Suk-Young and QPR left to wonder what might have been – report
Monday, 5th May 2014 14:15 by Clive Whittingham
A spectacular goal from South Korean full back Yun Suk-Young sealed a 3-2 win for QPR over Barnsley in a meaningless end of season game at Oakwell.
It was hard not to glance around the cavernous away end behind the goal at Oakwell and not think what might have been. A sea of blue and white, packing the place to the rafters and basking in not only the warm may sunshine, but also the glory of an immediate return to the Premier League. Critics silenced, promotion won, the best part of six thousand Rangers fans there to see it, tossing their inflatables back and forth and holding two fingers up to those who seem to make a living out of giving them a kicking.
Oakwell would have been ideal for the occasion: more seats than QPR could ever possibly have needed, a generous and already relegated home side that happily coughed up three goals and a win far more comfortable than a 3-2 scoreline suggests, unseasonably hot weather, the bright lights of nearby Sheffield beckoning a big night out.
Instead, a dead rubber.
Leicester and Burnley sailed off into the sunset long ago – both shrewdly managed, focused on improving players and scouting young talent, playing simple football well with no airs and graces. Good to watch. Promoted.
It’s left QPR, with their odd brand of at times painfully slow tikka tacka football that doesn’t seem to serve much purpose other than filling the club’s YouTube channel with two minute clips of 30 pass moves that don’t actually go anywhere, to bumble their way into the play-offs. Chairman Tony Fernandes assured supporters during the week that the club’s shuttle-disaster financial results - £160m lost so far and likely to top £200m this season – do not make promotion essential, but you only have to look at the short term choices made by the club with its team this year to poke holes in that.
Take left back for instance, where Totteham’s Benoit Assou-Ekotto has played the majority of the season on loan ahead of South Korean youngster Yun Suk-Young who QPR actually own. A no brainer, in theory, given that Assou-Ekotto was one of the Premier League’s top full backs until recently while Suk-Young looked miles out of his depth in early friendly and cup matches against the mighty Exeter City.
But since January, when a prospective return to Tottenham failed to materialise, Assou-Ekotto has carried himself with all the enthusiasm of a manic depressive at an insurance sales seminar. Manager Harry Redknapp has selected him regardless, refusing to give Suk-Young a run of games, and now has a situation where the South Korean has played excellently at Middlesbrough, and again at Barnsley, but probably hasn’t played or experienced enough to be considered in the play-offs.
At Oakwell, midway through the second half, he picked the ball up in the Barnsley half and drove towards goal, slalomed skilfully between two defenders, and powered a master blaster beyond goalkeeper Luke Steele and into the net for QPR’s third goal of the afternoon. It was the outstanding moment of quality in a game that entertained despite being played at half-pace, and it left you wondering whether the left side of the defence for Friday’s crucial trip to Wigan may have looked very different had a bit of foresight and bravery been used and Suk-Young had made 20 starts since January instead of three.
It simply hasn’t been Harry Redknapp’s way since he arrived at Loftus Road. He picked Jose Bosingwa remorselessly last season, even with relegation confirmed, until the QPR fans took it upon themselves – totally justifiably – to make it impossible for the lazy, overpaid scumbag to take the field for the second half of a home loss to Newcastle. Youth team graduate Michael Harriman finally started in his place a week later at Liverpool and was QPR’s best player on the day. He hasn’t played a single minute for the club since.
It’s taken until the final day for any of Harriman’s fellow youth team graduates to be given any kind of crack this term as well. Tom Hitchcock sprang from the bench to score a last minute winner against Ipswich in August but a cynic would say he was only there in the first place to highlight to the board that Redknapp believed he needed to make more senior-player signings and, again, he hasn’t been seen in Hoops since.
On Saturday Coll Donaldson, a teenager picked up for a low six-figure sum from Livingston midway through the campaign, was given his senior debut – though, again, his presence seemed to be facilitating a rest for Redknapp’s golden boy Richard Dunne along with Danny Simpson, Clint Hill and Assou-Ekotto ahead of the Wigan game rather than because QPR have any real interest at management level in developing the Scot’s game long term.
Donaldson celebrated the victory here as if QPR had won a major domestic trophy, leaping around and punching the air as the visiting players fled the traditional embarrassing pitch invasion by the local chavs. He could be reasonably pleased with his work, while taking plenty away to work on. He’s not quick, so his positional sense and reading of the game is going to be key. On a couple of occasions he was caught chasing after a striker back towards his own goal having been stripped for speed, and on another he was fortunate not to be booked by referee Kevin Wright for a cynical trip on Stephen Dawson after once again being caught too high up the field. He was helped by the presence of Nedum Onuoha alongside him – several times the former Man City man used his pace and athleticism to swoop in and haul Donaldson out of a sticky situation. Onuoha has been QPR’s form defender for the past six weeks and must start on Friday – though his presence in this starting eleven must place that in some doubt.
Donaldson certainly couldn’t be faulted for either Barnsley goal. The home side may have been relegated with a game to spare but a brace for striker Chris O’Grady moved him to 15 for the season – an impressive total in a poor team, sure to spark interest from the teams heading the other way to replace the Tykes in next season’s Championship.
The first came from an inswinging cross from former Tranmere and Bayern Munich (seriously) midfielder Dale Jennings which O’Grady headed home from point blank range after ghosting in between the two centre halves.
