TWO defensive mistakes helped hand a depleted Nottingham Forest a hard-fought point at the City Ground.
Matteo Alberti hauled down his man in the area to give Forest an early lead from the spot – Lewis McGugan`s spot kick coolly dispatched past returning goalkeeper Lee Camp.
After the R`s had worked hard to haul themselves in front in the encounter but Camp`s poor claim from a deep cross saw Chris Cohen rise highest to nod past three beleaguered defenders on the line.
The aforementioned Alberti struck either side of half time to turn the game in Rangers favour, but the R`s can look at a couple of crucial slip ups that have cost them two points at the City Ground.
Rangers made wholesale changes from the side that drew 0-0 at home to Reading owing to injury and suspension. With Lee Cook suspended Matteo Alberti came in for his second start of the campaign while the injured Heidar Helguson was replaced with Fiorentina loanee Samuel Di Carmine.
Lee Camp retained his place against the side to whom he was on loan only a few weeks ago as Rangers kept the same defensive unit that had kept three successive clean sheets. The centre of midfield saw Mikele Leigertwood and Liam Miller link up, with Gavin Mahon screening the Rangers rearguard and in-form winger Wayne Routledge marauding the right flank.
The bench included the returning Angelo Balanta and young winger Romone Rose. With no place for deputy keeper Jake Cole, Dexter Blackstock, Fitz Hall and Hogan Ephraim filled the voids on the bench.
A decimated Forest line-up omitted several key players, with no Robert Earnshaw (hamstring) or skipper James Perch (concussion) Billy Davies had to call upon the exuberance of youth to carry him through.
There was nothing inexperienced about the front two however with big money signing Joe Garner and highly-rated forward Nathan Tyson looking to put pressure on a confident Rangers backline.
Kick Off: Nottingham Forest v Queens Park Rangers
A scrappy opening to the game saw Forest attempt to stifle proceedings with four players going down in the opening few minutes. A tough tackling Rangers side taking no prisoners in the early stages as they looked to assert a foothold on proceedings.
Quite how injured the hosts` players were is question for debate but whenever Rangers looked like they were getting up a head of steam another player would hit the deck and it would be back to square one and trying to rebuild.
Eventually the R`s eked out a chance just before the ten-minute mark with the impressive Liam Miller winning a corner in front of the boisterous travelling army from West London. Wayne Routledge swung the ball in at the near post with Kaspars Gorkss the first to react.
The Latvian international salvaged the effort and fired the ball back in from the by-line, the ball found Samuel Di Carmine who fired a rasping volley that flew goal-bound. Only a last ditch header from Brendan Maloney kept his effort out, but Matteo Alberti`s follow-up drew an equally impressive stop from Joe Heath.
The Forest young guns evidently studying the Wigan master-class in last ditch defending as the endeavour and fight of Billy Davies` troops continually kept the R`s out in the early stages.
Rangers were struggling to re-gain the sort of form that had seen them defeated only once in Paulo Sousa`s reign. Miller and Leigertwood were the industrious engine room of the Rangers line-up but wide players Alberti and Routledge were struggling to get a touch of the ball let alone get at their defensive opponent.
On two occasions Routledge let the ball roll carelessly over his foot as he could not seem to keep possession for long enough to trouble his opposing full back.
Darren Deadman was incurring the wrath of the home crowd for in all honesty no apparent reason. Rangers were getting to the ball first on two or three occasions and it seemed every inexperienced free-kick that the Tricky Trees were giving away was met with the sound of discontent from the home crowd.
Indeed every time Damion Stewart touched the ball there seemed to be a shout of handball or groans of discontent from the home crowd who were struggling to make an impact on proceedings.
All that Forest could muster in the opening 15 minutes was a wayward header by Wes Morgan from a fine corner by former West Ham United man Chris Cohen. Worse was to come for Forest as one of their main threats, Nathan Tyson, was withdrawn through injury – Adam Newbold his replacement as they looked to fill the void.
Time seemed to stand still for a moment when Mikele Leigertwood managed to carve himself out a chance from a Samuel Di Carmine cross. The former Sheffield United man flung out his boot as the ball rolled agonisingly past a stationary Paul Smith before clipping the base of the right hand upright and scurrying clear.
Gorkss was proving a classy defender at the heart of the Rangers back line. The Latvian international was distributing with such effortless class, his intelligent distribution and aerial threat being two key positives in the Rangers line-up.
