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Honest to God, plays – report
Monday, 9th Dec 2013 18:28 by Clive Whittingham

Another day, another dirge. QPR 0 Blackburn Rovers 0 this time, a game that had the majority inside Loftus Road talking amongst themselves about other things for most of the afternoon.

Great football matches played between Queens Park Rangers and Blackburn Rovers wouldn’t make for much of a Christmas present if you found the DVD in your stocking. Of the last seven meetings between these two on this ground five have featured one goal or fewer, and one of the other two finished 1-1.

Saturday’s encounter at Loftus Road was never likely to deviate from that too much: Rovers have won only once away from home this season while QPR had won eight and drawn one of nine before kick off - Rovers manager Gary Bowyer was therefore always likely to view a point as a good result. But while Rangers record and league position is impressive, they have struggled for goals this term and matches in W12 have been decided by a single strike on three occasions already.

A switch to a two striker system for a midweek win over Bournemouth brought a spurt of ‘I told you so’ from the 4-4-2 lobby as Rangers ran in three goals for the first time in two years, but Saturday was back to the dreary monotony that has marked much of QPR’s campaign so far despite the continued presence of Andy Johnson and Charlie Austin together in attack.

Rangers’ ship steadying after a nightmare 2012/13 campaign has been impressive, and only the most optimistic supporter could have expected Harry Redknapp’s team to be this high in the table given the rebuilding job that was required. But this is getting to be very dull now.

Too often QPR are relying on the excellent Charlie Austin to sniff out the odd goal to win them a game rather than grasping matches by the throat and affecting them – which they really should be able to do with the attacking players they have at their disposal. Consecutive games at Blackpool, at home to Leicester, then at Forest and Watford will ask sterner questions and QPR will have to find a way of being as dominant in the attacking third of the pitch as they are in the defensive one.

The R’s have conceded just twice at home in nine matches this campaign and Clint Hill was superb at centre half on Saturday, keeping one of the division’s top strikers Jordan Rhodes quiet and winning a succession of important headers and challenges.

Hill needed to be good. A switch out of the 4-2-3-1 QPR have utilised more often than not this season into the more traditional 4-4-2 may get Andy Johnson onto the pitch with Austin – and the value of that was seen in the early minutes when first he drew a free kick wide on the right and then teed up Austin for a shot that deflected wide – but it doesn’t help QPR much in midfield. Rangers like to pass the ball to death but taking a body out of the central area not only reduces the number of players happy to receive short balls in the central third, but also leaves the team short on protection for the back four when possession is lost.

Blackburn had much the better of the first half as time and again Joey Barton and Little Tom Carroll struggled to find team mates with passes, and then found themselves chasing back frantically to try and fill the yawning space between them and a back four which will naturally sit deep while it’s anchored by two old stagers like Hill and Richard Dunne.

Jason Lowe was left unmarked at the back post after a quarter of an hour and when Tom Cairney picked him out with a deep cross he sent a bouncing shot into the ground, over Rob Green and almost certainly into the net but for an intervention on the line by Hill. Austin had to come back and head the resulting corner out under heavy pressure from centre back Grant Hanley and Rovers weren’t finished there either. Twice around the half hour Hill had to stick his head on dangerous deliveries as Blackburn broke through the wide open spaces of the QPR midfield and then amid a funereal atmosphere at Loftus Road Chris Taylor steamed onto a Tommy Spurr cross five minutes before half time and headed over when he should have scored. In a minute of added time at the end of the half a deep long throw was directed towards goal by Dann but the ball bounced fractionally wide of the post with Green beaten but no Rovers players on hand to tap into the gaping net.

Rangers were as dysfunctional as an EastEnders family Christmas. Junior Hoilett seemed to be trying too hard to impress against his former club – a decent travelling support from the north booed his every touch and called him a ‘greedy bastard’ when he was within earshot – and went through one of those spells in the middle of the first half where he couldn’t find his own arse with both hands. Matt Phillips was anonymous on the opposite flank, save for one mishit shot on the stroke of half time that was kicked behind for a corner by Dann, and neither Benoit Assou-Ekotto nor Danny Simpson showed enough inclination to get forward from full back.

Phillips and Hoilett hold the key for QPR this season, but almost certainly not in this shape and system. They showed in the away game at Reading just how dangerous and attractive they can make Rangers when they’re on form and supporting Austin as part of a three-man supporting cast behind him but, even for wingers, their form is wildly erratic. Both scored good goals against Bournemouth on Tuesday, neither looked capable of scoring again in their careers here. Throw in their respective troubles with actually staying fit to play and it’s a headache for Harry Redknapp.

