QUEENS Park Rangers somehow claimed all three points despite an utterly forgettable display against Watford at Loftus Road.
Neil Warnock’s men managed a victory in workman-like fashion as the Hornets slip closer to the relegation mire.
Ákos Buzsáky’s 38th minute penalty was enough to separate the sides on the evening where enterprise and initiative took back seat to endeavour and grit.
The biggest cheer of the evening was in fact seeing an aeroplane fly over the Ellerslie Road stand, as Watford pressed the R’s hard for the majority of the evening.
The distinct positive was the performance of Peter Ramage who was a colossus throughout in his central defensive berth, with both teams resorting to route-one football.
It will matter little to Neil Warnock who hailed the defenders after the final whistle, as he eyes an undefeated end to the Championship campaign.
Much was made about the possible team selections ahead of the clash with Warnock supposedly opting for youth – but only two changes were made to the line-up that were defeated by Cardiff.
Rowan Vine and Antonio German came in for Tamás Priskin and Jay Simpson in a fresh attacking approach from the R’s boss.
Radek Cerny started behind a back four of Mikele Leigertwood, Peter Ramage, Kaspars Gorkss and Dusko Tosic, with Alejandro Faurlín and Ákos Buzsáky starting in the middle.
Hogan Ephraim, Vine and Adel |Taarabt started behind lone striker German as Rangers sought to bounce back from Warnock’s first home defeat.
Watford meanwhile began with Scott Loach behind Lee Hodson, Martin Taylor, Dale Bennett and Adrian Mariappa with a midfield of Stephen McGinn, Ross Jenkins, John Eustace and Jon Harley.
Arsenal loanee Henri Lansbury sat behind lone forward Danny Graham in attack with QPR forward Heidar Helguson ineligible.
Leigertwood – Ramage – Gorkss – Tosic
Buzsáky – Faurlín
Ephraim – Vine – Taarabt
Hodson – Taylor – Bennett – Mariappa
McGinn – Eustace – Jenkins – Harley
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Watford
A spring evening in W12 welcomed the two sides to the field of play with Rangers now certain of their Championship status, there were pre-match hopes that this would relax some of the tension among the players and enable them to return to a free-flowing style.
There were visibly fewer numbers in the crowd but evidently there were more in the away end than Cardiff brought from South Wales at the weekend – for some reason however the Hornets were unable to fill their School End allocation in this crucial encounter.
It wasn’t long before the game descended into a real thud and blunder encounter with Watford searching for that much-needed tonic to propel themselves from the relegation places. A win for the visitors would go a long way to securing Championship football for the Hornets.
Rangers meanwhile were being closed down and shut-out in the early stages, with the usually educated feet of Adel Taarabt unable to pick the lock of a stubborn defence marshalled well by former QPR target Martin Taylor.
Taarabt’s corner moments later nearly gave Rangers the impetus to go in front with the Moroccan’s set-piece falling to Ákos Buzsáky on the edge of the area, but the Hungarian international could only drill wide on the volley.
Watford sought the attacking prowess of Danny Graham on the counter-attack, with Henri Lansbury foraging away in behind and searching for weaknesses in the R’s back-line. Fortunately for Rangers Peter Ramage and Kaspars Gorkss were holding firm in the early stages.
Buzsáky was the man to watch however as he put behind him the happenings in the Vicarage Road dressing room to force a useful save from Scott Loach. The Hungarian stepped up 35-yards from goal before rifling a dipping right-footed drive that was tipped away by the Hornets stopper.
While Rangers were looking the more positive of the two sides, their efforts were speculative. Not least Alejandro Faurlín audacious right-footed volley that found its way into the upper tier of the School End, following a poor clearance from the visiting defence.
The game had long since descended into mediocrity with chances few and far between. Indeed all Radek Cerny had to do in a relatively quiet first period, owing to some useful defending and leadership by central defender Ramage.
The Czech stopper was called off his line a few times by the former Newcastle United man while claiming a testing free-kick from Lansbury that was delivered deep into the Rangers penalty area.
It was becoming rapidly evident that both clubs were looking for that goal to get a foot-hold on a relatively scrappy affair in W12. Luckily for the hosts it was soon offered to them on a plate courtesy of a penalty decision.
Serbian international Dusko Tosic latched onto a pass from Rowan Vine only to be hauled back in the area by Adrian Mariappa. Having previously booked a player for what was deemed a dive it was anyone’s guess as to what Mr Miller would give.
