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QPR and Palace grind out bore draw - report
Monday, 29th Dec 2014 18:49 by Clive Whittingham

QPR concluded their 2014 fixtures with a dire 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace at Loftus Road on Sunday.

An advert for the Premier League it was not, nor much of an endorsement for making teams play twice in 48 hours.

Between them, Queens Park Rangers and Crystal Palace, both desperate to avoid a swift return to the Championship, served up distinctly second-tier quality football at a subdued Loftus Road.

This had been billed as the first return of Neil Warnock to W12 since his harsh sacking by QPR just shy of three years ago, but a Boxing Day thrashing at home to Southampton had plunged the Eagles into the relegation zone, below Rangers, and chairman Steve Parish swung the axe on Saturday morning.

That left Keith Millen to assume the caretaker manager role he’d held twice before and lead his team into battle on statistically one of the most difficult Premier League grounds to get a result. QPR have lost only twice at home this season, and won five - more than anybody from ninth down in the table. They’d won four of the last five and drawn the other prior to this fixture.

Millen attacked the challenge positively, picking three wingers in his attack - in form duo Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasia joined by one-time QPR loanee Jason Puncheon. Rangers, with Clint Hill restored at left back following Armand Traore’s hapless exploits at Arsenal on Boxing Day, and Richard Dunne back at the heart of a flat back four, may have feared being exposed by that trio’s burning pace.

Throw in former R Damien Delaney, who always did like the rough stuff and aerial conflict, at centre back and it was clear that QPR would have to think of something new long before they actually did.

The pattern of home attacks was set very early in the piece. Totally unable to create a single chance of any note in open play, Rangers were left to rely on corners and free kicks to pose a goal scoring threat. Joey Barton, typically, took every single one of them, from every position on the field. After scoring from three of his corners against West Brom, Rangers did again look dangerous when he delivered from the flags, but his free kicks started abysmally and fell away from there.

Leroy Fer burst through the middle after eight minutes and was felled by McArthur. Barton stuck the resulting dead ball straight into the middle of the wall.

In open play the R’s were completely toothless. Charlie Austin, starved of possession with Palace successfully taking Zamora out of the game, improvised brilliantly with a 30 yard volley which visiting goalkeeper Julian Speroni saved comfortably as his near post, but that was about as good as it got. Junior Hoilett, as he had done repeatedly as a substitute at Arsenal, crossed straight into the stand behind the goal when he finally worked space to deliver into the area. His final ball and decision making remains amateur standard.

When Clint Hill ventured forwards to lend support he succeeded only in picking up a harsh yellow card from referee Mike Jones for stretching to retrieve a loose ball and fouling Adrian Mariappa in the process.

The first half had been turgid, and the second started in much the same way. Joel Ward fouled Hoilett and Barton wasted the free kick. Leroy Fer, increasingly a target for the fans ire after several incidents of sloppy possession concession, dragged a weak volley wide from long range.

Barton can be forgiven a lot of his failings because of his work rate, and Fer often gives the ball away while trying to engage a player and beat him, which - when successful - is more effective than simply passing the ball sideways in front of a defence. But both have to be substantially better than this in tougher forthcoming home matches with Swansea, Man Utd and Southampton.

Both showed the quality they do possess on the hour mark. First the Dutchman let rip with a volley from 25 yards which Speroni had to tip over. Then, when the resulting corner was cleared back to Barton, he brilliantly beat the onrushing defender and stood the ball up perfectly to the back post where Charlie Austin looked certain to bury a trademark header before it hit a defender and flew over.

The match, already desperately low on quality, tempo and entertainment, drifted still further in the final half an hour. Puncheon was booked for pushing Hoilett as he ran headlong into oncoming traffic once more. On the one occasion the Canadian winger took his man on the outside, he beat him and was about to run clear into the penalty area along the byline until referee Jones gave a typically poor decision and awarded Palace a free kick for pulling - Hoilett had actually been the one sinned against. Later Jones played on through a clear foul on Clint Hill and Green had to push Puncheon’s shot over the bar. Palace’s first corner of the second half was kicked straight out of play. QPR allowed a long hoof down the field to bounce twice at the heart of the defence and then had to crowd out Bolasie as he threatened to steal in.

Redknapp sent on Matt Phillips for Bobby Zamora and then Eduardo Vargas for Leroy Fer, but a cutting edge sharp enough to slice through Palace’s physical rear-guard remained elusive. Mauro Zarate of West Ham has been linked in January, but QPR have enough ‘number ten’ type players currently forced to play out position on the wing - Vargas, Fer - or unable to get in the team at all - Niko Kranjcar and Jordon Mutch both unused substitutes here.

