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Nygaard silences boo boys with equaliser
Nygaard silences boo boys with equaliser
Tuesday, 31st Oct 2006 16:08

QPR's Premier League attack and Unibond League defence enjoyed another night of living up to their reputations in a thrilling 3-3 draw at the Hawthorns on Tuesday.

They say teams that can score goals don't get relegated. Well QPR are going to put that through a stern examination this winter.

Dexter Blackstock is the player we were crying out for last season, Lee Cook is on such a hot streak the Premier League scouts have been given their own block of seats at Loftus Road, Martin Rowlands is scoring at a rate not seen since the promotion campaign and loan boy Jimmy Smith has two to his name already.

As if that's not enough Damion Stewart has two goals already this season from centre half. Goals are quite literally flying in from all over the park.

The reason QPR could defy the ideal of a good attack guaranteeing survival is because the defence they're putting out behind it is just about the worst one in English football since Kevin Keegan said to Phillipe Albert "you can be rush goalie."

Once again Rangers scored three goals on Tuesday night however they allowed WBA to have three themselves and at times the match resembled an ice hockey penalty shoot out with home players taking it in turns to embark on free runs from the halfway line into the penalty area followed by a shot at goal. Only heroics from Simon Royce got QPR a point, and that's crazy considering how dangerous they looked when they crossed the halfway line in the right direction.

John Gregory made enforced changes to his line up following the impressive performance against Leicester on Saturday. Martin Rowlands' continuing fitness worries meant he dropped to the bench and Gareth Ainsworth started wide right. At the back Pat Kanyuka was ruled out and replaced by Michael Mancienne. Marc Nygaard - cruelly jeered from the field by his own supporters on Saturday - was left on the bench with Gallen joining Blackstock in attack.

Steve Watson was recalled by West Brom to replace Paul Robinson who was suspended. Rangers were denied a look at Loftus Road youth team graduate Nigel Quashie who was ruled out with an injury, Ronnie Wallwork took his place.

Right from the kick off the Baggies looked a class apart from QPR. A wonderful flowing move in the fifth minute ended when Gera skipped round Bignot and set up Watson who fired wide. At the other end an interception by Wallwork denying Blackstock a chance to get a shot away was as good as it got for QPR.

The home side spent the opening stages waltzing through QPR's none existent central midfield and stretching a nervous looking back four. There was an unhealthy whiff of inevitability about Nathan Ellington's opening goal in the eighth minute.

Kamara skipped and danced around the ball on the edge of the box with no challenge and then slipped the ball through to Koumas. With time and space to pick his spot the Welshman failed to beat Royce one on one but the rebound from the keeper's save fell to Ellington who hammered the ball goalwards on the rebound and saw it bobble into the roof of the net off Royce as he tried to keep it out.

From where we were sitting it looked as though Ellington's shot may have flashed all the way across the face of goal and out for a throw had Royce left it alone but that's probably wrong and, even if it's not, it's harsh as Royce had performed heroics to keep it at 0-0 even for this long.

This was the sixth time in as many games that QPR had conceded the opening goal inside the first 15 minutes.

Neither Smith nor Lomas could get within ten yards of Koumas, he was embarrassing them. In the fourteenth minute he sent a stinging drive towards goal from 20 yards and Royce needed two grabs at the ball to gather it in.

In a rare foray to the far end of the ground Cook and Bignot made inroads down the left and the ball found its way to Lomas who tested Zuberbuhler with a powerful twenty yard drive. The Swiss keeper parried the ball away with both hands.

In the 18th minute and embarrassing passage of play for QPR almost resulted in a second goal for the home side. The Baggies collected the ball on the half way line and proceeded to calmly knock it around in the QPR half for what seemed like years. QPR were left chasing shadows as WBA searched for an opening down the middle, then off to the right, and then the left. Eventually, like a cat with a tired mouse, they went for the kill and a great cross from Albrechtsen was met by Watson towering above Rehman. The header sailed over Royce and dipped down into the top corner but the former Charlton stopper watched it all the way and managed to execute a brilliant one handed save to keep the deficit down to one.

