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Late heartbreak for Hill as QPR continue to stutter - report
Sunday, 2nd Mar 2014 18:43 by Clive Whittingham

QPR's run of league games without a win stretched to five with a 1-1 draw against Leeds at Loftus Road on Saturday.

Saturday afternoon, Loftus Road, 90 minutes played, final grains of sand draining away from five minutes of stoppage time, one last opportunity for Queens Park Rangers to put the ball into the Leeds United penalty box and push for a first win in five matches. QPR never score these.

Aaron Hughes took responsibility, hanging the ball up towards Richard Dunne on the far side of the penalty area. The giant Irish centre half climbed into the sky and flicked the ball on expertly. Suddenly, there he was, Clint Hill of all people, drawing back his left foot and pinging the ball past keeper Jack Butland and into the far top corner. The ball flew straight as an arrow, Hill couldn’t have struck it any truer, and unstoppable effort to complete a second win of the season against Leeds and get QPR’s season back on track.

But Clint Hill has been unluckier than most as far as goalscoring is concerned during his time with Rangers, and things just aren’t running for the team as a whole at the moment. On the far side of the field a linesman’s flag fluttered in the early afternoon breeze. Rangers forced to settle for a point and are now closer to seventh than second – nine points the gap to Burnley in the cold light of a harsh Sunday morning.

Harry Redknapp’s frustration was audible in his post-match interview for Sky as he pointed to the injuries that continue to rule his key players out for long periods of time. In that respect the QPR manager has found himself in a similar situation to West Ham’s Sam Allardyce earlier in the season – under pressure for faltering results where injuries, which cannot be helped, are probably the prime cause. The Hammers kept faith with their man, while all around them at the bottom of the league sacked and in some cases sacked again, and have now been rewarded with four straight wins that have lifted them clear of trouble.

So perhaps Rangers would be well-advised to stick with their man and write off what’s happening now, and what is likely to come, as unfortunate. Ale Faurlin, Danny Simpson, Charlie Austin and Matt Phillips would certainly have made a significant difference in this latest match. But then given the number of players Reknapp has been allowed to bring in, the amount of money they’re costing, and the quality of them relative to the majority of the rest of the league, a manager renowned for his motivation and man management ability should be able to get more out of this squad of players.

To be fair, QPR didn’t want for effort or character at Loftus Road on Saturday. They’d started the game well – referee Chris Foy waving advantage through a foul on lone-striker Kevin Doyle allowing the wildly inconsistent Armand Traore to advance into the area and send a dangerous low cross right through the goal mouth – only to then concede a penalty kick in Leeds’ first serious attack of the game.

At the time, from the front of the upper tier in the South Africa Road stand, it seemed as though Richard Dunne had got a full foot on the ball and toed it out for a corner as Ross McCormack moved into the area – which is exactly what the linesman with the best view of the incident awarded - but the replays showed Dunne looking his age and the Leeds man reaching the ball first. McCormack picked himself up to take the spot kick himself but despite scoring 24 times already this season, and nothing six in his last six, the Scottish international rolled a tame effort to Robert Green’s left and the keeper was able to make a smart save.

The reprieve and perceived injustice revved the Loftus Road crowd up, and the team seemed to respond to that, but within two minutes Junior Hoilett had been caught flat footed and in the ensuing panic Foy awarded another harsh looking foul, right on the edge of the area, with Traore adjudged to have fouled Rudolph Austin. McCormack’s shot from the set piece looked set to fly straight at Green once again before it took a flick off Traore and flew into the back of the net.

Rangers would have been forgiven for throwing their hands up in the air and complaining at the unfairness of it all. They looked horribly laboured and low on confidence at times – Junior Hoilett, now barely a shadow of the player we saw showing glimpses of promise back in August, can barely stand up for falling down, while Ravel Morrison and Armand Traore tried plenty but enjoyed little success.

Jermaine Jenas, partnering Karl Henry at the base of midfield, curled one shot high and wide and then, when a nasty foul from Stephen Warnock on Kevin Doyle belatedly drew the first yellow card of the day from Foy, inexplicably launched a free kick from out by the corner flag out of the ground and away out of town via the Westway.

Leeds looked much more dangerous, with McCormack a permanent pain and hulking Connor Wickham, newly signed on loan from Sunderland, providing an unprecedented physical challenge for the Rangers back line. Hill raced across to snuff a half chance out when McCormack executed a one two with his unfeasibly enormous partner but the QPR backline looked slow and cumbersome at times, with Aaron Hughes out of his depth at right wing back.

