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Back to back defeats for listless Rangers – report
Friday, 27th Dec 2013 11:44 by Clive Whittingham

QPR slipped to their second defeat in as many games over Christmas with their annual lacklustre showing at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground.

What will concern Harry Redknapp the most about this latest setback for his QPR team won’t be the result – defeats, even back-to-back losses, at this point of a 46 game season aren’t terminal problems – but the ease at which it was achieved.

To be beaten quite so comfortably by a team so short of centre forwards it was forced to field Greg Halford, who made his name as a mediocre full back with a long throw, as a lone striker, and in front of a television audience that no doubt included several interested managers of QPR’s forthcoming opponents, is a big concern.

Nottingham Forest were everything you’d expect a Billy Davies side to be: well organised, hardworking, pressing high up the field and haranguing opponents that dallied in possession. But that’s all it takes to beat this Queens Park Rangers side at the moment as it arrogantly swaggers about, stroking passes around and believing that the quality of the players in the team will mean victories inevitably follow.

It shouldn’t have escaped Redknapp’s notice that Forest’s performance was epitomised by a man he felt he had no place for in his team, Jamie Mackie. Typically, the former QPR man was perpetual motion and, along with the excellent Henri Lansbury, revelled in the opportunity to swarm all over opponents who far too frequently wanted far too long in possession before picking their next move. Mackie was everything QPR were not: quick, committed, purposeful, hard working. Add in the quality of Andy Reid and, particularly, French winger Djamel Abdoun and it mattered little that the lumbering Halford was leading the line and missing half a dozen decent chances his team mates created for him.

Mind you, compared to QPR’s lone striker Bobby Zamora, Halford was a Zlatan Ibrahimovic tribute act. Zamora looked like a man who really should be considering retirement even before his latest 13 week injury lay off and a spell under the surgeon’s knife doesn’t seem to have improved him greatly. The wisdom of throwing a player in that condition straight back in from the start has to be questioned after a woeful first 45 minutes in which QPR were effectively playing with ten men. Yards off the pace, with the first touch of somebody wearing a false leg, Zamora was an absolute liability to his team, frequently conceding possession and posing no challenge whatsoever for the Forest centre backs.

A cynic may suggest that his sudden inclusion, ahead of top scorer Charlie Austin who sat out with a worrying-sounding hamstring injury, may have something to do with the close proximity of the January transfer window. No other team in the division would be able to afford another striker with Austin, Zamora, Andy Johnson and Tom Hitchcock already on the books, but QPR’s vampire-like thirst for new blood whenever that pesky window is open doesn’t appear to have been quenched just yet.

Zamora brought a tepid encounter to life after 18 minutes, conceding possession lazily in the centre circle, enabling Halford to slalom through a wide open QPR defence into a one on one chance with Green but the keeper made a fine save with his feet to maintain the deadlock. A minute later, with Danny Simpson caught up field and Abdoun able to sprint into the space he’d left behind, Halford again found himself in space in the penalty area but this time blasted miles over when it seemed easier to hit the target.

Forest did their very best QPR impression with a free kick awarded for a foul by Karl Henry, in for the suspended Joey Barton and turning in a performance that should see him very far from the manager’s thoughts for a starting place for some considerable time to come, on Henri Lansbury. The set piece, orchestrated by Andy Reid, was needlessly elaborate and fell flat on its face – much like the visiting team as a whole. But Forest were quickly back to their basic best – Lansbury roughing Henry out of possession on the corner of his own box after a hospital pass from Simpson before shooting wide.

The home assaults weren’t coming in waves at this point, it was just one permanent attack. QPR had started the game reasonably, finding Niko Kranjcar with the ball in decent areas, but the lack of width and tempo in their game played right into the home team’s hands. The plan remains, as Redknapp said when he signed him on deadline day, to “play through” Little Tom Carroll, but when it’s done so deliberately and so slowly, with so few options in wide areas for the loaned Tottenham man to seek out, it’s easy to shut down. And one thing Nottingham Forest can do really well is shut down. One corner followed another – Green flapped at one and punched another – Abdoun fired wide from the edge and then, finally, when Mackie’s industry won possession back from Dunne and Abdoun flighted in a perfect cross even Halford couldn’t miss with his head from six yards out.