Fortunately for QPR he pointed to the spot and Ákos Buzsáky stepped forward to take the kick. He rolled the ball into the bottom left-hand corner sending ‘keeper Loach the wrong way to hadn Rangers a crucial advantage.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Watford
Something rather strange happened moments later with Adel Taarabt visibly uncomfortable with his presence on the field. In a similar situation for Saturday he was signalling to the bench that he wanted to be substituted.
There didn’t appear to be an injury to the Moroccan who had received some criticism from fans of late for a perceived lack of vision going forward, and he trudged down the tunnel without sharing a glance with supporters and Lee Cook came on in his stead.
Cook received his customary reception from Watford supporters, and in turn the Rangers fans rallied to support their fellow fan. He watched on however as German did outstandingly to combine with Vine but the forward lofted his cross to the invisible man on the far post.
A first half was drawn to a close among two sets of thoroughly disappointed supporters, nevertheless the primary concern was achieving three points for Neil Warnock and things were going according to plan from that perspective with the R’s a goal to the good.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Watford
The R’s saw the same two men combine following the break with German and Vine linking well down the left, for the latter once again to fire a centre across the box forcing Mariappa into a last ditch challenge to thwart the hosts.
The atmosphere had visibly dipped in all areas of the ground, not least in the home areas where the cries of anguish every time possession was yielded were clearly audible and the issue of ball retention came to the fore.
Mikele Leigertwood was a particularly culprit but he certainly wasn’t on his own as Watford pressed the ball following their sensible double change from the off at the break. Stephen McGinn and Dale Bennett were replaced by Marvin Sordell and Lloyd Doyley.
Watford were creating their opportunities with an excellent block by a combination of Cerny and Ramage thwarting the lively substitute Sordell from the off. Moments later however Watford should have had the leveller.
Sordell worked his way down the flank to great effect before crossing for Danny Graham, but the former Middlesbrough and Carlisle United forward could only glance his header wide of the right-hand upright in a glorious opening.
It appeared however that the R’s best friends were the two linesmen with all too frequently the Hornets forward-line being caught out by an excellent line held by Ramage and Gorkss who in turn marshalled their full-backs well.
Radek Cerny was soon in the thick of the action once more as Watford started to force the issue. His stop to thwart Graham when one on one stated the importance of the Czech ‘keeper and saw Hornets fans holding their heads in disbelief.
It became quickly obvious that Rangers would have some serious defending to do and the long, high balls were like a magnet to the heads of Peter Ramage and Kaspars Gorkss who were colossi throughout the second period.
The danger came in width and the fact that Rangers were struggling to hold the ball in the forward line. Buzsáky was then replaced by young debutante Joe Oastler and German departed for Arsenal loanee Jay Simpson.
Immediately Rangers looked more lively going forward and a good reverse pass from Vine found Simpson lurking inside the area. He broke the offside trap but a poor first touch saw him go wide and saw his effort saved by Loach for a corner.
Michael Bryan took to the field for the Hornets – the young wide-man impressing against Leicester despite the thumping defeat. He took the place of Ross Jenkins and looked enterprising from the off. He was watched well by Tosic however who snuffed out the majority of his attacks.
In a second half bereft of genuine attacking threat and cutting edge, indeed any genuine quality lacked as the referee somehow discovered four minutes of injury time. There was a rare moment for cheer though as an aeroplane was spotted flying over the Ellerslie Road stand.
That was as good as it got as the only consolation Rangers can take from what was described as a ‘professional’ display was three points, while Watford only have the consolation that two of their rivals play on the final day to leave them well-poised for safety.
The fact that Rangers managed to secure the points was more of an indictment of Watford than Rangers, as despite playing against relatively poor and lacklustre opposition the Hornets came up short once more on the road.
Full Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Watford
Queens Park Rangers
Radek Cerny, Mikele Leigertwood, Peter Ramage, Kaspars Gorkss, Dusko Tosic, Alejandro Damián Faurlín, Ákos Buzsáky (Joe Oastler 71), Hogan Ephraim, Rowan Vine, Adel Taarabt (Lee Cook 41), Antonio German (Jay Simpson 73)
Scott Loach, Lee Hodson, Dale Bennett (Lloyd Doyley 46), Martin Taylor, Adrian Mariappa, Stephen McGinn (Marvin Sordell 46), Ross Jenkins, John Eustace, Jon Harley, Henri Lansbury, Danny Graham.