Old habits die hard for QPR against bottom side – full match report
Sunday, 20th Feb 2011 21:16 by Saffa Michail
Forced, against my will, to work on a Saturday I missed QPR’s trip to Deepdale but have been kindly helped out with the match report by Saffa Michail. My thanks to him.
On a personal note, it was nice heading up to the game in “normal” circumstances again. One of the two friends that I travel to games with had recently been diagnosed with cancer, but we had found out on the Friday that she had finally been given the all clear and naturally was straight back into following QPR. Having gone to Reading a couple of weeks ago now, it was odd not seeing her in attendance. In the 5 years I have known them, I’ve not ever seen her miss a game be it home or away. Both Penny and her husband Mick are terrific supporters and it was great to catch up with them!
Having being caught up on practically every motorway on the way up to Deepdale, we eventually arrived at the ground with about half an hour to spare and took to our seats towards the top of the away end.
Warnock had made a couple of changes to the starting line-up. Despite the earlier indications during the week that there may be changes to the defence, Warnock stuck with the back four that played against Nottingham Forest.
Kenny continued in goal, with Hill at left back and Connolly partnered with Gorkss with Orr on the right.
The midfield did change, with Faurlin and Derry in the middle, Routledge out on the right and Miller left. Taarabt and the recalled Helguson completed the starting line-up.
In the early stages, Preston probably just about shaded it by way of possession. They didn’t really test Kenny as such, but they had a fair amount of time on the ball and did put a couple of decent crosses into the box.
The first real attempt on goal came after some neat linkup play. Routledge picked the ball up on the half way line and drove at the Preston back line. With Miller to his right and Taarabt to his left, Routledge continued to dart through the centre of the pitch before prodding the ball out wide to Taarabt’s feet. Taarabt looked up and hit a decent curling shot goal wards but it was of no danger to Turner in the Preston goal.
Next up it was again the combination of Taarabt and Routledge looking the most unlikely to break the deadlock. After a crunching tackle by Clint Hill at the back, he fed the ball to Taarabt on the left flank who, after some quick trickery, sent a quite sublime 40 yard pass across the pitch which was plucked out of the air by Routledge who advanced onto the full back. After beating him to the by-line Routledge drilled the ball low into the box, but it was scrapped clear by the defender on the near post with both Helguson and Miller on hand to tap into the empty net. Orr picked up the loose ball and instantly sent the ball back into the box - unfortunately it evaded the heads of Helguson and Miller and Taarabt just couldn’t quite latch onto it and Preston were awarded a goal kick.
Next up was Faurlin to have a crack at goal. Again Taarabt found some space on the left and after tricking his way into the box he found himself up against two defenders. After feinting to cross then dragging the ball backwards it actually sent the defender stumbling flat on the floor, with the onrushing defender baring down on him Taarabt teed the ball up for Faurlin around 12 yards or so out, but his driven shot flew over the top right hand post.
We were looking reasonably comfortable, but soon after Preston ever so nearly took the lead. It was Treacey who picked up possession out on the right hand flank, after beating Orr he tiptoed on the edge of the box and sent a thunderous drive centre mitres wide of the post with Kenny well beaten. It was adjudged to have clipped off of Gorkss on the way through and Preston were awarded a corner kick. The resulting cross looked threatening, but Kenny just managed to rise highest and get a fist to it. Eventually it went out for a throw in after another full blooded challenge from Derry.
Shortly after we took the lead that we had probably just about deserved. It actually started with Preston on the attack, with Ellington running at our backline. Derry raced back and made up a fair few yards before hooking the ball away from him and spraying it forward into Miller’s feet. With the Preston backline now and sixes and sevens, Taarabt and Routledge again free in space, Miller advanced out wide to the left and after knocking the ball down on the touchline he bombed past the full back and lashed the ball across the face of the goal. With a couple of Preston defenders lunging to get something on the ball all we could see was the net flutter as Helguson ran off in celebration. 1-0!
The sparse Preston fans located to our right were stunned into silence, with a loud chant of “We’re going Liverpool, you’re going Hartlepool!” blasting out from the away end we were located in.
With the QPR supporters now on their feet, we watched on as Preston ever so nearly grabbed a leveller straight away. Again it was Treacey on the right hand side of the pitch, who after again being gifted the freedom to come in centrally managed to bustle his way past another two defenders and laid the ball on a plate for the unmarked Preston midfielder. He caught his shot from 20 yards well and it looked destined for the bottom corner of the net, with a host of players in his way, Kenny somehow sprang to the bottom corner and flicked the ball around the post. It was a stunning save and an important one with the minutes to half time now ticking down.
