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Another dire Tuesday at Loftus Road
Another dire Tuesday at Loftus Road
Tuesday, 4th Dec 2007 13:06

QPR slumped back to the foot of the Championship with yet another home defeat, this time against Crystal Palace.

Let's start with a game shall we? Try and cheer ourselves up. There follows four groups of four players, spot the odd group out. Silk, Tann, Pearce and Hunt. Hird, Fenton, Atkinson, and Newey. Malcolm, Stewart, Rehman and Barker. Purdie, Foster, White and Ridley. Can you spot it?

The answer is, of course, that all four groups are back fours of a League Two standard, the odd one out is the one that's playing two leagues higher than that in the Championship. Notts County, Grimsby and Darlington were the other three sides in case you were interested, I've was drawn to those sides because after downing enough Jack Daniels to kill a small horse after last night's debacle I'm seeing everything in stripes today.

Words cannot really express how I felt in the members bar on Tuesday night when the team sheet went onto the wall. I just couldn't believe it. I actually had to go back a few minutes later for another look. Somebody, somewhere at Loftus Road on Tuesday thought that back four was good enough to win the game against Crystal Palace with. Sio much so that we've loaned an experienced right back to Millwall and released a centre half from his contract. Now I'm not advocating Bignot or Cullip's ability at this level by any means, but we'd have been better off with them than what we went out with.

That back four includes two frighteningly slow full backs, one centre half whose contract I'd pay up myself if I had the money and another who is quick enough, big enough and good enough to succeed at this level but continues to be flawed by his concentration. In the first half, when QPR kept the ball and played like the home side, it didn't matter because they didn't have much to deal with and they coped with everything Palace had to offer.

In the second half though we sat back, we tried to bring everybody behind the ball, and we gave away possession far too cheaply. We effectively tried to rely on that League Two standard collection of players to carry us through. They were no more capable of doing that than fly to the moon. Two goals, one a free header from a set piece the other a tap in after another free header from another set piece had hit the bar, were the very least Palace deserved.

Apart from that awful defence Luigi de Canio once again went with loaned striker Ben Sahar, who was completely anonymous at Blackpool on Saturday and removed at half time. Since arriving here at Loftus Road he has contributed two goals in a friendly against Fulham and several newspaper stories from his mouthy mother. Personally I would rather have seen either of our two attacking substitutes, Nygaard and young Balanta, on the field from the start than him. At least they're ours and would put the effort in. Vine partnered him but he continues to play the link up role he's done so well throughout his career - sadly for him he's not linking up to anything.

The midfield of Rowlands, Buzsaky, Sinclair and Leigertwood contained a lethal mixture of the out of form, out of position and uninterested.

To make matters worse Palace named Clinton Morrison in their attack after he recovered from a virus in time for the match, Morrison has an incredible record against QPR and he'd improve on that still further later on in the evening. Clint Hill also got over the sickness in time to take his place in the side.

Palace forced Lee Camp into a save inside the first minute when Rehman allowed a ball to drop in behind him and Songo'o shot low to the near post and forced the R's keeper to save down low. That was all forgotten within nine minutes though as Rangers took the lead with their first real attack.

Akos Buzsaky swung over a superb corner to the near post and Damion Stewart powered a header home for his first goal since the Bristol City away game. Stewart nearly repeated the trick before half time when Buzsaky found him again in identical circumstances but he could only flick a header across the face of goal rather than power it home this time.

In fact after the goal the first half turned into yet another tale of missed QPR chances. Mark Hudson headed over the bar at the Loft End when he should have done better from a corner but most of the play flowed towards a sizeable following from south London. In the 20th minute Rowlands picked out Sahar who jinked his way to the edge of the area and then played a sumptuous ball across the face of goal to the onrushing Vine but his low drive was superbly saved by keeper Speroni - scourge of QPR in the first game three weeks ago.

Hudson was certainly looking to be a weak spot in the Palace back line, it continue to make little sense to me hat they got rid of Cort to Stoke when everybody else they have back there is so slow. Hudson in particular looks like a man fighting hi way through treacle at times and after Sahar had exposed that with this chance it was very disappointing not to see him tested more often.

Speroni denied Sinclair and Sahar in a goal mouth scramble, although in fairness he always looked favourite to do so, but another chance for the Israeli really should have put Rangers 2-0 up. Vine found him unmarked eight yards out from goal but his shot was poor and weak and Speroni was able to save. Dare I say his Mother could have done better?

Palace came into the game more As the half wore on with Watson having two efforts from outside the penalty area saved by Camp. The first was a shot in open play, the second a very harshly awarded free kick which he got up and over the wall but was denied by Camp who made the save look easier than it was with great footwork across his line. This free kick, awarded against Rowlands when he looked to have got a clear piece of the ball, set the tone for the second half when the normally excellent Alan Wiley started to award some very questionable and suspicious decisions against QPR.

