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Out played and out fought, QPR well beaten at Bramall Lane – full match report
Out played and out fought, QPR well beaten at Bramall Lane – full match report
Sunday, 17th Aug 2008 21:29

QPR were given a rude awakening on Saturday afternoon as Sheffield United comprehensively hammered them by three goals to nil.

QPR gave a clear indication of just how far away from being a promotable side they really are with a poor performance and heavy defeat at Sheffield United. The Blades scored three goals that could all be put down to QPR errors, and could have had at least that many again, as they comprehensively outplayed and overran a QPR side that struggled throughout the game with even the most basic aspects of the sport.

Losing to a good side is forgivable, and I’m not expecting us to win every match and didn’t expect us to win at Bramall Lane – but I expected the game to be competitive. Throughout the team we made the same basic errors that we were making in a heavy defeat at West Brom almost a year ago. The marking of the two Sheffield United strikers by our defenders was almost non-existent, the defending of set pieces likewise, the midfield looked like four individuals rather than a team of four and we posed no threat in attack.

United on the other hand were what you’d expect – physical, quick and clinical - and they thoroughly deserved this result.

QPR started with a combination of the team that squeezed past Barnsley and the one that won very well at Swindon on Tuesday. There was no sign of Agyemang or Ramage, so Connolly started at right full back and Balanta in attack. Cerny was preferred to Camp in goal with Gorkss and Hall reforming their centre half partnership and Delaney starting at left back. In midfield Ledesma and Cook were the wingers again with Leigertwood and Parejo in the middle, Gavin Mahon was on the bench. Up front Blackstock partnered Balanta.

In defence of Dowie it’s the team that most people, myself included, probably would have picked as well but they let themselves down badly. If we really are going to see the end of two ‘cloggers’ in the middle of midfield that manager’s love and fans hate then when we pick what looks to be a well balanced and attack minded midfield it has to work together as a team and an effective unit. That just didn’t happen at all here.

Sheffield United were without their player of the season and top scorer from 2007/08 James Beattie who is missing the first month of the season with a knee injury. That meant starts in attack for Darius Henderson and Billy Sharp, former Watford and Scunthorpe players respectively. They too came into this game on the back of a solid win in the League Cup – Port Vale were beaten 3-1 at Bramall Lane on Wednesday night.

Any thoughts that the 24 hours of extra recovery time might give QPR an edge were immediately banished when Sheffield United took the lead after two minutes. A long throw from the United right by Greg Halford was flicked on at the near post by Henderson and Billy Sharp pealed off Connolly at the back post to head past Cerny unchallenged. If that’s all you’d like to know about the goal then I advise you skip on a couple of paragraphs, in the meantime you’ll excuse me my first rant of the day.

What have we been doing all week? Swindon away on Tuesday, presumably the usual day off on Wednesday and then back in on Thursday, travelling up on Friday with a little session up here. Two sessions at least, surely, between Swindon and Sheffield United. I wonder if at any point, either out on the training pitch of while going through the video that Iain Dowie or any of his coaches thought to mention to our team that Sheffield United’s right back Greg Halford has a long throw? Were we aware of that? Had it been pointed out? Had we gone out on to the training ground at any point during the week and had Lee Camp or anybody else hurling long throws into the penalty area so we could practise positioning, heading and defending from this kind of set piece?

I mean I would actually back myself to find three or four drugged up homeless people in the arse end of London that I could drag out of their cardboard boxes who would be able to tell me “oh yeh, Greg Halford, the kid with the long throw.” Everybody knows he has one and yet the look of shock, amazement an awe on the faces of our players as the ball came in to Henderson, who was unmarked, and then Sharp, who was unmarked, was something to behold.

United went two nil up in the twelfth minute and to be honest it was a very fair reflection of the game. They had tested the R’s with two corners and enjoyed almost uninterrupted possession in the R’s half after taking the lead. One ball through the QPR defence got Billy Sharp in behind. This time it was Speed that got the assist, after dispossessing Leigertwood on halfway, and Sharp needed no second invitation to run in behind Gorkss and slip his second goal of the afternoon into the bottom corner. Although Sharp looked offside to me this was repeated time, after time, after time, after time, after time, after time throughout the match – one ball through, Sharp in behind, and the flag only went up once so I’m sure we’ve got much of a case, unless the linesman was terminally useless in which case you’d expect QPR players to be surrounding him but that didn’t happen. Far more likely is that our two centre halves weren’t doing their jobs right and for me Gorkss and Hall should be pretty ashamed of their abject performances on Saturday. Neither of them could do even the most basic goal side and inside making job all afternoon – Sharp could have had as many goals again had he wanted.

