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Brum too good for improved R's
Brum too good for improved R's
Tuesday, 12th Sep 2006 16:27

QPR turned in one of their most accomplished performances of the season but a combination of quality opposition and two calamitous pieces of defending meant it was all in vein.

I must confess that typing the match preview up the day before was nothing short of terrifying - looking at what Birmingham had to pick from compared to us really brought home how difficult it was going to be. They could even afford to leave Forssell and Jerome on the bench and pick former QPR trainee DJ Campbell and Nicklas Bendtner up front together.

Rangers were without key midfielders Gareth Ainsworth and Martin Rowlands for the third consecutive league game. They kept the same side that got a hard earned point at Plymouth which meant a full home debut for Egutu Oliseh in midfield alongside Ward, Cook and the revitalised Marc Bircham. At the back Rose, Rehman, Stewart and Milanese lined up again, looking to recover from their uncomfortable afternoon at Home Park in front of Paul Jones. Dexter Blackstock and Marc Nygaard started up front together for the second time this season.

There was no place on the bench for Kevin Gallen or Steve Lomas as Waddock went for a full set of his former youth team regulars in reserve. Ray Jones, Pat Kanyuka, Shabazz Baidoo, Stefan Bailey and Jake Cole took their place in the dug out prior to kick off.

Rangers started brightly and the first chance of the game went their way when a ball dropped on the edge of the Birmingham penalty area. Lee Cook picked it up and it seemed to sit up perfectly for a volley with his second touch but he dallied and then crumpled under minimal contact from N'Gotty before losing possession.

Former England midfielder David Dunn was one of the names that stood out when I was writing the match preview and he showed he's still got a few nice touches despite his injury problems when he skinned Ward and Rose down in the corner before firing a low shot in on goal which Stewart cleared behind.

In the seventh minute a superb five pass move involving Cook, Ward, Bircham and then Cook again had the little left winger tearing away into the Birmingham half but the final ball that would have had Oliseh in on goal was just cut out by Larsson. Ten minutes later Larsson, on loan with Bendtner from Arsenal, dragged a shot wide of the post and then after a quickly taken free kick David Dunn did likewise from distance.

In the twentieth minute more good play between Cook and Bircham down the left saw the ball rolled across the face of the penalty area to Nygaard who side footed wide from twenty yards out when he should have stuck a boot through it and cracked a low drive in on goal. It seemed that it wouldn't have mattered though as referee Paul Melin had penalised Blackstock for a shirt pulling offence on Jaidi.

At the back QPR continued to look nervous and uncomfortable - no more so than when facing a set piece. Waddock and McDonald are clearly trying to bring in a zonal marking system and I'm afraid it's just not working. Liverpool have been trying this for two years now and even they continue to struggle at corners, and we're not in the same league as them in so many more ways than one.

Birmingham's giant centre halves Jaidi and N'Gotty thought all their birthdays had come at once when QPR allowed them to freely attack the ball at corners from the edge of the penalty area - only marking them when they arrived in which ever defender's respective zones. Even if this does work as it's supposed to it allows the opponent a free running jump at the ball while the defender has a standing start.

In the twenty second minute Jaidi headed wide after wandering around by himself at a corner. One minute later Melin bought Bendtner's dive over Bircham hook, line and sinker and from the free kick N'Gotty was left equally free and headed home. The marking was poor, Jones should have come for the cross - another defensive disaster.

At the other end though Rangers were positive, direct and inventive. Lee Cook sent a long range volley in on goal which was easily saved by Taylor but when the Northern Ireland keeper's kick was blocked by Blackstock Bircham was able to send the ball back into the penalty area where Nygaard was wrestled to the ground but had previously been flagged offside. Quite how you can be offside when you've got Jaidi hanging onto you on the goal side I don't know and judging by his reaction neither does Nygaard. It was just another interesting decision from the increasingly erratic officials.

The worst one of the half from Mr Melin came when Egutu Oliseh was crudely taken out by Johnson right in front of my seat and with the Nigerian motionless on the turf and the fans in the Paddock baying for blood the free kick was awarded to Birmingham.

