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Everything but the goal, QPR beaten in Coventry – full match report
Everything but the goal, QPR beaten in Coventry – full match report
Sunday, 21st Sep 2008 19:44

QPR suffered a second defeat of the season, and will wonder just how it happened, after enjoying plenty of possession and chances at Coventry City on Saturday.

Happy birthday to me. You can always rely on QPR to ruin a celebration or a decent day out. After the midweek win at Norwich many were starting to think Rangers were the real deal this season, and they may well still might be, but they were punished at Coventry for a slow start in the first half and profligacy in front of goal in the second and slipped to defeat against a team increasingly becoming a bogey side for the Londoners.

When the opposing manager is quoted in the morning papers saying his side need to learn to win ugly you always know you’re going to be in for a frustrating day and so it proved. I couldn’t help but wonder as QPR did everything but score against a Coventry side that was poor overall but had a mean, physical and talented back four at its heart whether Ali Russell was in the crowd – does he think that this match was worth £40 to go and see?

In the half empty Ricoh Arena - bland, boring and soulless as ever – QPR twice missed a chance from underneath the Coventry cross bar and also sent Emmanuel Ledesma clear on the goal with time to spare but it was all to no avail. Coventry started the game the stronger, got an early lead from a penalty after poor play from Mahon and Leigertwood and then relied on the strongest part of their team to see them home. It was an exact role reversal of Wednesday night where QPR brought everybody back behind the ball, showed no attacking ambition whatsoever and told Norwich to come and break us down. The Canaries couldn’t, and neither could QPR when Coventry turned the tables on us.

Iain Dowie made on enforced change to his team after the midweek win at Carrow Road. Matt Connolly sat out with a one match ban thanks to his horror tackle on Matt Pattison and was replaced at centre half by Wednesday night’s man of the match Kaspars Gorkss despite the return to fitness of Fitz Hall who only made the bench. That meant a back four of Ramage, Stewart, Gorkss and Delaney in front of Cerny. Mahon and Leigertwood were the holding midfielders behind Rowlands, Ledesma and Cook, Blackstock continued as the lone front man.

While QPR were battling away at Norwich with ten men midweek Coventry enjoyed a numerical advantage against Sheff Utd but were held to a draw after missing a penalty. Despite that Chris Coleman named an unchanged team after Leon McKenzie, removed at half time on Tuesday at Bramall Lane as a precaution, was passed fit to play. That meant two of QPR’s alleged summer transfer targets Freddy Eastwood and the perennial scourge of the Rangers Clinton Morrison started together in attack while Dowie’s last two signings as Coventry manager Dann and Fox were joined by Ward and Osbourne in the Sky Blues’ defence.

QPR had the first chance of the match when Cook progressed into the Coventry half and laid the ball off to Delaney who cut inside and fired over but in truth Rangers started the game poorly and Coventry were much the better side in the opening stages. Far too often, criminally so in fact, QPR allowed City to put in a decent cross and the first of the game from Morrison flashed across the face of goal with Eastwood sniffing around but unable to convert. Delaney and Ramage were most guilty but Gorkss and Stewart did it as well – caught up with their opponent, faced him up, and then failed to stop the cross coming into the box. We must improve in this area, stop the danger at source. Another ball into the danger zone from McKenzie caused a goal mouth scramble in the fifth minute that QPR were lucky to survive

The first booking of the match went the way of former Brentford man Jay Tabb for a poor tackle on Cook. Ward headed wide from a corner with many of the home fans celebrating believing it had gone in but Coventry didn’t have to wait much longer to be rewarded for their impressive start to the match.

It turned out to be unlucky thirteen for QPR as the twelfth minute expired and Coventry took the lead. Mahon looked slow and laboured wide on the QPR left as Fredy Eastwood easily skipped inside him and when the former Southend man laid a ball into the penalty area for Jay Tabb Mikele Leigertwood looked every bit as off the pace as his defensive midfield partner with a rash, foolish and utterly needless stray boot that send Tabb tumbling and presented City with a penalty.

Tabb had voiced his confidence in team mate Elliott Ward’s penalty taking ability after a midweek miss at Bramall Lane, and Ward repaid the faith with the opening goal from 12 yards although Radek Cerny got a good hand to it and probably should have kept it out. In the end the power beat the keeper and QPR were left to stand and watch as Clinton Morrison, despite having sweet FA to do with the goal or anything else Coventry did on the day, celebrated in front of the away end. He really is an odious git that man.

