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Buz light years ahead of the rest
Buz light years ahead of the rest
Saturday, 22nd Dec 2007 12:58

QPR moved out of the drop zone with a hard fought 2-1 win against Colchester at Loftus Road.

There was a message board post last week that made me chuckle, pleading with our new billionaire owners not to travel together in the same helicopter. If this game is anything to go by it's the heart conditions of Briatore, Ecclestone and Mittal we should be worried about rather than the dangers of air travel.

For an hour everything was fine. Colchester rarely threatened and QPR cruised into a comfortable lead thanks to two sublime but very different goals from Akos Buzsaky. It looked like we'd be able to play out the remaining time with few scares or problems and start looking forward to our Christmas trip to the south coast.

But when have QPR ever done anything the easy way? Referee Darren Whitestone allowed Colchester to substitute Teddy Sheringham when he really should have been sent off instead and from then on there was only one team in it. A combination of mistakes from Rehman and Bolder let in Yeates for his second goal against us this season. The U's hit the post when Lee Camp uncharacteristically dropped a cross, and had what looked like a blatant penalty waved away late on when Lisbie was accused of diving.

Rangers had Damion Stewart sent off with ten minutes still to play and the only surprise in the end after the alarming way the team regressed in the second half was that they hung on to all three points.

The home side were dealt a blow before kick off when Martin Rowlands apparently reported in sick and unable to play. Rowan Vine returned from a ban and filled in for Rowlands wide on the left while Buzsaky played off Blackstock in attack. Adam Bolder also came back from a ban to start in the midfield with Leigertwood and Ainsworth played wide right. At the back the unlikely combination of Malcolm, Stewart, Rehman and Barker was looking for a third straight clean sheet in front of Camp.

Colchester, with just one win in 11 matches, left out Matthew Connolly the loaned Arsenal defender that could well be a QPR player very shortly if the rumours are to be believed. Bela Balogh came in for him. Clive Platt partnered Teddy Sheringham in attack, Karl Duguid and former QPR loanee Kevin Lisbie returned to the U's bench.

Rangers started very brightly. Vine saw a lot of the ball wide on the left and caused the visitors real problems with three or four direct runs into the penalty area. Inside the first two minutes one such dash saw him meet a sublime pass from Buzsaky with a fierce shot that Gerken did brilliantly to save. Minutes later he skipped round his man and fired a low cross through the six yard box with no QPR player close enough to get the key touch and force the opening goal.

QPR's best periods of pressure in the game came when Vine saw a lot of the ball, their worst spells came when the service stopped heading his way. If he could just score more goals he'd be a wonderful player, but his poor strike rate allied with high asking price may well put Rangers off in January. Still, he played pretty well here.

Colchester's Johnnie Jackson forced Camp into a smart save down in the bottom corner with a free kick, and an interception by Rehman denied Platt a run on goal. Overall QPR's defence remained relatively untroubled in the first half. Colchester on the other hand looked ragged at times with desperate defending required to clear a number of first half corners and Balogh booked for holding back Vine on another one of his marauding runs.

Camp comfortably held a long range shot from Izzet after 20 minutes but moments later Buzsaky showed how it should be done. A throw in down the right flank level with the edge of the penalty area from Bob Malcolm found the Hungarian with his back to goal wide on the flank. Three touches later he'd beaten his man, turned, moved across the face of the penalty box to improve the angle and arrowed a beautiful 20 yarder over Gerken and into the top corner. That was his fourth goal since signing from Plymouth and all of them have been something really special, he could well become another legendary QPR number 10. There was more to come from him in the second half as well.

On the half hour there was an incident between Gareth Ainsworth and Kem Izzet tight to the touchline on the South Africa Road side. Last week Ainsworth got involved with Michael Gray in the same part of the pitch and sent the former Sunderland man crashing over the advertising hoardings. This time it looked less deliberate and I'm not even sure there was a foul but Izzet was sent crashing onto the perimeter track and after a lengthy spell of treatment it was decided that he would need to be replaced after suffering a nasty hand injury. Luke Guttridge came on for him, Ainsworth wasn't spoken to by the official.

Former QPR man Kevin McLeod drove a shot into the Loft as the half came to a close, he'd shown very little to suggest QPR were wrong to sell him on up to this point and Malcolm seemed to be coping pretty well with him.

At the start of the second period Baldwin was booked for a foul on Vine who continued to cause the U's problems in the early part of the half. Sheringham fired wide on the turn as the visitors looked to haul themselves level but their task was made doubly difficult in the 52nd minute when QPR went two nil up.