In the thirty third minute it was the visitors' turn to feel aggrieved. The Rangers' defence allowed a long ball forward to bounce, a real trait of he current back four, and Campbell charged down an attempted clearance from Stewart before slipping the ball into the corner. Melin was on hand to disallow the goal for handball, and replays showed him to be correct, but it was only a matter of inches and it wasn't deliberate - Rangers were lucky not to be two behind.

The only Birmingham forward not getting a lot of change out of Rangers' rickety defence was Bendtner who took a huge dive over Rose in the penalty area followed by a long rant at the referee in the thirty fifth minute and then a moment later his frustration got the better of him with a wild effort wide of the target from distance.

Ten before half time Marc Bircham sent an altogether more composed long range shot in on goal when his twenty five yard free kick from wide flashed across the six yard box and was claimed at the second attempt by Taylor who was lucky to get away with an initial fumble with so many bodies around him. Damien Johnson was booked for his foul on Blackstock which led to the award of the set piece.

Taylor was altogether more composed five before the break when Bircham sent a glorious pass to Oliseh who brilliantly tricked his way past Larsson and sent a deep cross in towards Marc Nygaard. Taylor was clam and strong and picked the ball right off the forehead of Rangers' Danish target man.

Right on half time another bouncing ball in the defence allowed Campbell a chance to turn Rehman and feed Danns who fired wide with the aid of a deflection. From the corner the ball fell loose at the edge of the area and David Dunn met it full on the volley but smashed the ball half a yard wide - apparently with the aid of another deflection although again that seemed to be more down to Mr Melin fancying another corner rather than any actual evidence that one should have been awarded.

So Rangers went in 1-0 down at half time, but they were by no means taking the hammering the teams on paper suggested they might. Sadly Dexter Blackstock retired injured at half time and was replaced by England Under 19 international Ray Jones.

The second half didn't start well though. Rose fell flat on his back under no pressure at all and Campbell, stifling laughter, raced away down the field. Stewart worked back well and caught him but the ball broke loose to Bendtner and he hit a twenty yarder which Jones parried wide.

Having impressed in flashes during the first half Egutu Oliseh became increasingly involved after the break. His first contribution was a lovely through ball to Ward who sent in a cross which Damien Johnson just beat a less than interested Marc Nygaard to at the back post.

Waddock, as he had done on Saturday, switched Oliseh and Cook within ten minutes of the restart and the change came within two inches of paying immediate dividends. Cook broke inside his man down the right flank and fed Ward infield, Ward moved the ball on to Oliseh on the corner of the penalty area and after dummying and stepping back onto his right foot the Nigerian saw his shot deflect off Johnson's boot, over Taylor and just as the Loft thought the moment had arrived it dropped out of the night sky past the post and out for a corner.

In true Rangers' style the corner, taken short between Ward and Cook, was a total disaster and the pair of them were grateful to Jones for saving Campbell's low shot and keeping the deficit at one. Waddock clearly likes a short corner, but they're only any good if you've got a two on one situation going, otherwise the ball should be crossed in.

Oliseh kept plugging away, providing the creative spark in a midfield driven on by Bircham and an increasingly passionate crowd. Oliseh's cross in the sixtieth minute was headed wide by Nygaard. A rare Birmingham attack at the other end highlighted the gulf in quality between the two sides - for all their possession and pressing Rangers hadn't created a clear cut chance and Birmingham, at the drop of a hat, set up Campbell who rattled the inside of the post.

In the sixty fifth minute Birmingham found themselves down to ten men. For the third time on the night Bendtner took an unconvincing tumble in the area and followed it with a mouthful of abuse for the referee. Melin decided that enough was enough and showed him a yellow card.

You could almost see Bircham's eyes light up from the South Africa Road Stand, within seconds the midfielder was by Bendtner's side, offering him words of advice and ideas about swapping shirts. The Dane, predictably, showed a lack of experience and gave Bircham a bit of a shrug off under a throw in, Bircham hit the deck and Bendtner was off. As he had done with the Birmingham goal, Melin bought a blatant piece of play acting. Although it was an injustice Bendtner acted like a bit of a petulant kid and wandered round in the centre circle for a couple of minutes before finally getting himself off the pitch. He'll learn.

