RANGERS once again exited the FA Cup at the first time of asking, being unceremoniously dumped out by a workman-like Sheffield United.
Next year will mark the decade of hurt for Queens Park Rangers as they have once again failed to win an FA Cup game since beating Luton Town in 2001.
A drab display was played out in front of a mediocre crowd, and the writing was on the wall when Lee Williamson drilled home the opener from the right hand side of the area.
After the break Jamie Ward sprung from the bench to bury the ball beneath a pitiful Radek Cerny, before a third came just seconds after courtesy of Richard Cresswell.
Paul Hart was jeered once again for what was perceived as negativity in a game with nothing to lose, withdrawing the stand-out performer in Alejandro Faurlín.
Rangers did rally as Ákos Buzsáky dispatched from the spot after a soft penalty decision by Mr Woolmer, before Damion Stewart raised hopes of a remarkable comeback.
It wasn’t to be however as it was too little too late for the hosts, who realised in the fixture’s latter stages that the game would have been there for the taking.
Paul Hart opted to remain unchanged from the initial fixture with Sheffield United, resisting the temptation to throw Adel Taarabt back in after returning from injury.
Radek Cerny lined up behind a back four of Peter Ramage, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart and Gary Borrowdale – they sought to keep their third clean sheet of the season.
Wayne Routledge lined up wide right with Ákos Buzsáky retaining his place on the left and Alejandro Faurlín partnered former Blade Mikele Leigertwood in the middle.
The 4-4-2 formation saw Patrick Agyemang and Arsenal loanee Jay Simpson start in attack in front of a disappointing crowd at Loftus Road.
Sheffield United lined up with Mark Bunn in goal behind a back four of fans’ favourite Derek Geary, Marcel Seip, Chris Morgan and former R’s full-back Andy Taylor.
Lee Williamson, Nick Montgomery, James Harper and Stephen Quinn linked up in midfield with Richard Cresswell and Ched Evans starting up front.
Ramage – Stewart – Gork?s – Borrowdale
Routledge – Faurlín – Leigertwood – Buzsáky
Agyemang – Simpson
Geary – Seip – Morgan – Taylor
Williamson – Montgomery – Harper – Quinn
Cresswell – Evans
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Sheffield United
Rangers started brightly on what was a bitterly cold evening in West London – the roads were clear the pitch seemed unaffected by conditions and the fans prepared for the Cup replay.
Peter Ramage appeared to be deploying a long throw tactic down the right, a move that caused confusion at the heart of a new look Blades rearguard.
Striker Jay Simpson showed tremendous strength to hold off his defender and roll aside for Mikele Leigertwood – but the former Sheffield United man couldn’t repeat his previous Loftus Road heroics, placing wide of the left hand upright.
While the style of play was proving mystifying with Agyemang and Simpson looking to chase the long ball, it was proving inadvertently successful with Rangers having the wealth of early chances.
Argentinean Alejandro Faurlín was looking smart in the heart of midfield and when he linked up with Routledge, he was able to rifle a right-footed effort towards goal only to be thwarted by Mark Bunn.
It appeared that the Blades were looking vulnerable to pace on the break as Agyemang ran at Geary and sent in a tantalising cross that caught the defence off guard.
Taylor saw the ball come back off his shins and Bunn was on hand once again to save the Blades’ blushes at point-blank range.
In truth the visitors were offering little in riposte, Blackwell’s men seemingly content to gobble up the seconds and attempt to play the game on their own terms. Harper and Montgomery acted as stifling midfielders with the defenders holding a high line to condense play.
Some more useful running by Routledge saw him as one of the stand-out players of the early offing, without ever truly producing an end product of note. He laid back for Peter Ramage to cross expertly and Simpson glanced his header wide of Bunn’s right hand upright.
As is typical in football – the chances Rangers had spurned had come back to haunt them with United taking a lead against the run of play.
Some naïve defending on the edge of the Rangers penalty area came as the defenders were outfought and Nick Montgomery crossed for the unmarked Lee Williamson. In acres of space he was able to pick his spot and fire into the bottom left hand corner.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Sheffield United
In truth the goal flattened the Rangers attacking threat, as they searched to regain parity via route one. Agyemang once again was outlined as the target man when in truth he was bullied by a solid defensive duo in Seip and Morgan.
Mikele Leigertwood and Jay Simpson spurned further opportunities striking wide with their respective chances, before Ákos Buzsáky did like-wise when played through. The Hungarian sliced a left-footed effort wide of the mark while under pressure.
The game was blighted by mediocrity, notably since the goal had been scored, with both sides wastful in possession and poor in front of goal. This owed much to the stifling tactics of the visitors as they looked to eat up the seconds at set-pieces.
Then the moment that should have sewn up the game as a hopeful long ball by Harper saw Ched Evans in the clear after some poor defensive work. The £3m signing bamboozled Cerny but inexplicably fired his effort high and back off the cross-bar, and the R’s lived to fight another day.