If you were looking for microcosms of this QPR performance, how about Henry panicking under more pressure from Lansbury and falling on the ball hoping for a free kick? Referee Keith Stroud, who QPR had never lost with in 11 previous appointments, rightly penalised the former Wolves midfielder for handball. Or, moments later, Richard Dunne’s all-too casual square ball on the edge of his own area that Abdoun, stunned by the laziness of his opponent perhaps, handled as he attempted to spring through on goal.

Apart from one opportunity when a ball fell to Zamora in the area and he squared for Jenas – largely anonymous as always – to send a shot in on goal that was blocked away, QPR’s only real goal threat was carried by Kranjcar who curled a shot a foot wide of the post with keeper Karl Darlow struggling on the half hour, then saw another shot deflected into the path of Carroll who hesitated when faced with the whites of the keeper’s eyes and lost the opportunity as a result.

The abject performance forced Redknapp into two half time changes and it was no surprise at all to see Henry and Zamora hooked. The problem is, this requirement for emergency surgery on the QPR team during a match is becoming all-too frequent. At Blackpool in their last away game Rangers were distinctly second best until Kranjcar was introduced in the second half and then against Leicester at Loftus Road on Saturday Gary O’Neil needed to be removed after a dreadful first half. Here Redknapp could happily have removed half his team at the break but questions have to be asked about why that team was picked in the first place. What, exactly, did anybody expect from Karl Henry and Bobby Zamora, given their respective lack of ability and time out of the side, in a tough away match like this? The fact that neither of them were at the races, and found themselves totally out-played, out-run, out-muscled, out-worked and out-fought was about as surprising as that bit at the end of Scooby Doo where they take the mask off to reveal it was actually the only other character who’d featured in the episode all along. Mr Fitzgerald the old fairground caretaker?! Who would have thought it?

And for a while it looked like the introduction of Andy Johnson as the lone striker and Junior Hoilett wide on the left might haul Rangers back into the game. Hoilett saw a shot blocked almost immediately and then Phillips fired a foot over the bar. When Forest full back Jara was penalised for an obvious climb over Kranjcar on the corner of the penalty box the Croatian whipped a devilish free kick right through a crowded area and an inch wide of the far bottom corner with Darlow puffing his cheeks out in relief. The keeper, fresh out of the chair at Toni and Guy’s ready for his big television appearance, then had to be alert and get back quickly to tip an improvised volley from Carroll over the bar.

But in truth Rangers had merely improved from abject to average, increasing their tempo from pedestrian to passable. Forest had other gears to go through and after that little flurry of chances in the first ten minutes of the half promptly did just that. Soon Abdoun was showcasing his skills again and teeing up Lansbury for a shot that was blocked behind, and Benoit Assou-Ekotto, whose half-arsed casual style rather summed up his team’s performance, saw the first yellow card of the day from Stroud for a high tackle on Jamie Mackie. Mackie always gave the Cameroon full back a torrid time when QPR played Tottenham in the Premier League and did so again here – Assou-Ekotto likes time on the ball so he can flounce about, Mackie likes to get in his man’s face and kick him a bit.

When Hoilett lost possession just after the hour Mackie was off and running again, crossing for Halford to poke a gilt edged chance straight into Green’s arms from close range with Richard Dunne, bizarrely, happy to let Halford run and appeal for offside rather than get back in and defend professionally. That reliance on the linesman, rather than diligent hard defensive work, would haunt Rangers again a little later. Nedum Onuoha must surely be pushing for a recall.

QPR rode their luck again five minutes later when Green sprang from his line to field a high free kick into his box and then inexplicably missed the ball completely. In the ensuing carnage the ball fell to Hobbs who struck a powerful shot towards the unguarded goal but Clint Hill, who has been playing with the accident-prone Green for 18 months now and knows the warning signs well, had retreated onto the line and was able to clear.

