Lacklustre QPR grateful to Green for Yeovil win – report
Tuesday, 24th Sep 2013 00:07 by Clive Whittingham
QPR won 1-0 at newly promoted Yeovil Town on Saturday, but were heavily reliant on a rear-guard action from goalkeeper Robert Green and defenders Richard Dunne and Clint Hill.
The experiment continues apace: just how poorly can you play in the Championship and still win football matches?
Queens Park Rangers remain unbeaten in the second tier this season – now six wins and two draws from eight matches - and they haven’t conceded a goal for six and a half games. But they dropped their performance level from an already low starting point to new depths at Yeovil Town on Saturday and really only the hosts and Rob Green will know how this game finished in an away win.
Perhaps it was the culture shock of a visit to Huish Park that inhibited the former Premier League team. Rangers were at Anfield at the end of May but here in mid-September they found themselves plunged into a real life Royston Vasey for the very first league meeting between the two sides.
The man from the Green Giant sweet corn advert patrolled the perimeter of the pitch in a top hat, trailed by a small child greened up for the occasion. The teams emerged from the tunnel to a chorus of the club anthem which has a chorus of ‘We are Yeovil Town, ooh arr’ but rather more splendidly has a first verse that goes:
At one point during a break in play home team defender Luke Ayling, equipped with farm labourer's broad shoulders and straggly hair, leant against the goal post for a drink of water and asked the away fans behind the goal if they’d enjoyed their day out so far: “It’s not bad down here is it?” He asked, and smiled. The Yeovil fans have painted a bedspread in his honour: “We won’t be failing, we’ve got Luke Ayling” it says.
The Premier League this most certainly is not.
QPR looked like it was all rather beneath them for long spells of the game. An impressive traveling contingent had a clever banner of their own, with Harry Redknapp smiling and putting his thumb up over the word ‘T’riffic’, but he cannot possibly have been impressed with what he was seeing here, sitting alone between the dugouts on a chair borrowed from a school canteen.
Perhaps it was the wholesale changes Redknapp decided to make to his midfield – taking out Karl Henry, Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips and recalling Jermaine ‘The Friendly Ghost’ Jenas, Little Tom Carroll and Armand Traore – that hampered the R’s, but in truth this wasn’t much different from the disjointed performances they’ve served up several times already this season.
Given Jenas’ England caps, Carroll’s legion of admirers in the Spurs and England youth camps, Gary O’Neil’s work rate, Armand Traore’s speed and ability and the growing fitness of Matt Phillips, their combination should have been a midfield well capable of dominating Yeovil Town. Each earns as much in a week as the Yeovil starting 11 put together and the home team would have been forgiven for feeling intimidated as they compared benches over in the main stand – Redknapp had Niko Kranjcar, Barton, Wright-Phillips and others to call upon. It seemed like a chronic mismatch, and with Yeovil boasting three defeats and no goals scored from their three home matches so far this season the old analogy about the authorities forbidding it if this was a boxing match sprang to mind.
But QPR were awful – easily as bad as they’ve been all season in the league.
And so it continued. QPR’s midfield was a shambles. Jenas would give the ball away, win it back, and then give it immediately away again. Carroll’s modus operandi is a threaded ball through to a striker, allowing him to hold possession and bring others into play, but options were few and far between for the loaned Tottenham man and when he was able to find Charlie Austin he was almost always isolated and lacking support. The former Burnley man’s frustration led to a yellow card before half time for a late whack on Ayling that had home players rushing in asking for greater punishment but his work rate in trying circumstances was superb and he would later be rewarded for his best performance in a QPR shirt so far with a winning goal. Nevertheless, Ale Faurlin must have sat on the bench surveying the shemozzle and wondering what on earth he has to do to get a game.
When Hill trod on the ball on the edge of his own box three minutes before the break it gave Liam Davis a chance to shoot goalwards through a crowd of players and Green did magnificently to get down and palm a ball wide with no notice at all. Immediately after the break he made an even better stop, right down in the bottom corner when Ralls made the most of Carroll’s sloppy touch and arrowed the ball in from 20 yards out. The keeper could be afforded a more nervous flap at a speculative effort from Davis moments later given his heroics to this point and he was back to his best when Ralls played Williams into the right channel of the penalty box and his instinctive first time shot across the goal also needed turning aside.
The match notes at this stage simply read ‘onslaught’.
It was certainly nothing less than that – Green blocked well again at the mid point of the second half after Yeovil sprung a creaking QPR offside trap – but the most annoying thing about it was it didn’t take much for Rangers to look really threatening themselves.
Traore fed Austin before half time and he powered a shot into the side netting with Yeovil’s loaned goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey scrambling across. Earlier Matt Phillips had missed when it seemed easier to score after being played through by a long ball and although both he and Traore, neither of whom have a lot of football in their legs, flattered to deceive for most of the game they did both look threatening when running at the heart of the Yeovil defence.
Rangers took a break from presenting Yeovil with possession and chances at the start of the second half to get the ball to Austin long enough for him to work an opening from a tight spot on the edge of the box and lash a low drive an inch wide of the post with Hennessey beaten all ends up.
The margins are fine in this league, which is why you cannot afford to miss the chances Yeovil did on Saturday. Yes the home team played well, yes they deserved to win, and yes they probably would have done so but for the Green-Dunne-Hill axis of meanness – but you don’t get points for pretty football, shoulds and mights as QPR are very adept at proving at the moment.
The Glovers had already long since lost patience with referee Gavin Ward who, in a total departure from his previous form, spent the afternoon giving every 50/50 decision in favour of Queens Park Rangers even before the penalty kick that decided the game 15 minutes from time. At one point towards the end of the game he booked Ed Upson for taking his own free kick too quickly – always a sign of a referee without a feel for the game and with a troubled childhood on his CV – and not for the first time this season Town manager Gary Johnson was left to curse an official for deciding the game.
