Excuses stack up as Wednesday expose some home truths – report
Wednesday, 19th Mar 2014 21:08 by Clive Whittingham
Queens Park Rangers suffered a 3-0 defeat at sixteenth placed Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night after effectively giving up following a controversial first half penalty award.
QPR have a lot of players out injured at the moment. You might have heard this mentioned a time or two.
Robert Green, Danny Simpson, Armand Traore, Jermaine Jenas, Charlie Austin, Alejandro Faurlin, Andy Johnson, Matt Phillips, Kevin Doyle and Benoit Assou Ekotto were all unfit to take to the field at Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night and Clint Hill and Ravel Morrison did so only after late checks on their health. Some good players, some young players, some international players. Any team will struggle when so many of its first team players are ruled out, however colossal their playing budget is compared to the rest of the division.
QPR also had good cause to feel aggrieved with referee Paul Tierney's decision, after a long pause and look across to his assistant, to not only award a penalty to Sheff Wed in the thirty fifth minute of Tuesday night's match, but also show a red card to Richard Dunne for apparently upending Leon Best as he cut across in front of him on his way through on goal. Replays suggested Best made a hell of a lot of minimal contact. On another day the Wednesday player may have been booked for diving, or a penalty been awarded with no red card. Tierney, you may remember, the referee who suffered a brain melt and allowed Rangers' fixture with Leicester before Christmas to drift into a chaotic farce because he didn't know how to get the match started again once a squirrel had come onto the field.
Rangers had held their own in a dreary game to that point with neither team threatening the other greatly save for Clint Hill’s header from a Joey Barton free kick that drifted annoyingly between the bottom corner and Bobby Zamora when a goal looked likely. But they collapsed to a 3-0 defeat thereafter with Wednesday skilfully utilising their extra man by getting the ball wide, early, and stretching their visitors right across the expanse of the Hillsborough pitch. If you wanted a textbook example of how to play with an extra man then this was it – the improvements made in S6 since Dave Jones' sour face was kicked into touch and Stuart Gray took on what has, in recent times, been one of the division's most difficult managerial tasks continue apace.
But to blame absentees, or referees, for this latest collapse merely panders to an excuses culture that starts at the very top of QPR and has permeated right the way down through to the starting 11. QPR have deliberately, for several seasons now, gone out and spent large amounts of money on players coming to the end of their careers, many of whom have had poor injury records in the past. Charlie Austin, one of the better, younger, more forward thinking signings who the team came to rely on so heavily before his shoulder fell apart, had previous issues with that part of his body, and a knee injury that scuppered a summer move to Hull City. You cannot pursue this policy and then throw your hands in the air and talk about how unfair it is when a lot of them get injured all at once. Take responsibility and think more carefully about the type of player you want at your club.
Even with all those missing bodies, the team QPR were able to field last night looked, on paper at least, plenty good enough to compete with Sheffield Wednesday. Rarely has there been a defence as experienced as Nedum Onuoha, Clint Hill, Richard Dunne and Aaron Hughes fielded at this level, with Joey Barton and Karl Henry in front of them into the bargain. Junior Hoilett, the mercurial Ravel Morrison and Gary O’Neil backed lone striker Bobby Zamora. Experienced players, expensive players, players a lot better than a 3-0 defeat against the Owls suggests. Players sadly rather too prone to running a white flag up the pole.
And you could see it coming a mile away once Tierney had pointed to the spot and fished the red card out of his top pocket. QPR, en masse, chased the referee across the penalty area, surrounding him, to protest the decision, prolonging the wait for Chris Maguire who nevertheless sent keeper Brian Murphy, making his league debut for QPR three years after signing from Ipswich, the wrong way with a low shot.
The incident didn’t end there though. Joey Barton pursued the official again, chasing him down the pitch to deliver a further volley of verbal abuse. Eventually Tierney showed Barton a yellow card, his twelfth of the season, but still he continued chivying the official, despite Clint Hill’s intervention, and for one moment, when Tierney summoned him back for a second talking to, it looked like he might have talked himself into a red card. The referee showed leniency.
And that rather summed up QPR’s attitude for the rest of the game - a victim’s mentality. Excuses already prepared. Woe is us. Isn’t life so unfair? Isn’t this so unjust? What’s the point in even trying anymore?