For all the improvements in the QPR performance after half time, it was still Forest creating the better chances. Even with Hoilett on one side and Phillips on the other the problems with width and pace in the Rangers side remained. Never once did Hoilett take his full back on down the outside – always preferring to cut in field and try a shot of his own which starved Johnson of possession and crowded Kranjcar’s work station. When Matt Phillips got going down the right and crossed perfectly for Charlie Austin to score the second goal at Blackpool one hoped it might be the Eureka moment for this team, but apparently not. Every bloody time they get the ball the first thought QPR’s wingers have is to cut in field and narrow both their options and the field. It’s easy to play against this. Sending on Yossi Benayoun for Phillips only exacerbated that situation and while Jenas could easily have equalised had his powerful shot deflected a foot below the bar rather than a foot over with Darlow beaten that would have been harsh on Forest who put the game to bed a short time later.

A long ball from back to front towards Greg Halford ten minutes from time missed the makeshift striker altogether as he attempted to flick it on and ran through to Andy Reid in behind the QPR defence. The linesman raised his flag immediately but referee Stroud was happy to hesitate a moment – admittedly under heavy duress from Billy Davies on the touchline - and allow Reid to roll the ball past Green and into the net. QPR had stopped – Green barely made an attempt to deal with Reid and Assou-Ekotto and Dunne were actually walking the other way – but Halford had missed the ball altogether meaning that Reid, who was inside his own half when it was originally knocked long, was actually onside and Stroud was right to overrule his assistant, however he reached the decision. The old adage about playing to the whistle sprang to mind. The lazy reaction of the QPR players to the incident, followed by a good two minutes of bitching and moaning at the officials, typified their overall attitude to the game and performance on the night. The goal summed Forest up as well: bright, alive, positive, enthusiastic and opportunistic. Just rewards for Reid and his team.

Davies showed some mercy afterwards, removing Forest’s best player Abdoun and talismanic figure Mackie and sending on Paterson and Derbyshire. Junior Hoilett clipped a delicate effort wide of the post and Darlow was booked for time wasting over the resulting goal kick but there was no need – QPR wouldn’t have scored if the game was still going on now. Even when Johnson did finally receive a decent bit of service in the penalty area, Hobbs came across and blocked the ball away with a fine challenge. Kranjcar wasn’t bar wide with a long range shot in five minutes of added time but Green had to deny Lansbury with a low save and Reid blasted the rebound over so it could just have easily been 3-0 as 2-1.

A first QPR win at the City Ground in 30 attempts never looked likely in truth and the ease with which a team that’s supposed to be the title favourite this season could be stopped, picked apart and ultimately swept aside simply by playing at a high tempo, working hard, pressing high up the field, and having a couple of quality midfield players was alarming.

The response from Redknapp’s “right sorts” will be intriguing.

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Forest: Darlow 6; Jara 6, Lascelles 6, Hobbs 7, Lichaj 6; Vaughan 6 (Chalobah 67, 6), Lansbury 8; Mackie 7 (Derbyshire 86, -), Reid 7, Abdoun 8 (Paterson 82, -); Halford 6

Subs not used: Harding, Majewski, de Vries, Osborn

Goals: Halford 29 (assisted Abdoun), Reid 80 (assisted Abdoun)

Bookings: Darlow 84 (time wasting)

QPR: Green 6; Simpson 6, Dunne 5, Hill 6, Assou-Ekotto 5; Carroll 6, Henry 3 (Hoilett 45, 5); Phillips 5 (Benayoun 76, 5), Jenas 4, Kranjcar 6; Zamora 2 (Johnson 45, 6)

Subs not used: Traore, Wright-Phillips, Onuoha, Murphy

Bookings: Assou-Ekotto 48 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Niko Kranjcar 6 The best of a very mediocre bunch indeed, carrying QPR’s only genuine goal threat and the only player capable of penetrating the Forest defence with any kind of regularity.

