QUEENS Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest played out a draw in an even game at Loftus Road.
In a game of two havles Rangers had the better of the opening half with the visitors Forest clawing their way back into the game in a tense second period.
The R`s opened the game in emphatic fashion with Mikele Leigertwood powering a left-footed drive past former QPR stopper Lee Camp.
A labouring second half display allowed the visitors to get a foothold on proceedings and David McGoldrick`s poachers effort was the least they deserved as the clock ticked down in W12.
Former Rangers Dexter Blackstock and the aforementioned Camp receive positive receptions from the home crowd but neither truly had a telling impact on the game with both sides having to settle for a point.
Jim Magilton responded to the midweek defeat against Bristol City by making three changes, with Patrick Agyemang and Akos Buzsaky dropping to the bench and strike-pair Heidar Helguson and Alessandro Pellicori starting in W12.
Fitz Hall was once again a starter alongside Damion Stewart with Kaspars Gorkss once again left out. Gary Borrowdale and Peter Ramage once again occupying their respective full-back berths. Wayne Routledge and Adel Taarabt played wide with Mikele Leigertwood and Alejandro Faurlín continuing in the middle and the returning duo Helguson and Pellicori starting up front.
Forest started with Ex-R Camp in goal along with the returning Luke Chambers and Wes Morgan at the heart of defence. New signings Joel Lynch and Chris Gunter played at full back with a midfield trio of Chris Cohen, Radoslaw Majewski and Paul McKenna.
The trio in the forward line are as talented as they come in the Championship with Joe Garner and David McGoldrick playing deeper of veteran forward Dele Adebola who reportedly turned down a deal to join QPR to sign the Tricky Trees. Former striker Dexter Blackstock had to make to with a place on the bench alongside other talented players of the calibre of Nathan Tyson and Robert Earnshaw.
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Nottingham Forest
The opening of the fixture promised much with both sides intent on playing attacking passing football. In an attempt to put their midweek disaster at home to Watford behind them, Forest started brightly in a bid to assert an early advantage.
Rangers pressed for the opening chance with Wayne Routledge looking in sprightly form as he attacked the Loftus Road end early in the game. Content to come inside Routledge was never cramped for space using his midfielders wisely to help create some early chances.
It was the visitors who threatened first on the counter-attack and QPR had Radek Cerny to thank for a tremendous double save. The goalkeeper who would have played second-fiddle to Lee Camp in the eyes of many fans last season pulled off a useful stop to deny Radoslaw Majewski after the Pole had beaten Fitz Hall for pace in behind.
The shot was beaten away by Cerny to his left, unfortunately into the onrushing Joe Garner. The former Carlisle United and Blackburn Rovers front-man surged towards the loose ball and slammed it towards the target with the Czech stopper making a good stop low and to his left.
Forest looked increasingly threatening on the break with a plethora of attacking talent recruited during the summer including the impressive McGoldrick who attacked the Rangers defence wide from the left. Adebola up front was more than a match for Hall and Stewart as he looked to continue his fine form against QPR.
Rangers were playing the ball about well with Alejandro Faurlín looking comfortable in his first home start. Adel Taarabt drifted in from the left to support the central midfielders and when his run was spotted by Borrowdale he opted to roll inside for Mikele Leigertwood. The former Crystal Palace and Sheffield United midfielder put his effort well over the bar, but the early signs were promising for both sides.
The first half was proving to be an edge of the seat encounter with Forest dishing out their share of attacking play. Chris Cohen, the equalising goalscorer in the reverse fixture last season, created some space in behind Peter Ramage before delivering a testing cross into the heart of the six-yard box.
The effort fizzed across the area narrowly evading both Adebola and Garner on the far post and letting a static rearguard off the hook with communication looking to be an issue between Cerny and his defenders.
Play quickly moved back to the other end with both defences getting little respite on a glorious summers` day at Loftus Road. Good work from strike duo Helguson and Pellicori bought some space for Taarabt. The Moroccan international rather snatched at his effort and placed wide of Camp`s left hand upright.
Pellicori was impressive in his first start for QPR, causing all manner of bother to Wes Morgan in the air and fighting for every challenge that came his way. The free transfer from Avellino had few chances but created openings for others with a great aerial prowess.
Taarabt was beginning to find his feet as his former Tottenham colleague Chris Gunter could have little response to his cameos of attacking talent. Cutting inside he found Wayne Routledge wide right and the former Villa man picked his cross to perfection.
The testing ball at the far post was tentatively cleared into the path of full back Gary Borrowdale. The unlikely candidate infront of goal, Borrowdale thrashed his effort over the bar from close range in a disappointing finish to a positive move.
Despite having a relatively quiet game, Leigertwood burst into life after 25 minutes as he bagged the opening goal of the game in emphatic fashion. In keeping with the entertainment of the clash Mikele Leigertwood cut inside from the right after receiving a throw in, before unleashing a venomous left-footed drive into the top right hand corner.
Lee Camp had no answer to the sensational drive, as the midfielder`s strike was worthy of separating two sides of such class.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Nottingham Forest
Fitz Hall was on the turf soon after with an injury complaint that has become synonymous with his time at Loftus Road. He played on in some discomfort, but with the talent of Kaspars Gorkss waiting in the wings Rangers could call upon great strength in depth to bolster their rearguard.
