Grim up north as Rovers run Rangers ragged – full match report
Tuesday, 14th Feb 2012 01:06 by Clive Whittingham
A late brace from substitute Jamie Mackie barely papered over the cracks of an abysmal performance as QPR lost 3-2 to fellow strugglers Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
Once again I couldn’t help but think that the football got in the way.
Once the disappointment of the previous week’s football has subsided then the drudgery of the working week can recommence. Alarm, Northern Line, news meeting you don’t have any news to present in, morning trying to find news, lunch, afternoon of self loathing, Northern Line, beer, televised sport of some sort, sleep.
But all that time the anticipation is building for Saturday again. We’ve a player back from suspension and another might have shaken off that Achilles injury he’s had for three years; the team doesn’t look that bad on paper and theirs looks like it was cobbled together at short notice by somebody who clears drains for the council; they’ve got a flu bug now and five missed training today while whoever happened to be loitering round our training ground at the same time as the reporter has told the Ealing Gazette that the lads understand the importance of the game and are looking forward to getting up there and doing it for the fans.
Before you know it you’re taking an extended lunch break to go up to Euston Station and print everybody’s train tickets off, just to make sure there are no problems with them, and then for the next two nights you keep waking up at all hours to look inside your wallet and make sure the train ticket fairy hasn’t been in and taken them away in exchange for an old 50p piece. Suddenly you’re thinking we might actually win this game and you’re investigating the betting opportunities – by the time Saturday morning arrives you’re thinking £50 on draw half time, QPR full time is overly pessimistic. Draw at half time? Only £50? Pah, come on, what were you thinking? There’s no way this is going to be anything other than a win. Like majestic wild horses sweeping across a dewy meadow Rangers are about to embarrass these pit ponies in their own back yard.
Suddenly it’s Saturday, the work bag is tossed aside and its contents are dead to you, the alarm goes off but you’re already awake, the taxi arrives but you’re already waiting on the street corner, the train is being prepared for boarding but you’re already there hanging over the ticket barrier crying out, screaming at the cleaning staff: “Don’t you understand where we’re going and what’s about to happen you useless wenches?” And then you’re on the train cleaning it for them, wiping the surfaces haphazardly and shouting “that’ll do, let’s go.” And you do go, at great speed to the north of the country, like an invading army. You drink their beer and laugh at how much it costs, you look outside and wonder if it will ever get light, you sit down in your seat in the away end, reflect on what a bloody good purchase that Russian hat was, and then you wait. You wait for the massacre to begin. For Ewood Park, read the Coliseum. This is going to be an absolute bloodbath. You thought you didn’t like Steve Kean before Rovers fans, well watch this.
And then these twats start to play: Paddy Kenny, Nedum Onuoha, Fitz Hall, Anton Ferdinand, Taye Taiwo, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joey ‘The Tweet’ Barton, Akos Achilles, Armand Traore, Bobby Zamora and Adel Taarabt. The formation is 4-4-2. The referee is Mike Dean.
The opponents are Blackburn Rovers, a club that appear to have happened upon a copy of The Four Year plan, noticed it has a happy ending and decided to follow the farce of the previous two hours to the absolute letter in the hope that it yields the same result. A reasonably well run club with an adequate team and manager has been turned into a financial disaster, highly likely to be relegated from the top flight with horrendous consequences on and off the pitch, managed by a character rejected from the Muppets by Jim Henson for being too farcical and not funny enough. That they’re still making a reasonable fist of remaining in the top flight despite the presence of Steve Kean on the touchline, the mad Indian chicken farmers in the boardroom, and everybody’s favourite “fixer” Jerome Anderson presumably loitering from a safe distance like Coyote waiting for the Roadrunner to arrive says a lot for the incompetence of the teams around them, especially Queens Park Rangers.
