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Barnsley defeats drags R's back into trouble
Barnsley defeats drags R's back into trouble
Tuesday, 30th Jan 2007 20:25

QPR are back in the bottom three today after slipping to a 2-0 defeat against relegation rivals Barnsley at Oakwell on Tuesday.

Was it Custer that said "things can only get better" just before a load more Indians turned up? I know how he felt. Two goals conceded in the final four minutes at Hull, catastrophic refereeing at home to Southampton and a miserable failure of the cow's arse and banjo test against Luton left me thinking that maybe it was our turn for a bit of luck at Barnsley.

Not so. Instead we decided to combine the late goals, the incompetent refereeing and missing guilt edge chances to form one glorious defeat in a crucial match. I'd sort of slumped on the steps, still dressed up in my work suit, by the time Howard chipped a glorious second goal in for the Tykes and all I could think was "where do we go from here?"

Of course in the short term we go home and take on Burnley in the Bush on Saturday - although what frame of mind our young team, several of whom left the field in tears last night, will be in come kick off in that one remains to be seen. Whereas the first goal going in against was seen as a minor set back before Christmas it's like another nail in the coffin now and it's hard to see where the next goal, let alone win, is coming from.

At Oakwell John Gregory was able to field both his transfer window acquisitions from the start. Sam Timoska began on the left side of a four man defence and Adam Bolder partnered Lomas in midfield. Smith and Cook were the wingers with Mancienne, Stewart and Rehman completing the defence. Up front there was a surprise recall for Paul Furlong alongside Dexter Blackstock. Marc Nygaard and Ray Jones were both on the bench with Gareth Ainsworth.

Barnsley kept faith with the side that won 2-0 at Luton last time out. That meant that once again former Scunthorpe man Paul Hayes and Paul Heckingbottom didn't even make the bench - these two have gone from the first names on the team sheet to not even being in the matchday squad which is a strange situation to say the least.

The first ten minutes of the game resembled a set piece training session with local boy Carl Boyeson awarding Barnsley eight free kicks in and around the penalty area one after the other. As soon as QPR cleared the ball he had the whistle back in his mouth. Of course some of the decisions were correct but I'd say half or more were soft, Barnsley players hitting the deck very easily, or just plain wrong.

When the Yorkshireman eventually managed to hold fire on the whistle for more than 30 seconds Zesh Rehman skipped round Adam Eckersley and cut the ball back from the byline but Paul Reid beat Paul Furlong and Dexter Blackstock to the cross and headed behind for a corner. Cook's delivery was cleared by the first man but after a decent spell of possession Lomas hammered the ball back into the area, Kay stuck out a leg and somehow the ball flew straight into the arms of the keeper. When your luck is in, these go in the net.

Despite this brief threat Barnsley had the better of the opening exchanges. Daniel Nardiello had a shot blocked and Marc Richards was agonisingly short of giving Barnsley the lead on two or three occasions. Whether the cross was just an inch too high or too far away, or his marker managed to get a flick on the ball before him, or somebody got a block in on his goal bound effort it just wouldn't quite fall right for him. A couple of offside calls against him probably did nothing to improve his mood.

Richards was also on the end of two nasty fouls from Bolder and Timoska, Brian Howard also felt the tough side of Bolder's studs early on. It seemed like Rangers were keen to stamp their mark on the game but with Mr Boyeson keen to massage his ego and sense of self importance by awarding as many free kicks as he could manage without running out of breath that wasn't the best ploy. After 15 minutes of persecuting QPR he then set about redressing the balance with numerous questionable decisions in our favour including a number of free kicks in favour of Blackstock when it appeared from our vantage point that Dexter had often gone down rather too easily under minimal contact.

The first card of the match went to Sam Timoska who followed his crude foul on Richards with a cynical shirt pulling offence on Devaney. This was a needless foul because although the Barnsley man had got the wrong side of the Fin Lee Cook had covered in behind him well and taken possession of the ball.

One last ditch clearance inside the six yard box from Stewart apart Rangers seemed pretty comfortable with the Barnsley pressure and set pieces although there was a terrifying moment when a cross to the back post found Rehman all alone and apparently set to repeat his ridiculous Luton own goal, this time though his total miskick bounced out for a corner.

The visiting team started to come into the game more about 20 minutes in. A trademark inswinging Lee Cook free kick from the right was claimed well by Nick Colgan with Furlong and Stewart lurking and then within sixty seconds a loose ball on the edge of the area was sent bouncing towards goal by Jimmy Smith but his mishit shot was a couple of yards off target.

QPR continued to press and seemed to step up a gear when Gregory switched Cook to the right and Smith to the left. Barnsley's first booking came when Paul Furlong turned his man on the halfway line and raced towards the goal with little opposition between him and Colgan and plenty of support. He made it to the edge of the area before being chopped down by Togwell, the former Crystal Palace man, who was booked. From the free kick the ball was shifted for Furlong but there were too many red shirts between him and the goal and the ball was blocked away.

Barnsley did create a chance for Howard after half an hour but he was flagged offside long before Royce produced an outstanding near post save. Jimmy Smith hammered a shot into the bottom corner from an offside position in similar circumstances soon after.

As the game moved towards half time Smith had another chance to give QPR the lead.This time he caught his shot well from twelve yards out after excellent hold up play by Furlong in the six yard box but his shot struck Reid on the head and flew out for a corner. Reid knew nothing about it and actually had to leave the field for treatment as Smith swung the corner into the box. Damion Stewart met it well and Richards cleared the goal bound effort from under his own cross bar.

It seemed as though a first half with plenty of endeavour but a distinct lack of quality would get the half time deadlock it deserved but deep into added time a cross from Hassell found Richards all alone in the penalty area. The linesman kept his flag down and Richards had all the time he needed to finish the chance.

