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Barnsley swept aside as Austin hits stride – report
Saturday, 12th Oct 2013 12:01 by Clive Whittingham

QPR broke a club record for consecutive clean sheets and maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a 2-0 win against Barnsley, but tougher tests surely lie in store.

Ten games played, eight games won, no games lost, just two goals conceded, eight consecutive clean sheets in the league and club records tumbling like drunks on the Goldhawk Road – it seems odd to still be wondering just how good this Queens Park Rangers side is as we move into the second international break of the campaign.

To this point it has almost seemed unfair, like Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson turning up as a two-ball for the Tuesday night clutch down at the local council golf course.
QPR have been able to add Charlie Austin to an attack that already included Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson – only Reading and perhaps Wigan could afford even one of their salaries never mind all three in this division.

Croatian international Niko Kranjcar and Little Tom Carroll, tipped as a future star at Tottenham, have been added to a midfield already blessed with some big name players for this level – the likes of Jermaine ‘The Friendly Ghost’ Jenas and Ale Faurlin have struggled for a regular look in and, again, it’s hard to name too many Championship sides where those two wouldn’t be the first names on the sheet.

And at the back Richard Dunne Pub Landlord has proved to be more fort than centre back since he signed in the summer from Aston Villa – an immovable, impregnable lump of brick and cement that nine separate teams have tried and failed to score a goal against this season. At one point against Barnsley last Saturday Clint Hill, himself an imposing and impressive central defender for this level, got caught under a ball high up the field and the visitors sniffed a chance to get in behind their hosts’ backline – Dunne was across in a flash to deposit the ball and Tykes striker Chris O’Grady into the front row of the Ellerslie Road stand. The two old warhorses in Hoops exchanged open palmed gestures of solidarity – they’ve got each other’s backs.

Barnsley, and the rest of the league, must wonder why they’re bothering: get past Hill and Dunne is there; give the ball away and you don’t see it again for 41 passes over the course of three minutes as happened here at one point in the second half; pack the midfield and restrict the space and Harry Redknapp goes reaching for an option from his bench that most second tier sides could only dream of having available to them.

In this case, after a reasonably frustrating hour of typically tepid Championship football, Redknapp took off Faurlin, brought on Junior Hoilett, and within four minutes the fleet footed Canadian winger had worked a quick two on one short corner routine, skipped into the area and fired in a low cross that Charlie Austin turned home from six yards. Deadlock broken, game effectively over, credit to Redknapp for making the change – but it was all rather like shooting big fish in a small barrel.

To tell you the truth, so far, it seems like Barnsley and the rest of the league aren’t really bothering. David Flitcroft’s side followed in the footsteps of Middlesbrough, Brighton and Ipswich by setting their stall out at Loftus Road to try and achieve a 0-0 draw – banks of four, packed midfields, all the ambition of a 40-year-old heroin addict. Once goals have been conceded – in the first four minutes in Boro’s case, the very last second in Ipswich’s, and halfway between the two against Barnsley – the game is over. Only Birmingham can be said to have come to Loftus Road and had a proper go at QPR this season, and even then that was more down to QPR’s incompetence on the day and the R’s still won the game anyway. The cup was never a priority in W12 this season, and the team fielded against Swindon Town was a scratchy one, but the bright, ambitious, attacking, attractive, slick game plan executed by Mark Cooper’s side that night – resulting in a 2-0 win – was light years ahead of anything else we’ve seen from visiting Championship teams this season.

It’s been much the same on the road, where even Leeds ‘Champions of Europe’ United set up to hold rather than probe in the hope of getting a draw from QPR at Elland Road, only to slip quietly off into the night muttering something about excessive parachute payments when Rangers won 1-0 and had a second goal incorrectly disallowed. Only Huddersfield actually had a bash at really attacking Rangers and even that was only good enough for a point and has been followed this week by barbed comments from their chairman about the money being spent by certain clubs at the top of the league – he cites a loan player pulling £36,000 a week and you would think there’s a good chance that’s either Kranjcar or Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

This could simply be a quirk of the fixture list: QPR have played none of the top ten clubs so far; they’ll have faced six of the bottom seven and ten of the bottom 12 by the time they’ve finished at Millwall this weekend. Things can only, surely, get more difficult from here with five of the next seven games away including trips to league leaders Burnley, big spending Reading and much fancied Wigan.

Or it could be that the division is happy to just wave Rangers on their way and play for second place and below. Apart from a desire to kick Joey Barton up in the air, which referee David Phillips allowed Barnsley’s Patrick McCourt to do repeatedly on Saturday with no recourse, teams are standing off Rangers, showing little inclination to either rough them up or try and score goals against them. Barnsley have failed to win any of their last 22 visits to this ground in a variety of circumstances – rarely can the resistance have been as meek as this. The favourite football chant of the boorish northern Neanderthal “get into em, fuck em up” springs to mind. I sort of wish somebody would, because I’ve still no idea if I’m watching an outstanding QPR team here or not. They just haven’t been tested yet. Expensive they may be but they’re still just 11 footballers, most of them quite old, most of them quite slow.

