Baggies boing back leaving QPR counting costly misses – full match report
Monday, 5th Dec 2011 00:26 by Clive Whittingham
QPR were forced to settle for a point against West Brom at Loftus Road on Saturday after missing a host of chances to put the game beyond doubt having taken an early lead.
In the end, it was the inevitability of it that grated the most.
QPR manager Neil Warnock confronted the match officials over a disallowed Shaun Wright-Phillips goal at the half time and full time whistles, and he was right to do so with the television replays showing the luckless winger was in fact well onside when he searched out the top corner of the net for what would have been a long overdue first goal for the club.
But on three other occasions QPR drew the West Brom goalkeeper from his line and then inexplicably failed to role the ball into the unguarded net. Once is careless, twice is unfortunate, three times is unforgiveable and leaves you open to only one thing. Shane Long handed down football life lessons lecture 1.1 14 minutes from time – the first time the Baggies have scored in the final quarter of an hour of a game this season. QPR are good like that, and must look closer to home for blame before turning on match officials.
As predicted in the run up to kick off Warnock made two changes to his starting 11. Joey Barton returned to the midfield after suspension instead of Shaun Derry who endured a tough afternoon in the defeat at Norwich last weekend, and Jay Bothroyd came back into the attack in support of in form Heidar Helguson after recovering from the hamstring injury that restricted him to one substitute appearance in the previous two games.
Behind the Bothroyd and Helguson combination that had terrorised Manchester City last time out at Loftus Road Warnock paired Ale Faurlin with Barton in the centre of midfield with Jamie Mackie wide right and Shaun Wright-Phillips in his usual roaming role. Armand Traore had the left flank to himself from his deep lying defensive position with Danny Gabbidon playing against his former club at centre half alongside Anton Ferdinand. Luke Young was the right back and Radek Cerny continued to deputise for the injured Paddy Kenny in goal. Youngster Elvijs Putnins was the goalkeeper in waiting on the bench.
West Brom gave a late check to former Reading striker Shane Long who had been struggling with a groin problem but was fit to start here. Peter Odemwingie, linked with a January move to Loftus Road in some of the gutter tabloids during the week, had to make do with a place on the bench as manager Roy Hodgson went with the 4-5-1 set up that served the Baggies so well in the second half of last season when they climbed away from relegation trouble to finish eleventh. James Morrison and Chris Brunt occupied the wide midfield areas and Graeme Dorrans made a second start in seven matches and one hundredth West Brom appearance in the middle with Zoltan Gera ruled out for the majority of the campaign with a nasty knee injury suffered in their last match – a 3-1 home defeat by high flying Tottenham Hotspur.
The game was preceded with a minute of applause from one and all as a mark of respect for Wales manager Gary Speed who was found dead in his Cheshire home last weekend aged 42. A terrible and tragic event that has reignited an important discussion about mental illness and depression – the newspapers have already decided Speed was depressed and killed himself because of it you see. Full details, and maybe even some facts, will come out in time.
It’s probably a little early for Christmas Grinch mode, although Sainsbury’s North Finchley has already been playing the pissing Fairy Tale of New York for three and a half weeks already, but I’m not a fan of this minute of applause trend that has crept into our sport in recent times. The death of George Best was the first time I can recall a minute of applause replacing a silence – not a bad attempt at doing something a little different for one of the all time greats of the sport who had, clearly, had a good innings. But now we seem to applaud all the time regardless of the person and the circumstances.
Sometimes applause simply isn’t appropriate and as far as I’m concerned the dreadul, odd, unexplained and apparently deliberate death of a 42-year old is no reason to stand and bang your hands together on demand like a gang of performing seals. It’s an event that should be met with a moment of quiet reflection, when we forget for a moment that we’re at a football match and think about the magnitude of what has happened and spare a thought for those close to Speed who have been affected. Sixty seconds when we prove that even in this often loathsome society which we’re all now a part of people can still put their mobile phones, iPads, iPods, iPhones, Kindles, laptops, Blackberrys, Palm Pilots and cocks away for a minute, shut up and show some respect.
