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QPR turn in abject performance at Watford – full match report
QPR turn in abject performance at Watford – full match report
Sunday, 23rd Nov 2008 15:32

Paulo Sousa was left in no doubts about the size of his task at QPR after an dire performance lacking in any positives whatsoever against Watford resulted in a 3-0 defeat that flattered the visitors.

I had a lovely cooked breakfast yesterday. Nice crisp bit of bacon, fat juicy sausages, big pile of scrambled eggs with mushrooms and tomatoes and as much thick toast as I could eat. It really was tremendous. Scott’s Café, Covent Garden – give it a go next time you’re in the area.

You may think that is a strange way to start a match report but I’ve been accused of being negative in the past so I’m trying to always start with a positive. Even the pre-match drinks were ruined for me by watching Plymouth v Cardiff – Plymouth looked very good, far better than us, and we’re playing them in a couple of weeks. That worried me even before QPR’s ramshackle excuse for a team embarrassed itself at Vicarage Road.

There was a real sense of déjà vu before the kick off when the team was announced. At Watford last year Luigi De Canio named a bizarre starting eleven with one eye on a game with Leicester two days later. The team was certainly no less perplexing on Saturday and with Cook, Rowlands, Buzsaky and Vine all absent it could be argued that Rangers were missing the first choice midfield four that most fans would pick were everybody fit. We knew about Vine and Buzsaky beforehand of course but there was no news of Rowlands’ calf strain before the match and there’s still been no news on what is wrong with Cook who had been speaking during the previous week about how much he was looking forward to the match.

The biggest surprise though was the absence of new signing Heidar Helguson from both the starting eleven and substitutes bench. Helguson’s signing was the main reason for optimism before the match and his absence was perplexing and worrying. It has since transpired that he’s probably been sent back to Bolton already although in true QPR style there has been no word on that one way or the other – just a succession of disappearing and reappearing articles about the original signing on the official website. Farce. An embarrassing farce. Another one.

So the team selected in Paulo Sousa’s first match saw Cerny start behind Ramage, Stewart, Hall and Delaney. Ledesma and Ephraim started wide in midfield with Mahon and Leigertwood once again forming their dynamic central midfield partnership that has worked so well in the past. Excuse my sarcasm, I’m not in the best frame of mind today. Leigertwood was outstanding at right back in a game and a half before his ban and yet returned in the middle of midfield while the hapless Peter Ramage starts at full back. Am I the only one who doesn’t understand this? Up front Patrick Agyemang got a deserved recall alongside Dexter Blackstock.

Watford have had one or two problems of their own recently and came into this match in the bottom three and without a league win in six attempts. Caretaker manager Malky Mackay has stated openly that he wants to succeed Aidy Boothroyd on a permanent basis and his team, that included Tamas Priskin and Tommy Smith in attack who have both scored against QPR for other clubs in the past, did him proud with a high octane and wholly committed performance. Watford clearly aren’t the best team in the league, they are probably one of the worst we have faced, but they wanted it and they worked bloody hard for each other and that was more than enough against a lifeless QPR team. Mackay dropped Leigh Bromby in favour of Darren Ward at centre half following a defeat at Barnsley a week previously.

The Hornets had the first shot on goal when a really well worked three man short corner routine played McAnuff into space on the corner of the penalty area and he hit a half volley just over the cross bar. Watford didn’t try this routine again for the rest of the match which seemed strange as it worked well – you could say that QPR may have learnt from it and counteracted it if tried a second time but then again QPR didn’t look like a team that was really paying very much attention to what was going on. The R’s whipped in a decent first corner of their own after three minutes, Ledesma the deliverer, but referee Andy Penn whistled for a Watford free kick in the penalty box – decisions from him in favour of the home team would become the norm as the afternoon went on.

McAnuff was heavily involved with the next two Watford chances as well as first he combined with Smith to stand a ball up to the back post which Harley headed down but straight at Cerny who gathered at the second attempt. Then Williamson picked up a pass inside from the former Wimbledon winger and fired a 20 yard drive wide of the post. McAnuff always seems to have a good game against QPR to me, I’ve never failed to be impressed with him when I’ve seen him against us although he seems to blow hot and cold the rest of the time.

QPR’s first chance of the game came after ten minutes when Agyemang showed good strength and persistence down the right flank and whipped a low ball into the near post where Ward’s clearance hit Blackstock and flashed a foot wide of the post – had it been on target Rangers would have been ahead and Loach in the Watford goal would not have even known it had happened.

The sides exchanged shots on goal either side of the quarter hour mark with first the impressive Williamson hitting a low shot that Cerny smothered, then at the other end Ephraim caught a partially cleared Mikele Leigertwood cross full on the volley but Loach watched it all the way and saved comfortably under his cross bar with two hands.

