|Blackstock brace seals Sousa's first win - full match report|
Wednesday, 26th Nov 2008 20:14
QPR returned to winning ways on Tuesday night when a fine double from Dexter Blackstock defeated managerless Charlton at Loftus Road. Blackstock went within an inch of his first Rangers hat trick late on.
From tiny acorns might oaks do grow. After feeling so despondent that I actually walked out of the match early in disgust for the first time in more than a decade on Saturday I am actually feeling a little bit better about the situation on the pitch, but not off it, at QPR today.
Don’t get me wrong the performance against Charlton was nothing to write home about – the team lacked confidence and fluency when it had the ball and the visitors, twenty second in the league at the tart of play, dominated the majority of the second half and should have been at least two goals in front before Dexter Blackstock scored a fine winner for Rangers – but I saw a lot to like in this performance, and would have said the same even if Hudson and Varney had scored and beaten us when they should have done.
Paulo Sousa has been coaching our players for three days and this was his first match but already signs are there that this is going to be a more Luigi De Canio like approach to football than an Iain Dowie style. It was noticeable, for example, the Radek Cerny threw or passed a ball out to a full back more often than not as opposed to turfing it down the field and hoping Dexter Blackstock could work a few miracles. The same could be said of both full backs and centre halves who were happy to pass the ball between themselves and wait for an opportunity to go forward rather than lump it aimlessly down the field – that certain QPR fans chose to groan and boo at this tactic says more for the impatience and delight at an opportunity to criticise a Rangers player that has infested the QPR support so far this season rather than anything about the effectiveness or otherwise of the tactic.
Another game, another changed starting eleven, the twenty third consecutive game where Rangers have not kept the same team as the previous match. Mind you after the debacle at Vicarage Road on Saturday that was to be expected. One of the changes was enforced, Fitz Hall’s sending off at the weekend got him a three game ban so Kaspars Gorkss came into the defence with Stewart, Ramage and Delaney in front of Cerny. The midfield lined up in a narrow diamond shape with Leigertwood as the holding man, Parejo as the more forward thinking player and Ephraim and Damiano Tommasi playing in between the two right and left respectively. Up front the decision to leave out Patrick Agyemang after he was only person to come out of Saturday’s game with any credit seemed harsh but he was indeed consigned to the bench while Sam Di Carmine started with Blackstock in attack.
Youth team centre back Joe Oastler, signed in the summer from Portsmouth’s junior set up, got his first ever senior call up and took his place on the bench.
Charlton came into the game under the guidance of former Hull and Colchester boss Phil Parkinson following Alan Pardew’s weekend sacking and he made four changes to his line up following a 5-2 hammering by Sheff Utd on Saturday. The Addicks had former QPR loanee Martin Cranie in defence, although he is apparently more of a right back these days despite being imperious at centre half for Rangers last season. The battle of the loaned Fulham left wingers was cancelled when Lee Cook missed out injured, Hameur Bouazza did take his place in the Charlton midfield though. Keith Gillespie made a debut wide on the right after signing on loan from Sheff Utd.
The game was preceded by the bizarre sight of Paulo Sousa, Gareth Ainsworth and Bruno Oliveira, Rangers’ new look coaching set up, running down the pitch towards the Loft End to throw a single replica shirt into the crowd. No doubt some well meaning publicity stunt but on a cold night when the ground was half empty it looked a bit daft to be perfectly honest.
Not quite as daft as Daniel Parejo who mustered the first effort on goal, if it can be called that, with a ridiculously ambitious 45 yard full volley lob attempt that bounced and bobbled out a long way wide of the goal. Parejo again flattered to deceive on the night mixing quality through balls and passes with naïve mistakes and a light weight approach to midfield play. It was noticeable though that his work rate upped significantly in the second half so perhaps somebody had a word with him at half time about doing his bit for the team.
After ten minutes Mikele Leigertwood had an effort on goal from twenty yards out – his low, left footed curling drive went comfortably wide of the post but Blackstock almost got a toe to it on the way through to divert it goalwards, in the end the pace of the ball just beat him to it.
After a quarter of an hour Rangers took the lead with a terribly soft goal from a Charlton point of view. Nicky Weaver, a keeper in dire form at the moment, miskicked a clearance out to Gillespie wide on the Charlton right and he in turn miscontrolled the ball allowing Damiano Tommasi to swoop and steal possession. The Italian looked to have run the ball out of play on the Ellerslie Road side of the pitch and the visiting players seemed to stop expecting a flag but when the linesman signalled play on Tommasi beat Cranie for pace, no I’m not kidding, and sent in a dangerous low cross that was swept home by a totally unmarked Dexter Blackstock from twelve yards out.
The Charlton fans were furious that a throw in had not been given, but their team hardly covered themselves in glory here. Martin Cranie looks a shadow of the player we had here on loan last season – slow, cumbersome, lacking any sort of positional sense and carrying at least a stone of weight that he should not be. His promises to be a potential unfulfilled if he does not return to centre half and cut down on his off the field activities which are clearly affecting his game – when you’re being outpaced by Damiano Tommasi you need to have a long look at yourself.
