QUEENS Park Rangers suffered their third successive defeat without reply as rock-bottom Peterborough United saw off the R’s in another disappointing display.
The Posh belied their early mediocrity with a sublime piece of skill from George Boyd seeing Aaron McLean tap home unmarked.
From then on it was the hosts that looked more dangerous on the counter-attack, but the form of Lee Cook on the left-flank stood out in a dismal first period.
Referee Danny McDermid had come under the spotlight for a string of woeful decisions both ways – and this came to the fore as he sent off Rangers skipper Mikele Leigertwood for what was deemed a two-footed lunge.
This was followed later on in the half with Peter Ramage putting in a typically whole-hearted tackle, and received a second yellow for his troubles, but it didn’t stop QPR from mounting a cavalry charge.
Effort and passion once again returned to the fore as the visitors saw most of the ball – and the Posh defence was on the verge of crumbling. For this reason Rangers were applauded off by the majority of their sizeable travelling support, despite coming up short once more.
Mick Harford had some bold decisions to make ahead of this game and he opted to make four changes to the side that slumped at home to Scunthorpe United.
Carl Ikeme retained his place in goal with Peter Ramage reinstated to the back four alongside Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly and Matt Hill – Mikele Leigertwood accommodated on the right wing.
Ákos Buzsáky and Adel Taarabt dropped out with Lee Cook starting wide left and Alejandro Faurlín and Nigel Quashie the preferred central midfield partnership.
Rangers had a new strike force with fresh faces Marcus Bent and Tamás Priskin starting at the expense of Jay Simpson and Rowan Vine who dropped to the bench.
Peterborough started with Joe Lewis in goal behind a back four of Chris Whelpdale, Ryan Bennett, Chris Morgan and former QPR loanee Tommy Williams.
The midfield saw Tommy Rowe and George Boyd play wide with Charlie Lee and Jake Livermore the preferred partnership in the middle of the park.
The potent strike duo of Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron McLean started up front with the latter looking to score his second in two games against Rangers.
Kick Off: Peterborough United v Queens Park Rangers
The fixture opened in tentative fashion, with two sides looking to play their way back into form – indeed both bosses were searching for their first victory.
The game was proving an end to end affair with the hosts content to soak up pressure and play on the break. It was Marcus Bent that had the first chance of the clash however, but his effort was dragged well wide of the left-hand upright after smart work from Priskin.
At present it was a game blighted by mediocrity with both sides evidently hampered with their poor recent record. The Posh however started to play with a little more freedom and George Boyd in particular exhumed class.
The former Stevenage Borough man worked the perfect gap by tricking his way past three defenders in the box, before having the vision to roll it aside for Aaron McLean – the striker had little problem dispatching the opportunity with ease.
GOAL: Peterborough United 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
It seemed that the midfield and defence could be scythed open at will by the rampant hosts, with Whelpdale and Boyd seeing a multitude of space and time despite the glaring warning signs of his capabilities.
Ikeme needed to be sharp from his line as he raced from his goal-mouth to thwart the onrushing Mackail-Smith, who was another Posh player visibly looking rejuvenated under Gannon.
More cutting play from Boyd and Tommy Rowe continued to pull the defence apart, with little help coming from the midfield to protect the back four.
Rowe’s pass found Whelpdale down the right flank and the midfielder took his shot first time, blasting high and wide over Ikeme’s bar. Defensively Rangers were not looking pretty, with Hill tucking in and vacating space down the wing.
Finally Rangers started to stamp their authority on proceedings, only to be cut down in their prime by a needlessly fussy official, who seemed intent on stopping the game for the most negligible of offences – suffice to say the R’s struggled to find their flow.
Bent was portrayed as a target-man when he was captured and he was beginning to assert these credentials as Lee Cook become more prevalent in the clash. The R’s winger was finding space down the left to pick out crosses, and the Birmingham City loanee sought to profit.
Useful play from Ramage and Faurlín down the right saw Bent hit a deflected shot inches wide and away for a corner – the move was cut short as Cook was caught offside from the short-corner when it was touched back to him.
Whelpdale was causing Rangers some serious headaches down the wing, not so much in terms of end product, but his creativity and space had the defenders at odds. His shot was well saved low by Ikeme, with the ‘keeper relatively unperturbed by a lack of chances.
Rangers rallied and came back with Cook at the centre of the R’s attacking threat. It seemed like he’d never been away as he slotted comfortably back into the line-up and looked the biggest talent to emanate from the away side.
Space was proving to be at a minimum as the Posh defended manfully and whole-heartedly, but there was a brief glimmer of class when Faurlín once again linked up with Priskin and the anonymous Leigertwood and in turn he struck a powerful effort straight at Joe Lewis.
