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Insipid second half leaves Rangers frustrated by Forest – full match report
Insipid second half leaves Rangers frustrated by Forest – full match report
Sunday, 23rd Aug 2009 20:48

QPR are still searching for their first league win of the season after a draw at home to Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Rangers were fortunate to be in front at half time and were dire in the second half.

In a week where the makers of the Championship Manager games announced the latest version could be yours for as little as a penny, Jim Magilton must be wishing he had a reset button on his first season as QPR manager. Frustration was the watch word at Loftus Road on Saturday as Nottingham Forest left with a point that could easily have been three with better finishing or a less competent QPR goalkeeper.

Having said that this could easily have been QPR’s first win of the season had they approached the second half with even a modicum of professionalism or commitment. Slightly fortunate to be in front at half time but showing bright signs QPR did absolutely nothing after the break, instead performing their time honoured trick of retreating to their own 18 yard line, giving the ball away and hoping for the best.

This was the R’s third draw of the league season already but this was the first time you could come away saying they genuinely did not deserve more and the decline in performance, constant chopping and changing of the starting eleven, lack of a cutting edge in attack and the way the players’ heads seemed to drop and their faith in Magilton’s football ideals drained away after half time gave cause for great concern. In every game so far I have seen us as unlucky or being very close to clicking, on Saturday we looked further away than ever.

Once again there were changes to the QPR team – not only in personnel but also in system. Rangers have now used 20 different players in four league games so far. Magilton lined his side up in a 442 formation this time with Pellicori and Helguson leading the line, Taarabt and the in form Routledge wide on the flanks, Faurlin and Leigertwood in the centre of midfield. At the back Damion Stewart kept his place ahead of Kaspars Gorkss alongside Fitz Hall with Ramage and Borrowdale the full backs and Cerny the goalkeeper.

Forest made five changes themselves following a midweek mauling at home by a Watford side expected by many to struggle this season. Dele Adebola and David McGoldrick started together in attack with former QPR favourite Dexter Blackstock dropped to the bench despite his goal against the Hornets during the week. Lewis McGugan who scored in both meetings between the sides last season was ruled out with a fractured cheekbone and replaced in midfield by Polish international Radoslaw Majewski. Paul Anderson and Nathan Tyson also dropped out with Chambers and Joe Garner coming in for them.

Forest belied their poor start to the season and began much the brighter of the two teams and could have been in front inside three minutes when Radek Cerny was forced to make an excellent double save. First Radowslaw Majewski latched onto flick on headers from Adebola and McGoldrick and fired a low shot from the edge of the box that the Czech saved off to his left. Then the rebound was dispatched goalwards by Joe Garner but Cerny was up and alert enough to turn that one round the post as well.

Just after the quarter hour Forest went closer still to taking the lead. Again Majewski caused QPR problems racing through the middle of the park with the centre of QPR’s midfield rather melting away in front of him. He fed McGoldrick unmarked in the penalty area but the former Southampton striker could only drag his low shot an inch wide of the far post with Cerny well beaten this time.

Majewski tried his luck with a thirty yard free kick that Cerny pushed out for a corner when it may well have been missing the post, better to be safe than sorry of course, but by that time QPR had started to come into the game a little more themselves.

After twenty five minutes Gary Borrowdale sent over a left wing cross that eluded everybody, Wayne Routledge collected possession down the QPR right and returned the ball back into the danger zone where Borrowdale had stayed forward from the back and been left unmarked at the back post. When everybody in the penalty box missed the ball for a second time the left back was faced with a very presentable chance eight yards out left of centre but he could not get his head over the ball and sent a half volley high into the Loft when he really should have done better. Borrowdale seems steady enough but does little to affect games and rarely, if ever, makes enough effort to stop his opposition winger getting a cross in which you would think is the prime job for a full back – he has certainly regressed from a bright start against Blackpool.

Adel Taarabt dragged a shot past the post with another half chance after Helguson had held a great ball from Faurlin up in the area and then laid it off. Faulin had a reasonably impressive home debut, passing the ball very well indeed and providing some much needed creativity from the centre of midfield. He and Rowlands could form an exciting partnership in there when both fully fit.

That was all forgotten a minute later though when Mikele Leigertwood collected possession wide on the right from a throw in, cut inside Cohen and fired an unstoppable left footed, curling shot over Lee Camp and into the top corner of the Loft End net. Leigertwood had earlier blasted high and wide after good work from Taarabt but he made no mistake when given a second opportunity. After a good first season at Loftus Road Leigertwood’s goal scoring ground to a halt for much of last season and he managed just two in the whole campaign. If our strikers are going to continue to be as shot shy as they are at the moment then more foals from the likes of him are going to be vital.

