Queens Park Rangers 1 Cardiff City 0. Match Report

Last updated : 29 November 2004 By NigelBlues

This time, it was a 1-0 reverse at QPR's Loftus Road, the R's scorer - Shittu - unintentionally but aptly describing the day, the game, the experience, City's performance and our feelings.

It's getting harder and harder to say something different and new about City or hold any optimism, it is soul destroying. For those not present to witness this debacle, if I tell you it was a near re-run of the live Sky home game with Preston except QPR were better than Preston, but still ordinary, and we were even worse, that's how bad it was.

City were truly awful against Preston yet because the club are now so obviously in a fragile and dangerous state of affairs, Lennie Lawrence - who surely wouldn't have a job here if we had money and ambition - had little option but to name an unchanged team.

Why should anyone be shocked that we got nowhere and had nothing about us? We had huff and puff and worked hard but gave away yet another diabolical goal but had absolutely nil quality, nil ideas, nil creativity, nil leadership so nil goals and nil points, we didn't even have a shot on goal - two shots over the bar from distance was all we mustered all afternoon. That is completely unacceptable. We look as meek and mild as any football team can be, relegation candidates without a shadow of a doubt. It pains me to accept this, it is hurtful but we are pitiful.

I had a good experience getting to the game. I stayed in London the night before, had a fantastic and not-so-sober night in Soho and the West End (all the girls in doorways smiled at me and invited me in, very hospitable of them but it would have spoiled my drinking!), stayed in a hotel 3 tube stops from Sheperd's Bush, had a discrete pre-match bevvy and a laugh with home fans in Wetherspoon's on Bush Green, enjoyed an Australian flying saucer shaped pie on the way to the ground and got in no problems. I was the lucky one!

For the rest, it was tortuous. Coaches stopped well away from the ground, fans made to walk for an hour to the ground, no pubs open to Cardiff fans and high numbered, high profile police out to ensure that nobody had an enjoyable and relaxing experience. So much did The Met mess it up that the 12:45pm early kick-off had to be delayed by 15 minutes and some coachloads were still pouring inside the ground long after the game started. All to watch City be as Brian Harvey and as annoying as Natalie Appleton in the jungle on I'm A "Celebrity" Somehow. Only nobody could get us out of here.

Loftus Road was a stadium I used to love visiting years ago. It seemed a special place but with no visible enhancements over time, other than whatever was necessary, it no longer has that feel. Built in a heavily populated and mostly run down area of West London, a few hundred yards from BBC television centre and completely land-locked, I'd imagine it will be difficult to ever develop it into anything grander. It best feature is that it's fully enclosed, all four stands meet as each corner.

QPR are enjoying themselves and that reflected itself in their support, record season ticket sales ensured their sections on the ground were all near capacity. The crowd, turning up on a bright but cold day for an all-ticket clash was 15,146.

Our £23 tickets saw us in the bottom tier of a double decker stand. City eventually sold enough tickets - 1,100 to 1,200, good in the circumstances but a far cry from the 2-3,000 we tend to bring here - to open the better upper tier but only those who bought late had the privilege of that, hardly seems fair but we mostly enjoyed good views with the stands very close to the pitch.

Even the most mellow, one-eyed, blind bias City fan now concedes that the club had to alter its midfield. With Kavanagh suspended, and Gary O'Neill now back at Pompey after showing exactly what City need, the current less than dynamic duo of Bullock and Boland do not blend or have the necessary skills, power and authority to impose themselves. With that, the whole team will inevitably struggle - yet the club did not make a single effort. Their sole hope seemed to be rushing back ex-Ranger Richard Langley from injury when he hasn't played any football for 3 months. He was never ready and should never have been in serious contention, instead he had to be content with QPR fans taking the mickey out of him as they did with us too.

Lennie's line once again were Warner, Williams-Collins-Gabbidon-Barker, McAnuff-Boland-Bullock-Ledley, Lee-Parry. The subs bench however featured the missed but injury prone Peter Thorne, back after another several weeks absence, this time for a recurring neck injury.

QPR are enjoying Championship life and promotion last season, much as we did this time last year. They don't have the best team or players but they have created a great spirit and camaraderie that we can only admire. A fantastic early winning run has shot them into play-off contention but they look nothing special, it just underlines what a mediocre Championship it is this term. Most worrying for us, they never played well at all but beat us with some ease.
They certainly had enough motivation and incentive to beat City. They wanted revenge over us for that Millennium stadium play-off defeat 18 months ago, they wanted to cheer up likeable charismatic manager Ian Holloway who was taken ill last week and ordered to stay away from this game on medical advice, they wanted to overcome a horrifying 6-1 defeat at Leeds last weekend and in Gareth Ainsworth, they had a player who wanted to prove a point to City and Lennie.