He looked offside to me, and to be frank the linesman's judgement seemed about as reliable as those rope bridges that Indiana Jones always ends up stuck on two thirds of the way through the film. One memorable moment in the first half saw a mishit cross from Hassell fly so far out of play that Royce had to turn around and look towards the away end to keep his eye on it and yet when it curled back and landed on the byline he just shook his head and waved play on.

This could all have been avoided if Rehman and Mancienne hadn't taken the risk of letting him run in behind and just marked him of course.

The linesman was left in no doubt of the visiting supporters' feelings as he left the pitch by the tunnel right next to the away end at half time.

Now for a little while after Gregory arrived being a goal down at half time was nothing unusual, and certainly not a problem for our free scoring squad. Now the goals have dried up and going a goal behind just about kills off all our hope. Nevertheless Rangers came out the second half and battered the Barnsley goal for 15 minutes desperately searching for the leveller. Cook was the key man in everything good Rangers put together - skipping past Barnsley players as if they weren't there and begging for possession and involvement across the park.

Straight from the restart Cook completely skinned Hassell and sent a devilish low cross into the six yard box but Eckersley beat Furlong to the ball at the near post and cleared. I could have written "beat Furlong to the ball" so many times in this report because apart from his usual excellent hold up play he struggled to reach any through balls or crosses before the defenders all night and a mediocre display was compounded when he somehow managed to turn Smith's perfect cross straight back to him when faced with a gaping goal from five yards out.

Dexter Blackstock headed a cross from Timoska straight at Colgan but the key moment of the second half came just past the hour mark. A deep cross to the back post from Cook looked to have too much purchase on it but Blackstock made it his and headed the ball down into the six yard box. With Smith and Furlong waiting for the tap in Kay stuck out an arm and blocked the ball in the goalmouth before clearing. The players, bench and supporters appealed as one, it was blatant, and yet Mr Boyeson just waved it away. Moments like this in games like these decide seasons - I was going to say he might have worried about his car's safety in the face of 400 irate QPR fans but he probably walked to the ground from his house anyway.

After this QPR never really carried the same threat and Barnsley were the better team for the final 20 minutes. Wild efforts into the away end from Bolder and Timoska did nothing to ease the growing despair among the travelling faithful. Gregory introduced Jones for Furlong and Ainsworth for Lomas but neither could make any greater impact on the game than their predecessors and the majority of the closing stages were actually played out at the far end of the ground.

A first time hooked volley from the corner of the penalty area by Richards was nervously scrambled wide by Royce whose poor positioning seemed to panic him somewhat. Damion Stewart and Michael Mancienne had to use their pace to beat Richards and Nardiello to dangerous through balls as well.

Hassell saw a powerful header from a corner blocked and Bolder flung himself in front of the follow up which led to a break down the field but Cook mishit his 20 yard effort wide of the goal and buried his face in his shirt. He knew the game was up - as we all did two minutes later when another break through a stretched Rangers defence resulted in Howard scoring a glorious second goal, beautifully flighting a chipped shot over Royce and into the corner. A rare moment of pure class on a night of drab football. For a neutral that was almost worth the entrance fee on its own, for the QPR fans it was like a knife to the heart.

Despite all their pressure at the end of the first half and the start of the second Rangers had focussed on missing the chances altogether rather than testing the keeper. The first real save Colgan had to make came with almost the final kick of the game when Blackstock wriggled free in the box and smashed a half volley towards the bottom corner - Colgan turned it behind with a world class one handed save.

So once again a pretty poor performance, and a hat full of missed chances. Yes we should have had a penalty, but we had enough chances and possession to win the game without that. We treat possession around the penalty area with such disdain - like another chance will probably be along in a minute so it doesn't matter. Urgency and the killer touch must be worked on. Get a bloody good shot in quickly or get it out to the wingers for a cross. We've nobody to blame for this result but ourselves.

There's just no confidence in the team. Bolder put himself about a bit and passed a nice ball for the most part but he isn't going to make a massive difference. Timoska was steady again but ditto for him. The team is good enough to stay in the league but they don't play with any confidence, and they don't play to their strengths. Cook had to go looking for the ball most of the time, only Lomas found him consistently wide on the left, and Ainsworth barely saw the ball after he came on. Furlong looked his age, Blackstock worked hard with no reward.

Burnley is now a massive match of course, I seem to be saying that every week now, but for the first time this season I've actually lost hope that we're going to come out of this season a Championship club.

Barnsley: Colgan 7, Hassell 6, Reid 6, Togwell 6, Richards 7, Howard, 8, Kay 6 (K Reid 74, 7), Eckersley 6, Nardiello 6, Devaney 7, McCann 6
Subs: Lucas, Coulson, Atkinson, Mattis
Scorers: Richards 45, Howard 90
Bookings: Togwell (foul), Richards (time wasting)

QPR: Royce 6, Rehman 5 (Nygaard 85, -), Bolder 6, Lomas 6 (Ainsworth 74, 5), Cook 7, Stewart 6, Timoska 6, Furlong 5 (Jones 70, 5), Blackstock 7, Smith 5, Mancienne 6
Subs not used: Cole, Kanyuka
Bookings: Timoska (shirt pulling), Mancienne (foul)

Attendance: 9,890

QPR Star Man - Lee Cook 7 - The biggest threat to Barnsley all night, did not deserve to be on the losing side and did everything he could in the second half to pull Rangers back into the game. Distraught after the final whistle.

Ref: C Boyeson (Yorkshire) 2 - And they just keep coming - tin pot official for two tin pot teams. Criminally bad at his job. Assisted by some fat bloke seemingly dragged in off the street at a moment's notice and handed a flag with no knowledge of the rules at all.

Photo: Action Images

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