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Cardiff declare at three against lifeless QPR
Cardiff declare at three against lifeless QPR
Wednesday, 30th Jan 2008 12:24

QPR crashed to a 3-1 defeat at Ninian Park on Tuesday night, contributing to their own downfall with a poor all round display.

Well, all I can say is that if that’s what having a ten day break from any games does to us then let’s just not bother next time. We looked sluggish, lethargic and slow, and that was just in the first ten minutes.

Let’s rewind a tad first though and start from when we were departing Loftus Road this afternoon. Just me and Emma for this one and as I didn’t fancy driving into another country we went on the supporters coach that left from the ground. As we were getting to board the coach, Gianni appeared, who himself was getting ready to set off in his car. A small group of us had a quick chat with him with one wag telling him he might be interested in a bit of latest news he’d just received on his phone via the official site about Walton going on loan to Hull “did you know about this”? he laughingly asked Gianni. GP said that he’d been sent out there on loan to get him back to full fitness, hence the need for him to get some full games under his belt.

He went on to say that with the new bunch of players we have now at the club “there should be no excuses”. With him was another chap that I didn’t know but who Gianni informed me is our new chief scout, he mentioned his name to me and told me to look him up on the internet, saying he has excellent credentials from Italy and Argentina (can’t remember his full name but someone De Marcio?). Anyway, off they set, with Gianni saying he was looking forward to the game and that he hoped we all had a good evening. It was good to see him but I wonder what he, Flavio and co are thinking tonight about our better players and there being no excuses.

Anyway, we reached Cardiff with around half hour to go til kick off and were marshalled straight into the ground meaning I didn’t get a programme tonight, despite the steward outside assuring me I’d be able to buy one inside. No sign of any programme seller and so my programme buying has been blotted for the first time in quite a few years actually. The usual complaint at the refreshment bar took place with me complaining about cold food that had been served to us and then a quick listen to the team line up had us thinking at first that maybe Vine would be playing up front with Agyemang……but no, once the teams ran out, and they took up their positions at start of play, we were once again reverting the 4-5-1 or even 4-4-1-1 at times.

The team was Camp (gk); Delaney (Lb); Stewart and Hall (cd); Connolly (rb); Vine (Lm); Leggy and Mahon (cm); Rowlands (rm); Buzsaky (cm, filling the hole type position); Agyemang (cf).

Apart from the first couple of minutes, and a little flurry midway through the first half, we saw absolutely zilch from our team coming forward (they were kicking towards us). Cardiff won a corner in the third minute and after that it really was all one-way traffic. We had decided to sit down the front of the stand but with the rain blowing in at us, decided to make a move a few rows back under better shelter, and it was as we moved that Cardiff scored. Didn’t see too much of it to be honest due to us moving at the time, but from what I did, an attack on their right (someone afterwards said to me that Delaney got done) ended with us failing to clear our lines in the box allowing Joe Ledley to sweep the ball home from just yards out. I looked at the clock and there was around 12 minutes gone. As we took to our different seats, I said to Emma that Gigi should have made the change right there and then by bringing on Hogan to enable us to have someone out there that could create something from the wing and thus move Vine more central. One man up front away from home was not going to pull us back at a place like Ninian Park. Sure enough, with their noses in front now due to their early goal, the Bluebirds decided to step up the gas. Wave after wave they were hitting us, Whittingham was giving Delaney a hard time, and each time they went forward our hearts were quite literally in our mouths.

Our midfield didn’t know what to do. We seemed almost devoid of answers and when we did manage to retrieve the ball we would either inevitably give it away with sloppy passing, or we’d get robbed of it. The home side really, and I mean really, wanted it more than us and it was only due to bad finishing, a couple of good saves from Camp, which prevented us from going two goals down. Leggy at one stage had to go to the touchline to get some treatment and then not long after he’d come back onto the pitch, Fitz Hall went down in the area, and after receiving treatment on the pitch, limped off to be replaced by Michael Mancienne. He went to right back, whilst Connolly switched into the middle to partner Stewart.

Still we lacked any kind of cohesion or idea really. There were a couple of instances when Vine was rarely fed the ball but try as he might, couldn’t make his final ball count and with big Pat being soundly dealt with by their two big lumps of centre halves, Johnson and Loovens, the first half was proving to be a big disappointment to the R’s fans that had made the trip over the river.

Their second goal when it came was no big surprise, the only real shock was that it took Cardiff as long as it did to get it. A nice bit of play on their right again, with Whittingham and Paul Parry out witting Delaney between the two of them, in goes the ball into the box, it looked as though Camp had it covered, but certainly from our vantage point it looked like he couldn’t hold onto it and as the ball fumbled around in front of him, it was that man Ledley first to it and able to poke it home. 2-0 to the Bluebirds and whilst the home fans around us celebrated, the 400 or so R’s fans there (might have been a few more, useless at guessing crowds) could only sit/stand there glumly wondering what on earth was going on out there.