The entertaining attacking play was tempered somewhat as the half drew to a close. From QPR`s perspective they were protecting a goal lead for the second time this Championship season and were hoping for a better outcome than down in Plymouth.
Forest had their own ideas as they went in search of an equaliser. Majewski`s free kick stung the palms of R`s keeper Radek Cerny who showed great agility to get down low to his left and tip the Pole`s effort wide. In truth the effort was always drifting away from the target but nevertheless it was a useful stop.
As the half petered out Rangers could be very pleased with what was an entertaining opening period, combined with an excellent goal, while Forest were forced to contemplate yet another defeat in the Championship as they entered a big second half.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Nottingham Forest
A blow for Rangers came as Fitz Hall didn`t return for the second half as a precaution, Latvian international Kaspars Gorkss came on in his stead with a view to keeping an all-important first clean sheet of the campaign.
The killer instinct was something that evaded Rangers once more despite impressive build up play that has epitomised Magilton`s time at Loftus Road so far. More useful work by Taarabt on the counter-attack found Wayne Routledge cutting in from the right.
In turn the impressive winger laid a pass in for the debutante Pellicori, but the Italian`s finish was wayward as he placed into the side netting while under pressure from several Forest defenders. Had he hit the ball first time the outcome may have been different, but the amount of time taken to get the ball under control saw him swarmed by visiting defenders.
Rangers were content to sit deep and let Forest dictate the play, while doing a useful containing job on Adebola and McGoldrick who had established themselves as the front-two in a formation reshuffle.
Gorkss and Stewart seemed comfortable to snuff out their fledgling attacks with exciting substitute MacLeary unable to make an impact from his makeshift full back role. The majority of play belonged to Forest but like Rangers they appeared toothless up front.
Shortly before the hour mark Forest managed to work their way in behind Rangers and ultimately drew themselves level with only clear-cut opportunity thus far in the second period. While playing some neat football a long ball was enough for Forest to create an opening with Adebola knocking the ball into the path of David McGoldrick
The former Southampton man threw out an instinctive leg to slam the ball home from close range and give Radek Cerny no chance whatsoever. A defence that had proved effective throughout were undone by a moment of sheer simplicity.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Nottingham Forest
The goal suddenly woke Rangers into life as they had remained dormant for a large majority of the second period. Magilton threw on Rowan Vine in place of Alessandro Pellicori to partner Heidar Helguson in attack.
The Icelandic forward typified his afternoon by lumping a speculative dipping effort well over Camp`s right hand upright. An effort that typified the lack of direction and drive on the field as Forest took the wind out of Rangers` sails.
Adel Taarabt was withdrawn with a surprising smattering of boos from a minority of the Rangers crowd. It was clear that they wanted the Tottenham loanee to remain on the field along with his replacement, the popular midfielder Akos Buzsaky.
Rangers won a free-kick from the pernickety official Mr Linington who in truth was doing his best to ruin the encounter as a spectacle by giving a succession of odd, inconsistent decisions both ways. In truth he was happy to give the easy decisions which became infuriating for both sets of support.
Buzsaky strode up from 25 yards out with a wave of optimism hitting the supporters for the first time in a languid second half. His right-footed drive was comfortable for Camp low to his right as he beat it away.
Then came a glorious opportunity for Helguson to put the R`s infront but such is his level of performance at present he was left wanting when it mattered most – infront of the target.
Buzsaky carved out a cross from the right and Helguson had done well to evade his markers and work himself some space in the area. From a standing jump, the unmarked striker nodded back across goal and over the bar.
The replay screened above the away end did the Icelandic international no good whatsoever as the support had an opportunity to vent their views at another in a catalogue of disappointing misses.
The game itself was drawing to a disappointing close with the early excitement and attacking football tempered by the fact that neither side were willing to show their hand in the latter stages.
Forest threw on Dexter Blackstock in a bid to change their fortunes up front and in truth they looked the more likely to assert the advantage.
Indeed Blackstock missed a guilt-edge chance with minutes to go as he got in behind Damion Stewart and attempted to lift the ball over Cerny. The keeper made himself big and took the pace off the ball before Peter Ramage thundered the ball off the line.
A deserving point for both sides as Magilton will be undoubtedly disappointed at the minority of supporters who opted to boo their side off the pitch after a testing display against one of the pre-season favourites for a playoff position.
Full Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Nottingham Forest
Queens Park Rangers
Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Fitz Hall (Kaspars Gorkss 46), Damion Stewart, Gary Borrowdale, Wayne Routledge, Alejandro Damián Faurlín, Mikele Leigertwood, Adel Taarabt (Akos Buzsaky 66), Heidar Helguson, Alessandro Pellicori (Rowan Vine 61).
Lee Camp, Chris Gunter, Lewis Chambers, Wes Morgan, Joel Lynch (Garath MacLeary 46), Chris Cohen, Paul McKenna, Radoslaw Majewski, David McGoldrick (Nathan Tyson 75), Joe Garner, Dele Adebola (Dexter Blackstock 72).
