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Townsend’s spectacular strike keeps improbable escape bid alive — full match report
Townsend’s spectacular strike keeps improbable escape bid alive — full match report
Sunday, 10th Mar 2013 23:49 by Clive Whittingham

Two fabulous second half goals from Andros Townsend and Jermaine Jenas sealed a vital 3-1 win for QPR against Sunderland at Loftus Road on Saturday.

Queens Park Rangers continue to stay just the right side of the line between the improbable and the impossible.

After just two wins in the first 27 league matches this season further setbacks for Rangers this week in games against fellow strugglers Southampton and Sunderland would have made it more Mission Impossible for their manager Harry Redknapp than The Great Escape.

If the R’s have simply been lulling the rest of the division into a false sense of security before staging a dramatic late revival then they’ve certainly lulled them pretty hard and left it until the last possible moment. The margin for error is almost non-existent now but while teams like Reading and Southampton - who had looked set to climb away from the whirlpool at the bottom of the Premier League - suddenly can’t buy a win, the momentum and form is with the Super Hoops who have now won two on the spin for the first time in two years.

Rangers are once again banking on a remarkable run of results at the very end of the season to save their top flight status. It’s a path they walked 12 months ago, and one successfully negotiated in previous years by Wigan, Fulham and Portsmouth. The latter took 20 points from their final ten games after Redknapp returned to them for a second spell in charge in the middle of the 2005/06 campaign. The run of six wins and two draws that carried them to salvation began with three consecutive successes in March and Redknapp’s new team are now two thirds of the way to achieving the same thing.

Back then a spectacular last second strike from Pedro Mendes sealed a 2-1 win against Man City at Fratton Park to set the ball rolling. If QPR are to achieve the same sort of miraculous getaway this term than perhaps a seventieth minute wonder goal from Andros Townsend against Sunderland will be spoken about in similar terms.

Townsend, on loan from Spurs and starting wide on the right, epitomised QPR in the first half. Bright, positive, pacey, direct, dangerous – a newcomer wouldn’t have believed it was the hooped team anchored to the foot of the table and not Sunderland who were leggy, disinterested and one dimensional. But the second half had been a different story prior to Townsend’s spectacular intervention.

The visiting boss Martin O’Neill was like a cat on hot tin roof in the technical area and had clearly relished the opportunity to deliver a firm dressing down to his men during the half time break. Adam Johnson – a disappointment since a big money summer move from Man City – cut in from the left flank and rode through three limp challenges on the edge of the area before shooting straight at Robert Green who was deputising for the injured Julio Cesar in goal. O’Neill quickly removed Danny Graham – whose impact on proceedings was so minimal it didn’t seem fair that he hadn’t been charged the same as the other spectators to get in – and replaced him with Danny Rose who had impressed against Rangers earlier in the season. Suddenly it was the home team looking tired and drained.

Step forward young Townsend. A free kick awarded wide right had been cleared, lofted back in by the left winger Junior Hoilett and cleared again. Townsend calmly watched the ball fall from the greying skies, adjusted his feet, brought it down on his chest and then executed an expert volley. Much like his team’s bid to escape from relegation after such a cataclysmically awful campaign, Townsend’s attempt was a difficult long shot against all odds but the result was absolutely spectacular and one can only hope it serves as a metaphor for what’s to come over the remaining nine fixtures. He caught the ball plum, controlling its height, pace and direction in such a way that although Sunderland’s excellent goalkeeper Simon Mignolet could see it the whole way it just continued to arc away from him as he scrambled across his line and ultimately he was helpless to prevent it dipping perfectly into the far corner of his net.

The relief was palpable, the noise deafening. It completed an impressive turnaround from the home team who had actually fallen behind after half an hour when a swift counter attack from their own cleared free kick ended with Johnson hammering a low cross in to the six yard box and Sunderland’s leading scorer Steven Fletcher poking home from close range. There’s been a naivety about Rangers at times since they were promoted back to the top flight, and twice in the build up that goal they spurned opportunities to stop the move dead in its tracks with a tactical foul and yellow cad.

A team with only one home win to its name all season would have been forgiven for cursing its bad luck and feeling sorry for itself at that stage, especially as the goal had gone in totally against the run of play. But Redknapp had started with Hoilett and Townsend either side of strikers Loic Remy and Bobby Zamora with only the inconsistent Ji-Sung Park and the somewhat wild Stephane Mbia to anchor the midfield – as positive a line up as the veteran manager has fielded since arriving in W12 – and the side had enough attacking intent about it to find a way back into the match.