Assistant Tim Breaker too charge of the following home side. Day, Bignot-Shittu-Santos-Padula, Ainsworth-Bircham-Cook, Gallen-Furlong. They must have started short on confidence but would have soon got over it.
The game started low key and low thrills and just never got any better. The pattern of play for the afternoon was soon established and never altered. QPR had near complete control of midfield and therefore the game. They were able to service speedy and direct running front players and gave City problems whenever they attacked. For City, our wide men and front players were all isolated and starved of service, never mind quality. They had to feed on scraps, they got nowhere.

Both sides produced one early threat, QPR's the better as a sharp move through the middle saw a clever dissected Gabbs and Collins with Cureton about to latch on but Gabbs recovered with a last ditch tackle. City were pinned back in their own half, looking a little frustrated already and holding on.
Then, deja vu. Last week, we gifted Preston a 15th minute corner from which they scored a ludicrously simple goal due to a dereliction of duties by City players. One week on, we did exactly the same. It was a diabolical goal from start to finish.

QPR advanced down City's left but a simple ball fell from high for Willie Boland. His only thought was to thrash it first time up the park but he got it horribly wrong and sliced the ball behind for a corner instead. One agitated City fan let Willie know what he thought, Willie got distracted and starting arguing back with the fan, still doing so as he took his position on the far post. That was band enough, what followed was blood curdling.

The corner posed no danger as it was hit towards the penalty spot but Shittu - felled by Alan Lee earlier which, I think, was possibly Lee's only contribution to the game! - got amongst them but he fell and the ball dropped to the ground too. All it needed was any player to take responsibility and clear but, instead, everything stood still, the less than mobile SHITTU got back upto his feet and was allowed to volley past Warner without any challenge whatsoever. I've been watching our defence give away bad goals almost week and week, I struggle to think of many that sickened me more than watching that one.
The game was pretty much won and lost in that single incident. Cardiff can’t stop themselves from falling behind to stupid goals, they give themselves a mountain to climb and have to chase the game and we just haven’t got what it takes. Terrible to admit this but it’s true.

City never got forward at all, only sole effort of the half was a freak "shot" by the anonymous lightweight Lee Bullock when he won a 50/50 challenge 40yards out and the ball flew towards goal, narrowly clearing the bar. QPR produced a couple more scares but usually only when our players produced a clanger first. Willie Boland made two more terrible individual errors with a misplaced pass in the wrong area of the pitch and dallying on the ball outside the box nearly cost us but Warner saved one, the other went wide.

How QPR fans loved it. The game was rubbish but they could take great delight in how poor we were. Apart from goading Langley, they were chants towards us of "Championship, you're 'aving a laugh" and "We'll send you down in May", a reference to when they play at Ninian Park. I shouldn't worry too much, we'll be down in March or April if we do nothing about this. It hurts City fans who pay good money, give up half their weekend to try but show so little passion, grit and fight. No wonder many booed on the half-time whistle and others chanted, "what a load of rubbish".

Dire, dreary, dire, tired, dire, clueless, dire football. There's no point trying to put spin on a brave face on it.

Half-time: QPR 0 CITY 0

The first half was rank bad, the second period was slightly better but still simply awful, not good enough and not acceptable. Some City fans were screaming for Lennie to immediately bring on Thorne and Jerome to spark some life into us. We were so poor, it was easy to see why, no point in delaying change. The more astute pointed out how Lennie won't do anything until the hour. That's how predictable he, and City, are. Sure enough, on 61 minutes, on came Jerome and Thorne for Ledley and the continuing awfulness of Alan Lee. Paul Parry moved to left wing.

It was with some irony that ahead of that, Cardiff came out showing more fight but remained a sorry sight. They pushed QPR back a little and applied some pressure but when it came to the final third of the pitch, they showed no quality and no ideas, they never suggested that they would breakdown a defence that were not that good and quite slow but very well organised and disciplined. That is a huge worry. A couple of free-kicks into the box and a corner or two were all handled with considerable ease by Rangers defence. Danny Gabbidon tried to wake his colleagues up with one brilliant 50 yard charge from the back that also saw him beat half the Rangers team but his switched ball to left wing wasn't collected by Ledley. There was one good chance as Day flapped at a cross under pressure and the ball ran loose to Ledley at a wide angle but he failed to hit the target.

After the change, it remained entirely predictable too as, yet again, City's tactic - as happened last week - was to by-pass midfield, bang long high hit and hope balls and hope for the best. Sorry but that is for the lower divisions from where we came, not this level and it will never work particularly with the personnel that we have. We had only one more genuine effort all afternoon as Cameron Jerome fought hard for a long ball, helped it on to Thorne who let fly from 30 yards and almost caught everyone unawares, the ball clearing Day's fingertips but also his crossbar by a couple of inches.