Austin, typically bullish and forthright when pursuing a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area, appeared to tug back Dan Seaborne as he rounded him and seized possession before hitting the deck when the Yeovil man responded in kind. From my view some 15 yards away, looking right at the incident, I felt Ward called it right and the penalty was a correct decision but it’s almost certain that had Seaborne been as willing to hit the deck as Austin was under the initial contact Ward probably would have awarded a free kick the other way.
Credit to Austin though for a work rate Alan Partridge might have compared to that of a ‘Japanese prisoner of war’ which was duly rewarded not only with the award of the penalty, but a goal as well when he calmly sent Hennessey the wrong way and scored from the spot. It’s been a difficult start to life at QPR for the former Swindon man, with the missed sitters stacking up and service of Parisian restaurant standard coming his way, but he has three goals to his name already from ten appearances this season and thoroughly deserved this latest strike. It was QPR’s only shot on target in the entire match.
Yeovil responded by bringing on Giant Athletic Substitute 2.1 Michael Ngoo, who towered over everybody in the ground apart from the mascot in the novelty top hat. That set the stall out for an aerial bombardment for the remaining time and while that should have played into the hands of the dominant Hill-Dunne pairing, even that wily old pair had their hands full with the man child. He sparked a goal mouth scramble eight minutes from time that Rangers defended with more luck than judgement and were fortunate to survive.
Redknapp tried all sorts of things to turn the tide in QPR’s favour. Wright-Phillips, Barton and Kranjcar came on at ten minute intervals after the hour for Traore, Phillips and O’Neil respectively in attempt to try and get some sort of foothold in a midfield dominated by Ed Upson and Joe Ralls. Nothing really worked, and in the end Rangers gave the idea up as a bad job and decided to sit as deep as possible for the closing stages and try to scrap out a fifth 1-0 win in six outings. To be fair, with Dunne and Hill in this kind of form and Green having probably his best ever game for the club it wasn’t a bad plan K.
Johnson also introduced former Bournemouth striker James Hayter – once a transfer target for Ian Holloway’s QPR in the dim and distant past – for Joel Grant late on in the search for an equaliser. I found that switch odd, because Grant looked more likely than most to find a goal and the idea of him and Ngoo battering away at a tiring defence for a final 10 minutes thrilled me as much as a prolonged session of root canal treatment. Nevertheless a foul on Hayter by Hill set up a set piece opportunity deep into a tortuous five minutes of time added on at the end of the game. Upson is known for his adeptness at such situations but left the ball to Ralls whose shot was weak. Another let off, and this time there was to be no reprieve for the home team as the final whistle followed a short time later.
It’s all rather surreal. When QPR won this league in 2010/11 they were by far the best team in it – solid and well coached with a smattering of genuinely outstanding players like Heidar Helguson, Adel Taarabt and Kyle Walker. They played Bristol City off the park and drew 1-1 at Ashton Gate in just one example of how difficult it always seemed for even a team that good to scrap results out in the Championship.
Now what looks like, or is certainly playing like, a far inferior QPR team is calmly matching the remarkable 19 match unbeaten run from the start of that season stride for stride, and they’re doing it with performances that started badly and fell away from there.
Rather than asking whether it was always this dull, as I did after Wednesday’s draw with Brighton, I’m now wondering whether it was always this easy. Three games in quick succession, seven points, no goals conceded, and QPR have barely strung two passes together all week.
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Yeovil: Hennessey 6; Ayling 6, Fontaine 6 (Dawson 37, 6), Seaborne 5, McAllister 6; Edwards 6, Upson 7, Ralls 7, Davis 7; Grant 7 (Hayter 79, 6), Williams 6 (Ngoo 79, 7)
Subs not used: Dunn, Ofori-Twumasi, Foley, Hoskins
Bookings: Ralls 29 (foul), Upson 86 (taking a free kick while Gavin Ward was still dusting the sand out of his lady parts)
QPR: Green 8, Simpson 6, Dunne 7, Hill 7, Assou-Ekotto 6; Carroll 5, Jenas 5; Phillips 6, O’Neil 6, Traore 6; Austin 8
Subs not used: Murphy, Ehmer, Henry, Faurlin
Goals: Austin 75 (penalty, won Austin)
Bookings: Austin 32 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Robert Green 8 Excellent all round performance from the previously accident-prone stopper who made three or four very decent saves and two absolutely superb stops either side of half time. Run close by Austin who formed an effective striking force almost completely by himself, with no support, through sheer endeavour and bloody mindedness.
Referee – Gavin Ward (Surrey) 7 The big decision of the game – the penalty – was correct, although I’ve no doubt that had Seaborne gone to ground himself under the initial contact from Austin it would have been given the other way. Yeovil seemed increasingly angry at his handling of the game, and I thought he was generous with QPR a few times, but fine overall. A sign that he might be maturing into a better official than the one who made a pig’s ear of our trips to Reading and Portsmouth back in 2010, was the fact he didn’t send off Charlie Austin for his first half challenge when he once might have done. But then he booked Ed Upson for taking his own free kick too quickly and all referees who do that should be punished with laps of the pitch after the match.
Attendance – 9,108 (2,000 QPR approx) Great support for both sides. That figure isn’t far shy of being a quarter of the population of Yeovil and there was a really good, supportive, positive atmosphere around the place. Quite why certain QPR fans followed the trend set by Sheff Wed and Birmingham by bringing flares in I cannot comprehend but it was wonderful to be all together on a terrace behind the goal again and I really wish it could happen more often.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
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