QUEENS Park Rangers once again choked at home as Mick Harford’s selection gambit ultimately failed against Ipswich Town.
The R’s were lucky to go into the break only two goals down after David Norris’ deflected effort gave the Tractor Boys the lead, before an incredible guilt-edge miss from Darryl Murphy.
The former Rangers target atoned for his error to place home unmarked from close range as the hosts threatened to completely implode in front of a Loftus Road crowd baying for blood.
To his credit Mick Harford changed things at half time and the performances of Ákos Buzsáky and Adel Taarabt pushed Rangers into a positive second period.
A close range effort from Jay Simpson epitomised the importance of his selection while the lively Lee Cook contributed to a more entertaining second half.
Nevertheless it’s another worrying home defeat as Harford needs to select his best players, and they in turn need to play for longer than isolated periods of the second half.
Troubled Rangers are slipping fast towards the Championship drop-zone and despite brief glimmers of hope this evening, going two goals down is not the way to save their present plight.
Mick Harford made three enforced changes to the side that lost against Peterborough at the weekend with Peter Ramage and Mikele Leigertwood suspended, while Tamás Priskin ineligible to face his former side.
Carl Ikeme started in goal behind a back four of Matt Connolly, Damion Stewart, Kaspars Gorkss and Matt Hill – with Stewart slotting in at centre half and Connolly moving to right full-back.
Hogan Ephraim and Lee Cook started on the flanks while Alejandro Faurlín and Nigel Quashie continued through the middle with Marcus Bent partnered by the returning Jay Simpson.
Ipswich started with Arran Lee-Barrett in goal behind central defensive partnership of Damien Delaney, Gareth McAuley with Grant Leadbitter partnered by David Norris in the middle.
The Tractor Boys could look to the strike pairing of Darryl Murphy and Pablo Counago with David Healy and Jon Stead ready to come from the bench.
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Ipswich Town
Rangers supporters were given the opportunity to pay tribute to former director and life president Harold Winton who sadly passed away after a long battle with cancer yesterday – the minutes silence was immaculately deserved by all.
The passion and fight that he showed certainly wasn’t in evidence on the field as Rangers attempted to stop the rot against now relegation rivals Ipswich Town, the draw specialists finding themselves in a perilous position just one point off the drop zone.
The R’s were looking very lacklustre in the opening stages as Town took the game to the demotivated hosts – Gareth McAuley in particular went close in the early offing with a close range header initially parried then gathered by ‘keeper Carl Ikeme.
Rangers were not showing the grit and determination that was in evidence in the latter stages of the defeat against Peterborough and the Tractor Boys were able to pick holes in the midfield at will. Grant Leadbitter orchestrating proceedings from the middle of the park.
He and David Norris were proving an industrious pairing in the heart of the Town midfield, seemingly able to scythe open the Rangers side at will. The work yielded the desired outcome approaching the ten minute mark as the visitors opened the scoring.
A useful pass from Walters down the right saw David Norris let the ball roll across his body with acres of space on the edge of the area. He wasted little time in lashing a left-footed effort goal-bound, it skipped up off the outstretched leg of Kaspars Gorkss and into the bottom left-hand corner.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Ipswich Town
If it couldn’t get much worse for Rangers, loan striker Marcus Bent was forced to limp off moments after the restart. He appeared to be holding his calf as he left the field, to the great delight of the travelling support, and was replaced by Rowan Vine.
Vine almost made an instant impact on proceedings after picking up the ball from Lee Cook down the left – the former Birmingham City front-man crossed for Jay Simpson, who stooped to head inexplicably over the cross-bar from close range.
It appeared to be a costly miss for a Rangers side that was struggling to find its feet in both a combative and creative sense. Passes were going astray, tackles weren’t being timed and ultimately it made for grim viewing for the QPR supporters.
If the first goal wasn’t enough of an eye-opener for the defensive department, then maybe an incredible miss from Murphy would turn the distracted head of a forlorn rearguard. The Irishman was quick to a rebound from an instinct Ikeme stop, but could only place straight at the floored stopper yards from the goal-line.
It was a genuine let off for QPR, and a timely reminder to Ipswich boss Roy Keane of his side’s frailties mid-way through the first half. The initial unchallenged header from Norris will no doubt have worried Harford and R’s supporters who saw their side imploding before their eyes.
Alejandro Faurlín managed to bustle his way through the stubborn Ipswich defence for a moment, and appeared to be winning his battle for goal before an outstretched leg took the ball and denied the Argentine his opportunity.
If Murphy’s initial miss was glaring then the latest in his repertoire would have even the most loyal of Town fans tearing their hair out. Matt Connolly was caught ball watching and allowed Walters to step in front and play a neat back-heel into the path of Murphy.
The Sunderland loanee sized up his options outside the six-yard box before pulling his shot wide of the right hand post. A miss that R’s fans would have hoped could have provided them with the impetus to try and get back in the clash – but in truth the final nail was fired firmly in the coffin moments later.