I said before the match that Sharp had struggled to score goals at this level because his massive hauls at Scunthorpe were based on loose balls in the penalty area and defensive mistakes that you just don’t get at the higher level – well we rolled back the years for him on Saturday. Hall and Gorkss were rarely within five yards of him, Sharp was free every time the ball went near him, he wasn’t marked at all for the entire afternoon. From the kick off United got him in behind again, once more just one simple ball through from midfield carving the QPR team apart, but this time the flag did go up and deny him a run in on goal.

Halford had a volley from the edge of the area blocked by Parejo and a cross from Jihai found Henderson unmarked but Cerny made a good save either side of the second goal as United continued to put the rounds of the kitchen through our light weight looking side. The marking was mind blowing – clearly Hall and Gorkss think it’s something you do with exam papers and nothing else. The freedom Henderson and Sharp had throughout the game was face rippingly frustrating, defending akin to that of a park side.

Referee Graham Laws produced his yellow card for the first, and as it would turn out last, time on the day in the 20th minute and the yellow cards handed out to Harford and Delaney for the same incident could easily have been red. Harford’s two footed challenge on the Irishman was certainly no better than the one Martin Rowlands was sent off for in May and is still serving a suspension for. Delaney reacted to the foul and steamed in with arms flailing and we all know what normally happens when players raise their hands to opponents. In the end a booking apiece was about right, I think referees have become nervy and twitchy with the red card at the mere hint of a dangerous tackle since the Eduardo incident and I don’t want to see players sent off for tackles like Halford’s, or Rowlands’, but I do want to see consistency from officials.

Sheffield United were forced into an early change just after the half hour. Chris Morgan pulled up behind the goal line and received treatment on what looked like a muscle strain or pull although as we were right down the other end it was difficult to tell. For whatever reason, with Morgan seemingly off the pitch or near enough to the byline to get off the pitch with little fuss, Paddy Kenny decided he would delay the game and go across to lend his medical opinion which as far as I can tell stretches only to how to deal with the immediate aftermath of some chav biting your eyebrow off in a pub in Halifax.

This farcical and needless stoppage in play was allowed to continue for a minute or so by the referee and in the end Daniel Parejo took it upon himself to march down the field and try to bring an end to the board meeting by shuffling Morgan out the way and Kenny back to his goal. That, as you can imagine, went down like a lead balloon with the home players and fans and Parejo was booed for the rest of the afternoon. The Real Madrid loanee responded with four nutmegs in the next half hour either side of half time, nicking the ball past and taking the mickey out of several United players. The problem was we never seemed to go anywhere after that, the two strikers never put themselves in a position to receive the ball and Lee Cook and Emmanuel Ledesma both had their least effective games so far this season. So while the nutmegs were all very nice to look at we’d given the ball away within seconds of all of them. Gary Speed didn’t nutmeg anybody on Saturday and was far more effective than anybody playing in the garish yellow and black kit of Queens Park Rangers. This was a real victory for a team over individuals.

As the time ticked down to half time Mikele Leigertwood lashed a long range shot into the stand behind the goal to the delight of his former fans and Ledesma was denied a run in goal by Sun Jihai – Leigertwood’s shot was QPR’s first of the match and came just five minutes before the break. It seemed that QPR were starting to string a little bit of something together at this point but the Blades were soon scything through us again and only a super save by Cerny denied Tonge a match killing third goal just before the oranges. Quinn robbed Connolly and Sharp tucked the loose ball wide in the last action of the half.

QPR made a change at half time, the ineffective Angelo Balanta replaced by Samuel Di Carmine. In fairness Balanta was just one of about eight or nine players that could have had no complaints had they been removed at half time – he and Blackstock offered absolutely nothing in the first half and things only improved marginally after the break. Di Carmine held the ball up well, put himself about a bit and looked quite handy in the second half, certainly a lot better than when I’d seen him against Chievo early this summer. Still it wasn’t enough to turn the tide back in QPR’s favour.

The third goal arrived five minutes after half time and was a disaster waiting to happen in this game and every subsequent game that Radek Cerny is selected in goal. The Czech keeper came for Tonge’s corner, missed it completely, scrambled around frantically for a couple of seconds and was eventually put out of his misery by Billy Sharp who completed his hat trick with a close range finish. Cerny gave a nervous performance laced with numerous flaps on debut against Barnsley and he was poor again at Bramall Lane. Nobody doubts his shot stopping, and he made two or three eye catching saves in this match, but under crosses he’s not confident or comfortable.