Radek Cerny – 7/10
Did most of what he had to do correctly and made some excellent stops along the way to deny Majewski and Garner. Crossing wasn’t a key feature of Forest’s game as the opted to run direct but Cerny gobbled up or punched the crosses effectively as he saw fit.
He had more of a confident air about him today and looked composed throughout when claiming the crosses. There was nothing he could do about the goal but thwarted Forest a good couple of times.
Peter Ramage – 6/10
Not one of Peter’s more memorable games, and while he has improved in recent times he struggled against the pace of McGoldrick today and made some isolated defensive errors.
Backing of some of the pacier players can be tolerated at times, but when there’s cover in behind there is plenty of scope to go in for a challenge. This performance will not get him down though and he’ll be back to challenge next Saturday.
Fitz Hall – 7/10
Hall has received some criticism in recent times for sloppy mistakes that ultimately lead to goals but today his performance was clinical alongside Stewart.
A couple of early opportunities for Forest didn’t deter him and he battled well with Adebola in the air, and when you consider that the former Coventry man was tugging and pulling his counterpart then that is no mean feat for Fitz.
Damion Stewart 6/10
Stewart was once again preferred to Gorkss at the heart of the Rangers rearguard despite his pairing with Hall against Bristol City not managing to keep a clean sheet.
He cut out some key attacks in the second half but made a couple of key errors that nearly cost the R’s. He and Gorkss were left pondering as McGoldrick stole in for the equaliser.
Gary Borrowdale – 6/10
The left-back, like Ramage, put in a below-par display today as he struggled against pace in wide areas. The likes of McGoldrick and Garner gave him a stern test for pace and Gary was left lacking.
It wasn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination as he got forward and distributed well, but it could have been better and he will be looking for an improvement.
Wayne Routledge – 7/10
Routledge once again was a lively character on the right wing and deserved to be on a winning side today as he put Joel Lynch to the sword in the first half.
While some have questioned his effort and application in the past, he ran his socks off for the cause today and showed fans his capabilities. If only some of the others would have done their job as well.
Alejandro Faurlín – 7/10
The Argentinean showed his early intentions at Loftus Road with an accomplished display in the heart of midfield with intelligence a key part of his game.
He distributed the ball very well by and large and showed a cool head on such young shoulders in his distribution. He isn’t a flair player but he is a sensible player and maybe that game-changer the R’s have longed for in the middle of the park.
Mikele Leigertwood – 6/10
A stunning goal from Mikele Leigertwood to set the R’s on their way as he cut inside from the left and drilled a left-footed effort into the top corner – a memorable goal at Loftus Road.
That’s where it stopped for Rangers and Mikele, who proceeded to put in a poor second half and rarely found his man with a pass and perhaps should have been the one to leave the field for Buzsaky if Rangers had ambitions of the win.
Adel Taarabt – 7/10
While he was kept relatively quiet he was the one that the R’s looked to in order to create meaningful chances. He did this well to set up an opportunity for Borrowdale and looked bright whenever he had the ball.
The conundrum with Adel at the moment seems to be whether we harness his ability to support the team or let him play his natural game? On this evidence most of what he did, he did well, but he didn’t see enough of the ball to make significant in-roads.
Alessandro Pellicori – 7/10
Scarcely have I seen a player that wins nearly everything in the air for QPR – we’ve had tall strikers like Marc Nygaard but they never won as many flick-ons as Pellicori today.
Unfortunately for him his partner wasn’t wise to his flicks, which is more a team selection issue than his fault, but nevertheless the signs were promising for the Italian and he would have been gutted to have been taken off.
Heidar Helguson – 5/10
Heidar didn’t really show well today and was disappointing in terms of effort from my perspective. He never got himself into a goalscoring position or reacted well to Pellicori’s flick on’s.
I persistenty defend him but today I thought he let Jim and the side down. He needs to step up if he’s to keep his place in light of Vine and Agyemang and a potential new addition waiting in the wings.
SUB: Kaspars Gorkss – 6/10
Replaced Fitz Hall
It’s tough for any defender to step into a game and read it from the off but Kaspars did a decent job of slotting back into the rearguard in place of Fitz Hall.
He and Damion Stewart were at fault for the Forest goal as they switched off and allowed McGoldrick the freedom to poke home from close range. This was not the epitome of the man and I hope he comes in for Hall/Stewart against Accrington and Scunthorpe.
SUB: Rowan Vine – 6/10
Replaced Alessandro Pellicori
Vine came from the bench but didn’t really get going or prove himself as a viable option upfront – seemingly content to sit a little deeper on the toes of the midfielders and wide men.
Vine needs to sort out where he plays best – if he wants to play wide then Jim should give him that option on the left, but if he considers himself a striker, he won’t score goals sitting as deep as he did today.
Replaced Adel Taarabt
Looked the most useful of the three substitutes, forcing Lee Camp into a smart save low to his right from a free-kick.
When Buzsaky is tied to the flank he works well for the team, but is far more effective behind a striker in a role which Luigi De Canio deployed him back in 2007-8.