QPR's Cruel Blow for Battling Blackpool
8th August 2009 - 15:00
There are games that come and go along a season where you just think nothing will get past your goalkeeper. Saturday was one of those days; Paul Rachubka had an absolute blinder between the sticks for The Seasiders who were unfortunate not to cling onto a 1-0 lead at QPR.
A late Peter Ramage cross flew over the American's head in crushing circumstances to give the home side a point - which was definitely deserved looking at the game as a whole - and cancelling out Ben Burgess' earlier strike.
New manager Ian Holloway picked his first eleven in tangerine and stuck with the 4-5-1 formation which proved effective in pre-season. This meant Ben Burgess led the line on his own with Jason Euell for support from midfield - who himself was captain. New signings Neal Eardley and Ishmel Demontagnac could only settle for places on the bench.
Baptiste - Edwards - Evatt - Crainey
GTF - Adam - Euell - Southern - Vaughan
Bench: Gilks, Eardley, Martin, Nardiello, Clarke, Demontagnac, Ormerod.
Ramage - Hall - Gorkss - Borrowdale
Routledge - Rowlands - Taarabt - Mahon - Balanta
Bench: Putnins, Buzacky, Stewart, Connolly, Ephraim, Vine, Agyemang.
To say The Seasiders were all at sea in the first half an hour would be an incredible understatement. The midfield looked unsure of their roles, with the exception of Gary Taylor-Fletcher, as Adam and Southern played far too deep and allowed loanee Taarabt especially far too much space to waltz his way through.
Of course, being on the toes of our back four, when a Rangers move did break down, we were incapable of holding onto the ball for more than two passes. Adam, normally so calm, looked hurried in possession and for those opening moments it was a case of anywhere will do.
Taarabt's best moment came just a few minutes into play when a clever one-two with Heidar Helguson saw him move in the clear but a combination of Southern tracking back and a crucial dive at the attackers feet by Rabs saw the danger averted.
Corners were coming regularly for the home side, who themselves are tipped for a playoff finish this campaign, but 'Pool were fending them off with blocks and headers away. The problem came when the two full backs became isolated and were given a real test from two of the best wingers in the division - Balanta and Routledge -but Crainey and Baptiste stuck to their tasks brilliantly.
Having said that, looking at the game overall, I must say that I'm slightly worried at the lack of support these two (or Neal Eardley when he earns a place) will receive whilst we play the desired 4-5-1 formation. Vaughan did track back a lot whilst on the left wing, but GTF was hardly ever seen in his own third, leaving Baptiste exposed. On another day we could've been two or three nil down by half time.
The manager must take some credit for our turnaround though midway into the first period. It was plain to see that the midfield just weren't on the same wavelength as the gaffer, so he switched Vaughan into the middle and Jason Euell on the left hand side. This now meant that 'Pool had a get out ball with Euell hugging the touchline on halfway. With his prowess in the air, Euell was the key man who bought time and kept the ball to give the defence a breather.
This move meant Crainey was even more isolated but that was a risk worth taking; Adam and Vaughan in particular looked more patient on the ball with Euell making space and giving Peter Ramage some problems.
QPR did have more chances, naturally, they were a decent team. Heidar Helguson saw a shot hit the bar after good work from Routledge. It did look as if Rachubka had pulled off a heroic save, tipping the ball onto the bar before allowing Ian Evatt to clear.
But with renewed vigour, The Seasiders began to take the game to their wealthy opposition. Charlie Adam's drives from midfield and GTF's diagonal runs were proving a thorn in Jim Magilton's side for the remaining 15 minutes of the half.
Ben Burgess had a shot fly wide before Taylor-Fletcher weaved diagonally after an interception only to find Radek Cerny in goal.
However, the goal came (much to the astonishment of 14500 inside Loftus Road). And it was that pairing Adam and GTF who made it possible. The former held onto the ball waiting for a runner ahead and found Taylor-Fletcher haring across the front of Fitz Hall and Kaspars Gorkss. The Scot chipped a ball alongside Hall which GTF took control of before laying it off to Burgess; the big man made no mistake with his finish, firing a left footed strike across Cerny into the net.
Undeserved was definitely the consensus of home fans on the tube on the way home, but that doesn't matter. It was refreshing to see a simple tactical change - which also saw the two wingers push on more as strikers - work, which we simple haven't been blessed with under Grayson or Parkes.
The Seasiders begun to get to grips with the game even more after the break. Well, after the opening five minutes of the second half anyway. For the second time in the fixture, the men in tangerine came out half asleep and could easily have conceded. Fitz Hall sent a looping header from a corner over Rabs' head but the stopper somehow managed to claw it away. However, it only fell to Balanta, but the winger could only fire into the near post.
After making changes, bringing on Akos Busacky and Rowan Vine, the offside trap came to the rescue on many occasions. Vine looked too eager to get involved and was caught out a couple of times.
This spurred the away support on, who, as always, delivered in their numbers and incredibly loudly as well, even without the drum. There hasn't been an official figure of the away following, but I would hazard a guess at nearing 1000.
Buzacky is a genius in the middle of midfield and he really made the R's tick. A freekick from 30 yards just evaded the right hand post of Rachubka by the former Plymouth man. But whilst he didn't have the ball, 'Pool looked in control. Keith Southern saw a right footed bullet fly wide, but unfortunately for us he picked the wrong option with a three-on-two situation where he was probably best finding Charlie Adam next to him.
Jason Euell provided a fantastic get out ball on the left hand side all game but in the last half an hour he really came into his own. The new signing showed his brilliant close control, plucking high balls down from the sky, but also jinked past defenders on a regular basis. He almost scored a picture-book goal after taking the ball just inside the home half and running past three defenders before having his shot unfortunately blocked.
The tricky thing about Euell is finding his best position. I feel his role in the middle was too loose - especially for an away game - but think his intelligence has a lot to offer in that area of the pitch. Out on the left he isn't close enough to the action for me, and you need your best players involved most of the time. Good in the air, maybe he could do a job up front where he played earlier in his career; anyway, that is something Ollie will need to find out soon.
Ben Burgess led the line very well, winning the majority of his headers and after the tactical switch had some good support from Euell and GTF. He looks far fitter than he did last season, as did GTF.
Sadly for Holloway and Blackpool, there was a late sting in the tale in the 86th minute. Rowan Vine had missed a golden opportunity minutes before as he beat the offside trap, but the equaliser was to come from the most unlikely of sources. Peter Ramage paraded down the wing before cutting back a poor cross which flew over Rachubka's head - pretty much unstoppable. The BBC questioned his positioning but you really can't account for a fluke like that. If Euell had been tracking back in a conventional formation maybe it could have been prevented but that argument is for another day.
What can be said is that this team put in a hell of a shift yesterday and if we do that for the majority of the season points away from home will come at a pace. Holloway has promised some spending - whether it is big or not we shall see - before the end of August with Valeri Belokon's backing, and if we can add to this already competent outfit, this season could be a good one!