QPR seemed happy to contain us and hit us with counter-attacking and it nearly came off too as Cureton & Co ran directly at us and caused troubles. Warner made one good stop, another effort grazed the bar and a couple pinged wide. They didn’t worry too much, we never really suggested we were going to equalise.

In a crisis and bad run like this, you look for players who will lead and inspire. Put a foot in, drive and run at opposing players, put urgency into proceedings and get everyone else fighting for the cause. I’m sorry to say that we just don’t seem to have that. There is effort, we have decent individuals, some good ball players but no force, we are impotent and meek. It was noticeable how there was virtually nil communication between players. It looks all looks very sad, very tired, unbelievably predictable.

The stats are overwhelming and damning. 19 points from 21 games this season should see City in the bottom three but we’re fortunate that, at present, we have three sides in the Championship worse than us. However, they’ve now caught us up and there’s also a gap opening from the teams above us.
City have also collected 46 points from their last 46 league games – effectively, a whole season’s worth of results and that tells anyone we’ve been pants for a long while, this is nothing new. This is also the third time within a year that we’ve lost at least 4 games in succession. Since Earnie left, and was never replaced, we’ve failed to even score in 9 of the last 17 Championship games. It is wretched and, results-wise, as bad as any spell this club have had over recent years.

Premiership ref Dermot Gallagher, now a Collini alien lookalike with his completely shaven head, added 3 minutes time, same as the first half even though there were far more stoppages than that. Hopefully, he was taking pity on us, we had seen enough.

Final whistle saw most of the team come to us for applause, credit to them for that. Gareth Ainsworth came to acknowledge us too and ayatollah. However it cannot compensate for our anguish, anger and frustrations. I’ve seen it so many times and you can sense the mood of the fans is set to turn ugly as the club do nothing and don’t even explain themselves to us.

Locked in the ground for 25 minutes after final whistle brought some dark humour with fans pointing at the now empty ground singing “is that all you get at home?” and Mark Bircham got abuse, one of his team-mates even making the “w*nker” gesture that we were calling him.

City’s press contingent appeared by the tunnel and as Lennie came out, up went chants of “We want Lennie Out”. When Sam appeared, a few still chanted how they wanted him walking around the pitch, the majority sang, “Where’s the money gone?”. Sam disappeared back down the players tunnel.

These are the unhappiest times at the club since Sam arrived, our first crisis but it is a full-blown one. Confidence has drained in players, disappeared from fans and we’re appearing to do very little about it.

It makes this weekend’s clash with Gillingham, suddenly one point and one place below us a “must win” not only for our status but to keep the last remaining shred of goodwill fans have. Failure to win will be a watershed, fans will either turn their backs on City – and we’re starting to lose support as quickly as we gained it – or revolt. You can feel it is now that critical.
Make no mistake, we look and feel like a relegation haunted club. It needs big decisions and major actions. Relegation is unthinkable but some of us are seriously starting to think it.

Report from FootyMad

Danny Shittu scored the winner for QPR to provide the perfect tonic for manager Ian Holloway and heap more pressure on Cardiff City boss Lennie Lawrence.

Shittu netted his first goal since April 2003 in the 23rd minute from Kevin Gallen's corner, just after he was forced to change his bloodied shirt following a clash with Alan Lee.

The win was fully deserved by Rangers, who dominated throughout and were unfortunate not to win by a bigger margin.

Defender Shittu protected his side's lead excellently, by beating Cardiff strikers Lee and Joe Ledley to every header in the visitors' box.

And boss Holloway, recovering from a stomach virus, would have wished he'd got out of his sickbed for this game rather than last week's 6-1 mauling at Leeds.

Lee Cook could have doubled QPR's lead three minutes after the break but Cardiff keeper Tony Warner made a diving save to keep the winger's outswinging effort out.

Cook had two more chances midway through the second half, as Rangers kept Cardiff camped in their own half, but fired wide both times.

Then it was Paul Furlong's turn to force Warner into a save, when he latched on to Kevin Gallen's throughball to fire goalward.

Kevin Gallen came close to scoring the opener on 16 minutes, when Furlong laid off Gino Padula's cross, but his shot flew wide.

Cardiff, who have failed to win on the road in over two months, failed to register a shot on target in the entire game.

Darren Williams (MM override, it was Ledley) wasted their best chance of the match on the hour, but shot wide of an open goal when QPR keeper Chris Day was sprawled on the turf.

External reports
Western Mail
The Times