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Slump continues as Hornets Cleverley sting  QPR – full match report
Slump continues as Hornets Cleverley sting QPR – full match report
Monday, 7th Dec 2009 23:01

Rangers slipped to tenth in the league with a 3-1 defeat at Watford on Monday night despite taking a first half lead through Patrick Agyemang.

If this game was indeed about “getting back on the horse” as the LFW match preview headline suggested then QPR are metaphorically face down in the dirt again this evening. A ridiculous team selection led to a side lacking in confidence and organisation that was picked off by a steady and solid Watford outfit that had enough quality across their midfield line to ensure victory.

QPR, perhaps with one eye on the difficult conditions, sacrificed their more skilful players in favour of a more direct approach and although Patrick Agyemang got some joy from this change of tact in the first half he was closed out of the second period during which Magilton quickly reintroduced the players he’d left out to start with – the only affect being Rangers further crowded the centre of the field to Watford’s advantage.

Watford manager Malky Mackay was away on Sunday taking UEFA pro-license badges, if management was this easy very week he wouldn’t have needed to bother – Magilton did most of his work for him. However bad the pitch was the idea of going to Watford and beating them with a long ball game was a plan worthy of Baldrick’s big book of cunning.

The folly of believing none of our more talented players could cope on a pudding of a surface was shown up by the performances of Don Cowie and Tom Cleverley who excelled in the home team and helped themselves to a goal each. That the third came from Lloyd Doyley, a one time QPR transfer target who hadn’t scored a senior goal in a decade of trying, only served to rub salt into the gaping wounds. QPR will have few worse weekends than this – fourth at the start of play, now tenth after conceding eight goals in just over 48 hours.

Magilton’s response to Saturday’s drubbing by Middlesbrough was, on the face of it, ludicrous. Fitz Hall remained at centre half, Kaspars Gorkss was dropped for Damion Stewart. Leigertwood moved into midfield with Ramage recalled at right back, Faurlin was moved out to the wing instead of Buzsaky who was dropped. Top scorer Jay Simpson and best player Adel Taarabt were also dropped in favour of Patrick Agyemang and Rowan Vine. The only people to keep their places and positions were Cerny in goal, Borrowdale at left back, Watson in the middle of midfield and Routledge wide. Once again the manager’s policy of dropping players after poor performances stretched only as far as Hall and no further. What does he have to do to be left out?

Once the game started though you could sort of see where Magilton was perhaps coming from. On a pitch resembling a ploughed field it certainly wasn’t a night for tippy tappy football and perhaps the R’s manager had seen that prior to the game and decided it wasn’t really a night for Taarabt and co. I still didn’t agree with his decisions, but I understood them a little more than I did when they were announced.

Watford recalled Nathan Ellington to their attack in place of Heidar Helguson who wasn’t eligible to be selected under the terms of his loan deal from QPR. Ironically on a night when Magilton seemed to be going for a more direct style Helguson would have been ideal for leading the QPR line alongside Agyemang but then of course we’d rather pay half his wages to play for a Championship rival. Arsenal loanee Henri Lansbury was also out injured and replaced by Jon Harley.

The first effort on goal of any real note came from Rowan Vine in the fourth minute, cutting in from the left and shooting tamely from distance when he had better options to his right. That was to be one of his sole notable contributions to a game that completely passed him by from that point onwards. I maintain Vine is carrying at least a stone of weight compared to before his injury and he simply isn’t good enough for this division in his current state.

The game then settled into a monotonous pattern of long ball football. Watford had the better of that, keeping the ball in and around the edge of the penalty area for long periods without registering a shot on target. The first real piece of QPR football saw a superb cross from Routledge partially cleared and then worked back into the area for Faurlin whose cross shot went right across the face of goal without a touch to convert. Had Faurlin been coming in from the other side he would have been able to curl the ball into the far corner. The Argentinean was a rare positive for Rangers on the night, laughing in the face of the idea that the South American player struggle in the inclement weather this country serves up at this time of year.

Watford then strung a move of their own together with Cowie coming in from the left and combining well with Ellington before curling an effort over from the edge of the box. Then after more good work from Cowie down the right Cleverley met a decent cross well but headed straight at Cerny. Within a minute Rangers were under pressure again as Harley beat Ramage and Routledge wide on the Watford left and crossed for Cowie whose first time volley was blocked at the back post. Harley tried his luck from the edge of the area as the resulting corner was worked out to him on the edge of the box but Watson got a block in on that. It seemed at this stage as if it was only a matter of time before Watford scored.