Mbia had almost played Graham in with a back header that forced centre half Clint Hill into evasive action after just ten seconds and then the Cameroonian had to block a shot from Seb Larsson on the edge of the area but the Mackems’ superiority was short lived and soon the traffic was flowing exclusively towards the School End. The R’s were led magnificently from the front by Bobby Zamora who defied his chronic hip problem and a new ankle ligament issue that should be ruling him out until the end of April to dominate an accident prone defensive pairing of John O’Shea and Titus Bramble during the first period. He linked well with Remy to cause all manner of problems.

Zamora nodded down for Remy to feed Hoilett after three minutes but his low, left footed shot rolled agonisingly wide of the far post with Mignolet beaten. Then the former Fulham man hit the deck in the area after seizing on a loose back pass but referee Mike Jones rightly paid the half-hearted appeals little attention. Townsend shot over, Hoilett wide and then Zamora – mind somewhat sharper than body at the moment – anticipated a long ball into the area better than Bramble but just couldn’t reach out a toe to knock it into the net.

The Sunderland goal came just after N’Diaye had pulled a speculative effort wide under pressure from Park and immediately before Fletcher headed over with Samba fighting to distract him but was, on the balance of play, something of a travesty all the same.

No matter. This group of players, fractious and spiritless for so long, stuck to their guns and received their reward on the half hour at the end of a move that start with Jose Bosingwa capping one of his best performances in a QPR shirt with an intelligent interception and purposeful run into the opposition half. The much maligned Portuguese full back fed Townsend who cut in field to shoot and ended up inadvertently teeing up Loic Remy who doesn’t need asking twice when he sees the whites of the goalkeeper’s eyes and expertly found the far bottom corner with a crisp finish. Three goals in four starts for the clinical Frenchman.

The domination continued thereafter. Remy flicked a Townsend cross goalwards with his head but Mignolet was equal to it. Then Zamora nodded a Hoilett cross down and the Frenchman snatched at a volley and blasted over. Later a hopeful long range shot from Mbia moved in the air and forced the Belgian goalkeeper into a nervous fumble. A home win seemed the only conceivable outcome at the break.

It was therefore a surprise to see Sunderland rally to the extent they did after the restart. Martin O’Neill has always been known as a manager who gets his team doing the basics well: an uncompromising, physical defence; two wingers keeping tight to the touchline; a big man-little man strike force; a constant danger at set pieces. But he inherited a mess from Steve Bruce at the Stadium of Light and has thus far only succeeded in creating one of the league’s most uninspiring sides during the clean up. The Black Cats are a straight line team lacking imagination and prone to relying on hopeful long balls. They involve the talented Larsson far too seldom while Graham and Johnson are shadows of the players who previously starred for Swansea and Middlesbrough. That Rangers struggled as much as they did at the start of the second half in the face of such meagre opposition should serve as a warning sign that the garden isn’t in full rose bloom just at the moment, but this was a better QPR performance than last week at Southampton and if that upward trajectory continues then another crucial win can be theirs at Villa Park in a week’s time.

The Townsend goal changed everything. Redknapp removed Zamora – once again nowhere near as effective in the second half as he had been in the first and probably allowed to continue for 20 minutes too long by his manager – and sent on Jamie Mackie. Hoilett came off for Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jermaine Jenas was introduced for Loic Remy. The emphasis was suddenly on hard work and high tempo rather than creativity and deadlock breaking which suited the R’s down to the ground against an opponent that, once behind, looked like a group of players already planning their summer holidays. N’Diaye was booked for hauling back Remy and Gardner for a late lung on Hoilett – lazy, half-arsed challenges both.

At the back the aerial domination by Hill and Samba was impressive while at the other end Mackie started worrying mistakes out of Titus Bramble. The lumbering oaf hauled down his pest-like opponent on the edge of the box with ten minutes to go allowing Bosingwa to fire just wide from the free kick. Then later he totally missed a simple header of the edge of his own area allowing Mackie to swoop in and run clear on the goal but Mignolet rushed from his line and made a fine save.

That second miss was academic, coming as it did just 60 seconds after Mackie’s fellow sub Jenas had fired in a spectacular goal of his own to seal the three points. How odd that after an entire season of dreadful corner taking, QPR actually scored from one where they only put a single man in the penalty box to attack it. Seemingly happy to keep the ball in the corner and see out time, Shaun Wright-Phillips sprung a surprise by instead tracking along the byline past two bewildered defenders and running for goal by himself. A low cross was scrambled away but showing technique every bit as impressive and considered as Townsend’s, Jenas strode onto the ball and pinged it straight back into the bottom corner from 25 yards through a crowd of players. A beautifully executed goal that made a potentially terrifying five minutes of time added to the end of the game an unusually enjoyable experience. Even a late Sunderland corner that Green required three attempts to finally grasp from the air brought only mocking cheers – the away end was almost completely deserted by that stage in any case.

