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Morrison denies QPR yet again
Morrison denies QPR yet again
Saturday, 10th Nov 2007 11:25

Clinton Morrison's 100th goal for Crystal Palace, 82 of which have come against QPR, denied Rangers the three points they deserved at Selhurst Park on Saturday.


Don't you hate those match reports on unofficial websites where the author dons his rose tinted specs and bangs on about his wonderful team tearing inferior opposition limb from limb and the only reason they didn't win 6-0 was because of bad luck and the referee? Every defeat is a gross injustice, every victory the next step on the road to world domination.

Regular readers will know I do try and avoid being too partisan and like to give as fair and impartial view of what's gone on as possible. Palace fans reading this report today though will think I'm one of those aforementioned biased idiots who sees everything in a shade of blue and white because for once I'm going to swoon a bit over our team. I thought QPR were excellent on Saturday.

There are still a few rough edges of course, but De Canio is clearly having a huge influence on the players after just a couple of weeks in the job. The passing and possession football was, at times, like nothing we've seen QPR play for years and for long periods in both halves Palace just had to stand and watch. Three times in the second period flowing moves resulted in QPR players racing through on goal, in the end only profligate finishing cost the Hoops three points that they really deserved.

QPR came into the game without centre half Martin Cranie and centre forward Marc Nygaard who both picked up injuries in the midweek defeat by Coventry. Mikele Leigertwood was fit enough to start against his former club though despite the broken nose he suffered against the Sky Blues. These bumps and bruises resulted in a complete change of system. Rowan Vine started up front by himself with Buzsaky playing a withdrawn role off him. Mikele Leigertwood held the middle of the midfield with Sinclair and Rowlands left and right and Adam Bolder got a recall to sit in front of the back four. Sammy Timoska started at centre half alongside Stewart with Mancienne and Barker the full backs in front of Lee Camp.

Palace, fresh from draws at Scunthorpe and Cardiff earlier in the week, made a couple of changes themselves with the much talked about 15 year old midfielder John Bostock dropped to the bench in favour of winger Paul Ifill. Up front Clinton Morrison came in which was a shame for QPR because Morrison offers so much more threat than the man he replaced in the line up James Scowcroft. I'd quite fancy myself to mark James Scowcroft out of a game but Morrison is a trickier customer and has a nasty habit of scoring against QPR.

The Buzsaky and Vine partnership combined to good effect for the first time after eight minutes when the former slipped a ball through for the latter and only a flying save by Speroni in the Palace goal denied Vine his second strike for the club.

As the game settled down it became an intriguing match between two contrasting styles. Palace had one up front with Ifill and Songo'o playing off him on each side. It was a little bit similar to the system used by Bolton Wanderers under Sam Allardyce and the style of football wasn't much better than the Trotters ever managed under. It was typical Warnock stuff really, all blood and thunder, very little style and control.

Rangers were playing a very continental style with lots of intricate link up passing between Vine and Buzsaky up top. They were happy to soak up whatever their more direct opponents had to throw at them and go on the counter attack with Scott Sinclair a particularly effective weapon for that. His low cross shot through the six yard box that eluded everybody but had Palace hearts in mouths was just one example of our effective strike play on the counter attack. There was a notable difference in our desire to keep the ball as well - much less aimless hoofing and half as many of the balls into the channel English manager seem to think are the be all and end all of winning games in this country. We were actually quite good to watch.

Palace struggled to get out of their half for the first 20 minutes but the one drawback of the QPR set up was the lack of a real point man in the attack. Vine is more at home playing off an out and out striker himself and although he managed to work his team mates into the byline countless times during the match they often looked up to see very few options to pass to. Work to do then, but it will be done from a good base of passing football.

When the hosts did finally start making so inroads they did get more options in the box than we had done. Ifill headed over the bar after being set up by Kennedy and then fired a low drive straight at Lee Camp. Morrison drove high and wide after being played in by Tom Soares but let himself down ten minutes before half time with a terrible piece of play acting trying to milk a penalty from Michael Mancienne. Referee Peter Walton waved the appeals away but it barely warranted a reaction at all from the referee.