And don’t start me on the argument about it drowning out the morons who are incapable, through drunkenness or lobotomy, of being quiet for a minute. A swift smack in the teeth would do that job just as well - vigilante justice that should begin as a matter of urgency with that vile scumbag in the Manchester City support who has, at Loftus Road and Anfield already this season, taken it upon himself to scream “CITY” at the top of his lungs two seconds before the end of the silence. The forethought for that act, which must involve him timing the silence and waiting for 58 seconds to tick around, makes him a prime candidate for not only a punch in the face but also, with any luck, an unfortunate incident with a double decker bus for which City would be more than welcome to hold a silence that we could then all deliberately interrupt for no other reason than our own inflated sense of self importance.
Rant over, it should be a silence and nobody will convince me otherwise.
The game started in a bright and airy fashion, in stark contrast to the strangely subdued atmosphere around Loftus Road. A slick passing move that concluded with Faurlin picking Traore out wide on the left saw the Senegalese left back produce a fine back post cross that Heidar Helguson looked set to get on the end of before the giant figure of Jonas Olsson intervened with a clearing header. The Icelandic striker has enjoyed tremendous success in the back post area in recent matches, and would do so again later in this one. The Baggies also popped the passes around well to begin with and soon crafted half chances for Shane Long, who seemed to get away with a handball en route to firing wide, and James Morrison who was also off target with his long range effort.
The first really genuine chance of the game came QPR’s way in the ninth minute. Jamie Mackie accelerated away down the right flank, carrying three West Brom players with him to the byline with typical rambunctious and swashbuckling style before cutting the ball back to the edge of the area where Faurlin and Shaun Wright-Phillips seemed to get in each other’s way having both arrived unmarked at the same time. The latter took the shot on, but drilled wide of the post.
The football was flowing again within 60 seconds as QPR continued their exciting beginning to the game. Jay Bothroyd brought the ball under control in the right channel where he enjoys grazing the most, then set up Faurlin and Barton for an exchange of passes and switch to Traore on the left. He cut the ball back to the edge of the box and Barton collected possession again before drilling the ball straight at Ben Foster in the West Brom goal.
Then it was West Brom’s turn for a spell in the sun. First Traore committed a silly foul on Brunt setting the Northern Irishman up with a free kick on the edge of the box that he drilled into the wall. Then after Anton Ferdinand was outdone by Shane Long the Baggies strung a slick move together that ended with Dorrans teeing up Jerome Thomas for a great opportunity against a club he spent two loan spells with during his younger days but he passed up the opportunity to open the scoring by drilling a tame, low shot straight at Radek Cerny. He should have scored, Ferdinand’s recent accident proneness continues.
Thomas was left to rue that missed opportunity when QPR then stormed downfield and took the lead within five minutes. Jay Bothroyd and then Heidar Helguson won key headed duels in the middle of the park to set up first Barton and then Mackie for controlled possession down the right flank. Mackie’s first cross was cleared back to him but he retook possession and advanced into the penalty area with real purpose having been given a second opportunity. Three West Brom players tentatively poked toes towards Mackie and although Olsson did eventually rob him of possession the ball broke to Barton who chipped a fantastic ball to the back post where Helguson was waiting to produce a trademark thumping header into the far top corner of the net. Six goals in seven games now for the 34 year old Icelandic international, the sun burns ever brighter in his Indian summer.
Then, the controversial moment of the game. Three minutes after taking the lead QPR believed they had a crucial second goal that would have set them up for a comfortable afternoon and three points. Rangers strung ten passes together with Faurlin and Barton at the heart of it all again. The Argentinean finished the move with a fine ball in behind the Baggies defence for Wright-Phillips, who’d produced an eye catching turn and dribble earlier in the move, to run onto and finish brilliantly into the top corner. The flag had long since been raised. Incorrectly. Olsson had played Wright-Phillips on, QPR had been conned.
They say these things even themselves up over the course of the season. In this case they almost evened out in a quarter of an hour because later in the half Heidar Helguson picked up the ball in the area, three yards offside at least, but was allowed to continue and chipped an ambitious shot onto the roof of the net.