QPR appear galvanised, either by the confidence gained from positive results or the negative headlines that have followed the club around this month. The celebrations, both on the field and in the dugout, after the two second half goals were raucous and involved almost every player. This suddenly looks like a united, committed camp. Players who were previously turning in consistently awful and under-committed displays excelled here with Park and Bosingwa particularly impressive and Zamora, for the first half at least, putting it all on the line to great effect.

Win for a third time in as many games next week at Aston Villa and Rangers may move their fight from improbable into the realms of the highly possible.

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QPR: Green 6, Bosingwa 7, Samba 7, Hill 7, Da Silva 6, Townsend 8, Park 7, Mbia 7, Hoilett 7 (Wright-Phillips 76, 7), Zamora 7 (Mackie 72, 7), Remy 7 (Jenas 79, 7)

Subs not used: Murphy, Onuoha, Granero, Bothroyd

Goals: Remy 30 (assisted Townsend), Townsend 70 (unassisted), Jenas 90 (unassisted)

Sunderland: Mignolet 6, Gardner 6, O’Shea 5, Bramble 4, N’Diaye 5 (Vaughan 77, 6), Larsson 6, Colback 6 (Bardsley 81,-), Johnson 6, Sessegnon 6, Graham 4 (Rose 57, 6), Fletcher 6

Subs not used: Westwood, Kilgallon, Cuellar, Mangane

Goals: Fletcher 20 (assisted Johnson)

Bookings: N’Diaye (foul), Gardner 71 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Andros Townsend 8 A fabulous first goal for the club capped the latest impressive display in what’s turning out to be a very successful loan spell. Townsend isn’t exactly a box of tricks, but he’s positive and direct – always looking to cause an opponent a problem and targeting the very heart of the danger area when he has the ball. He’s greedy at times, often cutting into shoot when he should go outside and look to cross, but he’s effective and fun to watch at the moment. The goal was executed with technique seldom seen in a QPR player.

Referee Mike Jones (Cheshire) 8 Unfussy and happy to keep out of proceedings. Too quick with his whistle early in the second half, interrupting a four v three break in QPR’s favour to award them a free kick in their own half, but otherwise very impressive with very few incorrect decisions.

Attendance – 18,169 (1,800 Sunderland approx) Wonderful to see Loftus Road full and hear it in full voice after such a dire winter – that atmosphere could be a key factor in the run in, just as it was 12 months ago. Credit to the Sunderland fans who travelled in such great numbers at great expense to watch such a limited team as theirs go through the motions for all but the first quarter of an hour in the second half. They must be wondering why they bothered.

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RoundhayRanger added 00:26 - Mar 11
Love the photo of Jenas sliding on the turf with Bosingwa.. Bosingwa! jumping for joy in the background.

MelakaRanger added 01:00 - Mar 11
Winning can become a habit too!

This truly was the best performance I have watched all season. They played like a team and a 0-1 down the heads didn't drop. They believed in themselves and believed they could still win. To coin a Tony phrase, they 'kept the faith'

If ever there was a must win 6 pointer then its the Villa game. Then if we beat Reading and Wigan I suspect the remaining points we need will take care of themselves.

We simply, absolutely, must not loose at Villa. Win next week and its 'game on'.

Kaos_Agent added 01:19 - Mar 11
Thanks Clive. What a treat to read two upbeat reports in a row. Every player contributed. Purposeful and direct attacking from the wingers and forwards, with them all tracking back as well - who'd have thought it possible?

"The celebrations, both on the field and in the dugout, after the two second half goals were raucous and involved almost every player. This suddenly looks like a united, committed camp."

Confidence and camaraderie will be the difference. They can smell it now. COYRs.

londonscottish added 06:50 - Mar 11
Thanks Clive, great report. I don't think I've ever felt so relaxed with Rangers a goal down. At the end it wasn't so much the score line as the manner in which Rangers dominated proceedings. The clebrations in the Loft after Jenas scored Reminded me of that Wigan home game of a a couple of seasons back (I think) when Rangers had really struggled to score at LR for a long time and Tommy Smith got the third.

