A night where it all went right for rampant Rangers – full match report
Wednesday, 6th Apr 2011 01:02 by Clive Whittingham
QPR took another step towards their promotion goal on Monday night with a comprehensive three nil victory against Sheffield United at Loftus Road.
There was a moment in this game, 13 minutes from time, when during a rare Sheffield United attack striker Ched Evans decided, more as an expression of his own frustration than anything else, to let rip with a 30 yard shot and see what came up for him. He caught it beautifully, sweet as a nut, and Paddy Kenny was all set to be called into action as the fearsome drive accelerated towards him through the crisp London air.
Ultimately the goalkeeper wasn't required, because the ball actually struck the cumbersome frame of Evans' team mate Darius Henderson, whose attempts to escape its unerring path made him look like a large cow stuck on an escalator. Not only that but as the shot had been hit with such ferocity it actually rebounded back from whence it came, over Evans' head, plum onto the boot of Wayne Routledge who was able to accelerate away in possession with all the space he required to recommence what at times seemed like a ceaseless, relentless torture of the hapless visitors. How many times have things like that happened to us?
If Sheffield United fans can take anything from this game (and it's a big if) it's that QPR have been there. We've paid our dues many, many times over. We've seen players under performing and clearly not giving much of a toss about it, we've seen teams look like Brazil against our meagre resistance, we've turned up to away games with no hope in our hearts and promptly been thumped with something to spare. We have sat and seen and suffered ineptitude even beyond that displayed by this Blades team, which is surely destined for League One next season. Our reward, though it's been a long time in coming, is the beautifully effective QPR team that we see before us today.
In front of the live Sky cameras, an unwanted distraction in the past, Rangers looked like a perfectly oiled footballing machine in this game. They moved the ball effortlessly from left to right, found passes both long and short with embarrassing ease, varied the pace of the attack superbly, and tormented Sheffield United from beginning to last. This was as good as Rangers have been this season, on a night when a performance half as competent would still have won the game with something to spare, and they were exceptionally good to watch. Wayne Routledge and Tommy Smith were superb in support of the equally impressive Heidar Helguson in attack. Adel Taarabt, troubled by stomach cramps, had a quieter night but it mattered little. The holding midfielders Alejandro Faurlin and Shaun Derry were a pleasure to watch - dominating the game from start to finish. Bradley Orr and Clint Hill could have played in their suits, hell even Fitz Hall dealt admirably with both the physical challenge posed by Henderson and the numerical disadvantage caused by United's decision to start with three forwards. Paddy Kenny was a mere spectator against his old club, and what a game to be a spectator at.
Looking down the Sheffield United team line up before kick off I found myself wondering just why they are where they are in the league - a team boasting a front three of Henderson, Daniel Bogdonovic and Evans should have enough goals in them to stay out of trouble, although granted Henderson has been injured and suspended for much of the season. Then they started playing, and it all became immediately apparent.
Firstly Adams' decision to begin with a 433 formation was well meaning but deeply flawed. United need wins, seven points adrift in the relegation zone, and had beaten both Leeds and Forest at home playing this way in recent times so the beleaguered United boss should be given his due for sticking with a winning team and attacking line up for an away game at the league leaders when many would have shut up shop and gone for a point. But the set up left them so dreadfully exposed in wide areas it was a footballing suicide mission against a team that offers Wayne Routledge, Adel Taarabt and Tommy Smith as threats in wide areas. At right full back Sheff Utd selected Nyron Nosworthy - a poor centre half, played out of position, with no protection from further forward afforded to him by the system his manager had chosen. He'd have had more success dressing in women clothes and high heels and parading up and down the catwalk at London Fashion Week, and he'd have embarrassed himself a lot less than he did here.
Secondly, despite possessing the all action Stephen Quinn at the heart of the midfield United were soft as warm grease through the spine of their side. Quinn ran himself to water, kicked anything that moved, contested every ball, but could ultimately only stand and watch as all nine of his outfield team mates miserably failed to match him. If there's any justice in the game Quinn will be playing Championship football next season, while his spineless team mates freeze to death in the wastes of Hartlepool and Carlisle. That includes Adams' main signing since arriving as manager Michael Doyle and United's long serving giant ball of ineffective nothingness Nick Montgomery who should both be shamed by their own performances when compared to Quinn's. On a night when passion, application and work rate were required only Quinn delivered, and he kept doing so even when the game was lost and his fellow Blades obviously didn't care.