Watford took the lead thanks to a frankly laughable decision from the match official Mr Penn. This referee has history with QPR, harshly sending off a Rangers player on both his previous meetings with us, and he did nothing to endear himself to the travelling support on Saturday with a joke of a performance, aided and abetted by two abysmal linesman, the crowning glory of which came in the twenty sixth minute. Poor defending wide right from Ramage and Ledesma allowed Doyley time to cross to the back post, Damien Delaney headed the ball straight up in the air and then as it dropped Leigertwood and Harley challenged for the ball and the referee pointed straight to the penalty spot. It was hard not to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all and the referee ignored a dozen or more identical offences in both penalty boxes over the course of the rest of the game – still he had his little moment in the spotlight and that’s all that mattered. Rangers the victims of short man syndrome here.

Tommy Smith took a long run at the ball and beat Radek Cerny easily with a low shot into the bottom right hand corner as he looked.

The decision may have been wrong but the scoreline didn’t flatter QPR, they’d been poor to this point and completely fell apart thereafter. Immediately after the goal Ward was left free and unmarked at a corner but could only find Cerny with his header.

Eight minutes later a soft free kick award from the referee for a foul by Mahon on Harley presented Williamson with a chance to strike on goal from fully 30 yards out. Mahon was booked for the challenge and then Williamson crashed the ball off the base of the post although Cerny did look to have it covered had it been a foot the other way. QPR didn’t make the most of the let off though as the ball rebounded to Harley who was completely unmarked and he crossed low for Darren Ward who was similarly unattended to beat Cerny with a low drive into the net from twelve yards. The defending for this second goal was almost as laughable as the refereeing for the first.

Rangers missed their best chance of the match five minutes before half time when Ephraim floated a rare QPR free kick, the referee wasn’t nearly as keen to whistle in Rangers’ favour as he was in Watford’s, to the back post. Dexter Blackstock was completely alone and unmarked a the ball dropped but caught in two minds between heading or volleying it he eventually stopped down and did neither, bundling the ball wide when it seemed easier to score. At the other end Ross Jenkins could only head over the bar when well placed to do better.

To compound QPR’s poor performance and the antics of the referee – both linesmen hardly covered themselves in glory either. Three times in the first half the merry flag waver at the far end gave a QPR player offside when he was either retreating or not interfering with the play whatsoever. The one in front of the away end was just as hysterically incompetent, failing to raise the flag for a throw in when the ball was so far off the pitch a Watford player almost had to retrieve it from the empty terrace and then awarding a corner when an aimless ball down the line from Mariappa bounced three times and rolled dead without a further touch.

As if the first two goals weren’t bad enough defensively QPR really excelled themselves in conceding a third just before the break. Tommy Smith was tight to the touchline with two men around him when he collected the ball but a limp wrested attempt at a tackle from Ephraim allowed him to skip away down the line. Mikele Leigertwood’s embarrassing attempt at a challenge carried all the commitment and heart of a conscientious objector forced into a war and meant the former Derby man was free to reach the byline, run into the penalty area and cut the ball back for fellow midfielder Lee Williamson to drill home a third via a deflection. Cerny should have done better with the shot.

An embarrassment, an absolute fucking embarrassment. Not a lot of evidence of Sousa’s three golden rules here. Hard work? None. Loyalty? None. Ambition? Don’t make me laugh. QPR were pathetic, totally and utterly pathetic. Good God only knows what was said to this piss poor excuse for a football team at half time but I’d dearly have loved to get in there and tell them what I thought of their spineless first half display myself. They were an embarrassment to themselves, the club and the fans. Welcome to QPR Mr Sousa, best of luck with this lot.

Whatever was said at half time made no difference whatsoever. Watford picked up where they left off and QPR did likewise. Tommasi came into midfield to replace Mahon who had been very poor and made no improvement whatsoever. Within minutes and inswinging free kick from Williamson was flapped at by Cerny but the Czech keeper redeemed himself with a fine save as Damien Delaney inexplicably headed powerfully towards his own goal. Delaney really was having one – giving the ball away with merciless regularity and defending like a pub footballer. This was easily his worst game for QPR by some distance and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this was the worst performance of his career – but he wasn’t alone in that.

Ten minutes after the break Emmanuel Ledesma engaged in some antics that have become typical of his time with QPR so far. A foul on Harley by the corner flag brought a Watford free kick in a dangerous area and as the referee came across to deal with it Ledesma theatrically fell to the ground claiming some form of indiscretion from Harley. He rolled around on the deck as if he’d been knifed in the chest and received lengthy treatment from Paul Hunter before deciding he could not continue and being replaced by Daniel Parejo. Somewhere in amongst all the chaos Penn showed Ledesma a yellow card, either for the original foul or the play acting it wasn’t clear which. Needless to say Parejo didn’t improve the QPR performance greatly, seamlessly slipping into the pattern of aimless long balls and possession concession.

Damion Stewart picked up a booking for a wild lunge on Tommy Smith around an hour into the game, Watford didn’t make the most of the subsequent free kick tight to the touchline though.

Sam Di Carmine was sent on for Blackstock to chase the punts down field with 20 minutes to go but it was Watford still looking the more likely to score and Priskin went within an inch of doing just that with a fierce half volley from the edge of the penalty area. Cerny seemed to get a finger tip on the ball to flick it over but Penn awarded a goal kick. At the other end a tame shot at the back post from Ephraim that was hit straight at Loach brought raucous celebrations in the away end as the travelling supporters mocked their own team for lack of shots on goal.

