QPR hauled themselves out of the bottom three with a thoroughly deserved 3-1 win over bottom placed Wigan at Loftus Road. A penalty from Heidar Helguson was followed by two sublime strikes by firstly Akos Buzsaky and then Tommy Smith, either of which will no doubt feature in the running for the ‘Match of the Day Goal of the Month’ and our goal of the season. Those two goals were sandwiched by an equally superb goal from Wigan’s Hugo Rodallega. The win saw QPR jump over both Blackburn and Wolves into 16th place. The game was the proverbial six-pointer between the two teams with the worst goal scoring record and although only three points were won, QPR created enough chances to win two games, such was their superiority.
Mark Hughes had said that he would use this game to try out a few more players in the squad who hadn’t featured in the first two games and he was true to his word. For his first home league game in charge, he made four changes from the team that managed to dispose of MK Dons in the FA Cup four days previously. DJ Campbell made only his second start of the season alongside the restored Heidar Heguson in place of Macheda and Bothroyd upfront. Joey Barton replaced Derry in midfield and wore the captain’s armband while Fitz Hall replaced the injured Danny Gabbidon.
Rangers came into the game with speculation at fever pitch as to who Mark Hughes’ first signing would be, but it was a returning hero who would take all the plaudits. Akos Buzsaky has had the burden of replacing the irrepressible Alejandro Faurlin following his injury and in the past two home games he has stepped up to the plate.
Wigan were fastest out of the traps and had tested our defence twice before we’d even got into our stride. In the 2nd minute, Luke Young fouled Victor Moses on the touch-line 30 yards from goal. Jordi Gomez delivered a quality ball into the six-yard box and with only four Wigan players to aim at, Steve Gohouri eluded his marker, Helguson, but somehow missed the target from 10 yards out, side-footing the ball tamely wide. Fair play to Helguson, he put his hand up and apologised for his error. On another day and against a better side we would have been punished.
Then within a few minutes, Moses picked up the ball in his own half and tore down the wing and left Young in his wake. Hall seemed too slow to get across and cut him off as he put a dangerous delivery across the six-yard box. Luckily both Rodallega and McArthur were tightly marked and the ball eventually went out for a throw-in. The early exchanges were a bit scrappy after that, but on 11 minutes we furnished our first decent move of the game. Wright-Phillips skipped past a challenge and found Helguson in acres 25 yards out. With Campbell running wide to draw a defender away and create space, Helguson advanced to the box and hit a left-footed shot, but his effort went tamely wide.
Five minutes later, DJ Campbell found himself in a similar position following good work by Helguson and Barton, but he rushed his shot and blazed it tamely wide. It was at this point that I commented to my mate: “No wonder they’re the two worst forward lines !” For the next 15 minutes or so, a pattern seemed to be emerging whereby every time Barton got the ball he was fouled. Nothing too malicious mind you, but not once did the referee have words with a Wigan player.
Then around the half-hour mark, we upped the tempo somewhat. We fashioned a succession of decent chances in the space of a couple of minutes. First Buzsaky was found by Wright-Phillips as he came in from the wing. Although Buzsaky was tightly marked, he went round his opponent and hit a curling shot from 25 yards that had Wigan keeper Al-Habsi scrambling across to his right as the ball went about a yard wide. From the goal kick, Mackie intercepted a pass to Moses out by the dugouts and sprinted goalwards. Riding a tackle, he neared the box and hit a screaming right-foot shot that this time had Al-Habsi punching the ball clear and out for a corner. From the corner, Barton delivered the ball to the near post, but as a Wigan player went to head clear, a clear shout of ‘handball’ went up from Rangers players and fans alike at the School End of the ground. Both the referee and his assistant were in agreement that it was handball and a penalty was awarded. As Heidar Helguson waited to take the kick, James McCarthy was yellow-carded for the handball. Icelandic international Helguson then kept his cool and beat Al-Habsi with a shot that crept inside of the keeper’s left-hand post for his 9th goal of the season in 17 appearances.
Again the fouls on Barton continued, by now I’d counted six and still no words from the referee. Five minutes before the interval, Caldwell scythed down Wright-Phillips some 30 yards out. Again the referee declined to have words with Caldwell. Akos Buzsaky lined up the free kick then bent the ball over the wall and Al-Habsi was forced into a great save diving to his right and turning the ball out for a corner. Then a couple of minutes later as Moses cut inside from the wing, Luke Young put in a clearing tackle upfield. The ball came to Helguson on the half-way line who then released DJ Campbell to run at Wigan’s back-four. As he entered Wigan’s half, he had four defenders backpedalling between him and the goal. As he went to go on the outside of Wigan’s Steve Gohouri, the defender stuck out a leg and impeded Campbell for what could’ve been a clear run at goal. Wigan’s No.2 appeared to think that he had done nothing wrong and was arguing the decision, in particular the yellow card. Who says footballers aren’t bright ?
Anyway back to the game. Once again Akos Buzsaky lined up the free kick and having tested his range with his previous efforts, he proved that practice makes perfect with a superb bending free kick. The ball was bent over and around the wall, hitting the keeper’s right-hand post before flying across the goal-line and nestling just inside the left-hand post’s netting. It was his first goal since April last year and I don’t think he’s scored a better goal in his previous 22 in hoops. Half-time: 2-0. We took a while to get going and the two early scares apart, Wigan had not caused us any trouble with Kenny a spectator.
