QUEENS Park Rangers slumped to a crushing defeat at the City Ground, a result compounded by another in a string of poor displays.
Four simple words that describe why Forest are riding high near the Championship summit and Rangers will have to be contented with a mid-table finish.
The hosts signings had perfectly gelled into cohesive unit, while Rangers relied on waning individual talent in their attempt to grab a foothold.
The game was as good as over when Robert Earnshaw curled home an exquisite 19th minute free-kick before displaying his killer instinct to lash home when played through in expert fashion.
Earnshaw showed great selflessness to allow Dexter Blackstock to roll home a rather soft penalty against his former side for the third prior to half time.
Despite a brief flurry Rangers allowed Chris Cohen the space to send a venomous strike beyond Carl Ikeme before James Perch rounded off the scoring from close range and further compound the misery.
On a day when Rangers offloaded their playoff credentials for an undisclosed fee, the Trees were triumphant once more.
Mick Harford wasted no time in turning to his newest captures, with both Nigel Quashie and Matt Hill starting for QPR at the City Ground.
Carl Ikeme lined up in goal behind a back four of Matt Connolly, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart and Hill with Fitz Hall once again dropping to the bench.
Routledge was succeeded by the debutante Quashie who partnered skipper Mikele Leigertwood in the middle, with Alejandro Faurlín moving wide and Ákos Buzsáky retaining his place on the left.
Adel Taarabt started behind the recalled Jay Simpson, with the strike-force threadbare following the departure of Patrick Agyemang to Bristol City.
Forest started with Lee Camp in goal alongside a back four of Chris Gunter, Wes Morgan and Kelvin Wilson with James Perch slotting in at left-back in place of the suspended Nicky Shorey.
Radosław Majewski started alongside talisman Paul McKenna in the middle with Paul Anderson and Chris Cohen foraging forward from wide areas.
Dexter Blackstock partnered Rob Earnshaw in attack with the likes of Nathan Tyson, Dele Adebola and David McGoldrick waiting in the wings.
Gunter – Wilson – Morgan – Perch
Anderson – McKenna – Majewski – Cohen
Blackstock – Earnshaw
Connolly – Stewart – Gork?s – Hill
Buzsáky – Quashie – Leigertwood – Faurlín
Kick Off: Nottingham Forest v Queens Park Rangers
It became immediately apparent that Rangers were going to be in for a tough time as the hosts attacked with great vigour from the offset, their great attacking talent was only matched by their outstanding defensive ability as they took the game to QPR.
The R’s could conjure little in riposte despite the efforts of Adel Taarabt from the middle of the park – indeed the fighting spirit of Forest penned Rangers back and left them with little room to build as mistakes become more apparent.
Smooth passing play saw a far post Chris Gunter cross knocked back by Radosław Majewski, but Paul McKenna could only strike wide of the target from the edge of the area. The R’s defence had to prove alert to deny James Perch with Damion Stewart blocking his cross for a corner.
The game was far from tempestuous, but the decision-making of the referee came under the spot-light when he gave two fouls in quick succession for either side. Similar incidents, one player booked – the forlorn Ákos Buzsáky.
Another soft decision saw Forest in with a good opportunity on the edge of the Rangers penalty area with Blackstock allegedly felled by skipper Leigertwood. The crowd grew in voice as they sensed their set-piece takers had more than enough in their locker to test Ikeme.
Majewski, McKenna and Earnshaw stood over the set-piece and it was the Welsh international Robert Earnshaw that curled a delightful right footed strike around the wall and into the top right hand corner.
The strike gave Ikeme little chance in the R’s goal as the roof was raised on the City Ground. Visiting supporters slumped back into their seats, as the chill felt all that more bitter and were left to contemplate coming from behind against an outstanding defence.
GOAL: Nottingham Forest 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
Forest were looking in rampant form, and Rangers weren’t helped by an suicidal high line against the sheer pace of the goalscorer. Indeed once a move from the visitors had broken down just minutes later Forest displayed their vast attacking prowess.
The R’s were looking for an equaliser and as debutante Quashie attempted to intercept a pass it fell kindly for Paul Anderson, who was all too easily able to roll through for Robert Earnshaw. The striker raced clear on goal before being faced by Ikeme.
The Wolves loanee came out to narrow the angle, but it mattered little as the forward slammed his effort into the left-hand corner to give what was surely now an unassailable lead. Forest once again setting a marker to the Championship’s front-runners.
GOAL: Nottingham Forest 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
Forest took their pedal off the gas for a moment as Taarabt was able to carve out QPR’s first chance of the game. Criticised earlier this season for keeping the ball too readily, he was encouraged to do it himself as he ran direct and shot straight at Camp between the sticks.
It was a hint of the threat that the R’s possessed but in the grand scheme of proceedings it was but a drop in the ocean as the hosts continued to dominate the clash.
The rampant Reds were thwarted by Ikeme after a truly impressive effort from Majewski from distance, with the ball being struck with great dip and venom on the volley as the ‘keeper beated the ball away.
