Mackie’s magic double has fans singing in the rain – full match report
Wednesday, 15th Sep 2010 21:58 by Clive Whittingham
Jamie Mackie’s excellent recent form continued at Ipswich Town on Tuesday night as QPR comfortably beat the league’s third placed team on their own patch.
If you see Neil Warnock out and about over the next couple of days it might be worth asking him for some lottery numbers for Saturday night.
In the summer Warnock spent an undisclosed fee, quoted anywhere between £125,000 and £500,000, on a striker from relegated Plymouth Argyle who had scored just eight times in all competitions last season. The signing was met with almost universal ambivalence from a long suffering support base that has been banging on about signing a prolific goal scorer for literally years. Jamie Mackie now has six goals in five league games and ripped Ipswich Town, third at the start of play, apart in the first half on Tuesday night.
Warnock also signed Bradley Orr from Bristol City during the close season, only to see him limp from the field of play midway through the second half of Saturday’s game at Middlesbrough. He replaced him with Peter Ramage who then promptly ruptured his knee ligaments, an injury that has ended his season eight months prematurely in a year when his Loftus Road contract expires. It’s a measure of the man and the team spirit at QPR this year that Ramage actually played on with the injury for a quarter of an hour on Saturday and did a job for the team. Subsequently without a right back for a Tuesday night trip to Ipswich Warnock hijacked Hull City’s loan deal for a defender who has played three minutes of football since April, slung him straight in and then watched as he turned in a performance that would have won him the man of the match award on another night.
Last season Heidar Helguson was useless in almost every single way to QPR - in fact he was worse than useless because having done nothing for us he then went and scored 11 goals for Watford who were fighting against Rangers at the bottom of the league. Warnock arrives and suddenly he’s in the form of his QPR career, and miraculously not injured.
Warnock sells Damion Stewart to widespread condemnation – he makes a nightmare start for Bristol City, his replacement at QPR Fitz Hall immediately gets injured, in comes Matt Connolly and he too could have put a bottle of man of the match champagne to his lips in the Portman Road dressing room last night. Adel Taarabt was so moody and petulant last season many QPR fans didn’t want to see him return, now fans of other club’s talk of him as the signing of the summer. Hogan Ehphraim has gone from a likeable but lightweight waste of a first team starting berth to an effective, productive, first name on the team sheet.
Tommy Smith deal not done in time? No matter, watch this complicated loan deal be completed instead. Rob Hulse injured? Don’t worry, even Patrick Agyemang can score goals for this manager. I’m half expecting Warnock to seize the microphone from the PA announcer at Leicester and shout “for my next trick” before levitating over the centre circle.
Playing the title favourites and one of the early pace setters in four days would tell us much more about how good we are going to be this season – so said the LoftforWords preview of Saturday’s game against Middlesbrough. Four days later and Rangers are 6-0 up for the week.
One of the big, big factors in all of this unusual success is the way the team is simply picking itself. QPR have not been without injuries this season – six first team regulars were missing for this game – but when a player drops out one is immediately ready, willing and keen to slot seamlessly into the system. Last night it was Kyle Walker in at right back for Bradley Orr alongside Connolly, Kaspars Gorkss and Clint Hill with Paddy Kenny in goal. Alejandro faurlin started, but didn’t finish, alongside Ipswich’s summer transfer target Shaun Derry at the base of the midfield. Heidar Helguson led the attacking foursome with support from Mackie, Hogan Ephraim and Adel Taarabt.
Ipswich have three former R’s among their ranks, but only one made the starting eleven last night with Mark Kennedy at left back. Damien Delaney is lucky to still have a leg attached to his body after a nightmare brush with compartment syndrome in the summer – he waits for a first team return. Tamas Priskin was left to prove his point to his many critics among the travelling 1000 from West London from the bench. Roy Keane returned Tottenham loanee Andros Townsend to his starting eleven and played Jason Scotland as a lone attacker as he attempted to preserve an unbeaten start to the season that had lifted Town into third.
