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Johnson shines as QPR roll back the years – report
Wednesday, 4th Dec 2013 14:10 by Lewis Jones

Goals from Charlie Austin, Junior Hoilett and Matt Phillips were enough to secure QPR’s biggest win of the season so far against Bournemouth at Loftus Road on Tuesday. Lewis Jones was there for LFW…

It was like the clock had rolled back ten years at Loftus Road.

Maybe manager Harry Redknapp, like this writer, had spent Monday evening getting all misty eyed and spine tingly watching the 2003/2004 QPR season review, entitled Promotion.

This was a special evening under the lights as nine of the squad that fought tooth and nail to get this club back into the big time were paraded at half-time.

It said a lot that nearly all of the 14,864 R’s fans in attendance vetoed a half-time pie and pint to give a rousing reception as the players undertook a lap of honour.

That fantastic Ian Holloway-inspired side played a no nonsense style of football, getting the ball forward into dangerous areas without thinking twice, for strikers Kevin Gallen and Paul Furlong to work their brilliance.

It would be a rare occurrence for midfielders Steve Palmer and Marc Bircham to play sideways or backwards passes. Make the opposition defence work with aggressive passing and play from there was the message. It was a simple yet effective ploy that gave us Rangers fans one of the great days in the stands at Hillsborough.

After weeks of telling the current QPR side that possession is nine tenths of the law, Redknapp stripped it back here and sent his side out to play in this 2003/2004 style and it reaped the maximum reward.

Championship points have been racked up at a promotion winning rate but in truth it's all been rather boring up until this showing. This 3-0 victory against a sprightly but limited Bournemouth side was different. Rangers played with two strikers, Charlie Austin in the target man role ala Furlong and the excellent Andy Johnson, who started his first game since August, starring as roaming chief, providing quality service which would have had Gallen doffing his magic hat in the crowd.

It couldn’t have been more different to Saturday’s lame performance at Doncaster.

Johnson's runs down the channels, which were found with simple but hugely effective long passes, laid the platform for the opening two goals. In a 4-4-2 Redknapp went back to basics and although the possession count of 49% (Rangers averaged 64% in the last home game v Charlton) wasn't anything to write home about, the fact that QPR won by more than two goals for the first time since beating Swansea in April 2012, and kept a clean sheet - their eleventh of the season - sent the punters home feeling all warm inside. It was rather enjoyable.

Rangers made three changes to the side that were dispatched limply by Donny with Little Tom Carroll replacing Jermaine Jenas, who paints his nails on a Tuesday night, Junior Hoilett coming in for Matty Phillips and Johnson joining Austin in a two-pronged forward line ahead of four midfielders.

It took time for QPR to become accustomed to this more direct style that a 4-4-2 demands as Austin and Johnson were caught offside twice in the opening ten minutes, trying to latch onto balls over a rather cumbersome Bournemouth back line consisting of Steve Cook and Simon Francis. The home side would get it right eventually.

Meanwhile, at the other end, the relaxed but technically supreme Benoît Assou-Ekotto nearly planted a header past Rob Green after a slight mix-up following a long ball but the Rangers stopper was on his guard to deny what would have been QPR’s most farcical own goal for many a season.

QPR continued to press well without much success before the game burst into life with the first of two major flashpoints of the first half that called referee Andy Woolmer into action.

First, Joey Barton, in typical style, aerially flew through Harry Arter, who is Scott Parker’s brother-in-law out of interest, with his elbows high but won the ball. Foul, probably. Arber wasn’t best pleased though and Barton’s chirpiness in his ear brought about a clear stamp down the shins on Barton from the Bournemouth man. Woolmer must have been eyeing up the pies in the South Africa Road stand as he missed the act of clear violence (OK, maybe a little strong) despite being six feet away. The home crowd called for a red card. Woolmer gave Arter a stern telling off. Things were about to get worse. Strap yourselves in, comrades.

Perhaps Redknapp and QPR fans should thank Arber and Woolmer though because thanks to one’s petulance and the other’s incompetence, Loftus Road was now rocking under the lights. The Super Hoops responded too and upped their intensity.

Despite this change in gear from the hosts, Arber nearly waltzed through after Carroll and Barton had pushed too far up field but his shot was blocked away for a corner. Minutes later, QPR got their lead with a goal that defined what playing 4-4-2 is all about.

The energetic Johnson finally timed a run to perfection down the left on 26 minutes and nipped in front of Cook with a clever header to the by-line. From there, not only did he keep the ball in-play at full stretch, but he also found his strike partner Austin with a perfectly weighted cross. His first touch inside the box was immaculate and his second past returning R’s keeper Lee Camp was equally as clinical.

