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Just Back on the Island...

 
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 10:37 am    Post subject: Just Back on the Island... Reply with quote

Well having just got back from Loftus Road, I have to say the emotions we fans experience as Rangers followers is just completely unparalleled. I write this report on what was one of the most worrying (for more than one reason) but exhilarating matches you are likely to see.
Obviously this was our first home game in charge since Sousa's dismissal. I have to say that when we were outside the ground at around 1 o'clock, it didn't have the feel or a football match at all. I don't know whether it was due to Bank holiday fever or what, but it was a pretty surreal atmosphere just around the ground before kick off... more suited to a cemetery than a football ground. There almost seemed to be complete silence, it was very odd.

I had read a few whispers of a protest against the board earlier in the week, but that never came to fruition. The only form of 'protest' was one middle aged man running down South Africa Road screaming "Sousa is a liar" at the top of his voice. In truth, he made little impact and was met more with a few outbursts or laughter coupled with odd looks.
As the teams were read out, there were a couple of surprises in the starting lineup. Cerny remained in goal, with Ramage, Stewart and Gorkss in defense, and Connolly replacing Delaney at left back. The midfield was made up of Cook on the left wing, Routledge on the right, and Lopez partnering Gavin Mahon who took over the captaincy for Leigertwood. Taarabt was also starting, and he was given a free role behind Heider Helguson up front. There were places on the bench for Vine, Ephraim, Leigertwood, Miller but Di Carmine didn't make the squad list after his apparent no show against Burnley.

After the players went into the tunnel before kick off, we were all discussing Ainsworth's team selection when the tannoy came on with an announcement. It read: "In the wake of various stories in the press this morning regarding the apparent sacking of De Canio last season... Luigi De Canio has made the following statement this morning..." They proceeded to read words to the effect that he was never sacked, and this was met with a loud round of booing from where we were sat - so much so that I couldn't make out anything that was being said. I believe that they read out he left for 'personal reasons' although over the booing I could barely hear a thing. Following on from that, they also again clarified the supposed reasons for Sousa being sacked - and in the process the groans/whistles and booing intensified even greater. Generally, we are all accustomed to chants of "You R's" and the like before kick off... but a number of fans were chanting against Flavio and in particularly Paladini. As the players ran out for the start of the half, "**** off Paladini!" was the cry from the fans.

As the players entered the fray, the chants did stop and they got a warm welcome from the QPR fans.

They also announced that there would be a minute’s applause at the request of the family, following the death of Mike Keen. I have to say that for me personally, having never been born at the time he played for us, I wasn't aware of the huge amount of respect that he clearly had with the Loftus Road faithful. Looking around the ground, the older ones among us were clearly upset about his death, and he was honored impeccably. Credit to Sheffield Wednesday, they also helped make it a respectable occasion and helped to aid the special moment.

As the players ran back to their respective ends there was a huge roar and the game kicked off. For the opening couple of minutes, Sheffield Wednesday managed to hold onto possession and we struggled to get the ball off them. When we did though, it was clear what Ainsworth had drummed into them... keep the ball on the floor, pass and move. Despite the grizzling fans that seemed more intent on venting frustration at the board, I think all in attendance would agree that we were playing some superb passing football. Our first chance of the game came shortly after.

As Connolly had overlapped past Cook, the defender managed to prod the ball out for a throw in. Cook ran over and took it quick to Helguson. His touch down laid the ball back to Cook, and he crisply knocked it back central to Helguson. As he spun on the spot, he passed the ball towards Taarabt and made a run down the left hand wing. As we waited for Taarabt to pull off a trademark trick, he simply passed the ball back out wide to Helguson and darted towards the box. Helguson picked the ball up unmarked, and dashed a lethal ball across the face of the goal... and although it did find Taarabt, his effort went well over the crossbar. It was met with an appreciative cheer from the Loftus Road crowd but they remained as they were - dead quiet. I don't know if it was a form of protest or what, but I don't think I have witnessed such a quiet home crowd for quite some time.