It shook up the fairly quiet Preston fans into making some noise, this time the chant was “You’ve got Leon Clarke, you’ve got Leon Clarke!” in response to them which in fairness a few Preston fans had a smile to themselves at.
Shortly after the referee blew for half time and we found ourselves going into the break 1-0 ahead. To be fair there wasn’t an awful lot of goalmouth action and was pretty much exactly the kind of game you would expect against that kind of opposition at this stage of the season, scrappy, stop-start and by no means any easy game. But you could just sense that if we could grab just one more goal it would kill the game.
From the kickoff, Hill sent a long ball deep into the Preston half. St Ledger trapped the ball at his feet, but the tireless Helguson managed to just get in front of him and forced him into conceding a freekick near the corner flag. Taarabt took up responsibility, but saw his glancing cross fly wide of the far post.
Literally just a couple of minutes later and we ever so nearly gave ourselves a 2-0 lead. I think it was actually from a Preston offside, and after another long ball was pumped into the box, Helguson rose above two Preston defenders and met the ball with a cracking header. We watched on as the ball cannoned off the crossbar and back into play.
The following few minutes were also scrappy like the first half. Plenty of huffing and puffing, but very little quality and not quite enough quality to unlock the Preston defence.
Around 15 minutes into the second half Preston came within inches of drawing the game level. After he latched onto a ball on the edge of the box, Gorkss sent a Preston player (no idea who it was as this was at the opposite end to where we were sat) crashing to the ground. With the ball around 25 yards from goal we watched on as Treacey lined up in front of the ball. He smashed the ball goal wards, and after taking a heavy deflection off the QPR wall, time seemed to almost stand still as Kenny had committed himself to his left hand side of goal and watched on anxiously as the ball just trickled wide of the post. To put it bluntly, we were extremely fortunate not to concede here and 9 times out of 10 the ball would have found its way inside the post.
Trying to grab the ascendancy, we continued to push forward. Taarabt must have had around 3 long-range shots in a matter of minutes, all of which were either held or off target.
Unbelievably, soon after Preston drew the game level. A deep cross was sent into our box which caused panic between Connolly and Gorkss, with neither taking up responsibility - Nicholson excellently controlled the loose ball. As Kenny watched on as the ball looped over his head and into the back of the net. I haven’t seen the goal again and possibly it was a moment of brilliance, but the defending looked poor from where I was.
With the Preston fans now in an upbeat mood, I looked up as literally straight from the kick off they had somehow managed to break our defence again. I didn’t see the build up, but somehow Preston were pouring forward with what looked like only a couple of defenders back. He had options, but the Preston midfielder sent a stinging shot just over the bar from the edge of the box. As fortunate as we were with the earlier deflected free kick, this looked worryingly close and we could ever so nearly have conceded again here.
Taarabt had the best chance as the full time whistled dawned. He picked the ball up around 30 yards from goal, and after advancing to the edge of the box he sent a shot which went straight into a flurry of Preston defenders who all threw themselves at the ball. With both centre backs rooted to the floor the ball again sat up for Taarabt but he could only manage to spurn the chance wide of the post.
Preston were by no means sitting on the draw though, and a few hopeful balls into the box caused real problems for our defence – even though Kenny wasn’t really forced into making any saves as such.
As the referee blew full time on the game, a good win which was again in our grasp slipped from our fingertips. In truth, we could quite easily have lost.
As a reflection on the game as a whole, I thought we were probably fortunate to escape with a point in the end. Had the Helguson header sneaked in under the post at the start of the second half, I have no doubt that the floodgates would have opened and we would now be talking about a comfortable victory. But it didn’t go our way and overall we just weren’t good enough. Taarabt was extremely frustrating and his reluctance not to release the ball wasted many a good opportunity, with many of his tricks just not coming off on the day.
I left Deepdale yesterday frustrated, but not disheartened. It is cliché, but there are NO easy games in this division and while Preston are destined for the drop, I have no doubt that they will get points up against tough opposition. Nottingham Forest lost against Scunthorpe (who haven’t won at home since August!) earlier in the week, that’s testament to how unpredictable this division is. Anyone can beat anyone, and we top the division with only 3 losses all season. The side does need a little shake up, but I have complete confidence that Warnock will address that for the massive game on Tuesday night.
Kenny Thought he was fairly solid to be fair. Made one cracking save in the first half, but didn’t have an awful lot to do. Perhaps could have done better for the goal, as he was caught off of his line - but the defence should really have dealt with this in the first place.