Rangers sensed blood and went to kill the game off, something they have rarely done this campaign, with Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan barking out encouragement from the sidelines to press high. The game should have been over as a contest on 32 minutes and only Woolmer and his assistant referee will be able to explain why. Not that they will of course.

Enthusiastically chasing a through ball, Austin looked favourite to burst through last-man Tommy Elphick, who had a tug on his shirt before scooping the ball back with his hand when hitting the deck. Crystal clear to everyone in the stadium. Clear as mud to the linesman and referee. Elphick was the last man. Deliberate hand ball. Sending off. Simple.

After a good two minutes of deliberation between the ref and his lino, they decided that the free-kick was justice enough for the most obvious professional foul you’ll see all season. Even the Bournemouth players were laughing at the farcical goings on.

An infuriated Barton drove the free-kick into the wall and then was booked 30 seconds later for a frustrated hack on Francis. We can forgive you for that one Joey.

QPR continued to attack with fluidity and although they were left open at the back on a couple of occasions, that’s the nature of the 4-4-2 beast. Marc Pugh fired one into the Loft after cutting in from the left and Brett Pitman escaped the clutches of Clint Hill and Richard Dunne but his shot from an angle was straight at Green.

The visitors had their best spell just after the break. Pitman again scampered away from Hill but could only curl a shot wide whilst Carroll’s rustiness shone through when he gave the ball away needlessly while once again dallying in possession. The jury is still out whether he can play in a central two.

Who needs the midfield though when you have Johnson’s epic movement to find space in the channels? With QPR struggling to control the game after half-time, another simple ball forward into Johnson’s path down the line on 53 presented QPR with the all-important second goal. He held the ball up brilliantly and fed Danny Simpson who capped a super display with a fantastic cross into Austin. He missed his kick, but the inconsistent Hoilett was waiting at the back post to shake his hips, fool the defender on the blind side and fire across Camp into the net. Simple tactics. Maximum reward.

That was game, set and match for QPR as the south coast side found little to hit back with. The game slowed to a crawl until the introduction of Matty Phillips, who injected life back into the game on 76 minutes with a sensational goal. The former Blackpool man had shown signs of his direct and powerful dribbling style at Reading earlier in the season but not to level that he produced here. Picking the ball up 30 yards from goal, he set sail for the Bournemouth box, beating three men with hop, skip and a jump before erotically smashing home a firecracker into the top corner. Welcome to QPR, Matty.

Green had to be alert to deny Arter and substitute Ryan Fraser in the final 20 minutes but the game was already won and with the introduction of a third midfielder in the form of Jenas for the tiring Johnson, who had run himself into the ground, Carroll, predictably, started to find his passing boots.

Woolmer blew his final whistle, with an air of thankfulness that QPR’s ruthless finishing had taken the spotlight off his bad day at the office, and Rangers went joint-top of the league.

Football is a simple game, complicated by idiots. Defend manfully. Work your bollocks off. Get the ball in good areas to your best players. Take your chances.

It was just like watching 03/04. Everybody loves a reunion.

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QPR: Green 7, Simpson 7, Dunne 7, Hill 7, Assou-Ekotto 7; Barton 7, O’Neill 6 (Traore 81, 6) Carroll 5, Hoilett 7 (Phillips 73, 7); Austin 7, Johnson 8 (Jenas 73, 6).

Subs not used: Murphy, Young, Henry, Krancjar.

Goals: Austin 27 (assisted Johnson), Hoilett 54 (assisted Simpson), Phillips 77 (unassisted)

Bookings: Barton 34 (foul)

Bournemouth: Camp 6, Francis 5, Cook 6, Elphick 5, Daniels 5; MacDonald 6 (Grabban 61, 6), Ritchie 5 (Fraser 68, 6) Arter 5, Surman 6, Pugh 7; Pitman 6 (Rantie 61, 5).

Subs not used: Harte, Thomas, Flahavan, O’Kane.

Bookings: MacDonald 51 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Andy Johnson 8 His worth to this team when they play 4-4-2 is hugely underrated. Despite being the wrong side of 30, Johnson is still electrically fast over five yards and moves down the channels in the same way as he did when in his pomp at Crystal Palace and Everton. His assist for Austin’s first goal was immaculate and it was his clever movement that set the base for the all-important winner.

Referee – Andy Woolmer (Northants) 4 Blimey, what a stinker. Allowed the game to flow OK, but bottled both the big red card decisions. No-one wants to see players sent off but when an incident happens like the Elphick one, there is just simply no excuse. He cheated and he got away with it.

Attendance 16,331 (1,467 away) A great following brought up by the Cherries added to what was a party-like atmosphere in the stadium with the likes of Gallen, Bircham and Furlong being paraded at half-time. The club should be given big credit for organising a fantastic night.