Undeterred, those short passing moves again set up another very good opportunity. Cook was again involved, and as Connolly again provided great support on the left, he cut inside and played the ball square to Lopez on the edge of the box. As the defense reshuffled, he dinked a ball over to the right hand side of goal, and Helguson (who had made a masterfully timed run) broke free on the defense. As he edged through on goal, he struck the ball well, but it flew agonizingly wide of the post with just the keeper to beat. I hate to keep coming back to it, but this isn't the first one of these he has missed. I have seen plenty of almost identical chances like this, and he seems to continually fail to test the keeper. The annoying thing for me is that the run he had made was first class, maybe it's due to lack of first team appearances this term that he isn't tucking them away? Either way, it was another very good chance wasted.

Carrying on in this vein, we continued to push forward and we all thought we had taken the lead at around the 20 minute mark. Another passing move found Connolly running through the centre of the pitch, and approaching the edge of the box, and as he shuffled his body both left and right, a couple of defenders charged towards him. However, they didn't take into account the run of Routledge, and as he burst through the middle... Connolly laid a beautiful pass which cut straight through the backline and laid it on a plate for Routledge. The crowd rose to their feet, and while he seemed to take an eternity to shoot he eventually prodded the ball to the right of Grant in the Wednesday goal… It looked to have nestled in the bottom corner, and as we all celebrated for what we thought was the opening goal - the ball rebounded back of the post and was blasted clear for a corner kick. Grant was spitting nails in the Wednesday goal, and there was clear confusion and bemusement among their back line. We were tearing them to pieces, but just unable to get the ball in the back of the net.

Despite our dominance, certain fans found it necessary to start the anti-Flavio chants. “Flavio you’re a ****!” was ringing around where I was sat, and while I will stress that it was a minority, due to the whole ground being locked in silence, it rang through loud and clear. The most aggravating thing of all – they all did it with a smile on their faces. Almost as if they were proud of how ‘clever’ they had been. While I am far from Flavio’s biggest fan, and feel he has made some terrible mistakes, just who do they think will take over? Not to mention that we were playing some of our best football this season, and at a time where the management/players needed us most, it just begs the question of what exactly runs through these idiots minds?! They must have chanted it for around 5 minutes, and the more it went on the more aggravated I became by it. It hit a stage, where I personally felt enough was enough, and I turned round and shouted at the top of my voice “Shut Up” at where the noise was coming from. I could almost feel everyone stop and just look at me, but I seriously couldn’t have cared less. I’m sure many others did a similar thing when they heard the chants also. The people sat behind us stopped almost immediately, and the chant died out shortly after… not due to my outburst I’ll add though!! Laughing

The fans finally found their voice in the sense that something was coming, and as Lopez drifted a curling cross into the box from the corner, Stewart out jumped everyone to head the ball at goal... Grant stayed rooted to his spot, and watched the ball fly to his right hand side, and again we were all up celebrating. Our joy was short lived though, and this time it was Spurr who was the savior for them, and he headed the ball off the goal line from under the cross bar to keep the scores level.

I think even the most ardent Sheffield Wednesday fan would concede that we had completely blown them away for the first half hour. It looked a case of when and not if we would score. But then the inexplicable happened. Despite our complete dominance, they somehow took the lead. After Connolly had cleared for a corner kick, Esajas walked over to take the kick. “Pineapple head” and “Pineapple boy” were the wild screams from the home supporters, for obvious reasons.

With a cheeky grin on his face, he knocked the corner short to a team mate and received it straight back. While rooted in the corner, Connolly began to close him down… but he looked up and absolutely thumped the ball at goal (I mean thumped!) and Mahon and Cerny seemed to get into a mix up, and the ball flew into the back of the net.

The already silenced home fans were just gob smacked at what we had just seen. Where on earth did that come from!

Was it pure brilliance? Or was it a fluke? Personally I think the latter, although he clearly hit it in like that for a reason. Much is said about players getting booked for taking their shirts off, but if that was deliberate he would be fully entitled to do a lap of honor around the pitch - fully naked!! No doubt the Wednesday fans will claim he did mean it and it’s not the first time etc. Either way, it was probably the most freakish goal we have conceded this season.

