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Eat, sleep, rave, repeat – report
Sunday, 27th Apr 2014 23:12 by Clive Whittingham

A typical QPR performance seemed set to bring them another win at home to Millwall on Saturday before Joey Barton and Rob Green contrived to gift Millwall a last minute equaliser.

Queens Park Rangers 1 Millwall 1 – the archetypal QPR performance of the 2013/14 campaign.

Firstly, changes to the starting 11 before the match.

Kevin Doyle and Armand Traore dropped out – the former to the bench and the latter altogether – and the shape of the team was altered again as Harry Redknapp abandoned his wing back system in favour of a more conventional 4-2-3-1 set up. It remains unclear what starting eleven, and perhaps more importantly what shape, will be chosen for the forthcoming play-off semi finals and perhaps that’s Redknapp’s purpose in this steady rotation of personnel: keep the opposition guessing. Problem is, it seems to be confusing the QPR players just as much.

You’re more likely to find a racially tolerant member of the Terry family than an unchanged QPR starting 11 these days so it was no surprise to see the pack shuffled again. Clint Hill started at left back, despite his advancing years and cement-mixer ankles, which suggests either Benoit Assou-Ekotto has finally shot his bolt with a daft sending off at Leicester after six months of lackadaisical, carefree, careless play, or Redknapp is still absolutely determined to start with Richard Dunne regardless of who else has to miss out and despite the Irishman’s rapidly declining level of performance.

Secondly, a performance that spluttered in fits and starts and, ultimately, didn’t really live up to the quality of the players on the pitch in Hoops.

On occasions it looked like the R’s were really going to click into gear. A wonderful, flowing counter attack in the twenty first minute came to a premature end when Ravel Morrison selfishly shot when he had better options for a pass. Later Morrison went a lot closer with a spectacular diving header that goalkeeper David Forde did well to parry aside from directly above his head. Super Size Niko Kranjcar lumbered in down the left on the half hour and drew a save from Forde who had to smother the rebound at Charlie Austin’s feet and then Austin took a fresh air shot at a through ball from Yossi Benayoun on the end of another eye-catching passing move. After half time Joey Barton volleyed wide after executing a neat one two with Austin.

But quite often this season QPR have resembled a strong man contender struggling to knock over a pile of feathers. You look at the attributes available to them and struggle to believe they can be so stilted and ineffective, but you see it with your own eyes so you have to believe it.

It’s a criticism you could also easily level at Saturday’s visitors to W12, Millwall. Looking through Ian Holloway’s starting 11, which matched QPR 4-2-3-1, there were familiar names and talented players who have done well in this league before: striker Steve Morison used wide on the right has scored goals prolifically and commanded big transfer fees; Owen Garvan had impressive spells with Ipswich and Palace; Martyn Woolford impressed in a Scunthorpe side which punched above its weight; Nicky Bailey cost Middlesbrough £1m before he got fat; Carlos Edwards was bought for big money by Premier League Sunderland once upon a time. Richard Chaplow, Ed Upson and Danny Shittu were all unavailable.

There is some dreck in this league this season – Barnsley, Birmingham, Blackpool, Charlton – and there are some teams trying to compete on a budget that would barely cover a family of five’s weekly shop – Yeovil Town. Millwall, on paper, should be doing a lot better than they are. As it stands, they go into the final game of the season with relegation a distinct possibility.

Here they spurned countless chances to win the game. In the opening minute Garvan ran in behind Danny Simpson far too easily and crossed for giant striker Stefan Maierhoffer to head wide at full stretch. Maierhoffer later drew a leg save from Green from a tight angle. Then Lee Martin volleyed wide after Niko Kranjcar had conceded possession – three minutes later Martin was carted off in a body bag after a clash with well-known hard man and head case Little Tom Carroll who looked as surprised as anybody that he’d actually managed to hurt somebody. Morison came on as his replacement.