It also owes much to 58-year-old Nigerian striker Yakubu. Spotted at Brentford last season in an Everton cup match weighing closer to 20 stone than ten, people laughed when Kean pinned his survival hopes on him this season. They’re not laughing now, in fact they’ve probably conceded a goal to him at some point. After a quarter of an hour here a long ball forward found Steven Nzonzi who towered over Fitz Hall to win a header the defender barely challenged for and flicked it into the path of the Nigerian front man who was back leading the line after a three match ban. The basic rule with Yakubu is don’t let him turn easily and shoot. Having allowed him to turn easily and shoot Anton Ferdinand deserves no sympathy whatsoever, but he could reasonably have expected Paddy Kenny to save an effort flying down the centre of the goal from fully 18 yards out.
There had been warning signs before that. Rangers had started quickly and Bobby Zamora seized on a poor early back pass but lacked sufficient support to do anything with it, but then immediately Jason Lowe countered and forced a strong block from Nedum Onuoha at the other end. Anton Ferdinand then had to make a similar last ditch defensive effort to keep out Hoilett’s shot in the sixth minute and Paddy Kenny punched an early corner away after Rangers had scrambled a deep free kick behind. Then it was 1-0.
Ten minutes passed, which QPR spent mostly giving the ball away, before it became 2-0. Nzonzi’s height and power again proved to be the first problem as he won the ball in the centre of the field, after Taarabt had been crowded out of his own attempt on goal, and fed Hoilett attacking at pace down the Blackburn left. Now you may think, as it’s standard defensive practice and the players are, remember, well up for this game and understand its importance, that having won the initial ball Nzonzi may have then been bothered by a back tracking QPR player as he made his way into the penalty area. You’d be bang wrong though. Hoilett fed the ball back to Nzonzi in the area and he dispatched the ball into the back of the net with a first time shot from a completely unmarked position for his first goal since August 2010. Kenny should have saved that one as well.
QPR recently sold Bradley Orr to Blackburn to the complete confusion of supporters of both clubs, and to give him his due he did his best to get his old team back into this game on a few occasions. First, on the half hour, he misjudged a near post header from a corner and sent it spiralling up in the air and back down into the heart of the danger zone. Fitz Hall, showing dexterity in the air that had previously deserted him, won the ball well and Zamora instinctively hooked it over his shoulder and a foot wide of the post.
But there were seriously worrying signs the rest of the time. When Anton Ferdinand was penalised for a high boot five minutes before half time the way the team skulked back to the area, heads collectively down, silence pervading, was deeply concerning. It’s that kind of behaviour and attitude that has people talking about “lost dressing rooms” for longer serving managers than our own Mark Hughes who stood aghast on the touchline at the horrors he was witnessing. That free kick developed into a corner which Grant Hanley then headed off target when, again, the space he was afforded meant he could and should have done better.
Referee Mike Dean, immediately appointed back to a QPR game just days after incorrectly awarding a penalty against them in an FA Cup tie with Chelsea, added four minutes to the end of the first half and could easily have awarded another spot kick against them when Fitz Hall clumsily bundled Yakubu over as he made his way towards goal but this time Dean showed no interest as Hall had got enough of the ball.
It seemed like the final scare of the half had been survived but there was further damage still to be inflicted. The third goal, like the two before it, came straight from a QPR attack and won’t be making any shortlists for directors putting together defensive masterclass video compilations. After Zamora had set up Traore for a low left footed shot that Robinson saved comfortably Rovers broke quickly, won a free kick on halfway that Scott Dann was able to head unchallenged and nod right through the area to the similarly unchecked Junior Hoilett and his cross deflected off Onuoha over Kenny and into the far corner of the net.
People like to talk about moments in football as the worst they’ve ever seen: worst pass, worst tackle, worst piece of defending, worst half of football. This wasn’t the worst. This was a half of football I’ve seen a thousand times before. A half of football played by a mediocre team that keeps pace with its opponents when it’s in the mood but on the occasions it’s not isn’t good enough to avoid being taken to the cleaners. A half from a team that wasn’t really that bothered. A half from a team about to be relegated.
Presumably Mark Hughes said some of these things rather more forcefully during the half time break because QPR did more in the first five minutes of the second half than they’d done in the whole of the first. First Barton played Shaun Wright-Phillips in on goal but the flag was raised as he sprinted clear and anyway, typically, Robinson saved the shot. But the R’s came again and Bobby Zamora looked like he might plant Wright-Phillips’ cross past Robinson until it was flicked away from him at the last possible second by Dann who then cleared the resulting corner as well. When Zamora did meet a Wright-Phillips cross he had his body position wrong and could steer the ball into the QPR fans stewing in their own fury behind the goal.
