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Brighton late show punishes QPR's profligacy — report
Wednesday, 12th Mar 2014 22:34 by Clive Whittingham

QPR slipped further out of the automatic promotion picture, and allowed the chasing pack to gain further ground on them in the play off race, with a 2-0 defeat at Brighton on Tuesday.

As the spring sunshine set behind the skeletal remains of Brighton’s old pier, you couldn’t help but think that a glorious afternoon of beer and beach lesbians was ripe for the spoiling by Queens Park Rangers.

For a while that cynicism seemed misplaced. Fresh from a 2-0 win against a woeful Birmingham side on Saturday, the R’s wore red and black and looked dressed to impress. Seemingly in the mood to click up another gear they threatened early on when Will Keane’s smart turn on halfway freed Armand Traore into the Brighton half and eventually Jermaine Jenas shot wide at the end of a flowing move. He should have done better.

The shots from distance kept coming and Brighton’s Polish goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak had to make three saves of varying competence in quick succession midway through the first half. Traore, playing on the right of an attacking three behind Keane, tried his own luck from 25 yards and drew a routine save from the Brighton stopper who then looked less certain, and required two attempts to save, when another of the trio, Junior Hoilett, hit a daisy cutter from even further out. A sweet drop of the shoulder and turn freed Ravel Morrison into the acres of space between Brighton’s defence and midfield in the next attack but, once again, the keeper was equal to the shot when it came in from well outside the box and palmed the ball over the bar.

Goalless at half time, Brighton much the happier of the two sides with that scoreline, more of the same was to follow at the start of the second half. Albion right full back Bruno — one of those continental types who looks much more comfortable on the front foot than when he’s in retreat — accidentally handed possession to Morrison who fed Hoilett into the penalty area and the Canadian winger asked the question of Kuszczak at the near post but couldn’t force the ball home.

A low cross through the goal mouth may have yielded greater returns but it almost didn’t matter because although Brighton cleared the resulting corner the ball was returned to the danger area by Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Nedum Onuoha, up from the back and onside, saw two powerful volleys blocked by desperate defending at close range by Lewis Dunk, in for suspended club captain Gordon Greer.

Later Traore, in the form of his QPR career at the moment, ran in from the right flank to draw the ball onto his left foot and once more Kuszczak was forced to make a sprawling parry away to his right.

Brighton threatened only very occasionally. A wayward shot from 20 yards out from man Utd loanee Jesse Lingard failed to trouble Green, then when the impressive Will Buckley cut in well from the right and drew a foul from Clint Hill referee Robert Madley played a good advantage that allowed Leonardo Ulloa to advance into the danger area but with the goal at his mercy and Keith Andrews an Lingard waiting for a tap in to his left he lashed the ball into the side netting. A real waste.

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But it was more than Oscar Garcia’s side managed for the first half an hour of the second half. Only an ambitious attempt from young Jake Forster-Caskey, who’d spent most of the evening to this point being overrun in midfield, which landed plum into the hands of Robert Green reminded the sizable travelling support at the far end of the ground that the QPR goalkeeper was still in attendance.

Even when the goalkeeper was tested — a low cross dropped into the danger area after Richard Dunne got in Green’s way — it didn’t bring a serious effort on target and in fact resulted in a counter attack led by a surging run from Jenas, playing deeper in midfield alongside Joey Barton, and ended by a curling shot from Hoilett that Kuszczak waved goodbye and was ultimately extremely grateful that it flashed a yard wide of the post rather than a yard inside. Keeper beaten, that could easily have been the opening goal of the night. Hoilett lifted his shirt over his face in frustration. That sort of night.

That sort of night indeed. QPR had the two outstanding attacking players on show on the evening in Morrison and Traore, and Jenas continued his recent personal improvement with a positive, surging display in the centre of midfield. Joey Barton played reasonably well alongside him and, as was the case at St Andrew’s on Saturday but has often been absent this season, there was a desire from Rangers to take the game to an opponent and really affect what was going on, rather than sit back and see what came their way. They dominated possession and outshot Brighton 21 to six (nine to three on target).
But you’ll notice that most of QPR’s efforts came from outside the penalty box.

Already without Charlie Austin with a long term shoulder injury, Harry Redknapp was robbed of the services of his loaned replacement Kevin Doyle with a knock sustained in the weekend game and was therefore forced to turn to young Manchester United loanee Will Keane as his lone striker. Judging by the interactive player ratings on this website, and the abuse he copped from a select few in the away end, it would seem that Keane is this week’s scapegoat for the defeat Rangers did, ultimately, suffer here on their first visit to Falmer.