After playing so well throughout the half, you couldn’t help but feel the heads would drop after conceding – especially in the manner that we did.

We almost drew the score level a minute later. Taarabt was again the provider, and after picking the ball up on the right hand side of midfield, he drove through on goal. With the barmy Wednesday fans on their feet, he executed a perfect pass right in the path of the on running Helguson. Again, his run was timed to perfection and with the last defender desperately trying to make up ground, he smashed a fierce shot which cannoned back of the near post and eventually out for a goal kick.

The football was as good as we have played this season, but still no breakthrough. Unfortunately, it was again Helguson that was guilty of another missed opportunity.

As we continued to pile on the pressure, it was our returning Lopez who ever so nearly scored another memorable goal. Cook was running rampage on the left hand side, and as he feinted to go left – the defender stumbled back and he cut in to the right. Taarabt had been well positioned unmarked for sometime, and Cook slid the ball to his feet. As a surge of Sheffield Wednesday fans flew in at him, he somehow managed to spin on the spot and find Lopez on the edge on the box. As he looked he would shoot on his left foot, the defender desperately tried to lunge in and stop the shot. But he simply let the ball roll through his legs, and curled a beautiful shot destined to dip just under the bar. Grant who had already made some good stops eclipsed the lot, and somehow managed to back peddle and push the ball over the top of the crossbar - for yet another corner kick.

As the fourth official signaled for an additional 1 minute to be played in stoppage time, Wednesday almost doubled their lead. The confident Esajas was again the thorn in the side, and after Clarke bundled the ball down to the left… he again unleashed a ferocious drive at goal which Cerny watched fly wide of the right hand post.
The fact that the sides were both level was unbelievable, but then fact that they were actually winning…?! Well it just left many a QPR fan baffled as to what more we could have done.

As the referee blew time on the first half, I was nervous they would received a chorus of boo’s from the fans, but it was quite the opposite. They were all clapped off the pitch – and rightly so!

That was the best first half we have played all season without a doubt. The freedom and movement was there for all to see, we really were just mouthwatering coming forward. You could almost sense Ainsworth in the dressing room just telling them to keep doing as they were. Nobody did anything wrong at all, it just wasn’t happening for us. Considering that plenty of games this season they have been booed off (generally when drawing), the fact that we were losing and they actually got clapped goes some way to show how happy the fans were with the first half. Very impressed!

The second half started in very much the same vein. Routledge was now really starting to impose himself on the game, and it was clear that Wednesday were now sitting far more defensive. With the monstrous Beevers also brought on at half time, it was clear that they were trying to eliminate the threat we posed.

Then a matter of minutes into the second half – disaster stuck. Ex loanee Leon Clarke bundled the ball forward while in the box, and Gorkss mistimed his challenge and send him crashing to the ground. The referee pointed to the spot instantaneously, despite the claims of innocence by Gorkss. Tudgay stepped up, and drilled the ball just under Cerny. I a little less power and it may well have been saved, but quite inexplicably we found ourselves 2-0 down and with a mountain to climb. It was a travesty that we found ourselves losing though, but better was to come.

Ainsworth felt it was time to introduce Rowan Vine and he replaced Taarabt, who had a fairly quiet game by his standards. What a substitution it proved to be! It could have been no longer than 5 minutes that he had been on the pitch, and he had made his impact. Following a Sheffield Wednesday corner, Stewart managed to head it clear and onto the edge of the box. As Helguson managed to flick it on, he found Routledge on the half way line. The fans roared as he turned and blasted his way towards the goal, with only 3 defenders back to cover. As he sprinted past one defender, it looked like his touch had taken it too far. But he somehow managed to wriggle past him, and was left about 7 yards behind the beastly figure of Beevers. As he advanced on him rapidly, despite the pulling on his shirt he edged past him, and he knocked the ball again forward, by which time he was in the box. As he looked up and shaped to shoot, he drilled the ball to Grant’s right hand side. He couldn’t manage to hold the ball though, and as he pushed it away timidly, the grateful Vine was left with an easy finish and coolly placed the ball into the back of the net. We now had a slight glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

You do have to hold your hands up to Routledge here though – what a superb run he had made to inadvertently set up Vine. But this was the moment Vine had waited for, after a grueling 12 month’s he finally had that goal… and did he celebrate. After running down past the Ellerslie Road stand, we all celebrated not only the fact that we had got ourselves a goal – but also the scorer. As I looked up, I saw Vine now over by the South Africa Road stand celebrating his goal over there. I don’t think you will see a more over the top celebration for a team that were still losing, but we didn’t care. Well done Rowan!