Tommy Smith replaced DJ Campbell at half-time and went wide left with Wright-Phillips pushed into a more advanced role in support of Helguson. The 2nd half started in similar fashion to the 1st with a bit of a scrappy game and the ubiquitous fouls on Barton. The only chances came when firstly, on 53 minutes Buzsaky fired in a 20-yard shot, but it lacked the swerve and power of his previous efforts and Al-Habsi collected the ball comfortably. On another occasion following a flowing move down the right involving Young and Mackie, the Scottish international blazed over from 15 yards. Then on the hour, Buzsaky almost scored another screamer. Wright-Phillips advanced over the half-way line and as two Wigan players comically collided in the middle of the pitch, Buzsaky was found on the corner of the box. As the ball sat up, the Hungarian thumped the ball right-footed and the ball was arrowing into the top right-hand corner until Al-Habsi somehow tipped it around the post for a corner.
Shortly after, the fans in Q Block sang: ‘Thank You Neil Warnock’ and rightly so. Then on 65 minutes, Buzsaky fouled Maynor Figueroa some 30 yards from goal in a central position. With six players in the wall and Kenny positioned in the middle of the goal, Hugo Rodallega proved that anything Buzsaky can do, he can do better. He bent his right-footed shot wickedly around the wall and as it looked like going wide of the goal, it suddenly swerved inwards and went off the right-hand post. Paddy Kenny hadn’t even blinked. A superb riposte it must be said, but all the same it was the first Wigan effort on target and totally against the run of play. It would also mean that we would spend the next 20+ minutes with squeaky bums as Wigan suddenly grew in confidence.
Within 2 minutes of the goal, Wright-Phillips went on a run down the left and as he cut inside the full-back, Gary Caldwell came across and scythed him down for a blatant free kick. Again the referee said absolutely nothing to the Wigan player. Why am I saying this you may ask ? Well, because 2 minutes after that Victor Moses was trying to burst between Jamie Mackie and Barton when he was caught and tripped. Guess what happened next ? Answers on a postcard to the referee Mr J Moss with the heading: ‘What was Joey Barton booked for ?’ Within minutes, Wigan created their best chance to snatch an equaliser when Stam found Sammon in the box, but the Irish forward somehow put it wide with the whole goal to aim at.
Then on 73 minutes, it was QPR’s turn to spurn a gilt edged chance. Helguson was receiving a ball on the edge of the box when he ended up in a heap following a wrestling match with Gary Caldwell. Personally, I thought that it was a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other. The referee saw it differently and decided that Helguson had been fouled. He also decided that the foul was inside the box and pointed to the penalty spot for the second time in the game. I wasn’t convinced it was a foul or in the box, but a penalty all the same. Again Helguson lined up to take the spot kick (Adel Taarabt must be gutted he was away in Africa !), but this time Al-Habsi guessed correctly and pulled off a decent right-handed save while diving full stretch. I commented to my mate: “I hope that’s not the turning point in the game”. We needn’t of worried as we went in search of a third and decisive goal.
On 75 minutes, Smith came deep into his own half to retrieve the ball. Looking upfield, he saw Helguson’s run and found him with a great pass. Nothing seemed on as Helguson approached the corner of the box when he suddenly hit a superb left-footed volley to the far post that had the keeper beaten, but sadly it went about a foot wide. The game was a bit end to end by now as both teams were looking for the next goal.
One Wigan attack saw Barton put in a tackle on the edge of our box as Rodallega threatened. The ball was then swept upfield to Wright-Phillips out wide by the dugouts. He held the ball up and waited for the support and then fed Tommy Smith some 30 yards from goal. Taking a touch, the ball was then smashed right-footed and the ball screamed into the keeper’s right-hand corner for what was the best of the three goals. Smith had deserved his goal for his efforts in the 2nd half and once again I doubt that he’s scored a better goal in his career. His goal at Watford in April will be remembered for being more important, but this effort was out of the top drawer.
With 8 minutes remaining, Shaun Derry replaced Akos Buzsaky who got a standing ovation and rightly so. We saw the remaining time out and in the 3 minutes added on there was enough time for Sammon to commit two more fouls on Barton in the space of 30 seconds with no card shown. Luke Young on the other hand was booked with 5 minutes remaining and is now one card away from a suspension. Full-time: 3-1.
A long overdue league win and thoroughly deserved. The win was the important thing, but the performance was the icing on the cake. Admittedly it was against fellow strugglers, but two wins on the bounce will hopefully give the team some confidence in the coming weeks with some more ‘six pointers’ ahead. Before that we have the small matter of an FA Cup tie.
Team: Kenny 7, Young 7, Hill 8, Ferdinand 7, Hall 7, Mackie 7, Barton 7, Buzsaky 8 (Derry n/a), Wright-Phillips 7, Campbell 6 (Smith 8), Helguson 8.
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Orr, Bothroyd, Ramage, Macheda.
MOTM: I honestly can’t separate Buzsaky and Helguson ? You decide.
Referee: J. Moss 6. Caldwell made the two worst fouls of the game and the ref said nothing. A Wigan player handled the ball in the area and got yellow-carded. The penalty was enough punishment surely. And the second penalty was ridiculous. As for Barton, he was fouled nine times and not one word was said.
Attendance: 16,002 (including 392 away fans)
(The above pics were taken by Martin Percival and used with his permission)