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Nelsen and Green carry QPR to Wigan point — full match report
Nelsen and Green carry QPR to Wigan point — full match report
Sunday, 9th Dec 2012 20:40 by Clive Whittingham

Premier League record sixteenth game without a win brought QPR a point from a trip to Wigan on Saturday, but the game could easily have been comfortably lost without the efforts of Robert Green and Ryan Nelsen.

Against a Wigan side also struggling at the bottom of the league table, coming into the match with four defeats from five matches and missing eight first team players through injury and suspension, there was a strong feeling of ‘if not today, then when?’ about QPR’s trip to the DW Stadium.

Without a league win since May, on the cusp of the Premier League’s worst ever start, and without an away victory in more than a year, Rangers are in danger of going down in infamy this season as, statistically, one of the worst teams of all time. They’ve acquitted themselves well against the league’s better teams, but passed up numerous winning opportunities against fellow strugglers and arrived in Lancashire facing the possibility of breaking Swindon Town’s 19 year record for the worst start to a Premier League season – 16 games without a win.

The question of when that first win will come burns brighter today after a 2-2 draw. For the optimists and straw clutchers it does remain ‘when’, but for the pessimists and some would argue realists it’s very definitely ‘if’ because, despite improved organisation and attitude under Harry Redknapp, Rangers still haven’t won. After a bright start to this game, they were distinctly second best for vast swathes of the match against a patched up Wigan side. Redknapp’s weary tone in his post match press conference spoke volumes after a little over a fortnight on the job.

Redknapp hooked Esteban Granero at half time in last weekend’s game against Aston Villa and left him on the bench to begin with here, fielding a more pragmatic and defensively minded Shaun Derry instead. That was perhaps done with Wigan’s unique formation in mind to combat the threat posed by Jordi Gomez, who loiters in the space behind a mobile front two of Arouna Kone and Franco Di Santo scoring occasionally and diving for free kicks frequently. But despite the presence of Derry behind Sephane Mbia and Samba Diakite in a physical, robust looking midfield QPR still found themselves overrun at times with James McCarthy starring alongside David Jones and scoring his first two goals of the season.

Redknapp’s solution to Wigan’s second half onslaught was to remove Adel Taarabt who’d started in support of lone striker Jamie Mackie with Shaun Wright-Phillips on the other flank. The Moroccan certainly hadn’t had his best game, but he remains one of the few QPR players happy to receive the ball to try and effect things in a positive way and without him the lack of movement from red shirts and dearth of passing options for the man in possession was stark. Rarely has a goal been scored so against the run of play as the one bagged by Taarabt’s replacement Djibril Cisse 20 minutes from time.

That should have given the Hoops something to cling onto, but they looked panicked by the unusual sensation of leading an away game and shipped an equaliser within four minutes. A centre back pairing of Ryan Nelsen and Clint Hill had battled manfully between full backs Armand Traore and Jose Bosingwa but not for the first time found themselves sucked too deep into the penalty box and overwhelmed by runners arriving late from midfield. On this occasion Rob Green, turning in his best performance in a QPR shirt, could not keep the shot out and the numbers continue to stack up against the West Londoners.

The R’s had actually started the game well. Clearly told to set about a Wigan team missing four would-be starters from its three centre back formation, and to test goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi who had been at fault for three goals in as many games prior to this one, there was sprightliness and urgency rarely present in Rangers performances this season. Jamie Mackie bustled through to the byline in the opening minute but found nobody behind him waiting for the cut back when it came. Then Shaun Wright-Phillips hit a shot from the far corner of the penalty area that Al Habsi had to fist away to safety. Already though the problem of getting men into the penalty box when the ball is in wide areas was starting to rear its ugly head once again.

When Mackie did get his nose under the cross bar for a cut back by Wright-Phillips after a fine pass from Taarabt, Spanish defender Adrian Lopez got there ahead of him and toed the ball away.

