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Life without Gregory starts with another thrashing
Life without Gregory starts with another thrashing
Wednesday, 3rd Oct 2007 11:46

QPR shipped another four goals on Wednesday night as Mick Harford started his caretaker reign with a defeat at Colchester.

There were five thousand three hundred and sixty one people inside Layer Road for this one, including three and a half thousand unemployed managers in the main stand trying to catch Flavio Briatore's eye and get themselves a new job.

I'm struggling to remember a time when so many names were in the frame for a job. Just off the top of my head we've already been linked with Alessandro Costacurta, Antonio Conte, Franco Baresi, Gianluca Vialli, Ray Wilkins, Glenn Roeder, Stuart Pearce, Martin Allen, Mickey Adams, Paul Jewell, Neil Warnock, David O'Leary (please Dear God no), Kevin Keegan, John Barnes, Graham Rix, Peter Reid, Mick Harford and probably a few more besides.

A number of these men have been seen at QPR matches recently fuelling speculation - Stuart Pearce was there again last night and you don't need to watch Dexter Blackstock this often to know he's not fit for the Under 21s at the moment. Quite why anybody would pay to watch QPR is a mystery to me and surely after recent displays these established men in the game should be running for the hills as far away from QPR as they can possibly get. This looks like an impossible job.

The club hasn't commented since removing John Gregory at the start of the week, although rumour has it they have distanced themselves from a survey that reveals four out of five QPR players believe defence is something that separates your back garden from de-neighbours.

I'm not sure everybody in that list of names working together in glorious harmony as part of a consortium led by Jesus would make any difference to our back four at the moment.

Mick Harford removed Zesh Rehman from his back four following the worst 45 minutes of defending I've seen from a QPR player in my 17 years following the club at West Brom on Sunday. The surprise choice to replace him was Martin Rowlands with Mancienne still suffering from tartus maximus and Timoska still apparently ill - are we the only club in the league that would allow a player with a virus to spend time with the other players?

Mikele Leigertwood moved to centre half in place of Damion Stewart alongside Cullip with Barker at left back and Camp in goal. It looked on paper a much more secure line up, in the end it proved to be just one goal better than the rabble that played on Sunday. In midfield there was a debut for Jason Jarrett with Adam Bolder in the middle, Ainsworth and Ephraim were the wingers with Stefan Moore mercifully hooked along with Rehman. Up front Rowan Vine made his debut with Blackstock.

For Colchester former QPR player Kevin McLeod was unwell and replaced in the line up by Danny Granville.

QPR actually started the game very well, on the front foot from the first whistle. The introduction of Jarrett to the midfield gave us a presence previously missing he was able to get on the ball and start actually passing it to the wingmen and forwards which is something that's been sadly lacking this season. Consequently Ephraim started causing his former club problems down the left and Vine was ripping them to pieces down the middle. It all looked very promising.

Ephraim sent a lethal cross right through the six yard box inside five minutes but Vine and Blackstock were just too far away to get a touch and convert with goalkeeper Gerken frantically scrambling across. Then a cross from the opposite side by Rowlands found Blackstock with a towering header at the back post but just as an identical goal to the one we scored at West Brom looked likely Rowan Vine mis-kicked from close range and the ball was scrambled away.

Izzet had a half hearted appeal for a penalty waved away after ten minutes but Vine was involved again at the other end seconds later, collecting the ball just inside the Colchester half and setting off on a marauding run towards the penalty area that ended with a twenty yard shot deflected wide by Virgo. Next he crossed to the back post for Gareth Ainsworth but Gerken got down well to save in the bottom corner just as a goal looked certain.

A tame shot wide by Kevin Lisbie was all Colchester had to show for twenty minutes under pressure so when they took the lead in comical circumstances the travelling Rangers support engaged in a mass tearing of hair exercise. Dean Yeates, once linked with a move from Tottenham to QPR, collected his own cleared corner down the U's left side. Ainsworth and Rowlands doubled up on him well but when he dummied to cross and then took them on down the flank both players turned their backs to block the ball in that never came and suddenly Rangers were stretched.

