Four star QPR run riot against Preston â€“ full match report Sunday, 18th Oct 2009 14:11
QPR bounced back from their defeat at Swansea with a thumping home victory against play off chasing Preston at Loftus Road.
The news on Friday that Martin Rowlands would indeed be out for the rest of the season with another cruciate knee ligament injury was heralded by some of the more pessimistic Rangers fans who doubt we will ever see him in Hoops again as the end of an era.
Certainly Saturday had that feeling for me too. Having rung for an additional ticket in the spare seat next to me during the week I was told that it had actually been bought by a season ticket holder. For the first time in decades Block F, Row D, Seat 188 was no longer in the hands of the Northern R’s. I approached the ground with some dread prior to kick off, I’ve found the actual following of QPR this year hugely depressing with a lot of the travelling done by myself following the death of Northern the Elder during the summer. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to being in the ground with a stranger in his seat for the first time. In the end the mystery new man didn’t take up his seat, but I look forward to shaking his hand whoever he is.
It has been suggested by several people that if I am finding QPR games as hard and miserable as I am perhaps I should knock it all on the head, or at least cut back a bit. Well, as long as QPR have the ability to make me feel like I did at 5pm on Saturday I’ll still be there. Like a crack habit – only more expensive and worse for your health – I know it’s not doing me much good, but the pursuit of that incredible high is worth all the money and effort when it does come around. Saturday was better than any chemical induced euphoria.
As much as things change they stay the same – I still cannot get a prediction right. “Narrow defeat” was the forecast in the match preview, but this never looked like being anything other than the complete opposite right from the first whistle. QPR were sumptuous, almost perfect, without a bad player on the pitch. The only disappointment on a day that had promised so much pain was that the game had to end at all. I could have watched it all night.
Few would have guessed what was to come prior to kick off. QPR were without seven first team players through a combination of injury, illness and suspension and the included influential central midfield duo Martin Rowlands and Ben Watson. With one obvious replacement for them Mikele Leigertwood also out Jim Magilton was left with a real headache. He recalled Peter Ramage at right back with Stewart, Gorkss and Borrowdale making up the back four in front of Cerny. The midfield was anchored by Gavin Mahon with Faurlin given Watson’s string pulling roll. Taarabt started wide left with Buzsaky wide right. Wayne Routledge was pushed forwards to join Jay Simpson in attack although Taarabt, Buzsaky and Routledge rotated frequently throughout the match to great effect.
Preston manager Alan Irvine had a headache of a different nature with Paul Parry’s return to fitness giving him a full squad to choose from. Parry only made the bench and Irvine preferred Chris Brown to last year’s player of the season Jon Parkin in attack alongside perennial scourge of QPR Neil Mellor. Velice Shumulikoski and Michael hart came in for Eddie Nolan and Darren Carter.
QPR - calm, composed and slick in possession – had the better of tight opening exchanges carving out an early chance when Mahon threaded a pass through for Taarabt but Lonergan in the Preston goal was on his toes and smothered the ball at the feet of the QPR man. Brown volleyed high over the bar in Preston’s first attack.
Taarabt was not to be denied an opening goal though and the Moroccan broke the deadlock, and in all likelihood closed the book on QPR’s goal of the season competition, in the tenth minute. Collecting a clearance from Cerny on his chest under pressure, with his back to goal, in his own half, wide on the left Taarabt turned past Jones, brushed aside Sedgwick and set off for goal. He rode a weak tackle from Chaplow and nutmegged Shumulikoski on his way to the edge of the penalty area where he curled an unstoppable shot around Lonergan and into the top corner of the net.
This was as good a goal as you’re ever likely to see in the Championship and further highlights just how moronic the abuse Taarabt took in the Barnsley game really was. This is what can happen when you have a talented, flair player – moments of pure magic like this. Sure it’s not going to come off every time but we should not give Taarabt stick when it doesn’t and risk stifling him and denying ourselves goals like this to marvel at in the future. He could quite easily have skipped past those two Barnsley players and scored against them as well. I say let him be greedy and revel in his ability.