But there’s an undercurrent to this QPR team born out of laziness and stupidity. Wigan had hardly been out of their half in the first quarter of an hour but by dallying in possession, losing the ball and then conceding a soft foul on halfway Samba Diakite invited them there. That in turn led to a first corner of the game for the home side and although that was partially cleared Jose Bosingwa then committed the daftest challenge you could ever wish to see on Jean Beausejour right on the edge of the box – choosing to deliberately barge the Wigan man over as he leapt for a high ball rather than actually make the effort to compete for the header himself. David Jones, as he did with occasional success during his Wolves days, volleyed towards goal after flicking the dead ball up for himself but Green was alive to the danger and palmed it comfortably over the bar. That meant another corner and although QPR appealed to referee Dowd that the subsequent delivery had gone behind off a Wigan man another quickly followed that Jamie Mackie half cleared to an unmarked James McCarthy who volleyed in the opening goal via a deflection off Mackie’s shin as he attempted to close him down.

Through ill-discipline, bad decision making, laziness and poor marking QPR had contrived to turn a promising start against a fragile side into a 1-0 deficit. No wonder Clint Hill could only stand and shake his head at what has become of the team that battled so hard for promotion just 18 months ago.

Set pieces have been the bane of QPR’s season to date – they concede frequently from corners and free kicks while rarely posing a threat with their own – but they finally found the secret to a decent delivery and forced and equaliser with it within five minutes of falling behind. Traore accelerated in behind Ronnie Stam down the left and won a corner which Taarabt whipped into the near post and Ryan Nelsen headed powerfully home after Wigan failed to track his run from the penalty spot. Few players have deserved a goal as much as Nelsen who has been a tower of strength at the heart of a beleaguered defence in recent weeks.

That should have been the catalyst for the Londoners to retake control. You don’t have to watch Wigan for very long to pick out their two wing backs – Beausejour and Stam – as the key men because if you let them attack you down their respective flanks they’ll do serious damage, but in being so attack minded they frequently leave wide open spaces behind them in the defensive channels. In winning the corner that led to the goal Traore had shown exactly how to combat their threat – by turning them around and making them defend – but within three minutes of drawing level Rangers could very easily have gone behind again by doing the opposite. Stam was given time and space to get forward down the right, nobody closed him down in time to prevent him swinging over a low cross, Clint Hill made an absolute mess of dealing with the bouncing ball at the near post, and only a poor finish by Di Santo, who was also totally unmarked at the back post, allowed Robert Green to claim what should have been a tap in one the goal line and keep the scores level.

Referee Phil Dowd – who I felt was fairly generous to Wigan all afternoon – awarded the home side a free kick ten minutes before the break for handball on the edge of the box by Adel Taarabt. He’d initially waved advantage on with Wigan still in possession, but when they chose to run it away from the danger zone he decided to bring it back and let them have another go which seemed rather kind. Jordi Gomez ended any debate by lashing the ball over the bar.

Kone was similarly wild with a shot after prolonged pressure and a series of corners and free kicks around the edge of the QPR box while at the other end those themes of laziness and poor decision making cropped up again when David Jones accidentally played Shaun Wright-Phillips into space in the Wigan left back area. With Mackie and Mbia – employed much further forward than I’ve seen him before – in the penalty box and waiting for a cross Wright-Phillips incurred the wrath of a very creditable travelling support by pathetically hacking the ball behind with a shot that was foolish to attempt and appallingly executed.

Now Wright-Phillips is clearly the boo-boy of choice at the moment, and I’ve said before I find the QPR fans’ apparent need to always have one of their own players to abuse a bizarre compulsion. He came closer than most to winning the Aston Villa game at Loftus Road last week with a fine shot that hit the post, and would go on to set up a second goal in this match with some decent hard work down the left flank, but he remains a hard player to like. On three separate occasions in the second half here I found myself in full angry, shouting, swearing mode because a loose ball down the QPR left – often weighted 60/40 in Wright-Phillips’ favour – ended up in Wigan possession because he’d dangled a lazy foot at it rather than put in a proper tackle and potentially get hurt. I go back to an incident at Sunderland where Jose Bosingwa made a token effort to win a header he knew he was never getting to rather than hold his position and mark the man behind him who eventually received the ball properly. Wright-Phillips knew he wasn’t going to win those tackles, and he knew he was unlikely to score from 25 yards with two players in the area in position to receive a cross, but he doesn’t really care that much about what he’s doing so he slings a lazy boot in, makes a token attempt, shrugs his shoulders and jogs away again. When there are some players in this QPR team fighting hard to come away from situations weighted against them with possession of the ball, while others don’t even put a proper tackle in when they’re the favourites to win it, anger from the fans is perfectly understandable. The theory is Wright-Phillips is a confidence player who needs an arm around his shoulders – personally if he pulls out of a tackle one more time I’ll be tempted to go down there and show him what a proper challenge looks like.