That interrupted Millwall’s promising early start, and they had only a ridiculous 45 yard attempt from Maierhoffer and a shameless piece of play acting from Alan Dunne – dying on the floor one moment and then miraculously up and about again seconds later when it was clear his attempt to get Joey Barton sent off for treading on him accidentally had failed – to show for their first half efforts.

But they could and should have led at half time when Woolford was able to turn leaden footed Richard Dunne all too easily in first half stoppage time only to be denied by a fine save from Robert Green in a one on one situation. Rangers needn’t think they’ll get so lucky with chances like that in the play-offs and the case for Dunne to be left out in the knock-outs is growing stronger. Nedum Onuoha alongside him was excellent once again, as he continues to work himself into an undroppable position.

In the second half Holloway took off Maierhoffer, who didn’t look impressed with the decision, and sent on Simeon Jackson who was a key part of Norwich’s promotion squad in this league three years ago. He looks badly short of confidence these days though – firing one effort high over the bar when placed to do better, and then lacking conviction when through on goal and played onside by Dunne.

Thirdly, despite a rather laboured showing, QPR looked like they would win the game regardless thanks to striker Charlie Austin, just as they’ve done so often this season.

The former Burnley man opened the scoring with a quarter of an hour left to play in circumstances eerily reminiscent of an FA Cup fifth round tie between these sides on this ground back in 1995. On that occasion the Lions’ Damien Webber inexplicably thrust up an arm to deflect an Andy Impey cross away from danger in the Loft End penalty box and Clive Wilson stepped up to slam home a winner from 12 yards in stoppage time. This time it was Jackson who put his hand in the air and palmed the ball away from Ravel Morrison and referee Kevin Friend pointed straight to the spot. Forde, whose erratic performance and wild kicking made it something of a surprise that he was only beaten once from 12 yards in the whole game, was booked for delaying Austin’s kick which was nevertheless dispatched into the bottom corner with a minimum of fuss.

Rangers had only managed long range shots over the bar from Carroll and Morrison, and a header from Austin that dropped straight into Forde’s hands, prior to that but the return of the talismanic lone striker from injury means that however insipid the Super Hoops are, they always stand a chance of winning the game.

Where things are different now from the beginning of the season is at the back. Rangers kept a club record eight consecutive clean sheets earlier in the season, and have 17 shut outs overall this campaign which is second only to Brighton in the entire division. In a 12 match unbeaten run at the start of the year, poor performances were usually turned into victories by a combination of resolute defending and goals from Austin. This match felt very much like September’s trip to Yeovil where the R’s won 1-0 with an Austin penalty a quarter of an hour from the end.

But the clean sheets have dried up of late – just one in the last ten and none in the last seven – and Rangers concocted a ludicrous stoppage time equaliser for the visitors here as well.

Millwall had threatened – Nedum Onuoha harshly penalised by Friend for a good tackle on the edge of the box and Shaun Williams chipped a delicate effort onto the bar from 20 yards with Green motionless then Carroll threw in a fine block as he continued his unusually tenacious defensive display. But there seemed little danger when, in the first of four added minutes at the end of the game, the ball fell loose on the edge of the penalty box.

Little danger because Joey Barton - who is held in terribly high esteem by a section of the QPR support and, of course, himself – seemed a clear favourite to get to the ball first. Even once he’d totally bottled making any kind of tackle on Scott Malone – just as he did for George Friend’s opening goal for Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium in March – there still seemed a lot for the Millwall man to do. He launched an improvised looping effort on goal that seemed to be going over until Robert Green, bizarrely, flapped the ball down into his own goal having reached for the shot with the wrong hand.

Maybe QPR might not be that good after all – relative to the players they have at their disposal – after another uninspiring game in Shepherd’s Bush. But a league position of fourth, and just two defeats on this ground all regular season long, says that’s simply not true.