There wasn’t quite so much slickness about the Super Hoops against Barnsley as there had been in the Middlesbrough game a week before. It took 15 minutes for a chance of any note to be created – Dunne and Hill both had nibbles at a corner – but the opportunities came with steady regularity after that. A swift move down the left a few minutes later ended with Assou-Ekotto crossing for Austin to shoot and when that was blocked behind for another corner Dunne had a header cleared from the goal line.

Then ten before the break Assou-Ekotto and Austin combined in identical fashion but Barnsley’s on loan England youth goalkeeper Jack Butland produced an outstanding sprawling save from the former Burnley striker in the first instance, and then sprung to his feet to make an even better stop with his shins as Faurlin swooped on the rebound. Genuinely outstanding goalkeeping.

Barnsley were restricted mainly to shots from range – Jacob Mellis, former Chelsea bad boy and QPR trialist, tried his luck and found it out, then left back Tom Kennedy almost profited from some amazing fortune when his wildly overhit cross threatened to dip into the far corner of the net until Robert Green intervened with a strong hand while back peddling. Peter Ramage, given a rapturous reception from the Loftus Road crowd on his return to the club when an injury forced him out of the game in the second half, had a half decent shout for a penalty when the ball seemed to strike an arm in the QPR box having dropped from a corner, but referee Phillips showed no interest.

Kranjcar and McCourt swapped penalty box dives either side of the break and it seemed for a while as if QPR were going to get bogged down in the frustration of a niggly game. Barton struck a free kick over the bar when another former QPR man Martin Cranie fouled Gary O’Neil but, again, play didn’t really need to be stopped with Rangers in possession of the ball and the stop-start nature of the contest suited the visitors. Faurlin curled a low shot straight to Butland but there wasn’t nearly enough tempo to QPR’s play. It was boring truth be told, which may be a valid excuse for the eccentric linesman on the Ellerslie Road side of the ground failing to spot that a Barnsley goal kick hadn’t actually made it out of the penalty box before being picked up by a defender.

The key in such situations is not to panic or deviate too quickly from a game plan that has worked well so far all season, and QPR deserve credit for sticking to their guns. A decent midfield move between Barton and Kranjcar gave the latter a chance to send in a dangerous low cross that Wiseman scooped out from under his own bar with Austin loitering for a tap in.

Two things happened on the hour to change the game. First Peter Ramage picked up an injury that, typically but foolishly, he tried to run off which left a defence facing one of the league’s best teams effectively playing with nothing more than ballast at centre half. At the same time Redknapp introduced Hoilett for Faurlin.

The trap door started to creak under Barnsley’s feet almost immediately. Mellis and Perkins were both booked by Phillips within two minutes of each other – both for fouling Barton, both long overdue. Great hold up play by Austin allowed the ever dependable Danny Simpson to overlap down the right and cross for Hoilett to head home at the back post but Barnsley got bodies in the way. Then Kranjcar saw a shot blocked in the area, potentially by a hand. More action in four minutes there than there had been in the previous hour and it culminated in that first goal, crafted by Hoilett and finished by the increasingly impressive Austin.

Suddenly a turgid encounter was being played at a frenetic pace. McCourt sent a testing free kick deep into the back post area immediately after the Austin goal but when Barnsley failed to make the most of a rare quality ball into the QPR box Hoilett broke on them at the other end and had a shot blocked. When Assou Ekotto then gave the ball away in his own half McCourt produced an equally good cross right through the goal mouth. Hold onto your handbags ladies, it seemed as though a football match had broken out at last.

Rangers put together the move of the match with 15 minutes left, playing out from right by their own corner flag into a situation where O’Neil and Austin were motoring forward with Hoilett in support and an understaffed Barnsley defence apparently in real trouble. They picked the wrong option, but Hoilett did eventually cross for Austin who would have scored but for Wiseman’s intervention.

Redknapp sent on Karl Henry for Gary O’Neil, which seemed rather belt and braces to me, but rather than shut up the shop Rangers did go on and get a second goal. Only Austin will know why he didn’t unload a shot sooner when faced with the whites of the goalkeeper’s eyes five minutes from the end but he instead set off on a cross-penalty-box journey, matched for length and needless difficulty only by the Lord of the Rings trilogy, that eventually ground to a halt when Cranie, presumably tired of following Austin widthways across the field, hauled him down for an obvious spot kick which QPR’s leading scorer converted himself. Five in five and six for the season now for Austin who looks full of beans.

Four minutes of stoppage time brought a cameo appearance for new Uruguayan striker Javier Chevanton, who almost introduced himself to Loftus Road in spectacular fashion with a 25 yard piledriver from a difficult angle that didn’t miss the top corner by much at all. A wild shot on the run by Little Tom Carroll then set Barnsley away on an attack of their own but Hill interrupted it with a cynical foul and Dunne headed the free kick away. God they must be demoralising to play against.

