QUEENS Park Rangers were dumped out of the Carling Cup at the first time of asking by a well-organised Port Vale side this evening.
The League Two side were efficient and ruthless in W12 as useful finishing combined with poor defending and individual errors saw the hosts humbled at Loftus Road.
Micky Adams’ charges took the upper hand in an even encounter when poor defensive work allowed Justin Richards to slot home one-on-one with Paddy Kenny.
Sean Rigg compounded the Rangers misery by doubling the Valiants’ advantage, when he capitalised on a loose ball to slam home a deflected effort from close range.
While the home supporters hoped for a revival they were greeted with more disappointment as Kenny spilled Doug Loft’s effort with Richards nipping in for his brace.
The stunned hosts netted a consolation when half time substitute Antonio German was adjudged to have scored after the ball came back off both posts, but it was too little too late as the R’s are brought back down to earth with a bump.
The elation of Saturday was long-since forgotten this evening, as despite naming an experienced side Rangers were stung by a ruthless League Two outfit.
Neil Warnock made five changes to his side from the thumping weekend win over Barnsley, with Matt Connolly, Gary Borrowdale, Mikele Leigertwood, Josh Parker and Leon Clarke coming in.
Paddy Kenny started behind a back four of Bradley Orr, skipper Fitz Hall, Connolly and Borrowdale with Leigertwood partnering the veteran Shaun Derry in the heart of midfield.
Hogan Ephraim and Josh Parker were to support from the flanks with Jamie Mackie being partnered by debutante Clarke, with a youthful bench including youngster Max Ehmer.
Orr – Hall (c) – Connolly – Borrowdale
Ephraim – Leigertwood – Derry – Parker
Clarke – Mackie
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Port Vale
The two sides took to the field once again in torrential conditions at Loftus Road, in front of a fairly mediocre crowd that braved the elements on a blustery West London evening. The paddocks ducked for cover but in truth there were no shortage of spare seats.
The clash opened in a combative fashion but it was Vale that started in sprightly fashion following their opening day victory. Anthony Griffith at the heart of the Valiants midfield was pulling the strings for the visitors who threatened mostly on the counter-attack.
Despite the spirited opening it was Rangers that carved out the first chance of note when Matt Connolly took matters into his own hands, bursting out from the back-line. His slide-rule pass for Leon Clarke saw the former Sheffield Wednesday man through on goal.
Any hopes that Clarke would be that poacher, that 20-goal a season striker that the fans had cried out for were soon doused as he placed straight at ‘keeper Stuart Tomlinson from close range. A combination of poor technique and composure was Clarke’s downfall.
Clarke himself was clearly struggling against a thoroughly strong and aerially combative back-line lead by the sizeable John McCombe, with both he and Gareth Owen keeping Mackie and Clarke at bay. Then a moment that would display the visitors’ potential.
Gary Roberts swung in a corner from the right flank and the influential Griffith saw his header cannon down off the underside off the cross-bar and hacked away to safety. It was quickly becoming apparent that the R’s would have to battle to get through this one.
All Rangers could offer in riposte was the fleet-footed Jamie Mackie whose effort was never waning throughout a difficult opening period. Even he couldn’t engineer a positive effort when he lashed a half chance into the upper tier of the School End.
Mackie was intent to solve matters on his own, as the hosts grew sloppy in their possessional play and overall organisation. He beat two men on the by-line before firing at the near post only once again to find Tomlinson in fine form.
It certainly wasn’t going all the hosts’ way as Vale threatened with the Richards duo up top and the educated left-foot of Doug Loft to supplement their attacking options. Somewhat unsurprising then that they should break the deadlock in a closely-fought encounter.
Sean Rigg played the architecht as he chipped a sublime ball over a frankly ponderous Rangers back-line. Gary Borrowdale and Fitz Hall stood dumbstruck with their hands in the ear, and the latter’s vain attempt to close on striker Justin Richards proved to no avail.
The striker coasted through on goal before burying an effort with all the composure that was distinctly lacking in the Championship side. His low left footed strike beat Paddy Kenny with ease as the back-line could contemplate their ponderous attitude.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Port Vale
It was the goal that should have shocked Rangers into life, but ultimately tucked them even further into their shell with a multitude of errors and indifferent passing contributing to their downfall. Neil Warnock was vocal but nevertheless matters were not changing.
Mikele Leigertwood was guilty of gifting possession away on more than a few occasions, while Leon Clarke was resembling more a fish out of water than a target man. The striker looking a little off the pace and probably carrying a knock going into this encounter.
The defending was also proving negligible and missing the presence of Clint Hill and Kaspars Gorkss, nevertheless the side fielded had more than enough about it in respect of ability to deal with the Vale attack, but the warning once again wasn’t heeded.
A neat passing move saw Vale work their way into the box before Sean Rigg, creator of the first goal, found an expanse of space in the area. His effort was chased down by Hall but ultimately only served to deflect the effort into the bottom right hand corner.
