QUEENS Park Rangers put in a markedly poor performance to hand a plucky Watford side all three points at Vicarage Road.
Rangers in truth were second best throughout the encounter as the Hornets took the game by storm in the first half to halt a run of five successive defeats and move Watford out of the bottom three. This was in stark contrast to last year`s meeting where the R`s asserted their advantage from a lowly position.
Goals from former R`s loanee Darren Ward and Lee Williamson followed a bemusing penalty incident in which Tommy Smith dispatched after Mikele Leigertwood`s genuine aerial challenge was deemed a push by the laughable Mr Penn.
To add insult to injury the official handed Fitz Hall a straight red in injury time for a tough challenge on Will Hoskins, but the game was long gone at that point as Rangers were chasing shadows from the word go.
‘Project Leader` Paulo Sousa has his work cut out with his current set of players if he is to kick his team on towards any potential play-off place. On this display Rangers are destined for the other end of the table.
The R`s were forced into a whole host of changed for the short trip to Vicarage Road. Lee Cook, Martin Rowlands and Matthew Connolly were forced to withdraw through injury, which saw Patrick Agyemang, Damien Delaney and Mikele Leigertwood slot into the starting line-up.
Hogan Ephraim kept his place in the side switching over to the left wing, with Emmanuel Ledesma coming in on the right flank as Paulo Sousa left first team duties to former caretaker boss Gareth Ainsworth. Puzzlingly enough for a side with limited fire power, Rangers did not include new signing Heidar Helguson
The Hornets kept faith with a three pronged attack, with Jobi McAnuff and Tommy Smith flanking lone striker Tamas Priskin. Watford were led by skipper Jay Demerit, and his counterpart was the man who left Watford for Rangers over the new year, Gavin Mahon, and he was handed an excellent reception prior to kick-off.
Kick Off: Watford v Queens Park Rangers
Watford started purposefully as the pace and skill of Jobi McAnuff was a constant threat to the returning Damien Delaney, who severely lacked in that department. McAnuff carved out the host`s first opportunity which saw Tommy Smith fire over the bar.
Rangers poor start was epitomised by the fact that former Fulham and Chelsea wide player Jon Harley got a free header in the box which he placed straight at R`s stopper Radek Cerny. The pint-sized winger ghosted into the area following another quick corner routine which the Rangers rearguard wasn`t alive to.
Shortly after central midfielder Lee Williamson steered his effort wide after more positive work from McAnuff down the left. Rangers were under severe pressure early on and struggling to cope with some purposeful running.
Only brief moments of respite for the R`s came when Patrick Agyemang had the ball at his feet running at his opposing defenders. The Ghanaian forward`s sprightly running was and a rare plus point in an otherwise drab opening.
The Hornets continued to go from strength to strength as the influential Williamson tested Cerny once again from distance, but the Czech stopper was equal to it once again. At last, however, Rangers managed to carve out an opportunity courtesy of Hogan Ephraim.
Watford`s tough tackling was proving tough for Hogan but he wriggled away from his marker to fire a stinging right-footed volley straight at custodian Scott Loach following a good pass from Mikele Leigertwood.
That was as good as it got for Rangers as they fell behind in laughable circumstances in laughable circumstances. Damien Delaney`s weak header failed to clear the area and Leigertwood challenged in the air, and to the shock of Vicarage Road, Mr Penn handed a spot kick to Watford, for what he deemed pushing. Tommy Smith slotted the penalty home past Cerny, sending the R`s stopper the wrong way.
Watford 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
Watford were looking a far cry from the side that capitulated against Rangers last season, and they nearly doubled the lead moments later when former R`s loanee Darren Ward headed straight at Radek Cerny.
However it didn`t take long for Watford to succeed in doubling their advantage, as the persistent Ward bagged his goal. Lee Williamson`s pin point free kick forced Radek Cerny into an excellent save, only for Jon Harley to slam a left footed shot woefully off target with the ball going across the goal-mouth.
Darren Ward who was previously off the field for treatment surged into the box to slam the ball home for 2-0. Rangers` defenders were static and a forlorn Radek Cerny was left helpless to concede once more.
Watford 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
Dexter Blackstock epitomised how frustrating Rangers have become in front of goal in recent weeks. The R`s have only bagged two away goals this season, and Blackstock fluffed his lines on the far post, placing the ball tamely wide to the delight of the Watford fans.
Rangers began to assert some sort of pressure on proceedings as former Hornet Gavin Mahon nodded wide from close range. In truth it was the R`s better chances of a first period bereft of ideas and impetus.