From the corner Curtis Davies came up from the back and headed over when left totally unmarked twelve yards from goal. QPR were once again persisting with a kamikaze zonal marking system enabling WBA players a free running jump at any corner or free kick that came in and it almost cost them yet again here.

Royce was called into action before the half hour mark when he flung himself to the right in front of a shot from Gera. At least by this stage QPR were showing one or two promising signs at the other end of the field. A decent move down the left involving Cook and Blackstock created space at the back post for Gallen who appealed in vein for hand ball when his shot was blocked in the six yard box. WBA had looked very nervous at the back in the first half when QPR had been near them but too often Rangers made it to the edge of the area without producing a killer final ball. WBA got the second goal they'd been threatening since scoring the first in the 40th minute. Koumas was again given time in the midfield and his forty yard cross found the ever dangerous Kamara in the area. Stewart wasn't tight enough to him and as Kamara brought the ball down on his chest Stewart, like so many of his team mates before him, lost his footing and slipped. Kamara didn't need asking twice and lashed the ball into the net past the exasperated Simon Royce.

The first forty minutes had been a disaster for QPR and their ever ailing defence. On several occasions Rehman had produced panicked clearances under no pressure - including one incident where Royce called so loudly for the ball we heard him at the back of the away end. WBA were profiting from long balls over the head of Marcus Bignot whenever they could, Stewart looked unsure of himself and the midfield was offering no protection.

West Brom had scored twice and but for numerous dodgy, close and downright wrong offside calls against Ellington and Kamara from the linesman they could have been posting a cricket score.

And yet right on half time QPR were thrown a lifeline. With the two minutes of allotted stoppage time played referee Lee Mason allowed QPR to go ahead with their first corner kick of the night. The delivery from Cook was poor but the ball was cleared back out to him and he didn't need asking a second time. A beautiful curling ball to the back post isolated the home defence and Damion Stewart had the simple task of poking the ball home from three yards out.

Rangers were suddenly, and undeservedly, back in the game and with the home side looking almost as terrified at the back as QPR did hope sprung among the travelling faithful that at least a point could be achieved. Curtis Davies was belying his glowing reputation with a terrible display at the back for the home side and clearly if QPR got amongst them there were possibilities.

That hope blossomed after the break as QPR emerged with renewed purpose and some defensive solidity - well Stewart suddenly started to play well at least. Within three minutes of the restart Rangers were level. Jimmy Smith sent a perfect through ball into Dexter Blackstock who ran in behind his man and smacked a low cross into the six yard box where Gallen beat his marker to score.

Sadly the rearguard let the forwards down again within five minutes. Gareth Ainsworth produced a death defying block to deny Ellington a goal and Stewart produced a booming clearance in the six yard box to stop Kamara scoring again but in the fifty fourth minute the home side went back in front.

A ball bounced loose in the centre of the park and Lomas moved in to tidy up. He seemed to have everything under control with his body between the ball and Koumas but he messed about trying to do something fancy and Koumas poked the ball to Ellington who in turn threaded the ball through to Kamara. The Senegalese striker had so much time he even afforded himself a sarcastic look across to the flag happy linesman before calmly sliding the ball into the corner. Rangers were firmly back in square one.

West Brom poured forward over the next few minutes looking to restore the two goal lead. Ellington raced through on goal when he looked offside and his cross was steered wide of the post by Stewart, then Kamara also sprung and increasingly rusty offside trap but was denied by the big Jamaican defender again. At times it was like Stewart against the whole world back there.

QPR's kept plugging away and started to play some football. Lomas and Smith were at the heart of some good passages of play - calmly receiving the ball and giving simple passes to team mates which is grossly underestimated style of play in the English game. Lee Cook was getting more change out of his full back in the second half and although Gareth Ainsworth wasn't having the best game he was full of running and a pest to the opposition. Blackstock and Gallen were also playing a full part in the neat passing and QPR grew in confidence as the half went on.

Lee Mason didn't help their cause when they finally got Cook running towards the goal in a three on three only to be pulled right back to the halfway line for a free kick. Obviously Mr Mason, who remember bought that shocking dive from Gavin Williams and awarded a penalty to Ipswich at Loftus Road in August, wouldn't know the advantage rule if it wandered up and stole his wallet.