They remain a frustrating team to watch though and with the defence now leaking goals steadily, rather than regularly, they may make life difficult for themselves in the end of season knock out. I’m tempted to say we’ll find out about them once and for all in the play-offs but I’ve been promising ‘jam tomorrow’ on that front all season and am now resigned to the idea that we’re forever going to look back on 2013/14 and be completely unsure what exactly QPR’s game plan and style was, and whether they were actually any good or not.

Could always be worse though – Millwall could well need a result from Bournemouth at The Den next week to stay up and haven’t won at home in nine attempts.

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QPR: Green 5; Simpson 6, Dunne 5, Onuoha 7, Hill 6; Barton 6, Carroll 6; Benayoun 6 (Hoilett 63, 6), Morrison 6, Kranjcar 5 (Zamora 74, 6); Austin 6 (Doyle 84, -)

Subs not used: Suk-Young, Hughes, Henry, Murphy

Goals: Austin 76 (penalty, Jackson handball)

Bookings: Onuoha 84 (foul)

Millwall: Forde 4; Edwards 6, Dunne 5, Beevers 6, Malone 6; Bailey 6, Williams 6; Martin 6 (Morison 16, 6), Garvan 6 (McDonald 65, 6), Woolford 6; Maierhoffer 6 (Jackson 53, 3)

Subs not used: Robinson, Easter, Abdou, Bywater

Goals: Malone 90+1 (unassisted)

Bookings: Beevers 59 (foul), Forde 76 (dissent)

QPR Star Man – Nedum Onuoha 7 While Richard Dunne’s performances decline, Nedum Onuoha’s keep getting better. He has to be one of the first names on the team sheet for the semi-final on current form.

Referee – Kevin Friend (Leicestershire) 8 Ian Holloway complained about the penalty afterwards, saying nobody appealed for it and it wouldn’t have been given against sides other than Millwall, but he’s wrong and it was definitely a spot kick. Friend did well to spot it, and refereed the game reasonably well overall.

Attendance – 15,725 (1,500 Millwall approx) The desire to rush onto the pitch at the end of the final few home games of the season is a mystery to me – particularly as we definitely have another home match to come – and an unfortunate incident where a young supporter slipped and crashed into Mark Beevers sitting on the floor in the penalty box could bring a sizable fine for the club. Millwall came, made a lot of noise, postured a bit, but had a police officer each and so their visit passed off with few incidents.

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snanker added 00:03 - Apr 28
Ta Clive this looked like a going through the motions encounter for QPR & you hit he nail on the head re the defence and Dunne looks like he is running on memory possibly carrying injuries he shouldn't be playing with ? Pay as you play ? Rob Green's been reminding us what he is capable of clanger wise too lately and seems to have an issue with strikes to his right down low across the body for a good while now. I know we'd all have taken the play offs at the start of the season and we bumbled through this far but still feel as usual we will somehow snatch defeat from the jaws of victory !! Hope i'm wrong but just get that typical gut feel we'll make the final and dip out in a wierd fashion.

Marshy added 00:23 - Apr 28
Thanks Clive. It looked to me as if it was actually only 3 at the back throughout large periods of the game. However, with Richard Dunne's inevitable inclusion, I suppose you could therefore say that it was only 2 at the back. Not surprisingly his performance was once again fairly dire. As for LTC you can at least say he is consistent. That is consistently poor. We can be thankful though that Harry didn't bring back BAE for this one. But both Charlie and Nedum put in a really good shift, and felt they were the two outstanding players on the day. We threw away the win, but in all fairness Millwall probably deserved the draw.

I continue to wonder about what happens in training, and the way our players are coached. As far too often they just don't move or run into position, or support team mates or create space. They are too static, or maybe for some too lazy. As the season had progressed we have enjoyed less and less possession. Things have to improve dramatically if we are to stand any chance in the Play Offs.

TacticalR added 01:00 - Apr 28
Thanks for your report.