I thought Mancienne was much better defensively than he has been of late, but still struggles with the attacking elements of full back play. Still after a few below par performances it was good to see him looking more like his old self.

Just seconds before half time Rangers made the breakthrough. Martin Rowlands' corner travelled through the penalty area without causing too many problems but the loose ball was retrieved by Buzsaky down the QPR left. He sent a superb cross towards the near post and Scott Sinclair powered in his first goal for the club with a header across the goalkeeper. It was no more than QPR deserved and they went into the break in front.

Palace emerged for the second half with a change made to their team. Youth teamer Ryan Hall came on for the ineffective Songo'o for his debut and the Eagles set about dominating the first ten minutes of the half no doubt with one of Warnock's classic half time team talks ringing in their ears. Two minutes after the break Paul Ifill should have scored when he met a flick on from Kennedy's corner at the back post with a mishit volley. The ball bounced over Camp but Bolder got back onto the line and saved the day with a clearing header.

Within seconds the home side did finally get the ball in the net when Watson and Fonte combined to set up Morrison for run on goal and finish past Camp but the flag had long since been raised and the travelling two thousand in the away end lived to taunt their rivals for a while longer.

Clearly the plan had been to come out and blast us for ten minutes, get back into the game and go from there. Rangers had gone away from everything they did well in the first half but managed to survive and that seemed to demoralise Palace. Soon the crisp passing and possession football returned and QPR then created three excellent chances to sew the game up.

First a flowing move on the hour mark sent Bolder through down the left flank. He cut inside and headed for goal but hit a shoulder high shot when a low drive was required and Speroni made a good two handed save to keep him out. The general feeling where I was sitting was that had that chance fallen to somebody like Sinclair or Vine we probably would have been home and hosed. But we were wrong.

Within five minutes more excellent passing from a midfield being comprehensively dominated by classy displays from Buzsaky and Leigertwood sent Sinclair through on goal but Speroni denied him as well. The rebound could still have been tucked away but Sinclair hammered a first time volley into the home fans. Then, as if that wasn't torture enough for the travelling fans, Rowan Vine also burst through the offside trap and saw his low shot brilliantly saved by Speroni. That was the stop of the match for me, Vine had done everything right. He may be a bit unsure when coming off his line but Speroni is a hell of a shot stopper on this evidence.

Warnock finally abandoned his ineffective system and chucked on Dougie Freedman 20 minutes from time to partner Clinton Morrison. That didn't make a great deal of difference at first with Stewart and Timoska in impeachable form at the heart of a decent defensive effort but they started to pressure as time wore on.

You can't afford to miss so many chances in matches really but it looked like QPR would get away with it and hang on for a win until, in the 88th minute, the defence switched off and surrendered two points. Peter Walton, in the midst of ten minutes of the most incredibly biased refereeing you could ever hope to see, awarded Palace yet another very soft free kick thirty five yards out from goal right of centre for a foul, if you can call it that, by Timoska on Hudson. Mark Kennedy stepped up to take it but before he'd even set off on his run up we looked to be in trouble. Four Palace players queued up at the back post and several were left unmarked, including Clinton Morrison who guided a free header into the bottom corner past Camp for his 100th goal for the club.

It was a difficult blow to take after playing so well, and it seemed to get to the players because during the three minutes of added time the home side could and should have snatched an unlikely winner. Ifill and Morrison combined down the right and worked the ball left where suddenly Dougie Freedman came homing into view, all alone with time and space to pick his spot from 15 yards. His low drive looked destined for the bottom corner but in the end it flashed a foot wide and the QPR fans breathed a sigh of relief. A draw was hard enough to take, if we'd lost after all that it would have been unbearable.

