Rampant Rovers Rattle Rangers
Saturday November 21, 2009 - 3.00pm
GOALS from Billy Sharp and Dean Shiels condemned Queens Park Rangers to defeat in testing conditions at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The inclement weather combined with Doncaster's expansive passing football proved too much for the visitors as Sharp continued his impressive goalscoring run against QPR.
He struck from close range before Shiels capitalised on a defensive error to slam home a left-footed effort from outside the area.
On a day where the conditions were a contributing factor, Rangers fans could leave Yorkshire with little consolation as their side was truly outplayed in a forgettable second period.
Jim Magilton handed debuts to both Tommy Williams and Steven Reid for the fixture as Gavin Mahon and Peter Ramage dropped out the side that were triumphant in Sheffield.
Radek Cerny lined up behind Kaspars Gorkss and Matthew Connolly - the latter replacing Fitz Hall, who was sidelined owing to a back complaint. Mikele Leigertwood and Williams started at full-back.
A three man midfield comprised Alejandro Faurlín, Ben Watson and Reid with Wayne Routledge and Ákos Buzsáky occupying the flanks - Jay Simpson was the solitary front-man in the 4-5-1 formation.
Rovers lined up with former Chelsea and Tottenham 'keeper Neil Sullivan behind a back four of James Chambers, James O'Connor, Sam Hird and Gareth Roberts.
John Oster, Quinton Fortune, Simon Gillett and James Coppinger populated the midfield, with Dean Shiels and Billy Sharp the front-men in an orthodox 4-4-2 formation.
Kick Off: Doncaster Rovers v Queens Park Rangers
As the players took to the field at the Keepmoat Stadium, the heavens opened as fans sought refuge towards the back of the stand - as is the case with most modern stadiums, they're designed to look aesthetically pleasing, but the practicalities of keeping the rain away was severely lacking.
Over 1,400 Rangers supporters populated the away section, and they were hoping for a continuation of some fine recent away form - indeed if the R's could muster a victory it would be their third maximum on the spin.
Their team looked to press the early impetus with Blackburn Rovers' loan capture Steven Reid looking to get forward and support Jay Simpson. Indeed QPR carved out the opening chance of the game and ultimately the reliable boot of Ákos Buzsáky.
Some good piece of interplay to belie the early showing from both sides saw Alejandro Faurlín feed Routledge down the right. His cut-back fell to the Hungarian outside the six-yard box, but his wayward, clipped effort faded wide of the right hand upright.
Rovers were fighting hard through the rain and seeing the majority of the ball at this stage in the first half, and only a stunning save from Radek Cerny denied John Oster from distance, a stinging right footed effort palmed away by the Czech stopper low to his left.
The resultant corner left the R's defence in a quandary once more as Shiels was allowed to stab Oster's corner goal-bound, but only a combination of Williams and Cerny kept the ball out at point-blank range.
The Rangers defence was being tested by a multitude of pressure from the lively Doncaster attack, their tactic of passing the ball across the back-line was under much scrutiny as Rovers' forward foraged away to feed on forthcoming scraps.
Indeed moments of success with the passing game were few and far between with Kaspars Gorkss battling resiliently to hold a crumbling defence together. Williams on debut was finding the going tough, with he and Buzsáky on different wavelengths.
The benefits of this tactic were laid bare for all to see moments later, as the Rovers midfield was drawn forward and Rangers were able to exploit the space in behind. Simpson held the ball and laid in Routledge who in turn looked for Leigertwood.
The R's full-back cut inside down the right and rifled a left-footed effort, reminiscent of his goal against Nottingham Forest, high and wide of the left hand upright. Rangers were looking threatening in isolated periods, but there was nothing substantial to worry the veteran Sullivan.
The fixture was keenly contested with the hosts looking more likely to break the deadlock in a decent advert for Championship football - despite the testing conditions in Yorkshire.