Mackie smacked a long range shot over the bar on the counter attack and Helguson continued his excellent afternoon’s work with a vital clearing header from the visitors’ first corner of the game as we passed the midway point of the first half. Morrison rode a missed tackle from Barton, who was later subjected to a roughhouse tackle from Jerome Thomas that produced the game’s first yellow card, and shot straight at Cerny.
Referee Martin Atkinson added two minutes on at the end of the half, in which both teams seemed to revel in a farcical, end-to-end 120 seconds of football. First Shaun Wright-Phillips nodded a presentable chance wide of an open goal after Ben Foster had foolishly come out for a high ball he was never going to reach, then Shane Long seized on a long Foster kick and headed for the penalty area with QPR forced to scramble the ball out for a corner. There was still time for a counter attack from that set piece and Jamie Mackie would have run through on goal onto Wright-Phillips’ pass with a better first touch. Then it was time to pause for breath.
West Brom started the second half the stronger of the two teams. Long set about Rangers within the first 60 seconds and fed the ball wide to Thomas who tested Cerny at the near post. Then Morrison crashed to earth in the penalty area looking for a spot kick but his half hearted appeals were ignored by Martin Atkinson.
For all of that though, QPR should have tied the game up three minutes after the break. Steven Reid, rightly picked out as the West Brom weak link in the LFW pre-match preview, was caught in on the ball by Faurlin and Barton then closed down Olsson’s attempt at a clearance. Helguson seized possession and returned it immediately to Barton who drew Foster and then fired wide of the open goal when it seemed easier to score. Reid’s frustration grew when he then picked up a yellow card for chopping down Traore when he seemed to get a piece of the ball.
Still Rangers pressed, creating a goal mouth scramble when two excellent passes from first Ferdinand and then Bothroyd allowed Helguson and Wright-Phillips to combine in the six yard box but somehow fail to get a decent shot away. West Brom’s defensive record is poor this season – their clean sheet at Norwich was their first in 21 matches and they were without a shut out in five matches prior to the kick off here. They reaffirmed their commitment to always giving opponents a chance by then attempting to pass the ball out of their own goal mouth with near disastrous consequences.
Last time the Baggies played on this ground calamity Scott Carson treated the R’s to two goals in a 3-1 home win. There was a feeling of déjà vu around the place 22 minutes from time when Ben Foster’s brain explosion ended with him marooned out by the right corner flag while Traore headed towards the open goal along the byline. He could have gone himself but rushed a high pass back to Wright-Phillips who missed the target with an acrobatic scissor kick.
A goal wrongly disallowed, three absolute sitters missed, other chances left begging - it was impossible not to conclude that we’d seen this film before and knew where it was going to end. QPR did their best for the visitors around the hour by conceding a series of set pieces around the edge of their own penalty box – Dorrans found the wall with a direct one, Gareth McAuley nodded a cross from the Scot wide from a more considered move that involved a flick on from Jerome Thomas. Roy Hodgson sent on Peter Odemwingie for Thomas and Somen Tchoyi for Dorrans as the quest to chase the game became more desperate.
Neil Warnock for his part sent on Akos Buzsaky for Jay Bothroyd but the change affected Rangers for the worse with the Hungarian strangely off the pace. Still, despite that, and a long range piledriver from Brunt that flashed a foot or so wide of the top corner, hopes were high that the R’s might be able to see this one through. West Brom had only scored 12 times this season prior to this match, and not a single one of those had come in the final 15 minutes of games. QPR do like to break a team’s duck.
Two minutes into that final quarter of an hour Shane Long struck a highly preventable goal from a QPR point of view. First Buzsaky took a heavy touch on the edge of the area to concede possession, then Faurlin failed to take the opportunity to chop down Morrison and take a yellow card for the team, and from that point onwards the equaliser looked sadly inevitable. Morrison’s powerful run and excellent pass set Odemwingie away, his cross shot deflected off Luke Young and fell perfectly for Shane Long at the back post and he could hardly miss from less than a yard out. That’s cricket, as Frank Bruno once bizarrely said.
