FA Cup 4th Round
Queen’s Park Rangers crashed out of the FA Cup with customary ignominy with a desperate performance at Loftus Road. The manner of this defeat ranks as one of the lowest of the low points in this wretched season. Ghosts of recent league debacles and infamous cup exits echoed around a chilly Loftus Road in what became a febrile poisonous atmosphere.
Harry Redknapp made his intentions clear by picking a line-up which was distinctly different to the side which battled to a draw against West Ham the previous weekend. With an eye on the critical Tuesday night fixture against champions Manchester City, there were nine changes with Fabio da Silva and Jamie Mackie being the sole survivors. Ryan Nelsen was rested before his final game for the club whilst Adel Taarabt and Loic Remy were omitted from the squad with knocks.
And it could have been so different. Within the first minute, nice interplay between Esteban Granero and Ale Faurlin saw a high ball knocked down by Jay Bothroyd into the path of DJ Campbell who slotted home past MK keeper David Martin. The opening strains of ‘Pigbag’ were swiftly silenced as the linesman’s offside decision snuffed out the celebrations. It was to be the last hint of joy unconfined that afternoon for the home faithful.
(DJ Campbell’s disallowed goal)
Barely two minutes later and QPR were behind. Faurlin’s carelessly conceded a corner off Ryan Lowe, whose back was turned to goal. The resulting corner was taken to the near post. Armand Traore under pressure from the MK captain Dean Lewington, deflected the ball high into the corner of the net. Robert Green had no chance. Lewington celebrated with his team mates, but it was definitely an own goal.
(MK players celebrate the opener)
The atmosphere predictably turned and Rangers went into panic mode. Rangers tried to make possession tell. DJ Campbell was looking lively and up for the fight. Granero assured in midfield, trying to do the simple things. Yet other areas of the R’s midfield were seriously misfiring. Faurlin looked leggy and short of match sharpness. Moreover, the Argentinian was having the proverbial nightmare, misplacing pass after pass. Captain-for-the-day Ji-Sung Park was fairing similarly poorly, light in the challenge, unsure of footing and frequently out of position.
Still there was a belief that the Hoops could find a way back into this. On eleven minutes Campbell scampered onto a long ball. He touched it back to Faurlin who found Bothroyd. The former Cardiff City man deftly played it into the path of an oncoming Traore whose right-footed shot was parried by Martin and Park could not do anything with the rebound.
The third tier side were neat and tidy, but were not that adventurous and really offered nothing that this calibre of Rangers team shouldn’t have been able to deal with. Often MK striker Lowe was upfront on his own with only occasional support from Alan Smith and the pacy Adam Chicksen. The Rangers back-two of Anton Ferdinand and Tal Ben Haim were coping fairly competently, but the warning signs were there. On 37 minutes Ferdinand conceded a free kick, Ryan Harley went just over the bar from the resulting play.
Then Cup calamity two minutes later. The MK right-back punted the ball forward. Ferdinand inexplicably dipped his shoulder and let it pass. Lowe sprinted on and finished clinically past Green who again had little chance. Understandably Loftus Road was filled with boos and cries of disbelief at the schoolboy defending from Ferdinand (thought to be moving to Turkish outfit Bursaspor). The half-time whistle went and for the umpteenth time this season to a chorus of jeers and catcalls !
Depressingly though it was MK Dons who came out in the second-half with urgency and guile. Four minutes in, the hooped midfield were chasing shadows as Lowe latched onto a long pass down the right hand side. He was clearly offside, but referee Mike Dean allowed play to continue. Lowe centred to Harley who was able to slot past Green unchallenged. Disbelief turned to outright anger as the R’s implosion was confirmed.
Scores of QPR fans headed for the exits six minutes later when a MK free kick on the left was walked through the static R’s and an unmarked Darren Potter scored low to the left of Green. It all felt blackly predictable !
Fair play to the likes of Granero and Mackie, both of whom dug in and tried to show some pride in the shirt, but by then the game had gone. The stinking atmosphere reached its zenith when Park was substituted for Bobby Zamora. Park’s exit was met with some of the most venomous booing heard at QPR, even that aimed at arch-opponents !
Zamora showed some effort after coming on. Mackie went close before Bothroyd headed a simple ball home from a Zamora knock-down on 82 minutes. Celebrations were muted, as indeed they were when Fabio scored scrappily from a Bothroyd header. There was no feeling at any time that the comeback was seriously on. It is shameful that being 4-0 down, Rangers had left it until the last ten minutes to show any fight.
(Moments after Mackie’s second-half chance)
Rangers’ total humiliation was spared from being headline news by Norwich’s defeat by Conference Luton, a result reminiscent of Hereford United’s giant killing of Newcastle in 1972. There is no doubt though that this was a desperate display from QPR, which demonstrates how paper-thin the squad is in terms of strength and depth. That the huge amount of spending has created this powder-puff squad is incapable of explanation in its own right.
Losing badly in cup competitions has become second nature to R’s fans over the last 10-15 years. But it was the manner of this farrago which is ultimately the most depressing thing – the ‘project’ is failing dismally and is sucking any ounce of passion or indeed interest from those pulling on a shirt.
The transfer window closes in the week, and will be pivotal in determining whether Redknapp can rescue anything from this putrid season.
Team: Green 6, Traore 5, Ferdinand 4, Fabio 5, Ben Haim 6, Park 4 (Zamora 6), Granero 6, Faurlin 5, Mackie 6, Bothroyd 5, Campbell 5
Subs Not Used: Murphy, Hill, Onuoha, Derry, Mbia, Ephraim
QPR MOM – Mackie. Far too many occasions this term when candidates have been thin on the ground, Mackie’s battling performance makes him one of the few taking any credit out of this game.
MK Dons MOM – Lowe. Great running, classy finishing and showed a lot of passion. He typified everything lacking in the Rangers side.
(Photos provided by Sandra Sayce and used with permission)