QPR v MK Dons – The Monkey is Finally off our Back

FA Cup 3rd Round Replay

A solitary Danny Gabbidon goal was enough to see QPR scrape past a plucky MK Dons side and set up a home tie with neighbours Chelsea in the 4th Round. In doing so QPR got rid of one of the most unwanted losing streaks that saw no win in this competition since a Chris Kiwomya brace saw off Luton Town 11 years ago to the day. Just like this season, back in 2001 we were also very lucky to even be playing a replay when we snatched a draw at Kenilworth Road with a last minute penalty in a 3-3- draw. Heidar Helguson’s last minute equaliser at Milton Keynes could prove to be a turning point in our season, unlike 11 years ago when we ended up second bottom and got relegated to English football’s third tier for the first time in 32 years.

Mark Hughes, in his first home game since becoming manager, made one change from the side that lost narrowly at Newcastle two days before. Manchester United’s loanee Federico Machedo was preferred upfront in place of our leading scorer, Heidar Helguson. He was upfront with Jay Bothroyd in a two-pronged attack, or so we envisaged. Paddy Kenny in goal was protected by a back-four of Young, Hill, Gabbidon and captain, Anton Ferdinand. Derry and Buzsaky in the centre of midfield were complemented by Mackie wide-right and Wright-Phillips likewise on the left. Coincidently, only six players remained from the team that got out of jail in the first game.

Milton Keynes kicked off and immediately got into their stride with a slick passing game and with the ball being played on the deck most of the time. Ten minutes in and Luke Chadwick was given too much time and space 25 yards out to tee-up a shot, but his effort went straight at Paddy Kenny who made an easy save.

Two minutes later, Macheda robbed Potter on the half-way line. As he headed for the penalty area, he fed Bothroyd who had peeled off his marker out wide-right. As he was on the right-hand side he had to come inside onto his favoured left foot and going past two defenders, he hit a powerful shot to the far post which unfortunately was always rising and the ball cleared the angle of bar/post by about a yard. It was our first chance and had come on the counter-attack as we were struggling with the League One side’s tactics of one-touch football. Combined with the movement and pace upfront, it was difficult to see who the Premiership side was.

On 18 minutes following some trickery from Gleeson, he found Lewington in an advanced position and as MacDonald made a dart into the channels it took a last gasp interception from a Anton Ferdinand sliding tackle from stopping the through-ball which would’ve found the former Brentford striker through on goal. Five minutes later, a stray pass from Derry to Buzsaky found MK’s right-back Adam Smith some 30 yards from goal and as he ran at goal he had a rush of blood and hit a swerving shot that went harmlessly wide. We were putting many a pass astray and on another night may well have been punished.

Then on 26 minutes, Smith was in the corner by Q Block and managed to whip a cross into the danger area and as Ferdinand went to head clear, MacDonald darted in front of him and headed the ball about a foot wide of the angle. The ball went straight up the other end and Buzsaky found Bothroyd out wide-left and he put in a decent cross to the near post that the keeper, Martin, fumbled, but there wasn’t a hooped shirt within 10 yards and the ball was cleared to safety. Then Buzsaky found Young on the overlap with a lovely pass and he whipped in a cross from the corner flag that had the MK’s defence stretched, but as it looked like Macheda might get on the end of it, a defender just got a touch on the ball and diverted it out for a throw-in. From the throw-in, the ball went from left to right-wing where Bothroyd played the ball into Macheda’s feet and he slipped the ball through to Wright-Phillips and as he closed in on goal it took a last gasp sliding tackle from Chadwick to prevent us from taking the lead.

It appeared that we had awoken from our slumber and we were actually looking like a unit. From the resulting corner, Buzsaky whipped in a swerving cross under the bar and as Derry and the keeper tussled in the six-yard box, it was QPR’s No.4 who got to the ball first and headed home. Or so we thought. Referee Phil Dowd had blown for an infringement on the keeper. From my vantage point in Block E, we could see the TV replays and it clearly showed the keeper wrapping his arms under Derry’s armpits first then Derry held them there !!! But it was a foul on the keeper as usual.

Then on 33 minutes, Ferdinand brought the ball out of defence and fed Wright-Phillips out wide-right and he immediately put the ball into the danger area that was sliced over his own bar by Kouo-Doumbe. The ball was up the other end within seconds and we were very fortunate to still be level. Gleeson put a lovely through-ball between both Ferdinand and Gabbidon who were both fast asleep. MacDonald ran onto the though-ball and was one-on-one with Kenny and as he approached at an angle, he managed to poke the ball wide of the far post when it seemed easier to at least hit the target. Again MK kept coming and following some intricate passing outside the box, Lewington played the ball into the feet of Chadwick and fortunately Young used his experience and gave the midfielder a good old fashioned shoulder barge which put him off with the ball running safely through to Kenny.