It was indeed his flick on from a Wayne Routledge corner that found Gavin Mahon positioned well just inside the area. The former Watford man could only steer his diving header wide of the right hand upright when it appeared he had more time at his disposal.
The youth line-up of Nottingham Forest were by no means resigned to wilting in the face of Rangers attacks as they too mustered some chances of note. Former Carlisle United man Joe Garner burst through the Rangers midfield only to be denied by a strong challenge from Damion Stewart – once again inexplicably raising the ire of the City Ground supporters.
The game appeared to be cantering towards half time without so much of a whimper, with neither side really threatening their respective goalkeepers, but in a flash the hosts had a penalty kick and Matteo Alberti appeared the guilty party.
Lewis McGugan`s flicked effort into the heart of the box was glided towards the welcoming arms of Lee Camp. Full back Luke Chambers hadn`t given it up and surged towards the former Forest loanee – Matteo Alberti inexplicably upended the full-back, the crowd appealed as one and the linesman duly indicated the spot kick.
The aforementioned Lewis McGugan stepped up to face the keeper that had become famed for his penalty stops during his time with Forest. However the Reds youth product sent Camp the wrong way with relative ease and the hosts had the lead only a few moments from half time.
GOAL: Nottingham Forest 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers supporters were clearly disappointed at the conceded goal with the home side being kept to a bare minimum of effort preceding this incident. Di Carmine was clearly struggling in his lone striker`s role with Wes Morgan running the rule over the young Italian.
His inability to hold onto the ball was only matched by his inability to hold himself up and support from either flanks was not forthcoming. Wayne Routledge was vastly underachieving by his lofty standards down the right, with the anonymous Alberti down the left only noticeable by his moment of madness a few moments prior.
Somehow however the R`s were back on level terms, and Forest`s new found confidence was dashed in an instant by the villain of moment redeeming himself in style.
Rangers set free full back Matthew Connolly on the overlap down the right, the former Arsenal trainee fired the ball across the heart of the box that evaded everyone. Everyone that is except the onrushing Matteo Alberti who made a slight hash of his effort but it nevertheless flew through a crowd of players and into the bottom right hand corner.
GOAL: Nottingham Forest 1-1 Queens Park Rangers
It proved to be the final kick of the game as the players left the field with the Rangers fans in raptures. The surreal sight of Rangers fans in delight at an equalising goal after all the players had departed the field. Some blessing for Paulo Sousa who would have work to do in the changing room after a disappointing first period.
Half Time: Nottingham Forest 1-1 Queens Park Rangers
Sousa opted not to change the line-up for the start of the second period, with Alberti`s goal arguably saving him from the chop at half time. The young Italian hadn`t impressed in the opening period with his lack of strength and inability to take his man on and many Rangers fans, myself included, were wondering how long Sousa would persist with the former Chievo man.
How wrong I was proven, and how correct Sousa had appeared when the young left winger scored his second and Rangers second just moments after returning from the break.
Wayne Routledge set Matteo Alberti free through the middle, the young Italian doing the rest to weave in and out of his defensive opponents before clipping the ball into the top left corner of the goal.
GOAL: Nottingham Forest 1-2 Queens Park Rangers
The R`s were in the ascendancy and in good voice behind the goal as Paulo Sousa`s men began to control proceedings at the City Ground. Billy Davies evidently infuriated with his side conceding so quickly after his half time team-talk was flapping about like a fish out of water on the touch-line and the Forest fans were starting to groan at some errant long-passing.
With referee Darren Deadman appeasing the home supporters at every opportunity he failed to stop play as Samuel Di Carmine was lying in visible pain on the turf. After halting play on four occasions in the opening period for the home side he wouldn`t stop play for what appeared a serious injury.
All credit must go out to central defender Wes Morgan who fired the ball out of play with his side beginning to move forward. Di Carmine was carried off on a stretcher with a splint laid around his leg appearing motionless on the stretcher. In what was probably a planned change Sousa withdrew the Fiorentina loanee for Dexter Blackstock with Di Carmine probably playing his last game in the hoops.
Routledge was beginning to come into his own on the right flank after a period of anonymity in the first half. Forest were beginning to realise the two deadly things you could give the former Tottenham and Aston Villa winger – the ball and space.
A ball over the top found the lively forward who took the ball in his stride before firing across the target without troubling stopper Paul Smith. Smith`s confidence must have plummeted at the sound that the home crowd were cheering for the opposition goalkeeper at every opportunity.
