that had Clattenburg producing a red card before the QPR man had even hit the ground. McKenna complained about it, but few others did – a nasty and wholly unnecessary lunge that brought the correct punishment.
How short our memories have obviously become. An atmosphere descended on Loftus Road that I’d describe as almost being arrogant. Despite Forest starting the game strongly, coming into the match on a run of seven straight wins, and QPR winning a game with ten men just a week earlier there seemed to be a belief from some that the game was now over and won.
Not so. Within two minutes of being reduced to ten men Forest were level. The goal itself was somewhat fortunate, but QPR had only themselves to blame after gifting Forest a free kick 35 yards out thanks to a mind blowingly stupid and totally needless foul by Matt Connolly on McGoldrick who had his back to goal and was going nowhere at the time. Suddenly from facing one player miles away from Paddy Kenny who wasn’t even facing the right way as he attempted to control a through ball Rangers were now defending a free kick against one of the Championship’s players of the season so far. Lewis McGugan has scored some belters this season, and although his low drilled free kick won’t feature on any coaching videos for a demonstration of good technique it achieved the desired result by striking McGoldrick in the area and bobbling agonisingly into the corner of Paddy Kenny’s net. The goal was nothing more than Forest deserved and was celebrated enthusiastically as you would expect.
You could almost see the confidence coursing through Forest now. A nice QPR move that ended with a Bradley Orr cross cleared out to Clint Hill who volleyed wide came in between two excellent chances for a second goal for the visitors. First Tudgay beat Gorkss to a header and McGoldrick ran onto the ball ahead of Connolly before volleying off target. Then McGoldrick manoeuvred Gorkss into position as if playing with a rag doll and won a corner that Morgan met powerfully having arrived late from the centre back position – Paddy Kenny denied him with a great leg save.
When McKenna then seized on yet more decent service from McGoldrick and drifted a curling shot across the face of Kenny’s goal there were one or two restless noises emanating from the home end.
Rangers subsequently rallied. Alejandro Faurlin won a header on the edge of the Forest area that set Taarabt up for a powerful drive that was blocked away bravely by Luke Chambers who flung himself in front of the shot like a bodyguard taking a bullet. Taarabt then tried a more crafted effort in the next attack, toeing an improvised shot wide of Camp’s post with the keeper scrambling about unsure of what had just happened before his very eyes. Possibly still a little confused Camp then came for a cross, flapped at it, and chased it out of the penalty area before clearing it into the main stand. Memories of Lee’s infamous walkabouts in open play while at QPR came flooding back as the Forest fans serenaded him with the “England’s number one” chant that used to ring out around this ground for him. Not on the evidence of that incident he isn’t.
Chambers was in a seriously determined mood and he produced another brave last ditch block on the edge of the area as Wayne Routledge wound himself up for a go at the goal. But it was Forest who finished the half stronger with Knonchesky working a throw in routine and accelerating into the QPR penalty area before testing Kenny at his near post.
To add to the concerns of the home side Tommy Smith, probably QPR’s best player in the first half, collapsed in the penalty area after colliding with Camp while chasing a through ball and left the field in a groggy state never to return. Ishmael Miller came on to replace him at half time.
Forest also made a change at the break, bringing on defender Joel Lynch for striker Marcus Tudgay and in doing so surrendering all attacking intent and hope of winning the game. They spent the next 45 minutes with first McGoldrick and later Tyson as a sole attacker, isolated and marooned at the top of a team that was otherwise set up with a flat back five and three protective midfielders in front of them. It was negative, and given the circumstances and league positions it was understandable, but Forest had looked just as threatening with ten as they had with 11, more so in fact, so it seemed strange that Davies didn’t continue trying to win the game, even if it was just for ten or 15 minutes at the start of the second half, before going more defensively later on. Still, by the looks of their reaction at the end it was a point that Forest wanted at this stage.
The second QPR problem on the day that I alluded to earlier was the lone striker role. Hulse had probably been better in the first half than he has been for QPR in any other game since he arrived here in August – although judging such an accolade is a bit like trying to pick the best actor from the cast of Eldorado. In the second half sadly he regressed into being a bit of a liability. Partly that was down to poor service, partly it was down to his own lack of confidence, self belief and assertiveness which is clear and obvious for all to see, and partly that was down to Forest having an extra defender in their line up for the second half to go alongside the already excellent Gunter, Morgan and Chambers.
Miller on the other hand made a great impact in an unfamiliar role down the right flank. He revelled in the chance to get the ball down and run at Joel Lynch, who looked wholly uncomfortable with him throughout the second half, and if anything QPR didn’t use him enough. Sadly the change enforced by the injury to Smith, and another substitution later on when Faurlin suffered a cut head, meant Hulse had to remain when he would surely otherwise have been replaced and so QPR weren’t as threatening in the second half as they should have been. If Helguson had played the second half here instead of Hulse I believe we would have won the game.