The home fans sang to us “you’re rich and you’re f***ing s**t” whilst some of our fans sang back to them “you’re poor and you’re f***ing s**t” but it didn’t quite work.

Our misery was further compounded when on the stroke of half time Matthew Connolly needed treatment in the area. I did not see what had happened to him exactly (he’d gone in for a challenge) but it did not take long for a stretcher to be called for him and the lad was stetchered off to applause all round the ground.

Dexter Blackstock replaced him, meaning that he went straight up front to join big Pat, with Rowlands slotting into right back and Vine joining him on that side for the last few minutes of injury time.

At half time we were just grateful for the score line being 2-0 as trust me, it could have been far worse, but as the players came back out for the second period, they were cheered on by the hardy souls there and it seemed as though we might see something resembling a football team from our lads when in quick succession we won two consecutive corners following some nice play involving Vine and Blackstock.

However, it was to prove to be a false dawn, and it wasn’t long before the frustrating balls to the invisible man on the flanks were being played, and our midfield started the inevitable losing of possession in the central areas. It wasn’t even so much this, we all know that mistakes happen and players have off days, but they weren’t even bothering to chase back or harry after the ball, often just standing there like a group of dopes.

The inevitable third goal for the Bluebirds occurred after more sloppy ball giving away, our defenders weren’t prepared for the ball coming across and with Mancienne the wrong side of his man, Paul Parry was able to shoot with no hooped shirt around him to be seen. A nice finish really if I’m honest, and by then it was game over, though Rowlands was complaining to the ref about what he felt was an offside that wasn’t given. There was around just under 25 minutes remaining but the home side knew it was job done so far as they were concerned. Gigi (who I don’t recall seeing once getting out from the dugout during the course of the game) brought on Hogan for the last 20 in place of Buzsaky (who had been fairly anonymous all game really, and had played on the right wing in front of Rowly during the second period) and fair play to the lad. We all know about his commitment to the cause and there was plenty of that on display when he came on, and when he got the ball. His endeavour and runs were the only real bright spot and it’s no coincidence that once he came onto the pitch, we managed to score.

Our goal was actually very bizarre. Vine and Dexter had combined which led to a corner for us. The corner was taken, and the ball was threading about a bit in the box. There were shouts from our end for someone to please just have a shot, when suddenly the ball looked to have broken loose and someone (couldn’t see from our end) had a final touch. The keeper, Oakes, went down and it looked as though he had saved it. We were expecting the game to resume when, with the keeper down in the area, we all thought he was maybe needing some treatment, when to some amazement around us, others had noticed the ref pointing to the centre circle indicating a goal. Not one player had celebrated. Not one fan had celebrated. But there we were, we’d pulled a goal back with around eight minutes remaining. There were conflictions about who the goal scorer had been, from Vine, to Hogan, to Agyemang (who I thought it was, and was confirmed as him later on) and the chap behind us was saying that it looked as though the keeper had tried to smother the ball to hide the fact it had gone over.

Oakes was replaced shortly after this (after picking up an injury in the goal mouth scramble) by Enckleman. Oh, and talking of keepers, Lee Camp upset the faithful when after coming out in his area to challenge Paul Parry, one of the most precious jewels in the current Ninian Park crown, needed to receive treatment. They perceived that he had made a dirty foul and after this they booed and heckled him whenever he was on the ball. They made a few ‘rent boy’ chants to him and he further fuelled their anger after blowing them a kiss.

In the closing minutes we could have pulled another goal back, Hogan the provider with a cross and big Pat I think it was who just couldn’t make it count. Enckleman also pulled off a very good save during the six minutes that had been added on. So whilst we created a couple of late chances it was all too little too late. We were never at the races early on, and once we’d gone the goal down the writing was on the wall I’m afraid. Dave Jones, whose job was on the line only a couple of months ago, had his side doing the basics right, and with the likes of Parry and Ledley, I actually felt they were one of the better sides we have played this season (bar West Brom). It looks like Risdale and co were right to stick by their man, and with their new ground now underway in being built (opposite the current Ninian Park) could Wales actually have a premier league side representing them in the near future? It wouldn’t surprise me.

As for us, very very disappointed tonight. Delaney went from having a good debut against Barnsley to being given a torrid time tonight by Whittingham. Leggy and Mahon disappointed in central midfield, in fact I would go as far to say they cannot/should not play together due to their similarity. Rowlands was wasted on the right wing, why put him back out there when he has been so instrumental in recent weeks in the middle of the field? The defence seemed to panic everytime they came forward, and whilst Agyemang battled away, he was fighting a losing battle in all honesty.