It’s hard not to sympathise with a 21 year old boy — and that’s what he is, all willowy and pale — asked to play as a lone striker against a very experienced campaigner in Brighton captain Matthew Upson when his game is much more about creation and link play than physical battles and hold up play. But Keane just wasn’t nasty enough in my opinion. Too often Upson was allowed to clear without a challenge, too often he tried a flick or a trick when some serious strength and hold up play was required. It’s not only Charlie Austin’s goals QPR miss, it’s the work rate and attitude of a man who was lugging bricks around for a living three years ago and is determined not to give one single professional defender one single moment of peace now he has made it. Austin would have niggled Upson even if the Albion man had easily reached the ball first and cleared, just to let him know he was around, and he would have crawled all over anybody that got between him and the ball.

Keane looked here exactly what he is — not only a young lad playing out of position against a good defender, but also a nice boy who has spent his entire teenage years running around on pristine academy pitches surrounded by the best players of his age group. He’s been sent to QPR to get experience, presumably toughen up, and realise how difficult the sport can be, but his awakening here came on Rangers’ time and meant the R’s were restricted to shooting from long range more often than not. A shame, a good young player, but lots to learn even when he is playing in the correct position, which he wasn’t here.

And although he came closer than anybody else to scoring, Junior Hoilett continues to frustrate as well. Blatantly low on confidence and with his favourite trick of cutting inside from the wing for a long range shot long since sussed out by the rest of the division he finds himself, more often than not, clumsily bundling into opposing full backs and losing possession.

Those issues wouldn’t have been enough to stop the R’s taking a point from a goalless draw, were they not accompanied by an ongoing problem with left back Assou-Ekotto.

Allow me to make a few assumptions here based on nothing more than watching the Cameroon full back throughout this season, and reasonably regularly at Spurs before that. Assou-Ekotto was loaned to QPR on the transfer deadline day back in August by then Spurs manager Andre Villas Boas. Given that the north London club is not exactly blessed with options in that position, and indeed had to sacrifice their best centre back Jan Vertonghen to go and play there frequently before Christmas, and that Assou-Ekotto had almost always (except when faced with Jamie Mackie) played reasonably well there, it’s probably fair to surmise that Villas Boas made that move with at least some non-football reasoning in mind.

Before Christmas that looked like a very stupid move. Assou-Ekotto ambled about a bit in the Championship, but never looked troubled and seemed to be able to competently complete games at this level as if shelling peas, rarely needing to even wash his kit at the end of the day. Villas Boas meanwhile got himself the sack at White Hart Lane after one defensive calamity too many at home to Liverpool. And so the script seemed written for Tottenham to recall their previous first choice left back from QPR at the six month break point of his season long loan deal in January. Indeed even Harry Redknapp seemed to believe that the new man in charge of the Premier League side, Tim Sherwood, would send out the return call, pleading only for it to be done with enough time for Rangers to make contingency plans rather than not done at all.

But Sherwood didn’t recall Asou-Ekotto and since it became apparent that he’d be staying at Loftus Road for the duration of 2013/14 he has been, for want of a more eloquent term, dog shit.

At least partly responsible for two goals in a 3-1 defeat against Reading, one through casual risk taking the other through lazily not confronting an onrushing attacker, he has also been involved in on-pitch disputes with team mates Charlie Austin and Richard Dunne, both of which looked to have the potential to turn a good deal nastier had Niko Kranjcar and Clint Hill respectively not intervened.

On Tuesday night with 13 minutes left to play, he went to intercept a looping pass tight to the touchline, cutting Brighton right back Bruno off at source, but missed the ball and the man completely and allowed the Spaniard to race into the penalty area unchecked and put the opening goal on a plate for Ulloa who certainly couldn’t miss from all of two yards out. You know when it’s Assou-Ekotto’s fault because, just as he had done in the Reading game, he then decided he was injured and would have to come off.

The next problem QPR have is their reaction to conceding a goal. Go in front, as they did at Birmingham and Ipswich, and everybody is jolly pleased with themselves and demanding the ball and trying flicks and tricks and scoring more goals and looking more pleased with themselves and demanding the ball and trying flicks and tricks and before you know it they’re leading 3-0 at Portman Road and the Greater Anglia Railway is having to send out for reserve buffet car supplies for the journey home.

Go behind, and it’s a very different story. Assou-Ekotto was replaced by Mobido Maiga immediately after that first goal, which certainly didn’t help as the loaned West ham front man continues to look like somebody who has only previously read about the game of football in story books, but the body language the moment the ball hits the back of the QPR net is deeply concerning. The fire exists in one or two - Morrison was still demanding the ball, still upset with his team mates, still directing traffic; Jenas kept running to the end; Traore’s attitude has improved - but there’s a lot of silence, a lot of heads down, and a lot of walking about after goals go in against QPR at the moment. There is a distinct and obvious lack of belief in the team’s ability to get back into the game — and that’s not great because having been so impregnable at the start of the season, Rangers’ defence has now only kept one clean sheet in 11 matches and this result means that Brighton have now drawn level with them on the goals against tally for the campaign.