Referee – Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 8 Much was made of the second goal, and the wide angle replays suggest that Stroud wasn’t nearly as certain as he made out and seemed to play on initially under heavy protest from the Forest bench, but ultimately the decision – like almost every other one he made on the evening – was correct and QPR had only themselves to blame.

Attendance 22,721 (600 QPR approx.)

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probbo added 12:33 - Dec 27
Thanks for the report as always. My observations from the previous home loss v Leicester was that the five man midfield simply doesn't work and also assou-ekottu is nowhere near as good at he thinks he is. All too often moves break down with him either being tackled or a poor misplaced pass being intercepted. And his crossing is crap. I know he's not everyone's cup of tea but I'd give traore another run at wing back. I just hark back to that cross he put on mackie's head against man city. Austin needs those sort of crosses from both flanks.

But above all else our 'goals scored' is the biggest concern and no disrespect to Zamora or Johnson but they are clearly well past their best. We should try 4-4-2, get young Hitchcock back from Crewe and let him have a run in the team with Austin. If we don't start scoring more goals, I can see us slipping out of contention. Happy new year to all R's fans wherever you may be.
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QPunkR added 12:41 - Dec 27
Well played to everyone that managed to drag themselves up to Nottingham for that. I sat this one out and almost considered not going to watch it down the pub when I heard that the abject Jenas and wholly ineffectual Christmas Carroll would be starting along with Bobby Zee.
This was a game, as everyone said at the time, that was lost even before a ball was kicked.
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AshteadR added 12:57 - Dec 27
Thanks Clive, fair play to all those that attended.

For all of the supposed 'creative' players we have in the squad, we're hardly creating a chance. It showed how reliant we are on Austen.
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Doughnut added 12:59 - Dec 27
Watching them, felt like I'd gone back to last season....pure misery!!! I'll be happy when AJ & BZ are gone...with the exception of the odd goal at the start of the season from AJ these two have been a couple of duds, who have treat our club like a rest home/A&E since they got here. Now Austin's crocked I can't see us achieving much this season; unless, as mentioned TF is finessed into opening his cheque book again. But even he must be having doubts about this club now. What annoys is how we make other teams look so bloody good!! The lack of any real fightback when we go a goal behind is so depressing. And last night wasn't the first time. Utter rubbish!!
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TacticalR added 13:46 - Dec 27
Amazed you have got your report out so quickly.

We're obviously suffered hugely from losing Barton and Austin at the same time. Their replacements were more of a liability than an asset. Zamora looks a shadow of himself, and kept trying to pass the ball in the box instead of shooting. Playing him was a ghastly error. And Karl Henry seems to have completely gone to pieces. Are we really that short of alternatives?

Why was Tom Carroll taking the corners? He kept on plonking the ball straight into the hands of their keeper.

Forest had done their homework on us, and knew who to target. For example Phillips always had more than one man on him, and Kranjčar was rarely allowed to settle on the ball. At least Kranjčar was still able to carve out a few opportunities for himself.

Hoilett is a one-trick pony, and is probably best brought on in the last half hour when opposition legs are tiring. Passing in the box seems completely alien to him, and as you point out he can also get in the way of other players.

Abdoun had the measure of Simpson and seemed to have no trouble getting his crosses in every time.

We didn't seem to have two ideas to rub together. I think this match has hit everyone hard because at least in the Leicester game we were beaten by a fluid team, whereas at Forest we were beaten by a much more ordinary team with an oaf up front.

The 'offside' goal incident was embarrassing, but a complete red herring as we had already lost the game.
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YorkRanger added 14:00 - Dec 27
Loved the Scooby Doo reference....
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francisbowles added 14:14 - Dec 27
It is clear that neither Zamora or AJ can play as a lone striker. The first is not mobile enough and the second is better with somone to play off. If Austin is unfit and until we get a new striker why not try them together.

I agree it's time to get rid of the lazy AE and get a new left back or in the short term give Traore a go.

Time to give Dunne a rest and get Onuoha in if fit. If not get Ehmer back or a new centre back.