The half ended with a yellow card for Taarabt for a poor foul on Stam and all in all, as that sort of half-rain half-mist that you only seem to get in the north west of England drifted through the floodlights and soaked the pitch, everybody seemed quite glad to hear the half time whistle.

An early low cross from Traore that eluded his team mates and a shot over the bar from Taarabt after he’d been fed by Wright-Phillips stoked hopes of QPR pressing home an advantage after half time. In fact it was another false dawn as Wigan subsequently took over the entire contest.

A sloppy pass from Nelsen presented Kone with a chance to run at the Rangers defence and although Clint Hill robbed him of possession the ball was inadvertently diverted into the path of James McCarthy in the penalty area. Rob Green read the danger, sprang from his line quickly, and made a very smart save one on one with the Republic of Ireland midfielder. Pressure still on, Rangers were then lucky that Jean Beausejour’s cross flashed all the way through the six yard box with neither Kone nor Di Santo able to apply a finishing touch, and when Stam retrieved the ball and returned it with interest Di Santo would have been presented with a tap in at the far post had the linesman not signalled the ball had swung out for a goal kick mid-flight. A lucky escape, a warning not heeded.

Phil Dowd penalised Stephane Mbia for a foul on James McCarthy after 52 minutes – a frustrating decision not only because Mbia was the man in possession of the ball and appeared to be the one who was sinned against, but also because it was one of the few times Rangers came through a battle in the midfield area as the victors. When play restarted service was quickly resumed as Emmerson Boyce quickly emerged from two challenges he had no right to win with the ball and set up Gomez for a powerful long range drive that shifted in the air and brought another fine save from Green.

Wright-Phillips had a swing and a miss at the resulting corner enabling Wigan to maintain pressure around the penalty box and although Di Santo’s subsequent effort was misguided it did force another corner from which Jones was left unmarked in exactly the same place McCarthy had earlier scored from and his well executed bouncing volley required Green to dive low to his left and make a good save. Ball still in and QPR flat footed, Wigan quickly returned to the six yard box where Gomez did beat Green only to see his instinctive effort rebound back into play off the cross bar.

Finding his team totally outplayed and dominated, Harry Redknapp removed Adel Taarabt and sent on Djibril Cisse, moving Mackie into a deeper, wider role where he would offer more work rate than the Moroccan while the French substitute posed the goal threat. That was the theory, but as Rangers were struggling to get out of their own half at this stage it made little difference initially. McCarthy played in Gomez who fed Kone in the penalty area but this time Redknapp’s men were saved by a linesman’s flag.

But, as I’ve written many times before, you have to score when you’re on top in a football game or face the consequences. For all their incompetence and idiocy QPR could quite easily have taken the lead at the midway point of the half had Stephane Mbia caught a first time shot more truly when picked out in the penalty area by Mackie. In the event even his mishit effort required a camera save from Ali Al Habsi.

Buoyed by a rare attack, Rangers staged another one four minutes later and took the lead totally against the run of play as Wright-Phillips caught Boyce and Lopez lethargically playing the ball out of defence, received the ball back from Mbia and then crossed low for Cisse to finish first time into the bottom corner.

Some 13 months and 22 matches since their last away win, QPR were suddenly in pole position with 19 minutes left for play. Calm heads and prolonged possession enabling them to control the pace and tempo of the remainder of the match was the order of the day, and getting through the next ten minutes with the lead intact absolutely crucial. Sadly, Rangers haven’t had a lot of practice at such situations and contrived to cave in and concede an equaliser almost immediately.

