Despite His White Boots

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

QPR 3 Preston 1

As any student of the Championship knows, Adel Taarabt "frustrates and delights in equal measures". Today was one of his good days as he lit up Loftus Road with two terrific goals and plenty of tricks besides.

Rangers lined up with Matt Connolly stepping forward as the holding midfielder, Fitz Hall coming in at centre-half and Leon Clarke replacing Tommy Smith (who I think was ineligible in some connection with his convoluted loan from Portsmouth). Bottom of the table Preston added three loan signings and set out their stall to contain Rangers, only for keeper Andy Lonergan to spill Kyle Walker's cross in the fourth minute, allowing Rob Hulse to bundle in his first for the Hoops. The best laid plans.

Rangers can cause problems for any team at this level if they get the ball to feet in the last third ; the real issue for Preston was that they couldn't defend the long ball either. Time and again Hulse occupied two defenders, allowing the ball to sail through for the onrushing Clarke and Jamie Mackie. Both should have scored in one attack, Mackie having his shot saved and Clarke spooning the rebound over. Clarke also had a goal disallowed and the other talking point was a crunching two-footed tackle on Mackie of the type that is red-carded every day in the Premiership, but was on this occasion not even deemed a foul.

I should think Neil Warnock was disappointed to be only one up at half time and according to his interview he did "have a few words" during the break. Taarabt and Alejandro Faurlin started to exert more influence on the game and Clarke and Walker were played in behind the visiting defence almost at will. Despite any number of balls flashing across the Preston goal area, Rangers finally doubled the lead with Taarabt's stunning 25-yarder. I was about level with the goal-line, which is not the best angle, but even so the instant he hit it you could see that the shape was right and the keeper wasn't going to get there. The siege on the Preston goal continued apace but once again Taarabt's 20 yard piledriver was too hot for Lonergan although to be honest it did look close enough to the keeper to be saveable.

That was pretty much that and Warnock was able to give Martin Rowlands a bit of game time, and a debut to teenager Bruno Andrade. Matt Connolly chested an Ian Hume free-kick into his own net for no apparent reason towards the end, but even the remaining Preston fans could barely raise a cheer. I was just glad I hadn't backed the QPR clean sheet again.

I know Preston are cut off at the bottom of the league but I have seen worse at this level, and this is a funny division where you really can't take anyone for granted. Rangers have had good players in defence for a couple of years, but what they do now is defend from the front extremely well. Everyone knows their job and it's a testament to their organisation that it's mid-November and they haven't conceded a single goal from a set piece this season.

A lot's been said about the recent run of draws but I reckon when May comes, draws at Portsmouth, Swansea, Forest, Derby and even Bristol City are going to look like very good results. The Cardiff game next week is probably going to be talked up as bigger than it actually is, it's still only 3 points and there are 26 games left. It should be a good one though. I think it's practically sold out so I'll probably give it a miss, but I reckon maybe Santa might bring me a half-season ticket !

Finally I did catch the Arsenal-Spurs game just now and after the anodyne Manchester and Welsh derbies I've seen lately it was great to see two teams both trying to win a game like that. And while I try to keep the "in my day" to a minimum, Van der Vaart's yellow card was a joke. I remember Kevin Sheedy running along the goal-line flicking V-signs at the Kop after he scored for Everton and no one booked him. In my day...

Update : Wait a minute - the own goal yesterday was from a set piece. Doh.


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