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Hard fought point at Elland Road
Hard fought point at Elland Road
Tuesday, 20th Feb 2007 19:20

QPR secured a valuable point with a 0-0 draw at Leeds United as the relegation battle took another twist on Tuesday night.

Where did those testicles come from? QPR looked like an old lady being mugged in a bus shelter at Southend last week - "ok, ok take it, just don't hurt me" - but last night they decided they quite fancied a scrap and showed a bit of pride in their work. After eight straight defeats on the road we finally have a point to take home for our troubles.

It was welcome of course, consecutive away defeats against our three other closest rivals had put us in a perilous position and a fourth failure last night against a diabolically bad Leeds side maybe would have given cause for a call to the priest to come round and begin the last rites, but it is a little frustrating. How can a team surrender so meekly in a massive match live on the television one week and then stand up and be counted so impressively the next?

Mind you since beating us Southend have lost twice, conceding five and scoring none, thereby rendering their massive haul against QPR totally useless. Hull beat Cardiff 4-1 and went to the league leaders and won a point but then got done 3-0 by Barnsley last night who for their part lost 3-0 at home to Colchester but won 2-0 at Luton. Maybe we'll just have to put that Southend disaster down to funny things happening to teams in our position all the time.

It would be nice to know that a committed QPR side are going to turn up and give a toss, like they did last night, every match rather than just when it suits them though. Gregory must be tearing his hair out trying to install some consistency in this team.

One way of improving that is the signing of a confident and assured goalkeeper of course and in Lee Camp Rangers seem to have stumbled across just the man. Don't get me wrong, I do feel for Simon Royce, but even before last week's horror show at Roots Hall he'd been terrifying his defenders under routine crosses for weeks and his insistence on clearing the ball without taking a touch whatever the circumstances was always going to catch him out one day. Camp looked like he'd never been away last night - three top drawer saves and a faultless kicking display.

He started behind Mancienne, Stewart, Cullip and Timoska. These four seemed to switch between playing as a flat back four in a conventional 4-4-2 and as three centre halves with Timoska pushed on down the left on a constant basis throughout the match but all four played exceptionally well. Lomas and Bolder held the midfield from the centre, Rowlands played left and Ainsworth wide right with Cook and Blackstock in attack.

Leeds rushed Rui Marques and Alan Thompson back from injury after failing to rescue a point at Cardiff on Saturday despite playing against nine men for a considerable part of the second half. Dennis Wise also included David Healy, Richard Cresswell and Robbie Blake from the start which caused a few sharp intakes of breath in the away end when the teams were announced. New signing Jemal Johnson made do with a place on the bench.

You'd be forgiven for wondering how a team with this amount of talent at its disposal is bottom of the league - well we soon found out.

The teams emerged into a hostile atmosphere boosted by a cheap ticket promotion which had forced an extra ten thousand of Leeds' most loyal supporters to crawl out of the woodwork since their last home game with Crystal Palace. A good number of these left before the final whistle and those that stayed booed them off at the end - who needs enemies...

Leeds started much the better of the two sides and penned QPR back in their own penalty area during the first ten minutes of the game. Thompson chipped a free kick towards Heath at the back post after a foul by Bolder on Nicholls but Rangers dealt with the problem comfortably.

Leeds swung crosses into the box and forced a couple of corners but the defence stood firm with Camp commanding his area well and the back four marking their men properly and winning most of the crucial battles in the air - all a far cry from last week of course where Southend bagged one and went close to getting a couple more with the time still in single figures.

It looked like it could be a long night, and only a matter of time before Leeds scored, but once the crowd had run through the one song they know a couple of times they settled down and so did the game. Healy's mishit shot that bobbled wide from 25 yards was as close as they came early on despite their dominance.

After weathering the early storm Rangers started to come into their own a little bit and should have gone into the lead in the 13th minute. Dexter Blackstock robbed Heath of the ball and ran through on goal but Ankergen raced to the edge of the area and smothered the ball before Blackstock could get a decent shot away.