Doyle is best remembered by QPR fans for his shamelessly violent man marking job on Lee Cook on this ground back at the height of the left winger's career. Presumably both he and Montgomery had been sent out in this game with similar instructions because within the first five minutes Doyle had a wild hack at Taarabt as he skipped past him, the referee Keith Stroud let that one slide, then moments later after some neat skill by the Moroccan on the edge of the area Montgomery kicked him again. This time a free kick was awarded which Taarabt smacked straight into the wall. When Montgomery then hauled back Tommy Smith in brazen fashion he became the first name to go into the referee's notebook and he can have no complaints about it whatsoever. That free kick was flicked on at the near post but escaped Fitz Hall's attentions at the far but the first corner of the game posed rather less danger, and actually resulted in a Sheff Utd counter attack which ended when Henderson volleyed ambitiously from distance into the Loft.
Undeterred Rangers came again - Wayne Routledge produced a sumptuous piece of control to bring a Paddy Kenny kick out of the air and then set about building an eye catching move that ended with Taarabt teeing up Faurlin for a shot over the bar, but also included a half hearted penalty appeal when the newly crowned Championship Player of the Year hit the deck in the area.
Back on his feet, Taarabt produced a classy low cross from the right after his initial corner was cleared back to him but Clint Hill skewed his shot all the way across the face of goal and out when it seemed easier to score from inside the six yard box.
There was a goal coming though, and sure enough the R's took the lead just before the half hour. Another lovely move, featuring a glorious pass in behind the United defence from Faurlin, and excellent run into the channel from Helguson culminated in the Icelandic striker delivering the perfect ball back from the byline, with many of the visiting players wrongly believing him to be offside, for Routledge to volley crisply past Simonsen after being left completely unmarked eight yards out. There was a kiss for the Sky camera in celebration, but no feral outpouring of profanities as I believe is the fashion these days.
The response from United was a reasonable one. Henderson knocked a ball down for Quinn to try his luck with but the shot was blocked away. Then when four United players bunched up awaiting a corner and burst in different directions the QPR defence seemed momentarily fooled and Bogdanovic was able to get across his marker and meet the ball first time at the near post but his shot was cleared from the goal line by Derry. Bogdanovic then tried his luck from distance but his low shot flew straight at Kenny and posed him few difficulties.
The nominations for the QPR Goal of the Season award are already in but they may have needed to reprint the voting forms had Bradley Orr's strike seven minutes before half time sailed into the top corner as it initially threatened to do. Rangers showed a willingness to play the ball out from the back all night, typified by Faurlin's deft touch and sublime pass as a ball fell out of the sky onto the end of his boot in his own penalty area, and did so again for the Orr chance. Gone are the days when a QPR throw in would simply be turfed down the line, usually straight onto the head of a waiting defender, causing further pressure on our own defence. On this occasion a throw down by our own corner flag was worked across the field well by first Taarabt, and then Derry who found Orr marauding into space down the right flank. he cut inside onto his unfavoured left foot but wasn't afraid to try an unlikely 25 yarder that was curling towards the top corner from the moment it left his boot and had Simonsen frantically scrambling across his goal but ultimately missed the target by no more than a foot.
Sheff Utd's best spell of the game came in the final five minutes of the first half. First Quinn threatened to burst in behind the QPR rearguard after Henderson had won the initial header and Bogdanovic had flicked the ball in behind Hall. Eventually the carrot topped midfielder fired into the side netting, and he protested angrily that Hall had leant on him illegally to prevent him scoring but referee Stroud, with two 3-0 QPR wins on his record already this season, showed no interest. The referee did however book Clint Hill on the stroke of the break as he cynically chopped down Evans wide on the right after being done for pace. The resulting free kick bobbled around in the area for a moment before being whacked away to safety, and the half time whistle followed a short time later.
Perhaps Mickey Adams spent his time in the dressing room reminding his players of the increasingly desperate points to game equation they are facing over the coming weeks because they came out for the second half with a bit of purpose about them. Bogdanovic fired over from inside the area when he was well placed to do better, and then the ever hilarious Nosworthy let rip from distance with a shot that caught Fitz Hall full in the face and left him with a nose similar to Tara Palmer Tomkinson.
