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.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
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