Just when Rangers were just beginning to find their feet, they were dealt a killer blow courtesy of Lee Williamson. In truth Tommy Smith was the instigator as he and McAnuff worked their was through impossible angles past Delaney, Ephraim and finally Leigertwood to slot the ball back to an unmarked Lee Williamson who rolled the ball under the despairing body of Radek Cerny.
Watford 3-0 Queens Park Rangers
Static defending and woeful tackling made for a thoroughly disappointing first period for the 2,300 travelling army who travelled the short distance from W12.
Rangers were booed off the pitch by sections of the away end clearly disappointed by a poor first half performance that lacked creativity, flair, passing, but more importantly bottle.
Half Time: Watford 3-0 Queens Park Rangers
Shell-shocked QPR made one changed to the side that were overrun by the hosts in the first period. Former Watford skipper Gavin Mahon made way for former Italian international Damiano Tommasi in a straight switch to the centre of midfield.
However it was normal service resumed as Watford continued to assert considerable pressure on proceedings. Williamson was orchestrating the fixture once more, and his free-kick forced the R`s into blind panic with Damien Delaney failing in his attempt to hand Watford a fourth as Radek Cerny pulled off a save at full stretch.
A rasping drive from Hungarian forward Tamas Priskin was the latest in a line of chances for the Hornets as Rangers could scarcely muster a whimper. The young forward had the ball chested into his path by Tommy Smith and Priskin hit the ball on the up, which dipped viciously over the bar.
Acting manager Gareth Ainsworth introduced Samuel Di Carmine at the expense of Dexter Blackstock, and shortly after Daniel Parejo was brought on in favour of Emmanuel Ledesma, who was highly ineffectual throughout.
The R`s were on the back foot for extended periods with Watford keeping possession well and getting bodies behind the ball to cease any potential Rangers attacks. The Watford crowd was beginning to wake up also, which was a benefit to the occasion.
The Rangers crowd rose as one to commend Hogan Ephraim for forcing a shot on goal, their first in the second period. The fans danced around in glee chanting: “We had a shot on goal!”. Somewhat gallows humour from the travelling fans, but nevertheless warranted in a baron second period.
The travelling support suffered the indignity of seeing Fitz Hall receiving his marching orders for a strong tackle on substitute Will Hoskins. The former Wigan and Crystal Palace defender went in for the challenge on the young forward and brought him down, the excitable Mr Penn quickly dished out a red to the bemusement of the away support who were now finding his decisions more amusing than infuriating.
The irony was that Rangers served up some of their best football in the dying stages, with Patrick Agyemang and Hogan Ephraim the lynchpins in every attack, well supplemented by Italian forward Samuel Di Carmine. Ephraim even tried his hand at a shot that flew narrowly wide, sparking amusing delirium among the remaining travelling support.
Watford it seemed were not fully confident of their own ability to hold a three goal lead against ten men in the final five minutes, employing some negative time-wasting tactics, something that remains a hangover from the negative percentage football purported by former boss Aidy Boothroyd. Rangers however proved themselves to be truly second best in all departments as the Hornets ran riot in the first period.
Final Whistle: Watford 3-0 Queens Park Rangers
Watford: Scott Loach, Jay Demerit, Tamas Priskin, Jobi McAnuff (Will Hoskins 82), Lloyd Doyley, Lee Williamson (John-Joe O`Toole 84), Jon Harley, Tommy Smith, Adrian Mariappa, Darren Ward, Ross Jenkins.
QPR:Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Fitz Hall, Damion Stewart, Damien Delaney, Emmanuel Ledesma (Daniel Parejo 53), Gavin Mahon (Damiano Tommasi 46), Mikele Leigertwood, Hogan Ephraim, Dexter Blackstock (Samuel Di Carmine 63), Patrick Agyemang.
Radek Cerny – 5/10
Was one of many at fault for the third goal letting the ball squirm underneath his body. He was troubled by a few crosses into the heart of the area, but also pulled off a couple of decent saves to stop the game becoming more so an embarrassment.
Peter Ramage – 4/10
Didn`t really do anything spectacularly wrong, despite what some fans would have you think. Every time there was a misplaced pass there was groaning for certain players and not for others, and Ramage got abuse from some fans for some ridiculous things, but by and large he got his head to many challenges and gave 100% effort in the right back berth.
Fitz Hall – 5/10
Fitz and Damion had a bad time of it today, and Fitz`s sending off really capped off a bad day at the office. However he was good in the aerial challenge and attempted to get Rangers playing. His day was cut short with a mistimed tackle. Shame we don`t belong to the Welsh FA on that one really?
