Relentless Rangers ride luck to continue run at Leicester – full match report
Sunday, 19th Sep 2010 21:31 by Clive Whittingham
QPR survived a mountain of Leicester City possession and pressure to secure a 2-0 victory and extend their lead at the top of the table to five points.
It was 1982 the last time the Pope visited Britain. And the last time QPR won the First Division. The omens, both serious and tenuous, continue to stack up for this 2010/11 season that has started in incredible fashion for Queens Park Rangers. Another win, another two goals, another clean sheet, six wins, one draw, 19 scored, two conceded – it almost feels like bullying now. Mind you if you were watching QPR for the first time this season at Leicester on Saturday you’d be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about and how we’ve managed it.
In the lashing rain and howling wind at Ipswich on Tuesday night QPR were a footballing orgasm. Ipswich were third before that game started, and beat Cardiff Craig Bellamy City yesterday just to re-affirm my belief during the week that they’re not actually a bad team. QPR absolutely destroyed them.
Four days later at the ever-depressing (and shaky) Walkers Stadium things were very, very different. Without Faurlin at the base of the midfield and with three Leicester players surrounding Adel Taarabt whenever he took possession the visitors were denied two crucial pivots in their side. That made this game far more like our visit to Derby in August than the subsequent whitewashes against the Tractor Boys and Middlesbrough and Jamie Mackie’s early goal proved absolutely crucial.
Scoring early, which Rangers were close to doing at Derby as well, gave QPR something to hang onto, and made Leicester vulnerable to a sucker punch which Mackie (who else?) eventually delivered late in the game. For the most part though QPR’s ball retention was criminally poor, their time wasting cynical, and the victory more down to people like Shaun Derry, Matt Connolly and Kaspars Gorkss than anybody further forward. In many ways, we should take as much satisfaction from victories dug out of the coal face with our finger nails like this one as the one sided thrashings we enjoyed handing out earlier this week – it’s a good team that plays badly and wins anyway.
Faurlin’s absence meant a start for Akos Buzsaky at the base of the midfield with Shaun Derry – a position he didn’t look entirely comfortable with and with Martin Rowlands making a long awaited return from injury with a place on the bench not one I imagine he will be filling long term. Further forward and at the back things remained unchanged. Heidar Helguson led the line with support from Taarabt, Hogan Ephraim and Jamie Mackie’s whose form at the moment is like something from another world. The defence had Kyle Walker and Clint Hill at full back with Matt Connolly and Kaspars Gorkss in the middle. Paddy Kenny kept goal.
Leicester, managed by former R Paulo Sousa, started with Matty Fryatt leading their attack in a similar role to Helguson with Martyn Waghorn, Lloyd Dyer, another who used to ply his trade at Loftus Road, and further back Andy King in support. Matt Oakley and Richie Wellens played a more withdrawn role. It was the first time this season I could recall a team matching up man for man against our rather fluid system. Carl Ikeme started in goal for the home side, the first time we’ve seen him since his disastrous last QPR performance on this same ground at Easter.
With the two teams matched up man for man it wasn’t really a surprise that the game was a slow one to get going. The first moment of note came in the sixth minute when Hogan Ephraim carried the ball down the left, cut back onto his right foot and delivered a peach of a cross that Jamie Mackie flicked on at the near post and but for Hobbs’ intervention at the far stick Heidar Helguson would have planted the first goal of the game past Ikeme.
Taarabt got his first sight of the goal within 60 seconds – a routine low shot from the edge of the area that Ikeme needed two attempts to gather. He looked nervous all day to be fair, but did deal more comfortably with a low Akos Buzsaky shot two minutes later after fine work and an accurate cut back from Adel Taarabt on the byline.
In between those two saves Leicester threatened for the first time. Lloyd Dyer got going down the middle of the pitch and only a super sliding tackle from Matt Connolly on the edge of the penalty box denied him a clear run on goal. The ball broke loose to Waghorn but his effort from just inside the area was blocked away by some last ditch defence – not the last time that would happen on the day.
Sousa’s Swansea rarely attacked, but when they did they did a lot of it through winger Nathan Dyer. His namesake Lloyd had a hand in the majority of promising things Leicester did in the first half on Saturday before mysteriously fading and leaving the fray after half time. Ian Holloway, you may recall, used him at left back when he had him at Loftus Road.
QPR struck first after 11 minutes. Shaun Derry played a fine cross field ball from the left flank to Adel Taarabt wide on the right. He controlled the ball and then delivered a perfect cross into the area, nicely behind the crowd that had been sucked into the six yard box, and plum onto the head of Jamie Mackie who arrived late in the area and planted a lopping header beyond Ikeme and into the net from the thick end of 15 yards out. To score with a header from the position he was in was a fine achievement – everything that Mackie touches at the moment turns to goal.