Fox had a free kick deflected out for another corner and then a moment later more failure by QPR in the full back areas allowed another dangerous cross to come into the box and Morrison again went close to finishing. I cannot stress enough how frustrating it was to see the QPR defence allow Coventry to cross the ball into our box time after time. Damien Delaney did at least add something to the team going forward whereas right back Peter Ramage repeated his trademark skewed ball down the line that finds row ten of the stand on four separate occasions in the first half – the fourth of which brought on the first lengthy rant of the afternoon myself. In the quest for full backs that won’t get beaten in the air at the back post we seem to have given up on the idea of having ball players in that position. Michael Mancienne couldn’t do it and Ramage certainly can’t. Come back David Bardsley all is forgiven.

Nevertheless QPR started to come back into the game after the half hour mark and by the time the second half had begun the R’s had completely taken it over. A ten minute period of possession for the visitors saw Blackstock twice beaten to headers at the back post by Ward, on the second occasion the ball fell to Cook who tried his luck from a tight angle with his right foot and ended up hooking the ball back to the QPR right back spot. It only looked like a half chance at the time but after seeing the replays on the screen at the break it seemed to be a very presentable chance and a bad miss.

Michael Doyle was booked for a deliberate handball that stopped QPR breaking away then five minutes before half time QPR squandered the best chance of the match. Leigertwood knocked a hopeful ball through the middle and when the flag stayed down Ledesma homed into view and ran away from the QPR fans through on goal. The little Agentianian took an age to get the shot away, composing and setting himself with numerous touches, and then rolled a tame effort straight into the arms of Westwood. Credit the keeper for reading his opponent’s intentions but in fairness I’ve read more taxing Topsy and Tim books in my time and this was a poor, poor miss from Ledesma – one that Rangers would pay dearly for.

Tabb forced Cerny into a smart save at his near post in the last action of the first half. Coventry were first to attack after the break as well with Gunnarsson, who was fairly wretched at the heart of the City midfield and seems to be in their team solely because he possesses a freakishly long throw, firing wide from the edge of the area with Cerny beaten.

The play was soon flowing towards the QPR fans in the Jewson Stand (classy) though as the R’s took the game over. Dexter Blackstock somehow spooned the ball high over the bar when an excellent cross from Ramage, yes such a thing does exist, was flicked past Westwood by Rowlands to present Blackstock with a chance that was harder to miss. Rowlands tried himself a moment later after Damion Stewart failed to convert a corner – Rowlands saw his shot blocked and the loose ball went back to Stewart who lashed the ball over the bar when left with time and space on the edge of the six yard box. One of those chances you just don’t want to fall to a centre half.

Dowie introduced Buzsaky after five minutes replacing Ledesma who was off colour in this game – the Hungarian emerged onto the field wearing a shirt without a sponsor for reasons known only to himself. Moral objection to stupid airplane mascots perhaps? Daniel Parejo came on a short time later, replacing Ramage with QPR relying on Leigertwood to cover the right back area from that point onwards. The quality of the QPR possession increased from this point as you would expect, and Buzsaky looked right at home if not up to his scintillating best.

Parejo was immediately involved with a low twenty yard shot wide of the target, and then a ball out to Cook who danced inside but saw a low shot deflected up and wide with Westwood scrambling across. Cook had his best game for some time on Saturday in my opinion but, like his team mates, he just couldn’t make the breakthrough. The frustration was starting to get to QPR and Gavin Mahon, who had a pretty poor game overall, was carded for a crude foul on Jay Tabb just after the hour mark.

Westwood didn’t cover himself in glory midway through the half as Coventry started to play for time. After Parejo’s introduction the Spaniard had a little crap corner competition with himself which saw numerous chances for a good ball into the box kicked straight onto the head of the man at the near post.

When he did eventually beat that man Westwood caught the ball easily and then went to throw the ball out quickly only to collapse theatrically under no contact whatsoever from Damion Stewart. The young keeper, somebody I rate very highly, then had the nerve to stay on the ground and ask for treatment following which, wouldn’t you just know it, he leapt back up and took the resulting free kick himself. Time wasting is to be expected but this shameful attempt to get another professional booked is not what we want to see.

Isaac Osbourne did see yellow for a bad foul on Delaney that presented Rangers with another chance to deliver into the area but again it came to nothing and was cleared at the near post. With Parejo, Cook and Ledesma in the team our set pieces really should be of a higher quality than they were on Saturday.

