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Furs penalty miss costs R's dear
Furs penalty miss costs R's dear
Saturday, 31st Mar 2007 18:56

QPR's Championship status continues to hang by a thread after another defeat at Loftus Road.

How terrible it would be, after everything he's done for the club, if we are to remember Paul Furlong for what happened at Loftus Road on Saturday.

We've had a few penalties this year, compared to the paltry amount we normally get, and we could well have had five or six more if the Championship's officials had behaved themselves. So far we've been successful with all of them - Martin Rowlands has looked very secure, Nygaard rolled one in against Leicester, Gallen against Palace. All a far cry away from the days when penalty misses at Loftus Road happened almost as often as the Guinness pumps breaking down in the Members Bar.

We were always going to miss one again eventually, each spot kick awarded just brought us closer to the devastating moment. Furlong of course has a fairly chequered penalty history when it comes to QPR - several scored against us for Birmingham, a couple missed for us since his move including a back pass type effort in a crucial game at Crewe a few years ago.

That's probably why he's down at fourth or fifth choice for the spot kicks in our current squad. But with option one out injured, option two substituted minutes before, option three off injured in the first half and option four warming the Plymouth bench in deepest Suffolk it came to Furs to stick his arm in the air and volunteer to take it when he himself had been chopped down in the area.

Furlong has come back from a terrible start to his QPR career to be one of the fans' heroes and just when it looked like his career was drawing to a close he's embarked on another Indian summer lately with some polished performances. Hopefully when he's done and dusted we'll remember him for his superb form at Rangers, the goal at Sheff Wed, the play offs and all the rest of it. Sadly this crucial miss did have a bit of a feeling about it - three points turned to zero on the kick of one ball, and if we go down by a point it'll be hard to forget it when we look back at Furlong's QPR career. Such a shame.

Furlong started the day up front with Marc Nygaard and in front of a midfield still without Martin Rowlands through injury. Inigo Idiakez and Bolder started in the middle, Ainsworth and Cook on the flanks. In defence Stewart and Cullip were the centre backs Mancienne and Bignot the full backs in front of Camp in goal. The same team that took a poor Leicester team apart in the previous match.

West Brom looked a frightening prospect on paper. They chose Phillips and Kamara up front and had Koren, Koumas, Greening and Carter behind them. The defence, shorn of Curtis Davies through injury, didn't look quite so formidable but the three players they brought off the bench during the course of the game, Ellington, Gera and Chaplow would comfortably be the best players in the QPR squad and that underlined the difference in quality.

Despite the apparent gulf QPR set about their task very well. Solid hard work across the park, particularly from the front two and Adam Bolder made life difficult for the Baggies who were mostly restricted to shots from long range in the first half.

QPR showed West Brom exactly what they were going to do to them inside the first two minutes when Furlong and then Nygaard hussled and harried possession out of the visitors on the edge of their own box. Nygaard worked the ball wide to Cook who sent a low cross right through the six yard box, just out of the Dane's reach as Kiely flung himself desperately across his goal. This was actually Cook's best contribution of the game and he went turned in one of his worst performances of the season.

At the other end Kamara sent a long range effort marginally off target, and moments later Idiakez gave a slack pass away to Koren who had Camp scrambling back with a dipping shot that missed the top right corner by inches. This was Idiakez's last action of the game - he sunk to the turf just 13 minutes in and was immediately replaced by Steve Lomas with new boy Rohan Ricketts obviously not fit enough for a full 80 minutes of action just yet.

The obvious immediate consequence of this was the amount of loose ball West Brom got away with around the edge of their own penalty area for the rest of the match. Lomas went on to have two good long range efforts and a terrible one after coming on but on countless other occasions headers from Sodje, Clement and others dropped in and around the penalty area with the Rangers' midfield 30 yards back down the field. At Leicester two weeks ago Idiakez joining the attacks and picking these scraps up around the area enabled Rangers to gain momentum and maintain pressure on their opponents.

West Brom were also having problems with their star midfielder. Jason Koumas could only find the wall with his first free kick of the day, the ball deflecting kindly for Camp with Sam Sodje up from the back hunting any rebounds. The Welshman started the game wide on the West Brom left and that was the best possible position for him from a QPR point of view as it pitted him against Michael Mancienne who is the only member of our squad I'd back to do a decent job on the reigning Football League player of the year. That's how it proved in the first half. Koumas spent most of it in Mancienne's pocket, escaping only to smash a couple of free kicks into the QPR wall - Mancienne was brilliant against him.

Later a typical snap shot effort from 25 yards by Phillips dropped nicely into Camp's arms when a fraction more height and power could have caused him real problems. Camp then produced a sprawling save from Kamara which taxed him a little more - West Brom's best chance of the half that one.

QPR's most threatening player when on the attack was Gareth Ainsworth. So poor and lacklustre since coming back from his injury, Gareth was a different man against West Brom and gave Paul Robinson a torrid time. In the first half his lung bursting runs down the right flank supplied Paul Furlong with three chances. The first he poked wide from around the penalty spot, the looked a certain goal but McShane muscled his way in front of Furs and forced the ball out for a corner, the third was headed over from six yards out at full stretch under pressure from Sodje.

So two contrasting styles of play at work, cancelling each other out at half time. West Brom had passed the ball beautifully at times but been restricted mainly to long range efforts on goal. QPR had one of their flair players back in the treatment room having his groin rubbed after barely ten minutes and the other having one of his rare off days wide on the left flank. They were much more direct, feeding Furlong and Nygaard as often and as quickly as possible and relying on a shed load of hard work to keep them in the game. No surprise that Gareth Ainsworth thrived in that kind of game plan.

The Baggies had been the better team but the level scoreline was fair enough.

