Last-gasp Maloney strike devastates QPR – full match report
Monday, 8th Apr 2013 22:29 by Colin Speller
QPR’s survival hopes were all but ended by a last second strike from Wigan’s Shaun Maloney at Loftus Road on Sunday. Colin Speller was there for LFW.
Much has happened in 2013 to dull the Speller morale. If it was not for the pre- and post-match craic with the LFW crew I would have long since found good excuses to do something other than watch QPR in recent weeks. I'm always very aware that at any given moment there are people facing the most horrendous of challenges in their lives, whether that be health problems in themselves or those they love, relationship issues or whatever. What is certain is that at such times any QPR supporter thus affected would be very unwise to rely on the team to lift their spirits. This season in particular, morale-boosting performances have been thin on the ground. To make matters worse, rather than simply give up the team now seems to be determined to find new and more dramatic ways to lose, or at least fail to win. It is, as ever, the hope that kills you.
On Sunday in front of a noisy hard core of Rangers supporters, QPR served up an end-of-game drama played to an exciting, if ultimately depressingly predicable conclusion. Having been very competitive in the opening phase of the game, QPR were rocked by a sending off. They then worked extremely hard to contain a Wigan side buoyed by playing against ten men until the eighty-sixth minute when Loic Remy scored a fabulous, dramatic goal. With the ink still drying on that part of the script Rangers then went out of their way to concede an equaliser in the last minute when Mbia, who had registered an excellent assist for the goal, gave away a silly free kick on the edge of the box and Taarabt failed miserably to play his role in the wall.
Whilst the result does not confirm relegation, it makes escape even more unlikely and the board and the management would do well to start planning for a Championship campaign now so that they can at least try to avoid the pitfalls that have ensnared many an ex-Premier League club, QPR included. The ills of the club are many and there is much to be said about what has gone wrong and what has been mismanaged.
The mood amongst the Clive-less posse in the Crown and Sceptre before the game was subdued, with little expectation of a result and much resignation about Championship football next season. The traditional reading of the team before the game by Andy Hillman revealed Cesar in goal behind a back four of Bosingwa, Samba, Hill and Traore. He midfield was Hoilett, Jenas, Mbia and Townsend with Zamora up front and Remy playing off him. There was no place for Taarabt, his replacement by Hoilett being the one change from the starting line-up at Fulham.
Wigan were unchanged from their narrow win over Norwich City and came into the game on the back of three straight wins, thus showing that whilst spring might be late arriving in the UK their usual late-season effort to snatch Premier League survival from the jaws of relegation is well underway.
The opening exchanges were encouraging for QPR for whilst Wigan looked patient and competent, it was the R’s that had a genuine ‘spark’ about them and they looked dangerous on the attack, no more so when Loic Remy smacked a shot against the post in the ninth minute from an excellent knock-down by Hoilett. Of all the millions chucked at players since we arrived in the Premier League, Remy is the one purchase who would have you believe it is possible to buy a decent squad rather than build one. Players with true class not only have a consistency to their skill, they also have an element of genuine surprise about them. Remy is quick, sharp and has a fantastic eye for goal, qualities that would be evident much later in the game, although prior to the shot against the post he snatched at and missed a presentable chance to get a shot away.
With things looking pretty even and QPR enterprising going forward there was an air of expectancy around Loftus Road. Sadly, if your team is in trouble, when something happens it is usually bad. On this occasion there was a throw in on the Ellerslie Road side of the ground, Zamora challenged Jordi Gomez with a high boot and the latter went down as if shot. Referee Phil Dowd seemed to be nonplussed by the whole event and initially played on but with Gomez apparently in extremis play was stopped and the trainer called on. Dowd remained inscrutable but it became clear as he strutted around the scene that he was actually conducting the equivalent of a public enquiry. Anyone who does not believe that TV replays are used in football should think otherwise because I cannot see what else was going on here other than the equivalent of a referral ‘upstairs’. He finally made a show of talking to the nearest assistant referee then waved the red card and Zamora was off.
The ire within my area of T block was quelled briefly by word via a text message from our own TV replay official – a Mr C Whittingham – to say it was a deserved straight red. ‘Kicked him in the head – moronic’ said the text. Watching it on the TV afterwards in slow motion confirmed this view as not only was the foot high and the studs showing there seemed to be little effort to pull back once contact was made. On such madness whole seasons can often turn and everyone sensed the importance of the moment.
