DERBY County edged QPR out in a close encounter in W12, their first win on the road in the league for over nearly 17 months.
The Rams last win as visitors came in March 2007 as they defeated Barnsley at Oakwell, and today they took the points with the game balanced on knife-edge.
Former West Bromwich Albion defender Martin Albrechtsen handed the Rams a lead when he struck through a crowd of players. The lead was doubled as the game drew to a close with substitute Emanuel Villa comfortably heading home from close range.
For Rangers attacking flair, they never really created any chances of note as Derby closed Rangers down and stifled their creativity. The persistent nervous performances of Radek Cerny and the withdrawal of Gavin Mahon will be major talking points as the R`s falter at home for the first time this season.
Rangers made a solitary change to the starting line-up that caused a cup shock at Aston Villa. Dexter Blackstock was recalled to the eleven at the expense of Patrick Agyemang. Matthew Connolly retained his place at right back, while Peter Ramage returned to the bench.
Derby started with the strike duo of Nathan Ellington and Rob Hulse, while Arsenal youngster Nacer Barazite started on the right flank. The industrious midfield duo of summer signing Paul Green and youth product Miles Addison would be set to provide a stern test for the R`s midfield trio.
Queens Park Rangers v Derby County
Derby started the game in a positive manner, taking the game to Rangers and forcing the hosts to start on the back foot. Martin Albrechtsen`s header was all the clear cut chances they could muster in the opening stages, the ball was held well by Radek Cerny.
Rangers took a while to get into their stride as the Rams sought to confound their away day woes, the aforementioned Cerny was called into action once more, and looked extremely nervous as he palmed away catchable crosses, but to their credit the home faithful attempted to pick up the forlorn stopper. They could be forgiven for thinking what on earth former Derby stopper Lee Camp was doing warming the bench on this evidence.
Finally the R`s carved out an opportunity as Martin Rowlands` accomplished long-range pass found Emmanuel Ledesma down the right flank. The Argentinean cut inside purposefully before placing a tame left-footed shot wide of the mark.
Good interplay between Daniel Parejo and Dexter Blackstock saw the striker`s cross find Rowlands in the six yard box, but the Irish international`s header was misguided and flew wide of Carroll`s right hand upright.
Former Plymouth Argyle full back Paul Connolly fizzed a wonderfully timed cross in from the right by-line, which managed to evade everyone and give Rangers a lucky break. The potent strike force of Rob Hulse and Nathan Ellington were proving a real handful for the Rangers defensive unit, combined with the attacking guile and flair of Arsenal loanee Nacer Barazite, the R`s were on the back foot.
Loftus Road was waiting for the net to bulge on 22 minutes, only for a miraculous match-saving tackle by Paul Connolly. More good interplay from Rowlands and Ledesma found Parejo bearing down on goal, he looked up and saw former Ram Dexter Blackstock in the box, but with the goal at his mercy he was thwarted by Connolly.
Rangers fans were growing frustrated as Derby continued to pile on the pressure with Damion Stewart and Fitz Hall doing their best to deal with oncoming tirade of attacks as the Rams continued to get in behind their respective full backs. Radek Cerny inexplicably dropped a ball with no-one around him, as the sun got in the Czech stoppers eyes. The fast thinking and reactions of Martin Rowlands averted disaster in this instance.
Stephen Pearson forced Cerny into a decent save after breaking free down the right flank, before another Cerny save nearly presented another goal scoring opportunity – as he palmed a ball at point blank range out to the onrushing Ellington, Delaney was on hand to sweep the ball away for a corner.
Fitz Hall was once again at full stretch again to deny Derby County, Gavin Mahon was dispossessed in the midfield; former Doncaster Rovers man Paul Green slotted the ball through to Hulse, but Hall was alert to slide in and disposes the former Sheffield United man magnificently.
Rangers did have a fleeting chance towards the end of the first half as Emmanuel Ledesma, he teed himself up well before producing a mediocre volley which failed to trouble former Manchester United stopper Roy Carroll.