Buzsaky tried to make amends with a low shot from the edge of the area after a nice tee up from Wright-Phillips but looked nervous, snatched at the chance and sent the ball rolling meekly wide. To be fair from the moment Long scored there only looked like being one winner of the game and it wasn’t wearing blue and white hoops. Hodgson recognised this and sent on Paul Scharner for the excellent Youssouf Mulumbu to try and force the issue.
He almost got his way in three minutes of added time. Chris Brunt sent in a wicked free kick that Jonas Olsson flicked on towards goal for what looked like it might be the winner. Radek Cerny certainly earned his keep for the week with a fine save and hold right on the line in a crowded goal mouth.
By the end of the game we were lucky not to have lost. Neil Warnock stormed onto the field at full time to express anger first with Joey Barton, then Alejandro Faurlin, and finally the match officials.
All of which left me, and everybody around me it seemed, feeling rather shit about life. Not for the first, second or even third time this season QPR had dominated some or all of a home match, created enough chances to win the game twice over, and ended up settling for a single point or less.
We’ll only know whether the games with West Brom, Aston Villa, Man City and Newcastle were good or bad signs come May. At the moment I’m inclined to take them as positives – we’re not only competing, but bettering established Premiership teams and coming away disappointed not to have won. There’s not a lot of clinging on for points in our home games this season, we’re on the front foot wherever possible, and with further reinforcements promised for January I think that in the second half of the season we’ll be better equipped for killing such games off.
West Brom were certainly no mugs, with Morrison, Brunt and Mulumbu all impressive in midfield and Shane Long a regular pest. But they are defensively suspect and presented QPR with enough chances here for the hosts to have been well out of sight before Long got a goal of his own.
However, this match could prove to be something of a microcosm of the season as a whole if we’re not careful. You simply cannot continue to create and pass up one chance after another without being punished sooner or later – usually sooner in the case of the Premiership. Less naivety and more ruthlessness required.
QPR: Cerny 7, Young 6, Gabbidon 6, Ferdinand 6, Traore 7, Mackie 7, Barton 7, Faurlin 8, Wright-Phillips 7, Bothroyd 6 (Buzsaky 74, 5), Helguson 8
Subs Not Used: Putnins, Orr, Hill, Derry, Taarabt, Smith
Goals: Helguson 20 (assisted Barton)
West Brom: Foster 7, Reid 6, Olsson 6, McAuley 6, Shorey 6, Thomas 6 (Odemwingie 65, 7), Dorrans 7 (Tchoyi 78, 6), Mulumbu 8 (Scharner 83, -), Morrison 7, Brunt 7, Long 7
Subs Not Used: Fulop, Dawson, Jones, Cox
Booked: Long, Thomas, Reid
Goals: Long 81
QPR Star Man – Heidar Helguson 8 This man is on fire at the moment, he’s gone from barely making the bench to being the key player in the team in just over a month. The goal, a typically emphatic headed finish, equals Les Ferdinand’s club record of scoring in four successive home games but only told a fraction of the Helguson story on Saturday as he once again led the line superbly. Another complete centre forward’s display.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire) 8 Overall I thought the refereeing was very good on Saturday. Atkinson didn’t get a major decision wrong, allowed the game to flow and stayed out of the spotlight for the most part. The problem is the big decision of the match was the Shaun Wright-Phillips offside goal which turned out to be the incorrect decision, made by the linesman on the South Africa Road side of the ground. Points off for that, but not really Atkinson’s fault – perhaps it’s time to introduce linesman ratings to these reports as well.
Attendance: 17, 290 (1,800 West Brom approx) A subdued atmosphere for the most part, easily the worst of the league season at Loftus Road. In the second half I think this was largely down to nerves, there was a real tension in the air, but even so in the past when we’ve been hanging on with our backs to the wall (Birmingham at home in the snow, Preston at home under Gregory) the place has rocked and the fans have helped to see the team home. In the first half though there just seemed to be a grumpy malaise around the place, an attitude of “It’s only West Brom”. You don’t stay in the Premiership by picking up lots of points against Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd, you stay up by winning games like this and in my humble opinion the crowd didn’t do much to help the team achieve that on Saturday.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
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