Maguire should have scored a second soon after, heading wide from close range when he was brilliantly picked out at the back post by a deep cross. Lavery sent an awkward cross past Murphy into the heart of the area but saw it hacked away, then immediately hit a long range strike straight at the keeper. A combination of Murphy and O’Neil on the line, or possibly slightly behind it, then kept out Nuhiu’s header from a corner.
If Rangers were pulled up for their appalling attitude to the situation at half time it certainly didn’t show in their performance during the second half. Harry Redknapp removed Junior Hoilett and Karl Henry at the break to send on Niko Kranjcar and Yun Suk-Young but the South Korean was one of three players to half-heartedly try and prevent Wednesday’s first meaningful attack of the second period and fail miserably. With Bobby Zamora chasing back the wrong side of Oguchi Onyewu, and Young’s powder puff effort at a tackle easily ignored by the big American, Wednesday were able to work Leon Best into the penalty area where Nedum Onuoha stood off, allowed him to turn , and could then only watch as he slammed the ball into the far bottom corner. Best's third goal for a third different club in five appearances against the team he spent time with on loan as a youngster.
And Onuoha’s efforts must have looked like jolly japes to the rest of his team mates because they then all started to follow suit. The R’s stood off Nuhiu in the area and allowed him all the space and time he needed to bring the ball down but on that occasion the Austrian Albanian striker volleyed wide. Warning not heeded, Barton then made a shambolic attempt to stop Lewis Buxton setting himself up for a volley in the penalty area and this time the home player made no mistake with a sweet finish into the far corner. Barton, randomly, wandered around up front for a few minutes after that, and later by himself on the right wing, to no positive effect whatsoever. It was difficult to fathom exactly what he and his team mates were doing, and Wednesday still had 20 minutes at this point to inflict further damage.
Murphy made a comfortable low save from Lavery, then looked less sure with a 25 yard speculator from substitute Jermaine Johnson but turned the ball aside in unorthodox fashion all the same. Wednesday did their job well. They got the ball wide, they played with an attacking purpose, they even tried a few shots on goal – basic Championship stuff executed well, but an absolute revelation compared to what QPR and their mindblowing obsession with a pointless square pass are serving up at the moment. It seemed a total surprise to QPR on the night. They’re easily confused these days. Shots on goal? What is this sorcery?
The stats suggested QPR had two shots of their own, but it was hard to remember either of them. Nedum Onuoha headed a Joey Barton free kick well wide in the second half but that was as close as they came. Niko Kranjcar’s dribbled effort into the arms of goalkeeper Damian Martinez in injury time was cheered ironically by the few QPR fans who remained huddled together behind the goal. The apathy displayed by the team is quickly seeping into the support base – this was as small and quiet as a QPR travelling support has been for years and it’s not hard to understand why.
We could ask why these QPR players clearly and obviously gave up the ghost early last night. The Sheffield Wednesday fans around the table at the post match LFW curry night couldn’t believe how obvious the Rangers players made it that they were done for the evening as soon as Dunne disappeared own the tunnel.
We could also look back to a match at Reading in the 2010/11 promotion season when Hogan Ephraim was sent off in the first half of the game, against a far better side than this Sheff Wed outfit, but Rangers still had it within them to dominate the game and win 1-0 regardless. How have we gone from that to a point where one goal and a red card is a reason to clock off for the night?
We could ask why so many of those players who played that night at the Madejski Stadium are no longer with the club? Only Clint Hill played last night from that team. Why have we purged so many fantastic players and good servants from our club and replaced them with this spineless shower? Why has so much of that been done with so little opposition. The Rangers faithful should be up in bloody arms that people like Shaun Derry, Marc Bircham, Jamie Mackie, Adel Taarabt, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly and probably soon Ale Faurlin and Hill are just being allowed to leave our club but instead they sing the name of Joey Barton, who responds by representing out club in the manner he did on Tuesday. People talk about Karl Henry and Gary O’Neil being the right sort, but we’ve been ridding ourselves of the right sorts since Tony Fernandes arrived at the club. O’Neil, incidentally, had one of his nights where he wouldn’t have been able to complete a pass to a player in the same colours as him even if Wednesday had left the field and let him have a free crack at it.
