Gone in 60 seconds, Taarabt stuns Tykes – full match report
Thursday, 14th Apr 2011 12:33 by Clive Whittingham
QPR took the lead in the first minute against Barnsley on Tuesday night, then spent the rest of the game holding out against a sprightly home side and some intriguing refereeing.
The very first words of the very first LoftforWords match report this season were: “If you can’t be good, be lucky.”
Barnsley have now hit the post four times in two games against QPR after Jacob Butterfield’s late howitzer smashed into the upright with Paddy Kennny rooted to the spot. They have also had two very decent handball penalty shouts waved away, although the accusation levelled against Clint Hill just before half time in this encounter was less clear cut than Fitz Hall’s LeBron James impression at Loftus Road in August – a penalty so blatant one could only conclude the referee thought nobody would be that stupid to try and get away with it so didn’t believe his eyes and didn’t give it.
And it would be fair to say that the Tykes have been the better team against QPR for long periods of both meetings. On Tuesday night they looked like a very tidy side with Man City loaned right back Kieran Trippier particularly impressive down his flank, swinging over one cross after another with almost David Bardsley like quality.
Yet it’s QPR who have won both meetings – scoring five, conceding none. This completed a ninth double of the season, six of them without conceding a goal across 180 minutes, and moved Rangers eleven points clear at the top of the table into a position where, depending on weekend results elsewhere, we could actually tie up promotion this Monday night at home to Derby. The Barnsley fans who’ve seen both games between these two sides this season would be forgiven for wondering how on earth we’ve managed it.
The Scunthorpe fans would too. Neil Warnock responded to a shock 4-1 thrashing at the league’s bottom side on Saturday by reshuffling his starting 11. Connolly replaced Fitz Hall at the heart of the defence fresh from his spell in the padded room and Kaspars Gorkss was also recalled alongside him at the expense of Danny Shittu. After Hall and Shittu’s nightmare afternoon at Glanford Park it was no real surprise to see Warnock returning to the pairing that had played together all season until Connolly’s nervous breakdown in the Leicester home match. Bradley Orr played right back, Clint Hill left, and Paddy Kenny kept up his ever present run in goal – although by the end of the game he was no longer taking his own goal kicks owing to some sort of knock.
Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurling anchored the midfield in the usual 4-2-3-1 formation while Adel Taarabt returned to the attacking midfield three at the expense of Hogan Ephraim alongside Tommy Smith and Wayne Routledge. Heidar Helguson was recalled to the lone striker position with Rob Hulse dropped to the bench despite his goal at the weekend.
Barnsley were scoring four against Bristol City while Rangers were shipping them on Saturday and they set about the league leaders with a front three of Andy Gray, Marlon Harewood and Danny Haynes. Former QPR loan failure Matt Hill started at left back.
Taarabt’s effect on the team upon his return was instantaneous. Inside the first minute Bradley Orr towered above his man to win a header on the halfway line, Wayne Routledge picked out Taarabt on the left corner of the penalty area and after dropping his shoulder to work a yard of space for himself the Moroccan fizzed a low left footed drive across the face of goal and into the bottom corner with goalkeeper Luke Steele unable to do anything about it. It was the perfect start for Taarabt and Rangers, although the manner in which QPR relaxed and quickly shipped four goals after taking an early lead against Scunthorpe remained fresh in the memory.
Barnsley should really have been level within a couple of minutes. Matt Connolly, presumably wanting to put down a marker and show he was fully recovered from his meltdown, attempted to charge in front of Marlon Harewood on the halfway line and beat him to a clearance rather than just staying goal side of his man and marking him. The former Forest and West Ham man was able to easily lever Connolly under the ball setting up a dangerous three on three counter attack. Harewood decided to back himself from long range, unloading a low shot that seemed simple enough for Paddy Kenny but when the Irish keeper spilled the ball he was forced into one of his trademark double saves at the feet of the onrushing Andy Gray who could scarcely believe he hadn’t scored. That’s twice this season Kenny has got away with fundamental handling errors against Barnsley.
