A pulsating game of two halves saw QPR thump Middlesbrough 3-0 to go some way to paying them back for the humiliating 1-5 reverse in the corresponding fixture last season. QPR were unchanged for the third consecutive game with Adel Taarabt once again wearing the captain’s armband in place of the eternally injured Fitz Hall. Boro’ welcomed back their captain, Gary O’Neill, following injury and Gordon Strachan handed a debut to midfielder, Mickael Tavares, on loan from Hamburg.
NPower Player of the Month for August Taarabt, was quickly in his stride spraying some lovely passes to every part of the pitch, showing an array of his mercurial skills to any Boro’ player who came near him. On 5 minutes as he feigned to put a free kick into the box, Shaun Derry put Hogan Ephraim through on goal with a slide rule pass. Ephraim, coming in from the left flank, took a touch before hitting a shot to the near post where keeper Luke Steele was equal to it as he palmed it around the post for our first corner of the game. On about 30 minutes, Taarabt, taking a pass from Ephraim, evaded a tackle before sending a curling shot from all of 25 yards to the bottom right of the goal. Once again, Steele was quick to react and put the ball behind for a corner.
Our midfield was made to work hard first half as Boro’s trio of Tavares, O’Neill and in particular Scott McDonald, were seeing a lot of the ball, and at times were over-running our midfield. A few times Boro’ got the ball into our box and caused mild panic as first Kink had a shot blocked, then Kris Boyd inexplicably missed from 6 yards out, shooting wide following a corner, then McDonald hit the side netting from close range. At the other end, we were finding it hard to penetrate Boro’s defence, with Tavares playing just in front of the back-four, but even when we did get behind them, the referee, a Mr Russell, waved away appeals as Helguson was clearly tripped in the box. As Barry Robson dawdled on the ball, Helguson nipped in to take the ball and went sprawling in the box. Helguson then chased the referee’s assistant along the touchline as he remonstrated with the official, and was lucky not to be booked. The referee showed even more leniency when Helguson clattered one of the Boro’ defenders as he cleared the ball upfield. Half-time: 0-0.
Into the second half and we started just like the first, but stepped up a gear, with the ball being moved around a lot quicker with Faurlin and Derry snapping at the heels of McDonald and O’Neill. Faurlin in particular was putting in some real meaty challenges, something he has brought to his game more and more this season. On 49 minutes, Faurlin won one such tackle and set an attack in motion. The ball landed at Taarabt’s feet out wide left and looking up, he swept the ball with the outside of his boot in the direction of the penalty area where Helguson was lurking. As he went to attack the cross, he went down under another challenge from Robson and this time the referee’s assistant indicated a penalty, with Robson receiving the only yellow card of the afternoon for his troubles. Helguson stepped up as Lukie Steele tried to psyche him out by standing in the right side of the goal. As he ran up, Steele then moved to the middle and dived to his right. Meanwhile, the Iceman had rolled the ball to the opposite side of the goal, in fact, the very spot where the keeper had been standing !!! Now that’s quality.
Four minutes later, Taarabt received a pass from the right touchline, then looked up and sent another deadly ball into the box. Hogan Ephraim, at the far post, had indicated where he wanted the ball to be placed, and running 10 yards to the near post, hit an unstoppable volley into the bottom of the net. The keeper never moved. Even better quality. We had to wait a whole 6 minutes before it was game over. A corner from Taarabt caused confusion in the box in an almighty scramble. Gorkss had a shot blocked by full-back Justin Hoyte, but couldn’t stop Mackie following up for his 4th goal of the season. A scrappy goal nevertheless, but no one is complaining. Never mind the quality, it’s the quantity that counts!
McDonald, O’Neill and Tavares were nowhere to be seen in the second half as our midfield were now running the show. We could’ve added to the scoreline with a Helguson 12 yard volley going wide following some excellent work by Faurlin and Ephraim. Then Ephraim himself almost made it 4-0 with a curling shot from an angle which unfortunately cannoned back off the bar and was cleared. Taarabt received a standing ovation from three sides of the ground on 70 minutes as he was replaced by Buzsaky. He handed his armband to Derry. Buzsaky then added even more bite to our midfield, not that it was needed by then as Faurlin and Derry had already won the midfield battle. Ramage had also replaced Orr and was soon playing upfront !!! He took a knock with 8 minutes to go when we had used all three substitutes, Tommy Smith being the third, replacing Jamie Mackie for the last 10 minutes. Derry played the last 8 minutes at right back and was superb. An added bonus was that it was yet another clean sheet as both Connolly and Gorkss were superb at the back and we have fullbacks who can both defend and support the wide midfielders when attacking. Only 36 more points to avoid the drop !!!
Team: Kenny 7, Orr 7, Hill 7, Gorkss 7, Connolly 8, Ephraim 8, Mackie 7, Derry 9, Taarabt 8, Faurlin 8, Helguson 8.
Subs: Buzsaky 7, Smith 6, Ramage 6.
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Leigertwood, Parker, Agyemang.
Attendance: 14, 784 (including about 600 Boro’ fans ?)
Referee: Mr Russell 6 – he tried to keep the game flowing but was very lenient for both sides. But his ‘drop ball’ that he more or less handed to Kenny was bizarre to say the least. Kris Boyd’s ‘flabber’ was ‘gasted’ !!!
QPR’s MOM: Derry – on another day Taarabt would have walked it with 3 assists and some outrageous skills, but for me Derry was superb from the first minute to the last, even outpacing Lita in the dying seconds. A true captain’s performance, even if it was for only 20 minutes. He even popped up with a 20-yard screamer, albeit straight at the keeper.
All images were taken by Martin Percival and used with his permission.