Carling Cup Second Round
Team: Murphy, Orr (Harriman), Connolly, Perone, Shittu, Taarabt, Cook (Hewitt), Ephraim, Rowlands (Derry), Andrade, Bothroyd,
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Buzsaky, Gibbons, German
I suspect that was the last time we will see Cookie and Rowlands in a Rangers shirt. Sad, not the way I’d like to see them bow out with Rowlands substituted after pulling up with a hamstring problem and Cookie taken off a couple of minutes later. Unfortunately the game was dire. I’ve seen more competitive friendly matches. The 4,755 gate was probably 1,000 more than it would have been if we had not won on Saturday, but the performance did nothing to encourage R’s fans to go to early stage cup ties in the future, especially at ¬£15 a throw. It’s clear that too many clubs and managers nowadays do not give a damn about either the League or FA Cups – and unfortunately Rangers and Neil Warnock are included in their number. I do appreciate that we want to avoid injuries, but if a club enters a competition there should be at least some effort put in. And the League Cup is of course the only major cup that we have ever won.
Rochdale, who have made a poor start to their League One campaign, will draw encouragement from a determined display and fully deserved their passage into the next round. QPR made the worst possible start when they slipped behind with just four minutes on the clock. Jones directed a wonderful pass into the box which was met by Ashley Grimes, but the midfielder’s shot was kept out by keeper Brian Murphy. Forward Apka Akpro had tracked the move, however, and popped up at the far post to slide home the rebound.
The bright opening by Rochdale, who gave a first start to on-loan Dutch defender Pim Balkestein, continued when Nicky Adams weaved his way into the box only to fire a tame shot at Murphy. QPR then took control, Connolly threatening with a fine effort that was parried to safety by David Lucas. Akpa Akpro continued to look dangerous as he dashed into the QPR box from his wide-left position. Rochdale produced a slick interchange of passing as they finished the first half strongly. But their hearts were in their mouths in stoppage time when Andrade forced Lucas to spring into action to save a vicious shot.
Danny Shittu almost got on the end of a sharp cross as QPR made a lively start to the second half and moments later Taarabt fired wide. Murphy then came to the rescue when Jason Kennedy marauded into the box and unleashed a shot. Beautiful footwork from Taarabt on the edge of the area bamboozled the Rochdale defence, but there was too much weight on the final pass to Jay Bothroyd.
Shittu was lucky not to concede a penalty when he tugged at the shirt of Grimes as the visitors probed in search of a second goal. Substitute Michael Harriman blasted a shot straight at Lucas as QPR’s play began to take on a greater urgency. The hosts dominated possession in the later stages, but it was Rochdale who struck the telling blow. Adams picked out Jones and the veteran midfielder chipped the ball over the advancing Murphy for a wonderfully-taken goal.
New Rochdale manager Steve Eyre said: “It is still a fantastic competition and Wembley is an amazing place to play. I cannot believe that any professional wouldn’t want the opportunity to play at Wembley.”
We had only met Rochdale twice before. Those old Division 3 encounters were in the 1958/59 season and after drawing 2-2 there in October, the R’s later won 3-0 in the penultimate home match at Loftus Road with goals from Angell, Longbottom and Whitelaw. At the end of the season, Rangers finished in 13th place and Rochdale propped up the table at the very bottom.
You just had the feeling that it was going to be another one of those nights when as early as the 5th minute, Brian Murphy palmed the ball into the path of Akpa Akpro who made no mistake from close range. In the 11th minute, after some good play down the right flank by Bruno Andrade, the subsequent corner was cleared off the line from Bradley Orr’s header. A couple of minutes later and to the delight of the R’s faithful, Big Dan looked up, took aim and blasted the ball from at least 30 yards out, but unfortunately it flew past the post.
Rangers went even closer after 24 minutes when their keeper managed to put a Connolly effort from 20 yards round the post for a corner. After the half-hour mark, Bradley Orr picked up an injury and was replaced by Michael Harriman. As the half progressed into added time, Bruno Andrade’s shot forced a good save from the keeper. Half time: 0-1.
Into the second half and Adel Taarabt’s good free kick evaded the presence of any R’s players in the 6-yard box. However, Bothroyd had the ball in the net but unfortunately it was ruled offside. Midway through the half, Michael Harriman’s shot was saved and a few minutes later Shaun Derry replaced Martin Rowlands. Troy Hewitt was then introduced a few minutes later at the expense of Lee Cook. Rochdale scored a second goal after 81 minutes when Jones lobbed Murphy which many R’s fans applauded. Meanwhile, numerous others had decided that they had seen enough and left.
“I don’t think people care about the competition”, Neil Warnock was quoted as saying after the game. Well, I for one do care about the League Cup. Furthermore, should the club be charging us ¬£15 and would it therefore be better not to enter the competition next season ?