Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro helps Rochdale beat QPR in Carling Cup

Outplayed and outfought, Premier League Queens Park Rangers were beaten by a team of League One strugglers.

Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro helps Rochdale beat QPR in Carling Cup A goal in each half, from Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and Gary Jones, secured a deserved passage to the third round for Steve Eyre's admirable team.

QPR had failed to reach the third round of the Carling Cup in five of the last seven seasons, but their manager, Neil Warnock, made it clear that he was not particularly bothered about improving on that.

"It's fair to say that the Carling Cup is not a top priority for us this season," he wrote in his programme notes, most of which were devoted to celebrating Saturday's surprising Premier League victory at Goodison Park. That attitude was reflected in the a paltry attendance and in Warnock's line-up, which included three players who started at Everton.

That is not to say the match was entirely devoid of meaning for the hosts, since the eight players who came into the side might have been expected to try to summon performances to convince Warnock not to replace them with any of the "four or five players" that he wants to buy before the transfer window closes, following the Tony Fernandes takeover of the club.

The entire QPR team, however, began as if they would prefer to have been watching from their sofas. By contrast, the match meant much to Rochdale. Eyre's team exhibited pleasing pace and purpose and no little precision. Akpa Akpro's powerful running down the left had already worried the home defence before Jones's smart pass to Ashley Grimes in the fifth minute led to the goalkeeper, Brian Murphy, parrying the striker's shot from the right-hand side of the box. Akpa Akpro reacted faster than any home player to tap the rebound into the net from seven yards.

The League One side continued to look more progressive, with Akpa-Akpro a constant menace and Jones and Andrew Tutte probing from midfield. Not until the 24th minute did Rangers muster a shot on target, Matthew Connolly's drive from 20 yards forcing David Lucas to push the ball behind for a corner.

Adel Taarabt, QPR's inspiration last season, had presumably been denied a day off in the belief that this was an ideal occasion for him to find the form that has eluded him in this campaign, but he was a passenger in the first half. He perked up after the resumption, delivering a free-kick in the 47th minute with which Jay Bothroyd narrowly failed to connect. Moments later the Moroccan jinked past two players and let fly from outside the box. It went a long way wide but at least QPR were hinting at getting the upper hand.

In the 52nd minute, however, Rochdale gave a reminder of the threat they posed when the regal Tutte strode forward before releasing Grimes, whose snappy shot from 12 yards was held by Murphy.

QPR's play began to contain some urgency after that, with the centre-back Danny Shittu making frequent ventures forward in an attempt to connect with direct balls from deep. That crude approach heightened the impression that the slicker visitors looked more like a top-flight side than the home team did. Grimes could have extended Rochdale's lead in the 64th minute, but he claimed he was pulled back by Shittu as he went to shoot. The referee saw nothing amiss.

QPR did re-assert themselves in the following minutes, with Michael Harriman and Taarabt shooting from outside the area, though neither effort caused Lucas much bother. Twice through-balls from deep nearly found runners but Bruno Andrade looked half-hearted as he competed for one with Lucas in the 74th minute and the second, moments later, was fractionally too long for Bothroyd.

Warnock's decision to introduce Shaun Derry for Martin Rowlands leant a presence to the centre of QPR's midfield that had been lacking and on that platform they began to build modestly. But Rochdale defended staunchly and remained the source of whatever class was on show.

That was exemplified by their clinching goal, which came on the break in the 81st minute when Nicky Adams threaded a fine pass to Jones. Rochdale's all-time record appearance-maker crowned the move in style, chipping Murphy from the edge of the box to ignite wild celebrations in the away dug-out.

Two superb clearances off the line by Marcus Holness preserved the visitors' well-earned clean sheet.

Powered by article was written by Paul Doyle at Loftus Road, for The Guardian on Tuesday 23rd August 2011 22.02 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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