In the second half West Brom made changes. Nathan Ellington was introduced from the start instead of Darren Carter. Jason Koumas also moved away from Mancienne and provided a crucial influence on the game within the first three minutes. Another superb run and cross down the right from Ainsworth found Furlong eight yards out but his wild swing with his unfavoured right foot didn't make good contact and Kiely collected.

Kiely immediately bowled the ball out to Koumas on the half way line. Centre of the park and away from Mancienne he suddenly found himself with time to pick a pass to Phillips who made his way into the area eluded Cullip and Stewart and smashed the ball past Camp to send the travelling 3000 Baggies wild.

Camp was at full stretch for his save of the match four minutes later, denying Phillips with his left hand, and Ellington also brought a good save from the England Under 21 stopper. Rangers were threatening to be overrun, despite Lomas' well struck half volley that Kiely flung himself left to stop. Mowbray's half time changes had worked a treat.

Luckily John Gregory had a key substitution up his sleeve as well. Marc Nygaard was replaced by Dexter Blackstock with half an hour left for play, the Dane leaving the field to warm applause, for a change, after a good shift, and within seconds it had paid dividends. No surprise that Ainsworth was at the heart of things, pulling a great cross back from the byline to the back post where Blackstock was waiting with a superb leap and header back across the face of goal and in to the far bottom corner.

Blackstock picked up a booking for over celebrating with the crowd in the Ellerslie Road stand. A petty, horrible decision from the referee but one that he had to make under the poxy rules of our game and the beady eye of an officious bastard in the stand with a clip board. Honestly people when you're booking people for celebrating a goal you need to have a bloody good luck at the rules of your game.

Loftus Road was rocking and within minutes they had West Brom cowering in the corner with a sword to their throats. Furlong broke in behind the West Brom centre halves and held them off until he was just eight yards out from goal at which point a clash between him, Robinson, Clement and Kiely had the home fans on their feet and referee Paul Armstrong pointing to the spot. All Furs had to do was drive in the blade and spill the Baggies' blood.

Kiely guessed correctly, and saved with his right hand.

Blackstock sent another header, this time from Lee Cook's corner, wide of the post and another Steve Lomas drive from the edge of the area was well saved by Kiely. Lomas combined his hard work and tackling with the usual array of abysmal passing - one particular free kick that he could have waited until the penalty area was loaded but instead fired a quick one three feet over the head of Lee Cook and out for a throw in sticks in the mind. I'd have more time for him if he didn't see every piss poor pass he makes as the recipients fault.

All in all another infuriating performance from him. Excellent and solid one minute, Sunday park standard the next. The midfield was a Jekyll and Hyde affair all afternoon with Lomas going from the sublime to the ridiculous and Lee Cook looking disinterested and offering nothing while Bolder was solid and impressive in the centre and Ainsworth outstanding wide right.

Overall Rangers were never the same team once Furlong had missed his penalty. Ainsworth was taken off and attached to an iron lung, with a late booking for fouling Jason Koumas to his name, Rohan Ricketts replaced him but it was to no avail. The belief built up over the second half drained away in that one instance. That West Brom waited until just four minutes from time to rob Rangers of a deserved point is very concerning with a game coming up on Tuesday - those players worked so hard for anything they could get only to be denied at the death, I only hope there is some fuel left in the tank and confidence left in the players ahead of Preston's visit on Tuesday because that's a big one.

The goal when it came was the work of two of the Baggies substitutes. As stated at the start of this report the three players they brought off the bench summed up for me the difference in class between the sides and so it was fitting, and devastating, that two of them combined to score the winner. Mancienne was done all ends up by Ellington who flashed a cross through the six yard box to Gera who hammered home his seventh of the season from an acute angle. The second time in the game a substitute had scored with his first meaningful touch. Gera was booked for over celebrating as well for good measure, see earlier rant.

Play like this on Tuesday and we'll have no problems winning that crucial game in hand. The players just need to believe - the performances are much improved, West Brom were just a bit better than us on the day. Preston are not as good as West Brom in my opinion, especially if they play as they did on Friday night, and if we can hold our fragile confidence together until Tuesday we will beat them if we play like this again. Easier said than done of course.

QPR: Camp 6, Bignot 6, Cullip 6, Stewart 6, Mancienne 7, Ainsworth 8 (Ricketts 82, -), Bolder 7, Idiakez - (Lomas 13, 6), Cook 5, Furlong 6, Nygaard 7 (Blackstock 61, 8)
Subs not used: Cole, Kanyuka.
Scorers: Blackstock 62
Bookings: Blackstock 62 (over celebrating), Ainsworth 81 (foul), Camp 93 (kicking the ball away)

WBA: Kiely 8, Robinson 5, Clement 6, Sodje 8, McShane 7, Greening 7, Koren 7, Carter, 6 (Ellington 46 7), Koumas 7, Phillips 7 (Gera 77), Kamara 7 (Chaplow 85 -).
Subs not used: Daniels, Albrechtsen.
Scorers: Phillips 48, Gera 84
Bookings: Gera 84 (over celebrating)

QPR Star Man - Gareth Ainsworth 8 - Back to his very, very best. Superb work rate, skills and service from the right flank for the duration of his time on the pitch. Excellent stuff.

Referee: Mr P Armstrong 6 - Got the penalty decision right but should have at least booked the offender if not sent them off. From where I was sitting it was hard to tell at normal speed just who it was that had got the crucial touch on Furlong so maybe that was his problem as well. Hate the booking for over celebrating nonsense but that's the idiots that make the rules up, not his fault. A late booking for Camp for punching the ball away towards the corner flag where a corner was about to be taken was a crazy decision.

Attendance: 14, 784

Photo: Action Images

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