Five-brant R's Win To Turn The Corner.....
The SKY Cameras visited Loftus Road today in what was supposed to be a crucial game in the race for promotion to the Premier League. Unfortunately our visitors Nottingham Forest have seen their challenge fizzle out in recent weeks and seemingly have their heads on the beaches ahead of the summer already. Could the R's capitalise and gain a must needed win?
With the game being on SKY is was an early alarm call for us all this morning as we made our way to the ground and made an early entrance. Jess and I arrived to see that none of the gang were sitting on their usual position on the wall and it wasn't until we made our way into the ground that we met up with PK, Sam, Luke, Michael and Zach. Lofty had taken his position in his seat early as he had a potential new lucky charm as company in little Coral.
Redknapp played tinkerman once again as four changes were made to the side that flopped at Blackburn on Tuesday night.
Onuoha, Jenas and Austin came in to replace Young, Henry and Keane.
Kick off was seven minutes later than scheduled as a mark of respect to the 96 Liverpool fans that went to Hillborough for the FA Cup Semi Final match against Forest, never to return home. They will never be forgotten!
The R's got off to a flying start as Morrison and Hoilett combined well as the latter pulled the ball back for Carroll to take aim, only to see Darlow save with his outstretched left arm, however he could only parry the ball and Yossi Benayoun was on hand to head into the empty net from six yards out.
This settled the R's as they played with a high pressing style that meant that Forest were not allowed to settle and could not get their most dangerous player in Henri Lansbury on the ball and creating havoc in the R's defence, instead Forest were left to resort to long balls that were not effective and left the R's to comfortably deal with many attacks that Forest posed.
Rangers' were dealt with a blow with just fifteen minutes on the clock as Jenas limped off with the injury not entirely clear for us all to see. He was replaced by Karl Henry.
Rangers' did continue to pose a threat, with the most likely sources coming through Morrison and Hoilett. Austin was leading the line excellently for the R's and his hard work ethic was certainly rubbing off on those around him. Austin was unfortunate to not get on the scoresheet when he came within inches of touching home Assou-Ekotto's superb cross from the left wing.
There was however one weakness in the R's defence that Forest could expose and that's set pieces, no surprise that the scores were soon level via this method.
Lansbury's corner was met by Lascelles who rose unmarked to expertly head home with Forest's second chance of the game! How many set pieces have we conceded in 2014?? Clearly we are not learning our lesson with corners and seriously need to start learning how to defend!
Luckily for the R's just five minutes later they regained the lead.
Hoilett went on a teasing run and bustled his way through the Forest defence like a knife through butter before he poked the ball past Darlow as half time loomed.
At half time we all gathered outside the Blue and White it was clear that Coral was having a great day out as throughout the first 45 minutes she showed plenty of enthusiasm towards the game and was giving plenty of encouragement towards those on the pitch. All of us where thoroughly enjoying how animated she was getting, hopefully the final result would leave Coral with a very happy memory of her day out.
The opening exchanges of the second half were pretty much a stalemate and it wasn't until Danny Simpson headed off the line from Halford's header on 70 minutes, ironically from yet another corner!
On 75 minutes Forest won yet another corner. Before the corner was taken Charlie Austin off and replaced by Bobby Zamora. During the substitution I turned to PK and said 'goal'... was I going to be right? Rangers' frailties were exposed once again as yet another corner from Forest was whipped in the box and the smallest player on the pitch, Matt Derbyshire, was on hand to score Forest's second goal from a corner and leave the home fans groaning once again!!
With Austin now off the pitch we were now left worrying where the goal threat was going to come from.
Rangers' were also forced into their final change of the game as Hoilett limped off as he was replaced by Kranjcar.
With five minutes left on the clock the R's won a corner of their own. Despite the first cross being cleared, Simpson then put in a deep cross that Onuoha just managed to keep in play, he then exchanged passes with Morrison before swinging a right foot at the ball and curled home a beautiful effort to lift the roof off the Loft!
Proceedings were far from over as Forest won themselves yet another corner with two minutes left on the clock. Rangers' again let Forest get a free header in on goal, however this time we were lucky to have Rob Green fully alert and save on the goal line.
With three minutes of injury time being awarded it could've been a nervous ending for the R's, however as Forest pushed for the equaliser and we soon caught them on the counter attack to score the fourth. Tom Carroll's long ball was brilliantly controlled by Zamora as he advanced on goal before putting the ball on a plate to Morrison, who did not slot home with a first time shot, he instead decided to turn the Forest defender and 'keeper inside then out before then rolling the ball home a secure a much needed three points.
We hadn't long stopped celebrating Morrison's goal and the R's broke away again as this time Morrison turned provider as he lobbed the ball over the final Forest defender into the path of Zamora, who then smashed his shot into the floor before seeing the ball bounce over the despairing Darlow to make it 5-2!!
It was not a vintage performance by far, however you have to create the chances in order to score the five goals that we did and the final three goals were taken extremely well.
We do have to highlight the fact that we cannot defend a set piece for toffee, it is a huge weakness of ours and Forest could've easily scored 4 from corners today. It begs the question, what do we practice in training?? It was part of our downfall at Bournemouth last Saturday and continues to be our achilles heel. Surely Wally Downes needs to focus on this as part of his defensive coaching sessions during midweek and sort the mess out in front of Rob Green, you have to feel sorry for the R's 'keeper at the moment as he is not getting the protection from the R's defence at set pieces at present.
The re-introduction of Onuoha was vital to the centre of defence as he is so composed as well as having the extra two yards of pace that Dunne does not possess these days.
It was also great to see Austin back in the starting line up getting vital minutes in and his hard working style in so infectious that his team mates around him also run themselves into the ground.
Forest brought down a good travelling support and although we could not hear them in the Loft(to be fair they probably couldn't us in the Loft) but Jess has rightfully informed me that they were in good voice and it's unfortunate that they did not get the same amount of effort from their players as they did not look to interested for large parts of today.
On to our Man of the Match. Luke voted for Danny Simpson as Jess placed her vote for Tom Carroll. The remaining votes from Sam, Lofty, PK and myself go to the hard working Yossi Benayoun. He covered every blade of grass today and worked tirelessly for the team. He certainly looks like a different player to the one we saw before Christmas!
Overall a great day out for the R's fans and no-one in their wildest dreams would've bet on us scoring five goals in this one!
It was good to see Coral enjoy her first match day experience and really engage in the whole experience. She is definitely a good luck charm for us and hopefully Lofty will be able to bring her along to another game soon to continue the good luck coming our way!!
Next weekend sees an Easter double header as we travel to Leicester for the early kick off on Saturday before then returning to Loftus Road on Monday to host Watford. Lofty and I will report respectively and hopefully will see the R's build on today's victory as we look to keep the pressure on Derby to secure that vital third spot before the end of the season.