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.
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.
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 30 bloggers
Matches of Yesteryear - Yeading v U's 12/11/94 by wessex_exile
I had a chat earlier this week with my neighbour, Head Groundsman at Forest Green, lamenting the interminably dreadful weather we’ve been experiencing, and he wryly asked the rhetorical question ‘do you know when it last wasn’t raining – October!’. Not literally, but it does feel like it right now, and all but the most pristine of surfaces are really starting to creak at the seams now. The news that there’s a pitch inspection at 9am tomorrow does not fill me with hope, particularly as I’ll be halfway to Birmingham by then…
Matches of Yesteryear - Northampton v U's 24/4/99 by wessex_exile
Well, here we are going through the exhilarating highs and despairing lows of what it is to follow the U’s rollercoaster journey this season – one wonders what Saturday will bring, apart from yet another storm (Dennis this time). Vale Park is a tough enough place to go at the best of times, so will howling winds and lashing rain be the great leveller for the U’s? We shall see, but in the meantime, how about we go back to a time when our perennial concentration around this time of the season always seemed to be at the wrong end of the table, maybe put things a little bit into perspective…
Matches of Yesteryear - Bees v U's 11/3/03 (eventually) by wessex_exile
It was noted that Saturday’s stunning defeat of promotion rivals Plymouth Argyle was the first time we had beaten them since our League Cup victory back in 2003. Well our record against tomorrow night’s opponents Grimsby can challenge that – if you’re wondering ‘not another Tuesday night trip to Blundell Park’, the last time we played at Grimsby on a Saturday was also back in 2003…and the last time we won there? Over 40 years ago believe it or not, on 22nd September 1979, winning 2-1 thanks to two goals from Trevor Lee, with the U’s managed by none other than Bobby Roberts on that day.
Matches of Yesteryear - Southend v U's 17/2/04 by wessex_exile
“…Parky couldn’t quite keep the momentum from September going in the league, and we finished 11th at the end of the season. However, for the entertainment of the faithful, he was just about to embark with the U’s on two successful runs in both the FA Cup and the LDV Vans Trophy, the latter just about to start the following Tuesday (14th October) at Cheltenham”.
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Blackpool 11/10/03 by wessex_exile
Ahead of our upcoming match at the Abbey Stadium tomorrow, we again go back to the Parky era, and for this match his first full season in charge at Layer Rd. It’s funny, when I first started following the U’s in the 70s, matches against local rivals Cambridge United always seemed to be a really big thing, up there with Southend in many ways – they just don’t seem to have quite the significance these days?
Queens Park Rangers Polls