In truth, it looked like a 0-0 draw a long time before the end. It was unbelievably awful for a Premier League fixture, and it was played out in the worst atmosphere at Loftus Road for many months. Whether it was boredom, the cold, Christmas hangovers or something else, rarely has a QPR crowd been this quiet at a home match. Inspiration was thin on the ground mind.

Midway through the half the public address system clicked into life and asked for Mr Vince Eavies to leave his seat and report to reception. Sir, I envy you. I’ve never wanted to be Mr Vince Eavies more.

Rangers posed more threat than their visitors in the closing stages, but it was all coming from corners. Steven Caulker saw a well-placed header cleared from the goal line, and Clint Hill’s powerful climb and firm attempt was also blocked at point blank range by a defender. Hoilett thrashed high and wide with a first time effort after the ball fell to him from another set piece in acres of space in the heart of the penalty area. He had time to take a touch and pick his spot, but cogent thought and correct decisions are low on the former Blackburn man’s repertoire. He’s surely running out of chances at Loftus Road.

Barton’s mixed bag of an afternoon continued with a yellow card for a foul on McArthur in midfield when it appeared he’d merely been pulling a dropping ball out of the sky, unaware of the Palace man’s presence. Jones has as much understanding and feeling for the sport he referees as I do for basket weaving.

QPR’s afternoon, and that of their captain, could be best summed up by two moments in the final ten minutes. First he wasted another chance to deliver from a free kick, only for Clint Hill to then concede a soft one the other way on the counter attack. Then, with just six minutes left for play, Karl Henry and several others wasted chances to return the ball to a crowded Palace penalty area after a cleared set piece, only to eventually pissball around so much they had no choice but to play the ball back to Robert Green who skewed his clearance straight into the Ellerslie Road stand. Frustrating enough to make you want to tear the flesh from your face and eat it just for the want of something better to do with your time.

Palace will look back at their video review of this match and regret not pushing more for three points. They almost took them despite their lack of ambition when Barton gave the ball away deep in three minutes of stoppage time and a shot from Puncheon, saved by Green, sparked a colossal scramble in the penalty box. The away side appealed for a penalty, Mauricio Isla - QPR’s outstanding player on the day - was the only man calm enough to seize possession and work it away from danger. A real let off.

The final whistle was a blessed relief for most and a cue to boo the team from the field for a very tiny minority. Barton took to the Twitter - as ever - to voice his displeasure at this afterwards, and given how well QPR have played at home to this point you could see his point. A cynic may suggest it successfully ensured all the post-match coverage was about his comments and not his free kicks and ball retention. A niggly, irritating, exasperating end to a truly dire football match.

All that said… fifteenth and outside the bottom three at the turn of the year, Palace remain below QPR in the table, this probably wasn’t a bad result.

Links >>> Photo Gallery >>> Ratings and Reports >>> Message Board Match Thread

QPR: Green 6; Isla 7, Dunne 6, Caulker 7, Hill 6; Hoilett 5, Barton 6, Henry 6, Fer 5 (Vargas 66, 5); Zamora 5 (Phillips 75, 5), Austin 6

Subs not used: Ferdinand, McCarthy, Wright-Phillips, Onuoha, Mutch

Bookings: Hill 45 (foul), Barton 61 (foul)

Palace: Speroni 6; Mariappa 6, Dann 6, Delaney 7, Ward 6; Jedinak 7, McArthur 6, Ledley 6; Zaha 5 (Campbell 67, 5), Bolasie 7, Puncheon 6

Subs not used: Hangeland, Doyle, Hennessey, Thomas, Bannan, Kelly

Bookings: Puncheon 71 (foul)

QPR Star Man - Mauricio Isla 7 His best performance for the club so far, with sound defensive work coupled with intelligent use of the ball. A shining beacon of quality in a sea of mediocrity. Steven Caulker ran him close and would have deserved his goal had it gone in.

Referee - Mike Jones (Cheshire) 5 Harsh bookings for Hill and Barton, ridiculous decision to penalise Hoilett in the second half when he’d gone past his man fairly, almost had a hand in a Palace goal by playing on through a foul on Hill to allow Puncheon to shoot. A poor referee for a poor game. That said, I think he got the big decision for the penalty right at the end, though I haven’t seen it again and Palace will no doubt hold that against him as well.

Attendance 18,011 (1,800 Palace) A footballing chicken and egg - is it the players’ job to lift the crowd or vice versa? Here the football was dreadful, and the atmosphere non-existent. I can scarcely recall Loftus Road being so quiet. Joey Barton has, as ever, had his say, but as a self professed people’s poet, he must surely understand the frustration of people shelling out money at this time of year to watch football this poor.