Yeates shot for goal himself and Camp looked to get a good finger tip on the ball to turn it onto the bar, as it dropped down in the six yard box Mikele Leigertwood lived up to his unfortunate nickname with a bumbling own goal under little pressure from the home side. It was just an unfortunate accident on Leigertwood's part - the real culprits were Rowlands and Ainsworth who both turned their back on a dummy from Yeates, it all comes back to getting the basics right and you never turn your back like that, kids are taught that from a very young age. Criminal defending.

After recent events I just expected the heads to go down following this set back against the run of play but to the players' credit they just continued to attack. The home defence couldn't cope with Vine at all and he was desperately unlucky not to score at the end of two jinking runs into the penalty area - Gerken saved his first effort down low in the bottom corner and then produced an unorthodox diving punch in the six yard box as Vine tried to cross to a team mate. The young keeper had to be on his toes to collect an undercooked chest back from Duguid as well with Vine and Blackstock ready to pounce.

The only surprise when Rangers did finally equalise after half an hour was that it wasn't Vine who got it. Chris Barker, looking slightly more comfortable and assured at left back, fed a nice ball down the line to Ephraim and after exchanging passes with Vine the West Ham loanee made his way into the area and hammered a low shot past Gerken and into the net. Ephraim spent time on loan at Layer Road last season and after receiving a good reception before the match from the home fans he returned the respect with a muted celebration.

It looked like there could only be one winner of the game from here with Rangers running the home side ragged. Colchester hadn't deserved to be in front but QPR had fought back and now surely the game was only going to go one way. Sadly the increasingly impressive looking performance was built on very meagre foundations and within a minute Colchester had carved their way through and taken the lead again.

Danny Granville made the most of space down the Rangers right again and slung over a cross that fell plum onto the head of midfielder Kem Izzett, completely unmarked 15 yards out, and he guided his header past Camp into the corner. It was just all too easy for them. Rangers had worked hard for their goal and created numerous chances, Colchester scored with their first two attacks.

This time the heads did drop and when Clive Platt sprung the offside trap Rangers were indebted to Lee Camp for a low save which kept them within a goal of their hosts. The R's were starting to fall apart at the back, Colchester were running through the midfield unchecked and balls were being allowed to bounce all around the penalty area.

Five minutes before half time it all collapsed again. Kevin Lisbie broke through from halfway and reached the edge of the penalty area unchecked. Adam Bolder chased after him and launched into a challenge just as he threatened to unload a shot. Bolder got a big piece of the ball, and it looked like a good tackle, but here's where the rules let the game down as it was from behind and therefore a free kick even though it was an excellent tackle.

Yeates stepped up to take and fired a low shot towards goal. The five man wall fell apart almost before it was formed and the ball flew past Camp via a deflection. Before the break Gareth Ainsworth attempted a repeat of his famous Rushden goal with a first time volley and Dean Gerken made a mess of a back pass - it was so frustrating to be losing so heavily because we were well in the game and could have been in front if we'd defended with any degree of competency.

Rangers weren't quite as fluent and effective in possession after the break. Jarrett disappeared from the game altogether which after an impressive opening half was a real shame. The defence continued to be a bit of a shambles with Leigertwood and Cullip regularly clashing for the same ball or allowing it to bounce between them. Barker was much improved on recent performances when he came inside and covered the centre halves but whenever he was exposed one on one with Yeates down the wing he had problems. Not being able to go one on one with a winger is not a great quality to have in a full back.

Lisbie and Baldwin both fired shots in on goal only to be denied by impressive saves from Camp and a cross from Granville narrowly evaded Clive Platt at the back post. Then it was Rangers' turn for a goal against the run of play. As the game neared the hour mark Gareth Ainsworth cut in from the right and laid the perfect pass into Vine who fired home in front of the QPR fans. Vine certainly deserved his goal after a very encouraging debut.

As if it wasn't infuriating enough to go 2-1 down seconds after equalising QPR incredibly managed to repeat the trick from this kick off. Yeates had a shot deflected an inch wide of the post then from the corner Lisbie hit the base of the other upright after being afforded the freedom of Layer Road. When the QPR defence failed to get the ball away Yeates crossed and Clive Platt headed home.

Harford switched to a 4-3-3 formation by introducing Sahar for Jarrett but this just opened things up even more at the back and took up a lot of the space Vine was working in. Dexter Blackstock was looking tired and laboured again, although he did draw a booking from Duguid after chasing a lost cause down to the corner. He looks like he could do with a rest really.