With that the first half drew to a close, in which the visitors dictated the tempo and Rangers looked a shadow of the side that beat Aston Villa during the week. The Rams couldn`t convert their chances where as Rangers were coming up against similar frustrations as against Coventry, with no scything pass and no killer instinct with which to unlock a stubborn Derby rearguard.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Derby County
Rangers began the second half in a more positive fashion with Emmanuel Ledesma`s well crafted chance saw him cut inside and curl a left-footed effort, which deflected off Paul Connolly and struck the right hand upright – from the resultant set-piece Ledesma fired a technically sound volley inches over Roy Carroll`s bar, in truth the stopper had it covered.
The Rangers defence was still having to cope with the powerful attack of Hulse and Ellington, with Fitz Hall once again at his best to deny Rob Hulse a glimpse at goal and Dowie threw on Lee Cook in place of Akos Buzsaky. The Magical Magyar was evidently struggling in an unfamiliar role of left-midfield, and Rangers were lacking the genuine width that Cook can provide.
Derby were beginning to turn the screw on their hosts as Paul Green`s shot from distance was well held by Cerny low and to his right, before Damion Stewart`s excellent tackle denied Rob Hulse, who found the afternoon an exercise in frustration.
Martin Rowlands was living up to his billing as the Vital QPR man to watch for the fixture, as he got in behind the right flank on a couple occasions, in this instance he found Blackstock, whose hopeful effort came back off the post and Carroll managed to throw out an arm to palm it away.
Gavin Mahon was withdrawn for Rangers in a surprising move by manager Iain Dowie. Mikele Leigertwood replaced the former Watford man, in a risky move that was presumably designed to give Mahon a rest.
Barazite nearly handed Derby a crucial lead, as some poor possessional play from Rangers in their own area saw the ball make its way wide right, Barazite was bearing down on goal but somehow he failed to take his chance, firing the ball over Cerny`s bar to the bemusement of the travelling fans.
Miles Addison epitomised the Derby performance, when he was given space and time in the position which Gavin Mahon was previously occupying to drill a 25 yard blockbuster which clipped the top of the bar. The tide the game was beginning to tell as the R`s were being forced to cling on.
In a bid to get a foothold back in the game, Dowie withdrew Emmanuel Ledesma with ten minutes remaining, in place of striker Patrick Agyemang, who started the game midweek against Villa. Two strikers were being deployed up front for the first time in this encounter.
But it was two set pieces that was the R`s downfall at the death of this fixture, both criminal marking, as Derby broke the deadlock with 10 minutes remaining. Youth product Miles Addison`s corner found Martin Albrechtsen unmarked in the area, and the defender made no mistake, dispatching into the bottom right hand corner despite the attentions of Damion Stewart on the line.
Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Derby County
Rangers attempted to desperately get a foothold back in the game, but never really looked like threatening the Rams rearguard. A woeful effort from distance from Daniel Parejo was all the R`s could muster, as he blazed high and wide from the edge of the area.
Moments later the game was done courtesy of another set-piece. Nacer Barazite`s corner picked out Emmanuel Villa in the six-yard box, and the Argentinean did the rest, nodding home from close range, with Cerny firmly rooted to his line.
Queens Park Rangers 0-2 Derby County
And with that the game itself was done, a game that was balanced on a knife-edge whilst 0-0, but ultimately Derby were the deserved victors, as a section of Rangers support booed their side off. On a glorious day at Loftus Road, the sun was shining on The Rams for the first time in 17 months.
Full Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-2 Derby County
Rangers: Radek Cerny, Damien Delaney, Damion Stewart, Gavin Mahon (Mikele Leigertwood 70), Fitz Hall, Daniel Parejo, Dexter Blackstock, Akos Buzsaky (Lee Cook 55), Martin Rowlands, Matthew Connolly, Emmanuel Ledesma (Patrick Agyemang 77).
Derby County: Carroll, Connolly, Green, Stewart, Ellington (Villa 76), Hulse, Leacock, Addison, Barazite (Davies 83), Pearson, Albrechtsen.
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Radek Cerny – 4/10
Radek has put in a string of poor performances of late, and despite encouragement from sections of the Rangers crowd, he was all over the place at times, and didn`t inspire confidence in his defenders. The fact we have a younger goalkeeper who is ultimately better sitting on the bench, it does seem strange he hasn`t had a sniff yet.