Despite falling behind and clearly lacking confidence Charlton quickly came back into the match. Waghorn bundled a shot wide before Gillespie unloaded a low drive from the corner of the penalty area when he had better options ahead of him but the shot still forced a smart save by Radek Cerny. Then on the half hour the Addicks forced an equaliser.
Gillespie skipped across the face of the penalty area and was able to pick out Bouazza at the back post who had acres of space and hours of time due to Ramage being sucked far too far infield an on unnecessary covering job for the centre halves. Bouazza, Charlton’s most threatening player on the night, fired the ball across the face of goal and the impressive Therry Racon converted at the far stick. Racon had a super first half on his return from a foot injury but faded somewhat in the second, possibly through lack of match fitness. Leigertwood picked up his obligatory booking, he is now suspended for the Wolves game, for upending him in the first half.
The sides then exchanged half chances with Blackstock denied in the penalty area by Cranie after Primus had lost his footing, then a cross aimed in towards Waghorn at the back post flew just too high and the youngster could only flick it out of play for a goal kick. Tommasi hammered a long range shot over the bar but the game petered out to half time after the Charlton equaliser with the visitors happy to be level and QPR lacking anything in attack to do much about it.
At half time Sousa removed Di Carmine and replaced him with Patrick Agyemang. For me it was ridiculous that one of the only players that actually gave a toss on Saturday at Watford was left out in the first place and Di Carmine hardly did much to justify the decision with forty five minutes of falling over and appealing in vein for free kicks. It wasn’t until Agyemang came on that we actually posed a reasonable threat to Charlton and his pace and persistence worried the visiting defence in the second half. He may not be scoring many goals himself at the moment but Agyemang does at least pose a problem for defences and the team looks more potent with him in it.
Still it was Charlton that started the second half stronger and when Hameur Bouzza skipped into the penalty area past Ramage and Ephraim with embarrassing ease they really should have taken the lead – a brave block by Delaney at the near post denied Waghorn a simple tap in. Another near miss at the near post followed soon after as Damion Stewart totally mis-hit a clearance and was grateful for the alertness of his goalkeeper as Cerny saved the ball right up against the cross bar.
With the pace and power of Agyemang now at their disposal though QPR soon came back into the game. The former Preston man enjoyed turning and running at the lumbering Hudson when he stood off him, and enjoyed spinning round the centre half when he got too tight and soon things started to open up a little bit. First a glorious through ball from Danny Parejo was almost converted by Agyemang but he just couldn’t get enough contact on the ball to divert it past the onrushing Nicky Weaver. When the ball bounced up off the keeper and hit Hudson the visitors were relieved to see it go wide for a corner that Parejo failed to beat the first man with not for the first or last time on the night. The difference in quality in the delivery of Charlton corners compared to QPR was stark. Next Agyemang tricked his way past two Charlton players on the edge of the box but lashed a powerful shot over the bar when he should have at least hit the target.
On the hour Sousa replaced Tommasi with Mahon and although the Italian had not played particularly well the change seemed to do more for Charlton than it did for QPR. The visitors were much less willing to allow QPR to knock the ball about in the second half – they hassled and harried and got in the faces of the home players and we did not really know how to cope with that. Parkinson sent on Luke Varney for Waghorn and set about pressing for a winner. Linvoy Primus volleyed fractionally over from one of the numerous Charlton corners that caused QPR problems then Bouazza also failed to find the target with a curling shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Varney had a chance to make himself a hero twenty minutes from time when Gray’s chest down to Racon was followed by a shot that deflected in behind the QPR defence to the former Crewe man – with Rangers appealing unsuccessfully for offside Varney had as much time as he wanted twelve yards out and facing the goal but he inexplicably fired a volley high into the School End. As sitters go, this was a bad one and his night did not improve much when two minutes later he was unceremoniously dumped to the ground by Damien Delaney who was booked.
Mark Hudson journeyed up from the back for the next Charlton corner and although the initial set piece was cleared he remained in the penalty area for Bouazza’s second attempt at a cross but headed wide from four yards with the goal at his mercy.
You have to score when you are on top in football matches and having missed two gilt edged chances in quick succession Charlton were then punished when Rangers scored the winning goal ten minutes from time. Hogan Ephraim delivered an absolutely magnificent right footed cross from wide on the right flank and Dexter Blackstock angled his body perfectly to generate the power and angle for a header over Nicky Weaver and into the corner of the net. This was a goal of the absolute highest quality – the cross from Ephraim was a beauty and the way Blackstock was able to even get the ball on target never mind find enough purchase and accuracy to score was amazing; a header Les Ferdinand and Paul Furlong would have been truly proud of.
As seems to be the case whenever we score we immediately went on the back foot and conceded a free kick deep in our own half but when Youga hit a fresh air shot Stewart headed the cross away Ephraim and Blackstock went within a whisker of combining again. Another high quality ball from Ephraim flew over Agyemang at the near post and landed plum for the onrushing Blackstock who somehow contrived to divert a diving header wide of the post when it seemed easier to score.