Ultimately though the first goal went the other way. On the half hour Routledge broke free down the right but missed a presentable opportunity to set up a team mate. Watford didn’t heed that warning and a minute later when Faurlin showed guile and awareness that belied a poor team display and terrible playing surface his pass across the face of the penalty area was hammered into the bottom corner from 18 yards by Patrick Agyemang who, for some reason, showed no emotion at all in his celebration. I wondered if he was brought up as a Watford fan or something because he really made a point of doing absolutely nothing to acknowledge the goal at all and initially my celebrations were tempered by a thought that it may have been disallowed.

That goal was against the run of play, statistics showed 67% of the previous five minutes of football had been played in the QPR defensive third, and Watford went straight back on the attack with a series of crosses into the box that Damion Stewart cleared on two or three occasions. A slip from the Jamaican after Hall had lost the initial header six minutes from half time could have proved costly had Cleverley’s ball through to Graham been better played.

Watford equalised three minutes before half time thanks to yet more rank QPR defending. Harley was given the freedom of Vicarage Road to cross, Cowie was left totally unmarked at the back post and he perfectly picked out a ball back across the face of goal where Doyley launched himself at the ball and headed it into the net for his first goal in Watford colours after more than ten years of service. QPR’s propensity to give goals to players on lengthy barren runs knows no bounds – Doyley’s record was even worse than that possessed by John Jensen when he scored against us back in 1995.

It could easily have been a two minute turn around when Ellington’s cross to the back post found Harley totally unmarked but he tried to square the ball instead of going for goal and QPR survived through to the break. Overall Watford had been much the better side and Rangers were lucky to be ahead in the first place so they could have few complaints at not leading at the break, though the concession was once again mostly our own doing.

Watford were forced into a change at half time with centre half Jay Demerit coming on for Craig Cathcart – his first appearance since August due to an eye infection. Rangers started the second half as they had ended the first, right on the back foot. The R’s gave the ball away from kick off and from Graham’s cross Ellington’s flying header was kept out by a combination of Cerny and the goal post.
Then at the other end Agyemang’s touch let him down as he ran onto Faurlin’s high through ball when a good first touch would have left him with a simple finish. There could quite easily have been goals at either end inside the first 90 seconds of the second half.

QPR settled down thereafter and played some really nice football for the first time in the game but for the third time on the night that only resulted in a goal against the run of play. Moments after Ben Watson had almost wriggled his way through on the edge of the Watford box Cleverley played it wide to Cowie who unleashed a splendid low shot into the far bottom corner past Radek Cerny from 20 yards out.

Magilton responded by replacing the wholly ineffective Rowan Vine with Adel Taarabt. Rangers then played the better football again for ten minutes or so before almost going three one down when Cerny could only parry a half volley from Jon Harley and then had to get up and palm away as Graham attempted to bundle the loose ball home. Not for the first time this season QPR were being pretty with no end product and looking susceptible to being picked off at will at the other end. Lloyd Doyley tried his luck from distance, somewhat cheekily for somebody with his goal record, but wasn’t a million miles away.

The R’s first serious effort on target of the second half came 20 minutes from time when Taarabt hit a powerful drive from the edge of the box and Loach parried the ball away. Faurlin and then Routledge attempted to move onto the rebound but were muscled out of it by the Watford defence. Taarabt tried his luck again from similar distance two minutes later but his shot was blocked away by a crowd of bodies on the edge of the penalty box.

Magilton sent on Jay Simpson for Wayne Routledge to a chorus of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ from the travelling QPR fans but Watford went closest next when Cleverley lashed over from the edge of the penalty area. Indeed the only immediate effect of the substitution was to give Doyley more license to bomb forward down the Watford left and when he won a corner fifteen minutes from time Mariappa was left unmarked in the six yard box but could only hook the loose ball straight at Cerny.

The final QPR sub of the evening saw Buzsaky sent on for Leigertwood but again this had little impact and a Faurlin free kick that evaded Fitz Hall at the back post followed by a corner won in the air by Hall but punched away by Loach was about as good as it got for Rangers who never really looked capable of getting back into the game. Lots of nice build up but few shots on target as usual. The frustration as too much for Damion Stewart who launched himself into a horrendous two footed tackle on Jon Harley and was extremely lucky to escape with just a yellow card.