All that said, the decision to remove both of them at the same time in the second half and send on Niko Kranjcar and Gary O’Neil – two players more suited to central positions being asked to play as wingers – took the R’s too far the other way. Assou-Ekotto’s superb piece of skill and cross for Austin to head against the base of the Blackburn post was as close as QPR came to a goal all afternoon but that width wasn’t provided nearly often or readily enough and too often after the change Rangers moved attacks into crowded spaces around the edge of the area too readily. Now they were predictable for a different reason. Redknapp tried to correct this by sending on Armand Traore late in the day, but he spent ten minutes falling over his own feet having seemingly picked up a pair of his wife’s shoes and put them on the wrong feet by mistake.

It all made QPR very easy to deal with when they had the ball, and offered plenty to target when they didn’t. It was a mess of ineffective straight lines and Blackburn not only should have been in front at half time, but could easily have won the game when Rhodes caught Hill in possession on the edge of the QPR area just before the hour and Barton had to swoop in with a covering challenge as Taylor threatened to capitalise.

Rangers looked more positive when they got Andy Johnson on the ball. He drew a foul from Dann while running at the Rovers defence for which referee Darren Drysdale showed a yellow card, and later sent in a low cross that Austin stepped over allowing Phillips a clear strike on goal but a remarkable save from Rovers keeper Simon Eastwood – third choice and making his first league start of the season – kept the scores deadlocked.

Drysdale had the book out again for Chris Taylor - who’d been crying out for a card long before it actually arrived in the sixty fourth minute following a series of fouls, dives and, ultimately, a hack on Joey Barton – and then again for Tommy Spurr despite the one-time QPR transfer target appearing to win the ball with a fair tackle. Taylor should have scored moments after his indiscretion when a cross from the right dropped in the six yard box but Rangers muscled up and cleared away.

The game petered out through a dire last quarter of an hour. Rovers sent on former R DJ Campbell for Jordan Rhodes but he clearly had 0-0 on his coupon and had little effect on proceedings, and later a large gent who looked a bit like David Dunn came on for Josh King, who himself had only been introduced just after the hour but seemed to pick up a knock in the closing stages. The substitutions disrupted the flow of an already dreadful game and except for one low drive by Taylor straight at Green, and Austin glancing a header wide from a corner won by Danny Simpson after a wonderful pass by Little Tom Carroll, there was little action of note. Rangers finished the game, typically, with two poorly executed corners in four minutes of injury time.

Blackpool away, Leicester at home, Forest away, Watford away – we’ll soon see exactly what this QPR team really is made of.

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QPR: Green 6; Simpson 6 Dunne 6, Hill 7, Assou-Ekotto 6 (Traore 87, -); Phillips 5 (O’Neil 59, 6), Carroll 6, Barton 6, Hoilett 5 (Kranjcar 59, 6); Johnson 6, Austin 6

Subs not used: Onuoha, Jenas, Henry, Murphy

Blackburn: Eastwood 7; Henley 6, Dann 6, Hanley 6, Spurr 6; Marshall 6, Williamson 6, Lowe 6, Cairney 6 (King 63, 5 (Dunn 85, -)); Taylor 6; Rhodes 6 (Campbell 76, 5)

Subs not used: Kilgallon, Judge, Rochina, Kean

Bookings: Henley 33 (foul), Dann 48 (foul), Spurr 64 (foul), Taylor 69 (repetitive fouling)

QPR Star Man – Clint Hill 7 A rock at the back for QPR, making several crucial tackles in the penalty area and winning every header that came his way. Can be forgiven one frightening moment in the second half that almost cost the only goal at the game for 89 minutes of solidity either side of it.

Referee – Darren Drysdale (Lincs) 7 Thought he allowed Taylor to get away with far too much before booking him, and then yellow carded Spurr rather harshly immediately afterwards, but other than that he had a calm, firm control on a dreadful game.

Attendance 15,987 (1,300 Blackburn approx) A very creditable size of away following, given Blackburn’s current form and league position and the low numbers that usually travel to W12 from that part of the country. Overall though, a morgue-like atmosphere where boredom hung in the air.

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QPRski added 19:11 - Dec 9
I think I clearly chose the wrong game to come over and see after an absence from Loftus Road of 10 years. As you correctly say, the talk on the terraces was more enjoyable than the match itself. Although I had a great afternoon, it was not on account of the football.

PinnerPaul added 19:31 - Dec 9
Bit OTT Clive IMHO and you and others have been saying "we’ll soon see exactly what this QPR team really is made of. " almost from day one.

