Friday, 26 December 2008

Mixed Emotions Again

Another game which left mixed emotions at the final whistle. There are clearly positives to take from a vastly improved second-half showing, some good individual performances, and no lack of effort overall. But does that mean we should draw a veil over an inept first 45 minutes, which could easily have seen us beaten at the break? Perhaps we should just focus on a uniformly poor display by a certain P. Taylor, the man in green. His mistakes resulted in both of their goals and generally he was conned by some unsavoury ‘professionalism’ from an unlikeable QPR. Did he redeem himself in the last minute by disallowing their final ‘goal’? Perhaps. But if he’d given the penalty for handball before they went up the other end the question would not have arisen.

Despite their new-found riches it’s been hard to have strong feelings one way or the other about QPR. A few fond memories from many years ago. But their money seem to have gone to their heads and a Portuguese manager has lost no time in instilling some of the black arts of the game. Sneaky fouls, writhing in agony over any challenge, complaints over every fair tackle. I had no intention of booing Lee Cook, who I thought tried his best for us last season. But that all changed when a preening brat insisted on celebrating his free kick goal in front of the North Stand. Good riddance to a nothing club.

With McEverley returning early from injury (and still seemingly stripped of a position on the team sheet in the programme) and Basey dropping to the bench, the rest of the team was unchanged from Derby and Norwich. Shelvey made it to the subs bench too, alongside Holland and Burton, with no places for Gillespie (who is going back to Sheff Utd), Todorov (just what he has done wrong I cannot say) or Dickson (soon seemingly to depart), let alone the out-of-favour Youga or Moutaouakil.

We started OK but without much attacking intent and the game shaped up as so many before this season. The opposition slowly played their way into the match and started to look threatening. Their movement going forward was better than ours and it started to tell. But their almost inevitable opening goal owed much to a poor decision by the ref. Bouazza shaped up to hook the ball clear from outside the box only for their inrushing guy to come in on the blind side, duck his head, clutch his face, and win a free kick in a near-perfect position for a curler. With Charlton declining to put a player on the line Cook duly picked the top corner and went on to celebrate like a child. He deserved a smack on the wrist and to be sent home early to bed with a yellow card.

The goal further deflated an already lifeless performance and it almost became a lost cause before half-time but for an outstanding reflex save by Elliot. 2-0 at the break and it would surely have been game over. As it was, QPR went into the break looking entirely comfortable. Another 45 minutes during which the opposition’s keeper had no meaningful save to make. One blocked shot from Bailey and a few corners. That was it. Nowhere near enough effort, movement, or drive.

The second half seemed a continuation of the first before Sam and Bailey intervened. The former, who had been one of the bright spots of the first half (albeit not to much effect) worked the ball down the right and put the cross in just the right place for a late-arriving Bailey to make it his own. A truly excellent goal, well worked and just reward for a determined and well-timed run.

Suddenly tackles were going in and QPR were knocked out of their rhythm. Once ruffled they resorted to cheap shots and complaining. It was a far more exciting period and Sam was terrifying their full-back, while Bouazza was getting some joy on the other flank. Gray and Waghorn were well shackled through the game, but with Bailey and Semedo (who came in for some stick from some quarters with some erratic passes but who was also highly instrumental in us getting back into the game) winning more possession we at least carried a threat.

Half-chances were coming more frequently and we were having the best of it. Only for the ref to intervene again. This time he ignored Blackstock blatently barging the defender off the ball, taking it on to drill the shot into the far corner. Well taken but an obvious foul missed by a poor official. Fortunately this time, especially attacking the Covered End, the effect wasn’t entirely deflationary and another ball in saw players on the ground and Bailey stooping to head the ball into the net.

The last 10 minutes and it could have gone either way. Burton had come on for an ineffective Waghorn, then Basey and Holland for Bouazza and Semedo (who nearly blotted his copybook by inviting the ref to send him off for a shove after their player had kicked out at him). The key chances fell to Sam: the first a free header at the far post with the goalkeeper beaten by the cross, but he put it wide. Then he cut in and saw the shot blocked. All that remained was some sustained injury-time pressure from QPR, our final handball appeal, and their breakaway which saw a shot come back off the post and then buried, only for the officials to do the decent thing and disallow it. I’m not sure why but I think there had been a clear shove on McEverley to knock him out of the way. It was the sort of challenge QPR had got away with all match.

Of course its another home game where we have dropped points. A further extension of the winless run. And another game which could have been lost in the first half. It was also a game that with a bit of good fortune at the end we could easily have won. For that the main thanks have to go to Elliot, Sam and Bailey. It is also another game from which the positives won’t mean a great deal if we follow it up with a lame away defeat. Will it be enough to confirm Parkinson in the post? The suspicion remains that this is a case of cash as well as what viable alternatives there are. I just want the uncertainty to end quickly, one way or the other, so that we can do as much as possible to sort out the loan signings and whose staying and whose going. Let’s get on with it.

Player Ratings:

Elliot: 9/10. His first-half save was absolutely vital. Can we go back to having a player on the line for dangerous free kicks please?

Cranie: 6/10. Not bad but some poor crosses when he got up in support of Sam and didn’t really add much going forward.

McEverley: 8/10. Must have been knackered at the finish, provided good support going forward. Victim of another QPR rollaround to pick up a yellow card.

Fortune: 7/10. No obvious mistakes but another game without a clean sheet – and someone allowed themselves to get barged off the ball for their second.

Hudson: 7/10. Same as Fortune.

Bailey: 9/10. Two goals have to make him joint man-of-the-match. At half-time the rating would have been 5 but much improved second-half irrespective of the goals.

Semedo: 7/10. Was equally responsible for wresting the game back out of QPR’s grip. Some wasted passes, but the guy never stopped working, made some crunching (and fair) tackles. Nearly marked down for giving the ref the opportunity to send him off.

Bouazza: 6/10. Poor first half, much better second. He made some excellent runs out wide and in the middle and wasn’t far off being a match-winner.

Sam: 9/10. Would have got the full 10 if the late header or shot had gone in. Threatening and effective and set up the first for Bailey beautifully (as he did for Waghorn against Derby).

Gray: 5/10. No change all afternoon against robust defending. Could have been awarded more free kicks but didn’t make enough of a nuisance of himself.

Waghorn: 5/10. Also ineffective, probably down to the quality of defender compared with Derby.

Burton: 5/10. No different from Gray or Waghorn.
Basey: 5/10. Less of a threat than Bouazza when he came on.
Holland: Only on for a couple of minutes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For the sake of manners Happy Holidays to one and all!.....

Your summary BA is accurate and balanced....some questions.

Attitude...attitude... bloody attitude why is ours so finely balanced?

How can heads drop and players start hiding from the whistle...why do they do it? Fear of making a mistake?...Elliot kept us alive in the first half.

Then a great goal,( yes we scored a great goal)and the attitude changes we start committing to the cause, playing as a unit getting stuck in.

Why are we so weak mentally?

Todorov...Why, please someone explain the reason behind his exclusion?

Parkinson was positive afterwards, what else could he say. We have to find some backbone, some pride and character or time will end all hope.

Cambridge Addick.