Team: Ikeme, Ramage, Stewart, Gorkss, Connolly (Hill) Vine, Leigertwood, Faurlin, Cook (German), Taarabt, Simpson (Ephraim).
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Buzsaky, Balanta, Priskin.
There was no danger of this game being called off due to the weather, although it started raining at 6.45pm and didn’t let up until 9.45pm. NW made four changes with Simpson, Stewart, Vine and Cook returning at the expense of Priskin, Hill, Ephraim and Buzsaky. Connolly replaced Hill at left back with the other changes being straightforward like-for-like.
Rangers started off camped in the Derby half and attacking the School End. Five minutes in and Simpson tested Bywater but the keeper made a comfortable save. Shortly after, a sublime ball from Faurlin in the middle of the park found Connolly overlapping down the left, who chested the ball down, cut inside past a defender and hit a screamer. Bywater, at his near post, managed to parry the ball, which was heading for his top right corner. The sheer power of the shot saw the ball spinning up in the air and out for a corner. Bywater then produced an even better save after 16 minutes. Faurlin, again in the middle of the park, collected the ball on his instep, looked up and hit a 30 yard daisy cutter. The ball skimmed off the muddy surface but somehow the keeper managed to get down to his left and palm the ball around the post for a corner. Considering the wet conditions, the save was top drawer.
Five minutes previous to this, Derby had discovered our half of the pitch wasn’t some foreign land and ventured up-field. They then started to repeat this although they didn’t have the same cutting edge as us, as Clough had dropped Rob Hulse and replaced him with Robbie Savage, leaving Chris Porter alone up-front and opting for a five-man midfield. It was during one of these forays up field that Ikeme had his first work to do, just dealing with a simple header. Then on 30 minutes, Derby were awarded a free kick 20 yards out. Robbie Savage lined it up and then bent it over the wall, but Ikeme was equal to it, making the save look easy.
On 32 minutes, Connolly limped off injured, to be replaced by the player he originally replaced, Matt Hill. The visitors five-man midfield had now worked out that Taarabt, Cook and Faurlin were a danger and had them closed down as soon as they touched the ball. But just before the break, Taarabt found some space and put a lovely pass into Cook’s path 20 yards from goal. Cook took a touch then hit a low shot to the keeper’s right and the ball just eluded Bywater’s outstretched hands. Half time: 1-0
Derby made a change at half time and immediately put us on the back foot. A minute after the interval, a corner slipped through Ikeme’s fingers but fortunately Stewart was there in time to hoof it clear. To be fair to Ikeme, his gloves are usually like glue so the conditions played a huge part. The conditions were also causing some players from both sides to slice the ball into the Stands at an alarming rate. But on 52 minutes, there was no excuse. A speculative 25 yard drive by Savage was sliced wildly and the ball headed for the Paddocks for a throw-in. Matt Hill, under no pressure and no Derby player within 10ft, instead of shepherding the ball out for a throw-in to QPR, decided to launch the ball in the direction of the South Africa Road Stand. A loud groan went up around all sides of the Ground.
Neil Warnock in his programme notes said: “Next season there won’t be anything like the amount of loan players that have come and gone in this campaign.” Too damn right, I’m guessing Hill was dropped for a reason last night. On 59 minutes, Antonio German replaced Lee Cook, with Simpson taking up Cook’s position wide right while German partnered Vine upfront. The Derby players must’ve thought German was Lionel Messi as they then took turns in trying to wrestle his shirt off his back for the next 30 odd minutes. Robbie Savage, now refereeing the game (such are his talents) deemed every challenge legal. Mind you, considering most of his challenges on Taarabt all night, nothing surprised me. He must have Adel’s DNA all over him as he pushed, kicked and pinched every part of his anatomy ! He also seemed to want to swap shirts with him. Shortly after Antonio’s introduction, Savage launched a free kick into our box. The ball fell into the path of Derby defender Shaun Barker, who controlled the ball, turned Gorkss inside out and buried a right foot shot into the net, sending the 783 visiting fans wild.
Now Derby’s tactics stepped up a gear, or down, depending on your view. With eleven men behind the ball, they hustled and jostled for every ball like before, but now decided that time wasting was an Olympic event and were going for gold. Time and time again they frustrated us with this tactic, but seeing as the ref did nothing they just continued ! Even the Manager, Clough, joined in at one point, throwing the ball into the Derby dugout twice with nothing being said. We continued to try for the winner, Taarabt ending one mazy run with a shot wide of the goal and Faurlin had a great effort deflected wide for a corner with the keeper wrong-footed.
With the 90 minutes almost up, Ephraim set up Vine who smashed a 20-yard unstoppable shot that crashed off the bar and away for a goal kick with Bywater rooted to the spot. Considering the amount of time wasting that had gone on, Savage decided there would be 4 minutes time to be added on. There was still time for German to cut in from the wing, slip the ball past a defender and line up a shot/cross. The Derby defender decided he would make one last attempt to get Antonio’s shirt off his back, but Savage waved play on. How the linesman/ref’s assistant didn’t see it is beyond me.
I’m not blaming the Derby players one bit, it’s not like QPR have never time wasted in any game is it ? But it’s up to the referee to pull up players when they blatantly do so. He spoke to Bywater ten minutes from the end, indicating ‘no more’ by his hand gestures. Do you think he stopped time wasting ? It forced one fan to shout out: “Get on with it keeper” , at one point Bywater cheekily replied: “You’ve got no ball boys”. The ref did book Leacock on around 91 minutes for time wasting, but it was too little, too late. And the ref allowed Savage to literally be in his ear hole for EVERY decision, like he does in every game. He’s a seasoned pro and he showed his experience.
A frustrating night all round considering how well we started but I see it as another point further away from third bottom, and I guess Derby fans will say the same. We could have won but for Bywater but Derby run their socks off all night. I’ve no complaints about our efforts either, apart from one player. Considering the starting line-up last night, I get the impression NW is getting to know his squad and is shaping his own team. His record stands as: Won 2, Drawn 3, Lost 1, although we deserved a point at Reading, anyway, onwards and upwards as they say.