If the officials’ virtual meeting produced the right decision then well and good, but there is much about officiating at the highest level of the game that needs to be brought into the twenty first century and it seems odd that within the same league it is possible to see a red card drawn faster than a Glock in a movie and then on this occasion a decision arrived only after the equivalent of the Levison enquiry. The red card and the process of issuing it did little to endear the officials to the crowd but within the noise and the arm-waving there was almost certainly a feeling that QPR’s limited chance of Premier League survival was disappearing down the tunnel with Bobby Zamora.
The event galvanised Wigan who started passing the ball around with some vigour whilst QPR helped them enormously by giving it back whenever they could. They say the route to madness is to keep trying the same thing hoping for a different outcome. The second route is to pay to watch other people do this. For many weeks now it has been evident that Cesar cannot kick and those playing up front struggle to do anything useful with the ball when it does reach them. Yet on more than one occasion the ball, apparently in controlled possession of a QPR player, was laid back for Cesar to punt it downfield to nobody in particular.
The other route to madness is watching QPR take throw-ins and believe that they might actually know what they are doing. Finally, the quality of the limited number of set pieces was lamentable as it has been sadly for quite some time. Add into the mix some offside calls made by the assistant referee who was held responsible by much of the crowd for the Zamora dismissal and it was fair to say that there was a fair bit of frustration about, a lot of it directed at Jordi Gomez because of his role in the sending off.
So, with Wigan seeing plenty of the ball and QPR hanging back it seemed only a matter of time before they scored. After 32 minutes QPR were carved open and McManaman shot powerfully wide of Cesar’s right-hand post with the goalie rooted to the spot. A few minutes later McCarthy drew a save from Cesar who turned the ball around his left hand post. And just before half time Kone had a chance to swivel and shoot when right in front of the goal but he failed to connect. It was, therefore, something of a surprise to get through to half time with the game goalless. The teams trooped off, Dowd and co to a chorus of boos. The only other thing of note was a booking for James McCarthy, one of several Wigan players not slow to impede the promising progress of a QPR attack.
At half time Traore was replaced by Onuoha presumably because of his weekly injury. The game settled down into its pattern of Wigan possession and QPR working hard and feeding off scraps. An early scare saw pantomime villain Jordi Gomez have a shot deflected into the arms of Cesar. This was followed by a shot by Figueroa that was well blocked by Mbia. Remy got booked for clattering someone with a sliding studs-first tackle that could have received stronger sanction and Hoilett whipped in a dangerous cross that got booted clear.
Then in the fifty sixth minute Harry tugged the indifferent Hoilett in favour of Taarabt, thus at once increasing QPR’s potential creativity whilst at the same time placing greater pressure on Bosingwa to stem the tide down the Wigan right pretty much single-handedly. Taarabt produced one moment of magic with one of his trade mark outside of the boot crosses that Remy headed just wide.
On reflection the bulk of the rest of the game very much followed the pattern of the first half with Wigan having much of the possession, but creating few clear openings. The one opening they did create looked odds on a goal when Gomez got to the byline and crossed for McArthur to head straight at Cesar who, nevertheless, could only parry it away. QPR, inspired by Townsend in particular, did offer something going forward and the dreaded hope was ever present.
Wigan made two substitutions: McArthur for Beausejour just after the hour and De Santo for McManaman a short time late but it did little to change the pattern of their play. In some of the scrappier exchanges Samba was booked for QPR for a straightforward foul as was Alcaraz for Wigan.
As the minutes ticked by it did actually start to seem that Wigan were not destined to score. Then after 84 minutes, something amazing happened. Wigan had a free kick in a dangerous position but a needlessly complex routine saw the shot charged down. Mbia, very much the star of the show at Fulham and having put in a solid, committed shift here, picked up the ball and broke clear into the Wigan half with only Remy for company in amongst about five Wigan players, albeit most of whom were behind the ball. His pass to Remy was true and the latter, without breaking stride, smashed the ball across the goal and into the far corner of the net for a wonder goal. Loftus Road erupted, much as it did when Furlong scored the late winner against the First Division winning Wigan side in 2004, although the goal was probably closer in similarity to Dexter Blackstock’s winner against Preston that helped QPR avoid relegation from the Championship some years later. With such precedents we dared to dream again and with 85 minutes on the clock we could smell the three points.