If we're so awful I can't see how we're 2nd (same points as top) and haven't been outside the top 3 all season!

I think there are at least 21 other clubs who would love to have had our start to the season!

Burnleyhoop added 20:49 - Dec 9
Get the distinct impression we are going to get promoted despite being pish poor and with an apparent inability to find any form or a system that accommodates a supposed array of talent. Will the addition of Benayoun prove the catalyst for our season or just another expensive jigsaw piece that doesn't fit?

And what happens if this lot do get promoted? How many of the current team will cut it back on the gravy train? Would we be better off staying in the championship until Harry nails down a squad good enough and big enough to make a genuine fist of it in the premiership.

I remain torn, unsure, unconvinced, hopeful..................see you at Blackpool

Marshy added 21:28 - Dec 9
Happy that we played with 2 strikers again, but was surprised that we also started with both Hoilett and Phillips. This was always going to leave our midfield somewhat lacking playing with the 2 wingers. Therefore a very frustrating 90 minutes. The substitutions didn't really help, and we just didn't have the right balance on the day. The thing that concerns me most about Rangers this season is our inconsistency. At times we have played a great passing game, and yet in other matches like against Blackburn making too many mistakes by giving the ball away, or just over hitting the ball. You quote Clive that Rangers were as dysfunctional as an EastEnders Family Christmas. Well the way we organised ourselves, it probably needed Phil Mitchell to stick the boot into a few Blackburn players backsides to stand any chance of breaking down their defence.

I would however single out Joey Barton for his excellent work ethic, and was perhaps the only player in midfield who showed any real ingenuity. LTC clearly has the potential, but needs to improve considerably. Clint Hill and Richard Dunne were both as solid as ever.

Clearly Harry does still not know his best team, and is therefore likely to go with a different lineup again against Blackpool, but he would be crazy not to pick AJ alongside Charlie Austin.

Northernr added 22:08 - Dec 9
Pinner - I didn't say we were awful, the league table tells us we're not. I said we were dull, which we are.

lifer added 22:32 - Dec 9
I've thought a few of the past reports were a bit dour, but I really can't argue with this one. A truly tedious & dull game. I found myself wondering if Harry really has any idea about team selection. We played 2 attackers and 2 wingers, which basically left us just 2 in central midfield, one of whom was Tom Carroll, who has clearly got some class, but is extremely lightweight and gives the ball away way too much. Personally, I think that if Carroll plays, we definitely need another body in midfield. In my view Barton played really well, while I reckon Harry should have subbed Hoilett (who was dreadful) and left Phillips on the pitch. The defence, especially Hill, was excellent yet again. Benayoun? We'll see...

MackemR added 23:20 - Dec 9
I chose Saturday as the first trip to Loftus Rd for my godson. Boy, was he excited. He whizzed round the club shop buying a shirt (and a gnome) and sat impatiently in the School End for an hour until kick off. And an hour for an eight year old is a lifetime! But after 20 minutes of dross he was counting the planes overhead. I joined him; it was far more enjoyable then what was being offered on the pitch.

Now I know you have to take the rough with the smooth. After all, we are second in the table despite the largely underwhelming displays. But if Little Tom Carroll is the best of the England U21s and even he can't deliver a decent corner then I'm afraid an 8 year old will find better things to do. Probably Grand Theft Auto. Still, my other half thought Tom was easy on the eye so at least LTC can console himself with the thought he is a Housewive's Favourite.

I wish I could say something more constructive. I just hope that we have a few more ideas when we play a suspension riddled Blackpool.

Antti_Heinola added 23:21 - Dec 9
Excellent report Clive and spot on throughout. Enjoyed the report last Tue from your deputy there, but felt when reading it, and on reading Twitter and forum comments that people went miles over the top. Tuesday's performance wasn't that much different to Saturday's truth be told and we're still yet to find a way to get an XI out there that are both attacking and safe at the back. I said last week that although Tom Thumb was good v Bournemouth and good again on Sat I felt, a better team would kill us with him as part of a central midfield pairing, and I haven't changed my mind. As you point out, Blackburn ripped through our centre with ease - so did Bournemouth at times - but luckily our defence is rather strong. At some point, though, Harry needs to find a solution. It seems to be taking him a very long time. Warnock made tough decisions like ignoring Martin Rowlands, even when fit, to keep his shape and his winning side. Redknapp maybe needs to start to do the same.