None of our wingers seem to be able to go outside down the left, another reason to get Traore into the side or at least as an impact sub.

Much as I like LTC, I am not sure if he is the right sort of player for this division. Playing him limits us to having to play five in midfield.

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onlyrinmoray added 14:47 - Dec 27
No sign of Barton watching in the stands yet Charlie was there. Sums up the man Barton all mouth and no substance.. Yes I know hes been the best player this season, well according to regulars I know (for me its any of the back 5)

His performance against Leicester stunk of a man wanting Christmas off
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Monahoop added 14:49 - Dec 27
After watching yet another lame performance last night, I was left wondering whether this was just QPR being their usual festive time mean spirited selves or whether Harry's methods are being well and truly found out. Or maybe a combination of both? Whatever it is, the club need to snap out of their predicament or else the second half of the season could be very different from the first half.
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PinnerPaul added 14:54 - Dec 27
Fair summary Clive.

I know its all subjective, but can't see how Kranjcar gets the same mark as Tom C.

I thought the latter was awful, conceding possession all evening - more a 4/10 performance for me.
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Antti_Heinola added 15:14 - Dec 27
Spot on report in all areas, Clive.
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Eddo added 15:27 - Dec 27
Good report again Clive (clearly you're wasted in anything but journalism).

For me, the time has come to complete the clear started in August...

We need to build a younger midfield / forward line for the longer term, and not rely on players well past their best i.e. Zamora/Johnson/Jenas/Henry/SWP who for me are simply taking the money and do not fit into our short or long term plans.

As much as we all want to be back in the Premier League, are we not fooling ourselves that this squad will be able to achieve mid-table PL stability should we go up?

Charlie Austin & Matty Phillips are both improving by the week by working in front of a solid defence and with with quality players like Barton & Kranjcar around them, the next step must surely be to add another young, promising forward and midfielder...

i.e. someone like Tom Ince..

The debate about signing Carrol is open for discussion, but, for sure he adds industry and is learning fast, but if it's for Spurs benefit then it kind of defeats the object...

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OnlyHereForTheNiko added 17:59 - Dec 27
Well, that's reassuring! I looked at this forum last night and wondered if I'd been watching a different game to some of the other posters. But, from your report, it would seem that I was on the right lines with my observations.

Yes, it's hard for me to take my Niko hat off but, even when I removed the beanie & shook out my brunette curls, I still thought that he was one of your better performers and, at times, my heart bled for him. His football brain is such that some others aren't on his wavelength and miss the subtleties of his play - e.g. an edge-of-the-box back heel, which went completely ignored by Phillips/Hoilett (it was one of them - can't remember who). If that had happened in 2009/10, Bale/Modric/some other 'Spurs player of the time would have been stood behind Kranjčar, thinking: "Now, I know Niko loves a back heel, so I'll just hang around here, in case he plays one & puts me in on goal". Awh, if only Niko had some of Matt & Junior's pace - and if only they had some of his thought processes!!

Karl Henry, for an alleged 'hard man', looked like a complete pussy. Seemed lightweight & kept getting knocked off the ball. Not impressed with him. What happened to the nasty bas'tard, who used to get sent off every other week at Wolves?

I guess HR didn't have a lot of options up front with Charlie injured & neither AJ or Zamora having 90 minutes in them. A forward looks to be a necessity in this transfer window.

LFW forum was quick to slag off just about every midfielder who played, but the person I'd have been most angry with was Jailbird Joey Barton, whose petulance & stupidity got him sent off on Saturday, resulting in him missing last night's game. Not saying that he'd have made the difference, but he'd have been considerably better than some who were out there.