Wigan pressed strongly straight from the kick-off and a shot from Kone was well blocked by Onuoha. Then the game was disrupted, first by a booking for Figueroa, then by him being substituted by Espinoza, then Loic Remy left the field to a standing ovation to be replaced by Mackie. All this wound down the clock and the board went up for four minutes of injury time. In the first of these Bosingwa clattered Gomez just outside the box in a very dangerous position. The latter picked himself up to strike the free kick against the wall. Then two minutes later the otherwise excellent Mbia reverted to type with a clumsy challenge on Maloney even closer to the box. After the usual messing Maloney struck the ball over the wall somewhere in the region of Taarabt, half jumping and turning his head, and straight into the goal. Loftus Road fell flat whilst the 300 Wigan supporters in the School End danced and yelled. It was a bitter blow, but in truth only one of many in recent weeks. Nail, coffin, fat lady warming up – pick your metaphor on the way out, please.
In the early phases of the game QPR had looked competitive; it reminded me very much of the opening to the Sunderland game. Bobby Zamora has played through the pain barrier in recent weeks, but whether his lack of mobility was any factor in his challenge, his decision to even contest the ball from the throw-in was fatally flawed. Once down to ten men, QPR showed real spirit and chased and harried really hard. The stars of the show to me were very much Townsend and Mbia, the former showing real menace going forward and the latter energetic and committed. In fact, QPR did everything they needed to and the goal was very much in line with the script – late, dramatic and a real body blow to Wigan. But then the flaws of our heroes were quickly exposed. Mbia’s challenge was unnecessary and clumsy, and Taarabt’s performance in the wall was of a man worried about a lucrative modelling contract than – say – Clint Hill who had cheerfully stopped a shot with his head earlier in the game.
In practice, though, the season and Premier League survival should not come down to one incident in one game – and in reality it doesn’t. QPR are where they are because of incompetence sustained throughout the season with much of the damage being done by the management regime of Mark Hughes and his player acquisitions. Once the die is cast at the start of a season it is very, very difficult to turn things around in this era of significant wages, the domination of agents and the limitations imposed by transfer windows.
I will leave the deconstruction of the ills of the club to others, but I will make one point here. In my day job I am the Managing Director of a business that turns over nearly £40 million per year. Like Tony Fernandes, I am proud of our company, its brand, what we do and the people who work for it. I started in an entry-level role and worked my way up and one of the key lessons I have learned along the way is that if you ever place your faith in the hands of so-called ‘professionals’ in a specialist area by simply doing what they say you should (in my case things like pensions, IT systems, legal matters, compliance, etc; in Tony’s case football) you are dead in the water. However much time it takes and however mind-numbing (believe me, pension issues redefine mind-numbing) you simply have to get to know the subject and form your own views, otherwise you will simply pay a lot of money for advice and end up following the wrong path. QPR desperately needs someone at the top of the club who understands football inside out, who does not have an axe to grind with a particular agent and who can make the tough calls on player acquisitions, contracts, etc. If the board remains naïve in this area, it will simply continue to piss money into the pockets of managers, players and agents whilst the fans watch on aghast at the resulting mess.
Hope has faded away but at least it means that we can stop being killed in instalments and take a more relaxed approach to what happens on the pitch in the coming weeks. Attention instead will turn to events off the pitch and how the club sets about avoiding the meltdown that so many are predicting.
QPR: Cesar 6, Traore 6 (Onuoha 46 6), Hill 6, Samba 6, Bosingwa 6, Hoilett 5 (Taarabt 56 5), Jenas 6, Mbia 7, Townsend 8, Remy 7 (Mackie 88 -), Zamora 3
Subs Not Used: Green, Ben-Haim, Park, Granero
Booked: Remy (foul), Samba (foul)
Sent Off: Zamora (serious foul play)
Wigan: Blazquez 6, Alcaraz 6, Boyce 6, Figueroa 6 (Espinoza 88 -), McCarthy 5, Maloney 7, Gomez 7, Beausejour 6 (McArthur 6), Schamer 6, Kone 6, McManaman 6 (Di Santo 67 6)
Subs Not Used: Al Habsi, Caldwell, Stam, Henriquez
Booked: Alcaraz (foul), McCarthy (foul), Figueroa (dissent)
QPR Star Man: Andros Townsend 8 There is a strong case for Remy but I thought that once again Townsend’s energy and commitment stood out as a shining example of what has been needed – and often lacking – throughout this season. Remy’s goal was class and he was unlucky to hit the post, but I took marks off for his wild lunge that might well have earned him a red card. Mbia was excellent but the crucial free kick was unnecessary.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire) 7 Despite the usual histrionics in truth he did not do a lot wrong and tried to keep the game flowing. The time taken to dismiss Zamora caused uproar but it was the right decision. It would just be good to get some consistency across the league and I cite the recent Grant Holt incident in the ‘lack of consistency’ category with regard to post-hoc review.