DesertBoot added 07:43 - Mar 11
What a joy to see us attack and dominate opposition for long periods. Even at 0-1 you still felt we'd win this game.
The front four were magnificent and, if the same side is selected next week, will surely lead Villa a merry dance.
Wow! Two wins from the first two of our "winnable" run of games.

JB007007 added 07:54 - Mar 11
Thanks Clive.
My Pompey mate sent me a text Saturday night telling me about a Mendes goal sparking their survival run. He's been telling me all along we will get out of it, with me responding that he hasn't watched us for 20 odd games this season. I' ll be more frustrated if we get relegated on the final day now as things are finally starting to click. One swallow and all that I know...
Overall a very good team performance and I was impressed with the way we stuck to our task after going behind. On the Jenas goal, I just knew that was in before it left his boot.
I think HR should adopt the same formation and team for Villa's fragile back line. Have a right go again.

RedbourneR added 08:23 - Mar 11
Great to watch the players celebrating like that, to see them playing like a team at last. Mind you I wouldn't have wanted to be in the heap by the corner flag when Chris Samba threw himself on top. Surprised Jenas isn't on the injury list now ...

N12Hoop added 08:45 - Mar 11
THe most fluid we've looked since I don't know when. Attacking threats from the fullbacks and both wings, plus two forwards, (well in the first half anyway), meant we looked like a decent team at last. In TOwnsend and Hoilett we had 2 wingers who's first thought was to go forward, none of this run for 10 yards, stop and pass it back to the half way line whilst the opposition get back. I love Adel, but we looked like a more balanced and potent threat without him on Saturday, with Sunderland needing to be concerned about several attacking threats rather than 1.
Must be said however that in the 1st half Sunderland were the worst team I reckon I've seen this season at LR

R_in_Sweden added 08:48 - Mar 11
Two out and out wingers and two real forwards, is the solution as simple as that? The Townsend and Jenas goals had confidence written all over them. Mind you Sunderland were pretty dire in the first half. Now how do we play Villa? Keep it tight and secure at least a draw or a more cavalier approach (meaning changes behind the front two) and go for it?

There did seem to be a united team spirit at the end of the game which can only add to our chances.

francisbowles added 09:19 - Mar 11
Hopefully the few negative types in the crowd will now be silenced. One bloke in the back of the SA stand was abusing Jenas when warming up, well before coming on! Others were moaning about Park and SWP and Zamora (who surely can't be accused of not trying). Along with Bosingwa, they are all good players, internationals, who are getting into form. Some of them may have or probably did deserve some flack during the season BUT now the moaning must end. Others were complaining about Harry's substitutions and how unfair it was on Bothroyd! If any of the above is you don't you feel a bit silly now. If you trust Harry and love this club then now is the time to be positive. There are difficult days ahead. There may well be setbacks along the way. We must all be behind everyone who is in the team.

It was a good performance with everyone playing their part. I too thought Zamora was kept on too long but in the end Harry was proved right. The first time we have won after being behind and we scored THREE goals for the first time in nearly a year.

I don't have much of a clue about which players Harry will pick next week. I don't know how strong Villa are in midfield and whether Mbia and Park will be enough. I'm not too sure whether playing with two forwards would be a good idea. What I do know is that Harry and his staff will be thinking about this and a lot more all week and will pick the team that they believe will get the job done. I will also be thinking about it all week and hoping he gets it right. If he does, I won't care if he has played the ladies team!

A huge game, win and the gap is very small, draw and it stays the same, lose and the task gets much harder again (but not impossible). Whatever happens WE ARE QPR!

dixiedean added 09:58 - Mar 11
Despite Townsend's goal my MOM was Bosingwa - in fact he reminded me of David Bardsley- has a similar running style too. Again the back 4 were excellent, although Benteke will provide a sterner test. Hopefully big Chris will master him. Fair play also to Mbia who kept things simple and played his best game for us. When he plays to his limitations he's far more effective than when he thinks he's Hoddle. In fact one noticeable factor was that the midfield kept the ball moving much quicker than usual, which was probably down to the absence of Adel & Granero, who always take extra touches, and in Granero's case he often stops, turns 360 degrees and then gets wrapped up by the opponent, which slows the whole momentum. Having seen Remy a few times it's apparent that he's not a back-to-goal man as he doesn't relish those challenges, but put the ball in front of him and he's different class and a brilliant finisher.Hopefully Villa's dodgy defence will oblige, although we can't hope for anything as generous as Warnock's OG last year, which was a calamity. Same team for Sat ? Can't see any reason to change it, although maybe Jenas for Park ?