Rangers had a penalty appeal waved away as Rowlands broke down the middle of the park, skipping past two City players in the process, only to be brushed off the ball by Dann just inside the penalty area. It would have been a harsh decision had it been given, and it wouldn’t of mattered at all had Blackstock converted from a yard out when Delaney whipped in a cross to the near post seconds later. As it was Dexter bundled the ball high and wide into the stand – another sitter gone begging. Dowie sent on Agyemang for Blackstock after this, despite Dexter’s poor finishing and lacklustre performance I still would have played Agyemang with him rather than instead of him at this stage with QPR needing a goal and Gorkss, Stewart and Delaney still in the defence with absolutely nothing to do.

Coleman introduced Best and Mifsud to try and pep up the home attack but it was firmly backs to the wall by this stage and both saw little of the ball before the final whistle.

Parejo drilled wide twice more as time ticked down, Cook was in a better position for a pass on the second occasion, but in truth the Blackstock miss second time round killed Rangers off – for the first time in the game the body language after that miss looked to be that of a team that didn’t believe they could get anything from the game after all.

The final chance of the match, a long throw to the near post from Gavin Mahon, looked plum for Gorkss but he was harshly penalised for climbing on his man and the final whistle went a short time later.

To be honest it would be easy to sit here and pick fault. Leigertwood ad Mahon were poor, Dowie took Blackstock off for Agyemang instead of pairing them, Dexter missed a couple of sitters. I could sit here and wax lyrical about the need for changes to this or that or the lack of a decent striker costing us this season but at the end of the day we could have played exactly the same as this, won 3-1 and Coventry would have had few grounds for complaint. It was just one of those days where the ball won’t go in. We didn’t do very much wrong, in fact we did plenty right, but we just couldn’t find the net.

Yes Dexter missed a couple of sitters, yes Ledesma missed a gift, yes there were poor players in the QPR side but it’s hard to be critical of an away side that dominates a match as much as we did this one. I said at the start of this run of three consecutive away matches I’d be happy if we could nick a win somewhere and we’ve already done that. Had we drawn at Norwich and drawn at Coventry we’d be praising our team for remaining unbeaten through two tough games but we’d have a point less than we do now. Coventry look a poor side to me and we lost which is a worry, but on another day we’d have scored three or four – Norwich missed a sitter in the 93rd minute against us Wednesday then scored one yesterday against Sheff Utd in stoppage time, these things happen in football.

On now to Villa which is a bit of a free game if you like – we are not expected to get anything so we have no pressure and plenty of freedom to go to Villa Park, play our football and see where it takes us. Dowie won at Blackburn and Man Utd with Coventry last season so don’t write us off just yet. The big games though are next week’s two winnable home matches against Derby and Blackpool. Four points must be a minimum requirement, six points definitely achievable, and we still have plenty to look forward to despite this set back.

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Coventry: Westwood 7, Osbourne 7, Ward 8, Dann 8, Fox 8, Tabb 7 (Beuzelin 85, -), Gunnarsson 5, Doyle 5, Morrison 6, Eastwood 6 (Best 76, 5), McKenzie 5 (Mifsud 80, -).
Subs Not Used: Marshall, Hall
Booked: Tabb (foul), Doyle (handball), Ward (foul), Osbourne (foul)
Goals: Ward 15 pen (assisted Tabb)

QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 5 (Parejo 56, 6), Gorkss 7, Stewart 7, Delaney 6, Mahon 5, Leigertwood 6, Ledesma 6 (Buzsaky 53, 7), Rowlands 8, Cook 7, Blackstock 5 (Agyemang 77, 6)
Subs Not Used: Camp, Hall
Booked: Mahon (foul)

QPR Star Man – Martin Rowlands 8 Worked hard, pulled the strings, did everything but score – much like the team as a whole really. Still, he’s back to first name on the team sheet status for me.

Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire) 5 Over fussy in my opinion. Plenty of whistle, not a lot of common sense. Hard to argue with any of the cards but otherwise it was another football match where physical contact seemed to be completely banned – an increasing problem in the game. The players have come to play, put the whistle away for a few minutes and let them play.

Attendance: 16,718 (1700 QPR fans approx) As ever the Ricoh Arena was half empty, almost completely silent and totally devoid of atmosphere. It’s a dull place to come to your football this and although the 1700 travelling QPR supporters did their best it was still hard to come away from the place feeling anything other than pity for the poor sods that have to come here every other week for home games.

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One user has commented on this story. Click here to add your thoughts:

Good report Clive. Few things - 'come back David Bardsley all is forgiven' - eh? What are we forgiving there? Bizarre. Also, I am shocked that you can give Parejo 6 and Buz 7. Buz started well then faded, Parejo basically single-handedly turned the game and dictated the entire match once he was on. Yes, a couple of bad corners and a free kick, but also about 30 perfect passes, which was 30 more than Rowlands who was lost all game playing in that position. -Stanferdinand


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