The home side enjoyed two periods of pressure lasting five minutes or so each either side of half time. Apart from that it was QPR literally from first whistle to last. Kicking off in driving rain and howling winds the R’s were in possession deep in the Ipswich penalty area inside 40 seconds and Heidar Helguson’s powerful drive from a tight angle wasn’t a million miles away from opening the scoring. The ball was immediately seized from the resulting goal kick and within 30 seconds Taarabt had worked space on the edge of the area before firing several yards wide of the target.
Ipswich needed some assistance from referee Keith Stroud, an official who had never refereed a QPR defeat in seven attempts prior to this game, to mount their first attack. A move down the Town left seemed to have been snuffed out fairly by Kyle Walker but the official pulled the play back for a meagre challenge by Faurlin earlier in the play. Leadbitter took the free kick, that was swung wickedly in towards the QPR goal and headed straight up in the air by Connolly at the near post. A potentially dangerous situation was swiftly neutralised by Paddy Kenny emerging from his goal line and claiming confidently. No sign of the nerves that seemed to be affecting the Irish keeper in the first couple of games this season on this occasion.
Connolly planted an equally firm header on a set piece at the other end four minutes later when he attacked Taarabt’s first corner of the game well but headed the ball over the bar when he maybe could have found the target from eight yards. That sounds like two criticisms of Connolly to start with there but that would be extremely harsh – this was his best performance for many months.
Now here’s a sentence I never thought I’d be writing in a LoftforWords match report. After a quarter of an hour Shaun Derry stripped down to his underpants, natty in appearance and black in colour, as the linesman was substituted. The injury to the referee’s assistant was caused by a clash right down by the corner flag as, I think, Jamie Mackie chased a lost cause against an Ipswich defender and tried to prevent it simply going out for a goal kick – the pair both collided with the assistant and he was not fit to continue. Derry’s strip tease was to remove his cycling shorts, and then having taken them over to the touchline he seemed to change his shirt as well. QPR’s brand new red and black halved away shirt looked absolutely magnificent by the way – although the red numbers and letters on the back were almost completely illegible.
The new linesman’s first job was to flag for a really silly foul by Jason Scotland on Kyle Walker just inside the Ipswich half tight to the touchline. Having watched Aston Villa blow their lead at Stoke on Monday night purely and simply by conceding one needless set piece after another in their own half I couldn’t help but marvel at Scotland’s stupidity for tripping a player running away from goal, towards the touchline, with his back to the danger area and no support for a pass. Adel Taarabt delivered the free kick into the area, Ipswich failed to clear the ball and Clint Hill snuck in round the back of everybody totally unmarked. The former Palace man had time to execute an unlikely scissor kick from a tight angle that looked from the away end as if it had flown into the net and the home fans took great delight in mocking the travelling faithful for their premature celebrations. The shot had actually been deflected wide and Rangers were able to keep the pressure on with a couple of corners that came to nothing.
Again just when Ipswich thought they’d survived and were able to clear with a goal kick, Rangers quickly retook possession thanks to a couple of thumping challenges first by Faurlin on Townsend and then Helguson on Hyam. This allowed Taarabt to get Gareth McAuley back peddling, frantically searching for the sanctuary of his own penalty area, before hitting a low shot from the edge of the area that goalkeeper Marton Fulop saved comfortably. It was the work rate of the forwards and midfield when not in possession that laid the platform for this victory. Ipswich simply could not get hold of the ball for any prolonged period of time and the hustling, harrying and harassment of the home players by Mackie, Ephraim, Helguson and Derry forced them to constanly knock it long towards Jason Scotland who isn’t the biggest and wasn’t remotely good enough to trouble Matt Connolly who needn’t have changed out of his club suit to play in this one. Had he stuck with the jacket and tie he would have had an actual pocket to put Scotland in, rather than the metaphorical one he settled for.
Paddy Kenny was seeing such a small amount of the ball at this stage that it almost seemed unfair that he hadn’t had to shell out £31 for one of Ipswich’s ridiculously expensive tickets to get in. Mind you, it was his clearance from a back pass that began the move from which QPR took a richly deserved lead. Gorkss looked long for Helguson on the edge of the box who, not for the first or last time on the night, beat McAuley in the air and the ball fell to Mackie who drew two defenders, seemed to lose the ball after having an initial effort blocked, then showed great persistency to work some more space for himself and get a shot off that beat Fulop and nestled satisfyingly in the bottom corner of the Ipswich net. A typical Mackie goal if ever I’ve seen one – all about tenacity and a determination to get his own way.