As so often this season though QPR started to move up through the gears in the second stanza. They doubled their lead, and killed the game as any kind of contest, seven minutes after the break. Predictably the goal involved Nosworthy and Faurlin, two men at opposite ends of the ability and form scale. First the former Gillingham defender, under little pressure, horribly miscontrolled the ball and conceded a needless corner. Then when Adel Taarabt’s set piece cleared everybody at the near post young Matthew Lowton showed his inexperience at the back stick by clearing it straight back into the danger zone around the edge of the box. Alejandro Farulin didn’t need asking twice, the Argentinean unleashed a howitzer into the bottom corner from 20 yards out – it was in the back of the net before Simonsen even knew it had happened. A fabulous strike to underline another superb all round Faurlin performance.
In attempt to make amends Nosworthy embarked on a run up the right flank, which actually involved a couple of rudimentary, gratuitous step overs. After completing them successfully he laid the ball in field and went for the return pass, which he then allowed to roll under his foot and out for a throw in. That happened right in front of his manager, and it didn’t even take Adams 30 seconds to have a substitute dressed and ready to replace his hapless full back. The mercy killing was swift, the lesser Riise brother came on for him, but such was the detrimental effect on the entertainment value of Nosworthy’s departure that Neil Warock saw fit to bring on Patrick Agyemang for Adel Taarabt ten minutes later just to get everybody laughing again.
In between those two changes QPR added a third goal and could have scored more besides. On the hour Tommy Smith attempted to notch the goal his all action display sorely deserved with a drifted lobbed effort from 25 yards that cleared the cross bar with something to spare. Then five minutes later after another Smith break down the right the ball was worked into first Helguson, and then Routledge who fired a powerful low drive across the face of the goal and into the far bottom corner with Simonsen unable to do a thing about it. The goal, incisive in its execution and crisp in the finish, summed QPR up perfectly and put a nice gloss on the night and the scoreline. It was like shelling peas by this stage.
Sheffield United had clearly learned nothing from their many footballing lessons to this point because within two minutes of scoring his second goal Routledge was once more allowed to drift into the penalty area unmarked as Paddy Kenny launched a free kick deep into the United danger zone. Heidar Helguson, putting in one of his best performances of the season, won his header and knocked it down towards his winger and Routledge must have thought the match ball was his as he directed a decent first time effort on goal – Simonsen got down smartly to save it with one hand.
Adams also sent on Mark Yeates as a second half sub, a player who was hugely impressive in a 5-1 Middlesbrough win here 18 months ago but one who has gone badly downhill since and could easily have been on the receiving end of a similar scoreline here. Yeates’ first real action was to chase Paddy Kenny out towards the corner flag as the QPR keeper went on a bit of a walkabout on the end of a careless back pass from Clint Hill, who usually opts for the stand in such situations and will no doubt revert to that policy again after this near miss. Foolishly, with the keeper in trouble and going nowhere, Yeates kicked him up in the air and received a booking rather than the goal scoring chance that he should have created.
Then it was time for Agyemang, and the comedy we’d lost when Nosworthy was withdrawn was immediately restored. His first action saw him charge off down the line at high speed with the ball roughly within his vague vicinity and win a throw in. From that Smith crossed and Helguson headed over and then on the next attack Smith again accelerated towards the penalty area, as he did all night to great effect, and then set up faurlin whose shot from the edge of the area carried rather less venom than the one he scored with did.
Sheffield United had a lazy show wide from Yeates and the Evans drive into Henderson’s gut to show for their meagre efforts, but the traffic by this stage was like the planes heading into Heathrow. All one way, relentlessly, with monotonous regularity.
The move of the match should have made it four nil ten minutes from time, but unfortunately the man on the end of it was the one person we probably didn’t want to be there. Derry started the move, chipping the ball wide to Helguson on the right flank who touched the ball effortlessly infield with his first touch. Routledge collected and lobbed a delicate left footed ball into the path of Agyemang on the edge of the area. Meanwhile Helguson had continued his run to the byline where Agyemang found him perfectly and then took up position eight yards out from goal in the centre of the penalty area to receive the perfectly weighted return from Helguson and then inexplicably lean back and fire over the bar when the goal was begging to be scored.
I don’t like to steal other people’s material, but I’ve seen two descriptions of Agyemang’s performance on the message board today that just summed it up absolutely perfectly for me. One wit suggested that he had the appearance of a QPR fan who’d won the chance to play for Rangers for 20 minutes in a competition, while another compared his affect on this game to that of releasing an enthusiastic elephant onto the set of the Antiques Roadshow. Let’s just say he was good value on Monday night, though probably not in the way he intended to be.