Myke added 00:23 - Dec 10
Thanks Clive. Interesting that we can be just as dull with two strikers as one! I think a change in defence may actually improve our overall performance. I know that may sound daft when the back line is our strongest area. However, your point is valid Clive, that two old stagers like Hill and Dunne are going to sit very deep for fear of being caught for pace. It was the same last season with Nelson and Hill. Samba was supposed to inject a bit of pace but the less said about that the better. This season I don't believe it was ever Harry's intention to play Dunne and Hill together. I believe he intended to partner Onuoha with one of them (whichever didn't really matter as they are similar defenders and he really didn't know if Dunne would be able to perform at all). Onuoha's genuine pace would allow the backline to defend much higher up the pitch. This would have the two-fold advantage of taking the pressure of the central mid-fielders and also making it much easier to move the ball accurately around the park as they would be a much tighter unit. I think once Harry is sure that Onuoha is fully fit ( it appears he came back to soon a few games ago) he will take one of the elder lemons out of the firing line for a while - Dunne could probably do with a break, I'm not sure Harry intended using him this much - which should increase mid-field solidity. This in turn should allow the wingers ( and full backs) to get forward more freely, creating more goal scoring opportunities for the striker(s). That's the theory anyway!

Trom added 01:23 - Dec 10
Totally agree with the dull comments but feel a little guilty to complain. Reality was at the start of the season I was more worried about going a Wolves. Where we are is a credit to Redknapp's ability to create a team and a fair bit of money! But the endless possession but few chances is not fun to watch - and we laughed at Swansea!

budaranger added 08:03 - Dec 10
'Rovers sent on former R DJ Campbell for Jordan Rhodes but he clearly had 0-0 on his coupon and had little effect on proceedings...'

Think we all know what he had on his coupon last Saturday, and for the last couple of seasons if my memory of his 'contributions' are correct...

SomersetHoops added 08:54 - Dec 10
I'm glad we all agree Clint Hill was MOM and we all value him highly, but for a defender in his mid thirties to be our best player says everything about the others and the way they were set up by the manager. I had a very good view of Clint's header off the line and it was a certain goal if he hadn't been there and we would have lost this game as we generated very few clear scoring chances. Is this what QPR have become - a boring outfit grinding out drab no-score draws at home? If that is it I and many others will find they have many more interesting things to do than watch it.

francisbowles added 09:13 - Dec 10
Thanks for another excellent report. The detail is amazing!

I actually thought we weren't too bad and like you that all the players, wingers apart, had reasonable games.

The attacking selection and substitutions were both very surprising and ultimately neither were successful. We also found ourselves without a striker on the bench (Chevanton?) Also, were we running the risk of rushing Onuoha back again by having him as a sub? (The American defender?)

In the end it came down to our lack of ability to break down a big physical side and a few missed chances for both sides. I think we will have to revert to the five man midfield with, hopefully, Benayoun adding something on the left and keep Hoilett and AJ as impact subs.

smegma added 09:36 - Dec 10
I thought Blackburn fans did a very good impersonation of Fulham fans. 1,300 approx. ? Try 800. I bet we take double that to Ewood Pk.

Northernr added 09:48 - Dec 10
I thought it was a good following for a mediocre team from so far away. And if we take double that to Ewood Park on a Tuesday night I'll give you the money myself.

PinnerPaul added 10:16 - Dec 10
Fair enough Clive, but to say that Philips looked like he would never score agin in his career when his shot hit the gk full in the face seems overly negative.

Maybe just me but Blackburn's chances talked up as nearly scored but ours are portrayed as missed chances.

Think many have totally unrealistic expectations - NO team, is going to play well with entertaining football for 46 games and only 2 teams have come close to our level of consistency in terms of points.

Northernr added 10:25 - Dec 10
And now you're going over the top. No team is going to play with entertaining football for 46 games clearly. We've been entertaining twice this season in 18 attempts.

dixiedean added 11:17 - Dec 10
If I were HR or TF reading our comments I'd be thinking FFS what do these people want ??? We've got rid of the over-paid prima-donnas & piss-takers ( by & large) , we're equal top with only 2 defeats and they're still not happy. Of course everyone always wants more, that's human nature, but it's the age-old question - do we only want to win if we win in style, or are we happy to just win? And it's not as if we play like Stoke or the old Wimbledon. That said, we'd all like a sprinkling of magic dust to make the wins more enjoyable ( ok and the 0-0 draws) but with no Taarabt or similar that won't happen. I wonder how many people would unreservedly welcome Adel back now if that were possible? He would certainly provide entertainment but at what cost - would he disrupt the team- spirit the management have worked hard to build ? Probably hypothetical as there's as much chance of me playing under HR as Adel. Personally I'll accept winning for now and hope the swagger comes later. How many other teams in this Div are wooing people with swash-buckling football ? None that I've seen.

barabajagal added 11:19 - Dec 10
Is it too mischievous to suggest that we let Derby talk to the wrong employee?