Strangely the goal actually seemed to do more for Ipswich than it did for QPR. The home side quickly forced a succession of corners and throw ins, which with Carlos Edwards in the line up were as good as corners, around the QPR penalty box. Only once, when the ball dropped to McAuley from an Edwards throw at the near post and his shot on the turn was blocked inadvertently by Scotland in the six yard box, did they threaten, but it was still a rare rough patch in the game for QPR. For once, the R’s just couldn’t put a foot on the ball for a couple of minutes although this may have been partly due to Alejandro Faurlin clearly struggling with an injury.
The Argentinean was very off colour at Derby and while I thought he played well on Saturday people disputed that in the pub with me before this game. Almost from the first whistle at Portman Road he seemed to be carrying a knock – laboured at full sprint and regularly stretching and feeling his thigh. The tackle in the lead up to Mackie’s goal seemed to finish him off and he was eventually replaced by Akos Buzsaky before half time.
Neil Warnock said before the season started that he wasn’t really in the mood to hang around as far as promotion is concerned and he would be going to win every game. The numbers QPR committed to counter attacks backed this up on Tuesday and one such break after a prolonged period of Ipswich pressure led to the second goal.
Grant Leadbitter won’t want to see it again – it was his corner that started it all. The former Sunderland man gently lofted a nothing delivery into the near post where Connolly rose and headed it away. Leadbitter then retook possession close to the touchline but dallied on the ball and lost out to Hogan Ephraim. He then fed Taarabt and after he spread the play to Mackie a goal always looked likely. Mackie picked the ball up on halfway and powered straight down the middle of the pitch towards the North Stand. Kyle Walker, the right full back, raced up in support and looked like the best pass to make throughout the move but Mackie is in no mood to mess about at the moment and having arrived at the edge of the box he unloaded a low shot into the net past Fulop who, in my opinion, should have done better.
Credit Ephraim for winning the ball and setting the move away, Taarabt for passing to Mackie rather than running himself, Walker for making the effort to run the entire length of the field in support which wasn’t used but drew the attention of the Ipswich defence, and of course Mackie who might like to buy one of those lottery tickets himself this weekend.
The frustration of being completely suppressed by Connolly as his team fell apart around him was all too much for Scotland who lashed out at the QPR man off the ball just before half time and was perhaps fortunate to escape with just a yellow card.
Four minutes of injury time, for Faurlin and the linesman’s respective problems, passed without further incident and the mood in the away end at half time was buoyant.
The second half initially promised to be a different proposition. Roy Keane showed his hand immediately by bringing on wonder-boy Connor Wickham and our old loanee Tamas Priskin for Andros Townsend and Luke Hyam who had both looked rather out of their depth in the first half. Wickham’s impact was immediate, Priskin’s was not – in fact (I shouldn’t admit this) I didn’t actually realise he had come on with Wickham for the best part of half an hour and the only thing that drew my attention to him then was a needless and cynical kick on international team mate Akos Buzsaky’s Achilles that should have brought a yellow card.
Wickham has been linked with moves here there and everywhere and initially it wasn’t hard to see why. Still a couple of years shy of his twentieth birthday the striker is built like a Championship Rugby League prop forward. He loomed large over every other player on the pitch as he ran out for the kick off and he was causing QPR problems within 90 seconds.
In his first involvement he ran down Clint Hill chasing a long ball towards the corner flag and having won that non-contest he proceeded to completely skin the QPR left back by the corner flag and stride confidently into the penalty area along the byline. Such was the swagger of the lad I expected him to shoot from an impossible angle but he instead showed terrific awareness by pulling the ball back, right across the face of goal, and only Carlos Edwards will know how he totally missed his kick at the back post when the goal seemed certain to be scored.
Ipswich were then able to pepper the QPR box again as Buzsaky fouled Norris and Leadbitter pumped in a free kick to the back post. Wickham went up with Kenny, the ball came loose in the area, and Stroud whistled for a free kick. It was one of those that probably should have been waved on by the referee, but the goalkeepers always seem to get the benefit of the doubt.