Rangers were two goals down and sinking fast in this encounter as the midfield simply wasn’t able to stop the flow of attack, and the defence was left over-exposed on all too many occasions, but the ruthless Vale had netted from two of their three chances.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 0-2 Port Vale
Hall himself was getting lambasted by sections of the crowd for his tendency to look long with the ball rather than play from the back, but nobody was complaining when the R’s put forward their most meaningful attack of the game.
His elegant cross-field pass was taken delightfully by Josh Parker, who had switched flanks with Hogan Ephraim. Closing in on goal Parker opted – like so many R’s players – for the near post, but came up short against an inspired Tomlinson.
The vocal visiting support chanted ‘Tommo for England’ – on this evidence he should be a sure starter given the names that Mr Capello has chosen to put forward for the forthcoming friendly. It was the last defiant act of a thoroughly miserable half.
Despite the encounter being fairly even – three genuine chances a-piece – Rangers’ performance was littered with simple mistakes and errors, most of which came right through the spine of the line-up. Vale showed themselves to be well-drilled and would undoubtedly be even tougher to break-down.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-2 Port Vale
Leon Clarke had kicked the ball for the last time as Antonio German would freshen up the Rangers attack for the second period. Clarke – playing his first competitive game for Rangers since his ill-fated loan spell under Ian Holloway, didn’t appear the target-man he was purported as this evening.
Despite looking a little more determined, it didn’t take long for the visitors to take another opportunity and make the score-line appear as flattering as Rangers’ win at the weekend. Once again their ruthless streak showed with a genuine poachers effort.
Former Brighton midfielder – Loft – showed the skill of his educated left foot when he unleashed a venomous left-footed drive after no-one in the back-line closed him down. Kenny could only parry straight to the onrushing Justin Richards who took his brace with glee.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 0-3 Port Vale
The simplicity and ease of the goal will be something that will have riled Warnock as the lack of pressure on the initial effort combined with the lack of marking and reaction in the heart of the area saw Vale out of sight and Rangers out of luck.
The crowd were despondent and some started to turn on a few of the players – but to their credit some responded by attempting to arouse an otherwise bereft QPR line-up. They nearly responded with a goal when Matt Connolly rose highest to nod home a Borrowdale corner.
Unfortunately for him and Rangers it was adjudged to be a foul – correct decision in a spell of frankly baffling refereeing errors. A couple of times Rangers blocked shots – not even in a subtle fashion, and twice they received a goal kick for their reward.
Rangers needed something to get back into the game and give them that spark of impetus, like they have shown on two occasions in the recent past against Vale and indeed against Adams’ Leicester City side in 2005.
Connolly played Rangers’ Taarabt on the day as his educated surge from the back culminated in Mackie linking up with Antonio German. His effort smashed the right-hand upright, came back off the left-hand post, and without so much as an appeal the goal was given.
Many of those sat weren’t too sure how or why it had crossed the line apart from those maybe in direct line with the incident. One thing is for sure, few were complaining as the R’s had a foot-hold in the encounter.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-3 Port Vale
Warnock made further changes directly after the goal with Derry replaced by Joe Oastler and Romone Rose replacing Josh Parker, and the latter was certainly attempting to assert his credentials in a Championship match-day squad.
The young player who has become a perennial loanee in recent years looked like a creative spark as he darted down the right flank to draw a succession of corners, but that came before play started to become condensed.
Rangers were starting to play increasingly narrow with McCombe snuffing out the vast majority of opportunities in their infancy, with Owen alongside him also exemplary in out-muscling what was an inexperienced attacking front-line.
Orr and Borrowdale strived to get forward and support their attackers, but the sheer lack of options afforded to them by a frustrated but ultimately under-performing Ephraim was quickly becoming evident.
What would prove to be a decisive moment in the clash came 15 minutes from time as Leigertwood’s cross eventually found its way to Mackie, who in turn disappointingly lashed wide from close range, much to the evident relief of Tomlinson.
A succession of hopeful long passes ensued as Rangers were controlling the encounter without ever truly threatening the goal. Every long ball was snuffed out with effortless ease and it was clear that the hosts had run out of ideas.
The Vale fans now sensed their side were on the cusp of an excellent and indeed well-deserved win and as the final whistle sounded at Loftus Road the boos were drowned out by the cheers in the School End as they had pulled off an excellent result in W12.
Sections of Rangers support stayed behind to applaud a well-drilled Vale side and the Valiants players responded in kind to the QPR fans that applauded them, and Neil Warnock ensured that his players clapped the home fans despite the evident disappointment.
Just over six-and-a-half thousand saw Rangers humbled on home turf and in truth Vale are every bit promotion contenders if they can maintain that level of consistency, providing a test on the level of Barnsley at the weekend.
Full Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-3 Port Vale
Queens Park Rangers
Kenny, Orr, Hall (c), Connolly, Borrowdale, Ephraim, Leigertwood, Derry (Oastler 63), Parker (Rose 63), Clarke (German 46), Mackie.
Tomlinson, Yates, Griffith, McCombe, Owen, Loft, Richards, M., Richards, J., (Dodds 83) Collins, Rigg (Taylor, K.) Roberts (Fraser 90).