Dec 29 2005
QPR 1-0 Cardiff City
CARDIFF CITY slipped to a second defeat in as many days with Marc Nygaard providing the killer punch for Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road last night.
The Danish hitman pounced just after the interval when he headed Lee Cook's cross home.
Dave Jones' faltering Bluebirds have now collected only one point from their last nine but, more worryingly, they have not scored in their last three matches.
Had it not been for goalkeeper Neil Alexander, who had an outstanding match between the posts, City's defeat would have been much heavier.
It was another disappointing 90 minutes for the toothless Ninian Park outfit, who were so poor in the Boxing Day home defeat against Plymouth.
Bluebirds boss Jones had to shuffle his pack for this trip to west London, the biggest blow being the loss of skipper Darren Purse, sent off against Plymouth, who had his red-card appeal rejected by the Welsh FA.
That meant the influential defender had to sit out City's next two matches - starting with this clash against Ian Holloway's Rangers - and his place was taken by Neil Cox.
The loss of right-back Rhys Weston through injury gave the City chief another headache with midfielder Neal Ardley having to fill the void.
Jones opted for the 4-5-1 formation that notched a 1-0 win at Leeds earlier this month. Cameron Jerome was again asked to lead the forward line on his own with Michael Ricketts relegated to the bench, while Willie Boland was drafted in to strengthen the midfield.
The visitors arrived at Loftus Road on the back of a disappointing run, Jones' men collecting four points from the last 12 and scoring just one goal - a Jason Koumas free-kick at Elland Road - in their last four outings.
Holloway's lineup featured former Bluebird Richard Langley, who rejoined Rangers at the start of the season after two forgettable years at Ninian Park.
Another ex-City man, winger Gareth Ainsworth, was named as a substitute.
The Londoners, who had won only one of their last seven home fixtures, had the better of the opening exchanges and Cook tested Alexander in the fourth minute with a low shot which City's goalkeeper did well to hold.
But Rangers went much closer after 18 minutes when Nygaard's volley clipped the crossbar after the striker was fed by Martin Rowlands.
Moments later Boland became the first player to enter Mike Thorpe's book after the Irishman brought down Marc Bircham.
City were on the ropes, although they briefly threatened midway through the first half when Chris Barker's pass forced Simon Royce off the line, the Rangers shot-stopper beating Jerome to the ball.
Koumas then embarked on a dangerous run, but was felled by Langley with the tackle earning the Rangers man a yellow card.
The Wales midfielder almost broke the deadlock with the resulting 30-yard free-kick which flew narrowly wide of goal.
Alexander had to rescue his side minutes later with a stunning save to deny Langley, using his agility to tip the Jamaica international's free-kick out for a corner after it took a wicked deflection off Cox.
But there was nothing Alexander could do stop Nygaard's goal less than two minutes after the break.
Cook was the provider with a tantalising cross from the left after Joe Ledley lost possession with a sloppy pass and the lanky Dane outjumped Glenn Loovens to plant his header in the corner of the net.
It was the worst possible start to the second half for Jones' men, who have faded over this Christmas period.
Although the five-man midfield provided City with extra defensive cover, the downside was that it invited Rangers to come at them.
Koumas was one player capable of hauling the Bluebirds back into the contest and Royce was called upon to stop his snap-shot.
City finally carved out a goalscoring opportunity after 57 minutes when Ledley pulled the ball back to Jerome, but the unmarked striker - who has not found the net since November 9 - fired straight at Royce from 15 yards out.
Nygaard had been a handful for the City defenders all night and they must have been glad to see him quit the action midway through the second half with an injury.
With his charges chasing the game but lacking any menace up front, it was no surprise to see Jones change his tactics with 20 minutes left. On came striker Alan Lee and off went wide man Kevin Cooper as the Bluebirds switched back to 4-4-2.
But it was Rangers who continued to press forward and Cook bent a 20-yard effort wide before being replaced by Ainsworth.
Danny Shittu, who netted the winner in last season's fixture here, powered Langley's corner over the target.
With the game slipping away from City, Jones threw on forward Paul Parry at the expense of midfield battler Jeff Whitley.
Rangers, though, had two excellent chances to finish off the Bluebirds inside the final 10 minutes.
First Rowlands blasted substitute Shabazz Baidoo's pullback over the crossbar. The same two players combined soon after, this time Rowlands supplying Baidoo, but Alexander maintained the one-goal deficit with a brilliant save from point-blank range.
Despite playing second fiddle to Rangers, Boland almost snatched a point for City near the end, Royce diving to palm away his shot.