The atmosphere now took a completely different twist. The fans that had been on the owner’s backs now were in full voice and urging us to come forward. Ainsworth clearly saw that there was still something there, and Lopez (who had a good game) was replaced with the more attacking Ephraim.

However, while we drooled over the football being played, had it not been for Cerny we would have gone 3-1 down – and the game almost definitely would have been out of reach.

Again it was Esajas that was the danger. Having picked the ball up on the left hand side, he must have been about 30 yards out. Clearly brimming with confidence, he again attempted a long range shot. As he hammered it at goal, it looked for the world that Cerny was beaten. But he somehow managed to fly across his goal, and finger it just wide of the post. Gorkss was the most alert defender and he played the ball out for safety.

Then another very nervy moment for the Wednesday back line. Ephraim dinked a ball over the top of the defense, and as Helguson ran onto the loose ball, Grant sprinted out of his goal mouth. The defender that was tracking back, lunged in and poked the ball over his head but it went narrowly wide of the post. This again gave fans hope, and as Cook ran over to take the corner kick, he was encouraging the fans to get behind the side. With the chant of “Lee Cook” ringing in his ears, he crossed poorly and the defender headed it back out towards the corner flag. Ephraim was first to the ball though, and he prodded it back to Cook. From an identical position as he had from the corner, he delivered a fantastic cross (it was directly in front of us, and the curl on the ball was frightening), and as it dipped towards the back post… Mahon flew in with a diving header, and we watched as the ball flew to Grant’s left hand side and nestled in the back of the net.

Wild celebrations followed, and while it was making it a truly entertaining encounter – in truth this match should already have been over.

Hero of the moment Mahon, was then substituted shortly after for Leigertwood. He received a tremendous ovation. Mahon not only scored the goal, but I thought he had been a contender for Man of the Match out there… he had a terrific game out. The performance at Ipswich now a distant memory – he showed what a top class player he is on his day.

As the clock ticked down, we continued to pour forward. Attack attack was clearly the call from Ainsworth on the touchline, and it was clear from his body language that he wanted all of them to heave forward. Cook was teasing defenders, Connolly was almost playing as a left winger, Routledge was running at the helpless Spurr for fun, Vine was displaying a whole range of tricks and flicks, as far as style goes – Rangers were back!!

The next chance fell for the attacking Connolly. Another free flowing move, saw him play a great one two with Cook, and Connolly found himself in the unusual position of being in the opponents box with the ball at his feet. As he tried to cross for the hovering Vine, the ball was scuppered out for a corner kick.

Could Lee Cook replicate that superb cross he did for Mahon again? Well again with the Loftus Road roar behind him, his first corner failed to beat the first man. Again it was headed back straight to him though, and as Spurr darted out towards him, he cut the ball to his left and flighted another exceptional ball into the box. There was a crowd of players in there, and all I saw was the back of the net bulge. The Loftus Road end went CRAZY, and after a couple of seconds that it took for it to sink in we had got a last minute goal – where we were sat also went wild!

I looked up and saw Stewart being bundled, and he eventually collapsed on the floor in front of Ainsworth. After completely dominating a game from start to finish – it looked that we had won it literally in the dying seconds. Unbelievable stuff!!

As the clock ticked down, the 4th official indicated a minimum of 6 minutes injury time! In fairness, Gorkss had sustained a nasty wound to the head, but where 6 minutes came from I don’t know?!

The ‘party time’ atmosphere suddenly changed to ‘squeaky bum’ atmosphere. Law’s was clearly lambasting his players to hammer it in the box, and that’s just what they did!

