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Sunday, December 28, 2008

QPR Drop Another Two Points - at Home to Watford

QPR Official Site
- QPR had to make do with just the one point as a determined Watford side held them to a goalless draw at a bitingly cold Loftus Road.
- In an attempt to gain a measure of revenge for the 3-0 defeat at vicarage Road earlier in the season, the R's went close through substitute Dexter Blackstock and Patrick Agyemang, whilst the visitors saw Lee Williamson strike a post with a curling free-kick.
- But in a match of few clear-cut chances, both sides had to be satisfied with a point apiece.
- After resting a number of players for the Boxing Day clash with Charlton Athletic, Manager Paulo Sousa recalled his strongest side for the visit of Watford.
- Radek Cerny continued in goal, Damien Delaney returned to left-back; Peter Ramage took the other full back slot, whilst Damion Stewart and Fitz Hall completed the back four.
- The diamond had ex-Hornets Gavin Mahon and Lee Cook at its base and tip, with Martin Rowlands and Hogan Ephraim on either side.
- Up front was all change, as Agyemang and fellow Watford old boy Heidar Helguson led the attack.
- Watford made wholesale changes to the side that lost heavily to Bristol City, Liam Bridcutt, the midfielder on-loan from Chelsea, amongst those recalled.
- It was Captain Rowlands who tried his luck in the early exchanges, as he picked up possession from Helguson and, with nothing else on, forced a simple save from visiting keeper Scott Loach at his near post from 30 yards.
- Watford however, quickly stamped their authority on the match. After Cerny had had to be brave to deny Williamson a certain goal, Tamas Priskin headed wide from a flicked on Aidy Mariappa throw-in.
- On 28 minutes the R's carved out their best opportunity of the match so far, when a set-piece move almost worked to perfection. Cook's free-kick from the left evaded everyone but Helguson, who had peeled off to the far side. Unfortunately the Icelandic's flying header went wide of the near post from close range.
- Helguson was lurking again at the back post as another hooked Cook delivery nearly fell kindly for the front-man, but this time Jay DeMerit was on hand with a superb lunging clearance.
- As the half drew to a close, there was still time for Williamson to blaze a 25-yard drive wide of the target. The shot had swerve and power, and had Cerny scrambling, but the scores stayed level as it flew wide.
- Something was needed in the second half to light the blue touch paper and fire up Rangers. Step forward R's leading scorer Blackstock, who replaced Cook.
- With three strikers on the pitch, the home side looked to provide more of a threat up front, and almost did just that.
- A long free-kick taken by Delaney was headed by Stewart into the path of Agyemang. As he controlled, he spun expertly and bicycle-kicked an effort that needed a smart save from Loach. Stewart looked to poke home the rebound but solid Watford defending saw them clear the danger in the nick of time.
- On 70 minutes the R's came within a whisker of snatching the lead. A Rowlands free-kick was headed back across goal by Stewart, and Blackstock, unmarked at the other post, only felt the brush of the ball as it skimmed over his head and out.
- Blackstock was at the heart of the next assault on the Watford goal. Ramage's long punt forward sparked the mother of all goalmouth scrambles as first Agyemang, then the former Southampton man, both had shots blocked, before Helguson wriggled free but blazed wide.
- The 10-goal hit-man was at it again seconds later, as Rowlands' corner found the unmarked striker but he could only watch as his header sailed narrowly over the bar.
- Watford weren't lying down, and Mahon had to dive headlong into a fierce Williamson drive that looked destined for the net.
- Williamson was closer with his next effort. A foul by Helguson gave the Jamaican a chance of demonstrating his dead-ball specialties. And he didn't disappoint, striking the post, then Cerny, before the ball bounced away.
- As the match see-sawed back and forth, Mariappa almost turned the ball into his own net before Rowlands smashed a volley high and wide, as both teams desperately tried to claim much-needed points.
- Ephraim followed suit minutes later, but even with four minutes of added time, neither side could break the deadlock, and the final whistle ended a goalless draw.
- QPR: Cerny, Delaney, Stewart, Mahon (Leigertwood 84), Hall, Agyemang, Rowlands, Ramage, Cook (Blackstock 46), Ephraim, Helguson. Subs: Connolly, Ledesma, Alberti.
Bookings: Ramage (45), Rowlands (63), Helguson (82)
- Watford: Loach, DeMerit, Bridcutt (Bromby 89), Priskin (Rasiak 61), McAnuff, Doyley, Williamson, Harley, Smith, Mariappa, Jenkins. Subs: Lee, Hoskins, O'Toole.
Bookings: Mariappa (29), Rasiak (65), DeMerit (76) Referee: Mr C Penton Attendance: 16,196 QPR