Matthew Connolly – 6/10
Connolly did ok today, and his distribution was good along with his tackling. He was left over-exposed at times with Ledesma not tracking back. He won a lot of balls in the air in tricky conditions but was given a tough time on the ground by some clever wingwork.
Damien Delaney – 6/10
Delaney was also a decent performer, as he looked to get forward, but perhaps was a little keen to knock the ball long when it clearly wasn`t working. He had a tough customer in Barazite, who got in behind Damien far too often, as pace continues to remain a weakness for the full-back.
Fitz Hall – 7/10
Performed very well against two tough players in the air and managed to snuff out a lot of attacks. Made a few last ditch tackles to stop Derby from scoring, but ultimately it counted for nothing. The Hall/Stewart partnership continues to flourish as the full back positions are in need of a bit more depth.
Damion Stewart – 8/10
Stewart was once again the outstanding player on the park. He managed to save a few chances at point blank range, and appeared to be playing the Rams on his own at times. He really has improved as a player and is the first name on the team sheet in my opinion.
Emmanuel Ledesma – 6/10
Some very predictable stuff from Ledesma as he persistently cut inside in search of other options. The touchline was gaping for him to dart down it and get his cross away, an option the Argentinean never contemplated. Rangers were lacking width and Ledesma was one of the reasons for this.
Akos Buzsaky – 6/10
Played out of position once again on the left flank, as it cried out for a left-footed player. Buzsaky`s performance was OK for a central midfielder, but considering he was supposed to be playing wide left he offered the R`s very little width as the play was condensed in the middle.
Gavin Mahon – 7/10
He was excellent in the midfield battle as he continued to link up well with Lee Cook. Another one of the R`s more effective players, Mahon began to make things tick in the middle before he was withdrawn by Iain Dowie for whatever reason. Mahon left the field at 0-0, which says it all really.
Martin Rowlands – 7/10
Looked industrious in the middle of the park as he attempted to get the play going. Alot of balls sailed over his head but Rowlands sought to get the ball down and play. Again he comes out of the game with some credit after a battling display.
Daniel Parejo – 6/10
Parejo has an abundance of talent as his performances show glimpses of a quality midfielder. Today however these moments were used sparingly as he persistently gave the ball away, and looked quite lazy and lethargic as he sat deep, before sending a poorly timed shot over the bar late on. Parejo has a class performer in him, but he must work harder to reap the rewards.
Dexter Blackstock – 6/10
Worked his socks off up front on his own, and it became clear that he needed a strike partner. Dexter was showing a lot of effort and willing in his performance but nevertheless only a couple of half chances came his way.
Sub: Lee Cook – 7/10
Replaced Akos Buzsaky
At lat some creativity took to the field as Cookie got down the left flank in a decent five minute spell to deliver some quality crosses for the likes of Blackstock to attack. Such simple interplay saw the R`s create opportunities, but unfortunately few and far between. Once again came inside an awful lot and looked more effective round the outside.
Sub: Mikele Leigertwood
Replaced Gavin Mahon
If this decision was tactical, it was an absolute blunder by Dowie to bring Leigertwood on. Legs enjoys the freedom of going forward, where as Mahon was the only thing stopping Derby from breaking the resistance – Not long after Mahon was withdrawn Rangers had lost the game.
Replaced Emmanuel Ledesma
Never really made much of an impact on proceedings as the R`s creativity was stifled, there was very little opportunity to do so. The R`s never used his pace and power like they did against Southampton as Pat became largely ineffective and anonymous.
Iain Dowie: 6/10 – If Dowie withdrew Mahon for tactical reasons, it would have been an absolute blunder. Mahon was missing for the Sheffield United game as the R`s were demolished, and surely he would have learned his lesson. If was a gamble on Dowie`s part that didn`t pay off, other than that the R`s played decent football in spells but resorted to the long ball far too often.
Paul Jewell: 7/10 – Jewell did well today as his side took a game that was well balanced. An early barrage of attacks set their intentions for the game as they rightfully went on to win. He has had a lot of heartache as Derby boss, but he`ll enjoy this one.
Mr. A Taylor: 4/10 – A poor display from an inexperienced official. Taylor lost control of the game, and some inexplicable time-wasting by Derby was not stamped down on early enough. Not that it mattered in the end, but a pitiful minute in the first half and three in the second were certainly not reflected in the stoppages.