The visitors came back at their hosts and could easily have equalised when Wayne Routledge was penalised for a foul out by the corner flag having initially done quite well to block a Cohen cross and retrieve the ball. The resulting free kick from Cohen was headed onto the roof of the net by Wes Morgan who had come up from the back and been left unmarked.

It was around this time that Fitz Hall required treatment from the QPR physio Paul Hunter and although he did come back onto the field for the final ten minutes of the half he did not look at all comfortable and was replaced at half time by Kaspars Gorkss. Hall has had a difficult time with injuries and performance levels since joining QPR from Wigan more than 18 months ago now and is certainly a long way from being a fans’ favourite at Loftus Road, quite the opposite in fact. Nevertheless Jim Magilton has selected him consistently since taking over as manager and sung his praises at every possible opportunity. This latest injury, if it is his usual hamstring/groin issue should present a way back into the side for either Connolly or Gorkss and that can only be a good thing.

Forest had probably hard marginally the better of the first half, particularly when you look at the clear cut chances created which numbered four to two in favour of Billy Davies’ team, but QPR had picked things up in the final 20 minutes before the oranges and all the signs were good that with their noses now in front there was every chance of QPR pushing on for their first win of the season. Right from the kick off Taarabt and Routledge combined to set up Pellicori for a rare sight of goal but the Italian could only find the side netting.

Sadly though that proved to be QPR’s last serious attack for the best part of half an hour as they did the usual trick of sitting back and hoping for the best when in front by a single goal. Rangers were absolutely terrible in the second half, creating few chances to score further goals, sitting deep in their own half and inviting Forest pressure and conceding possession in the now traditional manner whenever we go in front. It proved to be an incredibly frustrating 45 minutes of football.

Forest made a change of their own at half time with Gareth Mcleary coming into the defence instead of the injured Joel Lynch. They were soon testing out Radek Cerny with a low drive from the edge of the area by Chris Cohen bobbling in the Cech’s hand before he gathered it at the second attempt and gave the fans in the Lower Loft a nervous smile and fake mop of the brow.

Forest got their totally inevitable equaliser just before the hour mark. A long clearance downfield from Lee Camp was headed on by Adebola who beat Stewart to the ball and then with Gorkss slow to turn in the area McGoldrick was able to nip on, stretch a leg out, and lift a powerful drive into the roof of the net from about eight yards out. Rich reward for Forest’s play, just deserts for QPR’s insipid start to the second half. The goal was a direct result of Adebola beating Stewart in the air – despite his age and the fact that most QPR fans squirmed at the thought of us signing him in the summer Adebola was very good again on Saturday, giving Hall a very tough time and then having marginally the better of his battle with Stewart. He won countless free kicks for his side, mostly through theatrics and cheating it must be said but it was affective all the same. People like Helguson and Agyemang should easily be able to play this role for us but are not doing so at the moment.

Magilton acted swiftly, sending on first Vine and then Buzsaky for Pellicori and Taarabt. Pellicori had done little on his full debut, and looked criminally short of pace on several occasions, while Taarabt had one of his quieter games but still showed some nice touches and flashes of skill. He is a very frustrating player Taarabt as he often does not see passes and picks the wrong option but I just think he and Routledge are the most likely people to make things happen for us at the moment and I do not really understand us constantly withdrawing him during second halves unless it is a fitness issue. Certainly the way Vine is playing at the moment, he was poor again on Saturday, we would be better leaving him on in my opinion. The crowd had been chanting for Buzsaky since half time but after half time Forest had successful marked Faurlin out of the game with McKenna topping the supply of decent passes he played in the first half and got a lot closer to Routledge and Taarabt as well. They did the same to Buzsaky when he came on so his effectiveness was limited.

Forest for their part, much the better team by this stage, sent on Blackstock for Adebola and Tyson for McGoldrick. Blackstock was given a warm round of applause by the home crowd, as Lee Camp had received before kick off, but the purpose of signing for an opposition player to give us a wave during a match is, I’m afraid, lost on me. Blackstock looked up for it and tried a lot harder than he did in his final six months at QPR for certain but apart from one goalmouth scramble that was hooked from the line excellently by Peter Ramage chances were few and far between in the closing stages.

