QPR get back to winning ways against lowly Forest â€“ full match report Sunday, 19th Oct 2008 20:57
Second half goals from Angelo Balanta and Akos Buzsaky, both on he back of long throw ins, were enough for QPR to squeeze home against bottom of the table Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
If QPR are to use the latest international break as a chance for a fresh start it seemed fitting that they started in exactly the same way as they did the season proper – with an unconvincing 2-1 home win against poor opposition.
Against Barnsley on day one the R’s just about deserved their win but the performance was a long way from what we’d all like to see - the same could be said on Saturday as QPR played decently in fits and starts but never really started to move through the gears and ended the game hanging on to a narrow lead against opponents they really should have had killed off long before.
The goals when they came said a lot about the slightly more direct approach Rangers have adopted in recent matches – Angelo Balanta and Akos Buzsaky both notched their first league goals of the season from Fitz Hall long throws. It wasn’t all long balls and set pieces, QPR did play some decent football at times, but it’s clear that confidence has been dented by recent results and the atmosphere at home games. Here’s hoping that this result can be the first step on the road to rebuilding that confidence, and achieving better results and an improved level of performance – we’ll certainly need the latter as we go to Swansea and Reading later this week.
Once again Dowie made changes to his starting eleven from the last match. Angelo Balanta was rewarded for good goal scoring form in the reserves with a rare start alongside Dexter Blackstock in attack. In midfield Gavin Mahon dropped to the bench allowing Rowlands to move into the middle with Leigertwood and Buzsaky to start wide right, Lee Cook played down the left. At the back Hall and Stewart were the centre halfs, Ramage and Delaney the full backs ahead of Cerny in goal – Matt Connolly’s continued omission mystifies me.
Forest, without a win in eight games, hoped to have traditional scourge of QPR Robert Earnshaw back in attack after missing out recently with a hamstring injury but he was ruled out again which allowed Andy Cole to start up front alongside Nathan Tyson. Cole scored a hat trick on his last visit to Loftus Road with Burnley.
With both teams struggling for form and desperate for a win it was no surprise to see the game start in open fashion with efforts on goal at both ends. Nathan Tyson bobbled an effort wide at the Loft End after turning Damion Stewart while Akos Buzsaky could only find the Forest wall with a free kick after a foul on him by Kelvin Wilson. Forest keeper Paul Smith also had to deal with a long throw from Fitz Hall that Damion Stewart flicked on at the near post, Forest would go on to struggle with that particular set piece later in the game, and Cerny dived low at Tyson’s feet to beat him to a low cross from Anderson who was making his Forest debut on loan from Liverpool.
Rangers did try to pass the ball throughout the game, although often the moves lacked pace and incision, taking an extra pass when one wasn’t needed or taking too long to pick out the right option. One move where the home side did get going ended with Buzsaky crossing for Blackstock in the tenth minute but the striker did well to reach the ball at all and couldn’t get any pace or accuracy on his goalbound header.
Blackstock then picked up the first booking of the game from referee Fred Graham in confusing circumstances – Nottingham Forest broke down the field on the counter attack and Blackstock wrestled with one of the runners in back play. The attack ended when Cerny flicked the ball away from Tyson with his finger tips after good build up by Anderson and Cohen. The ball stayed in play and didn’t go dead for several minutes until a foul by Bennett on Buzsaky. The referee then returned to book Blackstock for his previous indiscretion, a good decision but one that mystified most people in the ground at the time because most hadn’t seen the offence and those that had had long since forgotten about it.
Buzsaky fired a warning shot on goal from 25 yards after a quarter of an hour, a dipping volley that went a couple of feet wide of the post, and went closer ten minutes later from a similar distance – Smith needed two attempts to gather it and initially looked like he’d fumbled it into the back of the net which would have typified Forest’s luck so far this season. In between those two incidents the keepers traded superb saves with Cerny denying Tyson and Smith getting down well at his near post to deny Blackstock as he met a low cross from Delaney with a low, first time half volley.
To tell you the truth at this stage I was starting to think we might be in for a nil nil. Blackstock and Balanta showed good hold up play and some excellent lay offs but didn’t look to be posing too much threat on the goal, likewise at the other end Tyson was proving to be a real handful but was just about being dealt with by Stewart and Hall while Cole was doing absolutely nothing for his team other than constantly moan at the referee. Cole did turn Stewart and fire a ball into the area on the half hour but the impressive Hall beat Tyson to the ball.
