QUEENS Park Rangers bowed out of the Carling Cup without as much as whimper, as Rochdale picked up a useful Carling Cup scalp.
A mixture of youth and fringe players, sprinkled with a handful of first teamers came unstuck against the League One strugglers in what appeared more of a training session than a Cup encounter.
That is not to detract from a fine Dale display as they effectively soaked up some fruitless pressure before taking their opportunities, making easy pickings of the Premier League new boys.
The game was barely five minutes old when Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro capitalised on some static defending to slam home a loose ball. The second belied the occasion as Gary Jones clipped expertly over debutante Brian Murphy.
Much like last season, it was an occasion to forget and sadly it was no coincidence that all three Premier League new boys were unceremoniously dumped out at the first opportunity.
Rangers can now fully contemplate the challenge of league action while Rochdale deservedly find themselves in the bag for the Third Round draw.
As expected Neil Warnock made wholesale changes with only three players surviving the outstanding win at Everton – Matt Connolly, Bradley Orr and Adel Taarabt all retaining their places.
Brian Murphy made his debut between the sticks behind a back four of Orr, Dan Shittu, Bruno, another first-timer Bruno Perone and the aforementioned Connolly.
Hogan Ephraim and Martin Rowlands started in the middle while there was also a place for fellow lost child Lee Cook. He started with Taarabt and Bruno Andrade as the three behind lone striker Jay Bothroyd.
David Lucas started for Dale in goal behind Stephen Darby, Pim Balkestien, Marcus Hollness and Joe Widdowson.
Gary Jones and Andrew Tutte lined up in the middle of the park with Nicky Adams and Jason Kennedy playing wide. Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro linked forces with Ashley Grimes in attack.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v ROCHDALE
As has become customary with the early rounds of the Carling Cup, Queens Park Rangers took to the field in front of a small band of supporters that populated the South Africa Road stand and a small section of the Loftus Road end.
A smattering of away support occupied the lower tier of the School End in what was shaping up to be a typical Carling Cup encounter. Wet and windy conditions and a team cobbled together with a blend of youth and experience.
The game kicked off with QPR looking the more comfortable of the two sides but nevertheless couldn’t carve out the meaningful chances that some of their opening possession promised.
They were certainly made to pay inside five minutes as Rochdale took a lead somewhat against the run of play, but deserved in their of their endeavour and guile. Defenders were caught sleeping as a neat through ball made it’s way to Ashley Grimes.
The former Manchester City forward created some space and drew a smart save from Brian Murphy. Unfortunately Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro followed up on the effort to slot home the game’s opener.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-1 ROCHDALE
Under ordinary circumstances the home side would have risen to the occasion – but Dale started to get the better of the encounter. Grimes drew a stop from Murphy before wide-man Nicky Adams also caused The debutante into a save.
Rangers gave their support something to get a little excited about when Bradley Orr connected well with a corner onto to see his effort cleared from the line and away to safety – inches close to a confidence-boosting equaliser.
It was proving somewhat of a war of attrition with Adel Taarabt struggling to find space to get at the League One defenders. Only Dan Shittu’s speculative effort from distance could break the monotony of a mediocre first half.
Bruno Andrade showed a spark of intelligence when he attempted a clipped effort from outside the area, unfortunately for the youngster his effort was somewhat errant as it flew over the the right-hand upright.
Matt Connolly nearly yielded a goal from nothing when a rare passage of useful play saw the defender charge forward and put a useful shot on target, rather surprisingly spilled wide by former Sheffield Wednesday man, Lucas.
On the half-hour mark Rangers had a costly casualty when Bradley Orr was nursing his hamstring, youngster Michael Harriman took his place, slotting into the right-back berth – more excuse for Warnock if he required, not to field first-teamers in this competition.
On the stroke of half time Andrade forced Lucas into a smart save with an effort that left the Dale stopper unsighted. Nevertheless chances were few and far between as Rochdale left the field the leaders in this encounter.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-1 ROCHDALE
Rangers looked a little brighter coming out after the break, but it still remained clear that many were not either fit or truly motivated to play in this fixture. Taarabt still looked one of QPR’s better bets for a goal as he stepped up for a free-kick.
The effort from distance was sent into the far post, and the lack of urgency and sharpness was most evident as the tantalising kick went awry. Dale meanwhile were defending doggedly and were looking well-drilled and highly motivated.
Another Grimes effort was fielded by Murphy before Rangers came close once again. A Taarabt free-kick was perfectly connected by Jay Bothroyd, with the flag ruling the effort out as it looped into the back of the net.
Rangers were looking sluggish by and large, but certainly saw the vast majority of the ball in the Rochdale half. Cook was starting to come into the game a little more but contributions were all too fleeting.
A couple of speculative drives from the wide-man, cutting in from the right, were all Rangers could muster at times. Dale were organised and combative, snuffing out the majority of attacks before they reached danger areas.
This scene was all too recognisable – players and management that weren’t necessarily interested in the cup competition, particularly set against the back-drop of the aspirations of Premier League survival.
As mentioned Rangers were seeing the vast majority of play, but were caught by a sucker punch on the counter-attack – but in fairness to the visitors it was a goal fitting to win any game of football.
Grimes got the better of Harriman at the back before the ball fell to Gary Jones and the midfielder capped off a fine display by chipping beyond Murphy and drawing the applause of many of the home support.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-2 ROCHDALE
With ten minutes remaining many supporters took their cue to exit – but one can hardly criticise those that braved the elements for the product that they had been served on this occasion.
A rather bizarre incident ensued when Grimes was taken off as he attempted to shake hands with referee Oliver Langford. Evidently then taking exception to something the official said, the striker withdrew his hand in a bizarrely aggressive manner considering the game situation.
Akpa-Akpro broke free into the Rangers area in the final few moments only to thrash an effort wide of the left-hand upright. Perone nearly had a consolation debut goal but the ball was hacked away to safety to round up a thoroughly disappointing evening.
FULL TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-2 ROCHDALE
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Murphy, Orr (Harriman 31), Taarabt, Bothroyd, Perone, Connolly, Ephraim, Shittu, Andrade, Cook (Hewitt 73), Rowlands (Derry 71).
Lucas, Darby, Grimes (Thompson 82), Kennedy, Widdowson, Tutte, Jones, Akpa Akpro, Balkestien, Adams, Holness.