Steve Bruce sent Cameron Jerome on to lead the line with ten men and with fifteen minutes to play he worked hard down the right and crossed to McSheffrey at the back post who sent a scissor kick over the bar when placed to do a lot better. Gary Waddock added Shabazz Baidoo to his arsenal in place of Zesh Rehman despite Melin's best attempts to delay the change until the Colchester match - Rose, Milanese and Stewart made up a back three.

With Stewart and Baidoo suddenly providing pace and power down the right, Oliseh, Bircham and Ward pulling strings in the middle and Cook back to the left Rangers chucked everything at Birmingham. Cook sent in a cross from the left which Nygaard nodded down and Jones acrobatically hooked wide as they searched for an equaliser.

With ten minutes to go excellent work from Bircham and a good pass set up Ward to dink the perfect cross in front of Jones but the youngster guided a powerful header over the bar on the run.

The best chance for an equaliser came five minutes from time when Oliseh and Baidoo combined to get the youngster in round the back of his man. Baidoo sent a low ball across the six yard area, agonisingly out of reach of Nygaard and Jones and you sensed the moment had gone.

Indeed when Matthew Rose criminally allowed a late clearance from Taylor to bounce yet again you bloody knew the moment had gone. Cameron Jerome made our "skipper" look like a complete idiot before doing the same to Paul Jones - embarrassingly lobbing him from fifteen yards. If the first goal was a bit of a mess this was just a catastrophe - schoolboy defending. It was a real ground emptier as well which is a shame because the players' effort deserved at least polite applause at the end of the game.

The midfield four were excellent all night with Bircham the pick of the bunch. Ward was the quietest of the bunch but still more than useful, Oliseh was excellent and Cook wasn't too bad either. Sadly the strikers in front of them offered little threat and the defence behind them were embarrassing.

If we play like this next week we'll win three matches. Colchester, Port Vale and Hull will have nothing on us if we turn in a performance like this. The problem is this is QPR - expect us to turn in a terrible display and throw points away at Colchester, go out of the cup at Port Vale and then get involved in an arm wrestle with Hull. Whatever they do, it's a massive week for Waddock and the boys - the signs are there, but it's time for some points or we're going to have a long winter on our hands.

Teams

QPR: Paul Jones 5, Rose 4, Rehman 4 (Baidoo 74, 8), Stewart 5, Milanese 6,Oliseh 8, Bircham 8, Ward 7, Cook 7, Nygaard 5, Blackstock 6 (Ray Jones 45, 6).
Subs Not Used: Cole, Bailey, Kanyuka.

Birmingham: Maik Taylor 8, Johnson 6, Jaidi 8, N'Gotty 8, Larsson 6, Danns 7, Dunn 7 (Kilkenny 76, 6), Muamba 7 (Martin Taylor 90, -),McSheffrey 7, Campbell 8 (Jerome 71, 8), Bendtner 7.
Subs Not Used: Doyle, Forssell.
Sent Off: Bendtner (68).
Booked: Johnson, Dunn, Bendtner.
Goals: N'Gotty 23, Jerome 90.

Attendance: 10,936

QPR Star Man - Marc Bircham 8 - Second game on the trot for Bircham. Him and Oliseh ran the midfield and were so unlucky to finish on the losing side. Long may it continue, at the moment he should be the first name on the team sheet and it's been many a long month since that was last the case.

Ref: P Melin (Surrey) 5 - Fell for every trick in the book from Bendtner and Cambell, Bircham and Cook. Ably assisted by a couple of clueless officials. Got the Campbell disallowed goal right but the sending off wrong. Failed to clamp down on Taylor's time wasting and took seven minutes to realise Waddock wanted to bring Baidoo on despite the board being up and the linesman flagging. The decision to penalise Oliseh for nearly having his leg broken in the first half was ridiculous. Not great.

Photo: Action Images



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