Referee Tony Bates littered the first half with some bizarre decisions - including a free kick every time QPR put a cross into the box. Maybe the 'hand of Baidoo' goal was playing on his mind and he was determined to stop it happening again by preventing the ball from entering the Leeds penalty area at any point. Gareth Ainsworth struck the foot of the post after Blackstock nodded down Cook's cross but the whistle had long since gone in one such incident.

At the other end David Healy fired wide when he should have scored from Thompson's cross. The former Celtic winger's inclusion in the squad when he was meant to be injured had worried me somewhat before kick off but he didn't look fit right from the off and shortly after this incident he was replaced by young Jonathan Howson who scored his first Leeds goal away at Norwich a couple of weeks back.

In between Healy's chance and the Thompson sub Robbie Blake hit a free kick round the wall but despite seeming to make a mess of his footwork and ending up on the wrong side of it, Camp flung himself left and kept it out with a fine save.

During the last ten minutes of the half Rangers conceded a succession of free kicks around the penalty area and Sam Timoska was rightly booked for a crude challenge on Cresswell 25 yards from goal. Blake lofted one over the bar and clipped the outside of the post with another. The former Burnley man did get good connection on an inswinging crossed effort from the Leeds right aswell. Camp watched the ball all the way and saved well with his right hand. He also blocked a shot from Jonathan Douglas after Leeds passed a short corner out to the edge of the box.

It wasn't all good news for Camp though as he fell victim to a ball boy and some eccentric refereeing. Camp went to retrieve a ball from behind the goal and asked the ball boy to throw him one, something the ball boy had done every time until this point. Camp approached and asked again but the ball boy continued to just stand there and refuse. So Camp decided to stop as well, and just stood there letting the clock run down. Eventually the youngster dropped the ball at his feet. The home fans applauded and sounded their approval - yes very clever, wasting time at 0-0 in a game you need to win, good to see the schools in Leeds are doing their jobs.

The next goal kick arrived soon after and Camp was able to retrieve the ball without having to explain what a ball was to any of the local youths this time. He teed the ball up and got ready to clear it but the ball rolled out of the six yard box, Camp went to replace it and found himself confronted by Mr Bates who brandished a yellow card. Really poor decision from a referee desperate for an easy ride in front of a big crowd.

Leeds had played very well in the first ten minutes of the game and created a few half chances, this period of play ended when Blackstock went through on goal but couldn't score. The home side finished the half strongly as well but again they failed to score and again Rangers responded by creating a great chance of their own. Martin Rowlands sent a superb pass from the left flank to the right and found Ainsworth who cut inside his full back, played a one two with Blackstock but saw his close range effort that looked a certain goal blocked away by some last ditch Leeds defending.

At half time Rangers could perhaps count themselves lucky to be level, but they certainly weren't being dominated by the home team. We were treated to the noisy git with the microphone mouthing off during half time again including a hilarious moment where he yelled "come on guys, are we going for it? Lets hear you," and was met with an embarrassed silence. You think he'd take the hint and give up but we've been saying that for three seasons now and he's still there.

The second half was completely different to the first. Leeds got far fewer balls into the box, Rangers stopped conceding so many free kicks in their own half, Robbie Blake was marked out of the game by Stewart and Mancienne and QPR were actually the better team for long periods. Martin Rowlands had a far greater influence down the left than he had done in the first half. A cheeky stop and start move from Bolder taking him between two Leeds players on the halfway line summed up Rangers' renewed confidence. At the back Cullip, Mancienne, Stewart and Timoska all played very well.

Soon after the restart Richard Cresswell broke the offside trap and ran onto a pass from Healy but his low shot was saved by Camp but this was the best chance the home side created all half, although Healy would produce a piece of magic that almost gave his side the lead out of nothing a little later.

On the hour mark Adam Bolder sent a low drive towards the bottom corner which Ankergen saved well with both hands. Leeds then went straight down to the other end of the field and when the defence stood off Healy he unleashed a ferocious drive which crashed against the angle of post and bar with Camp finally beaten.