Wickham dragged wide via a deflection on the half hour and if Green was lucky with that one it was nothing compared to what had gone. When Jenas went in wild and high on Austin the resulting free kick was delicately chipped over the wall by Cameron Stewart – a shot that looked to ose few problems for a goalkeeper of Green’s experience but was nevertheless spilled back into the danger area by the former West Ham man.

But the home team stuck at it as best they could, crafting an eye catching move with two back flicks that ended with a chipped cross from Traore and a header straight at Butland from Jenas. Three minutes later Doyle, who stood up admirably to constant physical punishment from the Leeds defenders, held up a pass from Jenas and returned the ball to him perfectly giving the former Forest man a chance to stride into the area and roll an equaliser into the far corner.

Jenas’ contributions on Saturday ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous – dreadfully executed free kicks and bottled tackles mixed with intelligent passing and a crucial goal – but whether he was good or bad it was just nice to see him actually getting involved, and providing support to the attack from deep lying positions, after his completely anonymous showing at Charlton a week ago. He really should be capable of grabbing games at this level by the scruff of the neck more often.

Those improvements could perhaps be attributed in part to the recall of Karl Henry at the base of the QPR midfield. Leeds were a typical Brian McDermott side – physical, niggly, annoying, cynical, dangerous – and Henry’s presence at the base of the midfield freed Jenas to press further forward and added a solidity that has perhaps been missing in recent weeks.

Given that Clint Hill was left completely unmarked from Jenas’ corner in two minutes of first half injury time it’s not stretching things to say that QPR could, and perhaps should, have gone in at half time in front despite being second best for the most part.

That provided hope for the second half, but sadly the more detestable elements of McDermott’s footballing philosophy came to the fore after the break, and with Premier League referee Chris Foy treating the whole thing as being a bit beneath him, strolling around and not doing his job properly, the whole thing descended into an incredibly frustrating, dire, steamy pile of footballing manure.

I’d usually try and pick one incident to sum the whole thing up but there are just too many to choose from.

Traore could have put Rangers into the lead straight after the restart when played in by Ravel Morrison, and Wickham was little more than a foot away from his first goal for Leeds after the hour when a loose crossfield pass from Jenas put his team in trouble. But the game was littered with cards, prolonged stoppages, injuries and substitutions for the most part and the faithful in attendance would have been forgiven for retreating back to the hostelries of Shepherd’s Bush well before the end.

Foy certainly wasn’t endearing himself to a boisterous away following in the School End with a booking for Jimmy Kebe, and a soft QPR free kick immediately after he’d waved away Leeds’ appeals for what looked like a much clear cut foul at the other end. Typically, Jenas wasted that free kick and was then booked himself for deliberately pulling Austin back and preventing his latest possession concession turning into a dangerous counter attack.

Rangers had cause to wonder why Wickham wasn’t booked for a late hit on Henry, then later Henry undid some good defensive work on the edge of his own box by flying into a wild tackle on Kebe that could easily have brought more than the yellow card Foy deemed punishment enough – Wickham headed the resulting delivery towards goal and Green did well to palm the ball not only away from goal, but also out of the danger zone - which allowed Onuoha to block a shot from an acute angle on the rebound - with an unorthodox save.

Amongst the niggles were long, drawn out, ball aching passages of play when literally nothing happened at all. One by one QPR removed the hapless Junior Hoilett for Will Keane, injured Jenas for Little Tom Carroll and struggling Doyle for Yossi Benayoun. Leeds also sent on young Mowatt for Cameron Stewart, Sam Byram for Jimmy Kebe and Michael Brown for Luke Murphy. On six separate occasions in the final 28 minutes, and three times in four minutes between 80 and 84, play was stopped while a substitution was made, slowing the game to a snail’s pace and giving it a pre-season friendly feel.

Having slagged off Mobido Maiga only for him to score on his debut, then done likewise to Jenas last week before his goal in this game, I’m perhaps merely trying to provoke a goal from Benayoun when I say the reason for his introduction in this, or any other, game, or in fact the club in general, remains an absolute, total mystery. Morrison may well have tired from carrying his substantial arse around for the previous 85 minutes and replacing him was fair enough, although a subsequent knock for Traore then effectively reduced the R’s to ten men for five minutes of stoppage time, but Benayoun is currently able to offer nothing other than constant possession concession and moments of hilarity when he falls over the ball.