Leadbitter drilled one wide from the edge of the box as the QPR players got sucked too deep into their own half and it started to look like it would be a long night but Rangers weathered this initial storm and it soon died away again. Ipswich, a side renowned for its attractive football, were soon restricted to long balls up to Wickham who was presumably expected to do some sort of silk from straw miracle and normal service was resumed with Gorkss and Connolly dominating. This was the best display of the season from our centre halves.
QPR announced their intention to continue pressing for more goals just before the hour and only two fine saves in quick succession by Marton Fulop prevented the Londoners from putting the game out of sight. First Taarabt produced a turn by the touchline that, had it been Peter Whittingham, would have provided the BBC’s Manish Bhasin’s with wanking material for weeks and fed the ball infield to Buzsaky. He in turn laid in Mackie who saw a low drive from 12 yards out turned aside by Fulop at full stretch. Buzsaky kept the pressure on with a cross back into the box that was cleared up towards Wickham and Priskin but Connolly strode in with a seamless interception and quickly sent a beautiful cross up to the back post. Helguson showed great awareness to nod it back across the face for Taarabt and only Fulop will know how he managed to change direction quickly enough to stretch out and stick a glove on the ball to divert it away from the goal.
That was Taarabt’s last action of the evening. Match fitness still a problem, groin injury still under consideration, the Moroccan was once again withdrawn early by Warnock and replaced on this occasion by Mikele Leigertwood who went and played next to Derry allowing Buzsaky to push forward. Taarabt applauded the fans as he left the field but seemed to kick a water bottle and throw his tie ups around on the bench – it was totally different to his two fingered salutes and toy throwing exercises of last season though and at the time I simply thought he was annoyed that he’d missed the chance just before he came off and wanted to stay on in a game where there were clearly goals for the taking.
Anyway Ipswich pressure survived, tremendous football and swift attacking resumed, QPR put the game to bed with just over 20 minutes remaining. Paddy Kenny knocked a long ball up towards the edge of the Ipswich penalty area where, once again, Heidar Helguson won his header. The ball fell to Jamie Mackie in the area with his back to goal and as he touched it back to Akos Buzsaky on the edge of the area Ipswich defender Tommy Smith rashly lunged out a leg to fell the QPR man. It was a blatant penalty, but had referee Stroud waited all of three seconds before awarding it he would have seen Buzsaky fire a goal of the season contender high into the top corner.
It was all a bit unfortunate for the referee really because normally you’d be safe to assume that a team would rather have a penalty than possession of the ball 25 yards away from the goal – but then most sides don’t have Akos Buzsaky. The angle he was looking at the incident from also meant he may well not have seen the Hungarian homing into view at all. It’s easy to make excuses and forgive the official on this occasion because, as he has done four times already this season, Heidar Helguson wandered up to the ball and casually toed the ball into the corner from the penalty spot although, again, I felt Fulop could and should have done better.
QPR have been awarded five penalties in six matches this season – reviewing them all it’s a combination of high work rate from the strikers hustling errors from their opponents, and a touch of gamesmanship as well. Helguson, Mackie and Taarabt are all very good at hitting the deck in a convincing manner – that’s slightly different to diving, because they are being touched and fouled, and as we saw at home to Derby last season when German was blatantly hauled back but stood up and got nothing you have to draw attention to these things or you’ll get nothing.
The only threat Ipswich mustered after that was from another long throw. Bizarrely Wickham takes these as well, despite being the obvious target for them himself, and a scramble in the area almost fell to Scotland but Kenny gathered and the flag had been raised against the former Swansea man anyway. Further frustration meant more cynical fouls – Leadbitter crunched Derry and was booked, Smith tripped Buzsaky as a counter attack developed and also saw yellow, Priskin should have been similarly dealt with for his petulant stab at the same player.
Warnock gave Tommy Smith a run out for the last ten minutes as Jamie Mackie was treated to a rest and a standing ovation from the away end. Mackie, like Taarabt, seemed disappointed to be leaving a game with goals on offer but is fast becoming a cult hero with the QPR fans who sang ‘walking in a Mackie wonderland’ long into the night.