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simmo added 14:40 - Dec 4
Cheers Lewis. Would have given Ekotto MoM, but mainly because I am biased.

HastingsRanger added 14:45 - Dec 4
Austin worked very hard as always. Phillips goal was just superb to watch.

But still worried about the casualness which some areas of the game are played with. With better finishing, Bournemouth might well have been in this game.

Still not sure if this a side that is playing within itself or just unable to step up a gear?

Nevertheless, 2nd in the league in December is much greater than I was anticipating!!

RBlock added 15:38 - Dec 4
Good report, Thanks.

I can't understand how LTC only got a 5 though. Yes he got caught out in possession once or twice, but he was constantly offering an option to the player with the ball and never stopped running. I would like to see individual stats for the players, to check on passes made ect. but IMO he did pretty well considering he has just come back.

Pigbag added 15:40 - Dec 4
Suprised you gave Carroll a 5 rating, thought he played well and was behind our quick tempo game.

dixiedean added 15:46 - Dec 4
Thanks for the report Lewis in Clive's absence. I know we shouldn't grumble after an easy 3-0 win, but we do still have a tendency to play dangerous balls into midfield players near the edge of our box and often concede possession there, or generally fart around and risk getting caught out. Fortunately we haven't been punished for it yet as the opponents haven't been good enough to capitalise, but sooner or later I fear it's going to cost us a crucial goal. Let's eradicate that before it's costly ! For me Austin was MOM due to his excellent all-round shift. Not just the Mackie-like chasing the keeper down, but he does a lot of good defensive work, esp defending corners. 7 out of 10 for others except Hoilett who still flatters to deceive and Dunne who looks like he needs a rest to me.

QPRski added 15:51 - Dec 4
It is good to read the sentence "Rangers sensed blood and went to kill the game off". Long may it continue!

Also thanks for the recent innovation of adding the video clip of the highlights . Very professional and much appreciated.

1MoreBrightonR added 15:52 - Dec 4
Austin, Johnson, BAE and Barton stood out for me and i think 5 for Carroll is very harsh.

Think criticisms of the sloppyness are very harsh...we arent going to be perfect for 90 minutes and we basically controlled the game, took our chances and won 3-0. I'm delighted with that.

Antti_Heinola added 16:12 - Dec 4
Nice one Lewis. I don't really share your enthusiasm, though, I'm afraid. I'm not really sure the victory was magically down to a switch to 4-4-2. I don't think Andy Johnson's cross was perfectly weighted either - he did phenomenally well, but truth was that it was just a desperate hack to get the ball in the box - brilliantly done, but I'm not convinced he thought 'I'll just sky this, then the defender will completely misjudge it, leaving Austin time to chest the ball down and poke home from 6 yards out'.
An improved performance certainly, and a lot more fun, and bodes well for the future, but against a half decent side, that midfield 4 will get ripped apart - it struggled badly at times last night, truth be told.
And Carroll was one of the high points I think. A 5 seems very, very harsh. O'Neil was largely anonymous, Hoilett dreadfully wasteful.
Great to see AJ playing though.

smegma added 16:35 - Dec 4
Yeah AJ was rubbish wasn't he ANTI QPR.

whittocksRs added 17:00 - Dec 4
Got to agree with the 5 for LTC, though I can see he's fast becoming a splinter point for Rangers fans - those that see the undeniable talent and those that think he's too slow when under pressure.

Doughnut added 17:31 - Dec 4
Agree with the rest, but had Carroll at least a 6.

francisbowles added 18:51 - Dec 4
I also think LTC had a reasonable game but that in a two we will be very exposed, both in midfield and consequently, in the middle of the back four where we are not the quickest. I think you are spot on with Hoilett being both wasteful and inconsistent. He is also very predictable.
I believe a lot of the sloppiness comes from AEO. He played numerous balls inside mainly to Dunne, who is probably our least comfortable player on the ball. He also, nearly always, looks like it would hurt to run! His chasing back is even worse than Bos******s! Having said that, he does have quality and some of his play is very entertaining to watch. A real enigma and I still remember the run around he was given by Mackie in the home win in 2011.
AJ was mom for me but we will need to be flexible with our formation depending on the venue, opposition, availability and the state of play during the game. When we play five in midfield, it needs to be more of a 4231 than a 451

connell10 added 19:36 - Dec 4
tom thumb played well i thought and was no way a 5. other than that very good report mate!

Marshy added 20:32 - Dec 4
My prayers were at last answered with the inclusion of Andy Johnson from the start, and playing with Charlie Austin upfront in a 442. I've been banging on for weeks that this was what was required to almost guarantee we would score more goals, and it was certainly very effective. To my mind it was the obvious and logical step to take, but remains a mystery why It took Harry so long to see it in the same way.