From the resulting corner Jason Shackell, up from the back, met the ball well enough but could only direct his header wide.
When Tommy Smith suffered a heavy fall after competing for a ball in the air and required lengthy treatment it gave the QPR team a chance to draw breath and take stock of a dramatic opening few minutes in the game but it was Barnsley who looked the brighter side again from the restart. Danny Haynes, an Olympic hurdler playing the wrong sport, took Clint Hill on for pace down the Barnsley right and then drilled a long range shot over the bar from an impossible angle with a queue of disappointed Tykes in the area awaiting a cross. Then on the quarter hour Shackell was again able to win the first header from a Barnsley corner but for the second time in the game he guided it wide.
A pattern of play so frustrating it made me want to rip my own face off so I wouldn’t have to watch it any more then became ingrained in the match. Barnsley would attack, eventually a shot would result or the move would break down and QPR would retake possession, then within no more than ten seconds the R’s would immediately present the ball back to their hosts, usually no further forward than the halfway line, and so it would begin again. The total disregard for the value of ball possession from the QPR team was mind blowing at times and made a run of the mill Championship challenge start to seem like some kind of epic struggle.
After 18 minutes Rangers not only handed the ball straight to Barnsley midfielder Nathan Doyle slap bang in the middle of their own half, but then allowed him to move forward 15 yards unchecked almost inviting him to try his luck. He did, and he fired high and wide, but that was hardly the point.
Finally, at the exact midway point of the first half, QPR started to show a little bit of the will to press high up the field that has worked so well for them this season. Shaun Derry led the charge, hassling his man out of possession in his own half and then feeding the hard working Heidar Helguson who dragged a long range shot wide.
Another feature of the first half was the acres of space Rangers afforded to Barnsley right back Keiran Trippier. Every time the home side held possession Trippier would accelerate down the right flank totally unchecked, and then stand with the best part of half the field to himself with his arm up waiting for the ball to arrive. Mark Robins’ men didn’t utilise this giant overlap nearly often enough, but when they did Trippier showed a terrific eye for a cross and one such whipped delivery in the twenty fifth minute forced Connolly to head over his own bar when placed in the lethal position of facing his own goal, defending a dangerous cross in the corridor of uncertainty between goalkeeper and defenders.
To compound matters, Rangers were fast asleep for the corner, allowing two Barnsley players to work a short routine without a visitor within 20 yards of them. Fortunately the cross was aimed at Marlon Harewood, a player not noted for his technical ability, and his wild bicycle kick was the only thing funnier on the night than the tannoy announcer’s attempts at pronouncing some of the foreign QPR players’ names. Still, the ball remained in the penalty area and Shackell was able to stick his head on the ball for a third time in attacking circumstances, this time looping a high header that Kenny caught under the cross bar, taking care to keep the ball in play despite his feet landing behind the goal line.
Finally at this point, mercifully, Kenny rolled the ball out to Bradley Orr and QPR actually managed to string eight passes together that ended when Tommy Smith accelerated to the byline and whipped in a cross that Steele did well to claim cleanly at his near post. This was the really frustrating thing about the way QPR were playing - when they did actually put something together they always looked threatening with it. Mostly though it was poor, and the R’s were heavily reliant on bloodied old warhorse Helguson to chase lost causes and hope for the best.
After the half hour another Trippier cross narrowly evaded Marlon Harewood at full stretch at the far post. Within 60 seconds the man whose face looks as if it was carved out of a solid block of wood with two strikes of a fire axe was back on his feet and launching an ambitious long range shot that Kenny claimed with some ease.
As well as being frustrated with QPR’s performance, I was becoming increasing perturbed with the decisions being made by our referee for the evening Tony Bates. Now Mr Bates (all do your own joke with that one) is a referee we have had on 14 previous occasions and looking down his previous ratings and reviews on this site he always seems to have been a bit of an irritant, but nothing more. Just your bog standard Championship nobody basically. Over the course of the next hour though he produced a wide range of ludicrous decisions that, by the end, had him talked about in the same breath as Trevor Kettle and Gavin Ward.