Blackstock remains an intensely frustrating player for me. For hours on end he looks like a lumbering oaf who struggles to do even the most simple of tasks, and just before scoring his wonderful second goal here he inexplicably fell on his arse under no contact when racing towards goal with the ball at his feet. Yet he scored two goals here, and has nine in total this season which is a record to be truly proud of in a team that creates as little as ours and scores so seldomly overall.
Ephraim for his part had another mediocre game but you always want to give him the benefit of the doubt because of the effort he puts in and the attitude he shows to the game – his five rating boosted to a six today because of the two fabulous crosses he put in for the two late Blackstock chances, better service than we’ve produced from a wide area all season. Ephraim was later very harshly booked by referee Stroud when Youga pushed the ball past him down the line and then ran into him. Quite what Ephraim was meant to do to avoid the collision I’m not sure, short of disappearing in a puff of smoke he could not avoid committing the foul – even if it was a free kick, and it’s a big if, to book him for it was ridiculously harsh.
Patrick Agyemang gave another example of his pace and power in the final minute of normal time as he muscled his way past Carnie wide on the QPR left then fired a low drive from the edge of the area that Weaver saved comfortably down low in the bottom corner.
Mark Hudson, by now playing as an auxiliary striker, got Charlton’s first yellow card of the game during three otherwise uneventful minutes of stoppage time – his late lunge on Delaney down by the corner flag after he cleared the ball looked ugly and may have brought a red with another referee but Stroud gave him the benefit of the doubt. The final whistle sounded seconds later.
This was better than Watford, it could hardly have been much worse, but I’m not doing any handstands. I was impressed with Stewart and Gorkss at the back and Patrick Agyemang when he came off the bench. Dexter Blackstock scored two and should have had his first QPR hat trick and he probably just about squeaks the man of the match award but this performance was a mini summary of his season so far – wildly fluctuating standard of performance but, ultimately, goals.
The new system with the diamond midfield was a risky one to play with people like Rowlands, Buzsaky and Vine who would be perfectly suited to it all missing and Tommasi is certainly no kind of wide left player but long term it could be a much more attacking and entertaining system for our team, especially if Buzsaky gets to play at the tip of that diamond when he eventually returns to fitness. One thing on the negative side though was that when Charlton were knocking it around at the back nobody seemed sure whose job it was to stay or go and consequently QPR sat far too deep at 1-1 when they should have pushed on. Hopefully that will come with time.
The value of quality service from wide areas was highlighted here with super crosses from Tommasi and Ephraim resulting in goals and another ball from Hogan presenting Blackstock with a snip of a chance for the hat trick – only he will know how he missed.
The appointment of Paulo Sousa may not work and the last six QPR managers and caretakers have all won their first home game and gone on to varying degrees of success and failure so it's important not to read too much into this. We may continue to go downhill throughout this season, and we could easily have lost this game. But in just three days Sousa has shown a willingness to get QPR playing football the right way and I only hope that will continue, starting with Palace away on Saturday.
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QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 6, Stewart 7, Gorkss 7, Delaney 5, Ephraim 6, Tommasi 5 (Mahon 62, 6) Leigertwood 6, Parejo 6 (Ledesma 73, 6), Di Carmine 5 (Agyemang 46, 7), Blackstock 7
Subs Not Used: Cole, Oastler
Booked: Leigertwood (foul), Delaney (foul), Ephraim (foul)
Goals: Blackstock 17 (assisted Tommasi), 80 (assisted Ephraim)
Charlton: Weaver 5, Cranie 5 (Sam 82, -), Primus 6, Hudson 6, Youga 5, Gillespie 6, Racon 7, Semedo 6, Bouazza 7, Waghorn 5 (Varney 62, 5), Gray 5
Subs Not Used: Elliot, Holland, Fortune
Booked: Hudson (foul)
Goals: Racon 30 (assisted Bouazza)
QPR Star Man – Dexter Blackstock 7 A far from perfect display from Dexter, and he may have been looking at a much lower rating without his goals, but goals win games and his second was a real peach. He’s a hugely frustrating player because for long periods he does not look anywhere near good enough and yet he now has nine goals and won this game with two well taken strikes. Credit also to Patrick Agyemang who made us much more of an attacking threat when he came on.
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 6 Pretty standard display from Mr Stroud this. He was fussy at times, blowing when an advantage could have been played, and the yellow card for Ephraim was a joke but by and large he was alright, steady, nothing more than that. He’s consistent if nothing else.
Attendance: 12,286 (700 Charlton approx) A tiny following from Charlton considering the small distance between the clubs but those that did make the journey made plenty of noise and bounced around a lot. The home stands had all the atmosphere of an abandoned morgue for most of the match with many QPR fans seemingly desperate to get on their own team’s back after Saturday’s debacle and moaning and groaning when balls were played sideways or backwards, even when the pass resulted in retained possession.
Photo: Action Images
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