QUEENS Park Rangers hit a blip in their quest for promotion after being brought back down to earth by basement side Scunthorpe United.
A tale of top versus bottom always conjures up its share of surprises and action and after the Iron’s thumping defeat against Norwich City last week, they came back with a vengeance.
Rangers struck first in a lively opening when surprise inclusion Rob Hulse netted following useful work wide right from Wayne Routledge.
That was as good as it got for the run-away leaders who saw themselves pegged back by a Joe Garner header – the culmination of a string of questionable decisions by official Mr Ilderton.
After the break Garner completed his brace after more questionable defending by the Rangers back-line, while Michael O’Connor’s stunning strike handed the victory to the Iron.
Insult to injury followed as a Clint Hill error was punished by Chris Dagnall and Mark Duffy slotted home from close range to compound the misery.
A day that started so well ended with Queens Park Rangers looking to Barnsley for a rapid response after a rare slip up against the Iron.
Rangers made three changes from the side that beat Sheffield United with Adel Taarabt, Heidar Helguson and Kaspars Gorkss the trio to drop out of the starting eleven.
Paddy Kenny started behind a back four of Bradley Orr, Danny Shittu, Fitz Hall and Clint Hill with Alejandro Faurlín and Shaun Derry featuring in the middle of the park.
Tommy Smith, Wayne Routledge and Hogan Ephraim played just behind Rob Hulse – a surprise inclusion considering his omission from the squad in recent games.
Scunthorpe started with Joe Murphy in goal behind a back four of Andy Hughes, Michael Nelson, David Mirfin and Ben Gordon.
Mark Duffy, Michael O’Connor, Sam Togwell and Ramon Nunez started across midfield with Joe Garner and Chris Dagnall earning their starting places in the forward line.
Kick Off: Scunthorpe United v Queens Park Rangers
Glorious weather conditions greeted the two sides in North Lincolnshire as Glanford Park was bathed in sunshine on what promised to be a key afternoon at both ends of the npower Championship table. The distinctive loss of Adel Taarabt would be telling on their hopes for the afternoon, but quite how telling would remain to be seen.
The visiting support from West London was plentiful as around 2,000 travelling fans hoped to see their table-topping QPR continue their fine run of form against a Scunthorpe side whose recent defeats served to compound their plight at the foot of the table.
While the attacking endeavour was in the favour of the visiting side, the hosts were not without their opportunities in the early stages. Joe Garner tricked his way past Dan Shittu and Fitz Hall before going to ground under the challenge of the latter.
The referee gave neither a penalty nor encouraged Garner to his feet – in truth what could have been a decisive moment passed him by and Rangers were able to regroup and assert their attacking impetus on the fixture.
Wayne Routledge was looking to continue where he left off against Sheffield United and after being picked out by Alejandro Faurlín the Newcastle United loanee was able to create some space for Hulse – only for the misfiring forward to nod over the bar.
Hulse was able to bring others into play however after holding the ball up effectively and contributing to an onrushing Ephraim. The ex-West Ham United man stroked wide of the right hand upright when well-placed as Rangers continued to play positively.
Despite their superior attacking style Rangers were looking a shadow of their former selves at the back. This could be attributed to the surprising switch that saw Kaspars Gorkss drop out entirely at the expense of Shittu.
A team that predominantly play on the ground it was a decision that raised a few eyebrows as Shittu’s positives evidently lie in the aerial battle. It only served to destabilise the defensive unit with Dagnall and Garner dropping into useful gaps.
Rangers however, were displaying the key reason as to why they are the team to chase this campaign. Out of relatively little the visitors took the lead and it was a move once again carved out by the educated boots of Routledge.
Midfield grafter Shaun Derry laid the ball wide for the wing-wizard whose teasing cross was netted effortlessly by Rob Hulse for only his second of the current campaign and his first since the turn of the year.
GOAL: Scunthorpe United 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
While the majority of the attacking play belonged to the visiting side, the aforementioned fragility of the defensive unit was proving the only distinctive drawback in a useful beginning. They nearly had their second when Routledge once again proved the thorn in the side.
Ephraim broke away from his marker to send an excellent cross-field pass to the R’s loanee. A delightful chip from Routledge had Joe Murphy stumbling backwards, however he was able to pluck the ball over the bar to the relief of the home support.
Faurlín was next to try his luck and should have done better with his opportunity from close range. Hall’s knock-down from a Smith corner saw the Argentinean clip over the bar right-footed just outside the six-yard box.
Faurlín was the next to use Routledge’s pace as his cross-field pass enabled the winger to use his pace to put space between himself and his marker – his shot however was well fielded by the onrushing Joe Murphy – a priceless save in the scheme of the fixture.
On the half hour mark Rangers were truly punished for their profligacy as Mr Ilderton gave another in a string of bizarre decisions wide right. Michael O’Connor sent in a delightful cross and Joe Garner was able to ghost in umarked to slam his header beyond Paddy Kenny.
GOAL: Scunthorpe United 1-1 Queens Park Rangers
It was a bitter blow for Rangers who seemingly had matters in their grasp, but their wastefulness in front of goal was punished, however softly, by a powerful and well-placed Garner header. It was momentum that they continued to assert in the final ten minutes.
The R’s were looking useful in spells but seemed to lack that consistency in the forward line – the creative flair of Taarabt perhaps, while the defensive unit was seemingly compromised by the loss of Kaspars Gorkss.
This of course is hypothesising and speculation but for their attacking endeavour, Rangers lacked the edge and steel they had shown in the two key departments to hammer a side bereft of confidence and seal the fixture as a contest before half time.