QPR started the second stanza as Forest had started the first – winning the kick off on the edge of the area and then getting a corner off Morgan after good work from Taarabt. The Moroccan took the set piece and found Gorkss at the back post but his downward header into the six yard box was claimed cleanly by Camp at the feet of several onrushing player.
That was the good of Taarabt, the bad came moments later as is so often the case. The QPR captain had been showing signs of descending into a sulk at the end of the first half, as he had done at Hull a few weeks ago, with frustration at the constant failure to find his feet with the ball by his team mates playing out from the back and the physical attention he was receiving from the Forest defenders etched across his face. After another clash with Morgan on halfway Taarabt foolishly aimed a kick at the impressive Forest centre half which would have resulted in a red card had it connected. Clattenburg settled for yellow and Taarabt can count himself very fortunate.
Back to his best a moment or two later Taarabt found Faurlin with an instinctive hooked pass over his shoulder and the Argentinean had time to let the ball drop before hitting a screaming volley with his unfavoured right foot that kept straight as an arrow and missed the far top corner by inches with Camp well beaten.
Despite now only facing one Forest attacker, and a very isolated one at that, QPR’s centre backs didn’t enjoy their second half any more than they did the first. Gorkss in particular was having a bit of a mare and when, for the third time in the half, he rejected the chance of playing an easy short pass in favour of an aimless long one that was inevitably headed straight back at him by Forest’s impressive defence he received a yellow card for attempting to recover the situation with a rash lunge on David McGoldrick.
Just before the hour Miller came over to the QPR left to try his luck and embarked on a barnstorming run down the touchline which Gunter just about kept pace with before conceding a corner. With Miller, Hulse, Gorkss, Hill and others all in and around the six yard box Forest could be forgiven for not noticing Faurlin lurking on the edge of the area but Taarabt spotted him, played the corner low to his feet and in the style of Paul Scholes and Teddy Sherringham from other similarly worked set pieces Faurlin struck a first time shot towards the goal that was deflected away to safety. Five minutes later the pair tried the same routine again, this time Faurlin lifted the ball high over the bar. A shame, nobody in hoops deserved a goal more than Faurlin on the day.
Still, QPR do at last look dangerous from set pieces again. Another corner later in the day from Taarabt found Bradley Orr steaming in at the back post and although his powerful header beat Camp it was headed off the line by Gunter.
In the meantime a growing tide of QPR pressure was briefly interrupted when Shaun Derry fouled Cohen in trying to retrieve his own misplaced header and was, perhaps a little harshly, booked for his troubles, McGugan took the free kick but smacked it well over the bar. He was the only Forest player who disappointed me on the day – he offered little to hint at the heights he’s reached previously this season and was replaced by Paul Anderson immediately after this.
A rare moment of decent play from Hulse in the second half won a free kick which Adel Taarabt saw deflected wide, and when the Moroccan then returned the favour with a clever cross to the back post Hulse found himself free behind Chambers but took too long bringing the ball down with his chest and the chance went begging.
I had suggested in the pub before the match that I had a horrible feeling we may miss our first penalty of the season in this game. Lee Camp saved a spot kick on his first return to Derby in a Forest shirt and having converted all eight of our penalties this season successfully it feels like we’re due a miss. I thought we may get to find out 18 minutes from time when Wayne Routledge accelerated into space in the left channel and headed straight for the penalty area. A foul inside the area looked inevitable as Routledge outpaced Gunter and reached the ball before him, but the Welsh fullback had telegraphed his opponent’s intention and did well to make sure he made no contact whatsoever. Routledge hit the deck anyway and Mark Clattenburg, five yards away, should have booked him for diving as well as waving away the appeals.
Clearly unhappy with the performance of his defence Neil Warnock took off Kapsars Gorkss and moved Clint Hill to centre half with Pascal Chimbonda coming on for a QPR debut at left back. This solved the problem of our centre halves being disorganised and not winning enough headers, but created two new issues with Forest immediately sending on Nathan Tyson for David McGoldrick to exploit Hill’s lack of pace and Chimbonda’s obvious lack of a left foot causing a few hairy moments for him at left back as he twisted and turned his way into trouble on a couple of occasions trying to work the ball onto his favoured right peg.
It also restricted our capacity to change things in attack by using up another substitute, and when Alejandro Faurlin inadvertently collided with Wayne Routledge and opened up a cut over his eye that option was removed altogether. QPR clearly didn’t have time to get Faurlin stitched up and back out there so introduced Petter Vaagan Moen in his stead and he got straight into the action by drilling a free kick into the wall – although it’s certainly a sign of how good he is with set pieces that even Taarabt stepped aside to let him have a crack with it. What an entrance it would have been.