Rangers were beginning to control the game and were also seeing the majority of the ball. Gavin Mahon pulling the strings in the centre of the park with Routledge beginning to really test the opposition defence with a display of direct and purposeful running. Even Damien Delaney was in shooting mood driving forward from his left back berth to fire a powerful drive which deflected for a corner.
QPR goalkeeper Lee Camp had endeared himself to the home crowd giving several gratifying waves to chants of Lee Camp give us a wave and Lee Camp is a Forest fan. He received a warning when he missed a cross only for Garner to nod a chance inches wide of a gaping goal.
However this time round Camp was duly punished after he was unable to claim a good cross from full back Luke Chambers. The cross flew towards the far post and Camp went up with a tentative hand before Chris Cohen planted his header goalbound. Somehow three defenders back on the line failed to clear the agonisingly slow effort, eventually rolling in off the hand of Damion Stewart.
GOAL: Nottingham Forest 2-2 Queens Park Rangers
Camp sat forlorn on the turf staring straight at the referee and looking for any sort of decision, while Rangers assistant manager Bruno Oliveira had raced down the touchline to remonstrate with the assistant referee failing to what the management thought was an obvious foul.
Having sat only feet from the incident it was clear that Cohen had legitimately won the ball in the air and Camp and the rest of Rangers` defensive unit were seemingly embarrassed at their poor efforts to clear.
Blackstock was given a glorious opportunity to equalise as the second half began to wind down. More excellent work from Wayne Routledge combined with substitute Hogan Ephraim, on for Liam Miller, down the right before the winger found Blackstock. The R`s top scorer took a touch on his chest but fired straight at stopper Paul Smith from just inside the area.
It seemed that Paul Smith was doing twice the job of Camp with half the acclaim from his own supporters. Mikele Leigertwood rose highest from another good corner in the Routledge repertoire, his headed effort was tipped agonisingly around the post by the former Southampton and Brentford stopper.
Rangers were pinning the hosts back, with a blend of anxiety and tiredness kicking in for Forest fans and players alike after an energy sapping defeat at the hand of their rivals down Brian Clough Way during the week.
Leigertwood had another go from the subsequent corner but his effort was this time wide of the left hand upright under heavy pressure from soon-to-be makeshift forward Wes Morgan.
The returning Angelo Balanta came from the bench at the expense of goalscoring Matteo Alberti – who once again remained largely disappointing down the left. Straight away the young Colombian looked to get in on proceedings.
Balanta was supplying some excellent creativity down the left flank which was somewhat stifled by his inability to play with his left foot. However the sprightly stylings of the returning forward gave rise to great potential in the R`s final attacks.
However the only effort Rangers could muster before the final whistle was once again Mikele Leigertwood firing an shot from distance which Smith did well to tip over the bar to the delight of the now silent Forest fans.
Despite five minutes of added on time and countless waves of attack by the visiting side they had to make do with a point, with two defensive mistakes contributing to their own downfall.
Final Whistle: Nottingham Forest 2-2 Queens Park Rangers
Nottingham Forest: Paul Smith, Kelvin Wilson, Luke Chambers, Wes Morgan, Lewis McGugan, Nathan Tyson (Adam Newbold 15), Chris Cohen, Joe Garner (Gareth McCleary 66), Matthew Thornhill (Ian Breckin 89), Brendan Maloney, Joe Heath.
Queens Park Rangers: Lee Camp, Matthew Connolly, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart, Damien Delaney, Gavin Mahon, Mikele Leigertwood, Liam Miller (Hogan Ephraim 70), Wayne Routledge, Matteo Alberti (Angelo Balanta 82), Samuel Di Carmine (Dexter Blackstock 59).
Lee Camp – 6/10
Camp`s return to the City Ground was not a triumphant one and while he is still the best man between the sticks for QPR at the moment he is a shadow of the player he was a few years ago.
It seems the confidence he once exhumed, where he would come and claim a ball with relative ease, has long since departed which was in evidence with a jittery display today. He responded to several Forest chants for him, but Forest keeper Paul Smith appeared to be his better on the day.
He was at fault for Nottingham Forest`s equalising goal coming out to claim the ball and beaten to it by central midfielder Chris Cohen. An off day for Lee but certainly still preferable to Cerny however.
This gives you an insight concerning his current state of mind: >>>.
Matthew Connolly – 7/10
Connolly gave an assured performance at full back as Peter Ramage isn`t even making the bench since the return of the former Arsenal man.
Matt played in a similar style today to the performance that drew him several plaudits, as Rangers were victorious down the road in Derby. He would tackle confidently and bring the ball forward like an accomplished midfielder before finding his man.