Walton, fairly decent and quiet for 75 minutes, ended 15 minutes of astonishing refereeing by denying Buszaky a blatant free kick on the edge of the box and then penalising Mikele Leigertwood for the tackle of the game as Palace broke out. I'd love to know what happened or what was said to the referee midway through the second half but some of the decisions he gave in Palace's favour in the closing stages were unbelievable.

So for the second time in as many games we had to suffer the heartbreak of a late goal against. If we'd taken four points from our last two games nobody would have batted an eyelid because we are suddenly playing very well. Some of the football we played against Palace was excellent and only our finishing let us down. I was very impressed with the way we played the 4-5-1 system and it worked very well.

Some players seemed to adapt to it better than others. Buzsaky and Vine were very good, Leigertwood and Bolder likewise and the two centre halves had great games as well. However Rowlands had his worst match for a long time and several players were still guilty of sending aimless balls down into the channels which didn't really work for us. When we got it into Vine's feet with his back to goal and Sinclair and Buzsaky in support we looked very dangerous. I presume these lapses were what De Canio was talking about afterwards when he accused the players of doing things he has specifically asked them not to in training. Old habits die hard, the transformation will take time.

In the end this was a triumph for substance over style. Palace lumped a couple more bodies up front for the final ten minutes, knocked a few long balls into the box and came up lucky. Rangers put so much more into this, brough so much more to the table, played some lovely football and ould have scored three or four.

All the talk at the moment is about who we'll be bringing in during the transfer window and clearly we are in need of some permanent additions. However, if we can get our current loans to sign on the dotted line with us then we're only a couple of players short of having a really good team in my opinion. A cutting edge is obviously required, but remember we have Blackstock to come back in shortly.

Finishing and concentration at the end cost us victory here, but overall there were lots of positives. This looked like a match between sides heading in opposite directions. Palace lacked drive, passion and ability at times and QPR had all of that in abundance. The Palace team looks to be in need of major surgery, whereas ours doesn't.

We now have a fortnight off for the reading of Steve McLaren's last rights. If De Canio's influence in training so far is anything to go by I can't wait for the Sheff Wed match to see what we do next. It's an important match that one though - lose it and we have one win in four games, two home defeats on the bounce and the natives will be restless. Win it and the record looks healthier and a tough December doesn't look quite so daunting. Whatever happens I'm sure we're heading in the right direction.

Crystal Palace: Speroni 8, Lawrence 6, Hudson 6, Fonte 6, Hill 6,Soares 6 (Freedman 72, 7), Watson 6 (Bostock 64, 6), Kennedy 6, Songo'o 5 (Hall 46, 6), Morrison 7, Ifill 7
Subs Not Used: Idrizaj, Hills.
Goals: Morrison 88 (assisted Kennedy)

QPR: Camp 6, Timoska 8, Stewart 8, Mancienne 7, Barker 7, Rowlands 5 (Ainsworth 86, -), Bolder 7 (Rehman 90, -), Buzsaky 8, Leigertwood 8, Sinclair 7, Vine 7 (Sahar 90, -)
Subs Not Used: Cole, Nardiello
Booked: Leigertwood (foul)
Goals: Sinclair 45 (assisted Buzsaky)

QPR Star Man - Akos Buzsaky 8 - Ran the show with Leigertwood in midfield with an excellent range of passing and skills. Top draw performance, his best since arriving from Plymouth. The whole centre of the midfield was very good with Bolder and Leigertwood holding well and Buzsaky attacking and combining with Vine. Impressive stuff.

Referee: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire) 4 What on earth happened? 70 odd minutes of perfectly reasonable refereeing followed by 20 minutes of QPR having everything waved away and Palace getting free kicks when opponents coughed near them. There were some really scandalous decisions in those closing moments. An easy referee to dislike.

Attendance: 17,010 (2000 QPR fans approx) A decent following from West London and those at the back made plenty of noise to support the team, Palace have a larger than usual section of singers to the left of the away end but they weren't in as good form as usual and the "Ultras" banners down the front are, when compared to the Italian originals which presumably inspired the idea, a little pathetic.

Photo: Action Images

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