Add in one farce where Kebe decided he was injured a quarter of a yard away from the touchline and Foy permitted the Leeds physio to come on from the opposite side of the pitch and treat him on the field of play when he could easily have been moved a fraction to his right to allow the game to go on, and another where Ross McCormack had his ankle strapped in the penalty area which sparked a debate lasting most of the weekend about what would happen with the subsequent drop ball, and it was difficult to understand why anybody who had paid to get in here would ever want to go to a football match again.

QPR weren’t good enough to positively affect the game, Leeds lacked the ambition to do so when a win was probably there for the taking for them, and Foy’s control of proceedings waned from a low starting point. The referee would wave away a foul at one point, suggesting he was getting a bit sick of the play acting, only to then, in the next few seconds, award a free kick for nothing at all – the decision to award Butland a free kick for leaping up in the air under no contact whatsoever from Doyle as the QPR man chased down a pass back was a pathetic embarrassment.

Leeds seemed happy with their point, which was a little odd considering their firepower and QPR’s vulnerability – having boasted the division’s best defensive record for most of the season it’s now ten league matches since a clean sheet for Harry Redknapp’s side. God it was turgid stuff by the end.

That could have all been forgotten had Hill’s late howitzer counted as the winning goal, but the muffled boos and swift exit from the majority inside Loftus Road at the final whistle were much more apt for a game that had coughed and spluttered through a reasonably entertaining first half before descending into a medically induced coma in the second half.

Could have, would have, should have – QPR are in danger of ending the 2013/14 season with a long list of regrets.

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QPR: Green 6; Hughes 5 Onuoha 6 Dunne 5, Hill 6; Hoilett 4 (Keane 62, 5), Jenas 6 (Carroll 81, -), Henry 6, Traore 6; Morrison 6 (Benayoun 85, -), Doyle 6

Subs: Suk-Young, Murphy, Maiga, Sendels-White

Goals: Jenas 44 (assisted Doyle)

Bookings: Jenas 59 (foul), Henry 87 (foul)

Leeds: Butland 6; Peltier 6, Lees 6, Pearce 6, Warnock 6; Kebe 5 (Byram 90+6, -), Murphy 6 (Brown 80, -), Austin 6, Stewart 6 (Mowatt 70, 6); McCormack 7, Wickham 6

Subs not used: Hunt, Smith, Wootton, Cairns

Goals: McCormack 14 (unassisted)

Bookings: Warnock 32 (foul), Kebe 46 (foul), Mowatt 90+2 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Armand Traore 6 A really difficult decision from such a mediocre afternoon of football. Green was a candidate, given the penalty save and late parry from Wickham, but he was lucky to get away with one or two other fumbles;; Morrison did his best to make things happen without anything really coming off for him; Kevin Doyle likewise; and Nedum Onuoha made a number of key interceptions and crunching tackles to get his team mates out of difficult situations; and I thought Karl Henry’s calming influence, but for a horrible foul and yellow card late in the day, was probably more important than many would give him credit for. But I liked a lot about Armand Traore’s work rate and attitude so I’ve gone for him, even allowing for wildly inconsistent end product.

Referee – Chris Foy (St Helens) 5 Two key decisions in the game – the penalty and the disallowed goal – were both correct, and one overruled a linesman who’d got the call wrong, so really I shouldn’t be too harsh on him, by I thought this was a thoroughly odd refereeing display. Things that didn’t look like fouls at all were given as free kicks while other stuff that looked like an obvious infringement was waved away. The second half ground to a complete halt at several points and his lack of a firm control, summed up by the ludicrously lengthy debate over a poxy drop ball, was a big part of that. To be honest he looked like a Premier League referee trying to stroll through a Championship match when really it needed a lot more from him.

Attendance – 16,448 (1,800 Leeds approx) The loudest away support of the season only further highlighted just how quiet Loftus Road has become these days.