The going was tough early on with he and Routledge not appearing to be on the same wavelength – this certainly wasn`t helped by Wayne hugging the touchline next to where Matt was standing, narrowing his angles somewhat. Nevertheless the defender did well to overcome these issues and use his midfielders to good effect.
Damion Stewart – 7/10
Damion was once again a rock at the back and certainly took no prisoners in some stern challenges with opposition forwards. He and Gorkss were once again a key partnership and unfortunate not to keep another clean sheet.
Stewart could have perhaps done better with the equalising goal as he was one of three players on the line unable to stop the ball from cantering across the line without so much of an apology.
That however was a minor blip in an accomplished display as he had firstly the partnership of Garner and Tyson to deal with before Newbold was introduced and Wes Morgan pushed further forward. Damion and his defensive colleagues dealt with all with aplomb.
Kaspars Gorkss – 9/10
Gorkss gave one of the most assured performances I have seen by a QPR defender in recent years. He did absolutely everything correctly and in style. He was everywhere to mop up any potential problems by covering or dropping deep to snuff out attacks.
The Latvian international would drop deep as alluded to in order to get the ball into his feet and begin the majority of Rangers attacking by endeavouring forward and distributing intelligently.
None of his passes were wasted and even more significantly all of his headers were directed to perfection with prior thought at the forefront of his actions.
Damien Delaney – 6/10
Damien`s performance dipped again today after an impressive display against Reading. The Irish international did look good in spells but they were far too infrequent to make him a consistent performer today.
His misplaced passing was once again an issue and it stifled many of Rangers attacks in their infancy. Whenever he did get beyond the halfway line he looked a presence and a threat while he was moving – however when play was static he struggled to play the small-sided game down the left.
His communication with Matteo Alberti was relatively poor with the young Italian becoming isolated on a number of occasions owing to a lack of support by Damien, the two not appearing to be on the same wavelength.
Gavin Mahon – 7/10
Gavin put in a good display shielding the back four from the direct running of a youthful Forest side. He became an extra defender whenever Forest had the ball, restricting the Tricky Trees to a minimum of chances from distance.
Being that extra defender Mahon provided a useful player to slip into the back four during period of Forest pressure and certainly was invaluable in that department from numerous set-pieces – a couple of which were given away by Delaney down the right.
Mahon could perhaps be accused of being a tad negative when in possession of the ball. At the sign of pressure Mahon would turn around and knock it to a relevant defender, while indeed keeping hold of the ball which was important it was deemed counter-productive while Rangers were chasing the game.
Mikele Leigertwood – 7/10
Leigertwood gave his all right up until the final whistle and was the only Rangers player willing to have a go in final stages with a couple of useful efforts.
He was a good partner for Liam Miller in the centre of midfield and proved why he is so highly rated by clubs in the top division. He was strong in the tackle and always took his time to pick the correct pass.
On this evidence Mikele will be a crucial part of Paulo Sousa`s plans for the future and should he depart at the end of the campaign it will leave a hole in the centre of midfield that take some filling.
Liam Miller – 7/10
Miller followed up his classy performance against Reading with another useful display at the heart of the Rangers engine room. He was industrious in possession and managed to create time for himself in tight situations.
He seemed a little hesitant to let fly from distance despite being given the opportunity to do so by some hesitant defending. He was at the forefront of nearly every QPR attack before he was withdrawn quite surprisingly for Ephraim.
Miller has looked a very useful replacement for the injured Martin Rowlands and may even improve on the luckless midfielder – time will tell on that one, but the early signs are very positive.
Wayne Routledge – 8/10
A game of two halves for the tricky winger as he improved his performance markedly after the after the break. In the first half Routledge found the going tough with many touches going astray and the previously established chemistry with Connolly not evident in the opening 45.
However after the break Wayne proved his class on several occasions to attack a nervous defence at full throttle. He almost ran the full length of pitch at an incredible pace to hand the ball to Angelo Balanta – who duly gave the ball away with his first touch to his frustration.
Routledge`s trickery and skill was well marshalled in the first period, but with several players stepping up to the fore in the second half Routledge wasn`t marked as heavily and was able to express himself fully.
Matteo Alberti – 7/10
Alberti gave a Jekyll and Hyde display of epic proportions as despite giving away a ludicrous penalty and having a fairly anonymous game he managed to leave the affair with two goals – and fair play to him.