RonisRs added 11:50 - Mar 11
I so agree with francisbowles's comments above; let's get behind the team for the run in, it can be done. Harry for manager of the season.....
its such a pleasure reading all the reports.
come on you R's

Doughnut added 12:11 - Mar 11
Noticed the pic of Bosingwa behind Jenas too. What a difference a little discipline can make. Lions share of the possession for the first time in 'living memory' too!! At least weare making a fight of it now, which is all most of us have been asking for. Vlaar's the only obstacle at Villa. Overrun him and we can do it. Great stuff....Keep it up!!!!

QPunkR added 12:16 - Mar 11
A much much more positive performance than we've seen in yonks, and celebrations to match!
I don't wanna rain on the parade but can't shake the feeling that luck has been a major factor in both the last 2 games. If Lady Luck stays with us then we can get a draw or win on Sat, but reckon we'll have to be more defensively-minded than last weekend. I can prob see Derry coming back in to steady the ship.
As long as Rémy's on the pitch we've got a chance of goals!

QPRski added 12:21 - Mar 11
Brilliant. I haven't stopped smiling since Saturday late afternoon.
Well done to all : the players, the management and the fans.
It really was a great team effort.

In all of this excitement and emotion, I hope that we keep our feet on the ground as there is still an awful to do. But, I for one am already looking forward to the Villa match on Saturday. Each match feels ike a Cup final.

isawqpratwcity added 13:06 - Mar 11
Nice report, thanks, Clive!

That game was great and for some very different reasons: different attitude, different confidence, different players stepping, and most of all the different shape! I hardly recognised the way we were playing with aggressive options at both ends of the pitch.

Ok, it was only Sunderland, but even so. Thanks fellas, thanks Harry. Good game.

Nov77 added 13:49 - Mar 11
Da Silva 6.......Mackie 7..........!

Fabio was excellent throughout, mackie came on, fell over and then missed yet another one-on-one with the keeper.

I really don't get it.

Hoopsa_Carts added 15:02 - Mar 11
Great report as always. Absolutely fantastic to walk out on Saturday without the awful hollow feeling that seems to have been accompanying me for most of the season. We played exceptionally well and finally looked like a team who are now committed to fighting their way out. On the evidence of Saturday's performance it would be difficult not to have some level of optimism.

smegma added 16:41 - Mar 11
As mentioned before, all the negative comments before a ball is kicked or even during the game have to stop. Last week at St Marys some bloke nearby was slaughtering Park & Bothroyd before the game had even started !! We need to turn the volume up both home & away, be the 12th man so to speak. We did it last season and ended winning 5 home games on the trot to keep us up. Lets do it again and maybe we'll win away again as well !!!! In the last 2 games, EVERY player has played their part. So have we. But we need to be like this from hereon in. Hopefully come the trip to Anfield the game will be meaningless so to speak,

C'mon You R's !!!!!

toemasher added 21:06 - Mar 11
If you can, listen to the jenas goal on good headphones on the extended replay on player. The vacuum gasped sssshoot to the ball in the net roar is unbelievable

TacticalR added 23:12 - Mar 12
We seem to have found a team from somewhere. We didn't crumble after the Sunderland goal, and because we can score from outside the area we don't look like one-trick ponies either. We suddenly look as though we can do what we've never been able to do since coming into the division: beat the teams around us.

Townsend. Agree he was MoM. Seemed to go past player after player, and scored a great goal at a pivotal moment.

Hoilett. Very effective, but pretty selfish. Always ignored Fabio's overlapping runs. However, seems to have a good understanding with Zamora.

Bosingwa. Took some poor free kicks, and for the Sunderland goal, lost track of Johnson. However, he helped make the first QPR goal by intercepting the ball and carrying it into the opposition half.

Park. Got outmanoeuvred by Sessègnon for the Sunderland goal. Seems to be growing into the midfield defensive role. Puts his energies into covering players to cut down passing options, rather than trying to tackle. His distribution seems to be getting better.

Mbia. Seemed steadier on his feet, and therefore more effective.

Rémy. Took his chance, and his all round play was excellent too.

Zamora. Excellent hold up play, and a nice knockdown for Rémy in the first half.

Hill. Steady as ever. His pressure on Mignolet stopped him catching the ball and led to Townsend's goal.

SWP. Excellent piece of skill to leave two men for dead by the corner flag just before the goal.

Jenas. A great goal to match Townsend's.

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