As a unit it was certainly Doncaster that looked more threatening, with the live-wire duo of Shiels and Sharp constantly harrying and haranguing a faltering defence, and Rangers were offering little in riposte.
Watson in particular was struggling to get a stangle-hold on the game, but as the half drew to a close Magilton shifted the formation in a bid to re-capture some early form, and Watson responded in kind.
The Wigan Athletic loanee showed a glimpse of class as he fed Routledge down the right with a pin-point through ball. The flanker surged forward but his snap-shot was sent dismally wide of the right hand post - as Sullivan the spectator merely watched the ball wide.
It was apparent that the change in tactics had spurred the R's on through the rain, and gave QPR boss Jim Magilton much food for thought as the sides went into the break deadlocked.
Half Time: Doncaster Rovers 0-0 Queens Park Rangers
It was clear that Rangers late attacking foray had an impact on Magilton's tactics with Alejandro Faurlín being replaced by the surprisingly-dropped Adel Taarabt.
The Moroccan international played for his country last week in a defeat against Cameroon as they were dumped out the World Cup Qualifiers, and perhaps this had an impact on Magilton's thoughts.
It didn't take long for Taarabt to dig into his vast repertoire of skills to push Rangers into a commanding position early in the second period. Indeed the Moroccan's direct approach was just the tonic Rangers needed after a drab first period.
Barely minutes gone and after some good link-up play with Buzsáky, the Tottenham Hotspur loanee fed Simpson in the area. He snatched at a first time effort and it drifted wide of Sullivan's right hand post. Another moment of attacking enterprise from QPR in the early stages.
Just as Rangers looked like getting a foot-hold on proceedings the hosts took the lead, and once again the defence could be accused of a lack of concentration in the manner of the goal.
A quickly taken corner saw Shiels drift though the defence down the right hand by-line, his powerful centre was converted by his strike partner Billy Sharp, who was left unmarked in the heart of the area to stab home.
A little harsh on Rangers recent attacking foray, but judging by the overall course of the fixture and the weighting of pressure and possession it was truly a deserved goal in an expected fashion.
GOAL: Doncaster Rovers 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
It was clear to see that the stuffing had been knocked out of QPR as the rain continued to pour down over the Keepmoat Stadium. Possession was soon hard to come by as Sean O'Driscoll's side did what they do best - keep the ball.
Rangers were offering little in response with wayward passing and a lack of desire from some contributing to what was becoming an increasingly dominant performance from the hosts' perspective.
Taarabt's influence had waned since the hosts had struck, but one instance couldn't go without mention as somehow he managed to turn a run through on goal into Gorkss attempting to clear his lines once more.
Indeed the vision he displayed earlier in providing Simpson an opportunity evaded him on that occasion as he failed to spot Simpson once again making an excellent run in behind the back four.
Magilton responded by throwing on Patrick Agyemang and Alessandro Pellicori in place of Ákos Buzsáky and the aforementioned Simpson who had proven ineffective as the going got increasingly tough in the second period.
If the Rangers defence were disappointed with their prior contribution in failing to stop Sharp, they were left bemused once more as Rovers deservedly extended their lead through a wonder-goal from one of their lively duo.
Panic was the buzz-word embedded in the Rangers back-line epitomised by an uncharacteristic hacked clearance from Gorkss while under pressure. His over-zealous pass towards Williams shins failed to be controlled by the full-back and Rovers set their sights on goal.
Dean Shiels surged through to take the loose ball, cut inside of the defenders and rifled a left-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner. A truly outstanding individual effort from a player later to be announced as man of the match.
GOAL: Doncaster Rovers 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
Taarabt's latest effort was once again of the solo variety taking on the Rovers rearguard before firing low and forcing Sullivan into his first genuine save of the game. It was celebrated like a goal from sections of the away end as their side had failed to truly test the veteran 'keeper.
From then on it seemed as if Rovers were going to take full control, with further goals certainly a possibility for a lively attacking line. Sharp, who struck a hatrick when Rangers met Sheffield United last season, was looking as his name suggests for the vast majority.
