Queen's Park Rangers 1 Blues 0 .. Ron's Report

By Richard Barker
Last updated : 29 October 2008

The conditions shouldn't be used as an excuse though - Blues deserved little, if anything, out of this game. Just as it was beginning to look like things were clicking into place, people should have realised that this was Blues we were talking about and that a cock-up was just around the corner.

Blues weren't helped (but again, it shouldn't be used as an excuse) by injuries. Firstly, Seb Larsson was ruled out, meaning that Mehdi Nafti came into the side in the only change from the Sheffield Wednesday victory. However, there was a late change to the team with Garry O'Connor being ruled out, meaning that James McFadden also came in to start, with Jared Wilson taking his place on the bench. In some ways, that was a blessing, because about ten minutes into the game, Stuart Parnaby was forced off, which meant that Wilson was a natural replacement for him (the original bench had been McFadden, Marcus Bent, Quincy, Nigel Quashie and Colin Doyle - not much cover at full-back).

Blues started well and should have been ahead within the first seven or eight minutes. The changes to the side saw Kemy Agustien move into Larsson's right-hand side role, but tucking inside a little, with McFadden playing Cameron Jerome's previous wide left position/a bit of a free role, and Jerome moving up front alongside Kevin Phillips. Five minutes into the game, Jerome was put through (Blues were utilising the channels well early on), but his finishing was awful. He either had to take the shot first time (not recommended) to catch Radek Cerny out, or advance on Cerny, draw him out and clip the ball past him (recommended). He did neither, taking one touch, letting Cerny settle, and then shooting from too far out when through on goal, allowing Cerny to save. It was poor. A minute or two later Cerny pulled off a great save to deny Phillips, and you couldn't help thinking that a Blues goal wasn't far away.

In truth though, that was about it from Blues for the evening. As the first-half wore on, apart from a few McFadden tricks, Blues began to toil whilst QPR grew in confidence and the rest of the half was fairly even. Just before half-time, however, the game appeared to turn in Blues' favour again when referee Stuart Attwell (he of "the phantom goal" fame) sent off Mikele Leigertwood for a high challenge on Lee Carsley. Havinig initially awarded a penalty, then a corner, then a goal, then blown for full-time, Attwell quickly brandished the red card. In my eyes, it might have been a little harsh - it was one of those challenges that was probably somewhere in between a yellow card and a red card, but had it been given to a Blues player, we'd have been outraged. Carsley bounced straight up from the challenge too, but that didn't stop the home fans from booing him for his part in the incident, which was a bit stupid really. Still, when to the Blues fans' left there was a QPR fan in just a replica shirt with "GRANDAD" on the back, wearing a huge blue sombrero and using an old school football rattle, that tells you all you need to know about the mentality of the home fans...

The sending off was just minutes before half-time, so following an eventual disappointing first-half performance, you had to think along the lines of Alex McLeish getting the side in at the interval, firing them up and Blues coming out to take control in the second half. Well, we wished. QPR even took off Lee Cook and replaced him with Gavin Mahon which showed their intention to tighten things up, but could Blues take advantage? Could they hell...

One of the many random foreigners who aren't that good scored for QPR about ten minutes into the second half, and that proved to be the winning goal. I don't like to pick on individuals (unless their surname is Taylor or McSheffrey), but the goal was solely the fault of James McFadden. He had possession down the right-hand side, and as he'd done on too many occasions already, he got greedy. He had a simple ball on to Wilson, but like a few others in Blues' Ajax style shirts, he didn't seem to trust him and so refused to knock the ball to him. Instead he kept turning back into trouble, got caught out, Blues' defence was completely exposed (for example Wilson, who had been supporting McFadden), and the foreigner hit a fine strike past Maik Taylor. McFadden then argued with the referee that he'd been fouled (he hadn't) and was hopelessly petulant about it all. It was like a kid who knows he's been caught shoplifting, but then just lies and lies and lies about it to his parents, to the point that he actually starts to believe his own lies and can't see his own faults.

Now, I'm a big fan of McFadden's, and have been for a long time - even before he tore Blues apart in a pre-season friendly at Motherwell in about 2002. I still maintain that he is the best player in this division by a country mile, and even during this game, he evidenced that with some fine runs (mainly in the first-half). However, it's pretty evident that something isn't quite right there at the moment. His body language is poor, he's trying to do too much himself (part of his ability is his passing and movement - he actualy suits team play, but isn't playing for the team) and he's not having the impact that Blues fans would have hoped for and, I'm sure, that he expected. Blues' previous two performances were good, and perhaps it's no coincidence that the likes of McFadden and Quincy (who wasn't much better when he came on) weren't involved in those displays? There seems to be a distance between McFadden and his team-mates - he doesn't seem to be a part of what's going on at the moment. His undoubted ability is being wasted, and Blues somehow need to get him back to the hugely influential player that he can (and should) be.

I mentioned Jared Wilson above, and he was probably the only bright spot on a hugely disappointing night. He got caught out once or twice shortly after coming on, but he didn't hide and as Blues chased the game, he was as much of a threat as anyone. He was composed on the ball and was Parnaby-esque in his right-flank raiding. His one run in behind the defence to latch onto a Phillips through ball, and his subsequent ball across the face of the goal really deserved better from his forwards. Unfortunately, as per the goal with McFadden, players didn't seem to trust him enough to use him, which was bizarre considering that his delivery was as good as anyone else's - if not better.

Cameron Jerome was awful, but Blues took him and Nafti off and brought on Bent and Quincy, and I felt that the withdrawal of Jerome was a mistake. Quincy, McFadden and (when chasing a game) Phillips all drop deep to try and influence the play (see his ball to Wilson above, when you'd have wanted Phillips attacking it in the area), and so although Blues had the extra man and were bombing forward, all too often there was actually only Bent playing up on the last defender. Had Jerome been on, even though he'd been hopeless (his touch was shocking), at least he'd have been a threat in behind the defence. QPR defended deeply, Blues couldn't get in behind them and they held on pretty comfortably for a good win for them.

That was that for Blues. Really and truly it was a game that, in the circumstances and as the game developed, they really should have won, and their failure to get even a draw out of the game speaks volumes. The conditions were atrocious, and at times in the second half it did seem that the players simply didn't want to be there. Again, as I've said before, I'm not trying to be arrogant, but Blues should be beating the likes of QPR (who may be rich, but haven't spent any of that in reality) - especially when they play over half the game with ten men. If Blues want to get to where they want to be, they have to do a lot better than this. There've been recent signs of improvement, but this was a huge step backwards.

(One final note - it was comical to see a manager take a leaf out of Barry Fry's book and celebrate a goal with such enthusiasm. When that foreigner scored, Gareth Ainsworth (who prefers music to football anyway) ran onto the pitch to do a "Klinsmann" dive on the soggy pitch. His enthusiasm when making substitutes, etc, was also quite refreshing - talk about animated! Good luck to him).

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