Through no real fault of the Norwegian I felt our chances of winning the game went off with Faurlin. He was the one pulling the strings and making things happen, and having to use a final sub to replace him rather than Hulse killed us as a force in the game. When Ishmael Miller again powered to the byline and cut the ball back through the six yard area where nobody was on hand to apply a finishing touch it merely served to highlight the problem further.
Things could have got a lot worse as well with Forest showing some attacking ambition for the first time in the half in the closing five minutes. First Anderson headed over at the back post with Hill doing enough to put him off, then Tyson accelerated away from Connolly and Hill and hit a shot from a tight angle into the side netting. Seconds earlier the Forest sub had been booked for needlessly following through on Paddy Kenny as he chased down a through ball.
Clattenburg added three minutes on to the end of a game that was rather petering out. Wayne Routledge crossed for Vaagan Moen to plant a header wide but a draw was a more than fair result on the overall balance of play and although Forest celebrated it like one of their European Cup successes while QPR looked quite downbeat at the final whistle it’s not a bad result for either team.
Luke Chambers accepting Adel Taarabt’s shirt during the after match handshakes, then pretending to wipe his arse on it in front of the Forest fans was disrespectful but was probably only meant I jest and after such a good performance at centre half he had every right to be pleased with his afternoon’s work.
This was a game of contrasts. A rip roaring first half that flew from end to end and was packed with incident that I’m sure had the television audience gripped, then gave way to a slower paced and more lacklustre second half. For QPR Alejandro Faurlin was excellent, as was Tommy Smith in his time on the pitch, but Connolly and Gorkss were mediocre at best. Compare their performances to the commanding displays put in by their opposite numbers Chambers and Morgan and the difference was stark. Danny Shittu must be knocking at the door now. Rob Hulse had a good first half, and a lousy second – I’d expect Miller, or Helguson, or both to start at Preston next week.
Overall, while it’s easy to say it’s two points dropped against ten men, I prefer to look at the positives. This game starts a run of fixtures for Nottingham Forest that also includes Cardiff next Saturday and goes on to feature matches with Swansea, Norwich, Burnley, Reading and Leeds. For QPR this match represents the last of our run of games against those sides and we now have the likes of Ipswich, Palace, Sheffield United and Derby coming to Loftus Road interspersed with away games at Preston, Scunthorpe, Middlesbrough, Doncaster and Barnsley. This result keeps it in our hands – Forest will still be behind us even if they win their extra games – and leaves us in a terrific position six points clear with 15 games to go.
QPR: Kenny 6, Orr 6, Connolly 5, Gorkss 5 (Chimbonda 73, 6), Hill 7, Faurlin 8 (Moen 79, 6), Derry 7, Smith 8 (Miller 46, 7), Taarabt 6,Routledge 6, Hulse 5
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Hall, Helguson, Shittu
Booked: Taarabt (unsporting conduct), Gorkss (foul), Derry (foul)
Goals: Smith 16 (assisted Faurlin)
Nottm Forest: Camp 6, Gunter 7, Chambers 8, Morgan 8, Konchesky 7, Cohen 6,Majewski 5, McGugan 6 (Anderson 68, 6), McKenna 7, McGoldrick 7 (Tyson 74, 7), Tudgay 7 (Lynch 46, 5)
Subs Not Used: Smith, Adebola, Earnshaw, Moloney
Sent Off: Majewski 23 (serious foul play)
Booked: Tyson (foul)
Goals: McGoldrick 26 (assisted McGugan)
QPR Star Man – Alejandro Faurlin 8 I was starting to worry about Faurlin a few weeks ago after the Burnley game. His form was on the slide and he clearly had a muscle injury of some sorts that was restricting his movement and causing him to leave games early. Out of the blue against Portsmouth in the last home game he was excellent, then last Friday at Reading he was as good as I’ve ever seen him, and he was brilliant again here. It’s his eye for a pass that makes him such a delight. He has a willingness to not simply take the easy option but to always try and find a team mate with a quality pass, typified by his assist for Smith when I reckon nine out of every ten players in our league would have just played the way they were facing and knocked a ball in behind the right full back to turn him around. Don’t underestimate how many headers he wins in the midfield, or how important they are either.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear) 7 I could nit pick – Routledge should have been booked for diving, Morgan got away with plenty without being booked, Derry’s yellow card was a little harsh, McKenna shouldn’t have been allowed to scream in his face all afternoon – but overall he controlled the game very well and got the big decisions spot on. Ran the game with the calm authority and assuredness that the better Premiership referees have.
Attendance: 17,227 (3,000 Forest approx) A terrific atmosphere in the first half gave way to frustration and murmurings of discontent in the second reflecting the pattern of the game. Loftus Road is getting nosier, which is good, but we need to stick with our players when they’re having tough games. Unlike years gone by there is nobody in that QPR team not giving their all at the moment so they’re all worthy of as much encouragement as we can send their way. Forest travelled in big numbers and made plenty of noise themselves, but I thought the celebrations at the end were over the top having only taken a point from a game they could have won.
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