Rangers came close to redressing the balance when Borrowdale crossed from the left for Kaspars Gorkss to nod back across goal. With Bunn well beaten it was down to Derek Geary to clear from the line and keep the visitors’ lead intact.
Another warning sign was struck for Rangers when Montgomery drilled an excellent left-footed effort inches over the cross-bar as it cannoned back off the stantion. It brought the first half to a welcome close as the fans sought refuge in the concourse.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Sheffield United
Rangers looked a tad more positive from the offset in the second half, but this was tempered by their inability to keep hold of the ball and play meaningful passes.
Indeed Wayne Routledge epitomised the Rangers effort, when he burst past Taylor with a turn of pace before drilling his cross well beyond anyone of note in the penalty area. A fleeting move that once again lacked an end product.
Buzsáky had Rangers next effort of note, but in truth his right-footed free-kick was tame and easy for Bunn to claim from a distance. The disappointment could be felt around the ground as the fixture ticked on and Rangers refused to relent in their style of play.
Cresswell then went close for the visitors as he nodded wide of the left hand upright when well-placed. The visiting supporters were sitting far the more comfortable as the chances significantly dried up for the toothless hosts.
Still there was no recourse to the substitutes bench as the United rearguard grew stronger with their high line, and Rangers were crowded out in the middle of the park – indeed only Faurlín could hold his head high in the middle thus far.
The Argentinean had the next opportunity when Borrowdale’s cross was only half cleared and the midfielder swept his effort inches over the bar. In truth it was as close as Rangers had come in the second period to date.
Sheffield United then made a change that would prove crucial as Jamie Ward came on for converted winger Lee Williamson. Good work from hard-working Stephen Quinn down the left found Ward and he fired an effort on target.
The strike in truth was straight at ‘keeper Cerny, but inexplicably he went down like the proverbial sack of potatoes as the ball wriggled under his forlorn figure and into the back of the net. A little harsh on Rangers maybe but it once again displayed the importance of scoring goals and reacting to situations.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 0-2 Sheffield United
At last Paul Hart decided to make the desired change and bring on Adel Taarabt, it was inexplicable however why he opted to withdraw Alejandro Faurlín. Supporters vehemently protested at the decision by Hart with once again: ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ ringing out from sections of the ground.
Moments later and the chant grew louder as straight from the kick off United made it three. More good work from the live-wire Ward down the right saw him cross for danger-man Richard Cresswell. The sizeable forward poked home a third following some pedestrian defending.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 0-3 Sheffield United
The crowd turned nasty once again in protest of what was a poor display from Queens Park Rangers. A grim game was being taken by the scruff of the neck by the visitors who in truth weren’t adventurous throughout the ninety minutes.
Rangers soon turned the tide as gallows humour replaced anger in the stands, and it was sheer laughter that came to fore when Mr Woolmer awarded the R’s a penalty – presumably out of pity – when Taarabt’s effort was handled at point-blank range.
Ákos Buzsáky stepped forward to score his first goal since the 4-2 win over Derby County – how far both he and Rangers have fallen since then. The Hungarian will hope that this goal will spark a change in form.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-3 Sheffield United
R’s youngster Antonio German was thrown on with ten minutes remaining in a bid to give Rangers fans some cheer, and he certainly provided a bit of impetus to the hosts if not the class of a Simpson, whom he replaced.
A second goal suddenly made things interesting with minutes remaining as Ákos Buzsáky floated in an excellent free-kick where the defender Damion Stewart was lurking to power a header into the top left hand corner.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 2-3 Sheffield United
Caution was thrown to the wind as Rangers searched for what would have been a remarkable equaliser. German was allowed to spin and shoot in the area agonisingly wide of the left-hand upright.
Just moments later it was the R’s youngster at the centre of the move once more bundling his way into the box and holding the ball well. He spun well and drew a sublime stop from Mark Bunn. The largely untested ‘keeper pulled out a moment of class that belied the fixture at large.
It was a case of too little too late for Hart’s Rangers who decided to attack the fixture far too late in a game where they had nothing to lose. Starting to play at three goals down wasn’t in the script but bouncing back to come close will give Paul a little Hart.
Full Time: Queens Park Rangers 2-3 Sheffield United
Queens Park Rangers
Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Damion Stewart, Mikele Leigertwood, Wayne Routledge, Ákos Buzsáky, Patrick Agyemang, Kaspars Gorkss, Alejandro Faurlín (Adel Taarabt 69), Jay Simpson (Antonio German 80), Gary Borrowdale.
Mark Bunn, Nick Montgomery, Chris Morgan, Ched Evans, Lee Williamson (Jamie Ward 67), James Harper, Andy Taylor, Richard Cresswell (Darius Henderson 74), Marcel Seip, Derek Geary (Kyle Walker 81), Stephen Quinn.