Rangers could easily have double their lead ten minutes after taking it – through an increasingly familiar method. Paddy Kenny kicked wide to the left wing, Heidar Helguson climbed above his marker to flick the ball onto Jamie Mackie and with the Leicester defence backpedalling he set up Adel Taarabt for a low shot that was blocked when it looked goal bound.
After that though Leicester launched their first really serious attack of the game and that signalled a period of pressure that lasted the best part of an hour. It began with a poor decision from rookie referee Graham Scott. He bought a ridiculous dive from Dyer tight to the touchline under minimal pressure from Clint Hill. The QPR man was actually laughing at his opponent such was the nonsense of it all but nevertheless Leicester were able to pump a ball into the box, which was then cleared for a corner. QPR managed to scramble that delivery out of the penalty box as well but couldn’t clear their lines completely and when the ball was knocked back in behind the visiting backline Richie Wellens was faced with a very presentable situation with the ball at his feet, the goal and a plethora of options in front of him and not a QPR man in sight. Selfishly, he took on the shot from a difficult angle and fired the ball over the bar to his team mates’ obvious disgust.
Within five minutes the R’s were under pressure again. Kaspars Gorkss misjudged a long ball as it skipped up off the turf and handled giving Leicester a free kick just outside the QPR box. Martyn Waghorn took on the responsibility, but smacked the ball clean over the bar with Kenny covering it with some ease.
Leicester had the scent of something though and Kenny was called upon twice before half time to maintain the one goal lead. First he raced from his line to save low at Fryatt’s feet as he broke into the penalty area, taking care to take all of the ball and none of the man. Then after a brutal tackle from behind on Taarabt on halfway went unpunished and Leicester were allowed to play on he saved with his feet from Waghorn, who looked suspiciously offside when he picked up the ball on the left side of the penalty area.
Matt Oakley drove wide in first half injury time and all in all QPR could count themselves fortunate to be leading at the break.
The second half started at a frantic pace with chances at either end. Leicester threatened first as Fryatt cleared the bar with a shot on the turn, then from QPR’s first corner of the second period Taarabt picked out Buzsaky on the edge of the box for a Paul Scholes style volley that was blocked in the crowd of players when it looked certain to fly into the net.
Leicester were back on the attack within seconds and Wellens was unfortunate to see his effort on goal smuggled away by the massed ranks of the QPR defence who then immediately set Adel Taarabt away on the counter attack and when he was cynically blocked off by Bruno Berner a yellow card was the referee’s only option. The resulting free kick was lofted into the Leicester penalty area and tempted Carl Ikeme from his line. Heidar Helguson challenged for the ball, completely legitimately and with his hands down by his side, but a free kick was immediately awarded when Ikeme dropped the ball. This happened on another two occasions in this match and was, frankly, pathetic – abysmal goalkeeping relieved by cowardice from the referee.
Mr Scott had a tough second half in the middle, but at times I felt he made life harder for himself. Things were never going to be easy for the match officials once Leicester had sent on Steve Howard, a big bruising centre forward who seems to revel in games against QPR. Within seconds of coming on there was an incident in the penalty area under a high ball which had the home fans at that end of the ground screaming for a penalty and Howard nursing a wound to his face. I can’t pretend to have seen what happened from the other end of the ground but the Leicester fans appealed as one and Howard didn’t injure his own face did he? I sense we may have escaped with one there. Paul Gallagher was introduced for Lloyd Dyer who had faded as the game progressed.
In an increasingly rare attack Kyle Walker showed great fleet of foot and pace to skin two Leicester players down the touchline and set up Adel Taarabt in the area but for once the Moroccan’ touch deserted him and he played a nothing ball straight to the nearest Leicester player.
Walker was then on the end of two ridiculous pieces of officiating. First a routine offside decision against a Leicester striker was whistled for a free kick midway inside the QPR half. The ball ran away towards the corner flag and Walker initially set off to fetch it however on his way Paddy Kenny came out from his goal, signalled that he would be taking the kick and would fetch the ball, so Walker turned and headed back down the field to retake his position. He was then booked for time wasting. Now some of QPR’s time wasting on Saturday was blatant, and had it been an opposition team at Loftus Road doing the same thing I’ve no doubt the mood in the home stands would have been ugly, but Walker was very badly done to on this occasion. It would have taken longer for him to fetch the ball than Kenny to get it anyway.
The farce continued as QPR carved Leicester apart and Taarabt sent a perfect through ball behind the Leicester defence for Walker to run on to. Mackie was offside in the middle but Walker was so far onside I was actually embarrassed for the linesman when he flagged. Neil Warnock erupted for the first time this season in the technical area and spent the next few minutes berating the official on the other side of the field through the use of comedy hand actions that looked a lot like the Team America secret signal.
To compound matters with 20 minutes left for play Jamie Mackie had a goal disallowed for pushing in the six yard box as he eased a Leicester man under the ball and then struck it into the net on the turn.
