|Preston North End 1 v 3 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 7th March 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Second half R's storm back with ten men - Report
Sunday, 8th Mar 2020 21:04 by Lee McAlpine
A dire first half performance, half time deficit, and second half sending off didn't precent QPR securing their first win at Preston North End since 1980. Lee McAlpine was at Deepdale for LFW.
There are not many ingredients required for an enjoyable afternoon running around up north supporting QPR.
Firstly a couple of friendly pubs, serving decent beer, followed by a solid effort by a well selected away team, an off day from the opposition and finally a reasonable, fair minded observant set of officials. It’s not really that much to ask but generally it’s usually only the beer that keeps its side of the bargain.
I’ve lost track of the number of half-arsed “southern softy” performances from our team, or crap efforts from the referee and his mates, that have usually lead to predictable but frustrating defeat. For any kind of positive result today, against a pretty formidable Championship side, we probably needed all three footballing ingredients to be present, with only the good beer being optional. As it turned out, the beer was ace, the officials were pretty awful but, rather delightfully, the team that should’ve been wearing hoops were a lot better than those in the away end could’ve possibly hoped for.
I’ve seen us play (and lose) in most grounds north of Birmingham in the last 20 years, including too many visits to Deepdale. But before today, I’d never seen us win here, not may have as it was way back in 1980 the last time that had happened. I’ve seen victories tossed away in added time and lots of defeats. I don’t like the place, it always seems half-empty and the atmosphere is generally comatose. Even today with Preston sitting prettily in the final play-off spot, Deepdale is one of those grounds that relies on a poxy drum to create any kind noise.
Team news saw no surprises in the group wearing the shitty spearmint outfit, with a Hall restored at the expense of the injured Masterson in the only change to the starting line-up. The delightful gift from the Preston team was the absence of Mr Anti- football, Ben Pearson. If there is a bigger dark arts specialist, referee haranguer or just violent git in the Championship, then I would be very surprised. Good player though, I just wish he would wear our colours, though I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t like the look our latest away kit monstrosity.
Without their talismanic evil orchestrator, Preston acted almost like a bunch of sportsmen with very few Pearson-esque antics. Daniel Johnson did make an attempt to fill Pearson’s void with some strange one-upmanship antics: pretending to give the ball back but throwing it the wrong way or leaving it six inches from his toes. He also acted like a dick before their penalty with fake claims about Kelly’s positioning and then doing some strange delaying meditation pose before taking the kick. If he’d bothered putting in a tackle or closing down the opposition every now and again, as well as scoring a few penalties, then he would be more able to give it the “Big I am”. Take a look at Eze mate, that’s how you should conduct yourself on the pitch.
The game kicked off with Rangers trying their level best to give the hosts a one goal advantage. Very slack work on our left, allowed Sean Maguire in on that channel. He shot across Kelly and we were extremely fortunate to see the strike hit the base of post and then rebound away from the onrushing Preston striker.
Our left side was a huge problem for the whole of the first half. Ryan Manning was receiving zero help from Marc Pugh, who didn’t look strong enough to blow the seeds off a dandelion clock. The pair of them seemed to have lost all sense of positioning and purpose and this left the whole team looking disjointed and unable to get anything going. The one time Pugh did actually cover the run forward of Preston right back Fisher he managed to concede the penalty for Preston’s opener. I’ve only seen it once and it did look incredibly soft but why put in any kind of challenge in the penalty area when the opponent is not haring down on goal?
After all of Johnson’s prima donna antics, it would have be lovely to see him miss, but his low effort to his right had just enough to beat Kelly, who did manage to get his fingertips to the ball. As a result, we were one down to Preston’s only effort on target. The home side had been the better side but that was mainly due to us not getting going at all. Both keepers were inactive observers as a fairly low standard Championship game drifted aimlessly under very typical, leaden northern skies.
Preston should’ve doubled their lead but one of their over-sized centre halves missed the target with a header when really the net should’ve rippled. Half time arrived and view from the away end was that we were certainly in the game and had to play better after the break.
That we certainly did.
It was great to see early substitutions with Chair and Amos replacing Pugh and Ball. We thought Ball’s replacing must’ve been down to injury as he’d been pretty solid. But Pugh had had a terrible half, he isn’t either quick or strong enough to play wide left and for me his disappointing run continues.
From the outset of the second period, we were a much busier and more progressive. Both subs added a real zip to our play and started to create space for others to benefit from. Eze and Bright began to flourish with speed and some pretty impressive skills. Eze’s end of season show reel will certainly be a thing of beauty.
Until the equaliser the approach play was not rewarded with any clear cut chances. There was one huge appeal for a penalty when a goal bound Amos effort was blocked at the heart of the Preston box. Many around me were convinced it was stonewall penalty, but the referee had no intentions of evening things up and there wasn’t a great deal of moaning from our players- is there ever?