Once again the Rangers side was carved open with such ease and precision, as Jack Colback showed with great simplicity how very simple it was to get the better of the R’s rearguard before sliding back for the unmarked Darryl Murphy – and it was third time lucky for the Irishman.
He ran towards the front-post and nailed a left-footed effort beyond Carl Ikeme and held his finger to his lips to silence his doubters as Rangers gave the Irishman one chance too many.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 0-2 Ipswich Town
After the second goal had hit the back of the net you could be forgiven for thinking this could be a rout, but Hogan Ephraim’s first foray into the Ipswich half almost culminated in a goal. His free-kick was once again header over the bar, this time by Jamaican defender Damion Stewart.
The Town fans that populated the Upper School End were beginning to enjoy themselves. Not only were they crucial in taking the crowd above the biting point of 10,000 – but they orchestrated the Rangers chanting.
‘Sack the Board’ emanated from the away end, and the R’s fans responded in kind – and Mr Briatore was up and out once more – whoever had 45 minutes on the sweepstake is now a winner so congratulations to you.
Rangers were booed off for one of the poorest displays seen at Loftus Road this season, and indeed for a number of seasons. Lacklustre doesn’t begin to describe the attitude of many and it would take an impeccable teamtalk from manager Mick Harford to turn the occasion.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-2 Ipswich Town
Harford wasted little time in making the final adjustments to his team with Hogan Ephraim and Nigel Quashie replaced with Ákos Buzsáky and Adel Taarabt – the latter sensationally not a starter despite being eligible for selection.
The changes proved effective as Rangers went straight on the offensive – a slide rule pass through to Simpson found him in a little space on the right hand side of the area, his powerful effort was parried away by Lee-Barrett.
Murphy once again tried his luck from distance but Ikeme was once again equal to the effort, parrying before gathering at the second attempt following more useful work from Walters – a goal scorer for Magilton’s town at Loftus Road last season.
Buzsáky was looking more creative since his introduction from the bench, and only a fortuitous clearance could save Ipswich’s blushes as his free-kick threatened the Town target only for a head to loop it over the bar.
Town – sensing the growing tide of home pressure – were content to buy as many seconds as possible on set-pieces, goal kicks and injuries. Matt Hill summed up the plight of Rangers when slicing a ball out of play when trying to be sporting and roll the ball back to Lee-Barrett.
It was a mark of the lack of the visitors’ confidence that they felt they needed to time-waste when playing against what was a truly poor Queens Park Rangers side – but the hosts managed to buy themselves a life-line in an improved second half.
Shortly after the hour mark, Rangers reaped the rewards for a useful second half opening with Buzsáky once again involved. His free-kick was only half cleared to Cook whose return effort fell to Jay Simpson in the area.
The Arsenal loanee displayed his excellent poachers prowess that eluded him in the first period, to fire home on the spin from close range – Loftus Road rose to its feet more in hope than expectation, a side playing as badly as it had done in the first period had a foot-hold on proceedings.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-2 Ipswich Town
Town had introduced David Healy and Liam Roseinor to the fold in a bid to freshen up their options in the important areas of the pitch. The latter nearly produced the sucker-punch against the R’s who had displayed a new-found resilience and resolve in the second half.
Roseinor received from Healy before laying the ball on a plate for David Norris – the former Plymouth Argyle man rivalling his team-mate Murphy for miss of the season in an Ipswich horror show in front of goal – placing wide inside the six-yard box.
Undeterred the hosts plugged away for their equaliser, with Adel Taarabt providing the guile and flair that Rangers desired in the opening period. His trickery and skill was providing great impetus and nearly forced Damien Delaney to roll past his own keeper.
The former R’s defender put so much effort into his clearance when rushing back towards goal he thumped it inches wide of the far post, while Argentine Faurlín placed straight at Lee-Barrett with a tired shot inside the area.
Simpson nearly got himself what would have been a priceless brace only to be denied once again by a determined ‘keeper in Lee-Barrett, as the first half performance from QPR yielded its just deserts, absolutely nothing.
It was clear from the first half that the R’s season was only going one way – but in a second half that stirred the supporters, it may well have been enough to keep Mick Harford his job for another week at least.
One thing is for certain if Rangers cannot stem the tide of growing tide of defeats against some of the division’s poorest teams, they are only going one way. Ipswich are second only to Peterborough for fewest victories and both have notched maximums against Rangers with consummate ease.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 1-2 Ipswich Town
Queens Park Rangers
Carl Ikeme, Matt Connolly, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart, Matt Hill, Hogan Ephraim (Adel Taarabt 46), Nigel Quashie (Ákos Buzsáky), Alejandro Faurlín, Lee Cook, Marcus Bent (Rowan Vine 10), Jay Simpson.
Arran Lee-Barrett, Damien Delaney, Gareth McAuley, Jamie Peters, Owen Garvan (Liam Roseinor 65), Jon Walters, Grant Leadbitter, David Norris, Jack Colback, Darryl Murphy (Jon Stead 85), Pablo Counago (David Healy 65).