More excellent work from Majewski saw Forest handed another opportunity as Earnshaw’s trickery forced a foul from Kaspars Gorkss – a little soft as the striker went over the outstretched leg but nevertheless a definitive decision from the maligned Mr Ilderton.
Earnshaw handed duties over to fellow forward Dexter Blackstock – despite being on a hatrick – and the former QPR front-man rolled home into the bottom left hand corner to once again give Ikeme no chance whatsoever.
GOAL: Nottingham Forest 3-0 Queens Park Rangers
A response was expected from Rangers in terms of play, but they offered very little in the way of chances or creativity as Forest dominated all parts of the field. Strong in possession and combative to retrieve any misplaced passes, they certainly looked every bit the title contenders.
A side hardly built by a glut of riches, but assembled with care and the backing of a committed chairman – they came together to produce a product of breathtaking simplicity and effectiveness, spurred on by skipper Paul McKenna a player every bit his role.
Contrast that with the questionable leadership skills in the Rangers ranks as Leigertwood saw another effort go amiss with a wayward effort with his weaker foot when well placed. Camp wasn’t troubled and seemed more interested in the Forest fans than the fixture – he had hardly had a worry in the first period.
The half was drawn to a close with Rangers very much on the back foot and looking like being on the end of lashing on the field as well as the changing room. Mick Harford had a job on his hands to salvage any pride from a truly pathetic first half spectacle.
Half Time: Nottingham Forest 3-0 Queens Park Rangers
Harford wasted no time in making changes to his side at half time, for the second game running. This time Buzsáky survived the cull as Damion Stewart and Alejandro Faurlín were hauled off for Peter Ramage and Hogan Ephraim.
It would take a comeback of epic proportions to reduce this deficit to a manageable scoreline, but Ephraim’s influence against Blackpool from the bench at least gave some comfort to a thoroughly disgruntled travelling support.
For a moment it seemed that QPR were capable of getting an early goal as Taarabt was brought down on the edge of the area. Buzsáky was over the ball, as was the Moroccan – but Quashie was used as the perfect foil but drilled his right-footed effort straight into the midriff of Camp.
While Rangers were proving they could play with a little heart, Forest were busy proving how capable they could be in front of goal and added a fourth, four minutes after the restart and it was with stunning simplicity once more.
Chris Cohen was allowed to roam straight through a static midfield, and remained unchallenged as he lashed a left-footed drive towards goal. Ikeme parried the ball into the roof of the net to kill the Rangers hope and kill the game.
GOAL: Nottingham Forest 4-0 Queens Park Rangers
There’s nothing quite like gallows humour however, with Rangers fans suddenly springing into life and the chant of ‘We’re gonna win 5-4’ started to resonate around the underpopulated away end. The fans that showed attempted to create some warmth with little else to enthuse them on the field.
Rangers’ best chance of the game then ensued as Connolly came close to an unprecedented two in two games only for the ball to be beaten away unconvincingly by Camp. It fell to the feet of Buzsáky whose woeful left-footed drive started wide and continued to travel wider, yet more poor technical execution from the Hungarian.
The fans continued to show their spirit and attempt to enjoy themselves, by shouting olé to every successful pass, and the players surprisingly responded in kind with a good passage of play to create a corner. From the resultant set piece, Gorkss headed straight at Camp from inside the area.
It was Forest who predictably finished the stronger with substitute Nathan Tyson tormenting Peter Ramage with some incredible pace and movement – while Wes Morgan was rested with Luke Chambers taking to the field.
It seemed a matter of time before Forest would add to their tally and the R’s defence seemed more than happy to help when – twice clearing straight to opposition players in useful positions before James Perch settled the move by firing home from close range inside the near post.
A lesson perhaps for Rangers as Forest reportedly rejected an approach from Newcastle United for his services, while ‘ambitious Rangers’ sell an asset in Routledge without a thought of the repercussions.
GOAL: Nottingham Forest 5-0 Queens Park Rangers
Five goals and Forest were worth every one, as isolated errors from all quarters contributed to Rangers downfall, as the host marched past the R’s without breaking sweat.
Rangers meanwhile had a reality check in their bid to make the playoffs, with some soul-searching questions surely being asked of the players after a performance that lacked the grit, determination and class of their opponents today.
Final Whistle: Nottingham Forest 5-0 Queens Park Rangers
Lee Camp, Chris Gunter, Wes Morgan (Luke Chambers 72), Kelvin Wilson, James Perch, Paul Anderson (Nathan Tyson 70), Paul McKenna, Radosław Majewski, Chris Cohen, Dexter Blackstock (Dele Adebola 80), Robert Earnshaw.
Queens Park Rangers
Carl Ikeme, Matt Connolly, Damion Stewart (Peter Ramage 46), Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Hill, Ákos Buzsáky, Mikele Leigertwood, Nigel Quashie, Alejandro Faurlín (Hogan Ephraim 46), Adel Taarabt, Jay Simpson (Rowan Vine 70).