Preston looked wholly uncomfortable whenever one of the QPR players turned and ran at them and as well as Taarabt the R’s had Wayne Routledge in flying form in a more central role. A mazy run into the area after a quarter of an hour by the former Palace winger brought him first a chance to cross, and then when that was blocked a sight of goal but his shot was charged down as well. Within minutes he was on the charge again and only denied a clear shooting opportunity by a last ditch challenge from Collins.
Routledge incurred the wrath of the Preston fans on the next attack when he overran a ball and then collapsed theatrically attempting to purchase a penalty from referee Russell Booth. Routledge already has a yellow card to his name for diving this season, although on that occasion at Scunthorpe it looked a nailed on penalty. This time he was clearly cheating, was lucky not to be carded with the referee settling for a word on the run instead and his every touch was booed by the travelling fans in the Upper School End for the rest of the half.
That weak penalty appeal had actually come at the end of a flowing counter attack following Preston’s first serious attack of the game. Hart stood a cross up to the edge of the six yard box and for the first, and last, time on the day Chris Brown got up above Gorkss to meet it with a powerful downward header that bounced straight into Cerny’s arms when a goal would have been a certainty had it gone either side of him.
Confidence was clearly coursing through the veins of the QPR players - Taarabt, Buzsaky and Routledge in particular. The former dragged an ambitious long range shot past the post in the twenty first minute and then ten minutes later played an inch perfect through ball into the latter on the edge of the area but Routledge’s first touch let him down and he could only toe the ball back to Lonergan when he would have been through and bearing down on goal had he taken possession on board.
That chance again came on the counter attack after Preston had threatened. Billy Jones made the most of a foul by Buzsaky wide on the Preston left and the resulting free kick caused chaos in the QPR penalty area with first Mellor and then Brown striking fierce shots at goal only for QPR to throw enough bodies in the way to repel their advances. Mellor was at it again after the half hour when he received a through ball from Chaplow on the left corner of the penalty box and fired a shot straight into Cerny’s midriff when he may have been better off waiting for support and crossing. Mellor is undoubtedly a good player at this level, but he is so selfish he makes Taarabt look generous. It must make marking him somewhat easier when you know he is going to take on a shot every single time regardless of support, distance from goal or circumstances. This was about as poor as he’s ever played against QPR and frustration got the better of him in the second half when, with the score mounting, he got involved in an exchange with some QPR fans in the West Paddock.
This latest shot from the former Liverpool man came in the midst of Preston’s best spell of the match, a spell that ended with Ross Wallace firing just over the cross bar from distance eight minutes before half time. Play soon switched back to the other end and the score really should have been doubled when Routledge was played in behind the Preston defence by Faurlin but with the flag down he could only drill straight at Lonergan. As shown at Swansea a fortnight ago Routledge has a great many attributes, but composure in a one on one situation with a goalkeeper is not one of them. He would score a far more difficult chance later in the game.
In the closing five minutes of the half both sides had chances to score. First good hassling by Gavin Mahon on the edge of the Preston penalty are harried the visiting side out of possession. The ball bounced loose to Buzsaky who, despite being as good 30 yards from goal and wide on the right flank, let rip with a glorious first time half volley that flew past the stranded Lonergan and flicked off the top of the cross bar. Having said Taarabt had closed the book on the goal of the season award earlier in the half, Buzsaky very nearly opened it right back up again with that audacious effort.
Down at the Loft End Mellor had another shot blocked by Stewart. The Preston players immediately appealed for a penalty and the ball did indeed appear to strike the Jamaican on the arm but with his hands and arms tucked well into his body it would have needed a very harsh referee, or a very weak referee in front of a Newcastle home crowd, to penalise Stew Peas for that one. The final action of the half saw Jones hit a shot to the near post but Cerny showed good handling skills to deny him and prevent the corner.
Rangers were warmly applauded from the field at half time, the home crowd appreciating the attractive style of football and single goal advantage.
QPR quickly slipped back into the groove at the start of the second half with Faurlin dinking a wonderful ball in behind the static Preston defence inside the first sixty seconds. Buzsaky ran onto it and touched it round Lonergan but quickly ran out of space in which to turn and shoot and eventually ended up, with the ball, in the Lower Loft. Lonergan was tested five minutes later when Borrowdale marauded forward from left back and launched an absolute humdinger from long range that the Preston keeper saved one handed right up in the top corner as the ball threatened to fade away from him and into the back of the net. That gave Borrowdale’s little fan club at the back of the F Block a chance to serenade their hero without the usual hint of sarcasm. He was excellent, along with everybody else, on the day. From the corner Gorkss met Buzsaky’s delivery firmly but headed well off target.