Then it was our turn to spurn a one-on-one situation. Derry found Buzsaky on half-way and as MK tried to play offside, he put Wright-Phillips through on goal with a superb defence splitting pass. Wright-Phillips collected the ball 35 yards from goal and as he entered the box, the keeper came out and as Wright-Phillips hit the ball low and hard Martin was equal to it and palmed the ball out for a corner. From the corner, Hill rose highest and his glancing header hit Jabo Ibehre who knew nothing about it and it sailed over for another corner. The next corner was cleared and suddenly it was MK’s turn to counter-attack with four against our three. With about three options it appeared Bowditch elected for the wrong one and slashed his shot wildly over the bar with our defence stretched and back-pedalling.

Then in the dying seconds, Derry found Wright-Phillips out wide-right with a lovely cross-field pass. His cross into the box was cleared, but only as far as Buzsaky just outside the box. The Hungarian hit it first time and although it had venom it was always rising and cleared the far post at the angle. Half-time: 0-0. We had started very poorly, but in the last 15 minutes had resembled a football team with a couple of decent efforts and some good football. It was also evident that Buzsaky was our sole source of creativity. And Bothroyd seemed to be in every position on the pitch except the one he was supposed to be, upfront. At times he was actually behind our defenders when coming deep for the ball !!!

We kicked off and got straight into the game. On 48 minutes, Bothroyd got to the left bye-line and put in a cross that saw Hill put his header straight at the keeper. Then 2 minutes later, Chadwick found Gleeson in space 30 yards from goal and as the ball bounced up he hit a rising volley straight at Kenny. Then on 53 minutes, Derry and Young combined and the right-back sent in a cross that saw Bothroyd get his header on target, but it lacked power and Martin made a comfortable save. Both teams were giving as good as they got, but on the hour MK upped their game a touch. In the space of 10 minutes they bombarded our box and we were a tad fortunate to still be level.

First the right-back was given far too much time and space and put in a teasing cross across the face of goal. With Ferdinand again half asleep, Ibehre got ahead of our captain and although he got a touch on the ball it squirmed narrowly wide with Kenny motionless. Then two attacks within a minute saw Ferdinand make an intercepting header, but then as the ball was returned into the box it was Gabbidon’s turn to save the day with a crucial headed clearance. Seconds later Gleeson shot from the corner of the box to the far post and as the ball went across the face of the goal, MacDonald tried to connect, but narrowly missed out and the ball ended up about a yard wide of Kenny’s right-hand post.

On 61 minutes, Tommy Smith replaced Federico Macheda who had almost vanished 2nd half. I think a defender would’ve been more appropriate as MK hadn’t finished attaching us yet. Smith collected the ball on the touchline and ran across the edge of the box and as he got inside the ‘D’ he let fly and his left-footed shot went about a yard wide with Kenny unfazed. Then 5 minutes later, Ibehre hooked the ball into the box from the touchline to MacDonald who, shielding the ball, then set up Chadwick for a volley, but under pressure he ballooned it into the upper tier of the School End.

We eventually weathered the 10 minutes of sustained pressure and on 72 minutes took the lead. Buzsaky was fouled 40 yards from goal by MacDonald. He lined up the free kick and hit a pile driver that was swerving and dipping and the keeper, Martin, did magnificently to turn it over the bar for the corner. Buzsaky then ran over to Q Block to prepare to take the corner. In the meantime, Mark Hughes was making another substitution. Helguson was coming on and with everyone expecting the No.10 to be raised the majority of the home crowd were astonished to see the No.14 being shown instead. Our best player on the night was being taken off and the natives were restless with a few boos ringing out. All that was forgotten when Wright-Phillips took the corner and found Gabbidon’s head and the ball flew into the net from about 8 yards. An inspired substitution or we got out of jail, you decide ?

For the next 20 minutes we started defending in numbers and even brought on another defender with Orr replacing Bothroyd for the last 5 minutes. But try as they might MK could not break down our defence. We even went close to getting a second goal on 80 minutes. Mackie passed to Wright-Phillips in the right-hand channel and ran on for the return ball. When the ball came he skipped inside the defender and slipped the ball to Young on the overlap. The right-back hit a cross-cum-shot that took a deflection and the keeper had to react sharply to save with his foot.

In the 3 minutes added on, MK were about to hit us on the counter when Young tripped Ibehre deliberately with our defence slightly stretched and was rightly yellow carded. It may have been a crucial yellow card, who knows ? Full-time: 1-0.

A hard earned win, scruffy even, but a win is a win for a struggling team. And we finally got that monkey off our back after 11 years. But just like the last time we won in this competition, we now face a top-four team in Round 4, and we know what happened against Arsenal don’t we ? !!!

Team: Kenny 6, Young 7, Ferdinand 6, Gabbidon 6, Hill 6, Wright-Phillips 7, Buzsaky 8 (Helguson 6), Derry 6, Mackie 5, Bothroyd 5 (Orr n/a), Macheda 5 (Smith 6).

MOTM: Buzsaky. He was the only player with the nous to open up the MK defence on a couple of occasions on a night mostly to forget.

Referee: P. Dowd 7

Attendance: 10,855 (including 1,916 away fans)


(The above pics were taken by Martin Percival and used with his permission)