Late Lions roar catches QPR posing – report
Tuesday, 22nd Oct 2013 17:03
QPR surrendered a late equaliser to Millwall at The Den on Saturday in a game they should have won comfortably.
“And we’ll awwwwwlllll go daaaaaaaaaaaaaaghn to The Den….”
Rarely do you find a place so chock-full of stereotypes as The Den at Millwall. Flat caps, flying coins, crowd violence and the odd racist incident.
Sometimes stereotypes are accurate, and Millwall revel in living up to their reputation. But then the perceived wisdom is that conceding a last minute equaliser is as good as losing the game – scoring one almost the same as bagging a late winner - and yet when Jermaine Easter whopped in a second Millwall goal to tie the game at 2-2 with seconds left on the watch on Saturday a school of thought developed that it might actually do QPR some good.
Rangers undoubtedly had a far better team than Millwall on paper, and when the game was still level on the scoreboard they were quite happy to flex muscles and show why. Gary O’Neil was perpetual motion behind the tireless work of Charlie Austin; Joey Barton and Karl Henry dominated and controlled the midfield; Niko Kranjcar was so good he almost warranted a golf handicap system being introduced.
But when the superiority got QPR into the lead, which it did on two separate occasions, it quickly gave way to arrogance. Rangers were just far too pleased with themselves, happy to ping gratuitous passes around and absorb the ole’s from a sizeable away following rather than taking hold of a shovel and burying their hosts properly. Millwall were there for the taking at 1-0 and 2-1 and yet only Junior Hoilett, who checked in from the left flank onto his right foot and drew a fabulous save from David Forde ten minutes from time, showed any serious attempt to kill the game off.
An unbeaten start to the season stretching to ten matches, and a club record run of clean sheets which stood at eight games prior to kick off here, appeared to have bred complacency rather than confidence. Rangers popped the ball around in posing mode once in front, rather than flying at Millwall’s jugular, and were punished first by Scott McDonald after Richard Dunne had been all too casual in his attempts to shepherd a ball dead and then, right at the death, by Easter when attention was perhaps distracted by unsavoury incidents in the technical areas. Millwall were able to haul a point from the game, and break QPR hearts in injury time, simply through hard work and spirit, and that’s a chastening lesson for a visiting side that should have had far too much quality for the hosts to cope with.
This was no smash and grab raid either. Millwall served notice on QPR repeatedly from the very first minute of the game when Martyn Waghorn beat Benoit Assou-Ekotto to a high ball from the kick off and drew goalkeeper Robert Green from his line with a testing cross. Within two minutes Rangers were lucky to survive the game’s opening corner which O’Neil inadvertently flicked on at the near post, sending the ball flashing alarmingly across the face of goal.
Stirred from a slumber induced by two routine 2-0 home wins against Middlesbrough and Barnsley teams apparently devoid of any hope and ambition before they’d even got onto the pitch, Rangers set about asserting their authority. Kranjcar pulled the strings, releasing Danny Simpson down the right with a crisp 40 yard ball that cut three Millwall players clean out of the game. When Simpson crossed only an old fashioned ball-and-all tackle by Connolly at the back post denied Hoilett a tap in. When Rangers pressed again Kranjcar took on responsibility himself, swivelling onto a bouncing ball 25 yards out and unleashing a dipping volley over Forde and flush onto the face of the Millwall post. It was one of those where you could scarcely believe what you’d seen even though you’d just seen it.
But back came Millwall again, and credit to them because the high tempo nature of their play and determination of the overall performance was in stark contrast to anything else QPR have faced since returning to the Championship in August. Nicky Bailey was crowded out of a shooting opportunity on the edge of the box, then saw a shot headed out for a corner by Clint Hill after Karl Henry had turned down a chance to clear the ball into the stand.
The game seemed to have swung decisively in the visitors’ favour when Trotter was felled in the penalty box by Austin but Premier League referee Mike Dean, generously, decided no foul had been committed. The natives were still restless when Barton found Kranjcar on the edge of the penalty area at the other end of the field and the Croatian cracked home the opening goal with a calmness and ease most players would struggle to muster with a finish from half the distance.
But then the posing started. Endless passing moves that don’t go anywhere have their uses – slowing the tempo of a game down, tiring out opponents, demoralising opposite numbers – but QPR are all too ready to lapse into that style too early at the moment. Joey Barton started to get involved, baiting the home supporters and officials while taking corners – it was an exercise in counting eggs as chickens. Goals were on offer here - Millwall had no way of coping with either Kranjcar or Hoilett who menaced the home side constantly – but Rangers showed little inclination to chase them. In fact they should have conceded an equaliser on two separate occasions before half time. First Trotter lead a queue of Millwall players at the back post on the half hour but inexplicably headed into the side netting with the goal at his mercy, and then he missed the target altogether on the stroke of half time when Barton conceded possession and the home team slung another half decent cross into the Rangers’ box.