With 15 minutes left things got a lot tougher for QPR when goalkeeper Paddy Kenny picked up a knock. Kenny came out to superbly gather a dangerous cross from Nielson but didn’t get up after landing heavily and required extensive treatment after which he left his goal kicks to the defenders. Leicester tried to take advantage of this at every opportunity with Gallagher in particular keen to start his own goal of the month competition with a series of shots from long distance – the first flew a long way over the bar, the second went straight at Kenny, the third required a fine save off to the keeper’s left, the fourth went miles wide just before the end.
Matty Fryatt also hit one straight at Kenny but the keeper had to be at his best when King let fly from range and he turned the shot aside at full stretch. A further penalty appeal, again from Howard, was survived on 80 minutes as the big man got stuck between Connolly and Gorkss as a cross came in – that one looked like a run of the mill collision rather than anything else, but after giving three other much more meagre fouls against Ikeme the referee left himself open to appeals for anything and everything.
Warnock responded to the increasing Leicester threat by sending on Leigertwood to play alongside the excellent Derry in midfield and Agyemang to do the running in the lone striker position. Heidar Helguson and Adel Taarabt were, rather predictably, the men to make way with the former carrying a knock from the first half.
It was actually Leigertwood who set up QPR’s unlikely second goal five minutes from time. He played what I would call a percentage ball, in behind the Leicester defence but to nobody in particular, and typically it was Mackie who showed the willingness to work hard and mark something of it. He controlled the ball on the corner of the penalty box, ran straight towards goal at a nervous looking Morrison, side stepped his marker and then slipped a low ball under Ikeme and into the far corner of the net – a shot the keeper may have done better with. Mackie has now, in six weeks, matched the eight goal total he managed in the whole of last season for Plymouth.
That was a cue for wild celebrations among the 2000 travelling QPR fans (that had the stand wobbling alarmingly) and a mass exodus from the home stands who must have wondered just how they had come away from a game they had largely dominated with nothing. That second goal saved the travelling faithful the heart stopping prospect of going into an incredible seven minutes of added time at the end of the game with a single goal lead. As it turned out the extra time passed with no further incident and served only to trouble those who were booked on the half five train home.
On Tuesday night there were so many positives from the display at Ipswich there is barely enough paper in the world to accommodate a list of them. Saturday was a different kind of experience and as Mackie (replaced by Smith late on), Helguson and Kenny all seemed to pick up knocks it may well have come at quite a cost. At Ipswich I spoke about Helguson, Taarabt, Mackie and Ephraim – at Leicester it was all about Kenny, Connolly, Gorkss, Derry, Walker and Hill. When the going got tough, and thanks to an uncharacteristic inability to keep hold of possession that was frequently, there was a ‘thou shall not pass’ attitude that hasn’t really been required yet this season but was wonderful to see.
Personally I thought this was one of Matthew Connolly’s best games for QPR. Leicester offered Fryatt and Waghorn for starters and Steve Howard later and Connolly didn’t miss a beat against any of them. He won every header, made every tackle, and never once looked ruffled. He was right on his game. But he wasn’t the only one back there. Walker struggled initially with Dyer but soon grew into the game, Gorkss had a super afternoon as well, and Hill was solid as ever. Shaun Derry not only showed his usual superb defensive prowess but also played a number of eye catching passes out from the back – including a fine ball in the build up to the first goal.
I could pick many negatives – in the second half we sat too deep, conceded possession too easily, and played too much long ball up to the lone striker who then didn’t have adequate support. Buzsaky didn’t look effective at all at the base of the midfield and would be more suited to a position further forward if he is to be used. Leicester had 21 shots on the goal to our eight, Paddy Kenny was called upon for 11 saves compared to Ikeme’s six.
But, at the end of the day, we won. Leicester looked a lot, lot better than their league position suggested they might do and we still went there and found a way to win. It wasn’t pretty, far from it, but it’s three points all the same.
The LoftforWords preview of the Middlesbrough game last Saturday said we’d know a good deal about how good our team really is at the end of this week with three games against good opposition in a short period of time. Seven days later we’ve won three, scored eight, conceded none and opened up a five point gap at the top of the league. Hopefully the Pope won’t wait another 28 years before he visits again.