Damion Stewart – 5/10
As mentioned previously not the best day for the central defensive pairing, and Damion himself resembled Bambi on ice for much of the opening period, slipping and sliding all over the place. At one point he was attempting to crawl to the ball in his fruitless attempts to get back on his feet! In the air he was fairly dominant, but didn`t seem himself in coming and getting the ball from the attacker. A rare off day he will seek to rectify with his new partner on Tuesday.
Damien Delaney – 3/10
I think I`m being generous on Damien as he had a truly awful game. He is really playing his way out of contention in that left back role, which Matthew Connolly would have walked back into had Fitz Hall not have been sent off, but he may not be required in a more central role. Almost every one of Delaney`s passes evaded Rangers shirts today as he once again failed to recapture his form of last season.
Emmanuel Ledesma – 4/10
Appeared disinterested for large parts of the game before being withdrawn. Never got into the game as a spectacle, a couple of tough tackles were enough to see the Argentinean talent go missing and Ledemsa went hiding. I am perplexed as to why he a left footer started on the right and Hogan vice-versa.
Gavin Mahon – 5/10
Gavin was no worse than many on the pitch in the first period, but really didn`t seem himself in a tough first half. He was subbed for Damiano Tommasi, who arguably could have started the fixture, not instead of Mahon but alongside him. Gavin got a great hand from his former home crowd but he really didn`t show them what they were missing today.
Mikele Leigertwood – 5/10
Mikele was harshly adjudged to have felled his man for the penalty, which really compounded Rangers to defeat when you consider their woeful statistics in front of goal. Mikele came back from a four game layoff but looked sluggish, and was arguably reintroduced too quickly. Looked at home in his right back role prior to his suspension, maybe it`s time to revert back to that position.
Hogan Ephraim – 6/10
One of the R`s better performers on the day, after a fairly shaky start at the Vic. He got into his stride once Rangers were out of the fixture and some clever trickery won Rangers possession in positive areas of the pitch. He was out-muscled early on, but late on we saw glimpses of vintage Hogan, and long may it continue.
Dexter Blackstock – 4/10
His confidence must be rock-bottom after missing what can only be described as an absolute sitter in the first period when the game was still within reach. A confidence player, Dexter will undoubtedly think about that miss all the way home as he failed to make any sort of inroad following the incident.
Patrick Agyemang – 6/10
The best of a bad job, Patrick Agyemang attempted to get play going by holding play up and distributing accordingly, which seemed some of the only intelligent play going on out there. His direct running started to cause problems in the latter stages, but too little too late.
SUB: Damiano Tommasi – 5/10
Replaced Gavin Mahon
Damiano did OK following his introduction, this is shown in the fact no more hit the back of the net while he was helping marshall the back line. The former Roma man was tough in the tackle and skilful in distribution, but to no avail.
SUB: Daniel Parejo – 5/10
Replaced Emmanuel Ledesma
Dani never got into the game really, and looked utterly disinterested in his right midfield role. He wandered all over the pitch ignoring the role and declined several opportunities to display one of the major selling points that brought him to the club – his shooting. Will need to put in more effort to get into the line-up.
Replaced Dexter Blackstock
Should start alongside either Agyemang or Helguson on Tuesday night as his effort and commitment were excellent following his introduction. He may get a bit more space on a Charlton side that will no doubt be just as down in the dumps.
Gareth Ainsworth: 5/10 – Reshuffling some of the team with a view to Tuesday night may have been a good idea on the face of it, however he got it wrong today as the players simply didn`t play. How Helguson didn`t make the bench god only knows. The team out there certainly didn`t epitomise the man himself, lacking effort, commitment and were utterly gutless at times.
Malky Mackay: 7/10 – His side looked full of vigour and running, and really did well to close the game off by half time. It`s a pity that the crowd didn`t rise to the occasion, remaining dormant throughout, but they have a side they can be proud of as Mackay stakes a claim for the hotseat by halting the slide.
Mr A Penn: 3/10 – He was lucky that Rangers were poor otherwise there may have been more of a spotlight cast over his ineptitude display today. The penalty decision among other given by himself and his gormless linesmen were one of many things the official plainly got wrong today. It wasn`t a surprise when you consider he sent off Clarke Carlisle for spitting at someone, when the recipient was also left highly confused by the card. Rangers were poor, but the referee has to hold his hands up for a shoddy display.
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