Ephraim wasn't as impressive in the second half as he had been in the first and picked up a booking for fouling Yeates after cashing him back into the Rangers half. Ainsworth got a card himself for a similar offence on the other side of the field against George Elokobi. All in all Rangers just petered out. Virgo was unlucky not to extend the lead when he headed just wide of the bottom corner after Platt had set him up.

Kevin Lisbie fired home a fifth goal as time ticked away but the flag had long since been raised and the goal was ruled out. I did get the impression that Colchester could just pick us off at will and had we managed to get another goal back we only would have conceded a fifth. Harford sent on Stefan Moore for the final few minutes which was the cue for a lot of QPR fans who could stand it no more to head for the exits.

Another disappointing evening at the hands of our team then - and we're now well adrift at the bottom of the Championship. Quite why anybody would be interested in being our new manager is beyond me but apparently lots of people are and they need to get stuck into this mess as soon as possible. We now have two home games against two very ordinary sides and we need points from them - the defence needs major surgery.

The introduction of Vine made us look like a different side going forward. I've been flagging up the lack of service given to our strikers so far this season and I stand by that but Vine showed last night that if you're not getting the service or the ball where you need it you work hard and go and get the ball in areas where you can make an impact. He regularly dropped very deep and collected the ball from the midfield so he wasn't relying entirely on long balls down the field as our strikers have so far this season. Alongside him Blackstock still looks badly out of sorts after a traumatic few weeks - maybe it's time to rest him.

At the back it's a different story - we really are all over the place. If Cullip and Leigertwood is going to be the partnership then they must now be left to get to know each other for a few games. No more of this chopping and changing, let's get a partnership going. Barker improved last night but is still exposed whenever he' one on one and maybe this rumoured hernia problem is the issue here. I'd have Timoska in for him first chance we get. Martin Rowlands with the best will in the world isn't a right back and as well as his positioning not being quite right he fails to solve the age old problem of a lack of height at the back post from right wing crosses, I'd have Mancienne in there as soon as possible when he;s fit again.

But defending doesn't begin and end with the back four. Adam Bolder is hopelessly out of form this season and Jason jarrett vanished altogether last night after a promising opening half an hour. There's little protection coming from the midfield, the full backs and wingers rarely double up against their men and that coupled with the shambles at the heart of the defence itself is not good news.

Onto Norwich at home on Monday night now - the Canaries are without a win, or even a goal, in five matches and must be beaten to keep us in touch. A big game for a big manager, but who will it be?

Colchester: Gerken 5, Duguid 6, Baldwin 6, Virgo 6, Elokobi 5, Yeates 8, Izzet 7, Jackson 7, Granville 8, Lisbie 7, Platt 7.
Subs Not Used: Cousins, Guy, Guttridge, Connolly, Elito.
Booked: Duguid (foul), Jackson (foul), Platt (foul)
Goals: Leigertwood 19 og (unassisted), Izzet 30 (assisted Granville), Yeates 38 (assisted Lisbie), Platt 63 (assisted Yeates)

QPR: Camp 6, Rowlands 5, Leigertwood 4, Cullip 4, Barker 6, Ainsworth 5 (Moore 85, -), Jarrett 6 (Sahar 75, 6), Bolder 4, Ephraim 7, Blackstock 5, Vine 8.
Subs Not Used: Cole, Bignot, Stewart
Booked: Bolder (foul), Ephraim (foul), Ainsworth (foul)
Goals: Ephraim 29 (assisted Vine), Vine 58 (assisted Ainsworth)

QPR Star Man - Rowan Vine 8 A fantastic debut with a goal and an assist to his name, very unlucky to finish on the losing side. He really looked the part all night showing a good touch and turn of pace - he caused Colchester no end of trouble in the first half and could easily have had a hat trick. I just hope we don't drag him down to our level.

Referee: Jon Moss (W Yorkshire) 7 - Pretty sensible display all round although I really don't think it was a foul from Bolder that led to the third goal. I can sympathise with him because the rules outlaw tackles from behind but this is a contact sport and that was a good tackle.

Attendance: 5,361 (900 QPR fans approx)

Photo: Action Images

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