The depressing thing for the rest of the league is that in Brian Murphy, Luke Young, Nedum Onuoha, Max Ehmer, Armand Traore, Matt Phillips, Jermaine Jenas, Karl Henry, Junior Hoilett, Andy Johnson and Javier Chevanton QPR actually had 11 players not starting last weekend who could form a potentially very useful Championship team themselves. And you can set sail on a third XI that includes Shaun Wright-Phillips, Bobby Zamora and Samba Diakite as well.

It’s a real case of haves and have nots, but Rangers can surely expect more spirited and determined resistance in the coming weeks than they’ve had so far this season. Then we’ll see.

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QPR: Green 6; Simpson 7, Dunne 7, Hill 7, Assou Ekotto 6; Carroll 7, Barton 7, Kranjcar 6 (Chevanton 88, -), O’Neil 7 (Henry 81, -), Faurlin 6 (Hoilett 62, 8); Austin 8

Subs not used: Traore, Ehmer, Jenas, Murphy

Goals: Austin 66 (assisted Hoilett), 85 (penalty – won Austin)

Barnsley: Butland 7; Cranie 6, Ramage 6 (Hassel 67, 6), Wiseman 6, Kennedy 6; Mellis 6 (Cywka 71, 6), Perkins 5, Fox 6, McCourt 7; Scotland 4 (Pedersen 54, 5), O’Grady 5

Subs not used: Noble-Lazarus, Dawson, Etuhu, O’Brien

Bookings: Mellis 59 (foul), Perkins 63 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Charlie Austin 8 Two more goals for his tally, just rewards for another hard working and combative display. Austin has always been a striker who scores goals in clusters, and once he starts he’s difficult to stop. This time a year ago he embarked on a run of 14 goals in eight matches and five in his last five for QPR bodes very well indeed.

Referee – David Phillips (Sussex) 6 Bog standard Championship refereeing really. I thought he let McCourt get away with far too much, and Barnsley were allowed to hack at Joey Barton without a card being shown for far longer than Barton would have been permitted to do the other way around. Penalty decision was correct.

Attendance – 16,202 (350 Barnsley approx) Subdued atmosphere in keeping with the quality of the game for the first hour, understandably brought to life by the relief that came with the first goal.

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Pictures – Action Images

Photo: Action Images

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timcocking added 17:46 - Oct 12
About bloody time!

francisbowles added 18:20 - Oct 12
Welcome back, Clive. Monday just wasn't the same. From what I remember you have the report about right.

JB007007 added 20:26 - Oct 12
I'm very satisfied with the progress. I cant help trying to compare us with the last Championship campaign. At this stage we went into the International break of 8 wins, 2 draws and no losses. This time we're not gifting many chances in front of goal.
Perhaps some of the reason we haven't played a top half team is because we've beaten them, but we do have a very tough period coming up.
Its encouraging that we are improving and that we have options to change games. We have to keep it going as, no disrespect to Burnley, but Leicester Forest and Reading will be right up there.

Marshy added 09:16 - Oct 13
8 clean sheets is fantastic for Robert Green who has performed admirably, but let's face it overall he hasn't had that much to do which is down to the brilliant Rangers defence. The real heroes who deserve much respect are our back four who have been absolutely magnificent. Against Barnsley my players of the match were Richard Dunne who won everything in the air, as usual, and Clint Hill solid as ever. Those two are like an impenetrable force field. There is just no way past them.

My only minor criticism in the Barnsley match was that we didn't pass the ball forward quite enough. A lot of play could be construed as being negative with too much back passing, and we need to have just a little more confidence in going forward. More of our lads need to take on opposing players, and be prepared to dribble past. The only one who is consistent in doing this is Junior Hoilett. I guess we do miss Adel a real playmaker, but fingers crossed that once Nico finds full fitness, he will be a natural successor.

Finally, credit to Joey Barton as he was cluttered so many times with hardly any show of dissent.

PinnerPaul added 16:56 - Oct 13
I sense you still can't make up your mind if this is a good side or not, although your comments about strength in depth seems to suggest you think we do have a top notch squad.

Still comes across as slightly negative, considering what a blinding start its been, points wise.

TacticalR added 22:17 - Oct 13
'I’ve still no idea if I’m watching an outstanding QPR team here or not.' I agree that this is the great mystery...we just don't know what we are watching. Perhaps we won't know until we have played Burnley, Watford and Leicester. Perhaps we won't know even then.

We started the match the way we finished the last one against Middlesbrough, pinging the ball around. The problem was that this time we were playing much deeper, and we weren't two goals up. Without doing anything wonderful themselves, Barnsley were able to contain us. Hoilett coming on broke the deadlock by suddenly playing a completely different kind of football and running with the ball. If he had been on from the start Barnsley might have handled him better.

Austin's long 'Lord of the Rings' journey across the box before the pen showed that despite scoring regularly for us he still seems lacking in the confidence that might produce the killer touch.

Got to admire the Barnsley fans for following their team through thick and thin.

Rodneylives added 10:06 - Oct 14
Not having your report to read last week made me realise how much I value this website. Thanks, Clive - witty, incisive and readable as ever

QPunkR added 10:49 - Oct 14
Treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen, eh Clive? ;)

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