All the same failings from the previous 73 minutes of play came together in one glorious shit storm. McCarthy once again found himself completely free behind Samba Diakite who barely broke out of walking pace in a half-arsed attempt to track the Wigan man as he played the ball wide to Beausejour – again given the freedom of the Wigan left by Jose Bosingwa – who then cut it back into the area where the defence had been sucked too close to its own goal, the midfield had completely dissolved, and McCarthy had enough time to control the ball and poke it into the bottom corner unchallenged. Clint Hill’s reaction, collapsing to the floor and aggressively beating the turf with his fist, said it all. Amateurish.

Roberto Martinez sent on Shaun Maloney, returning from injury, instead of David Jones to press for a winner. QPR’s frustration manifested itself in complaints to the referee, initially from Cisse who was rightly furious not to be awarded a free kick on the halfway line but overall seemed to be too busy moaning to Dowd and his team mates than simply getting on with the job.

Redknapp sent on Granero for Diakite who’d been poor, and Fabio for Bosingwa which is a change I’d like to see made to the side permanently. Wigan introduced Mauro Boselli for Franco Di Santo and he came closest to winning the game when Rangers contrived to leave the Wigan central midfield pairing totally unmarked in an attacking position again and the substitute drew another decent one handed save from Green with a low shot.

Mackie headed a late Granero corner over at the near post but a QPR winner would have been daylight robbery and when Wright-Phillips bottled a challenge with Stam for the third time in the half Wigan came within an inch of a match winning penalty as Ryan Nelsen just got a toe to the ball ahead of Gomez in the penalty area. The margins between fabulous tackles and stone wall penalties are small, and Nelsen timed this one brilliantly.

Redknapp was quick to praise the New Zealand international, and his goalkeeper, in the press conference afterwards, but there was no hiding an exasperated tone as he shot barbs at his predecessor for building a “totally unbalanced” squad after the owners had provided him with “everything they were asked for.” To be honest QPR’s new manager sounded very much to me like somebody who looked at the squad on paper, thought it should be doing a lot better than it is, and expected to make an immediate impact with a couple of wins. While remaining unbeaten through his first three matches is creditable, Redknapp will know that Rangers will struggle to find three teams as limited as Sunderland, Villa and Wigan on their fixture list again anytime soon. His post match comments, and the tone in which they were delivered, suggested a man re-assessing the situation he’s walked into, and trying to summon strength for a job that can be measured in years rather than, as he perhaps hoped, weeks and months.

Still, if you’re looking for a positive to take away with you then satisfy yourself with the two points Redknapp has won from his two away games in charge so far – achieving in 180 minutes something that took Mark Hughes 11 months.

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Wigan: Al Habsi 6, Boyce 6, Lopez 5, McArthur 6, Bausejour 7, Jones 7 (Maloney 76, 6), McCarthy 8, Stam 7, Kone 6, Gomez 6, Di Santo 6 (Boselli 85, -)

Subs not used: Pollit, Golobart, Fyvie, Redmond, McManaman

Goals: McCarthy 19 (unassisted), 74 (assisted Beausejour)

QPR: Green 8, Bosingwa 5 (Fabio 84,-), Nelsen 7, Hill 6, Traore 5, Diakite 5 (Granero 77, 5), Mbia 6, Derry 6, Taarabt 6 (Cisse 58, 6), Wright-Phillips 5, Mackie 6

Goals: Nelsen 26 (assisted Taarabt), Cisse 71 (assisted Wright-Phillips)

Bookings: Taarabt 45 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Rob Green 8 A straight contest between Green and Nelsen and I’ve gone for the former because of the sheer number of decent saves he had to make, particularly at the start of the second half when the team collapsed in front of him. Hopefully this will give him some confidence and he can cut out the errors that have blighted his time with the club so far.

Referee – Phil Dowd (Staffordshire) 6 I wavered between a five and a six for the referee and went for the higher mark simply because there were no big decisions that he got wrong in the game, and that’s all you can really ask for as a minimum standard. However I thought he made a number of perplexing calls, and QPR were very unfortunate to come out on the wrong side of them on a number of occasions.