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OldPedro added 21:12 - Mar 2
Re the Ref, thought he guessed with the penalty as he was so far behind the play that he couldn't have seen whether or not it was a foul. Also thought he should have booked McCormack for a late shoulder charge onthe back of Henry but he just waved play on and did nothing.
On current form I can't see where our next win is coming from and am uncertain that we will even make the playoffs.
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062259 added 21:18 - Mar 2
From where I was sitting (in front of the TV 3,000 miles away) this was another lackluster, unimaginative effort, but only in keeping with what we've seen in recent weeks. Apart from brief periods either side of half time, Rangers never threatened. How many saves did their keeper make? Anyone? I think we've seen enough to realize there are simply not enough goals in this squad, whichever way you line them up, and goodness knows Harry has tried every permutation possible. No, this season is now all about hanging on for the playoffs (not a formality), hoping enough of the injured players are available and Harry has worked out his best lineup and formation (which he has not hitherto demonstrated). So let's play a new game...QPR's playoff lineup. Here goes (4-2-3-1): Green; Simpson, Dunne, Onouha, Assou-Ekkoto; Barton, O'Neill; Remy, Krancjar, Morrison; Austin. You can switch Hill for Onouha, and Henry for O'Neill if you want and let's hope Remy is allowed and willing to play. That leaves Phillips and Faurlin injured, and a whole bunch of highly-paid and underperforming others to choose from to make up the bench.

I think the Championship is going to get stronger next year with the likes of Rossler, McLaren, Solskjaer, Magath and Poyet possibly making up the opposition. Personally I'd take any of them....
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francisbowles added 23:31 - Mar 2
I watched the FL show last night but still couldn't see why it was a penalty. I saw Foy turn his back on the ball on occasions and miss things or even make decisions he hadn't seen.

Much as we have all wondered where Jenas disappears to in matches, in this role he gets forward, provides support to the lone striker and can finish. Both qualities we have been searching for all season. I hope we can persevere with him.
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connell10 added 23:42 - Mar 2
good report, shite game!
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TacticalR added 23:43 - Mar 2
We are suffering from the absence of key players, and we seem to be left with a lot of players who want to beat everybody single-handed, and whose runs never quite come to anything. Given that it's something of a rag, tag and bobtail team at least we looked a more solid than we did at Charlton last week.

Jenas. During the first half, as he overhit pass after pass, I was thinking to myself that the reason why Jenas hasn't had much of a career is not because he hides, it's just that he's not very good. Fair play to him for the goal as once he broke through the defence he still had quite a bit to do to get the ball into the net.

Doyle. Did well to set up the goal for Jenas by holding off the last defender.

Hill. A fantastic strike for the disallowed 'goal'.

Traoré. Looked a bit unsteady on his feet at times, and gave away the free kick which led to the goal.

Karl Henry. Last week Carroll and Jenas in front of the back four just didn't work. Today we looked better with a purely defensive player like Karl Henry, plus it got a bit tasty in the midfield and that's when a man like Henry comes into his own. As you pointed out, he made a rash (and completely unnecessary) tackle on Kebe towards the end of the game that could have got him sent off.

Green. Excellent penalty save as the shot was right in the corner.

Dunne. When I first saw the replay from the angle of the camera high up on Ellerslie I thought it was a penalty, but having seen it a few more times from the angle of the camera at ground level on Ellerslie I think Dunne got the ball.

Aaron Hughes. Can't cross and he knows it, so has given up trying and always passes it to another player.

Benayoun. The introduction of Benayoun is coming to symbolise the 'game over, might as well give Benny his appearance fee' moment in the match.
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stuartqpr added 02:27 - Mar 3
Nice report mate - I think Green deserves at least a 7, penalty save was superb!
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isawqpratwcity added 03:03 - Mar 3
Great report, Clive, as ever.

My link dropped out near the end of the second half, so I missed Hill's 'goal', but a highlights clip posted by QPR_ARG showed he was only just offside, but still a fair call.

I spent the first half of our games this season that we were only just doing enough to scrape unconvincing wins. Now we are doing not quite enough to scrape unconvincing wins.

It's too late in the season to call "Harry Out!" (who could you bring in that could be sure to turn this squad around in terms of structure, form and motivation?), but if we miss the play-offs...
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DesertBoot added 09:13 - Mar 3
It's getting harder and harder to look at the league table now. To think where we were on the morning of the Burnley game and here we are with Wigan the annual "wet sail" team.
Where are the players who can turn this dismal run around? Why, given the money and two transfer windows Rednapp had is our best current player one who joined two weeks ago.
Morrison looked a cut above on Saturday but no one to help him.
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HastingsRanger added 09:28 - Mar 3
A draw was about the right result, I thought Leeds had good spells and so did we. It was such a shame for Hill whose strike was worthy of a match winner. Also, he is one of the players who always turns out for the club.