HastingsRanger added 11:30 - Dec 10
Come on guys, we should not be so divisive. I was one of the 'Wolves again' faction at the beginning of the season and I think we are doing remarkably well. Perhaps too well, hence the expectation.

What we must not lose sight of is, whatever it may appear, this division has about 12 teams all capable of a top 6 place. And in this division, there are few teams who will just roll over. And we are simply not good enough to tear anyone apart.

A lot is good. I think HR is concentrating on not losing goals, which has achieved a lot on the one hand but do we have enough to turn games round / beat teams parking the bus. I agree with the point made about Onuoha, which would assist the midfield. I feel we still lack something in midfield, yet we have so many midfielders! Is it the set up?

It will be interesting to see where we are after the Watford game.


Noelmc added 11:37 - Dec 10
I for one would love to see Adel back. He would provide the creativity the team lacks. I think he has confirmed at Fulham that he can't be accomodated in a struggling Prem team but he would thrive in our team as we regularly have 60% or more of possesion in games but lack a cutting edge. Really can't see it happening under HR though.

With regard to the match I think it showed that 4-4-2 only works when the wide man are effective and both were very poor on Saturday. I think Hoilett was trying too hard against his old club & Blackburn did a good job on both wingers by doubling up against them where necessary. Think a place has to be found for AJ in the team though as he is our most creative player at the moment, even if it means playing him wide as part of a midfield 5. Perhaps a midfield of Phillips, O'Neill, Barton, LTC & AJ may be worth trying against Blackpool on Saturday.

PinnerPaul added 12:44 - Dec 10
We'll have to agree to disagree (as usual) Clive but I'm not having we've been "entertaining" -whatever that's supposed to mean in the context of Championship football - 2/18 this season.

Last season's 0-0 draw with Man City was "entertaining'' but mostly the entertainment came from the "excitement" of us actually touching the ball in their half!

With exception of the Bournemouth game which was enjoyable for all, hopefully, all our games have been competitive affairs - free flowing 3-0 wins? of course not - but I am truly amazed (and I'm not directing this just at you) at the negative attitude on here and the forum. Literally half the posts generated after Bournemouth win compared to after Doncaster defeat for example.

Could we play better, of course we could, but what we ARE serving up doesn't merit the constant moaning and groaning IMHO.

ManinBlack added 12:45 - Dec 10
Personally I blame the Ensign vintage bus running day for the 0-0 draw. Whenever Ensign run their old Routemasters and RT's to Lakeside and Bluewater shopping centres it seems to guarantee QPR struggle. Martin Rowlands is the only player to score a winner for us in the 10 games we played on these running days.

10/12/2005 - drew 2-2 away to Ipswich
02/12/2006 - lost 3-0 away to Crystal Palace
08/12/2007 - drew 2-2 away to Scunthorpe
06/12/2008 - won 1-0 home to Wolves
05/12/2009 - lost 5-1 home to Middlesbrough
28/08/2010 - drew 2-2 away to Derby
04/12/2010 - Snow meant the vintage buses didn't run and QPR didn't play but we did lose our unbeaten record a few days later losing 3-1 home to Watford
27/08/2011 - lost 2-0 away to Wigan
03/12/2011 - drew 1-1 home to WBA
01/12/2012 - drew 1-1 home to Aston Villa
07/12/2013 - drew 0-0 home to Blackburn

The catalyst for these disappointing results over the years came in the very first game at Ipswich when QPR, so typically, conceded a 94th minute equaliser. Had we won perhaps things would have been different and we would usually win when Ensign kick out their old buses.

In future December's I would suggest you all take your women out christmas shopping on these old buses to Lakeside and Bluewater and forget about the football. QPR won't win...

BklynRanger added 02:50 - Dec 11
Plenty of frustration in that report. The only thing I'd add is that the save from Phillips' shot seemed at the time lucky as opposed to remarkable. I watched a couple of replays of it since and still think that. He did a great job of getting his body in front of it admittedly but saved it with his throat.

RonisRs added 08:37 - Dec 11
All, it was a sombre day on all accounts; QPR is on South Africa road; long live the legacy of Mandela.
sure enough a dull draw, but lets get behind the team. we are second right now, and could be top by end of December.

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