Jeez, it worries me that I even find myself concerned about your team, seeing as I am OHFTN. Still think you'll be there or thereabouts, in May, though!
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Noelmc added 18:56 - Dec 27
Spot on with your analysis of the game Clive. The section in which you compared the outcome of starting Zamora & Henry with guessing the "who done it" in Scooby Doo, hit the nail on the head and asks serious questions about some of HR's decision-making. I do worry as to how he seems to rate players such as Zamora, Henry & Jenas but never rated Mackie & only belatedly recognised Faurlin's ability. Last night showed how much we rely on Barton & Austin. HR needs to find a way to stop Joey's meltdowns & pray the latter keeps fit if we are to finish in the top 2.
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bloberts added 19:27 - Dec 27
To be fair to Hoillet, he did go on the outside a couple of times, but had little to aim for.
With the team we put out, it was quite clear we were going to lose, I would pay 5 million for someone to buy Zamora off us, he is horrendous. I don't see why we didn't recall Hitchcock when Chevanton left, it was a disaster waiting to happen.

Anyway we always lose to Forest so no panic yet.
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Kaos_Agent added 19:59 - Dec 27
Thanks Clive. Difficult to watch. Can only imagine the damage a top 17 Prem side would have inflicted.

Of Harry's starting eleven at Nottingham, the eight non-loan players had an average age nudging 31. Two of the three subs used are, or will shortly be, 33. This team needs younger under-contract legs playing together on a consistent basis to build for promotion, but it is not happening.
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RangersAreBack added 20:04 - Dec 27
"Mind you, compared to QPR’s lone striker Bobby Zamora, Halford was a Zlatan Ibrahimovic tribute act"

"The fact that neither of them were at the races, and found themselves totally out-played, out-run, out-muscled, out-worked and out-fought was about as surprising as that bit at the end of Scooby Doo where they take the mask off to reveal it was actually the only other character who’d featured in the episode all along."

"The keeper, fresh out of the chair at Toni and Guy’s ready for his big television appearance..."

Quality stuff Clive.
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Marshy added 20:50 - Dec 27
When the team was announced it didn't look on paper that we would be capable of scoring any goals, and that was case throughout the match. We desperately missed Charlie Austin, and merely the thought of Bobby Zamora leading the front line left me feeling distinctly subdued.

Only 4 wins in 12 matches is not promotion form, and at this rate we will be rapidly slipping down the league, unless the lack of scoring can quickly be addressed. It's probably unlikely that we will be able to get in anyone decent in the transfer / loan window, therefore we will no doubt have to continue with what we've got. Harry has got got a big job on his hands to steady the ship and turn this around.

Against the top teams we have looked and been second best. Compared to Forest who played with great directness and fluidity, the Rangers players looked as if they'd eaten too much turkey and drunk too much mulled wine on Christmas Day. It was a real Boxing Day hangover.
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snanker added 23:19 - Dec 27
Looked like this lot was too busy pushing panadol's and belching out the X-Mas cheer to be bothered with fronting up for work on on Thursday nite. Talk about gong through the mackienations ! Again very soft when it comes to crunch games at the moment and we need to get Onuoha back in a.s.a.p and yes give Traore a run. Hope JB enjoyed his little sojourn. Too many players going through the holiday season motions. Not gonna waste my single typing digit on KH and BZ. No Austin no R's goals. Not looking forward to Hornet's game.
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Imelda added 00:30 - Dec 28
Made me laugh out loud with the Toni and Guy reference!

Never wanted to sell Mackie and hopefully 'arry is regretting it. Nice to see some Mackie love from the QPR faithful when he went off.

And how about writing a book Clive? I will keep on at you......
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smegma added 17:59 - Dec 28
BZ 2/10 ? Very generous. Was the mark for tying up his boot laces correctly ??
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extratimeR added 22:54 - Dec 28
Very accurate, grim to watch, and nailed on after team selection.

Well done the lads who went up their.

Thanks Clive, excellent report,
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tsbains64 added 14:34 - Dec 29
First away game for me and the lad. Loved the commitment of the travelling fans. A listless performance . Forest were worthy winners. We had plenty of possesion but were lost upfront.Sadly Zamora played liked he had been away for 6 months. Nico and Dunn did their best but think Harry got the team and the strategy wrong. Forest did have the aedge but we should ebgetting soemthing out of these games. Loved the banter with the Forest fans and admire the QPR fans that go to most of the away games-hats off to you guys
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