Then with ten minutes left Rangers’ day was complete when Mr Penn proudly hoisted a red card aloft and dismissed Fitz Hall for a mistimed lunge on sub Will Hoskins. Hall had received lengthy treatment on what looked to be his troublesome groin injury about ten minutes before this and wasn’t moving freely at all which probably explains, while not excusing, the lateness of the hit on Hoskins and I’m not convinced this was a red card offence.

Sadly I’m writing about the sending off based on the Sunday morning television highlights because, I’m not ashamed to admit, I was on Watford High Street when it happened. For the first time in more than a decade I walked out early, the seventy fifth minute to be precise. Occasionally it’s only been the thought that I have to write a match report for this site that has kept me at games but apart from one match at Kenilworth Road where I missed the stoppage time, and our equaliser, to avoid being caught in the police cordon and missing my train home I have stubbornly stayed to the bitter end of every QPR game since 1998. Saturday was too much even for me, I was back at Kings Cross by quarter past five.

Hopefully this was just a bad day at the office. The refereeing for the first goal was a joke and Watford scored again very quickly after that to kill the game off. Maybe it was just one of those days.

Another possibility, a more concerning one, is the players are voting with their feet. Perhaps the patience of our squad has finally snapped after the constant chopping and changing of managers and the interference of Flavio Briatore. Paulo Sousa’s public dressing down of the squad and threat to kick out any player that doesn’t buy into his ideas made uncomfortable viewing during the week, especially with Flavio standing next to him and it being screened on the official website. Maybe the players are just throwing their hands up at the situation and saying ‘bollocks to you’. We’ll soon know, on Tuesday night we play a very poor Charlton side at home and if we play like this we will lose again.

The reason I raise this second possibility is the sheer manner of the performance yesterday. The way our players defended, tackled and hoofed long balls down the pitch was mind blowing to watch. I cannot imagine whoever it was that picked this team this week stood before them before the match and told them to play Watford at long ball football? The lack of commitment or effort was frightening as well.

There were players out there that literally did nothing right at all. Damien Delaney and Peter Ramage turned in two of the worst performances I have ever seen at any level of football. Their defending was shambolic, the distribution of the ball consistently terrible and yet it’s those two that do the most arm waving and bollocking of other players. They may want to look a little bit closer to home before trying to gee their bloody team mates up. I’ve never seen full back positions played as badly as that – even Paul Bruce and Christer Warren at their most inept were not that bad.

It would however be unfair to pick on just those two. Stewart and Hall were a pale shadow of the dominant partnership we’ve seen them forge so far this season. This is why I say maybe the players have just thrown their toys out of the pram – how can two such in form players who have been consistently good for weeks on end suddenly play like that without making a conscious decision to do so?

In midfield Ephraim and Ledesma were light weight and totally ineffective, Mahon slow and lumbering and his replacement Tommasi equally off the pace. Leigertwood didn’t start too badly I thought but quickly regressed to the level of his team mates and his involvement in the third goal was something to be truly ashamed of. Up front Dexter Blackstock did absolutely nothing, nothing whatsoever, and while Patrick Agyemang tried hard little came off for him – those two can justifiably point to a lack of service, basically they had to feed on one long hoof down the field after another, but we need more from them, Blackstock in particular.

This was certainly one to forget. An abysmal performance. We’ll son know whether it was a one off or a sign of things to come.

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Watford: Loach 7, Mariappa 6, Ward 7, DeMerit 7, Doyley 6, McAnuff 8 (Hoskins 78, -), Williamson 8 (O'Toole 82, -), Harley 7, Jenkins 6, Priskin 7, Smith 8
Subs Not Used: Lee, Bromby, Robinson
Booked: Harley (foul)
Goals: Smith 26 (penalty), Ward 34 (assisted Harley), Williamson 45 (assisted Smith)

QPR: Cerny 5, Delaney 1, Stewart 3, Hall 3, Ramage 2, Mahon 3 (Tommasi 46, 3), Leigertwood 3, Ledesma 3 (Parejo 53, 3), Ephraim 4, Blackstock 3 (Di Carmine 61, 4), Agyemang 5
Subs Not Used: Cole, Gorkss
Sent Off: Hall (81) (foul)
Booked: Mahon (foul), Ledesma (foul/play acting), Stewart (foul)

QPR Star Man – Patrick Agyemang 5 I was tempted to make this not applicable this week but I feel that although he was pretty poor as well Agyemang did at least make an effort and continued to make an effort throughout the match and that deserves some recognition at least. Thanks for at least trying Pat.

Referee: Andy Penn (W Midlands) 2 Very poor all the way through. A silly little man with stupid facial hair and an apparently terminal dislike of QPR. The sending off looked harsh, the penalty was an absolute joke and his general handling of the game throughout left a lot to be desired. The two linesmen had to be seen to be believed. Almost as bad as QPR but not quite.

Attendance: 16,201 (2314 QPR fans) Vicarage Road is a very quiet ground with one whole side of it shut. The QPR fans were pretty subdued too, understandably, although the celebrations after Ephraim’s second half shot and the chants about not being a project did raise a smile.

Photo: Action Images

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