At the School End Chris Brown had hearts in mouths when he thrust out a leg at a loose ball in the six yard box but he skied the chance over the bar and the flag had long since been raised for offside regardless.
The game then took on a bit of a tetchy, niggly feel. I would hazard a guess and say that a good portion of Alan Irvine’s half time team talk included plans for just how they were going to stop Buzsaky and Faurlin running the game, and Routledge and Taarabt running them ragged. With a team of players big on physical stature but short on pace the obvious answer was to rough them up a little bit. Just before the hour mark Buzsaky took exception to some overly physical attention from Ross Wallace tight to the Ellerslie Road touchline and although referee Booth came across and initially calmed things down there was a further dispute between Wallace and Buzsaky when the ball returned to play and both players appeared to aim petty kicks at each other’s ankles as play moved away down the field. Ultimately no further action was taken by the referee who seemed determined to give the game every chance and be very lenient on the day.
With tempers starting to flare and the crowd finally finding its voice Cerny had to be alert to save from Brown and then from the corner Damion Stewart produced a splendid clearing header at the back post. Rangers then immediately showed their potency on the counter attack once more, a key part of our playing style under Jim Magilton. Jay Simpson raced down the middle of the pitch with options left and right but chose to take on the shot himself and Lonergan saved. He should have passed, but thankfully there was no repeat of the Taarabt incident with the crowd instead choosing to appreciate the Arsenal’s man’s considerable efforts.
This felt like a key period of the game and the tension and excitement around Loftus Road was palpable. A Preston goal looked every bit as likely as a QPR one and with the pace of the game now absolutely frenetic it seemed something had to give soon. It did, just after the hour QPR moved into a two goal lead and effectively killed the game as a contest. Again Routledge was at the heart of it, tormenting Jones down the right and standing a cross up to the back post for Taarabt. I though initially he was going to chance a first time volley on goal but instead he killed the ball with one touch, shifted it out of his feet with a second and then crashed to the ground under a cumbersome tackle from Neil Mellor. It was a fine example of a striker’s tackle, an obvious penalty, and Mellor simply put his head in his hands as Booth considered the options, and then pointed straight to the penalty spot. Not one Preston player protested against the decision.
With Rowlands out there seemed some confusion over who would take the responsibility on. Taarabt seemed keen, but Buzsaky’s seniority came into play and although Lonergan read him and dived the right way the Hungarian’s fine spot kick carried too much venom for the keeper to have much of a chance and it flew into the bottom corner. Just rewards for QPR’s approach play, and Buzsaky who has been virtually unplayable in the last two home matches.
Hope fast diminishing, Preston looked a tired outfit at this stage. Irvine sent on Parkin, Carter and Parry for Shumulikoski, Sedgwick and Brown in an attempt to stem the tide. Booth’s insistence on keeping the cards in his pockets started to wear a little thin when Collins executed a brutal lunge on Taarabt shortly after the second goal and escaped with only a free kick as punishment. I like it when we get a game without cards and I thought Booth had a good game but in all honesty that was a stone wall yellow card.
That tiredness shone through again a quarter of an hour from time as the R’s cruised into a three goal lead. Buzsaky slipped a ball into the penalty area from wide on the left and Mawene got into a real mess, allowing it to run in behind him when he could easily have cleared for touch. Simpson needed no second invitation, striding purposefully onto the ball and curling it into the far corner of the net off the base of the post. His fourth goal for the R’s and no more than he deserved for another superb display of lone striker play on the day. What a signing he is turning out to be.
That was to be the last action of the game for the two men involved in the third goal, Buzsaky and Simpson were replaced by Agyemang and Vine. Against his former club Agyemang really looked in the mood to make an impact against a tired and pretty fed up looking Preston backline. His forceful, pacy running in the closing stages was much more like the Agyemang we saw when he first arrived at the club as opposed to the disinterested, ineffective lump we saw at the start of this season. Both he and Vine could do with a goal to boost their confidence and five minutes from time one nearly crafted a goal for the other when Agyemang flicked a ball in behind the Preston defence just as Mawene cleaned him out with a fierce late foul. Booth played a good advantage but Vine could only find the top of the cross bar with his curling finish past Lonergan.