That first card of the game was quickly followed by a second for Borrowdale after he fouled Henderson who threatened to break away on the counter attack after Rangers had wasted another corner. The free kick, 25 yards out left of centre, was touched aside for Eustace whose powerful effort bent miles away from the goal and almost troubled the corner flag. Rangers then picked up a third yellow for a wild lunge by Fitz Hall that presented Watford with another free kick that Cleverley and Cowie worked short for Hudson whose shot was blocked.

The game was rather petering out at this stage with QPR unable to do anything much to drag themselves back into it. A fine cross from Ramage, one of several he put in on the night, flashed across the face of goal without a touch. Buzsaky blasted a presentable chance over the bar as we entered four minutes of added time. The final QPR chance of the match saw Ramage send a teasing ball through the six yard box without ever threatening to find a team mate.

That should have been that but with Rangers throwing everybody forward they were always susceptible to a counter attack and the Hornets made it three with the last kick of the game when Cleverley raced through the middle without a QPR player in sight and finished calmly past Cerny. And that was that – third defeat in four games, no clean sheets in nine matches, eight goals conceded in one weekend. Poor.

Ultimately QPR simply did not do enough to get anything from this game. Watford were more committed and solid in all departments and had enough quality in their midfield to turn those basics into an eye catching win. Patrick Agyemang played well in the first half but Rowan Vine was completely anonymous alongside him, Alejandro Faurlin was good for an hour but Ben Watson again disappointed, Hall and Stewart were marginally improved at centre half but the defence still leaked three abysmally poor goals.

Again I’m forced to make the frankly unforgiveable observation that the QQPR players didn’t want it as much as their opposition. Watford were far more committed than our team and really rolled their sleeves up for those points. Even had QPR given it their all it’s unlikely it would have been enough with a team selection that saw some of the more blameless parties from Saturday’s massacre left out while the worst offenders were left in the team.

To be honest I think everybody needs to take a bit of a step back – Magilton in particular. Get the videos out of the Derby, Preston and Reading games and look at the system we played, the players we used, the way we went about our business. We’ve gone so far away from that team selection, set up and style in such a short space of time it’s almost unbelievable. We need to get back to getting our best eleven on the pitch, not chopping and changing every match, not dropping players after one mistake. We just need to calm down and relax a little bit – the players, manager and supporters all seem very tense and worked up. We can turn this back around just as quickly as it has gone wrong by simply getting back to what we were doing a month or so ago.

Still, only West Brom next.

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

Watford: Loach 6, Hodson 6, Mariappa 7, Cathcart 6 (DeMerit 46, 7), Doyley 8, Cowie 8, Cleverley 8, Eustace 7, Harley 7 (Severin 82 -), Ellington 5 (Henderson 57, 6), Graham 5
Subs not used: Lee, Bennett, Sadler, Bryan
Goals: Doyley 43 (assisted Cowie), Cowie 56 (assisted Cleverley), Cleverley 90+4 (assisted Henderson)

QPR: Cerny 5, Ramage 6, Hall 5, Stewart 6, Borrowdale 6, Routledge 4 (Simpson 72, 5), Watson 4, Leigertwood 5 (Buzsaky 76, 4), Faurlin 7, Agyemang 6, Vine 3 (Taarabt 59, 4)
Subs not used: Taylor, Gorkss, Williams, Pellicori
Goals: Agyemang 33 (assisted Faurlin)
Bookings: Stewart (foul), Hall (foul), Borrowdale (foul)

QPR Star Man – Alejandro Faurlin 7 Once again the best of a bad bunch with a decent touch and eye for a pass that still shone through despite being surrounded by lethargy on a poor pitch. Set the goal up well for Agyemang who was our best player in the first half but faded badly after half time.

Referee – Andy Penn (West Midlands) 8 So, so much better than he was here last year. The only mistake I can really think of was his failure to send off Damion Stewart for his horrendous tackle on Harley. Let the game flow, kept cards in his pocket except when strictly necessary – very good overall, a complete turn around.

Attendance – 15,058 (1800 QPR approx) Very hard to judge atmosphere over the television of course but the QPR fans seemed in good voice for the most part. The first murmurings of discontent came over loud and clear after the Routledge substitution.

Photo: Action Images

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