Team: Cerny, Ramage, Gorkss, Stewart, Williams, Routledge, Leigertwood, Watson, Simpson (Vine), Taarabt, Agyemang.
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Hall, Faurlin, Parker, Pellicori, Balanta.
A win’s a win and it was certainly a massive one for us but two shots on target and those last two substitutions ? We looked very shaky in defence and they were certainly the better side in the first-half and coming out with a two-goal advantage after the break, we did okay for a while. They scored a very good goal which some fans in the Lower Loft applauded. Agyemang’s introduction was well received and someone sitting near me then remarked: “Good, we’re going 4-4-2 then” Unfortunately of course, Simpson was sent out-wide and Agyemang then took on the difficult role as our lone striker.
It looked at one stage as if Balanta was going to come on but the eventual arrival of two more defenders was too much for many fans: “You Don’t Know What You’re Doing” rang out followed by a loud rendition of: “We’re Supposed To Be At Home” which the away contingent conveniently joined in with. We were now on the back-foot and when we gained possession, we hit long balls up-field which usually resulted in Bristol City coming straight back at us again. At Watford recently, a strong challenge by Hall was greeted by chants of “Off Off Off Off” by some of the Rangers contingent and yesterday, many fans booed at the final whistle !!! I would of liked to have seen Taarabt come on and revert to 4-4-2. We seemed to lose our shape at times in the first-half but that was nothing compared to witnessing six defenders on the pitch after the interval !!! The two best players for me were Leigertwood and Gorkss and unusually for this season, we DIDN’T hit the woodwork.
Another game, another lacklustre performance, another Manager booed but three points and our first win in seven matches. The game started off quite badly for us. We were playing poorly and City were on top, but they failed to capitalise on their dominance, before their level of football was seemingly brought down to our level. It resulted in a rather boring half of football and the players cannot blame a big Christmas lunch on that. On the half-hour, a poorly played short corner between Watson and Buzsaky worked its way to the right-wing, where it fell to Fitz Hall, of all people, to put it back in the box. He duly obliged and it went just over Simpson’s head. Fortunately for Rangers, it ricocheted off a Bristol defender and sat up nicely for Simpson to whack past the keeper from inside the six-yard box.
It was hardly against the run of play, the game was, on the whole, end-to-end but the fact that we’d scored did rather come as a shock, as did our next goal, nine minutes later. I must be honest and say that I don’t remember for the life of me how the ball got to Leigertwood out on the right-wing, but it did, and he cut inside to drill it left-footed into the bottom corner. I fear that without these goals I may well have fallen asleep ! Half-time arrived and the new interval entertainment of nothing, bar the subs warming up (whatever happened to Round the Pole ?)
After about 10 minutes of the second-half, Nicky Maynard received the ball with his back facing the goal and then proceeded with a couple of kick-ups whilst turning, before smashing it into the top corner of the net. Cerny didn’t move a muscle and it was greeted with a standing ovation from some QPR fans. Hart’s reaction was to remove Faurlin, who wasn’t playing quite as well as he had before he was dropped, but who was certainly playing better than Watson and perhaps even Leigertwood also, and brought on Agyemang. I was surprised he didn’t start as he had been playing well, and this substitution resulted in Simpson being moved out to the left-wing. Quite soon after this change, the visitors had a penalty claim waved away. I believe it was Maynard who broke through and was fast approaching the six-yard box when a last-ditch tackle from Fitz Hall (who had given the ball away in the first place), prevented him from scoring. My first (and this far, only) impression of it was that he got the ball, but you could easily see the referee giving it. He glanced at the linesman (something that City Manager Gary Johnson was to complain about after the match, although to be fair, the referee did it twice with another appeal), who agreed with his initial stance of no penalty.
With about 10 minutes to go, we could see that Connolly and Borrowdale were stripped and ready to come on (once Hart had decided against Balanta coming on for his first action of the season), and we assumed that it would be a straight swap for Ramage and Williams, who had been run a bit ragged with no wingers in front of them. Jokingly, I said that perhaps Ian Holloway was on the phone and had told Hart to take Simpson and Buzsaky off and play 6-3-1 for the remaining minutes. Fortunately, we didn’t resort to such a defensive formation but it was Simpson and Buzsaky who departed. Borrowdale went on to the left-wing and Connolly in a central midfield role. This was greeted with boos and jeers from the R’s faithful of, “You Don’t Know What You’re Doing.” Hart defended the move saying that we were looking nervous and it was necessary to make sure we held on for our first win for some time. My response to that would be, that we looked even more nervous after the substitutions, with two players out of position and a very defensive formation giving confidence to the opposition.
I would also like to ask Mr Hart what he would have done if we needed a winner had Bristol scored ? With six defenders and Leigertwood (playing for most of the game in a defensive midfielder role and who has played at right-back for us on many an occasion), all on the pitch, we would have struggled if we had needed another goal. There was an occasion when Borrowdale was up by the corner flag, trying to keep the ball in the corner and he looked utterly lost and is surely not as suited to doing this job as say Simpson or Buzsaky. Of course, neither of them are as good at defending but both are capable enough of taking care of an attacking full-back.
We survived 4 minutes of injury time, not without further chanting from the home fans. This time it was, “We’re Supposed To Be At Home” to which the Bristol City fans joined in with. Boos greeted the final whistle and it really felt like we had stolen a win we didn’t deserve (not that City were much good either). Still, it was a much needed victory, our first in seven games and I believe our first on Boxing Day since 2002.
Cerny: 6 – He did everything that was asked of him, and that wasn’t much.
Ramage: 5/6 – Still can’t cross to save his life and couldn’t cope with two attackers on him.
Gorkss: 8 – Outstanding once again. He seemed to get his head or a boot or something on the ball 99% of the time.
Hall: 6 – Gave the ball away in dangerous areas too often but normally made up for it. He could have had a penalty against him on another day.Good to see Connolly fit again.
Williams: 6 – Coped better than Ramage but still struggled against two attackers. He is decent going forward though.
Leigertwood: 7 – Played well, but like others, he gave the ball away a bit too much but not as big a culprit as some. He got another good goal, his second in as many games.
Watson: 5/6 – Played on the right of the diamond and also gave the ball away an awful lot. Hard to tell sometimes what he was even trying to do ?
Faurlin: 6 – As I said above, not as good as he was before but played better than Watson.
Buzsaky: 6/7 – Finally reinstated in the middle of the park, at the head of the diamond and provided useful support to the front two. Have to say that he has played much better.
Simpson: 6 – Wasn’t exactly mesmerising up-front but got completely lost when he was moved to the left-wing following Agyemang’s introduction. He took his goal well though.
Routledge: 6 – I don’t really remember him doing anything wrong, but nothing amazing either. He isn’t being allowed to settle in one position.
Agyemang: 6/7 – Unlucky to be dropped and in my eyes was unfairly criticised for not trying hard enough. I think he was merely trying to take up a better position than making a run would create.
Connolly: More suited to the holding midfield role than Borrowdale was to left-winger but did what was asked of him.
Borrowdale: He looked incredible lost when up-field. I would have understood the substitution more if he went left-back and Williams went left-wing.
Hart: 5 – Has got to work seriously hard if he wants to get the fans on his side. The second and third substitutions made little sense and I didn’t like his diamond formation. It just doesn’t work well if your full-backs aren’t good enough. It works at Chelsea because they have Bosingwa and Cole, not Ramage and Williams. Briatore & Co. would not have liked the ending either.
Referee: (D.Phillips) 6 – Did ok, got the penalty shouts right in my mind. He was a bit inconsistent on yellow cards and fouls though.