There was a flash point ten minutes before half time where Adel Taarabt was very fortunate not to be sent off. Receiving a low pass to his feet in the Barnsley half Taarabt took a heavy touch under considerable physical contact from behind by Matt Hill. Chasing after the ball he lunged wildly on Chelsea loanee Jacob Mellis, then got to his feet and inexplicably launched a wild swing of his boot at Hill who, to be fair, did the Moroccan a big favour by making nothing of it and actually restraining him and keeping him away from the other irate Barnsley players. Taarabt was lucky to escape with a yellow card bearing in mind his tackle and subsequent reaction were probably worth one each but perhaps the referee was feeling a little guilty for allowing this situation to develop in the first place.
The initial challenge by Hill on Taarabt was one of several in the moments leading up to the incident that should have been a free kick, and would have been had the QPR player hit the deck. Taarabt, Smith and Routledge all came under heavy fire in this period, all tried to stay on their feet, and all were rewarded by losing possession and not getting a free kick. Bates was creating a climate of frustration, and also breeding a culture in the game whereby you had to hit the deck to get any sort of decision. If we want to stamp diving out of our game the first thing we have to do is recognise fouls where players perhaps don’t lose their footing. Here, unless you went down you got nothing and as a consequence Barnsley were able to nibble and niggle at the QPR players every time they had the ball with no free kick being awarded and frustration being allowed to build – frustration that should have seen Taarabt sent off.
Rangers were finally awarded a free kick of their own, to the sound of ironic cheers from the away end, when Taarabt was crudely hacked down by the dugouts – Jacob Butterfield was booked for his troubles. By that point Trippier had been left in space to send in another cross, this time headed straight at Kenny by Marlon Harewood and a short while after the Butterfield card Trippier was on the rampage again, crossing to the far post where Matt Hill retrieved the ball and cut it back for Harewood who blasted over the bar. Harewood has scored against QPR for three different clubs in his career – Forest, West Ham and Newcastle – but his finishing in this game was akin to a park standard footballer and he never looked likely to add Barnsley to the list.
Despite not playing well QPR looked like they might make it through to half time in front as the stoppage time blinked a bright green ‘two’ into the dusk. They did, but Warnock’s men had to survive another almighty scare in the process. Once again the whole incident stemmed from amateur concession of possession in a bad area. Clint Hill took a throw in down the left, didn’t receive the ball back to his feet when he should have done, and then suddenly found himself trying to spring back into the space he’d vacated to cover a counter attack. He was never likely to catch speedster Danny Haynes so aimed instead to get between Haynes’ run into the right channel and the goal, arriving just in time to lose his footing and block the former Ipswich man’s cross with what looked like his hand. The Barnsley fans and players immediately appealed for a penalty as one as Hill got the ball caught underneath him and then belatedly hacked it away for a Barnsley throw. The decision referee Bates and his assistant came up with, miraculously, was a corner. This despite the ball staying in play throughout the incident. This was either a penalty, and I’ve seen them given for less, or a Barnsley throw up by the halfway line. But no, a corner it was, and Shackell met it in the air for the fourth time in the game but missed the target again.
The belated halftime whistle saw the referee booed from the field by the home fans, and confronted by several Barnsley players and members of the coaching staff who left the field with a flea in their ears from Neil Warnock.
The refereeing didn’t improve much in the second half. Within two minutes of the restart Wayne Routledge was clearly fouled, but stayed on his feet and therefore got nothing, and as Barnsley brought the ball away they were awarded a free kick for a shoulder barge by Shaun Derry. A subsequent free kick to Rangers after Andy Gray hit Matt Connolly high and late would be a collector’s item in a second half that was refereed so badly I could scarcely believe what I was seeing.