Palace replaced Jose Fonte with Lee Hills at the break and that tightened them up when defending and gave them more guile with the ball as well but it was QPR's change in attitude after half time that cost them the match.

Gone was the attacking instinct - Vine, Sinclair and Sahar were nothing more than passengers in the second half. Leigertwood found himself swamped in midfield and didn't play well and that meant we were relying on that back four and it wasn't long before it let us down.

Just after the hour Damion Stewart was a victim of one of Wiley's harsh decisions and when Watson drifted a long ball down the middle it was like the parting of the red sea. Suddenly there was Clint Hill, six yards out and all by himself with Camp rooted to his line - a simpler header he could never wish to have. He calmly guided the ball into the bottom corner for a well deserved equaliser. Where was the marking? Criminal defending, criminal.

It only got worse. Within seconds Watson was at it again, another great set piece this time from a corner. Hudson met it powerfully on the edge of the six yard box. The ball thumped back off the cross bar but dropped plum for Morrison who calmly tapped in his customary goal against QPR to get the away end jumping.

The frustration was all too much for Martin Rowlands who was booked for an ugly foul - he now misses the trip to Burnley next week after accumulating five cards.

Lee Hills headed over the bar after a great run by Scannell but I got the impression Palace weren't overly bothered, they were well in control now and could just pick us off at will. De Canio sent on Nygaard who started well, rounding his full back and hammering a low cross into the area, but was too isolated while on the pitch.

Youngster Angelo Balanta also came on to a warm reception but barely saw the ball, and Adam Bolder was introduced as well. Now I've nothing against Bolder, certainly I've been more supportive of him at times this season than others, but why bring him on in that situation? It struck me as de Canio knowing something needed changing but lacking the tools to do it and therefore just slinging on the nearest player he could get hold of.

Four minutes of stoppage time were advertised and during that time Neil Warnock managed to get himself sent to the stand. Lee Camp had to come racing out of his goal to deal with a through pass and after chasing the loose ball all the way out by the dug out there was an altercation between him and the Palace manager over the ball. A bit of a ruck ensued and with Lee Probert as fourth official there was only ever going to be one outcome - Warnock watched the closing seconds from the stand.

Frankly Wiley could have added four days on and I'm not sure we'd have scored again. The ease at which we constantly presented the ball straight back to Palace was embarrassing and needless. Possession is absolutely key and we spent the second half last night mercilessly giving the ball straight back to them.

This was another heartbreakingly disappointing midweek game at Loftus Road. A total role reversal from the first fixture between these sides which Rangers dominated both on and off the pitch. At Selhurst Park the QPR fans out sang their hosts as their team outplayed Palace, at Loftus Road it was the Palace fans in good voice and their team were thoroughly good value for their point.

QPR had a team containing too many passengers, and too many players that aren't good enough. I've covered the defence in enough depth now but throughout the team players are struggling. Vine needs a better partner than Sahar who, along with Sinclair, look like loaned players hoping to get fit and little else. Compare Sinclair's commitment to our cause with that of Ephraim, the loan he replaced in the side, and there's a stark contrast.

Passengers, lack of quality, the back four from hell - it was inevitable really. Palace were better than us in every department in the second half. Doesn't make I any easier to bear though.

QPR: Camp 6, Rehman 5, Stewart 5, Malcolm 4, Barker 4, Rowlands 5 (Nygaard 72, 5), Buzsaky 5 (Bolder 86, -), Leigertwood 4, Sinclair 4, Sahar 4 (Balanta 83, -), Vine 5.
Subs Not Used: Cole, Ainsworth.
Booked: Rowlands (foul), Rehman (foul), Camp (off the ball incident)
Goals: Stewart 10 (assisted Buzsaky)

Crystal Palace: Speroni 8, Butterfield 7, Hudson 6, Fonte 5 (Hills 52, 7), Hill 7, Soares 7 (Fletcher 73, 6), Watson 8, Derry 7, Songo'o 6 (Scannell 60, 7), Scowcroft 7, Morrison 7
Subs Not Used: Freedman, Martin
Booked: Butterfield (foul)
Goals: Hill 65 (assisted Watson), Morrison 68 (assisted Watson)

QPR Star Man - N/A

Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire) 5 - Decent first half but some strange and poor decisions in the second. There was one particularly after half time that sticks in my mind where Rowan Vine was blocked from a through ball by Hudson who stuck his elbow right in the striker's face, Wiley waved play on and then within seconds gave a free kick to Palace for exactly the same thing at the other end. About as poor a game as I've seen him have.

Attendance: 13,300 (2800 Palace fans approx) Exactly the opposite of the game at Selhurst, Rangers fans very quiet, Palace fans jubilant.

Photo: Action Images

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