We could ask why we passed the ball straight to Sheffield Wednesday before the penalty in the first place - another aimless, sideways pass, that would have accomplished nothing even it had been completed correctly. Why are we playing this way? Why so negative? Why so hesitant to go forward? Why so reluctant to shoot? Why so obsessed with aimless possession in our own half? Seeing a team like Sheffield Wednesday play with three forwards and going to win the game was like watching another sport from a different planet.
We could ask why Bobby Zamora, after all his years in the game, still insists on grazing in the wide open spaces behind the opposition defence known by the rules of the game and everybody else in the sport as ‘bloody miles offside’.
We could ask why the second half was played out with Stuart Gray standing right on the touchline, making occasional adjustments to his already well-performing team and encouraging his players while Harry Redknapp, whose team was clearly in big trouble, spent almost the entire second 45 minutes sitting with his hands pressed into his jacket pockets on the bench.
We could ask why Tony Fernandes’ post match Twitter ramble included the line “when I’m back in April”. Should he not be here now, running this club? Are we suffering from having an absentee chairman? Are Philip Beard and Mark Donnelly, who officially run the club in his absence, doing their jobs well enough?
Or we could make a load of excuses. Let's chase the referee across the pitch before the penalty kick has been taken, and then chase him back up the pitch and nearly reduce ourselves to nine men. Let's excuse our vastly overpaid professional players for literally giving up with an hour of football left to play and say "well we've got a lot of injuries." Let's excuse Tony Fernandes for the way he is running this club because he seems like a nice fella.
Because, at the end of the day, QPR are still fourth in the league and right in the thick of a promotion battle, so they must be doing something right however horrendous they look when they play like this. A difficult 2013/14 could yet finish with promotion into the Premier League. This game could be the arse kicking that sparked the final, crucial run of form. The injured players could all return just at the right time, refreshed and ready to carry the R’s forward.
Does this look like a squad with the character to win through the play offs though? I’ll leave that one with you, and them.
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Sheff Wed: Martinez N/A; Buxton 7, Helan 6, Loovens 7, Onyewu 7; Palmer 6, Lavery 7 (Prutton 84, -), Lee 6; Best 7 (Johnson 74, 6), Nuhiu 6, Maguire 7 (Afobe 84, -)
Subs not used: Davies, Coke, Mattock, Llera
Goals: Maguire 35 (penalty won Best), Best 51 (assisted Onyewu), Buxton 71 (unassisted)
Bookings: Buxton 28 (foul)
QPR: Murphy 5; Onuoha 4, Dunne 4, Hill 4, Hughes 3; Henry 4 (Kranjcar 45, 5), Barton 3; Hoilett 5 (Suk-Young 45, 4), Morrison 4, O’Neil 2 (Carroll 83, -); Zamora 2
Subs not used: Keane, Benayoun, Lennox, Maiga
Red Cards: Dunne 35 (professional foul, one match ban)
QPR Star Man – N/A
Referee – Paul Tierney (Lancashire) 7 Having poured over the penalty replays it’s clear Leon best knows exactly what he’s doing – waiting for the contract against his thigh from Dunne as he runs across the defender’s line and then sprawling to the floor as soon as it came. I still think it looks like a penalty, I think he would have reached the ball ha he not gone down hence a goalscoring chance and a red card, so the referee has the decision right. Even if you don’t agree though, remember that the official only gets one look, and that incident, at our end of the ground, looked like a penalty the moment it happened. In the end I actually think the referee was quite generous with QPR, leaving Joey Barton on when he was trying to talk himself down the tunnel with Dunne after that first goal.
Attendance: 18,029 (250 QPR approximately) I cannot recall sitting among such a tiny, and quiet, QPR away following in many a long year, and given the disaffection with the team and the club, the amount of games in March, the short notice of this fixture, the distance to travel on a midweek night, and the way the side is playing at the moment, it’s not hard to see why that was. At one point in the second half somebody near the front had a bit of an episode – standing up, red of face and flouncy of gesture, to make huge sweeping statements to everybody sitting behind him about how the club was screwed and being dreadfully run and we were all idiots for coming to see the team every week. Two stewards moved in but rather than throw him out, as would have happened 99 times out of 100, they took him to a row of empty seats further up the stand, sta him down and put an arm around his shoulders. It was that sort of night.
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