Despite His White Boots

Football, football, football and, if the mood takes me, more football.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

QPR 1 Watford 1

This was a huge improvement. Sampsa Timoska and Gareth Ainsworth did indeed return to the team (it's nice to be right sometimes) and both players made a big difference on the right side of the pitch. Ainsworth stretched the visiting defence on several occasions before tiring and, evidently short of match fitness, being replaced at half time by Stefan Moore. Timoska had an excellent game at right back, winning a lot of headers against Watford's muscular front-line and pulling out one thunderous block to deny Lee Williamson.

To be fair, Rangers were perhaps fortunate to survive the first 10 minutes, and only did so thanks to some erratic Watford finishing and Lee Camp tipping Danny Shittu's header onto the crossbar. However, once Danny Cullip, who had an outstanding game, asserted his authoritaa at the back, Rangers were able to push forward and create a few chances of their own. Dexter Blackstock worked his way into more shooting positions during the game than he had in the previous month, but sadly didn't bring Mart Poom into action as a result. Nonetheless, Rangers went into the break with a lot of positives from a hugely improved display.

Sadly though, one very important thing did not change as Watford were gifted a goal within minutes of the restart. Camp and Chris Barker allowed an innocuous cross to bounce through to Tommy Smith, and he hooked it back across goal for Adam Johnson to apply a simple finish. Eamonn Dunphy said his the original "football diary" book "Only A Game ?" that even players have a tendency to blame the team-mates they don't trust and exonerate the ones they do, despite the evidence of their own eyes. And so it was that Barker took all the stick from the crowd when, if I have to be honest, I thought that Camp should have dealt with the situation at least with better communication.

This is something a goalkeeper can learn though, and we're very lucky to have Lee Camp as he once again proved to be an outstanding shot-stopper in this game. Before he was tested again, Rangers kept plugging away and when Blackstock's towering header was tipped onto the bar by Poom, Moore smashed the rebound in to possibly save his own Rangers career as well as the manager's. After that it was a pretty open game, Hogan Ephraim was very lively up front (having replaced Daniel Nardiello just before half time), while Camp had to save well from Marlon King and £3 million substitute Nathan Ellington. Unfortunately any remaining ambition that a tiring home side had of winning the game evaporated when Mikele Leigertwood was given a second yellow card for an innocuous challenge that barely merited a free kick. Rangers had a couple of half-decent penalty appeals late on but the referee was not inclined to even up the dodgy decision count and that was that.

All in all, it's hard to claim that Rangers deserved a win, given that Camp was much the busier goalkeeper, but it was an enormous improvement and it's a shame that the F1 guys weren't there to see it, and enjoy a very lively atmosphere. I had a seat quite near the directors box and was able to spot Gianluca Vialli, Gerry Francis and (lol) Dave Bassett in attendance (hopefully the latter was part of the Watford contingent). Martin Allen was apparently there too, but really on the basis of this display I think the current staff deserve at least half a dozen games to see if they can sustain this improvement. Let's not forget that Watford were top of the table coming in today with 5 wins out of 6, and today's performance would have been plenty good enough to see off a lot of teams in this division. A couple of wins would zoom us up the table and hopefully they won't be too long coming, although the next couple of games are difficult trips to West Brom and Colchester.

Oh, and on my way back I stopped in at the Vic to buy in for a tournament next week (not the £5000, YBA), and saw most the of Fulham-Man City game. It was very encouraging to see a Premiership game with both teams going for it like that, albeit the defending and especially the goalkeeping wasn't the best - what has happened to Antti Niemi, he was awful !?

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