|More poor luck at the promotion party|
Sunday, 30th Apr 2006 01:25
Rangers lost 2-1 at Reading's promotion party on Sunday thanks to a late penalty from Graham Murty.
The last game of the season saw us away to Reading - the runaway champions of the Coca-Cola Championship - and their promotion party. For many Rangers fans, the probability of a severe drubbing, coupled with the sight of rival supporters in Blue and White hoops (all right, semi-circles) lording it about, celebrating their success, was too much to contemplate and so they stayed away. The only worry for the Reading fans seemed to be a question of whether they would get the pair of three's that would round their season off nicely? Three points to better Sunderland's points record and three more goals to reach 100 scored.
What we got was an absorbing game with end-to-end action. Rangers, at times, more than matching Reading in application and commitment with a fine passing game, creating lots of chances that should have resulted in more goals.
I thought that I would be starting this piece wondering how many of the QPR players would be making their last appearance in the real Hoops. But after Friday's announcement, we already knew. So now we were wondering whether any of the released players would play, and, if not, what sort of team we would be putting out. As it was, the releasing of players had little effect on team selection.
Rangers started with Paul Jones in goal behind a back four of Bignot, Shittu, Santos and Milanese.
Donnelly and Bailey were in mid-field with Langley and Cook on the wings. Ainsworth started up front with Furlong. Again there was youth on the bench - Ray Jones, Howell and Munday joining Jake Cole and Evatt.
Ten minutes before the kick-off, Kevin Gallen and Marc Bircham took seats at the front of the stand and were surrounded by supporters - Bircham's back must have been sore from all the back-slaps!
For the first five or ten minutes Reading were not firing on all cylinders, whereas Rangers were definitely brighter and settled quickly, with a lot of movement and good passing play. The R's would continue with the same bright play all through the game.
As the game progressed, Ainsworth, Langley and Donnelly would swap positions, each taking it in turns to either play in the middle or on the right. Occasionally, one would push up and link with Furlong. For a lot of the game, we were content to have Furlong on his own in front of a five man midfield.
On nine minutes Lee Cook went on a dribbling run, riding attempted tackles, before being fouled by Sonko just outside the box, right in front of the Reading goal. A few players stood for a minute over the ball and then Langley hit a lovely free-kick which was dipping nicely but just went over the bar.
After ten minutes Reading had a cross from their left wing which went behind. We were surprised that it seemed to be their first real attack.
But straight after that, Sidwell crossed from the left again and the ball passed through players straight to Santos who was stood facing his own goal. After the mishap of the previous week, what would he do? Georges took no chances this week and put it out for the corner.
Santos would continue to have a very effective game with some excellent tackles, blocks and covering play.
Midway through the first half, Kitson thought he had beaten our offside trap and looked to be bearing down ominously on our area. But the Assistant finally raised his flag to our relief, and the home crowd's noisy displeasure.
Cook made plenty of fine attacking runs on the left wing all game and found Furlong a number of times but the chances would either be straight at Hahnemann or just wide.
After a quiet start, Donnelly was having a good half, linking well with others in forward play and making some good blocking tackles. Bailey was trying hard but was, for the second game running, having trouble making a real impact.
Lee Cook had a number of long range efforts, one of which Hahnemann cleared with his foot. The ball carried to Langley who seemed to have an open goal to aim at, but his diving header flew just wide. He seemed to get under it.
Reading were getting more into their stride. A lot of their movement was down the wings. Bignot found them hard to cope with all game.
And so Reading stepped it up a bit and scored. Convey again attacked down the flank and crossed over the area to Oster, who crossed it back to Kitson for a simple tap-in. Convey had accelerated down the wing for the cross and Donnelly had not tracked back quickly enough for our liking. We had plenty of Rangers players around the box, but they seemed to be rooted to the spot watching the ball passing back and forth around them. It was a good goal - well worked and well taken, but we went into half time feeling hard done by.
At the start of the second half, Gallen and Bircham moved up top to the back of the stand. Again there was lots of hand-shakes and back-slapping.