Blackburn actually did their best to lose their three goal lead in the second half through a variety of methods, starting with the replacement of Junior Hoilett with youngster Adam Henley. Hoilett was clearly injured, explaining an exit from the pitch that Top Gear Magazine may have described as a long drawn out affair, but sending a youngster on to replace him wasn’t a shrewd move, and nor was removing Mauro Formica from the midfield to send on Bordeaux loanee Mauro Modeste ten minutes later. Suddenly a midfield that had been physically more powerful than QPR and far more creative in the first half was paper thin and Rangers actually began to look almost acceptable.
That said, Blackburn were desperately unlucky not to go four goals up eight minutes after the break when Morten Gamst Pedersen’s wildly miscued shot after Taiwo’s possession concession flew straight at Yakubu who killed it stone dead with a single touch on the edge of the area and then flighted a gorgeous chip over Paddy Kenny and onto the face of the crossbar. It was the finish of a man in form and full of confidence, it was the attempted save of a goalkeeper requiring either surgery or psychotherapy or both.
But Blackburn began to look more ragged and desperate as the half progressed. They sunk deeper and became riddled with self doubt, Jason Lowe was booked for fouling Traore and Onuoha should have scored when played in by Taarabt after Nzonzi gave possession away cheaply but Robinson was again equal to the meagre task he’d been set by the subsequent low shot.
When Formica went off Mark Hughes acted too, removing Akos Buzsaky, who followed up one of his best games in Hoops against Wigan with one of his worst here, and sending on Jamie Mackie to play up alongside Bobby Zamora. This had two positive effects: firstly it introduced somebody with a bit of effort and work rate in their game into the QPR side, and secondly it withdrew Taarabt from an area where he’d regularly been crowded out by the weight of numbers and placed him in a more withdrawn role with all the space that brings.
Rangers really started to attack with some purpose thereafter and might have pulled one back when Zamora laid a ball off to the edge of the area and first Joey Barton and then Nedum Onuoha cracked shots that were blocked away by defenders.
Barton’s recent form has been a source of plenty of conjecture around the QPR support base and though he was a million miles away from his best again here the one thing I will say for both him and Wright-Phillips is that neither of them hide. They are both still constantly looking for the ball even though neither of them are currently able to do much with it. That said I can’t say I was too enamoured with Barton’s seventieth minute decision to remain on the ground feigning injury while Blackburn attacked to the far end – when it petered out without a fourth goal being scored Barton got to his feet and ran off as if nothing had happened to him. Tracking back is presumably something this QPR midfield has only read about in story books. Like Mermaids and other things that don’t seem to exist in the real world.
That was the last of the scares at Paddy Kenny’s end of the ground, which is just as well given the keeper’s personal form. A 20 minute period of solid, constant QPR pressure commenced with Taye Taiwo lashing into the side netting after being fed in by Shaun Wright-Phillips and ended, at the very end of four minutes of added time, with Jamie Mackie working space for himself brilliantly and smashing an unstoppable shot across Robinson and into the far top corner.
That made it 3-2 for a short period before Mike Dean put the home team out of their self inflicted misery because a minute after the Taiwoo shot the burly left back got in again down the left flank after Bradley Orr, bless him, completely misjudged an interception and allowed the big Nigerian to run in behind him. Taiwoo showed good composure to hold fire until the chance presented itself and then squared the ball to Jamie Mackie who fired into the empty net from a yard out.
In between those two goals Mackie blotted his copy book with a yellow card for dissent, although he was perfectly within his rights to question Mike Dean about why on earth Fitz Hall had been penalised for winning a header cleanly in the Blackburn box from a QPR set piece. Perhaps the sight of Hall winning a header of any sorts stunned Dean into the decision as an involuntary reaction. Mackie also could have had another goal ten minutes after his first and ten before his last when he turned well onto an Adel Taarabt pass in the area but sidefooted his finish straight at Robinson. He had been flagged offside though. Mackie broke his leg horribly on this ground in January last season, and the standard of his performances since he returned to action following that has been a credit to him. He was the one QPR player that didn’t deserve to lose this match.