That’s because far from fighting their way back in, Rangers contrived to concede a second goal even more basic than the first with four minutes left to play. Morrison had sent another 20 yarder straight at Kuszczak, then fizzed a devilish low ball right along the goal line where, inexplicably, three Rangers players all failed to get an equalising toe to the ball. Keane then snapped a volley straight at the keeper but, as if the visitors needed any further lessons about the dangers of missing chances when you’re on top in the match, Brighton doubled their lead at the death.

Substitute Kazenga LuaLua, on for Forster-Caskey ten minutes previous, whipped a late corner into the near post and more slack defending allowed former Wolves utility man Stephen Ward to steal in and poke in the second.

The last time QPR were promoted from this division even two goal deficits in injury time weren’t necessarily losing positions, but that hunger and desire to turn defeats into draws and draws into wins just isn’t within Harry Redknapp’s team at the moment and they’d surrendered to their fate even before that second went in. Of course Redknapp couldn’t find a place in his team for the man who scored that famous ninety fifth minute equaliser at Derby, and he is now running through brick walls and chasing lost causes for Rangers’ promotion rivals Nottingham Forest. Ho hum.

Definitely should have stayed on the beach.

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Brighton: Kuszczak 8; Bruno 7, Upson 7, Dunk 6, Ward 6; Andrews 7, Ince 7, Forster-Caskey 5 (Lua Lua 75, 6), Buckley 7 (Stephens 90, -); Ulloa 6, Lingard 5

Subs not used: Rodríguez Sánchez, Calderón, Ankergren, March, López

Goals: Ulloa 77 (assisted Bruno), Ward 86 (assisted Lua Lua)

Bookings: Lingard 79 (foul)

QPR: Green 6; Onuoha 6, Hill 6, Dunne 6, Assou-Ekotto 5 (Maiga 79, 5); Barton 6, Jenas 7; Traore 7, Morrison 7, Hoilett 5; Keane 5

Subs not used; Hughes, Kranjcar, Benayoun, Murphy, O’Neil, Henry

QPR Star Man — Ravel Morrison 7 Yet again the best QPR player on the park, and once more Armand Traore was his nearest competition for star man. Always wants the ball, frequently frustrated with his team mates, still trying even when others have given up. He’s carrying half the team on his shoulders at times at the moment.

Referee — Robert Madley (West Yorkshire) 9 No real controversial incidents in the game but I certainly can’t recall him getting very much wrong at all. Sensible refereeing, plenty of advantage, just the one card.

Attendance — 28,019 (1,800 QPR approx) A fine example of a new stadium, even allowing for the transport difficulties some experienced afterwards.

The Twitter - @Loftforwords

Pictures — Action Images

Photo: Action Images



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Burnleyhoop added 23:18 - Mar 12
We now finally have to accept that we have another disparate set of non caring, overpaid, incapable band of nomad footballers on our hands. Clear the decks and build a team of players who actually give a shit about playing for QPR. Team spirit and comradarie is everything in football, success is not achieved by throwing together a mish mash of has Beens and might be's and hoping for the best. Time to get real and accept the reality of the situation, the quick and expensive approach simply does not work. Even if we do mange to scrape through the play offs, we have no real foundation to sustain any sort of campaign in the premiership without further embarrassment. Unfortunately, we need to stay in this division and start from scratch, ideally with a new management and coaching set up capable of understanding the benefit of player and team ethic development. Sad but true.
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062259 added 02:25 - Mar 13
After the win against Bolton at the end of January, Rangers were 15 points clear of seventh. Seven games later (one win and two draws), they are only 5 points clear. This is a team in freefall and on course to miss the playoffs comfortably. I'm coming round to the view that this would be for the best. Rip it up and start again....
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DesertBoot added 06:59 - Mar 13
Loan Rangers. Too many of them and, three transfer windows later a youngster from Man Utd leading the line. Over to you Harry.
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WokingR added 08:26 - Mar 13
Forget depressing us with more football discussion
Tell us more about the Beach Lesbians......
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HastingsRanger added 09:05 - Mar 13
Very true assessment of the game, Clive. You are spot on with BAE too. That said, it is so worrying that the BAE mistake was costly in a game that we dominated so much up to that point. We should have been in front by that stage. It's incredible that we potentially have a choice of Austin, Zamora, AJ, Doyle and others and yet we have to select a youngster trying hard but lacking experience and bite. Now we need to see if TF is in for the long haul, without promotion (play-off failure or failure to reach play-off) we can rebuild and push on but current balance sheets will need the big money support. Will that continue?