A very satisfying night with 3 great goals, particularly Matty Phillips strike which was superb. It's now vital that we stick consistently with 2 strikers. Who cares if we have less possession when the goals are flying in!

Ironically the most noise made on the night from the Loftus Road crowd, was as a result of the non penalty incident. It's the most passion I have seen from supporters so far this season.


RonisRs added 21:26 - Dec 4
great performance from the team, and I thought it could of ended up being 4 or 5 nil at once stage.
AJ had a great game, so did Hoilett and AE, and Barton (mom per the Daily Mail).
I did worry about the midfield at times, but that maybe because it was 5 vs 4. also when Austin did a sliding tackle in the penalty area near the end, my heart sank, but fortunately it was very well timed for a forward.

DesertBoot added 22:24 - Dec 4
Cheers Lewis. Little Tom will run to Mummy in tears when he sees his rating. From 5 to 7 for me as he grew into the game. Simple but effective football from the whole team.

Myke added 01:34 - Dec 5
Hi Lewis. Thanks for report. Loath to criticise anyone standing in and volunteering for a job but just want to make a few pointers and let me state from the outset these are entirely my personal preference. I loath and I mean LOATH any semblance of football that doesn't involve keeping the ball on the deck and moving it through the midfield into the wide areas before getting it into the box. Whatever term you want to use 'direct', 'long ball' is, to coin one of Clive's own phrases 'anti-football' and to be singing the praises of such a 'style' is lamentable in my view. Any buffoon can hump a ball 70 yards into the channels and hope for the best. No surprise that our percentage of possession dropped significantly since our last home game, because to hoof a ball down the pitch from the is playing a percentage game- 50% to be exact. Any game, any TEAM that involves leaving out a player of the calibre of Krancjar is diminished in my view. And it's not like we played significantly better, not nearly as well as we did against Middlesboro - a team of similar position and ability to Bournemouth - for example. The goals came at just the right time; the first when the game was finely poised, the second when they were on top and the third when the game had gone flat and we had pretty much lost our way despite a two goal cushion.
So why am I bitching when we won 3-0? The answer is I'm not of course complaining about the result, a very welcome boost to our 'goals for' column. My point is that this result with a bit of luck could have happened several times before this season, at Reading most notably and equally might not have happened against Bournemouth. Phillips goal was quality, but the other two were farcical from a defensive perspective. We have been very unfortunate in front of goal this season and extremely fortunate at the back, the only difference with this game is that we got lucky in front of goal for a change. We still rode our luck in defence on many occasions and your assertion that being left open at the back is 'the nature of the 4-4-2 beast' is patently not true. No system should leave one open at the back if all the players are concentrating and doing their job properly. Certainly AJ is perfect for the long ball into the channels with his tireless running and unselfish distribution but he would be equally adept at this with decent distribution from the mid-fielders/wingers. The worry is with this being our biggest win of the season that it will become the blue-print for success. I sincerely hope not. Surely Harry wouldn't sell his soul at this late stage of his career?
One final point, good to see Young making the bench - perhaps the reason why Simpson played as well as he did. Gives us another option at the back anyway

Northernr added 02:00 - Dec 5
Myke - QPR won 3-0. Just throwing that in there.

RonisRs added 08:43 - Dec 5
certain tactics are adapted for certain games, this was our biggest win of the season. so the tactics worked. Come on you R's.......

Bedford_R added 09:53 - Dec 5
jeez, we've got some whinging geets as fans. We are not Real Madrid where every pass is completed as though guided by laser targeting. We are QPR and have just had our biggest win of the season. Relish in that. Look forward to Saturday and staying near the top of the table. If we get promoted next year are you still going to criticise AJ's lump into the box for the Austin goal?

HamptonR added 15:24 - Dec 5
Tom Carroll deserved more than a 5.
QPR Deserved more than 3 goals.

Antti Heinola: I don't know where you sit but Andy Johson did more than just hack the ball into the box.

Myke: What game were you watching?

Patrick added 18:03 - Dec 5
Thought both Barton and Carroll both worked very hard in a 2 man midfield. LTC grew into it and had one of his better games. 5 very harsh. Team and tactics seemed chosen as horses for courses against a shaky defence (and, er, it certainly worked) and no doubt we will see a more packed midfield again against more threatening teams. Personal MOTM would be Austin, again, great number nine performance, lucky to have him.

francisbowles added 19:28 - Dec 5
Myke, very well put!

HamptonR added 00:13 - Dec 6
francisbowles:Yeah right!!

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