This was another very special goal, but in a different way to the first. This one was all about speed, control and movement off the ball. Vine started it all off again, racing into the Colchester half and cutting in from the left wing before threading a fine pass through to Blackstock who in turn flicked a delightful first time pass off to his right where Buzsaky had overlapped and the Hungarian slid a lovely low finish past Gerken and into the net. I have to say, it's going to be a long time before I get tired of seeing that goal and it'll need something really, really special to beat it as goal of the season in my opinion. That's the kind of football we love to see our team play.

The final pass in the move from Blackstock was, sadly, one of the only positive contributions he made to the performance. Playing up front alone is never easy, and I'm not convinced Blackstock is cut out to do it, but he just hasn't got the same spring in his step, the same work ethic and the same threat as he possessed last season. He's not playing particularly well at the moment and with the names of various strikers floating around ahead of the transfer window opening next week he's going to have to up his game fairly quickly or risk being replaced. He's never really been the same since I got his name on the back of my shirt - sorry Dexter.

That should have been that. Colchester looked a poor side low on confidence, QPR seemed to be picking up and looked capable of going on to register a big score. Infuriatingly though they sat back. Over the next half an hour the midfield got deeper and deeper and deeper until we were effectively playing with a flat back eight. Mikele Leigertwood picked up a groin injury but stayed on the pitch and wasn't nearly half as effective in the destroyer role for the rest of the game. There were times when a Colchester full back was picking the ball up on halfway and Ainsworth and Vine were another thirty or forty yards away in their own half - so immediately we were conceding huge portions of yards into our own half before the move had really got started.

It's a crazy way to play the game and I hope it's a result of us simply having too many poor players rather than a tactic we're going to continue with when more talented signings arrive. The first warning sign that this may not be the best way to go came when Camp inexplicably dropped a routine cross from McLeod at the back post and Sheringham stabbed the loose ball against the base of the post when he should have scored. Camp redeemed himself a minute later with a fine save to deny Guttridge but it was clear that the away side were starting to get on top.

Sure enough the deficit was halved in the 62nd minute. A flick on from Platt was nudged past Rehman by his own team mate Bolder. The touch off the skipper wrong footed Rehman who looks slow on the turn at the best of times and he hit the deck allowing Yeates to race through unchecked and lift the ball over Camp to make it 2-1. Poor tracking from midfield, poor play by Bolder and poor defending by Rehman - really not a goal to be very proud of from a QPR point of view.

Mind you QPR really didn't do too much to be proud of in the final half hour of this game. They seemed desperate to snatch a defeat from the jaws of a victory. Granville drove over the bar, Yeates had a half hearted penalty claim waved away and Sheringham shot wide but it wasn't the missed chances everybody was talking about when Sheringham finally left the field to be replaced by Lisbie.

Just before the substitution Sheringham went over the ball on Bob Malcolm and then appeared to have a second go at the Scot as he laid on the floor. It could easily have been a sending off but when the melee had clamed down referee Whitestone allowed the veteran front man to leave the field in a substitution rather than sending him off. It all looked a bit like a junior football matches where referees allow a team to sub a player rather than send him off and cost him his pocket money. Sheringham, and Colchester, can count themselves lucky because he really couldn't have had many complaints if he had been dismissed for a poor tackle. To make matters worse Damion Stewart was then harshly carded when a simple free kick would have sufficed as punishment.

That came back to haunt Stewart ten minutes later. As if Rangers needed any further problems they were reduced to ten men with eight minutes and stoppage time still to play. Mark Yeates collected possession after a scrappy passage of play just outside the centre circle but before he had a chance to turn and run at the defence Stew Peas came flying in with a rash, two footed ball and all tackle from behind. There's no doubt the Jamaican got a big piece of the ball but it was a dangerous tackle that left both players injured and in the modern game you're always going to be in trouble for tackling like that. Sure enough when he got to his feet Whitestone showed him a second yellow and subsequent red - he'd spend his early shower no doubt reflecting on a soft first yellow.

De Canio now had to introduce Walton from the bench as an emergency centre half, when I'm sure he'd have preferred to sling him on to bolster the midfield ranks as time ticked away. Fellow sub Marc Nygaard also spent the majority of the closing stages as an emergency defender, providing a bit of height to the backline that it lacked after Stewart's departure.