And regarding long term, there is a lot to like about the Falmer stadium. Only adjustment would be to have less width from the touchlines to the seats. The rest is spot on.
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dixiedean added 10:18 - Mar 13
Most of our problems stem from HR's transfer policy and lack of anticipation that our one & only viable striker might actually get injured one day. Not hindsight- it was obvious we needed to cater for that when all our other forwards were either useless and/or injury prone. So HR then goes late-night shopping on deadline day and ends up with sub-standard goods instead of buying from a strong position. With a half-decent forward ( or 2) we'd have pissed that game although that doesn't excuse the appalling 1st goal - BAE's routine balls-up compounded by someone ( Hoilett ?) not tracking the overlap and then failure to deal with a simple ball into 6 yd box either by centre backs or Green. Despite that it was probably our best performance for a while but that counts for nothing and this current obsession with possession stats is both boring & misleading. Goals are what count ! Like others, I thought stadium was great but after a 3 hour car journey from Ealing due to horrendous traffic/accidents/roadworks I missed the first 20 mins .I didn't need to find the most worthless steward ( that's some award) who , when asked outside the coach park which is the quickest way to the away section, he replied " not sure, you can go right or left and you'll find it eventually " Thanks mate, that's really helpful. Stunning incompetence. Perhaps he should apply to be our manager.
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Northernr added 11:04 - Mar 13
Woking - we have pictorial evidence, I sense a return for the awayday column may be in order.
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Antti_Heinola added 11:55 - Mar 13
Great report. And good point about Mackie. One of the worst decisions in recent memory to allow him to leave.
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BeauRanger added 13:25 - Mar 13
Been thinking the same about Mackie, watching him on the Football League show scuttling about for Forest. The "right sort"?
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Noelmc added 13:38 - Mar 13
Excellent report Clive. Summed the match up very well. As soon as I heard Doyle was out I knew we would have problems as we have no-one else in the squad bar Austin who can play the lone striker role which is pivotal to the way we play. Keane did his best but you need someone who can hold the ball up and bring our attacking midfielders particularly Morrison into play. I think we may struggle again on Saturday if Doyle is not back. I'd also like to see Traore & Hoilett switch wings occasionally to present full backs with a different challenge as with the current set up it is obvious both are going to cut inside & shoot. I hope that's the last we see of Benny this season as he's obviously not bothered. I'd play Clint at LB with Nedum partnering Dunne in the centre. Hughes would have to fill in at RB until Simpson us fit. I was impressed with the Falmer Stadium and it had good wheelchair facilities. Managed to get away quick after via the Bridge Car Park and was back home in Staines by 10.50pm.
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isawqpratwcity added 13:41 - Mar 13
Thanks for the report, Clive, the only link posted (or I could find) wouldn't work for me.

Beach Lesbians might require more examination (from us sad gits).

And, more seriously, before I discovered the Forum, Awaydays was the second best thing after your commentaries.

Back to the game, I didn't see it, but I think we've got maybe 50% chance of the play-offs (injuries, form, whatever) and no chance of promotion.

Dear God, prove me wrong.
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probbo added 16:40 - Mar 13
Thanks for the report Clive. Can't disagree about BAE, the sooner he goes the better.

Aside from finance, I can see no upside in an immediate return to the Prem - this team will get cut to shreds in that division. I'm with those who favour consolidation, a wholesale clear-out of the ageing overpaid loanees and full time players and giving youth a go. With a management team of ex R's players.
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BrightonEye added 21:47 - Mar 13
Superb report: scrupulously fair, accurate – and amusing too!
We all know the pain of defeat in the last few minutes; never assuaged by knowing you were by far the better side. Some of the Rangers play was sublime, and most certainly appreciated by fair-minded Albion fans. Traore and Morrison in particular took the eye - superb stuff.

Poor old BAE reminded us all that if you're going to underwhelm so publicly, it's probably best not to run round looking like Dennis the Menace with a swarm of bees for hair. People will not forget.

Best side lost, no doubt about that. Just for a change, Albion scored late on, rather than conceding. And our shots-to-goals productivity hit heights unreached all season.
So, freak circumstances. Don't be too hard on yourselves. You could so easily have won.

Glad some of you seemed to like the stadium. We love it, transport nightmares and all. Here's hoping the Rs get Old Oak sorted soon. I used to play Sunday league football up there, back in the day.

Happy memories, along with watching Rodney Marsh, Gerry Francis et al up at Loftus Road. Sky TV? Pah! In those days, Brian Moore was the real, black and white business.
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