Again, I noted the players (some of them) attitude when they went off after the final whistle. Camp turned round and clapped the fans before he made his way down the tunnel. Vine, after exchanging a couple of handshakes with the opposition, gave a few claps and then went down the tunnel. The only players that made the actual effort to come to our end of the pitch to acknowledge the fans were Dexter, Agyemang, Hogan and Rowlands. The rest of them (half the team) turned tail and couldn’t wait to head for the tunnel. This tells me a little about their attitude and whilst it’s not a big deal for some fans, for some of us it is because not only is it rude, but also it makes me wonder if some of them have the stomach for a roll our sleeves type battle for the last quarter of the season coming up. Let’s hope that come Saturday, they can prove they are more than capable of rolling their sleeves up as next up are high flying Bristol City. Being beaten by a better side I can take (Cardiff were a better side than us tonight) but being beaten and not giving commitment to the case is something I suspect most of us will not accept. After all Gianni Paladini himself said this afternoon, there are now no excuses.

Oh, and for once, we couldn’t even blame the ref; in fact I don’t recall moaning once about any of Mr Walton’s decisions! So must be a 7/10 for him tonight!

Player ratings:

Camp: Could he have done better for the first goal? I didn’t see it properly so don’t really know. Could he have done better for their second goal? Possibly, but would like to see it properly on a replay. However, he did make a couple of good saves which prevented the score line from being an even heavier one. I also wonder if all this talk about us getting a second keeper in is starting to play on his mind? 6

Delaney: Didn’t realise just how big he is until I saw him close up tonight. I’m certainly not going to single him out as a lot of players tonight were not at the races but I think I spotted him making his first tackle in the 90th minute. Ah well, he was up against Whittingham, who is one of the fastest wingers in this division currently. 5

Stewart: Poor old Damion, he was well on the ropes tonight. Perhaps it was because he had to adapt to being without Hall to help him mop up. Maybe because he had to play with Connolly who he’d not used to playing with in central defence until Matt had to go off? Or possibly it was because by the time Mancienne came on, he had no idea as to which player was partnering him? Then again, I’m probably just making excuses for him having a bad day at the office. Chin up Damion. 5

Hall: Didn’t really see much of him as he had to leave the field after 20/25 minutes. Let’s hope it’s not serious and he’ll be fit for Saturday. What we did see of him, well, he looked a tad bemused at times but did get a couple of tackles in. 5.5

Connolly: Started off right back, showed some composure initially, then moved to central due to Hall going off and as per Hall, seemed somewhat bemused. 5.5

Rowlands: Played right wing. Played right back. Last game played in central midfield. Good job he doesn’t mind where he plays eh? As with others had a bad day at the office but to be fair was trying to play the ball out when he could and defended quite well in the second. 6

Leggy: Anonymous for much of the game. Don’t know what else to say about him to be honest! 5

Mahon: See above for Leggy! Though we did see more of Mahon in the second half, even if it was to over hit/play sloppy balls. 5

Buzsaky: Played in the middle just in front of Leggy/Mahon, and just behind big Pat in the first half and was then moved to the right wing in the second half where he was mainly anonymous. Showed some glimpses but an off day really. 5

Vine: I wonder if he prefers playing on the wing or if he might like to play more central? There were some nice link up’s between himself Dex/Agyemang a few times, but Cardiff had done their homework and were shutting him down excellently. We need to find Vine’s best position and then start to exploit this. Probably one of the pick of the bunch tonight. 6

Agyemang: Battled hard but he needed support in that first half. By the time we went 4-4-2 it was all a bit late by then though he did get our goal making it 3 goals in 3 games for him now. 6

I thought he was our most composed defender on the night. He was unlucky with the third goal and whilst some of his clearances were not brilliant, when he was on the ball I felt more confidant that he would deal with the horrible type balls being played into our area. 6

Blackstock: What a horrible game and nasty circumstances for Dexter to find himself coming onto tonight. 2-0 down, two defenders down. And his team mates all at sea! He did his best, linked up a few times nicely with others etc, but it was all too late, especially once we found ourselves 3-0 down. 5.5

Ephraim: On for around the last 20 minutes or so and he made a big difference. Running at players. Crossing. Making a nuisance of himself. By then we were 3-0 down but his commitment was there for all to see and if he doesn’t start on Saturday then it will be an injustice. 7

Manager rating: Oh Gigi. Why change a winning team? With the injuries too now to Connolly and Hall, I get the feeling he’s going to be facing a headache or two in the next few days. Wrong team selection and wrong tactics tonight I felt. 5

Attendance: reported over the pa as 13,600

Cardiff MOTM: Joe Ledley

QPR MOTM: Hogan Ephraim

Photo: Action Images

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