QPR have been able to rest on a rock solid defence once in the lead so far this season – eight consecutive clean sheets and just two goals conceded in the league prior to kick off here. But all good things must come to an end and when the key figure in that run of form, Richard Dunne, got a little bit too complacent ten minutes after half time he found the ball pinched from him by Trotter who squared it into the area for McDonald to finish past Green from close range.
Within two minutes Hill had been forced to head clear from almost underneath his own bar, and Trotter had volleyed the loose ball over the bar.
It was time for Harry Redknapp’s side to wake up and start playing again, and they did exactly that. The Super Hoops put together their move of the match on the hour which ended with O’Neil feeding Austin who cut into the heart of the penalty area only to see a fierce shot blocked away. Ten minutes later Barton took a chance with a ball through the heart of the Millwall midfield that Kranjcar turned into a fine pass with a beautiful touch and pirouette that opened up the whole attacking third to him and allowed a second pass to be played perfectly through to Austin who ran in on Forde and finished confidently for a fifth goal in four matches.
When Hoilett subsequently cut in from the left and curled a shot towards the far corner that Forde did splendidly to turn aside it seemed QPR had learnt their lesson from the first equaliser. Not so. Redknapp made a couple of poor substitutions, replacing Gary O’Neil who was showing few signs of tiredness or diminished influence with Jermaine Jenas who’d struggle to make a serious impact on a lump of Play Dough. That reduced the work rate and effectiveness of the right side of QPR’s team, and when Matt Phillips came on down the opposite flank with exactly the same fluorescent yellow boots as Jenas and just as little effect, the left side went the same way. All the while Austin was flagging in attack, meaning balls were no longer sticking up front, seemingly crying out to be replaced by Javier Chevanton.
Millwall meanwhile kept introducing strikers – Easter, Steve Morison and Andy Keogh came on for Trotter, McDonald and Martyn Woolford. The visitors dropped deeper as numbers flooded forward. The lack of a third goal was becoming an issue. Mike Dean added five minutes to the end of the game.
In the end Rangers were undone by a lack of concentration. Both Redknapp and his assistant Joe Jordan appeared to be hit in the face by the ball as Millwall tried to return it quickly for a throw in in front of the dugouts. An exchange of views took place between both benches and the supporters in the lower tier of that stand. While that was going on Millwall got on with the throw in, worked Easter into space in the penalty area, and when the ball rebounded back to him after he’d first attempted to square it he finished low off the far post for a deserved equaliser.
Frustrating, heart-breaking in as much as football ever can be, and intensely annoying. But it’s potentially a very valuable lesson for this QPR team to learn, and it’s one they’ve picked up without losing the game, their unbeaten record, or any great amount of ground or position at the top of the table. Could have been a lot worse.
Millwall: Forde 6; Connolly 6, Robinson 5, Shittu 6, Malone 6; Waghorn 6, Bailey 6, Trotter 7 (Morison 70, 6), Abdou 6, Woolford 6 (Easter 79, 7); McDonald 6 (Keogh 63, 6)
Subs not used: Bywater, Smith, Lowry, Wright
Goals: McDonald 51 (assisted Trotter), Easter 90 (unassisted)
QPR: Green 6; Simpson 6, Dunne 6, Hill 6, Assou-Ekotto 6; Barton 6, Henry 6; O’Neil 7 (Phillips 82, 5), Kranjcar 8 (Faurlin 72, 6), Hoilett 7 (Jenas 86, -); Austin 7
Subs not used: Traore, Chevanton, Murphy, Ehmer
Goals: Kranjcar 26 (assisted Barton), Austin 69 (assisted Kranjcar)
QPR Star Man – Niko Kranjcar 8 A cut above everybody else on the pitch, with a touch of the ball and vision of pass far greater than anything possessed by any other player in the league. Scored one fabulous goal, could easily have had another even better one, and set up the second with a sumptuous assist.
Referee – Mike Dean (Wirral) 6 Millwall looked to have good cause for complaint over the penalty incident in the lead up to QPR’s first goal and thereafter he seemed determine to level things up by allowing gratuitous violence against Hoilett and Kranjcar to proceed unchecked.
Attendance – 13, 727 (2,000 QPR approx)
Pictures – Action Images
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Photo: Action Images
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