Ten minutes later Danny Haynes launched himself into a foolish, late, rash, high tackle that hacked Shaun Derry to the ground on the halfway line. With Derry laid out in the centre circle and in obvious distress Bates elected to play an advantage, although quite how much advantage could be gained by Clint Hill in his own left back slot with two Barnsley players nipping at his heels I have no idea. In the end he won QPR a throw in their own half, quite similar to a free kick that can be hit into the penalty area I’m sure you’ll agree, and Haynes escaped with nothing more than a talking to.
When play restarted Tommy Smith brought the throw in down, turned his man and accelerated away down the QPR left. He then fell victim to another wild challenge that crunched right through his calves to reach the ball and leave him prostrate on the ground. This was starting to get a little bit silly now, but at least on this occasion Bates did award QPR a free kick. Except, he didn’t. I mean, he did, he blew his whistle and pointed for a free kick when the incident happened, but by the time Smith had recovered and retaken his feet and the ball had been placed for the set piece he had had some sort of change of heart and awarded a throw in instead.
Unperturbed QPR built from the throw in with first Helguson and then Taarabt showing deft touches around the edge of the area before the ball was fed through to Smith who cut it back for Routledge to score into the empty net – Smith had been flagged offside however, and closer inspection of the video suggests he may well have been half a yard the wrong side of his man.
Smith was at the centre of everything around the hour mark, but his impact in the next passage of play was less impressive as he gave possession away in his own half and allowed a Barnsley counter attack that should have resulted in Andy Gray moving clear on goal but the big striker’s heavy touch sent the ball spinning out for a goal kick.
Having not given several free kicks for obvious fouls, Mr Bates then started awarding them for clean tackles. Tommy Smith clearly won the ball when he tried to prevent Trippier accelerating forward but the free kick was awarded anyway, and the protests against that particular injustice meant Rangers weren’t concentrating when it was delivered and were lucky to escape having left three men unmarked at the back post – a wild swing and miss from Haynes as the ball dropped in the area gave the R’s a chance to clear.
Not only clear in fact but build a counter attack of their own. Adel Taarabt collected the ball and raced forward with options left and right and Barnsley short of defensive numbers. As he crossed the halfway line Doyle got back at him, hacked him down from behind and got to his feet ready to accept the inevitable yellow card. It was one of those deliberate, cynical fouls, where the player lifts his boot off the floor towards the end of the tackle just to make sure he does indeed upend his opponent. He knew what he was doing, he didn’t want Taarabt accelerating away towards his goal, so he chopped him down. Astonishingly, and I was literally astonished, Bates arrived on the scene and signalled that the Barnsley man had actually taken the ball and play was to continue. I couldn’t believe it, even Doyle had got to his feet and put his hand up to apologise for the tackle, the Barnsley players seemed as stunned as everybody else. Neil Warnock had what can only be described as an episode on the touchline, calming down briefly to decide Taarabt was probably at risk of either serious injury or a sending off and sending on Hogan Ephraim in his stead.
And the ludicrous nonsense just kept on pouring forth from all three match officials. A heavy touch from Paul McShane carried the ball a yard over the touchline for a QPR throw in by the dug outs – play on was waved and Barnsley went on to win a corner.
The home side then made three quick fire changes to their line up in a bid to try and haul themselves level. Jordan Clark, Reuben Noble-Lazarus and Jay McEveley all came on for Jacob Mellis, Matthew Hill and Andy Gray. I had wondered while watching McShane lumber about hopelessly for the previous 75 minutes (the match sponsors’ decision to award him man of the match was as incredible as the refereeing) whether there is a worse defender at our level of the game – luckily, as I tend to lie awake at night thinking about these things, the answer presented itself as McEveley dragged his oversized arse onto the field for a late cameo. Yes, yes there is a worse defender, and there he is. Immediately Routledge set to work on fatty, accelerating past him to the byline and standing up a cross to the back post which Heidar Helguson headed down and against the base of the outside of the post.