Attendance: 16,658 (300 away approx)
Tweet @loftforwords, @ColinSpeller
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 31 bloggers
The U'sual Ramblings #3 by wessex_exile
The U’sual Ramblings #3 comes on the back of an imperious victory at Portman Road, our first there since 13th October 1951, when Jimmy Allen’s U’s won 2-0 courtesy of second half goals from Vic Keeble and Fred Cutting in front of 19,275. This was back in the old Division Three South days, and the U’s would finish the season 10th, with our Suffolk neighbours down in lowly 17th place. Needless to say, some of the gloss of Tuesday’s backs to the wall defensive masterclass was tarnished by the behaviour of a mindless minority in the away end, though the CUFC Police twitter account has since confirmed these were not regular day in day out supporters of Colchester United. Let’s hope investigations identify the culprits, and that they never darken our doorstep again. Our reward is a second round home tie against Premier League Brentford, and whilst it won’t be on the TV, assuming Brentford sell out their 2,000 allocation, it should be a decent crowd and an excellent atmosphere at the JobServe.
The U'sual Ramblings #2 by wessex_exile
The U’sual Ramblings #2, and the U’s first home match of the season. Much has been written on our narrow defeat away at Northampton Town last Saturday, not least that if they are the yard-stick for promotion contenders, we can take plenty of credit (and hope) from most of our performance, which really should have earned a point. However, we’ve seen these false dawns before – remember away at Notts County, and at Bradford, in recent years, where we thought we were playing contenders, and they turned out to be whipping boys for most of the season. Still, I don’t expect that of Northampton, so stout hearts faithful…and wasn’t it great seeing Nouble bombing down the wing doing what he does best again!
The U'sual Rambling #1 by wessex_exile
Here we go folks, are we ready for another rollercoaster of joy and dismay? Right now, I’ll probably take an even mix of both if it guarantees a solid midtable finish, but why stop at that. I agree with Durham in his excellent match review, given how well we finished the second half of the season, ignore the bookies perennial struggler tag – we can do this! For the new season, the blog has slightly metamorphosed into The U’sual Rambling, though largely the same format as last season, albeit perhaps less labour-intensive in content. In my case, pertinent for Saturday given I am missing the opener at Sixfields to dog-sit the beautiful (and high maintenance, super ridiculous, energetic etc.) border collie Reggie.
When Monday Comes #37 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes and we reach the end of a topsy-turvy season, much of which hasn’t been that much fun if I’m honest, though latterly considerably improved under Wayne Brown. If I can, I always like to do the first and last game of the season, but sadly a trip to Hartlepool just wasn’t on the cards, not if I actually wanted to get home again tonight, so I had to console myself with a pretty enjoyable trip to the JobServe last weekend – not quite the victory the U’s deserved over Walsall, but a great day out anyway. I know it’ll be too late for the Player of the Year awards, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a Freddie Sears hat-trick this afternoon to round off the season.
When Saturday Comes #36 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes tomorrow, and I will be on a train heading over to God’s own county for my last U’s game of the season. That should have been last Friday’s trip to the Principality, but as posted elsewhere I was more than happy to be pre-booked to dog-sit Emma’s collie Reggie that night and had to be content with one of Nadine’s ‘downstreams’ on iFollow. Given both the performance and the result, whilst I was sorry to miss it in person, I was more than happy with how Friday night turned out in the end. Tomorrow will be a gathering of the clans for us, with at the last count at least 8, possibly more, of the family gathering for the match. Ironically, I’ll see them all again on Bank Holiday Monday for a family birthday, but I’ll be driving over for that one.
Bristol Rovers Polls