Attendance – 17,163 (1,100 QPR approx) I’m forced to wonder exactly why, after 15 matches without a win, with Christmas approaching, and a busy and expensive run of fixtures to come this month, so many QPR fans still went to this match. The travelling support was absolutely superb given the circumstances and a total credit to the club.

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YorkRanger added 20:52 - Dec 9
sadly second best for much of the game against an injury ravaged Wigan, got in front against the run of play and then capitulated almost immediately. Depressing stuff...

Hoopstar added 21:20 - Dec 9
1,101 at least as I was at the game but sat in the home end with a friend and there were a few blokes near me who were evidently R's!" Tend to use away games as a way of meeting up with old friends and yesterday thought the fans were immense in what was a disheartening performance. Sat down near the corner flag in the opposite half to the R's and could hear you all in full voice. They'll never take our Rangers away.

probbo added 22:14 - Dec 9
Well done the 1,101.


Roller added 22:22 - Dec 9
Nicely restrained Clive, much appreciated. The Bosingwa and Wright-Phillips problems are easily solvable although those nettles haven’t been grasped as yet. The lack of creativity and lack of numbers in the box are more difficult. Faurlin (or Granero if you prefer) would definitely help on the creativity front. Both possess vision and can realise a defence splitting pass and Cisse would benefit from earlier through balls that either of them could provide.

I’m not convinced about a solution to the lack of numbers in the box. Although he is intrinsically a defensive midfielder could Mbia push further up? We’ve been lacking an attacking midfield player for some time now, who was the last one? Rowlands? The balance between attack and defence is certainly proving elusive at the moment.

Cornish_oooRRRR added 23:02 - Dec 9
All very sad but true Clive

"Redknapp will know that Rangers will struggle to find three teams as limited as Sunderland, Villa and Wigan on their fixture list again anytime soon":

BUT.. this is QPR so I'm sure they'll turn it on now we're facing the better teams...

5 home wins on the trot anyone?

ozranger added 23:22 - Dec 9
Harry says SWP needs to get his confidence back. Man, he has had a season and a half to get this right. How long do we have to wait?

A small note on the opening goal. After it we saw Mackie pleading with Taarabt as to why he left McCarthy free for the shot. If you watch Adel before the shot he moves from the middle of the top of the box out to the side, which is quite intelligent as that is where most deflections from a clearing header should go. Unfortunately what he did not do correctly was to adjust prior to McCarthy getting in the shot and at least put some pressure on him.

Otherwise, a poor performance and really not too much to look forward to before the New Year. Will Keane make his way to W12 in January?

Neil_SI added 23:45 - Dec 9
I thought Diakité was poor in a youthful but costly way. I was irritated by his performance, but only because it's one of those you know he's capable of more and you've just got to be patient and wait until he wises up. It's unfortunate for us at the minute because we can't afford it, however, it's understandable.

Jose Boswingwa and Shaun Wright-Phillips however put in such an inept tactical display for players of their experience in the game that I was pretty staggered by it, and I'm not one for picking on players, but some of the things they did lacked such common sense that all I could say while I was there watching was "wow". They were absolutely awful from a defensive point of view – completely disregarding basics that you'd see put into practice much better than they offered at the lower levels of the game.

I did think we started the game brightly and had a good twenty minute spell, but our naivety cost us territorial dominance and we lost control from there and never recovered and had to deal with several hairy moments that were our own doing, so it has to be looked at as a good point in the end.


Kaos_Agent added 01:43 - Dec 10
Thank you Clive. I wonder what Harry had specifically in mind with his "unbalanced" comment. Lack of forwards and defenders, presumably.

Neil, I enjoy reading your measured comments and hope you can find time for another tactical column.

At least Diakite seems to be learning how to challenge without getting sent off. I'd like to see him attempt some deeper runs and take a proper tumble when properly fouled (ditto Cisse and Taarabt). I'd also like to see him take more shots as he's a big boy and can thump it.

I don't understand the disconnect between the fans and Harry regarding JB and SWP. He seems to see potential whereas we see big liabilities. I hope Fabio is fit again, and I hope Hoilett gets a look in. Don't know why Harry doesn't seem to be keen on him.