Two minutes from time, a major event. Hogan Ephraim committed fully to a tackle on halfway and won the ball cleanly. We’ve waited a good two years for that from young Hogan, but sadly I don’t think he’ll be doing it again anytime soon because Bates awarded another free kick. Neil Warnock was apoplectic now, racing around his technical area throwing his arms in the air and screaming in the face of anybody he could get within a yard of. I feel sorry for the fourth official on nights like this, because you’re at the mercy of your referee in that position and on this occasion Peter Bankes from Merseyside had to deal with the extensive fallout from Bates’ shambolic handling of this game.
It got better and better still from the officials. Tommy Smith attacked down the right, attempted to nutmeg McEveley, saw the ball deflect off the blubber around his ankles and roll out for a corner only for a goal kick to be awarded. Next time the ball went out Smith expressed his disbelief to the referee who just smiled, put his head on one side, and shrugged. “What can I do?” asked Mr Bates. Fuck off mate, that’s what you can do, fucking well fuck off. Go and crawl under a rock somewhere and don’t come back.
Barnsley hit the post in the last minute of the game. A spectacular, blockbusting 25 yarder from Jacob Butterfield, who had scored from similar rage against Bristol City on Saturday, and must have thought he’d done so again here as his fine shot screamed through the night air past a stationary goalkeeper. Predictably though they had only been able to take up that position because of the referee. Moving away down the left flank Hogan Ephraim was chopped down by Trippier and the ball, untouched, rolled out for a throw in. This was a QPR free kick, or if the referee believed the Barnsley man had won the ball then it was a QPR throw in. The game stopped, the players looked at each other, the referee looked at his linesman who looked back. And then a Barnsley throw was awarded, from which Butterfield hit the post. Had it gone in, I’m not sure Bates would have made it from the field alive, which in hindsight would have been no bad thing.
He can’t tell the time either – some children do struggle with it according to my mum who teaches reception. He advertised four minutes and played five before finally bringing an end to what had long since become an absolute farce. A large proportion of the jubilant QPR fans had made their way to the front of the stand long before the whistle was blown, and one over excited member of the travelling contingent immediately set off at full tilt towards the halfway line, which he just about made before an impressive ankle tap and two man rugby tackle halted his progress. You don’t see the stewards at Loftus Road move that quick in similar circumstances. There is no news on whether this gent’s Leeds ticket is now available.
You could tell by the reaction of the players, and Neil Warnock, that this had been a hard fought and vitally important win. They were all as animated as I’ve seen them at a final whistle this season and a combination of bouncing back from Saturday, coming through a backs to the wall effort unscathed, and battling for 90 minutes against 11 Barnsley players and three of the worst match officials I’ve ever seen in my life all contributed to that. Tommy Smith and Alejandro Faurlin threw their shirts into the crowd, revealing the finely honed muscular physiques in the process, Hogan Ephraim did likewise, revealing a body built like a chicken stick.
As I said at the beginning, if you cannot be good, be lucky. QPR were a long way from good here, in fact I would go so far as to say that this was, in many ways, a worse performance from our team than the one they produced at Scunthorpe on Saturday. Now that may seem like a daft thing to say, considering Saturday resulted in a 4-1 defeat against the worst team in the league and here we won 1-0 against a half decent Barnsley side, but the only real differences for me were a successful return to a backs to basics approach by the back four, and a greater willingness to compete for second balls. Our ball retention throughout the game was thoroughly abysmal, laughable for a side thinking of playing in the Premiership next season. The really stupid thing about it was on the very, very rare occasions we did put five or six passes together it nearly always resulted in at least a half chance in the penalty area. QPR sides throughout my 20 years of support have constantly laboured under the misapprehension that the way to defend a narrow lead is to allow the opposition to have the ball, and then just sink deeper and deeper into your own half inviting them on and hoping they don’t score before the time runs out. It’s little more than defence through the medium of prayer and so much less effective than killing games off by keeping the ball for ten or 15 passes at a time, without necessarily going anywhere with the possession, tiring and demoralising the opposition while simultaneously running the clock down and conserving your own energy. This QPR side has actually been very good at that this season, Ipswich at home springs immediately to mind where we basically kept the ball for the whole of the last ten minutes after going 2-0 up and we did something similar at Reading away. But dear God they were frustrating on Tuesday, treating possession of the football with outright contempt at times.