The chances kept coming. Doyle carelessly gave the ball away to the effervescent Smith on the corner of the penalty area and he raced into space in the danger area before drawing another fine one handed save from Simonsen, who was by now a seriously overworked goalkeeper. ‘England’s number one’ the taxi load of Sheffield United fans chanted, presumably as some sort of meek jibe at our own Paddy Kenny. Simonsen certainly gets more practice than most English keepers at the moment, but short of bricking up his goal it’s difficult to see a way he can stem the tide of goals against when his defence is playing like this.
Smith deserved a goal more than most, but it wasn’t to be and with nine minutes left for play he was withdrawn to a standing ovation. Ishmael Miller, office linebacker, was introduced and he fired up the pain train with almost his first touch of the game – hammering a powerful effort into the side netting from inside the area, and then firing over the bar with his next chance.
Miraculously, as their visits to the other end of the field had become s rare as rocking horse shit, Sheffield United did actually get the ball in the net five minutes from time when Henderson nodded in off the post but the whistle had long since gone with the ball out for a goal kick in the build up. In four minutes of stoppage time Kaspars Gorkss deflected a shot from Yeates away to safety but 3-0 flattered the Blades as it was and had QPR been denied a twenty second clean sheet of the season it would have been a travesty.
Sky Sports cut to a shot of Chris Hughton in the stands, and then bunged a camera in Adams’ face at the final whistle, presumably insinuating that an unprecedented fourth change of manager could be afoot. One would think Sheffield United’s board has done quite enough damage this season, without wading in and causing more farce at this stage. I’d say their team is a clear and obvious consequence of rank poor management, but to call it a team at all would be pushing it.
By contrast, QPR put in just about the perfect team display in this match and the only regret was because of a mixture of poor finishing and good goalkeeping the scoreline wasn’t up around the five or six mark that we really deserved. Man of the Match could be given to Helguson, Smith, Routledge or Faurlin with few complaints but there were no bad players in Hoops on Monday night and the R’s were an absolute pleasure to watch.
QPR: Kenny 7, Orr 8, Hall 8, Gorkss 7, Hill 7, Faurlin 9, Derry 8 (Buzsaky 86, -), Smith 9 (Miller 81, -), Taarabt 7 (Agyemang 71, 6), Routledge 9, Helguson 8
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Ephraim, Chimbonda, Shittu
Booked: Hill (foul)
Goals: Routledge 29 (assisted Helguson), Faurlin 52 (assisted Taarabt), Routledge 66 (assisted Helguson)
Sheff Utd: Simonsen 8, Nosworthy 2 (Riise 59, 5), Collins 3, Lowton 4, Mattock 4, Montgomery 4, Doyle 4, Quinn 7, Bogdanovic 6 (Yeates 64, 5), Henderson 6, Evans 5 (Bent 79, 5)
Subs Not Used: Aksalu, Cresswell, Kozluk, McAllister
Booked: Montgomery (foul), Yeates (foul)
QPR Star Man – Alejandro Faurlin 9 Pick any one from four or five players for this. Faurlin takes it for me, just, for an exquisite range of passing including a glorious pass in the run up to the first goal, and a fabulous goal to boot.
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 8 Three QPR games this season, three 3-0 wins for the Super Hoops. He can come again. To be fair there can be no accusations of bias here, Sheff Utd put up such meek resistance he had little to referee. Both teams had weak penalty appeals turned down in the second half, and right at the end of the game a shot deflected wide from Henderson and was given as a goal kick but other than that it was a sound night of refereeing with three cards awarded, all correctly. Attendance: 14,535 (400 Sheff Utd approx) Lower crowds are an inevitable consequence of televised matches and Monday night kick offs, and the attendance wasn’t helped by the tiny following from Sheffield (which again was understandable given the circumstances) but after the outpouring of angst and gnashing of teeth over who could and couldn’t get a Leeds ticket, and the season we are having, I found it unbelievable that there were quite so many empty seats around for this game.
Photo: Action Images
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Although not an avid collector, I recently catalogued my collection of football memorabilia and I have 175 items, mostly programmes, some fanzines, and a few ticket stubs which aren’t accompanied by anything else. I have no idea how many more may have been misplaced during house moves, clear-outs etc., but the collection spans nearly 30 years (the earliest is the programme from our 1990 Boxing Day game against Barnet at Layer Rd), and is almost universally Colchester United related (though not quite all of it). I have decided to try and put this to some use, by choosing one at random prior to each match and writing a short article about the match, maybe the programme, and even any personal recollections I have of the game (notwithstanding enforced enfeeblement due to excessive libation). I will try and do this ahead of each game this season, but my apologies in advance if I don’t quite achieve that.
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