Obviously it's not good that we can only get a draw at home against a side that is near the bottom of the table, and even that was due to a penalty. We seem to be staggering into the play-offs. The only consolation is that although we are not in good form, neither are Wigan or Reading.

Dunne really does look tired, physically and mentally.

The Green own goal really was bizarre. I've seen it a few times and still can't make sense of it. It's reminiscent of the goal he let in at home against West Brom last season, although at least then he had the excuse that he was shoved by a West Brom player.

Kiwi76 added 01:08 - Apr 28
Cheers Clive and hopefully you can see the finish line in sight - not too soon though -good to see Charlie score and remain in one piece and if he can manage 4 more games we are a chance.
Chances of our all star squad ripping into a Wembley final and making us forget the rest of the season....

qprmick added 07:34 - Apr 28
Goalkeepers got marked 4 and 5 and it was one all, enough said. I hope next season will be better than this and hopefully it won't be at a higher levee, hang on I don't really mean that. If we go up i hope we have a good manager and some decent players. Apologies to those player that are decent.

Lblock added 07:35 - Apr 28
The theory in our parts on Richard Dung is that his play when you play deal includes a clause that HE decides if he's fit and playing is his choice if passed fit.
You just know that Ol' Jerky is going to drop Big Ned in the Play Offs and if he does then he should be sacked there and then... maybe even during the first half.

If I was TF I'd want to have a sit down with the favourite for the England job and have him explain to me in words of one syllable or many, just what the f*** his selection policies and tactics have all been about this season on a game by game basis. Other questions such as appointment of Walrus Downes, signing Maigia, etc,etc also on the agenda.

I watched the Football League Show last night and what worried me was when Clem asked Jerky if he was the man with a plan (having never been in the play offs before) he got all grins and back slappy jovial saying "not sure about that, plan? Dunno Clem, plan? Nah we got good players here, be a good atmosphere, fantastic".... Christ alive!!!

We pray for a tight drab draw away from home and then us lot at W12 can conjure up what we've done before and help this group over the line to a Wembley final. Once there it's anyones game and we can only pray our luck returns late in May. It'll all be despite of Redknapp not because of him that's for sure.

QPRski added 07:58 - Apr 28
I love the dry humour which made me smile: "You’re more likely to find a racially tolerant member of the Terry family than an unchanged QPR starting 11 these days..."

As for the team and how we will finally assess this season? It will all depend on the play-off results. Should we get promoted, then one could argue there was some logic to this madness, lessons were learned, and the end justifies the means. Should we do badly, then we will all state that we lost the plot and never had a game plan or tactics.

nadera78 added 10:01 - Apr 28
The difference between now and early season, apart from Dunne looking tired, is that we're no longer lining up with two defensive midfielders in front of the back four. When you take to the field with Barton and Carroll, and then Niko, Morrison and Benayoun, you have weakness writ large across the middle of the pitch. It would be bad enough if Barton was on form but he's currently scratching around and certainly looked a little tubby when he gave a fan his shirt last week.

I know Carroll blocked a shot at the end but for the second week in a row there was an incident where he actually walked away from the man with the ball because he didn't want to get involved. Morrison did it twice, again for the second week running. It's just not acceptable.

PinnerPaul added 10:04 - Apr 28
Fair report Clive.

The Millwall miss at the end of the first half was a miss though. Green didn't touch it and Dunne must also take some blame for the goal as well , getting beaten in the air too easily.

JB seemed to be going through the game trying not to get booked and/or injured, although I don't see the need for your veiled criticism of those who think he has done well for us this season - he has, we're half a team without and and he was named LSC (I think) - there are so many fans groups! - Player of the Year on Saturday - so its hardly a minority opinion.

HastingsRanger added 10:47 - Apr 28
I totally agree that 'looking back on 2013/14 and being completely unsure what exactly QPR’s game plan and style was, and whether they were actually any good or not'.

Yet, we've stumbled into a fair position in the play offs, strangely with two other equally unimpressive teams. Only Derby look reasonable but the poison chalice of 3rd place may do for them.