Matteo was in the right place at the right time twice to finish well on both occasions, and these were about the only input he had on proceedings, looking fairly abject in a makeshift left-wing role.
His first goal, while scuffed was aimed in the right general direction to nestle in the coner, and his second oozed class as he fed from a Routledge pass to clip home from close range. All too often he was crowded out down the left and was given little in support by Delaney.
Samuel Di Carmine – 6/10
I have given Samuel a slightly higher rating than I first thought because I took into certain circumstances what the Italian was dealing with. Long balls into the loanee as a lone striker is not what he was brought into the club to do and he was bullied off the ball by some tough defenders.
Sammi did battle with Wes Morgan and Kelvin Wilson, two experienced campaigners, and came out of the game battered and bruised on a stretcher. He was evidently not strong enough to cope with the demands of playing this role – but interestingly enough was preferred to Blackstock.
Time will tell on Di Carmine`s injury but it didn`t look good on first viewing – Mr Deadman didn`t seem to think he was injured enough to stop play however. I think judging by the way he was carried off we may well have seen the last of Samuel Di Carmine in a hooped jersey.
SUB: Dexter Blackstock – 6/10
Replaced Samuel Di Carmine (59)
Dexter came on for the injured Di Carmine and immediately improved the performance in the lone striker`s role. While I would rather not play a target man style of football it seemed clear that Dexter was far better suited to the role.
He won several flick ons and his strength against the likes of Morgan and Wilson caused them more than a few worries and was evidence enough that Dexter perhaps should have started. I fully expect him to be vying with Helguson for the role against Ipswich in two week`s time – but hopefully by then there will be a loan addition or two.
SUB: Hogan Ephraim – 7/10
Replaced Liam Miller (70)
Sousa gave Hogan 20 minutes to impress as he made the curious decision to replace the impressive Liam Miller and place Hogan in the centre of the park – a position he has grown accustomed to under the reign of the Portuguese boss.
He looked good floating over to either flanked as it didn`t seem a disciplined 4-5-1, rather Hogan was allowed to roam and support wingers such as Routledge and Alberti. He looked good in his new-found role and gives Rangers further options.
Replaced Matteo Alberti (90)
Not much to say about Balanta`s performance other than to say it`s good to see him back. His sprightly running down the left-flank was a breath of fresh air, however he struggled with his final pass owing to his lack of left foot.
He comes back after a mixed spell with Wycombe that will undoubtedly have improved his confidence in front of goal – not that it needs improving on the evidence of some of his strikes with the Chairboys.
Paulo Sousa: 7/10 – Sousa was right to stick with the system that has proved successful in recent weeks, particularly in light of the R`s recent run of clean sheets. The choice of striker in the system however proved somewhat suspect.
Samuel Di Carmine was clearly unable to play in this system and quite why he was picked in favour of Blackstock in that role was a strange decision in my book.
Sousa will be bitterly disappointed that after taking the lead, the R`s threw two points away with another poor defensive mistake, this time by stopper Lee Camp. Changes may be afoot in the loan market before the next game against Ipswich in a couple of weeks.
Opposition Man of the Match
Paul Smith: He was pretty immense throughout the game and there was nothing he could do about either goals. He had the thankless task of playing second fiddle to home returning hero Lee Camp but comported himself fantastically to pull of a string of match-saving saves.
The former Southampton man stopped Leigertwood twice in the closing stages to earn his side a point, but little praise was dished out to the stopper as Camp rode his high horse out of the City Ground.
Billy Davies: There is no doubting this man`s passion and enthusiasm for the game and Championship football, and given time he will turn the reds into a real force to be reckoned with in this division.
Davies took a side of youngsters and got them to play their heart out for the shirt – indeed some of the veteran professionals that the club have at their disposal may learn from the example set by the likes of Matthew Thornhill, Brendan Maloney and Joe Heath.
Mr D Deadman: 6/10 – Not a bad game from the official to be honest as he came under a lot of pressure from home supporters to give decisions in their favour. You would expect nothing less from a home crowd to get onto the referee but he continued to officiate in an impartial manner and got his book out when warranted.
While Forest fans may have some gripes with his decision making, there was no doubting the four bookings and there certainly could have been more had he not used some commons sense, a quality lacking in most modern officials.
He failed to stop the game when Di Carmine appeared seriously injured, this was in stark contrast in the first half when home players were dropping like flies and play was being stopped at every juncture.
To view the match stats for Nottingham Forest 2-2 Queens Park Rangers Click Here >>>.