Jake Cole came on as a half-time substitute for Paul Jones. If we were wondering whether he would cope in a big game like this, we needn't have worried. He had a stunning second half. His performance made you wonder if we need to renew Paul Jones with Cole in such good form. Do we need four keepers?
Fifteen minutes into the second half, Cole was forced into action. Doyle had raced past the hesitant Shittu and had no-one except Cole in front of him. Cole dashed from his box and more or less sat in front of the Reading player thereby taking the ball away from him.
On 69 minutes Bailey was replaced by Ray Jones and the tall teenager partnered Furlong up front.
Langley then had a bit of handbags with Sidwell and we had the interesting sight of the referee holding Langley's arms down by putting his own arms around Langley and guiding him away from the others. The referee soon had them both shaking hands and it had all blown over. Sensible handling of the situation by the official and a good example of his level-headed control of the game.
A fine cross from Ainsworth to the far side of area found Ray Jones. Jones looked very composed as he cooly headed the ball down into the path of Furlong who got in front of Ingimarsson and guided the ball in with a sweet left foot shot.
The travelling support went wild. We had finally taken one of the scoring chances and were back in the game - we deserved to be! And, Furlong had picked this game to end his goal drought.
Cole was having a very good half. Didn't seem nervous, was in command of his area and had just tipped a shot over his bar in the best athletic fashion following an overhead effort from the Reading substitute Hunt.
But Reading managed to force some attacking moves and as the ball came in to the area, it hit Langley on the arm. The referee blew immediately for a Reading penalty and was surrounded by some Rangers players, who continued to complain. Presumably, they were arguing that it was ball-to-hand and accidental, but Langley's arm was away from his body so the referee really didn't have much option.
Dan Shittu, in particular, seemed to have the red mist. The complaining appeared to be going on for too long and you had to think that someone was going to talk themselves into the book. But the referee let the fuss peter out and eventually Gareth Ainsworth shepherded all the players away. Jake Cole tried to make himself big but went the wrong way and Murty smashed it into the net.
The relief of the home crowd was immense. Before the bit of pressure that resulted in the penalty, Rangers were having more and more control and mounting increasing attacks on their goal. They could see their party being spoilt.
If the Rangers players were upset by the penalty decision, they didn't let it affect their composure and continued to play an attractive passing game.
There was more end-to-end football as Reading went in search of a third goal and Rangers were looking to equalise again. Rangers kept attacking to the last minute but couldn't find a way through.
After the final whistle, the travelling R's support cheered and applauded the squad and the coaches. And the players applauded the supporters back. You could sense that the players were pleased to be able to hold their heads high .
We ended the first half feeling that we didn't deserve to be one down and the match finished with us losing only to a disputed penalty. Rangers could have won the game and definitely deserved a draw. While Reading were being presented with their trophy after the match, we were leaving the ground again cursing the run of bad luck that sums up this season.
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Sidwell, Sonko, Oster (Hunt), Kitson Harper, Ingimarsson, Convey (Gunarsson), Doyle (Long)
Subs Not Used: Stack, Makin
Goals: Kitson 41, Murty 81 pen.
QPR: Paul Jones 7 (Cole 8), Bignot 5 , Shittu 7, Santos 8*, Milanese 7, Langley 7, Ainsworth 6, Bailey 6 (Ray Jones 7) , Donnelly 6, Cook 7, Furlong 7.
Subs Not Used: Evatt, Howell, Munday.
Goals: Furlong 73.
QPR Man of the Match: Georges Santos - We wondered whether he would play and how last week would affect him. In the event, he was a star. He worked really hard, defended well all afternoon and made some excellent clearances. Throughout the game, he appeared to be more alert than Dan Shittu. Better to finish his time with the R's like this than with memories of last week.
Ref: Darren Drysdale (Lincs) 8 - Came into the game with a reputation for brandishing cards but, in this game, he seemed to be more interested in keeping the cards in his pocket. He controlled the game with a lot of common sense and was always keen to keep the game flowing. We may not have liked the penalty decision but having seen the replay, I can see why he gave it. He was very good at talking to the players, either warning them quietly to watch themselves or explaining a decision.
Photo: Action Images
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