In the end that decision played into QPR's hands because, clearly embarrassed and apologetic to any QPR player that would listen, Mason quickly awarded a free kick for absolutely nothing right on the edge of the box right of centre. Lee Cook took the set piece - he feigned to chip it to the back post and then sent a curling effort an inch wide of the top corner with the keeper beaten.

At the other end Watson's delicate header sent Koumas through on goal but he elected to try and lob Royce instead of volleying a more powerful effort and Royce caught the ball comfortably.

Gregory introduced Marc Nygaard from the bench to try and rescue a point for Rangers. Blackstock was surprisingly the man to make way and the decision was met with a few boos from the away end - Nygaard was booed onto the pitch and then a minority of the travelling support jeered his every touch, good and bad, for the rest of the game. Now obviously Nygaard was very, very poor on Saturday. The incident where he ran into the keeper and then collapsed as if in agony was pathetic. But Tuesday was a new day, we were trailing 3-2 and our manager thought that putting Nygaard on may get us something from the game. He deserved our 100% support. If he was terrible again then we go off to the pub or a message board and moan about him, but when they cross the white line we support them. It was very sad watching Nygaard losing more and more confidence with every touch he made and the cause looked lost.

Kamara headed a cross from Gera just wide and Tony Mowbray sent Kevin Phillips on to test the QPR backline but Rangers were holding relatively firm by this stage with Stewart particularly impressive.

Eight minutes before time Nygaard silenced the critics. Smith found Cook wide on the left and after checking back inside Cook played an inch perfect cross into the area. Nygaard, Zuberbuhler and Davies all ran towards the ball but their only ever looked like being one winner and Nygaard flung himself at the ball and powered a diving header into the net. I fully expected him to come over and give the old Mark Hateley ear cupping treatment to the away fans but to his credit he just punched the air, and trotted back to the halfway line. Point made.

West Brom brought Hartson on and bombarded the QPR penalty area but despite appalling decisions to penalise Gallen and Lomas for perfectly legal ball winning tackles, and a ridiculous four minutes of stoppage time despite a lack of stoppages, Rangers hung on for a point. The only real scare came with the last play of the game when Royce came for Koumas' corner, got caught under the ball and had to palm the ball behind for another set piece.

All in all a great point won, and a much needed one with Sheff Wed and Hull both winning on Tuesday. Rangers must tighten their defence and take a maximum point haul from out of form Crystal Palace on Saturday. That should be possible, as long as the Eagles don't follow the recent trend of sacking their manager in preparation for a game with QPR. A win would drag Palace into the scrap, and keep us out of the bottom three.

Here's hoping.

WBA: Zuberbuhler 5, Watson 6, Perry 5, Davies 4, Greening 8, Ellington 7 (Phillips 72, 7), Gera 8, Albrechtsen 8, Kamara 9, Koumas 8, Wallwork 7 (Hartson 85, -)
Subs not used: Chaplow, McShane, Hoult
Scorers: Ellington 8, Kamara 40, Kamara 54

Rangers: Royce 8, Bignot 7, Rehman 4, Gallen 6, Ainsworth 5, Lomas 6, Cook 7, Stewart 7, Blackstock 6 (Nygaard 62, 6), Smith 6, Mancienne 6
Subs not used: Milanese, Ward, Rowlands, Jones
Bookings: Smith, Lomas, Bignot
Scorers: Stewart 45, Gallen 47, Nygaard 77

QPR Star Man - Simon Royce 8 - Made numerous top saves to win a point for his side. Nobody is quite sure why Paul Jones was dropped but more than likely it was down to stress - five or six games behind that lot and Royce will go the same way!

Referee: Lee Mason 5 (Lancashire) - Did a half decent job overall but there were four terrible decisions in the second half that really stuck out. Lomas and Gallen were both penalised for winning the ball, Lee Cook was denied a run on goal by his lack of advantage rule knowledge and then to make up for that he gave QPR a free kick on the edge of the area for nothing. Also booked Jimmy Smith very harshly. Ably assisted by the young linesman from the Colchester game - there's always lots of very bizarre flag waving when he's around and last night was no exception, much to the home fans' disgust!

Attendance: 17,417

Photo: Action Images

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