But, at this stage of the season, a win is a win. I can’t be too critical of the team because they got the job done in the face of some serious questions being asked by Barnsley (Kaspars Gorkss had more answers than most) and a truly horrific refereeing display. I think it would probably only need the fingers of one hand to count performances I’ve seen from a set of match officials this bad before.
On now to Monday’s game against Nigel Clough’s dire Derby side. By then everybody in the division will have played again, and QPR will know whether or not they can seal the deal against the Rams. Anything less than a win for third placed Norwich against Forest on Friday night would leave them at least ten points behind Rangers with 12 left to play for, meaning a win against Derby would push QPR out of reach. Swansea need to win at Burnley, and even then Rangers’ goal difference is such that they would not be able to overtake us if we beat the Rams.
It could all come down to this. Or, and you may need to bring a hard hat if it’s the case, promotion could potentially be sealed a week later. At Cardiff. Oh dear.
Links >>> Have Your Say >>> Interactive Player Ratings >>> Message Board Match Thread Barnsley: Steele 6, Trippier 7, McShane 5, Shackell 7, Hill 6 (McEveley 77, 5), Mellis 6 (Clark 77, 6), Doyle 6, Butterfield 7, Haynes 6, Harewood 5, Gray 6 (Noble-Lazarus 82, -)
Subs Not Used: Preece, Foster, Arismendi, O'Brien
Booked: Butterfield (foul)
QPR: Kenny 7, Orr 7, Gorkss 8, Connolly 7, Hill 7, Derry 6, Faurlin 6, Routledge 6, Taarabt 6 (Ephraim 69, 6), Smith 6, Helguson 7
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Buzsaky, Agyemang, Hulse, Miller, Shittu
Booked: Taarabt (foul/reaction)
Goals: Taarabt 1 (assisted Routledge)
QPR Star Man – Kaspars Gorkss 8 It seemed a strange decision to leave him out on Saturday to me, and he re-cemented his place in the team here with a commanding centre half display. Lost very little in the air, won some key tackles, made some important interceptions and stood strong at the heart of the defence. The back four needed to play well as those in front of them could not retain possession and they did so.
Referee: Tony Bates (Staffordshire) 1 An absolute, total and utter, complete, 100 per cent, 64 carat arsehole. It was as if the real referee hadn’t turned up for his appointment and faced with a late postponement Barnsley officials had nipped out onto the streets and just started stopping passers by: “Excuse me my good man, what can you tell me about the rules of Association Football?” “Not a lot to be honest, I’m more of a rugger man myself.” “Not to worry, it’s half seven and you’re all we’ve got. Here’s a pair of shorts that barely fit around your gut, just guess at the ones you’re not sure about.” Usually at this stage I address the major decisions and which ones the referee got right or wrong. Today it’s very easy – every decision he had to make, every fifty fifty call, everything where there was an element of doubt, every decision large or small, he got wrong. He got everything wrong. Mr Bates and his two assistants were an absolute embarrassment to their professions and should first and foremost be abjectly ashamed of their performances which actually put the safety of the players at risk. Secondly, once the shame wears off, they should agree as a trio never to officiate another game of football at any level ever again. Failure to do so should result in immediate imprisonment – in a rough jail too, not one of these namby pamby open prisons with televisions and things.
Attendance: 11,381 (1,571 QPR fans) That’s the official figure given by Barnsley for the away support but in my opinion it looked and sounded like twice that. An excellent following from QPR who, in contrast to Saturday, backed the team and supported the players when they weren’t actually doing that well. Tremendous scenes of celebration at the end. As usual the vast swathes of empty seats and open areas that stretch from the away end for miles down the pitch make it difficult to judge whether the Barnsley fans are actually saying or doing anything at all – apart from the first half penalty incident they didn’t seem to be too animated.
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