Zamora smashed a wild effort off target and Taarabt drew a powerful save from Robinson at his near post with a rasping drive as the seconds ticked down. Where was this QPR performance in the first half? In the end it was all too little too late despite Mackie’s best efforts.
Mark Hughes said afterwards he’d seen problems within his team that he didn’t previously know existed, but to be honest he must feel like the the bloke with the mallet in his hand when the moles start popping up at the funfair. A fortnight ago he thought he had the middle of his midfield sorted when Akos Buzsaky suddenly played brilliantly against Wigan, here he was dreadful. He probably thought the goalkeeper position was well settled as well and now Paddy Kenny is playing like this. And Jamie Mackie, who few people had a positive word to say about after the Aston Villa game, is suddenly the first name on many people’s team sheets.
The inconsistency must be infuriating for him, but not half as infuriating as it is seeing, once again, one of the Championship players from last season do the business for Rangers while the newly purchased proven Premiership players flounder.
I must say, for the first time, I’m starting to believe we’re not going to escape relegation this season. AS I’ve said before we’re that lethal case of not very good and not very lucky – when we play well something out of the ordinary happens and we fail to win, when we play poorly everybody in the league beats us. We’re a team that loses to the teams around us at the bottom, a team that finds a way to lose matches, a team with a fondness for self destruction. Unexplained first half capitulation is another hallmark of a soon to be relegated side, and at the moment QPR are collecting those hallmarks like a seasoned business traveller collects stamps in his passport.
Blackburn: Robinson 7, Orr 5, Hanley 6, Dann 6, Martin Olsson 7, Nzonzi 7, Lowe 6, Hoilett 7 (Henley 50, 5), Formica 7 (Modeste 66, 5), Pedersen 6, Yakubu 7 (Goodwillie 90, -)
Subs Not Used: Bunn, Petrovic, Rochina, Vukcevic
Booked: Lowe (foul)
Goals: Yakubu 15 (assisted Nzonzi), Nzonzi 23 (assisted Hoilett), Onuoha 45 og (assisted Hoilett)
QPR: Kenny 3, Onuoha 4, Ferdinand 3, Hall 3 (Gabbidon 90, -), Taiwo 4, Traore 4, Wright-Phillips 4, Barton 5, Buzsaky 3 (Mackie 66, 8), Taarabt 6, Zamora 6
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Hill, Derry, Bothroyd, Smith
Booked: Mackie (dissent)
Goals: Mackie 71 (assisted Taiwo), 90 (unassisted)
QPR Star Man – Jamie Mackie 8 By an absolute country mile the best QPR player on view. Could easily have had an astounding game tying hat trick to his name by the close of play. The problem is we’re dealing with wild inconsistency here. After the Villa game Mackie was being criticised, today he’s the hero, as opposed to Buzsaky who was the great white hope after Wigan and bloody awful here. I suspect Tommy Smith will start garnering some support for inclusion soon, then have one good game and one bad one. How frustrating this must be for the manager trying to pick a team.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral) 7 Didn’t have a lot to referee really, got the big decision right on half time when he could easily have given a penalty against Fitz Hall but correctly recognised that he’d won the ball from Yakubu. The Mackie yellow card seemed like a typical Dean decision, a big flouncy over the top booking to make some sort of point, but we don’t know what Mackie actually said so he may have deserved it. Didn’t give QPR much, and seemed to enjoy doing it, but I’m not convinced there was much to give.
Attendance: 20, 252 (1,500 QPR approx) Much has been made of the poisonous Ewood Park atmosphere this season but such was the home side’s dominance in the first half the Rovers fans were too surprised and euphoric to protest or complain about anything. In the second half they were too scared of throwing the whole thing away to do anything other than sit quietly and watch through barely parted fingers. The QPR fans travelled in excellent numbers and deserved better.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
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