Cisse annoys me with his constant remonstrations to his team mates, but there's usually a good reason behind them. I think the midfield players should always be on the lookout to serve him, as he can be so lethal from just about anywhere. He's been a bit off on many of his shots, and it could be rust from lack of real-time game play. Why not start him.

SmartRs added 05:54 - Dec 10
Excellent report as usual.

Just one small thing that nobody seems to have picked up on. Yesterday on "Goals on Sunday", Kammy pointed out the Wigan's second goal was offside. There was a Wigan player standing directly in front of Green and he was offside when the ball was kicked. The Wigan player must have been interfering with play yet nobody appealed he was offside and the linesman didn't flag. Did anyone else notice it?

ozranger added 07:10 - Dec 10
SmartRs, you are correct, but only on the rarest occasion has this ever been given. Take a look at Messi's second goal yesterday. Exactly the same with a team-mate in front of the keeper and in an off-side position. I actually saw one instance where a player jumped above a shot and it was not given, even though he was about 3m offside! Unfortunately in the EPL, assistants are not miked up (that is why they wave their flag around frantically, instead of just telling the ref what happened over the mike) and thus, there is an obvious lack of communication between the two when situations like this come up. It actually amazes me just how poor the communication is between the officials in such a league.

JB007007 added 08:12 - Dec 10
Thanks Clive.
A full strength Wigan and most other teams would have won this comfortably. We just didn't compete. We're awful in so many positions. Another worrying problem is for all the experience we have in the team, we can never hold a lead for any period of time.
I hate to be negative, but I cant see enough about us to get out of it. When we do dominate possession we don't score or have that cutting edge and when we're poor we are normally punished. I do however feel sorry for the likes of Clint, Nelsen and Mackie. Honest hard working team players who don't deserve to be bottom.

rodneeranger added 08:33 - Dec 10
Many will disagree with me here. I know that we have waited a long time for SWP to come good, but I feel that day will be soon. Had his brilliant effort against Villa gone in, I think we might have had some real determination from him. OK, so he doesn't tackle very well, but at least he puts in a shift and even though things are going badly, he never hides. I think we have to persist with him, as we have too many who don't put in a shift.

When we first signed Bosingwa, I thought it was such a great signing - a full back which we badly needed. Now, I think it was the worst signing we have done for ages. He made two fouls which were appalling. As I said on another forum, the only decent thing he did was go off early! I too agree that Fabio should definitely replace him for now.

Our first win? When? Saturday. We WILL turn over Fulham.

WokingR added 09:19 - Dec 10
"personally if he pulls out of a tackle one more time I’ll be tempted to go down there and show him what a proper challenge looks like"

That's going to be a clash of the titans we would all like to see.

nadera78 added 09:31 - Dec 10
It's understandable that Redknapp has looked at the squad and decided to put two big, strong, athletic players in the middle of the pitch. The problem is that we now have no-one in the middle who can put his foot on the ball, calm things down and look for a simple pass. Retention of the ball is so important, yet we can't give it away quick enough. This is exacerbated by the complete lack of any kind of movement off the ball whatsoever. it's telling to note the number of times a player collects the ball and is forced to turn in circles whilst looking for a passing option. That's why Faurlin would get in the team every week for me.

johnno added 10:21 - Dec 10
The good thing is that unlike his predecessor, Harry is not in denial. Watching the match on tv there were no handshakes or pats on the back for the substituted players, Just the big ignore.Speaks volumes to me.

Training will be interesting on Monday, I think Harry and Joe will be getting stuck in and there will be 2 or three changes to the starting 11 against Fulham and changes to the squad in January. 'H' has obviously seen enough.

GloryHunter added 11:21 - Dec 10
SWP was responsible for our second goal - chased down the man in possession and then a good cross for Cisse. Credit where credit's due.

kensalriser added 14:46 - Dec 10
Unbalanced - we have far more than our fair share of shrinking violets.

W12SG2 added 20:25 - Dec 10
Irrelevant to QPR, but you get that half-mist half-rain in Cornwall every f*kin summer when I'm down there on holiday. The in-laws live there so we go every year. I'm using it as grounds for divorce.

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