QPR 1 Leyton Orient 2
Tuesday 14th August, 2007
It seems every time Londonist attends Loftus Road, the visitors score two. On Tuesday night John Gregory, manager of Championship side Queens Park Rangers, was left to rue the injuries, loan arrangements and appendix operations that left him with only one pair of fit strikers as his lacklustre charges struggled to chase a League Cup tie that visitors Leyton Orient, from the division below, gradually pushed out of their reach.
Under steady rain from slate skies an early pattern was established that remained throughout: Orient hit the ball diagonally over the top sensing a speed advantage and Martin Rowlands prompted tirelessly with strength and guile for Rangers. On the quarter hour home midfielder Stefan Bailey fired an acrobatic 25 yard volley over, but shortly afterwards he was caught juggling when he could have cleared from a set-piece. Paul Terry helped on a resulting quick throw and Adam Boyd hoisted the ball across and narrowly wide of Lee Camp's right hand post. Both teams then largely restricted each other to long range efforts until the break, though our favourite moment of the night came when 20 year old Aiden Palmer, stepping bravely into the near legendary boots of former O's captain Matt Lockwood at left back, raided into the Rangers area and stylishly rode a tough challenge on the skidpan before cutting back an exquisite cross that somehow evaded all attempts at contact.
Spectators hoped for better beyond half-time, but in fairness between the two sides there was probably only one healthy eleven to be had. "That team tonight is basically all we've got left," opined Gregory afterwards, while his opposite number, Martin Ling, revealed that making it onto the pitch for their fitness tests had been enough to earn Alton Thelwell and Tamika Mkandawire starting central defensive berths. They had their work cut out soon after the interval as Nick Ward caused problems with a cross and a shot, but Orient's more direct approach suddenly bore fruit. With fifty five minutes gone a long, high clearance from halfway steepled down towards the right edge of the Rangers box and keeper Camp decided to stand off Boyd, leaving him unchallenged as he tried to bring the ball down. Deliberately or otherwise, the ball squirted left to quick-reacting teenage central midfielder Jason Demetriou and he slotted it low and firmly to Camp's left for the opener.
Rangers were still in shock when only a showreel reaction parry from Camp kept the sliding Wayne Gray from doubling the lead, though 60 seconds later his efforts proved in vain as centre back Danny Cullip, playing his first football since last season, was adjudged by referee Hall, a long time villain for the Loftus Road faithful, to have brought down new signing Gray chasing another high ball in the area. Gregory felt Gray held Cullip back as he zipped round him initially, but with 63 minutes on the clock Boyd stepped up to send Camp the wrong way.
"We had a little competition on the Friday before the season started," his manager explained, "and Boydy only scored one out of two, and three of the other four got two out of two, but I always like a striker to take if we can." He also felt Boyd gelled well in only his second match alongside Gray. "People say, 'Oh you haven't really got a six foot three man,' but they both compete in the air and they won't give defenders any time."
Four minutes later Rowlands's efforts were rewarded with a goal as he stretched to poke home a right wing cross from six yards out, but even then, the Championship side couldn't find the necessary urgency to press home their divisional superiority. Gregory was powerless to change much up front and ended the match with an entire back four of centre halves. Some lively dashes by substitute Kieron Minto St Aime offered the best hope for parity until Nick Ward pulled the trigger on a late Marc Nygaard knockdown. His air shot summed up Rangers's evening.
Blurry traffic picture via ribena's Flickr stream.
As the Orient players celebrated, chairman Barry Hearn pumped his fist and exclaimed "I haven't seen us play as well in, oh, two or three days!". Gregory, while admitting that Saturday's visit of Cardiff had been his priority, still insisted that this early exit from the Carling Cup "hurts very badly," a sentiment borne out by his brooding post-match demeanour, which may also have been affected by the mood of his chairman, Gianni Paladini, apparently frustrated in attempts to find a bidder for the financially straightened club. As he walked to his car shortly after the match he explained apologetically to a QPR press corps regular, "I am too angry to talk with you right now!" before hinting that he might have something to say before his Welsh visitors bring Robbie Fowler to town at the weekend. Given that Orient have now been drawn away to the same side, maybe Rangers will welcome the extra empty midweek match slot if it means they can get some attackers back to full fitness. Both they and Orient will still hope to fill gaps through loans and Chelsea fans might be interested to know that Michael Mancienne, continuing his stay in Shepherd's Bush, is shaping up nicely, at five feet ten, as a diminutive Rio Ferdinand, with all that implies about speed, timing, distribution, ability in the air and, sadly for the moment at least, concentration.
Our apologies that this report is a little tardy. Technical hitches prevented it appearing as planned on Wednesday.