WATFORD secured a vital clean sheet in the Christmas derby date at Loftus Road today (Sunday) as Brendan Rodgers' side showed the sort of steel Watford fans have been accustomed to in recent years.
- Looking to put behind them a four goal defensive nightmare just 48 hours prior, Rodgers' rear-guard will have been delighted to shut out a side that have been super strong on their own patch this term.
- Having beaten Rangers at Vicarage Road a little over a month ago the Hornets went in search of their first double of the season, but with chances at a premium in the capital they'll have been happy to settle for a share of the spoils to make it a four point haul against their near neighbours.
- Rodgers reacted to the Boxing Day defeat against Bristol City by making four changes to the side that lost 4-2 to the Robins.
-Leigh Bromby, John-Joe O'Toole, Mat Sadler and Grzegorz Rasiak all paid the price for a woeful afternoon in Watford.
- Taking their places were striker Tamas Priskin, midfielders Liam Bridcutt and Ross Jenkins as well as right-back Lloyd Doyley.
- The defensive reshuffle continued with Adrian Mariappa moving to centre-half and Jon Harley moving to left-back.
- For the R's former Hornet Heidar Helguson joined other ex-Watford men Lee Cook and Gavin Mahon in their starting line-up.
- Damion Stewart was also recalled for Kaspars Gorkss as they lined-up 4-4-2 featuring a diamond-shaped midfield.
-Watford kicked off the festive fixture all in red and fared better in the opening minute than they had against their last opponents, getting past the 23-second mark without conceding a goal.
- The Hornets did have to defend a corner after just three minutes, which was delivered by the former Golden Boy Cook in front of the Watford faithful, who took their opportunity to vent some fury at the R's midfielder for the manner in which he had left Vicarage Road.
- Watford were playing a neat counter-attacking game in the opening swathe of the fixture and some 12 minutes in created a spectacular half chance that flashed across Radek Cerny's goal.
- Player-of-the-season Tommy Smith charged from inside his own half on a diagonal run before finding the feet of Harley, who despatched a low cross which went agonisingly close to the outstretched feet of Priskin and Lee Williamson.
- The next chance was Watford's too as Williamson got on the end of a Jenkins lob in to the area - the midfielder's first touch was poor though, giving Cerny enough of a chance to block his intended volley.
- Williamson caused more problems for the home defence when next his floated corner found the head of Mariappa, who flicked on for Priskin, who himself headed marginally wide of goal.
- The Hoops hadn't fashioned a chance of note in the first half an hour, until Helguson found himself on the end of easily the clearest opportunity of the game.
-Two former 'Orns combined to create the opening, Cook swinging a free-kick to the completely unmarked Icelander, who headed woefully wide of a hopelessly exposed Scott Loach. It was a major let-off for Watford.
- Adrian Mariappa then went in the book for dissent, having claimed he was pushed in the build-up to the set-play; referee Clive Penton having none of it as he collected the defender's name.
-With the game stuck at stalemate Tommy Smith tried his luck with a long-range curling effort, but his strike was watched well wide by the ever-alert Cerny.
-Cook was causing Watford problems still and his next hooked cross into the area had Loach scrambling and Jay DeMerit heading clear perilously close to his own goal line to concede just a corner, which in itself came to nothing.
-Williamson clipped a volley wide of goal late on in the period as Jobi McAnuff again found his team-mate driving forward from the centre of the park.
-His next effort was even closer as again he was allowed a free sight at Rangers' goal - this time the former Mansfield man took a touch before launching a blistering low drive which beamed just yards wide of the goal.
-Cook, who had looked Rangers best player on show, was taken off at half-time, with the dangerous Dexter Blackstock introduced as his direct replacement.
-He immediately got himself on the end of a Mahon pass in the Watford area and, but for the timely and excellent intervention of Mariappa, he might have tested Loach within seconds of his appearance.
-The Hoops were already more purposeful attacking their own fans in the Loft End of the ground, and you could anticipate that goals would come at one end or the other at some point, not least because of both sides' jittery defending.
-Loach was down to save some eight minutes into the restart as Watford scrambled for their lives in a frightening penalty area melee.
-Priskin, who had returned from injury in this game, was sacrificed by Rodgers just past the hour mark as Rasiak was thrown into the action to bolster Watford's attacking options.
-He was soon in the thick of the action, being fouled by Martin Rowlands to help him into the referee's book, before picking up a caution for himself after a foul on Fitz Hall.
-Rangers turned up the heat with a period of pressure as the game eased its way to the mid-point of the second period, with Patrick Agyemang coming alive to a host of half-chances near the Watford goal.
-Doyley conceded a free-kick after 70 minutes and after Rowlands floated a ball to the back post Helguson was on hand to nod across the face of goal, where Blackstock was straining every sinew to apply the headed finish, which he was ultimately unable to do.
-There were loud appeals from the home fans soon after as Agyemang went down under pressure from Doyley, but in truth it never looked a penalty as the lumbering striker dropped to his knees.
-The game had descended into a long range affair with little quality or cohesion, and it was in desperate need of some fresh impetus.
-Jay DeMerit went into the book for handling the ball as the game ticked into its final quarter of an hour.
-From the set play Rangers created havoc in the Watford area as two attempted shots were blocked by brave defenders before Loach saves at point-blank range from Helguson.
-From the resulting corner Hall headed over as Loach leapt to cover his net, as Rangers stepped up a gear in the search for a winner.
-Watford were forced to counter attack and when they did McAnuff was unlucky to see a stinging drive blocked by former team-mate Mahon.
-Watford won a free-kick on the left edge of the area when Smith was sent tumbling by Helguson and after a brief discussion it was left to Williamson to strike.
-With the only piece of quality on show all afternoon the midfielder struck a sweet shot past a stranded Cerny, only to see it cannon back off the far post - it was an effort of note that deserved far, far better.
- This time Rangers countered and Helguson's run and cross almost drew an own goal off Mariappa as he deflected the ball into the ground and over the bar without knowing much about it.
- Rangers took former Watford captain Mahon off and replaced him with Mikele Leigertwood, a fellow central midfielder.
- Time was ebbing away when Bromby replaced Bridcutt to help secure the clean sheet, which was registered as four minutes of added time came to an end at Loftus Road. Watford

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