Despite being poor throughout the second half QPR could, and should, have won the game late on when a great cross from Buzsaky was headed back across goal by Helguson but onto the roof of the net when Camp was beaten and had the ball been an inch or two lower it would have been a goal.

Helguson was involved again right on the stroke of full time as Camp came out of his area to deal with a long through ball and then very much in the style that cost him so dearly in QPR colours at Norwich the season before last when on a bit of a dribbling expedition. Time seemed to stand still as the ball, and Camp, stopped 40 yards out from goal and the keeper seemed to believe referee Linington had blown his whistle. I certainly had not heard it and neither had Helguson who executed a perfect tackle on the keeper and was then wrestled to the ground as he attempted to find the empty net from distance. With a foul and red card seemingly the only option the home crowd was immensely frustrated to see a flag now raised against Helguson for offside which, bearing in mind camp had touched the ball three times before Helguson had even tried to chase him back, seemed a little farfetched to me. No cards from the referee on the day which was a good thing but one or two of his decisions were eccentric to say the least.

This whole match was a big disappointment, easily QPR’s worst performance of the season so far. As well as the much documented lack of a decent striker Rangers are also struggling at the hands of their new manager who not only does not seem to know his best team, but also does not know his best system. The playing staff would seem ideally suited to the five man midfield we used on Tuesday night with three pushing on and two sitting back. By playing 442 we had two poor strikers up front while the club’s best player sat on the bench until 25 minutes from time.

Magilton seems to be tying himself in knots trying to pick a team from his massively unbalanced squad and having tried to find a system at Bristol that included as many of his talented midfielders as possible on Saturday he tried to force the players into a system that really did not suit their strengths. The players seemed to be losing faith in his methods to me on during this game as well – in the first three games the lads kept passing, and kept playing the football Magilton likes even when things perhaps were not going quite their way. On Saturday for the first time confidence seemed to drain out of them a little bit and the passing was nowhere near as fluent, frequent or attractive. Although again that could be because they had been forced back into Loftus Road’s beloved 442 formation that does not suit our squad one bit.

Let’s be brutally honest here – what in the name of God are Buzsaky, Gorkss and Connolly all doing on the substitutes bench? With the possible exception of Cerny and Routledge those three really should be the first names on the team sheet every week.

QPR have Accrington on Tuesday night before a trip to Scunthorpe next week that, if lost or drawn, will send QPR into the international break without a win in their first five league matches, that looked very presentable on paper before the big kick off, and quite possibly in the bottom three in the league.

Links >>> Interactive Player Ratings >>> Have Your Say >>> Message Board Match Thread

QPR: Cerny 7, Ramage 6, Hall 5 (Gorkss 46, 6), Stewart 6, Borrowdale 6,Routledge 7, Leigertwood 7, Faurlin 7, Pellicori 5 (Vine 61, 5), Helguson 5,Taarabt 6 (Buzsaky 66, 6)
Subs Not Used: Heaton, Mahon, Agyemang, Connolly
Goals: Leigertwood 25 (assisted Routledge)

Nottm Forest Camp 7, Gunter 6, Morgan 6, Lynch 6 (McCleary 46, 6), Cohen 7, Chambers 6, Majewski 8, McKenna 7, Garner 6, Adebola 7 (Blackstock 71, 7),McGoldrick 7 (Tyson 75, 6)
Subs Not Used: Smith, Anderson, Earnshaw, Davies
Goals: McGoldrick 57 (assisted Adebola)

QPR Star Man – Mikele Leigertwood 7 Best of a mediocre bunch and a fine goal into the bargain. Played reasonably well throughout although did not have the best second half along with most of his team mates. I’m finding it very hard to pick a man of the match in QPR games at the moment to be honest as the team just cannot seem to click and work as it I supposed to.

Referee: J Linington (Hampshire) 5 Some perplexing stuff at times although there were no bookings which is a positive. The most frustrating thing for me was his consistent reward of play acting – Adebola’s theatrical falls to earth became a joke as the game went on and yet he gave him a free kick every single time, likewise with Taarabt who we all know is never shy of hitting the deck. The incident with Camp and Helguson in the last minute was a poorly managed farce.

Attendance: 13,058 (2000 Forest approx) Noticeable change in the atmosphere from the opening day of the season and the boos were back at the end of the game, although after such a poor second half that is perhaps understandable from people who have paid a lot of money to be there. I’m not a fan of chanting for substitutions to be made although again it is understandable as Buzsaky should never have been on the bench in the first place. Nice to hear good receptions for Blackstock and Camp, although the appeal for the former to wave to us during the match was bizarre.

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