Camp didn’t deserve to be dropped in the first place and in Cerny we seem to have replaced a promising young goalkeeper that can catch with an older one that can’t. As if the third goal wasn’t embarrassing enough for him he came for and missed two more crosses in the second half and only United taking their foot off the gas and failing to capitalise spared his blushes. As I said in the week on this site Cerny never has been very good under a cross so if Dowie wants to keep him in that’s fine but we can expect lots more of this. His kicking was somewhat erratic as well. Not since Tony Roberts kept goal at QPR have I been so terrified every time the ball is played into our penalty area.

Sharp was flying by this point and with the game gone I decided to sit and watch more closely exactly how we were trying to deal with him. Simply put - we weren’t. I didn’t have to wait long for an example of just how badly we were playing him, five minutes after the third goal in fact. Sharp likes to play in between the centre halves and on the shoulder of the last man looking for flick ons and balls through. Every time Sheffield United progressed into the QPR half he was in the position between Hall and Gorkss and neither of them took responsibility to actually mark the lad, or instruct the other one to do so. Every time he got the ball there was no QPR player within five yards of him. Ever. It was mind blowing. Five minutes after the third goal Sharp again picked the ball up in acres of space after Henderson had once again won the ball in the air in the penalty area and after turning Hall inside and out Sharp fired a low volley in on goal as the ball sat up on the turf – Cerny made a smart save to deny him.

Every team has its ten minutes in the match and QPR finally started to string one or two things together after the hour. First Emmanuel Ledesma finally got on the ball in a dangerous area, tricked and turned his way into space on the edge of the area and cracked a low drive past Kenny and off the base of the post after a one two with Di Carmine. The ball rebounded back out to Dexter Blackstock all by himself, eight yards out with the goal at his mercy but he dallied over what should have been a first time finish and that allowed Ehiogu to slide in with an uncompromising tackle that got a good chunk of the ball and kept his side’s clean sheet intact.

Blackstock had a header saved by Kenny, and then the keeper was out smartly to save at the striker’s feet after a cross by Matt Connolly. Hall headed over when well placed to do better from the corner and then after a foul by Kilgallon on Di Carmine Parejo had a chance to show what he could do with a free kick from the edge of the box. The young Spaniard whipped the ball low round the wall but Kenny had watched it all the way and made a good save down low in the corner. It was better from QPR, but Sheff Utd had eased off by this point and Kenny never looked unduly troubled by any of the saves he had to make. The final chance saw Di Carmine on the end of a decent move and in behind the defence but he cut the ball back to nobody from the corner of the six yard box when he should have unloaded a shot.

The final ten minutes were an unseemly affair with Ledesma going to ground too easily looking for free kicks and then rolling around on the ground feigning injury when they didn’t get what they wanted. It was embarrassing to watch to be perfectly honest and totally unnecessary for a player of his ability – he should let his feet do the talking. When play did get going again United substitute Cotterill went racing down the flank and set up Quinn who fired straight at the QPR keeper.

United removed Billy Sharp early to a standing ovation, which I joined in with – he certainly seems to have arrived at this level now after a difficult Bryan Robson affected first season. He was replaced by Danny Webber who has enjoyed tormenting us plenty of times in the past but there was no time for any more damage to be done and the final whistle followed a few minutes later.

Sheffield United were good, very good, and looked every inch the top two side that I think they’re going to be this season. I certainly don’t ever object to losing to a better team but the manner of the QPR performance was deeply alarming. Not one player had a good game – the goalkeeper made some good saves but cost us a goal with a horrendous error and made two similar ones that could have also ended in tears. The full backs were poor and the centre halves an embarrassment to their profession. The midfield was completely overrun throughout the game. The only physical presence we had in there was Leigertwood and he was given a lesson in muscular midfield play by Gary Speed who was superb. Cook was anonymous for the most part, Ledesma flitted in and out while Parejo looked like an individual rather than a team player – lots of flicks and tricks but very few cutting through balls or passes that hurt Sheff Utd. That could partly be put down to the strikers who presented their team mates with no options for a pass whatsoever and were swatted aside by Morgan, Kilgallon and Ehiogu with ease.

There is a tendency to overreact to defeats and although I backed us for a scoring draw here it wouldn’t have surprised me before the match if we’d gone on to lose. For me it was the manner of the defeat and the performance that has got the alarm bells ringing. This QPR team will not win this league. I never thought it would but did back it to make the top six. If we are aiming for the top six this season then for me it’s time to bite the bullet, go to Portsmouth and buy Nugent and Cranie.