The second, in the first minute of injury time at the end of the game, was fizzed in from outside the area with power and zip that carried the ball past Robert Green before he even knew it had been struck at him. Gary O’Neil, distinctly mediocre once again at the heart of the QPR midfield, had given the ball away cheaply in back play.
It would have been a hat trick too, had Green not beaten away a low drive from 25 yards in the first half when O’Grady received loose possession after Karl Henry appeared to have been fouled on the edge of the box. Henry, who must be interesting Redknapp as a steadying influence for the away leg of the knock-out on Friday, furthered his cause with an assured performance here.
But QPR were well in control before O’Grady started his one-man salvation mission. Redknapp took a risk fielding striker Charlie Austin and winger Armand Traore from the start. Both injury prone, both important to the promotion bid – in Austin’s case absolutely crucial – but both, in the manager’s opinion, in need of some extra game time as they work on their match fitness. The gamble paid off, as both came through an hour of football unscathed and combined to open the scoring just before half time. A purposeful, eye-catching, attractive, forward thinking, passing move out from the back (remember the day) saw O’Neil turn well into pace in midfield and find Traore who slipped Austin into space in the area and he’s deadly from that sort of range. Austin’s one hundredth career goal in senior football.
Despite that goal coming on the stroke of half time, Rangers still managed a second before the break. There was nothing slick and skilful about this one though as Kevin Doyle slipped delivering a low cross from the right and hapless home defender Jean-Yves M’Voto did likewise as he diverted the ball past his keeper Luke Steele – who would have thrown his hat on it otherwise – and into the bottom corner.
There had been half chances for both teams before that. Doyle dragged wide from long range I a second minute counter attack from a Barnsley corner then Jennings poked wide on the quarter hour after sneaking in on the wrong side of Donaldson. Yossi Benayoun, another likely starter gainst Wigan, saw a shot blocked after the home team’s Tom Kennedy had inexplicably passed the ball straight to him on the edge of the Barnsley box and home keeper Steele was perhaps fortunate to get away with handling right on the precipice of his penalty box as Armand Traore threatened to race through on goal.
Traore endured a mixed start to the second half – first giving the ball away and allowing Little Tom Carroll-look-a-like Danny Rose to test Green with a low shot, then getting an effort of his own away at the other end only for Steele to parry the ball to safety. O’Grady’s first goal was followed by a period of pressure where Benayoun had to block a shot from Jim O’Brien behind and QPR’s former Geordie in residence Peter Ramage tested Green with a header from the resulting corner, but Suk-Young’s superb strike settled nerves.
Redknapp, with that particular mission accomplished, removed Charlie Austin and rmand Traore and sent on Niko Kranjcar, who showed a few nice touches, and Will Keane, who should have been looking to fill his boots against such limited opposition but looks bereft of confidence after a poor three months with the club and could only snatch at the one chance which did come his way ten minutes from time.
Later another youth teamer, Michael Petrasso, came on for his long-overdue debut instead of Benayoun and made a couple of notable contributions in an assured display. First he hooked a dangerous lost cause back into the six yard box, forcing a goal line clearance from Ramage, after a Niko Kranjcar free kick had struck the wall. Then, in the final minute, he found himself clear in the right side of the penalty area with only the keeper to beat but Steele stood tall and made a fine save when the Canadian unloaded a low shot on goal. At the other end Green did likewise to keep out Jennings when he was played through in almost identical circumstances.
The intensity and tempo of Wigan on Friday will be a million times greater than anything that happened in South Yorkshire on Saturday. QPR will have to hope that Harry Redknapp's selection policy and choices made so far have prepared them adequately for the challenge.
Barnsley: Steele 6; Kennedy 6, Ramage 6, Cranie 6, M'voto 5 (Bree 72, 6); O'Brien 6, Dawson 6 (Hassell 80, -), Jennings 6, Cywka 6 (Noble-Lazarus 72, 5), Rose 5, O’Grady 7
Subs not used: Dibble, Oates, Boakye-Yiadom, Cowgill
Goals: O’Grady 54 (assisted Jennings), 90 (unassisted)
QPR: Green 6; Hughes 6, Donaldson 6, Onuoha 7, Suk-Young 7; Henry 7, O’Neil 5; Benayoun 6 (Petrasso 76, 6), Doyle 6, Traore 6 (Kranjcar 57, 6); Austin 6 (Keane 57, 5)
Subs not used: Carroll, Hoilett, Murphy, Gibbons
Goals: Austin 42 (assisted Traore), Mvoto og 43 (assisted Doyle), Suk-Young 68 (unassisted)
QPR Star Man – Nedum Onuoha 7 An ideal partner for Coll Donaldson on his debut, and on several occasions when the young Scot was caught out of position or found wanting for pace Onuoha swooped in using his own pace and athleticism to do his own job, and occasionally that of his partner as well. I thought Henry and Suk-Young played really well too.
Referee – Kevin Wright (Cambridgeshire) 8 Little to referee, no bookings, no moments of controversy and allowed the game to flow well enough. Generous not to book Donaldson for his first half foul.
Attendance – 10,298 (950 QPR approx) Surprisingly large following from QPR given that the game didn’t matter and there are play-off tickets to pay for. Still don’t understand the fascination with running onto the pitch at the end of the game, particularly if it’s to rush down and mass in front of the away end singing after you’ve just been relegated. Melts.
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