Defender Matt Connolly had a great chance to grasp the equaliser after an expert Cook free kick, only to nod over the bar when well-placed – an incident that serves to epitomise the lack of cutting edge in the Rangers side at present.
A worrying moment then ensued with Mackail-Smith was once again able to cut the defence open with his brand of direct running, before squaring for Rowe. The pint-sized wideman was able to comfortably beat Leigertwood in the air, but fortunately for Rangers the effort was misguided.
A late snap-shot from Cook was all that Rangers could muster as the referee brought a disappointing half to a close. The visitors were looking more promising in attack, but defensively there was certainly something lacking.
Half Time: Peterborough United 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
As you would expect Peterborough were less enterprising after the break as they sought to protect their lead and secure a crucial win. Gannon made one change to his side withdrawing Charlie Lee and replacing him with Josh Simpson.
It was proving increasingly taxing to penetrate a stubborn Posh side, who seemed intent on defending that lead and posing further questions of the R’s leaky rearguard on the break. It was certainly showing as moves broke down in their infancy.
The official certain wasn’t helping proceedings flow with a string of frankly head-scratching decisions that had both sets of support up in arms continually. Never this season has a referee drawn this much of a general consensus among supporters of opposing sides.
Connolly nearly provided a second career goal early in the second period when a stinging left-footed strike was parried by Lewis at the feet of Priskin, but gathered at the second attempt from the Hungarian’s boots.
If the game was proving difficult before, it was about to be considerably testing as skipper Mikele Leigertwood was given his marching orders for what the referee deemed a two-footed lunge, over the ball.
Faurlín’s misplaced pass meant that Mikele had a split-second decision to make with regards to a 50/50 challenge. R’s fans urged him into the tackle, and despite going in with one foot and the player to his credit climbing to his feet, the over-zealous official delved into his pocket at record speed.
In truth the R’s weren’t looking too overawed by the prospect of playing with fewer numbers with the Posh fans and players evidently growing increasingly nervous with the lack of a second goal that would undoubtedly kill Rangers off.
Peterborough’s play seemed blighted by nerves as the cracks started to surface, indeed distribution become more sporadic and chances were fleeting with Mackail-Smith failing to truly test Ikeme in the R’s goal with a late effort.
Yet more despair for Rangers as Mr McDermid once again reached to his pocket to punish Peter Ramage for the second time. Ramage in truth had committed his second foul of the game, but it was enough for the whistle-happy official to throw his weight around once more.
From then on Rangers somehow improved, piling forward to support the strike force of Bent and substitute Jay Simpson and dish out some considerable pressure on the nervous hosts. The passion and commitment was a particular joy for fans as they pressed for a crucial leveller.
Cook’s free kick found Kaspars Gorkss who attempted himself to nod down for an oncoming striker, only to nod it straight back in the direction of the wide-man – defensively speaking, a quality header.
There was still time for Faurlín to bury a free-kick straight into the grateful arms of Lewis, but the best chance was saved until last with the never-say-die attitude coming to the fore.
Jay Simpson was proving influential coming from the bench and while many – including Tommy Williams – thought the ball was drifting out for a goal kick, the Arsenal loanee hooked the ball back across goal.
The ball seemed to travel for an eternity beyond the outstretched head of Connolly and the grasp of Lewis for Ephraim. He attempted to size up his options but in the end fired dismally wide of Lewis’ left-hand upright.
It was a case of too little too late for the R’s who were condemned to another disappointing defeat – small consolation could be sought in the character that was shown while Rangers were down to nine, and the supporters responded in kind following the final whistle.
There is no mistake that Rangers have plenty of work to do ahead of Tuesday’s game against Ipswich, some character of the ilk of Crystal Palace needs to be shown if Rangers are to get the better of the Tractor Boys.
Peterborough meanwhile can be relatively contented with their victory, if not by the manner of its arrival. Jim Gannon clearly had his side motivated, but it would take a gargantuan effort to avoid the drop for the Posh.
Full Time: Peterborough United 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
Joe Lewis, Chris Whelpdale, Chris Morgan, Ryan Bennett, Tommy Williams, George Boyd (Lee Frecklington 82), Charlie Lee (Josh Simpson 46), Jake Livermore, Tommy Rowe, Craig Mackail-Smith (Izale McLeod 82), Aaron McLean.
Queens Park Rangers
Carl Ikeme, Peter Ramage (Sent Off 82), Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly, Matt Hill, Mikele Leigertwood (Sent Off 60), Alejandro Faurlín, Nigel Quashie (Hogan Ephraim 57), Lee Cook (Rowan Vine 81), Tamás Priskin (Jay Simpson 65), Marcus Bent.