Orr I do feel for Bradley Orr as I think the scintillating displays that we were treated to from Kyle Walker earlier in the season has meant that no matter how well he performs, he still doesn’t hit that kind of level. But the last few games that Warnock has stuck with him, it does make me question whether it might now be time to give Chimbonda a run out. I like Orr as a player, but he seems very hurried in possession and shaky when having a player run at him. I’ve also noticed that he seems to be giving a large amount of needless throw-ins away and invites pressure back onto us.
Gorkss Very shaky. Gorkss is one of our best defenders in my opinion. Generally very calm and solid at the back, ironically I think he is actually our most consistent defender, but his recent performances have really concerned me. He doesn’t seem particularly dominant in the air and to me just looks slightly off the pace. Again we may benefit from giving Shittu or even Fitz Hall a chance to stake a claim.
Connolly Reasonable performance by him, but again certainly nowhere near the high standards that he has set himself. Always cool in possession and bought the ball forward nicely on more than one occasion, but certainly looking slightly edgy to me.
Hill Fairly good performance from him. Wouldn’t say he was particularly caught out of position or beat on many occasions and was generally very strong in the air.
Routledge Starved of possession throughout the game and had very little impact. I felt prior to the game that he would possibly be the key to unlocking this game, but I can only think of one real occasion where he had the chance to run at the full back. Fair few long balls were pumped up to him from Kenny, but for all his good qualities Wayne Routledge cannot win a header – and I wouldn’t expect him to. All we needed to do was get the ball to his feet, but we just couldn’t get him on the ball.
Faurlin Head and shoulders above every player on the pitch and hands down my man of the match. Covered a mammoth amount of ground and contributed his fair share coming forward as well. Man of the match without question.
Derry Fairly solid alongside Faurlin, although we were stretched in the second half. Put in a couple of crucial challenges and had a pretty good game.
Miller Looked impressive to me. Again like Routledge he was starved of possession but looked very interested and keen to impress and did marvellously well in setting up Helguson for the opener. Would still like to see him played up front though, as in my opinion he isn’t a winger.
Taarabt I think there will have been a lot of harsh words shared between the players regarding Taarabt’s performance yesterday. Selfish, greedy and largely ineffective. As Warnock has said a number of times though, you have to “put up” with that side of him. Another day he would have left Deepdale a hero had one of his shots found the back of the net. When Taarabt is running at a player (or even two) you do generally fancy him to come out the victor, but he was trying to run through the full Preston eleven yesterday. I don’t doubt his commitment, I think he wants it as much as anyone, but he had a poor game yesterday. I still wouldn’t bet against him winning us 3 points on Tuesday night though and certainly wouldn’t drop him.
Helguson The return of a proper target man. Won headers, worked hard, chased down lost causes and topped his performance with a goal. A classic example of his display was at the start of the second half. St Ledger was on the ball with plenty of time but Helguson chased him down, forced the foul and won a free-kick. For his faults, I think we are a far better outfit with Helguson IN the team. Will only get better as he works his way towards full fitness. Superb work-rate and good goal.
Vaagan Moen I like his attitude. Seems very keen to impress and does work hard, but I do think he looks very lightweight. Had about 3 dead balls yesterday, two of which failed to beat the first man. I can’t see him replacing Smith in the starting eleven personally.
Buzsaky Brilliant to see him back out there. Had a couple of nice touches, look forward to seeing him back fit and raring to go again.
Hulse To be blunt, I don’t think he has anything at all to contribute to QPR. He is lazy, he refuses to even attempt a header, does not link up play and gives away needless free kicks. He was on the pitch for about 10 minutes yesterday, yet a quick look on the official website and he conceded more fouls than anyone else on the pitch – 3 in total. All of which came from him needlessly pushing players in the back instead of fairly challenging for the ball. People talk about how poor Leon Clarke is, I don’t think Hulse is any better. No matter what his past reputation or record suggests. The fits of anger/abuse from the stands are becoming more and more vocal by the game.
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Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
Letters from Wiltshire #30 by wessex_exile
Friday night football – can’t beat it. Gives you that feelgood factor all weekend, sitting back to enjoy a stress-free Saturday afternoon watching others fail in your wake. Of course, you have to win first, which we’ve been struggling to do for a while now, so be prepared for the possibility of a miserable weekend just in case. We share this evening with Reading v AFC Bournemouth, albeit they kick-off an hour later than we do. In the real world, leaders of the UK’s five largest business groups have written to Boris demanding action on the substantial difficulties they are facing over Brexit bureaucracy, whilst French border authorities are reporting that two-thirds of lorries arriving from the UK are empty (i.e. no exports leaving the UK). Still, at least the NHS can enjoy their extra £350m per week…
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