Half Time: Scunthorpe United 1-1 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers were grateful for the break as United were displaying all the necessary credentials to take the maximum. Warnock would have to earn his wage at half time to get the visitors back on track and capitalising on chances.
Warnock opted to throw on Pascal Chimbonda at the expense of Shittu, with Clint Hill moving into the centre of defence alongside skipper Hall. It had little impact on proceedings as Rangers slipped behind just minutes into the second half.
A deep cross into the area wasn’t fielded well by the normally reliable Paddy Kenny and Joe Garner was once again on hand to snaffle the effort home for his brace and in the blink of an eye QPR were behind.
GOAL: Scunthorpe United 2-1 Queens Park Rangers
In truth Rangers offered little in riposte and the Iron looked visibly buoyed by their turn in fortunes. While they hadn’t threatened for the majority of the encounter, the latter stage of the first period and the start of the second belonged to the hosts.
The trio behind the front-man in Ephraim, Smith and Routledge were interchanging and working hard but that fluidity and creativity appeared to elude them at the decisive moment, a far cry from the ruthless Rangers of Monday night.
In stark contrast to last Saturday, Alan Knill’s men were brimming with confidence and their organisation was matched with their considerable work-rate – a useful trait for the team at the foot of the Championship table.
When the Rangers defence once again struggled to clear their lines effectively one felt that the writing was on the wall and it was a goal fitting to settle the fixture that truly nailed down the whereabouts of the three points.
Another deep cross was not fielded by the Rangers’ back-line with a plethora of bodies jockeying for position in the area. Michael O’Connor wasted little time in thumping an effort beyond Kenny into the top left-hand corner, a goal fitting to grace any occasion.
GOAL: Scunthorpe United 3-1 Queens Park Rangers
The inevitability of the fixture as a whole was encompassed through that wonderful O’Connor effort, a goal that seemed to fit the occasion perfectly. The old adage that if you do not take your chances, opportunities and goals like this present themselves and are destined to punish your profligacy.
It wasn’t falling for Rangers as the hard-working Smith delivered another in a succession of crosses into the midriff of Murphy. Some were growing frustrated at the style and standard of football being played by Rangers, but immense credit must go to the resolve of the Scunthorpe defence.
Knill’s side were proving tough to break-down and Hulse was getting little joy from Mirfin and Nelson at the heart of defence, leading to his withdrawal for Ishmael Miller – while Shaun Derry avoided his tenth booking at the expense of Patrick Agyemang.
A slight tactical shift with Agyemang and Miller moving up top, but an unfortunate aspect was a minority of supporters greeting goalscorer Hulse with ironic cheers and subsequent boos – a disappointing aspect of a markedly larger away support.
Nelson himself nearly got himself on the scoresheet when he met Duffy’s cross only for Paddy Kenny to thwart him and once again highlight some highly suspicious marking at the heart of the Rangers rearguard.
With 20 minutes remaining Faurlín’s corner saw Fitz Hall being held directly in front of Mr Ilderton, his appeals to the official fell on deaf ears as the Argentine’s corner was comfortably fielded by a defensive unit growing in confidence.
The substitutions were doing little to break through a stubborn rearguard, while they were struggling for the loss of Shaun Derry at the other end of the field. The defensive midfielder has avoided his tenth booking meaning a tenth yellow at Barnsley would not see him receive a ban.
Miller was proving rather ineffectual in his role towards the right flank and earned himself a booking for what was a rather foolish challenge. It rather served to epitomise the way the game was petering out to its conclusion.
With just over 20 minutes remaining O’Connor’s mistimed lunge on Hall earned him a place in the book. It didn’t dampen the Scunthorpe spirit as they caught Rangers napping once more and the visitors paid the price once again.
Dagnall’s endeavour to chase down Hill saw the defender fail to clear his lines effectively. He picked his pocket before rolling aside to Mark Duffy. The midfielder stroked home with the aid of a deflection and it truly compounded the misery of an away day disaster.
GOAL: Scunthorpe United 4-1 Queens Park Rangers
Despite some pressing from Rangers who were wanting not for desire, but for the class and efficiency they have shown in abundance throughout this campaign. Ramon Nunez however was offering the flair and creativity for the hosts.
A couple of occasions offered themselves for the Leeds United loanee whose pace and skill saw him get into good positions, but rather errant finishing saw the Honduras international’s name missing from the scoresheet.
It was a lesson learned for Rangers with Neil Warnock’s tactical gambit failing to pay off. Some have labelled it a freak, and the league leaders will be hoping that there are no underlying issues contributing to this calibre of performance and result.
Rangers now must roll on to Barnsley with a hope of redressing the balance, while Scunthorpe are left to contemplate the promise of the great escape after a thumping win over the league leaders today. A well-organised out that in the end deserved their victory.
Final Whistle: Scunthorpe United 4-1 Queens Park Rangers
Joe Murphy, Andy Hughes, Michael Nelson, David Mirfin, Ben Gordon, Mark Duffy, Michael O’Connor (Andrew Wright 84), Sam Togwell (Michael Raynes 90), Ramon Nunez, Joe Garner (Lee Miller 90), Chris Dagnall.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Paddy Kenny, Bradley Orr, Dan Shittu (Pascal Chimbonda 46), Fitz Hall, Clint Hill, Alejandro Faurlín, Shaun Derry (Patrick Agyemang 62), Tommy Smith, Hogan Ephraim, Wayne Routledge, Rob Hulse (Ishmael Miller 62).