RANGERS continue to plummet towards the relegation zone with another costly defeat against an equally poor Coventry City side.
In truth neither side got out of first gear throughout the ninety, but the killer blow was struck in another mediocre first half as Gary Deegan struck home with the aid of a sizeable deflection.
Such is Rangers’ luck at present the ball cannoned into the corner of the net off a defender to condemn the visitors to their fifth successive defeat and drop them perilously close to the drop.
It’s hard to picture quite where Rangers will pick up the points required to claw themselves to safety with a wealth of talent under-performing once more in emphatic fashion.
Despite seeing the majority of the ball the R’s failed to carve out any meaningful chances with Damion Stewart going closest in the second period – but the inquest looks set to continue as the players appear resigned to the drop.
All eyes were on Mick Harford’s team selection after some well-documented errors on Tuesday night, and he raised eyebrows once more with a surprising line-up.
Carl Ikeme began in goal behind a back four of Peter Ramage, Damion Stewart, Kaspars Gorkss and Matt Hill, with Matt Connolly the deep-lying midfielder in front of the defence.
Ákos Buzsáky, Alejandro Faurlín and Lee Cook started in front of Connolly with Tamás Priskin and top-scorer Jay Simpson leading the line. Adel Taarabt was once again left to languish on the bench.
Coventry started with Keiren Westwood in goal with Stephen Wright, Leon Barnett, Richard Wood and Martin Cranie across the back-four.
Carl Baker and Michael McIndoe started wide with the influential Sammy Clingan and Gary Deegan through the middle – Clinton Morrison and Freddy Eastwood lead the line for the Sky Blues.
Kick Off: Coventry City v Queens Park Rangers
The fixture started in lacklustre fashion with both sides feeling out their opposition tentatively with a view to playing counter-attacking football. The end result was pure mediocrity in the opening stages with little in the way of opportunities.
The problem appeared to lie in a distinct of tempo to proceedings with Coventry also content to sit and defend and Rangers struggling to create meaningful moves and passages of play. Passes went amiss and commitment from certain quarters appeared to be lacking.
While the Coventry players appeared more combative Rangers were proving their lack of guile and cutting edge at the other end with fleeting opportunities being snuffed out for corners from the feet of Simpson and Priskin.
Rangers could only look to the surprisingly inconsistent performance of Kieren Westwood – the Irish international was looking nervous as his kicking proved indifferent and his command of the area also suffered moments into the first half.
A Lee Cook corner nearly caught the highly-rated ‘keeper out as he came from his line and flapped only to have his blushes spared by some dogged defending. Connolly then steered wide from close range in a fixture void of any meaningful creativity.
The lack of atmosphere was particularly startling with Coventry evidently a club torn from their home at Highfield Road and placed in a stadium that clearly doesn’t suit the supporters. A victim of progress – the Sky Blues fans – like the visiting support – were creating little in terms of noise.
Out of the blue it was the hosts that had the lead, and all it seemed to take was a short burst of pressure on the R’s goal. In fairness to the defence however it couldn’t have been more unfortunate in the way it came about.
Clinton Morrison latched onto a long ball, with the defence once again misjudging the flight and bounce of the ball, and he laid off to midfielder Gary Deegan. The player struck the ball towards goal only for the leg of a defender to deflect it beyond the forlorn Carl Ikeme.
GOAL: Coventry City 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
It took a goal to spring the R’s into some form of life, but despite being more eager to get into tackles and push forward they were left lacking in attacking desire and productivity. Ákos Buzsáky and Lee Cook were looking to push on in wide-areas but the end product was distinctly lacking.
Buzsáky himself wasn’t linking well with his compatriot Priskin, a partnership that fans hoped would invigorate the under-performing midfielder. The Hungarian’s free-kick was disappointingly wide of the left-hand upright when well-placed on the edge of the area.
What the supporters were witnessing was one of the more dire displays the Championship has set-out this season with one side looking to defend a lead and another rock-bottom in terms of confidence and proving every bit relegation fodder.
The pitch didn’t help raise the standard a great deal but the decision of Mick Harford not to start Adel Taarabt was increasingly questions as the half grew on and the clock ticked away not only on the game but for Rangers’ season.
While Rangers saw the majority of the ball in the clash to date they were doing very little to suggest they were a side that would relish the challenge and avoid the drop. Only Lee Cook could leave the field with any credit as the sides went into the break.
Half Time: Coventry City 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
As the second half got underway the R’s looked to assert a greater impetus on proceedings, but no recourse to the substitutes bench as against Ipswich for Harford, with Taarabt told to warm-up from the beginning.
It seemed that Rangers were the side that were forcing the issue with Lee Cook sending in a free-kick from distance but it failed to truly test the Coventry custodian who gathered the effort close to his chest at a useful height.
Coventry were content to sit and that raised the ire of sections of home support – relinquishing possession and inviting pressure from the visitors. Such was the R’s current plight they couldn’t capitalise and carve out the opportunities.
Tamás Priskin was hauled off after a second mediocre display in possession, with a lack of effort at the forefront of his game – in his stead came Antonio German, a youngster that fans would knew would show plenty of heart and fight.
The game seemed camped in the Coventry half without a great deal of chances to show for the visiting dominance. The Sky Blues were looking for the likes of Morrison and Eastwood on the break, and at times it was a ploy that looked like paying off.
Adel Taarabt was finally brought onto the field on 67 minutes with Buzsáky once again the ineffective man to make way. The Hungarian evidently hadn’t built on his positive cameo against Ipswich during the week – while the Moroccan was out to show his non-selection was incorrect once more.
Lady luck wasn’t shining on the R’s however as even when Lee Cook crossed for Damion Stewart a combination between the defender and Leon Barnett forced Westwood into what can only be described as a world-class save.
The Irish international got down low to his left to tip the ball around the post in fantastic, instinctive fashion. The end that saw a distinct lack of fortune in the first half, saw a great deal of luck for Barnett in the second.
Another cross from the right by Simpson saw Barnett fortuitously deflect into the arms of Westwood once more. The old adage came to the fore once more – when you’re down at the bottom these things don’t go for you.
Stephen Wright – the full back sent off in the last two meetings between the two sides – put in an effort to belie the occasion late on in the second period as a dipping volley from nearly 40-yards out saw Ikeme pluck the ball out of the air with good precision.
Rangers continued to surge forward in search of the equalising goal, but truth despite their dominance with the ball they had nothing to display in terms of opportunities, creativity and ultimately goals. Alejandro Faurlín was dragged back on the edge of the area and despite racing clear the decision was pulled back for a free-kick.
Cook took the resultant set-piece but in truth failed to test Westwood once more. The lack of thought that went into the kick saw the winger fairly chip the ball over the right hand side of the goal, such was the lack of pace on the ball.
It epitomised Rangers lack of cutting edge on the field, and whereas last season the R’s couldn’t score in dire 0-0 draws – this time they continue to concede sloppy goals and cannot score. It doesn’t bode well for a relegation battle as the R’s continue to slip.
Final Whistle: Coventry City 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
Keiren Westwood, Stephen Wright, Sammy Clingan, Freddy Eastwood, Clinton Morrison (Freddy Sears 67), Gary Deegan, Martin Cranie, Carl Baker, Michael McIndoe, Leon Barnett, Richard Wood.
Queens Park Rangers
Carl Ikeme, Peter Ramage, Damion Stewart, Ákos Buzsáky (Adel Taarabt 67), Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly, Lee Cook, Alejandro Faurlín, Matt Hill, Jay Simpson, Tamás Priskin (Antonio German 55).