I really cannot see us being promoted and not really sure if we deserve to be or even want to be. All in all a very strange season.

parker64 added 11:04 - Apr 28
They were either going through the motions or just a tired side. A number of times you see the other sides midfield coming forward with Barton and Carroll trailing behind them. Morrison's obviously talented but is he given a free role? He seems to pop up everywhere. I'm not sure what that was on Saturday. Just seemed to be all over the place and their goal was the icing on the cake. 4-2-3-1 seems very complicated to me and something that would have to be practised over and over on the training pitch.

dixiedean added 11:21 - Apr 28
another terrible team performance - HR seems to think that form has an On /Off switch and they can coast their way into the play-offs, when history suggests momentum is all-important. time will tell. I'm glad you mentioned Barton's ' contribution' to the goal, as it seems that suddenly you risk abuse from fellow fans by daring to question him these days. When the midfield consists of YB, NK, LTC & RM, Barton is the only one even remotely a ball-winner , so he can ill- afford to decide he doesn't fancy a 50/50 on the edge of his own box in injury time. And he did the same thing at least twice in the first half, which was conveniently overlooked by his many admirers. When he plays properly he does add much-needed steel to the midfield but he can't be shirking tackles like that. That was also Simpson's worst game for the club - he was terrible by his very consistent standards so he can be forgiven this as a one-off. Kranjcar was also atrocious esp in 1st half and needs lo lay off the doughnuts. As for Dunne, this has been coming for weeks, and in every single game he makes at least one monumental error which could be fatal. And Green's form has dipped alongside Dunne's. Frankly I'd rather play BAE at LB and have Clint in his best position at CB with Nedum. Hoilett and Traore ( if fit) wide, where we desperately lacked pace v Millscum with JB & Henry centre mid and Ravel off Charlie. Apart from LB that seems our best team( and best set-up) by far. Let's hope the right balls come out of Arry's selection lottery bag this time.

extratimeR added 19:14 - Apr 28
Thanks Clive

Exactly how I saw it as well, a very grim game, with the odd decent move. I looked at team selection before game, and thought why not , they can all play, and enough ability to see off a very poor Millwall side, {who should have won}, and it just got worse.

Barton had a nightmare, I like him, and I think he has had a good season, and usually puts in a good 90 minute shift, but it didn't happen for him on Saturday, finishing up with him pulling away from that tackle. Green should have tapped it over bar easily.

If we have a plan, I'd like to know what it is.


Patrick added 20:34 - Apr 28
Barton was obviously under orders not to get booked (or worse). This may also explain the unexpected appearance of Little Tom "Bad Boy" Carroll. Showed some mettle in that game I think, when JB was playing Mr Nice Guy. A classic example of a game that meant far far more to one side than the other. Maybe, just maybe, HR has collected some "big game" players for another occasion. Let's hope so.

Noelmc added 20:52 - Apr 28
Agree with your points on Barton, Clive & Saturday was certainly one of his poorest games of the season. Very surprised he got the LSA POTY award as I would have put Austin, Onohua, Simpson & Hill all ahead of him. IMHO he still owes us big time, so hope he repays us in the play-offs. My worry is a fully committed Barton is always on the edge of a red card which could cost us dearly in the end of season lottery.

RonisRs added 08:09 - Apr 29
I think there was sentiment to Holloway and Bircham, so they decided to split the spoils and give Millwall a point to help them retain their status in the league.

smegma added 11:46 - Apr 29
Not only did Alan Dunne feign serious injury but Holloway was also waving an imaginary card in trying to get Barton sent off as well. He was going mental at the ref and then when he did nothing he turned on the 4th official.

smegma added 11:46 - Apr 29
Not only did Alan Dunne feign serious injury but Holloway was also waving an imaginary card in trying to get Barton sent off as well. He was going mental at the ref and then when he did nothing he turned on the 4th official.

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