Damien Delaney got into a good crossing position but decided to fire a 35 yard volley into the away end instead and Tyson only found the Loft with an acrobatic effort as the malaise threatened to set in before half time. Both sides were given a muted reception by their fans at the break but to be honest I think some people were desperate to have a chance for a good moan because Rangers didn’t play too badly at all in the first half and deserved a decent reception at the break.
Forest were forced into a change before the start of the second half - Bennett was replaced by Lynch -and with Wilson seemingly struggling with a knock as well the problems were starting to mount for Colin Calderwood. Still Forest attacked first after the restart and Cerny saved well to deny Cole.
Rangers took the lead three minutes after half time. Fitz Hall heaved a long throw into the near post, Damien Delaney flicked the ball on and Angelo Balanta was on hand with an instinctive finish, outstretching a leg to divert the ball in off the underside of the bar for his first goal at the Loft End. In the South Africa Road bookies before the match the guy in the queue next to me was trying to get Balanta for the first goal but was struggling for a price because he wasn’t on the form, I’d love to know if he got the bet on in the end.
Cole tried to equalise straight from the kick off but was denied by a block from Delaney and then McCleary was booked for cynically hauling back Ramage after the full back latched onto a Buzsaky pass and ran in behind the Forest defence wide on the right.
QPR’s lead was doubled before the hour mark in almost identical circumstances to the first goal. Fitz Hall’s long throw again proved to be a useful weapon although Forest probably thought they’d survived when Lynch beat Delaney to the ball at the near post – sadly for the division’s bottom team the ball fell straight to Akos Buzsaky on the edge of the penalty area and although his left footed shot was far from cleanly struck it was accurate enough to beat Smith at the near post and all but seal the points for the home team.
Hall had put in an excellent performance to this point, probably his best of the season, but as happens so often when he seems to be playing well a fitness concern forced his withdrawal with 25 minutes still to play. Initially I thought it must be a recurrence of his groin problems that have blighted his time at QPR so far but according to comments after the match he was feeling unwell. Matthew Connolly came on to replace him at centre half and proved to be a classy addition to the side as always.
Buzsaky almost made it 3-0 in the 70th minute with what would have been one of the great QPR goals of all time. The Hungarian received the ball on the Ellerslie Road side of the ground from a throw in, he trapped it between his knees to the delight of the crowd then bounced it up in front of him and attempted a 30 yard lob from wide on the right that had Smith beaten all ends up but ultimately cleared the cross bar by no more than a couple of inches. Loftus Road rose as one to acclaim a really tremendous piece of skill, had it gone in I think the roof would have lifted off the stadium.
Dowie then sent on Di Carmine for Balanta and the Italian showed some excellent touches and hold up play after his introduction, he may yet have a role to play this season. Still hearts were in mouths all round the ground when Tyson ran onto a long through ball on the edge of the area and cracked a volley on goal that Radek Cerny superbly saved one handed away to his left. This was easily Cerny’s best performance for Rangers with two or three excellent saves and, at last, some command of his area and good catches. From the corner Chambers hammered the ball into the frustrated Forest fans in the upper School End when he really should have scored.
Forest made changes of their own with just over a quarter of an hour to play, Fletcher and Anderson were both withdrawn for McGugan and Arron Davies. Fletcher and Anderson had probably been Forest’s best players along with Tyson and their withdrawal, particularly that of Anderson, was met with boos and chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” from the away end. Both players are short of game time and may well have been tiring, still it did little for Calderwood’s hopes of keeping his job to have such a spontaneous and public protest against him.
QPR didn’t appear to be in any great trouble to me and looked all set to cruise through to full time until, with eight minutes still to play, Sam Di Carmine was harshly punished for turning Cohen illegally on the penalty area and Forest were given a route back into the game. The free kick looked ideally placed for a left footed inswinger but sub Lewis McGugan caught everybody off guard with a right footed shot that cleared the wall and ripped into the back of the net.
I personally thought the wall could have done more, certainly two or three of them in there didn’t even jump, and Damien Delaney let Blackstock know in no uncertain terms what he thought of his efforts, shoving his team mate in the chest at one stage. As Forest returned to the halfway line Lee Cook was shown a yellow card, presumably for telling the referee exactly what he thought of the original decision – bloody stupid booking that one.