With the sands of time slipping away Colchester thought they were in for an equaliser when Kevin Lisbie raced in behind the defence onto a Clive Platt flick on. Lisbie ran into the area before collapsing under a challenge from Malcolm and Walton. Whitestone put the whistle in his mouth and blew, it seemed certain he'd given a penalty. He ran towards the spot before giving a prolonged, exaggerated wave of his arm that looked like it was going to turn into a heartbreaking point but in the end was simply the most extravagant extrication of a yellow card from a pocket you're ever likely to see. Lisbie was booked for diving, Rangers lived to fight another day. From where I was sitting it looked like a pen and I think that was the longest three seconds of my life ever.

Lisbie went close with a header that Camp held under the cross bar, Granville saw a shot deflected wide and Jackson went close as well. It was desperate stuff down at the School End with QPR bodies hurled in front of the ball every time a Colchester player drew his foot back to shoot - the boys seemed determined not to fall victim to another last minute sickener but it really should never have come to last ditch blocks and clinging desperately on, this was a game that was over after an hour.

When four minutes of stoppage time was advertised you could tell the home fans feared the worst. However a strange turn of events saw most of that stoppage time spent at the Loft End. Akos Buzsaky tried to shuffle a rolling ball out for a corner off Adam Virgo - the pair came together and Buzsaky hit the deck with Virgo apparently pushing him in the face. There's no doubt the Hungarian was play acting, Virgo is a big lad but he hadn't done enough to warrant the histrionics. Like Sheringham earlier though he was lucky not to be sent off, in the end the amount of time the incident ran off the clock was good enough to see QPR through to the final whistle that was greeted with sighs of relief all round Loftus Road.

So another afternoon suffering at the hands of our beloved team. They really do put us through it sometimes. Two nil up and playing very nicely indeed against a poor team low on confidence, it seemed certain that QPR would be able to cruise through to full time and claim a much needed three points. But we brought a whole raft of problems on ourselves - we stopped retaining possession, we lost all our shape, we sat back so deep I thought one or two of our players were going to be charged for tickets in the lower School End. You cannot defend a lead this way and get away with it too often - the best thing to do is maintain possession high up the pitch, and keep your shape. The midfield just melted away after about an hour, not helped by Leigertwood picking up a knock and one or two people - like Blackstock and Ainsworth - having a bit of an off day.

Without Buzsaky we'd have probably lost this game and it's vitally important that he's tied down to a permanent deal as soon as possible - the guy could become a Loftus Road legend.

"Enjoy it" said Luigi De Canio afterwards. Can somebody rub my chest until the feeling comes back? Assuming my heart holds out, see you all at Plymouth on Boxing Day.

QPR: Camp 6, Malcolm 6, Stewart 6, Rehman 6, Barker 6, Ainsworth 5, Leigertwood 6 (Walton 83, -), Bolder 6, Buzsaky 8, Blackstock 5 (Nygaard 75, 6), Vine 7
Subs Not Used: Cole, Moore, Balanta
Sent Off: Stewart (two yellows)
Booked: Leigertwood (foul), Stewart (foul) Stewart (tackle from behind)
Goals: Buzsaky 27 (assisted Malcolm), 52 (assisted Blackstock)

Colchester: Gerken 6, Balogh 4, Baldwin 5 (Guy 88, -), Virgo 6, Granville 6, Yeates 7, Jackson 6, Izzet 6 (Guttridge 36, 6), McLeod 6, Sheringham 5 (Lisbie 71, 7), Platt 6
Subs Not Used: Cousins, Duguid
Booked: Balogh (shirt pull), Baldwin (foul), Lisbie (diving) Virgo (fighting)
Goals: Yeates 62 (assisted Platt)

QPR Star Man - Akos Buzsaky 8 - The difference between the sides, two fantastic goals and some wonderful passes from the midfield. When we start to put some decent players around him I can't wait to see the results because he's a very talented lad. Referee - Dean Whitestone 6 - I actually came away from the game thinking he'd done quite well but as I've reflected during my Sunday in front of the television his mark has dropped by a couple as I've remembered some things that worried me about his performance. Firstly Sheringham should have been sent off in my opinion, secondly Stewart's first yellow was very harsh and thirdly I reckon that was a Colchester penalty at the end. In general play he seemed happy to allow the game to flow and seemed reasonably sensible, but he did get too many key decisions wrong for too high a mark.

Attendance: 12,464 (900 Colchester fans approx) A smaller and quieter following than we're used to seeing from Colchester, and I do hope the songs about how much money we've got are going to die away as the season goes on, it just doesn't sit comfortably with me. Miserable northern git, yeh I know.

Photo: Action Images

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