Portsmouth have just flogged Pedro Mendes and Harry Redknapp has said they need money to balance the books after spending big on Crouch this summer. The pair of them are exactly what we need and are missing at this point. Without them or something similar I think we’ll see plenty of flair and good winning football at Loftus Road, and plenty of days like this on the road. QPR were completely outplayed when they didn’t have the ball and were bullied out of it on the rare occasions they did get a bit of possession. There really was only one team on the pitch. We lacked the necessary quality in attack and any quality whatsoever in defence and when you build all of that on top of a goalkeeper that can’t catch the ball it’s a recipe for disaster.

On now to Doncaster next Saturday and a game that should suit us a lot more than this one. Doncaster like to play good football but I doubt they’ll be able to do that better than we can. Sadly you have to have a platform to play that football upon and when you lack the necessary physical strength down the spine of the side, or a solid back four, you’re not going to have enough quality possession in the right areas of the pitch to play the nice stuff. I don’t think it will be such an issue next week but against teams like Sheffield United we’re going to really struggle if we don’t address that. If we want the six or more this season we’re two players short in my opinion.

Sheff Utd: Kenny 7, Halford 7 (Cotterill 66, 7), Naysmith 7, Morgan 6 (Ehiogu 34, 7), Kilgallon 7, Jihai 8, Speed 8, Tonge 7, Quinn 7, Sharp 9 (Webber 83, -), Henderson 8
Subs Not Used: Stead, Spring
Booked: Halford (foul)
Goals: Sharp 3 (assisted Halford/Henderson), 13 (assisted Speed), 51 (assisted Tonge)

QPR: Cerny 3 Delaney 4, Hall 3, Gorkss 3 Connolly 4, Leigertwood 4, Parejo 5, Cook 4 (Alberti 80, -), Ledesma 5, Balanta 3 (Di Carmine 46 5), Blackstock 3
Subs Not Used: Camp, Stewart, Mahon
Booked: Delaney (reacting to Halford’s foul)

QPR Star Man – N/A

Referee: Graham Laws (Tyne & Wear) 7
Didn’t have a great deal to referee with QPR so comprehensively overrun and outplayed, one decision in the first half to book Halford and Delaney could have gone another way but we don’t want to see players sent off really and all in all he was very steady.

Attendance: 25,273 (1800 QPR fans approx) Great atmosphere as always inside Bramall Lane, not much of it coming from the QPR end but then with the first goal going in after just two minutes that’s understandable.

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Six users have commented on this article. Click here to add your thoughts:

excellent report fella, agree with much of what you say, you did lok lightweight, skillful bt too many individuals. Couple of points Morgan had concussion took a huge wack to the head which is why the crowd were so upset with your lads attitude, secondly 1800 from QPR? half that mate. sure you will do ok this season but you didn't look like an Ian Dowie side to me - Mark

Hats off to another good read, just like the preview was. Nothing further that I can possibly add to that, you must be in some pain. Just one thing perhaps - "On now to Doncaster next Saturday and a game that should suit us a lot more than this one. Doncaster like to play good football but I doubt they'll be able to do that better than we can" ... no no no, they play as a team don't forget, something your boys are still getting to grips with. - Paul

Nice report Clive, just about sums the afternoon up. I agree entirely about your need to build up the 'teamwork' philosophy; you guys stroked it around quite nicely in the second half but, apart from one or two efforts, did not hurt us. I still think you're capable of a decent finish but your new boys need to gel in pretty quickly. We looked strong all over the pitch and, with good competition for every shirt, we can move forward from this. Good luck for the rerst of the season - not in the return though! - UTB

Great Report Clive shocking afternoons football. Hope some of our players feel thoroughly ashamed of that performance -MFlack

my son is a keen ranger he lives in doncaster and trsvels when he can afford to. i myself go with him to the r's although i am millwall the expectations of the supporters is not put in there heads by themselves your owners have built this massive hype not the supporters they inflated prices on the promise of success then seem to think they can do it all on the cheap the manager you get do you believe he can really take the team on to a different level and compete with say birmingham sheff u or even doncaster. i believe the next six games will be looked at to see if your still in touch with your ambitions or you get a new msnager either way i wish you all the luck in the world and hope you can live the dream all fans dream about p.s. hope you get chelsea in the cup and knock them out convincingly cheers. -kkdm

Grear report Clive, enjoyable read. In short you team was a disaster for the first 60 minutes, spineless almost a dis-interested display with no leadership (very unDowie like). However half way through the 2nd half QPR had a 15 minute spell where you finally started to show some class. You looked a bit like a poor man's Arsenal tho but at least you showed a sign that if you click then you've a good side with some talented foreigners. I think it will take time for them foreigners to adapt to the rough and tumble of the CCC. Think you'll do well at home but struggle away. Should be a top half finsih for your boys though with the occasional brilliant home performance. - Sheffsteel


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