Smith should actually have scored with his first touch. No more than ten seconds after he came on the former Portsmouth forward was on the end of a fabulous Buzsaky cross from the byline but his first time effort skewed off his boot and away towards the corner flag when the goal was gaping and begging to be hit.
Other than that his only real influence on the game was some hard work by the dugouts that forced an error from his marker and should have been rewarded with a corner only for the linesman, presumably thinking about other things, to award a goal kick.
The QPR fans, vocal throughout, were left to cheer the passes in the final ten minutes as QPR calmly moved the ball around the field without really going anywhere and running the clock down. “Rangers are back, about fucking time” was the chant of choice, and it summed the mood up perfectly. We looked so good it almost brought a tear to the eye. First v third at the start of play, this ended up looking like one of those matches where the Premiership team does a professional job on League One opponents in the FA Cup.
Football is a strange game, we could go to Leicester on Saturday on get run absolutely ragged, but there is only so long I can go on saying ‘we were quite lucky there’ or ‘the opposition were very poor’ – Ipswich were unbeaten and third in the league prior to this match and we destroyed them. Nothing, nothing, is won in September and QPR have bollocksed up positions like this in the past but for now we should focus on the positives - because there genuinely are no negatives to report.
Kenny’s early nerves have gone, Walker slotted in seamlessly and was almost perfect in both attack and defence, Connolly and Gorkss were as good as they have ever been, Clint Hill did his usual steady job. Derry kicked and muscled and pushed and passed and battled and absolutely dominated the Ipswich midfield. Faurlin looked unfit from the start, Buzsaky came in and settled in perfectly. Later in the game Leigertwood came on and played very, very well indeed for half an hour. The whole side was led by the four up front who looked permanently threatening when we had the ball and worked absolutely tirelessly without it. I don’t want to start rumours about Mackie and Ephraim sleeping together but can we really afford two iron lungs? Random drug tests for those two if that’s not the case, I didn’t know human beings were capable of such exertions. Helguson gets better every match, questionable penalty taking technique notwithstanding.
Here’s a thought to leave you with, courtesy of the LFW message board, for the last two seasons the team top of the league at this stage have gone on to lift the title.
Ipswich: Fulop 6, Peters 6, McAuley 4, Smith 5, Kennedy 5, Edwards 5 (Brown 72, 5), Norris 5, Hyam 4 (Priskin 46, 4), Leadbitter 5, Townsend 5 (Wickham 46, 7), Scotland 5
Subs Not Used: Murphy, Eastman, Healy, Hourihane
Booked: Scotland (foul), Smith (foul), Leadbitter (foul)
QPR: Kenny 7, Walker 8, Gorkss 8, Connolly 8, Hill 7, Derry 8, Faurlin 6 (Buzsaky 36, 7), Ephraim 7, Taarabt 7 (Leigertwood 60, 7), Mackie 9 (Smith 80, 6), Helguson 8
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Agyemang, German, Parker
Goals: Mackie 31 (assisted Helguson), 42 (assisted Taarabt), Helguson 68 (penalty, won by Mackie)
QPR Star Man – Jamie Mackie 9 Grows game by game. The goals will draw the headlines, and rightly so, but the work he and the other forwards do without the ball is so vital to our success at the moment. Even ten minutes from time he was twisting, turning and winning an unlikely corner through sheer bloody mindedness. An intensely likeable and effective footballer.
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 7 Couple of strange free kick awards, generously let Priskin off without a card when his foul was cynical and nasty, should have played on and allowed Buzsaky’s goal rather than giving the penalty. But in fairness those were the only real errors that stuck out across 90 minutes and he wasn’t nearly as fussy and card happy as he has been in the past. Controlled the game well for the most part.
Attendance: 19,931 (980 QPR fans approx) Fairly quiet in the home stands as usual here, and very odd to find them posting a sub 20,000 crowd with the start they’ve made to the season – although at those prices who could blame them? QPR travelled in decent numbers and sang throughout, as it’s easy to do when you’re winning comprehensively. The new chant for Taarabt, the Rangers are back number and Jamie Mackie’s new song all raised a big smile.
Photo: Action Images
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