The 'olés' were going up at the Keepmoat as their side rubbed it in Rangers' faces by rolling out the calibre of attractive football for which the visitors had been famed in recent weeks. As the minutes ticked on the sinking feeling became increasingly evident in the away end.
The frustration was visible as the sodden support watched their side capitulate and wilt in the face of free-flowing attacking football from the hosts - it appeared on this evidence that Doncaster are indeed in a false position at present.
Shiels nearly added an excellent third when a shot from distance was wind-assisted and Cerny performed outstandingly to beat the effort away, as he had done throughout the encounter.
Some speculative crossing wasn't attacked by the Rangers' forwards, notably Pellicori who wasn't using his aerial threat to his advantage as he had done so well in fixtures such as Bristol City prior to his injury.
The Italian had Rangers' best opportunity of the game as the game petered out to a conclusion, but only a stunning last ditch tackle denied him an opportunity of a one-on-one with Sullivan, who must have been licking his lips at the prospect of being involved in the action.
A virtually anonymous official, Mr Bates, blew the final whistle as Rangers were left to contemplate their fourth defeat of the season - the third of which coming on the road.
Magilton's bold tactical gamble of throwing in the two debutantes in a new formation had ultimately failed as Rangers flattered to deceive against a side intent on avoiding relegation in Doncaster Rovers.
The fans will go home disappointed and will certainly hope that this proves to be a blip rather than a trend as Doncaster belie their league position in a good home performance.
Full Time: Doncaster Rovers 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
Neil Sullivan, James Chambers, James O'Connor, Sam Hird, Gareth Roberts, John Oster (John Spicer 87), Quinton Fortune (Jason Shackell 72), James Coppinger, Simon Gillett, Dean Shiels (Mark Wilson 85), Billy Sharp.
Queens Park Rangers
Radek Cerny, Mikele Leigertwood, Kaspars Gorkss, Matthew Connolly, Gary Borrowdale, Wayne Routledge, Alejandro Faurlín (Adel Taarabt 46), Ben Watson, Steven Reid, Ákos Buzsáky (Patrick Agyemang 63), Jay Simpson (Alessandro Pellicori 63).
Attendance: 10, 821 (1478 QPR)
The Latvian looked cool and comfortable at times and looked to bring the ball out as well as pass it, always providing options for the midfielders and fellow defenders.
The defender will want to work on a partnership with Connolly, as they are both capable of playing Magilton's desired style out of the defence.
Radek Cerny - 7/10
The 'keeper however was far too keen to roll the ball out at times, so much so that he voided common-sense to distribute to marked men and put them straight under pressure.
Cerny's position is under no immediate threat as Tom Heaton awaits a January move back to W12. On today's display Cerny will keep his place for Coventry.
Mikele Leigertwood - 6/10
He picked up a booking for what was in essence a lazy challenge, as Sharp was running at Gorkss, Mikele stepped past and swept his legs away - unnecessary to say the very least.
Once again he shan't be dropped for the Coventry fixture as he has proven to be one of Magilton's jewels in the crown - nevertheless he will want to improve on this display.
Kaspars Gorkss - 7/10
More often than not it was he who bailed a flagging defence out of trouble by picking the correct pass or making an appropriate clearance.
Sharp had a lot less luck today then he did a year ago for Sheffield United and Gorkss' strength at time was enough to keep the pint-size striker at bay.
Matthew Connolly - 6/10
He also looked to drive forward with the ball and provide the attack with the extra impetus it desperately required. On two occasions in particular it proved successful.
Connolly will be looking to retain his place for the Coventry game with Damion Stewart knocking on the door to rekindle his formerly useful partnership with Gorkss.
Tommy Williams - 5/10
It wasn't the most memorable of debuts as his passing and crosses were misguided by and large, in stark contrast to the form he has displayed for Peterborough earlier this season.