Cook had a great chance to seal the victory with a third goal in the final minute as he broke through the middle with options left and right and only two Forest players for company, in the end he dallied on the ball too long, was forced wide and then fell to ground theatrically in the penalty area. The fans shouted for a spot kick but it never was and Forest broke again, leaving Cook clutching his knee but thankfully after all his problems it turned out only to be cramp – it’s a shame he couldn’t have slipped a ball through to Di Carmine who would have been through on goal.
Three minutes of time was added on, the majority of which was taken up by Akos Buzsaky leaving the field ever so slowly to be replaced by Gavin Mahon and a long overdue booking for Nathan Tyson who had been adopting a physical approach all afternoon and almost came to blows with Stewart on several occasions – so much for laid back Damion, he’s spent the week beating up Ricardo Fuller in Jamaica and he was back it here.
Twice during this period QPR were awarded a free kick in their own half, an ideal chance you would think to keep the ball and kill the game of, but on both occasions Delaney launched an aimless ball down the line and conceded possession straight back to Forest. I do sometimes wonder about some of the brainless things footballers do, luckily it didn’t cost us, the expected Alamo from Forest never materialised and the whistle came as a welcome relief to Rangers who picked up their first win in five league games. Forest are now three points adrift at the foot of the table.
Forest for me are in a bit of false league position. They didn’t seem to have much confidence in their own ability, even when they pulled a goal back, but Tyson was a handful up front and Anderson looked a steady player on the wing. They’re missing a few players through injury, notably Moussi and Earnshaw, and I think when they start getting them back they will improve. Forest fans won’t thank me for saying it with my record of predictions but I didn’t think they would go down before Saturday and I still don’t having seen them. Whether Calderwood gets time to turn it round himself remains to be seen, the travelling fans certainly didn’t seem to happy with him on Saturday.
From a QPR point of view, the performance was not too bad but I’m not doing and hand stands. First and foremost we won the game and that was very important after the recent run of poor results. It lifts us back into the play off picture ahead of two very difficult away games this week and there were quite a few positives to go with the result as well – it was good to see Buzsaky back in the team and back to somewhere near his best, likewise an end to the Mahon and Leigertwood partnership was welcome with Rowlands much more effective in the middle of the park. I was impressed with Balanta’s touch and awareness and with Fitz Hall at the back although it was disappointing to see him go off again. Radek Cerny also had his best game for the club in goal.
However, we will need to play much better than this to maintain a position of sixth. Certainly Swansea and Reading will both beat us this week if we don’t move the performance level up a couple of notches and we will play better than this and lose. It was good to see us trying to pass the ball, and moving it widthways to try and stretch Forest, but the passing was often too slow and laboured and lacked fluency. Hopefully if results pick up and confidence returns that will improve.
For me the most important thing now is keeping a settled team – I see no reason, apart from possibly an injury to Hall, why this team cannot start again on Tuesday and while I would rather see Buzsaky in the middle and Connolly in for Ramage I think a lot of our recent problems have been caused by the constant chopping and changing and it would be nice to think that for the first time this season we could pick the same starting eleven for two games running on Tuesday night.
As we have been constantly reminded by our coaching staff in recent weeks – we’re in the play off places and the last 16 of the League Cup, so while there is plenty to be concerned about we’re not doing too badly overall. It could be worse, just ask Nottingham Forest.
Forest: Smith 5, Wilson 6, Bennett 6 (Lynch 46, 5), Chambers 6, Morgan 6, Fletcher 7 (McGugan 73, 7), Anderson 7 (Davies 73, 6), Cohen 6, Cole 6, McCleary 6, Tyson 7 Subs Not Used: Martin, Thornhill Booked: McCleary (foul), Tyson (repetitive fouling) Goals: McGugan 84 (assisted Cohen)
QPR Star Man – Akos Buzsaky 8 Good to see Akos back to something like his best despite being played out of position wide on the right. He was the difference between the two sides, scoring the winning goal and giving QPR a much needed added bit of quality and cutting edge. If only his glorious lob had found the corner of the net, that would have put the icing on the cake.
Referee: Fred Graham (Essex) 8 Very decent overall I thought. Hard to argue with any of the bookings, the game was allowed to flow and he played lots of advantage. An unfussy official who doesn’t want to be the centre of attention – rarely spends a lot of time speaking the players and allows a bit of physical contact which is a good thing.
Attendance: 15,122 (1800 Forest fans approx) The atmosphere certainly wasn’t the best, one or two boos at half time which was just ridiculous and although the Forest fans did find their voices every now and again they were pretty quiet as well. A feeling of nervousness really came through for me.