A long goal kick was scrapped clear from Ramage for a corner kick. Grant ran up from his goal, and this was clearly the last throw of the dice from Wednesday. As the ball came into the box, Grant actually got up high enough to win the header. As the ball glazed the top of the net, the Wednesday fans were up screaming at a late late equalizer. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t go in and the response of “Sit down shut up!” from the QPR fans was well timed.

As only QPR can do, despite there being a matter of seconds on the clock… we had one last scare. After blasting another long ball into the area, it fell to Buxton on the edge of the box. As he wound back, he thumped a shot at goal. My heart was in my mouth, and somehow Cerny managed to dive in the top corner and push it out for a throw in. It was a world class save! It proved to be a match winning one as well, as the resulting corner was cleared from danger – the final whistle blew and we had the 3 points in the bag.

All the fans were on their feet, not only in the fact we had snatched a win – but the whole performance was just sensational! I do feel like I haven’t stopped going on about how superb the football was this report, but it really was just brilliant. I’ll try and do the player ratings now without telling you how exceptional we played (again!). Sorry…

Player Ratings –

Cerny – Not sure if it was him or Mahon that was responsible for the first goal. Every so nearly saved the penalty, but 2 top top saves from him. He wasn’t really tested an awful lot, but was on hand when called upon. Very good distribution from him also.

Connolly – Started the game a bit shaky to be honest. Had a few missed passes, but didn’t look back after 20 minutes. Telepathic understanding with Cook on the left hand side, and really impressed me. He along with about 6 others would be a great contender for man of the match.

Stewart – Superb header for what was the winning goal. Marshaled the defense the whole game, and was dominant in the air. One scary moment when he was robbed of possession in the middle of the pitch, but recovered well and saw it out of safety. Clearly he had brilliant communication with Gorkss, superb partnership.

Gorkss – I say the same thing about him every single week. He has to be our most consistent player. Will put his head in where it hurts, and just an animal at the back. I thought he was unlucky with the penalty, he just mistimed his challenge by seconds. I have since learned he played on despite needing 14 internal stitches to his head, that pretty much sums his desire up. Typical Gorkss!

Ramage – Another solid display from him. Offered very little going forward, but wasn’t troubled on the right hand side at all. Fed Routledge with plenty of possession and had a fairly trouble free afternoon.

Cook – The Cook of old was back out there. Running at defenders, getting to the by line and getting crosses in, bringing other players into the game. Superb performance from him, and probably his best since returning ‘home’ to us. Crossing for both of his goals was first class. I could ask no more of him. Well done Cookie!

Mahon – Staked a real claim for a place in the starting line up. Finished his header expertly, but the thing that impressed me most was him coming forward (odd I know!). The just seemed to be like a magnet to the ball, and every time he was in possession he sprayed it round. Thought he was tremendous on Monday!

Lopez – Good delivery from set pieces, and ever so nearly got on the score sheet. Bossed the midfield alongside Mahon – quite amazing when you consider they have never played together before. Clearly had a burning desire to impress and he certainly did! I really do like him, and hope we get him on a permanent deal in the summer.

Routledge – Much more the Routledge that we had seen when first signing for us. Skill, and pace to burn… when in possession he caused no end of problems for Wednesday, and I bet Spurr is glad he doesn’t face him every week. Didn’t mention earlier in the report, but he made one run where he took on about 6 players in the first half, like Messi in disguise? No that’s little over the top, but great to watch all the same.

Taarabt – Fairly quiet game on the whole. Possibly should have done better with the chance he had in the first half, but by no means our worst player. The positive thing is that he is now using his teammates much more readily. Get him on loan next season!

Helguson – A couple of real positive, but a fair few negatives on him as well. Firstly, he won near on everything on in the air. Out jumping the defender time after time in the first half, which is clearly why they introduced Beevers – and he still continued to even beat him! Also the late runs he makes into the box are just as it should be done. Impossible to keep track of. Now the negatives, consistently off-side every time the ball was played forward. Again, he was guilty of a fair few missed chances. Is he good enough? I just hope that when he is fully fit these shots will end up in the back of the net. He is useful, but not a starter IMO.