That potential injustice was righted a few minutes later, when we did deservedly levels things. Hugill was taken out by a yellow and half challenge from Davies, who was correctly carded. From the resulting free kick Hall finished smartly from Eze’s delivery to the back post. It’s great to see Hall racking up a few goals (five and counting) as it seems ages since a centre half contributed so often to the goal tally.
It was great to square things up, but we then did our utmost to let Preston retake the lead, and I’m not sure how they didn’t. A long floated ball from the Preston half somehow found tiny Maguire’s head on the edge of our box. His looping header went over Kelly and back off the ball. Maguire then had an open goal with the rebound but thankfully headed this one wide.
Everything looked like it was going to unravel just after that miss. Cameron who had been booked at the start of the second half for a cynical pull back, was then late in a tackle. No final warning, second yellow, followed by the red. Deflation in the away end. Cameron had been solid and always in the right place holding things together. It wouldn’t be Preston away without the obligatory red card for the away team. Here we go again, Preston were sure to take control and nick a dodgy winner late on. Wrong and wrong.
Unbelievably, we were even better with ten then 11. The manager didn’t replace an attacker with a defender and with the pace and trickery of Chair, Eze and Osayi-Samuel, the away began to stretch the extra-manned home team. Great skill from Osayi-Samuel in the Preston box was followed by an insanely clever pass to Manning. He took one touch to switch to his favoured left and from just outside the box hammered a beauty in off the underside of the bar. No more deflation in the away end. Manning’s shot hitting the net caught us by surprise. From our position it looked sure to go over, but it had dipped beautifully. After his very dodgy first half it was great to see Manning’s joyous celebration right in front of us - a four in the first half, and eight in the second.
If Manning’s goal caught us out, Eze’s effort a few minutes later didn’t. We were right behind it and it looked a goal the moment he hit it. After another great flowing run and pass from Chair, Osayi-Samuel slid a pass to Eze in space and I’m sure you’ll have seen it by now. The rest is history and so were the home fans who evacuated the stadium. No more deflation in the away end, it was now limbs.
Without much difficulty the game drifted calmly to a much enjoyed final whistle. It was like the home team gave up. They offered virtually nothing. They were meant to turn up and win but their performance will have been as much as a huge disappointment to their fans as it was a shock to us. But who cares? The terrible first half and refereeing controversy were very much forgotten. The second half was just awesome footballing fun. Getting a man sent off made the result even sweeter. “We’ve only got ten men” song was loud and joyous but not many home fans stayed to hear our singing.
As it turned out all those ingredients for an enjoyable away day up north weren’t really required. The home side were undoubtedly well and truly out of sorts, but so were we in the first half. We really turned up in the second and passed and moved with pace and freedom and at times were pretty much unplayable. The referee did a fair bit to help the home side but to be honest even he couldn’t stop us today. Oh yeah, the beer was very good as well.
PNE: Rudd 6; Fisher 5, Davies 6, Bauer 6, Hughes 5; Gallagher 5 (Stockley 73, 5), Harrop 5 (Ledson 81, -), Johnson 5, Barkhuizen 5 (Sinclair 81, -); Maguire 7.
Subs not used: Rafferty, Huntington, Ripley, Nugent
Goals: Johnson 19 (penalty, won Fisher)
Bookings: Gallagher 44 (foul), Davies 61 (foul)
QPR: Kelly 6; Rangel 7, Hall 8, Barbet 7, Manning 6; Ball 6 (Amos 46, 7), Cameron 6; Pugh 4 (Chair 46, 7), Eze 8, Osayi-Samuel 8; Hugill 7
Subs not used: Lumley, Clarke, Kane, Shodipo, Oteh
Red Cards: Cameron 67 (two yellows)
Bookings: Cameron 56 (foul), Cameron 67 (foul), Amos 83 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Ebere Eze 8 Blimey this is tough. Hall and Barbet were great at the back with a super solid display, plus Hall’s great equaliser. But Eze was Eze, and some of the stuff he did out there was just poetically beautiful. Topped off with a brilliant goal. Make of the most of him as we’ve only got nine games left. Special mention to Mark Warbuton for completely changing game with half time changes and especially not going negative when Cameron was sent off.
Referee – Dean Whitestone (Northants) 6 Just a bit annoying. He can have a seven if his soft penalty award is deemed correct and if our claim wasn’t. Two offenses and Cameron gets a red, while for Derby Rooney gets a chat. Just a bit predictable
Attendance 12,378 (QPR 618)
The Twitter @LeeMcAlpine1
Pictures – Action Images
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