Have Your Say >>> Interactive Player Ratings >>> Message Board Match Thread Leicester: Ikeme 5, Neilson 6, Morrison 5, Hobbs 7, Berner 6, Oakley 6 (Howard 63, 7), King 7, Wellens 7, Dyer 7 (Gallagher 58, 7), Fryatt 7, Waghorn 7
Subs Not Used: Logan, Miguel Vitor, Moreno, Abe, Moussa
Booked: Berner (foul), Waghorn (foul)
QPR: Kenny 8, Walker 7, Connolly 9, Gorkss 8, Hill 7, Derry 8, Buzsaky 5, Taarabt 6 (Leigertwood 78, 7), Ephraim 6, Mackie 8 (Smith 89, -), Helguson 6 (Agyemang 73, 6)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, German, Parker, Rowlands
Booked: Walker (time wasting), Buzsaky (foul)
Goals: Mackie 12 (assisted Taarabt), 86 (assisted Leigertwood)
QPR Star Man – Matt Connolly 9 Almost perfect. Won every header, even when Howard came on, got in a number of crucial blocks as Leicester peppered the QPR goal and caught the eye with a couple of really well executed tackles as well. It’s been a long dip in form for Matt dating back to the winter but he’s really looked back to his best in the last two games.
Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire) 4 Looked increasingly like a man losing the plot as the game went on. There was an incident in the second half where Mackie pushed the ball past his man and appeared to be impeded as it ran out for a throw in. Scott gave a Leicester throw without looking at his linesman who’d given a free kick and this resulted in a 30 second farce that ended with the assistant overruling the referee. He booked four, but let others off with much worse. Leicester were irate that he missed their penalty appeal, QPR were furious to see Walker wrongly flagged offside when through on goal and Mackie having a goal disallowed. He panicked and awarded a free kick whenever a goalkeeper was challenged, or even touched, and when you look at what Blackburn got away with against Fulham on the same afternoon you’ve got to ask where the consistency is in the game. Overall it was not the best example of Championship refereeing I’ve ever seen.
Attendance: 22,968 (2159 QPR) “Paddy Kenny’s having a party, bring your vodka and some Charlie.” Well, it’s original if nothing else. QPR travelled in big numbers, although I take exception to the “Where we you when you were shit?” chants directed our way because firstly I was sitting in that away end when we were shit and secondly I wasn’t alone either – I remember a really good following here when Nygaard scored ‘that’ goal and we were all set for relegation that year. Still, the usual collection of pimply faced teenagers and Neanderthals who gather as close to the away as possible are probably still a little bit sore for singing “we’ll never play you again” on our last visit here. In other news, the way the away shakes from side to side and up and down during goal celebrations and other mass movements among fans is really alarming and seems to be getting worse. A soulless ground, built on the cheap, if ever there was one.
Photo: Action Images
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 31 bloggers
When Saturday Comes #23 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes, and the U’s have a new management team in charge for a tough trip to Salford. Football is a results business, and sadly Hayden Mullins and his assistant Alex Dyer couldn’t deliver those results on the pitch. Yes they’ve had some tough breaks when luck and competent officials have just completely deserted them, but bottom line is we haven’t been good enough, and it was the right call by Robbie Cowling to no doubt reluctantly let them go after seven defeats in the last eight games, our solitary point a dour 0-0 at Bradford City.
When Saturday Comes #22 by wessex_exile
It’s the 15th of January, and still the U’s are attempting to play their first home match of 2022. Weather looks good (check), players have returned from injury (check), no on-day Covid testing to get in the way (check), so barring fire famine or flood, I reckon we must have at least a 50:50 chance of a game at the JobServe this afternoon. Whether it’ll be three much-needed points or not, and if you’ll pardon the pun, I at least did see green shoots at the New Lawn on Tuesday. We still lost, and the table doesn’t lie, but definitely signs to encourage me that whilst it’s not going to be a comfortable journey, we’ll be alright by May.
When Saturday Comes #21 by wessex_exile
Here we are then, what should have been the first home game of 2022, and I discover seconds before posting this that the game is called off because of a waterlogged pitch. Having gone to the trouble of writing this, even though we’re not playing I’m going to post it anyway – it’s not like you’ve got anything else to do this afternoon.
When Saturday Comes #20 by wessex_exile
Finally, When Saturday Comes…and the U’s (for now at least) have a match to play. Mind you, I’m writing this on Friday afternoon, so there’s still time yet for yet another Covid/ injury postponement, I guess. I certainly hope not, as I’m planning on heading over to Crawley for this one. Mind you, now that the EFL have decreed there will be no on the day testing to eliminate the possibility of last-minute cancellations, I think I’ll defer buying a train ticket until this evening. Needless to say, a repeat of our last visit to Broadfield (The People’s Pension Stadium under the terms of a sponsorship deal) would do very nicely indeed.
When Saturday Comes #19 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes…and the U’s find themselves fixtureless again, following Hartlepool’s request to postpone the game because of positive Covid tests amongst their squad. To heap further fixture congestion problems on the U’s, in short order Forest Green Rovers did likewise for our already rearranged match at the New Lawn on Tuesday night, and for the same reason. They’re not on their own either, with in all (so far) four Premier League and 19 EFL matches postponed today – all for positive Covid tests in their squads.
Queens Park Rangers Polls
[ Vote here ]