Despite His White Boots

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

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Speculating To Accumulate

If you were interested in the game today, you probably saw it, but even if you weren't, try to catch Wayne Routledge's goal (it should be on BBC Football by Tuesday). Superb quality pass from Taarabt, touch and finish from Routledge for the mf win.

I'm pleased to see Routledge back at QPR, he has his faults but he is very, very quick and pace is an asset the squad was lacking even before Kyle Walker left, to bigger and better things I'm sure. Ishmael Miller and Pascal Chimbonda also look like useful signings, and crucially all three are here to the end of the season only, Routledge and Miller on loan, Chimbonda on a short contract. Whatever you think of Neil Warnock, he knows what he's doing, and while it seems harsh to talk about addressing the weaknesses of a squad that's 5 points clear at the top, it's really a compliment to how well the current squad has done to get into that position.

While Rangers have spent unwisely in previous January windows, and are indeed still paying for that spending in terms of wages of players who are past their best, I think this was a vital injection of funds that has to be +EV in terms of how much a Premiership place is worth. An online article today said that Rangers have their "Zest back". For a moment I thought it said Zesh back, FML. But signs look good for Rangers to push on, and a win at Hull next Saturday would post an imposing 8 point lead over a group of rivals who all have various weaknesses. Rangers must be looking to do the bulk of the work in the next 10 games, during which they only play Forest from their principal rivals. Let's hope they can.

Correction: Norwich are also playing next Saturday so Rangers won't necessarily go 8 clear with a win.

Monday, January 03, 2011

QPR 2 Bristol City 2

Rangers will be kicking themselves for not winning this game, although they played well throughout and there were a lot of positives to take from the performance. Unfortunately two very uncharacteristic mistakes were punished to the maximum by the visitors.

QPR dominated the first half hour, with Tommy Smith and Adel Taarabt sending in a number of teasing crosses. Rob Hulse was only able to latch on to one of them properly though, and David James made an excellent save from his downward header. City had their best spell of the game just before half time with Jamal Campbell-Ryce causing a lot of problems, Brett Pitman had their best chance but Paddy Kenny was able to save.

10 minutes into the second half Clint Hill, who had totally dominated Jon Stead up to that point, made a very rare mistake for him, heading an aimless punt straight up into the air, allowing Pitman to run through and slot past Kenny. Rangers struck back within five minutes though as, equally uncharacteristically, Taarabt was able to pick out a pass from the byline allowing Alejandro Faurlin to slide home. The home side totally controlled proceedings from that point without fashioning anything too clear-cut, but just when the game looked like petering out into a draw, a stroke of luck saw them take the lead. Shaun Derry blatantly blocked off a defender, allowing Orr to lob the ball back into the City area where Hulse was (apparently) fouled. Taarabt stroked home the penalty and Rangers looked all set for three points.

City threw on QPR old boy Damion Stewart as a forward and piled bodies into the box as you would expect. Rangers have seen out several games in this kind of situation already this season, but after Kenny made an outstanding save from Campbell-Ryce's curling shot, Steven Caulker was allowed a free header from point blank range from the resulting corner, and he made no mistake. Rangers have been very well drilled at set pieces this season, so it was in a way even more surprising than Hill's error for the first goal. Even then Tommy Smith had a chance right at the death but was unable to force the ball in from an acute angle.

So two points dropped would be the verdict, but the performance was good and once again neither Norwich nor Swansea could capitalise. Rangers have wobbled somewhat lately, but no one's showing me that they have the belief to catch them. Cardiff, Leeds, Norwich and Swansea have all occupied second place only to succumb to the pressure as soon as they got there. Rangers don't play any of those sides till April, and they've already played Norwich and Swansea twice. Meanwhile they play each other a bunch of times in the next two months (starting with Cardiff-Leeds tomorrow). I'm sure Warnock knows what he's doing but I wouldn't be surprised if one or two reinforcements come in. It might be on loan rather than permanent, the club probably being wary of bringing in anyone permanently on Premiership wages just yet, but an injection right now just to make sure Rangers can get over the line would be money well spent IMO. We will see.

Finally there was a tweet or two about croud trouble at the game, but I saw nothing more untoward than a couple of City fans being chucked out for overexuberant celebrations.