I thought the penalty was very harsh as outside the area it would never have been given as a free kick, poorly taken and brilliantly saved. So justice there!

Traore for all his failings does seem to be one of the more rewarding players at the moment and deserves his MoM. Jenas has clearly read your reports as anonymity was not the case on this occasion, capped with a very well taken goal.

With the long term injuries, I think it is a 6th or 7th finish that is most likely. At least we are near the top.
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dixiedean added 10:20 - Mar 3
I had exactly the same view of Foy's performance - I guess refs are like players and get ' up' for big games, but he def wasn't up for this game. The Leeds right back should have been booked at least twice early on for 3 cynical fouls on Traore - far worse fouls than the inoccuous one Kebe did for his yellow later on. I see our chief scout has left for Arsenal - good luck to them, because his recruitment policy for us hasn't been too clever. Leeds pick up Butland & Wickham last week, while we scrabble around at 11.45 pm on deadline day signing the dregs of what's available. We badly need a clean sheet to give back 4 some confidence. Personally I think a big factor has been the decline in Dunne's form. He started brilliantly but in recent weeks has looked slow , cumbersome and occasionally error-prone. I'd pick Hill ahead of him every time if it was a choice between those 2 to accompany Ned. Hughes has also been a great disappointment as I expected much better things from him, but he hasn't been entirely solid defensively and looks what he is - a centre back playing right back, ie a fish out of water. Once again we're back to having 2 full backs with combined age of nearly 70 , neither with much to offer offensively. For me the Charlton result made me right this season off, unless we fluke it in the play-offs ( if we get there ) but our record against top 6 so far doesn't suggest we can beat 2 of them now. All hopes are on Charlie coming back, but he won't be match-fit, so not sure how realistic it is to pin everything on that. Clutching at straws me thinks :(
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westsurreyR added 10:41 - Mar 3
Yes - I agree with all the other posts. 7 points above Reading with a game in hand gives us a fighting chance of making the play-offs, and in a lottery who knows?

As for the game, Leeds are bang on mid-table for a reason and the draw didn't flatter them. We all know the problems: no pace, no continuity of selection resulting in no understanding between players and as a result laboriously slow build-up play which is easy to defend against. The injured players were missed of course, but I'm not sure it looked that different from games earlier in the season when everyone was fit.

Having said all that I am looking forward to seeing Kranjcar and Morrison on the pitch together. Probably none of the other 20 players on the field will know what either of them will do next - but it should be fun to watch.
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QPunkR added 10:56 - Mar 3
Why the hell once we had 2 strikers on the pitch Arry decided to keep armband on the right is beyond me. His right foot is so awful he can barely stand on it, never mind cross the ball. Every time he got it he had to turn back onto his left foot. Traore was by far our most potent threat (and has been for the past few games) but he's not Arjen b@stard Robben. Keep him left wing where he can actually ping a ball in for Chrissakes!
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stainrodnee added 13:41 - Mar 3
Clive, in your preview you spoke of our blip. I think the blip was at the start of the season when we kept clean sheets, nicked a lot of 1-0 wins and coincided with McClaren's presence on the training ground.

What we're seeing now is what we are - a middle of the table team. Before the season I feared we'd do a Wolves. I think the reason we haven't, is because there are many poor teams in the division.

Credit to HR for clearing out the overpaid mercenaries we had last season but his replacements may not be as costly (???) but overall they're no better, they're not a team and, to me, they are not QPR.
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francisbowles added 14:59 - Mar 3
I thought Traore, surprisingly, did quite well cutting in from the right. He does have a quick change of of pace and doesn't just bang it against the defender and hope for a break but tries to take it around and away from them. It might be a good tactic to keep switching him from one side to the other.
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Burnleyhoop added 18:58 - Mar 3
Two mediocre teams with very little class on show. Hill was my man of the match, the guy just refuses to give up. Traore has the capability and athleticism, but doesn't have a footballing brain whatsoever.
Let's face it, play-off's it is, although my money is on losing out to Wigan in the final.
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derbyhoop added 20:59 - Mar 3
Agree with most of that report. The second half petered out. A combination of injuries, substitutions and pernickety refereeing took any tempo out of the game. It ended up like Round 15 of a Championship boxing match with 2 fighters with barely enough strength to throw a punch. And, certainly not enough to deliver a knockout blow.
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