Dropping Borrowdale was a big call and on today's evidence will come under more scrutiny as Magilton opted for attacking prowess over defensive stability.
Wayne Routledge - 6/10
His form was somewhat sporadic, but he by and large had the beating of Roberts down the right flank. He grew visibly frustrated as the niggly tactics deployed by the former Tranmere Rovers man.
Routledge's final product was overall lacking quality, and it was clear that Doncaster had watched him carefully prior to the fixture.
Alejandro Damián Faurlín - 5/10
His performance lacked the style and swagger he has shown in a selection of performances this season, notably his distribution was lacking at times.
Admittedly both he and Watson were not having good games, but as a battling central midfielder Watson got the nod alongside Reid to stay on.
Ben Watson - 6/10
Watson wasn't at his best by any means in the opening period and his wasteful nature in possession was only tempered by moments of class to unlock the Doncaster defence, these though were in isolation.
He came out of his shell towards the end of the fixture when Doncaster's exhibition football had subsided and he will be hoping this improvement is enough to keep him in the line-up against Coventry.
Steven Reid - 6/10
Not a vintage debut by any stretch of the imagination, and a previously billed desire to get forward and create was certainly not forthcoming in this encounter.
Largely anonymous for vast periods of the second half, and I was surprised to realise that he had indeed played the entire game.
Ákos Buzsáky - 6/10
There was something lacking in the interplay between he and Williams, who clearly need more time to work together on the training ground.
There may be a case for reintroducing Borrowdale at the expense of Buzsáky and pushing Williams forward if the Hungarian's dip in form doesn't relent.
Jay Simpson - 6/10
The shift in formation, in fairness, left him isolated at times - despite a billing of 4-3-3 the R's had indeed fielded a solitary front-man in Simpson.
In truth he wasn't given a fair crack of the whip in terms of chances, with a lack of creativity and spark coming from the Rangers midfield, and went close with a second half chance.
SUB: Adel Taarabt - 7/10
It was a genuine surprise to me that the in-form Moroccan didn't start, and I can't say that I was alone on that one either.
It was proven to be an error in judgment by Magilton and in fairness to him he changed it back before Doncaster grabbed their goal.
Taarabt must now be reinstated to the line-up in the formation that has worked well in previous fixtures if Rangers are to win against Coventry.
SUB: Patrick Agyemang - 5/10
Agyemang was granted just under half an hour to make an impression and give Magilton a selection headache up front, but in truth he didn't provide Jim and QPR with that impetus.
In his time on the field he didn't honestly do a great deal, attempted a few headers which were either missed or misplaced and came deep to get hold of the ball.
Admittedly times were tough when we were two goals down and he put in the effort, but to break into the current set-up it will require a bit more class and more of an impression.
SUB: Alessandro Pellicori - 5/10
Initially I felt for Pellicori who was clearly struggling to get a foothold on the game with a side built not to play to his aerial strengths.
It became apparent soon after when Rangers started to get crosses into the area, that he didn't time or judge his leaps correctly, and by and large stood off and watched the defence nod away.
He had a guilt-edge chance at the end and was visibly annoyed with himself for not taking it earlier and allowing the defender to nick in and take the ball.
The international break gave him a chance to analyse matters on the training ground and it could be said that he was guilty of over-analysis in changing the style and shape of his previously successful side.
Admittedly he cannot be blamed for the players on the field not performing their duties correctly, as something that Magilton prides himself, ball retention, was not in evidence today.
His strikers put the R's defence under increasing pressure and the cracks were showing in the early offing with wayward passing from the defence and a wind holding the ball in the Rangers half.
His four man midfield was proving more than a match for Rangers' five and therein lied a real problem for the visitors and a chance to exploit for Doncaster.
The over-riding word from my perspective and others was 'sensible'. He used his common-sense on a slippery surface and was reluctant to go his book.
It is rare that you see a referee praised in the current climate, but both sides can go away pleased at rarely seeing the anonymous official.