But as the half wore on the home fans became restless - demanding their team lump the ball into the box every time they strung passes together in midfield. This seemed to drain the fragile confidence of the Leeds players and a 0-0 draw looked increasingly likely.

Lee Cook came as close as anybody to breaking the deadlock with 15 minutes left for play. Cook had combined well with Blackstock throughout the second half and it was the latter that fed the former for this chance - playing Cook through on goal forty yards out. Cook took the ball on but with two centre halves for company he needed to check in and then out again to create an angle for the shot. He eventually took it on his unfavoured right foot and seemed certain that he'd curled it into the bottom corner but Ankergen produced a superb one handed save to deny him.

Cook and Blackstock continued to work hard and cause problems for the rest of the game - Rowlands, Bolder and Lomas also got involved at every opportunity and the five of them strung some nice passing moves together, actually looking like they were enjoying themselves at times. Ainsworth, sadly, was less effective and looked off the pace for most of the game. Hopefully he's not carrying another injury at the moment.

Other than Cook's effort, and Blackstock heading Bolder's cross over the bar, the remainder of the game played out with only the increasingly bizarre refereeing of Mr Bates to keep us entertained. He penalised Martin Rowlands for obstruction after he let a ball run out of play, awarded Rangers a free kick after an extravagant fall from Rowlands, and continued to award free kicks against the visitors every time they put a free kick or corner into the box - including an incredible decision awarded in favour of Leeds when two of their players challenged each other under no pressure from any QPR player.

Dexter Blackstock was also booked for challenging Alkergen for a high cross - the keeper got his own back the next time the ball came over, clattering Blackstock with a full blooded flying challenge. No foul given of course, and no treatment for Blackstock for a few minutes while the referee messed about trying to make his own medical diagnosis.

Danny Cullip was rightly carded for a crude body check on Healy which led to another free kick from the edge of the box but Blake fired over again.

Wise introduced Jemal Johnson as the home side searched for the killer goal but he looked every inch a player from Wolves reserves and offered no threat.

The four minutes of added time passed without incident and all that remained was for Leeds to be booed off and QPR to reflect on a job well done, in defence at least.

It's shame we didn't carry more threat in attack because apart from two ten minute periods at either end of the first half Leeds weren't up to much at all and looked like they would have surrendered if we could have got the crucial first goal. Their most impressive player Ankergen was the main reason we didn't.

I've said all season that Leeds will get out of it, and I'm sticking with that, but after seeing them in the flesh there's no logic to it. They are a very poor side.

As for QPR the back four and the keeper were the real stars of the show for them but most of the team had their moments in the game and this was a far superior performance to the last match at Southend. It's just so frustrating that we can't find a bit of consistency.

As if fretting about which QPR side will actually turn up for the next match isn't enough, it's Ian Holloway and his in form Plymouth side in town on Saturday.

Leeds: Ankergren 8, Armando Sa 8 (Foxe 76, 6), Rui Marques 7, Heath 6, Lewis 6, Blake 8 (Johnson 72, 6), Douglas 7, Thompson 6 (Howson 32, 6), Nicholls 6, Healy 6, Cresswell 6
Subs Not Used: Stack, Moore.
Booked: Douglas (foul), Foxe (foul)

QPR: Camp 8, Mancienne 8, Cullip 7, Stewart 7, Ainsworth 6, Lomas 7, Bolder 7, Timoska 8, Rowlands 7, Blackstock 7, Cook 7.
Subs Not Used: Cole, Kanyuka, Furlong, Ray Jones, Smith.
Booked: Timoska (foul), Camp (time wasting), Blackstock (foul), Cullip (foul).

Attendance: 29,593

QPR Star Man - Michael Mancienne 8 - A class apart once again, narrowly beats Lee Camp to this for a complete defensive display. Going to be something special.

Ref: T Bates (Staffordshire) 4 - Does my head in this bloke. Six bookings he made in this game. SIX! There was barely a bad tackle in the match. Picky, constant whistling, desperately looking for an offence from every corner and free kick. Piss poor.

Photo: Action Images

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