By that stage it was actually four nil. Wayne Routledge took a pass from Faurlin on halfway, rode another weak tackle by the distinctly unimpressive Chaplow and then took up the Preston defence’s invitation to run on and shoot by widening the angle and finding the bottom corner of the net with a powerful, low right footed drive that lifted the roof off Loftus Road.
Vine nearly got his goal when Routledge tore at Preston again seizing a through ball from Agyemang and standing a cross up to the back post for Taarabt to nod down into the six yard box but Vine scuffed his finish straight to the keeper. Champagne football from QPR who were revelling in the occasion, although Vine’s impact seemed to be hindered by an injury and subsequent limp for most of his time on the pitch. Routledge deserved his standing ovation as he left the field to be replaced by Gareth Ainsworth against his former club. It was great to see Wild Thing back on the pitch, even if it was only a short cameo, and lifted the crowd still further.
It felt like the good old days at Loftus Road as the stoppage time was played out without further incident before a standing ovation was afforded to the team during the traditional playing of Hi Ho Silver Lining. “Is this a dream,” said one text at the full time whistle. It was one girl in black lacey underwear away from being just that. The perfect 90 minutes of football, as good as QPR have played for many, many years.
We could well be on for a set of record ratings here because I simply cannot find a fault with any of the QPR players on the day. Cerny was solid when he needed to be, Ramage slotted back in like he’d never been away, Gorkss and Stewart were like a solid brick wall in the middle of the defence and Gary Borrowdale had his best game for the club. The much maligned Gavin Mahon not only held the midfield with ease, he passed the ball beautifully as well. Faurlin fitted into the Watson role well and although he gave the ball away a little bit more than his carrot topped predecessor I think that is an inevitable by-product of the difficult passes he constantly tries to play. I prefer to applaud and praise the effort and ambition than have a dig for perhaps conceding possession every now and again because mostly his passing was excellent and freed an exciting front four that absolutely terrorised Preston all afternoon.
Taarabt looked a broken man as he left the field against Barnsley, whatever the coaches have said and done with him since is to be commended. He, Routledge and Buzsaky were simply unplayable on Saturday. Preston couldn’t live with them, I’m not sure any team in the league could have done, and with Simpson leading the line so well a big score was almost inevitable.
With seven players out QPR were brilliant, superb to watch, free flowing, free scoring, free wheeling, flooding forwards at every possible opportunity and overflowing with confidence. The trick now is to avoid the time honoured QPR ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ performance against Reading on Tuesday and Derby next Saturday – two teams who will be similarly swept aside if we replicate anything like this performance.
Preston: Lonergan 8, Hart 4, Mawene 4, Collins 5, Jones 3, Chaplow 4, Wallace 6, Sedgwick 5 (Parry 64, 5), Shumulikoski 5 (Carter 65, 5), Brown 5 (Parkin 65, 5), Mellor 5. Subs Not Used: Henderson, Chilvers, Nolan, Elliott.
QPR Star Man – Wayne Routledge 9 So hard to single out just one player from a terrific performance but his goal near the end just about sealed it for me. Along with Taarabt and Buzsaky he absolutely terrorised Preston who had no answers to any of them.
Referee: Russell Booth (Nottinghamshire) 8 Hard to think of a decision he got wrong and gave the game every chance to blossom into a spectacle with plenty of advantage and now cards. While that is an admirable and appreciated stance to take I did feel that once or twice he kept the cards in his pocket when one really should have been shown – particularly to Wallace for clattering Buzsaky and Collins for hacking down Taarabt in the second half. Still, I’d rather a game with too few cards than too many and Booth was very good overall.
Attendance: 12,810 (800 Preston approx) A pretty decent atmosphere inside Loftus Road as you would expect for a four nil scoreline, but still not quite jumping as it should be when football of this quality is being laid on for us. Hopefully if the form is maintained, a couple of extra thousand will be put on the gates and that will improve. Preston travelled in decent numbers but didn’t make much noise – understandable really as their team were pretty dire on the day.