2nd March 2008
It was not a good day in the capital for those fans that decided to forsake a cosy Sunday lunchtime in front of the telly and make the trip south to watch the Potters take on the R's and to cap it all had to endure Andy Griffin get his marching orders from a referee who would have been better placed watching the match on TV as well.
It's a moot point as to how much Griffin's sending off effected the final result, since the Potters were already 2-0 down when the captain's totally legal sliding tackle, just before half-time, was seen as dangerous by a referee who was not only was on the opposite side of the pitch, but could not have had a clear view of the incident. The Sky TV cameras were far closer to the action and their replays showed that there was no contact and that the Stoke defender got to the ball well before QPR player. But what is certain, is that Andy D'Urso ensured that Stoke had no chance to fight their way back in another second half revival.
In all fairness, Stoke never really seemed up for this match, in stark contrast to Rangers who battled and harried the Potters at every opportunity, passing the ball around with speed and accuracy and often outplayed the visitors, even when there were eleven on the pitch.
That's not to say that the Potters did not have their chances, they started well and could have had a goal early on, but Mamady Sidibe's header hit the bar and was hacked off the line by the home defence, but on 12 minutes, the Potters were rocked by the first of two goals from Leigertwood, the second coming just nine minutes later.
2-0 down and approaching half-time, you expected Tony Pulis to be ready to bolster the attack with the introduction of Paul Gallagher and maybe replace Salif Diao, who is still clearly not yet match fit. But those plans had to be rapidly rewritten with Griffin's red card just minutes before the break. Pulis was forced into breaking on Andy Wilkinson in defence and sacrificing Mamady Sidibe in attack. Although Ricardo Fuller is a god in attack, he really does not function well without his trusty side-kick alongside him to do all the running and suffered from a distinct lack of service in the second half.
Within ten minutes of the restart, Pulis brought on the original Plan A and replaced Diao with Gallagher, but after just 60 seconds saw any plans to half the deficit shattered with the R's third goal of the game from Buzaky. After that, it was a case of just surviving without any further humiliation and Stoke played their third and final substitution with Lewis Buxton making a rare appearance for Liam Lawrence with a full half an hour remaining. In fact, it was good to see Buxton get a decent run out after having spent most of this season in the reserves after struggling back from an injury that cost him a place for all of last season.
Not Stoke's day, but this is not yet a crisis. With luck, Griffin's red card will be rescinded and the Potters will bounce back with an emphatic win at home to Burnley on Saturday - but I'm sure I said something similar after Tuesday's defeat at Preston.......
QPR: Camp, Mancienne, Connolly, Hall (Stewart 79), Delaney, Buzsaky, Leigertwood, Rowlands (Ainsworth 81), Ephraim, Agyemang, Vine (Blackstock 75)
Subs not used: Pickens, Lee
Stoke City: Simonsen, Griffin, Cort, Shawcross, Pugh, Lawrence (Buxton 62), Diao (Gallagher 55), Whelan, Cresswell, Sidibe (Wilkinson 46), Fuller
Subs not used: Hoult, Parkin