Subs –

Vine – I’m still smiling now that he managed to get a goal. Some superb tricks from him as well, and while trying not to get ahead of myself here… there were clear glimpses of the Vine of old in there. I desperately hope that after a full pre-season, we might just see that player of last year. A very promising display.

Ephraim – Didn’t make the impact we might have hoped for. But helped link up play well, and always on option for his team mates.

Leigertwood – A few Gerrard like driven balls across the field. He covered well for the impressive Mahon when he came off, and held the midfield together well. He clearly enjoyed the win going by his celebrations.

In summary, there are some real positives to take from today. They had the flair of a De Canio side, the resilience of a Dowie side – and the never say die attitude of an Ainsworth side. Despite still being unhappy about Sousa’s dismissal, I think every fan left Loftus Road with a smile on their faces.

Flavio came right down to the front and cheered each and every player of the pitch. I don’t think I have ever seen him do that before? He clearly loved the football he had seen as well.

I haven’t seen a QPR side play with that much freedom for an awful long time, but I really enjoyed that.

On a slightly negative point, I do fear for what will happen against Plymouth if we end up losing. There are clearly fans that almost want us to lose, so that they can vent their anger at the board. Next time we might not be so fortunate to get treated to what I would describe as total football… if we aren’t there are clearly fans waiting in the wings to attack Briatore.

I think games like that though we should just savor, and enjoy it while we can. It was super!

Now having taken an hour and a half to finish this off this morning, I need to get some work done!

Thanks very much for reading.

GARETH AINSWORTH’S BLUE (AND WHITE) ARMY!!!

Better for you qprgentina? Wink
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't get it. Did you enjoy the game or not ?
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

UxbridgeR wrote:
I don't get it. Did you enjoy the game or not ?


For entertainment - probably the best this season.

Was marred by a few chants against the board which I didn't like... but it was a cracking game.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not a great fan of Helguson but in his defense the shot in the first half was hit well and was going in, but the keeper got his fingers to it. We weren't awarded a corner but should have been so I can see why most people might think he missed.

Still, he's missed plenty of other chances this season...
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 11:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

gyates wrote:
I'm not a great fan of Helguson but in his defense the shot in the first half was hit well and was going in, but the keeper got his fingers to it. We weren't awarded a corner but should have been so I can see why most people might think he missed.

Still, he's missed plenty of other chances this season...


Sorry I might be wrong, if the keeper stopped it then fair enough.

I still think that he should have tucked at least one of them away though.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah I only posted because it was a rare occasion when Helguson didn't actually miss the target! He does lack a convincing ability to finish chances and I hope he proves me wrong but I can't see him scoring enough to be a regular in a team pushing for promotion next season.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gyates wrote:
Yeah I only posted because it was a rare occasion when Helguson didn't actually miss the target! He does lack a convincing ability to finish chances and I hope he proves me wrong but I can't see him scoring enough to be a regular in a team pushing for promotion next season.


No I would agree with that comment.

He might be handy coming off the bench, but I don't personally feel he is good enough to start for us next season.

Too inconsistent...
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good report. Glad to read the game stole the show despite all the boll*x going on between boardroom and terraces.

Just one quick question. Where are the marks out of ten for the players ?
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2009 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

old pauline wrote:
Good report. Glad to read the game stole the show despite all the boll*x going on between boardroom and terraces.

Just one quick question. Where are the marks out of ten for the players ?


Hello old pauline, thanks for the comment, and hope you are well Smile

Marks out of 10? I never bother with doing that Embarassed
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 2:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The lack of a commitment to the JBOTI cause after Burnley is almost forgotten with this quality report SM. Always a pleasure to read and appreciated and even more so when we come from behind! I'm pleased QBP "made little impact" although a bit concerned that you'd suggest a footballer is entitled to do a "fully naked" lap of honour after a quality goal! Anyway, even though it's old news now, having been away for a few days, I wanted to read some good stuff before I read all the other stuff.....
Cheers.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I did put 'and white' on the end for you Laughing

Thanks for the comment qprgentina Wink
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