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Noelmc added 19:05 - Dec 29
Well done Clive on managing to find enough motivation to produce your usual comprehensive report on such a poor match. I can't believe MOTD actually managed to find 2 matches to show after this one last night!

Just one point where I'd disagree with you is your description of Clint's booking as "harsh". To me it looked lenient as I was worried it might well have been a red at the time and a second viewing later on MOTD only re-enforced my opinion.
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Marshy added 21:32 - Dec 29
Dire the match certainly was, and in my opinion would have looked poor even by Championship standards. Why does Barton have to take every free kick and corner? Clearly it was not working for him in this match, so surely there was someone else in the team that was capable of a decent cross or shot from a dead ball situation. This really needs to change for future matches. Furthermore the general standard of our passing in this game was a disgrace. It wouldn't surprise me if the stats show that we passed more balls to to Palace than we did to our own players. There will need to be a big improvement for Swansea or we will be taken to the cleaners.

In summary, to have stood any chance of winning this match, we needed someone with flair and a bit of magic to conjure a goal from something out of nothing. There was nobody on the field that came anywhere close to doing that. Ironically though we do have that type of player at our club, and his name is Adel Taarabt! Come on Harry he can't still be 3 stone overweight, and even if he might not be at the peak of fitness he can't be any worse than what we saw on Sunday.
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NW5Hoop added 22:14 - Dec 29
Agree with Noelmc - there was nothing harsh about Hill's yellow: he took the ball after he'd already gone through the man, didn't he? Looked like a yellow at the time, looked even more like one on the TV.
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gigiisourgod added 22:18 - Dec 29
How have you managed so many articulate words for such a pile of shight?
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Rodneylives added 22:56 - Dec 29
For the record, Rangers have one more point than they did at the same stage two years ago, Progress!
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Kaos_Agent added 23:58 - Dec 29
"A footballing chicken and egg - is it the players’ job to lift the crowd or vice versa? Here the football was dreadful, and the atmosphere non-existent."

IMO the players have to lift the crowd, at least initially. Never happened.

Little point in going out and buying more strikers in January until the rest of the squad can learn how to pass and retain possession. The ball rarely finds its way forward in any useful way. Full credit to Charlie for so often tracking back to assist with our continual last-ditch defending.
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FloridaR added 00:18 - Dec 30
Good write up thank you.
Bartons wasted 9 corners, maybe 1 was good, had 10 Freekicks ? His 50 yard flighted freekicks into the CP box made im look like he needs to go back to academy and learn the game again.
I'd be interested to know how many back passes Rob Greens got as the ball circulation in defence is definitely getting better.
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062259 added 04:03 - Dec 30
Perhaps the subdued atmosphere had something to do with the dreadful and desperate Air Asia incident. Set against the backdrop of a missing airliner, a game of football is of little consequence.

The wider implications of this tragic episode and its effect on Tony Fernandes' attitude towards, and enthusiasm for, QPR remain to be seen. I can foresee it being extremely difficult for him to attend QPR games for a long time to come. It might be interpreted by many as insensitive of him to be out and about having fun at the football and as we know, Fernandes is a sensitive man.
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probbo added 08:33 - Dec 30
Thanks Clive. This line from above.... 'Charlie Austin, starved of possession'..
..says it all to me. Redknapp thinks strikers are the answer to all out problems but its in midfield (particularly creativity and pace) where we are so totally lacking. I appreciate Traore had a mare at Arsenal but in midfield he has pace and does deliver a good cross from the left. You can't expect any player who is in and out of the first team so frequently to find any sort of consistency. If we could get Andros Townsend on loan that would give the forwards a good source of supply from the right. Fer is playing way below where he should be at this level and Barton's similar - Redknapp must really despise Taarabt not to give him a run out over either of these two.

I'll stand corrected but I can't imagine Robbie Keane (or Defoe for that matter) being the answer to our current problems unless we play 3 up front and resort to Watford 80's style route one football (in which case I'd take Crouch or some other tall target man over Defoe).
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PinnerPaul added 11:57 - Dec 30
Excellent and fair report Clive.

Fair assessment of JB's performance as well - as you say, nothing wrong with his corners or work rate (If HE can get back into the pen area at the end why can't Henry and others btw?) but his free kicks and ball retention were poor.

Really can't understand why the players could not try more ball into feet when it was clear (after about 15') that the high ball to BZ wasn't working.

It doesn't mean we should chuck out BZ and that way of playing as some have suggested, but we do need to mix it up a bit when that isn't working.
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extratimeR added 22:56 - Dec 30
Thanks Clive!

The match report is a lot more interesting than a truly awful game, it was so bad we were falling about laughing in the last 10 mins, passes being volleyed into the back of the stand, and into the back of players heads, players from the same team tackling each other, one suggestion was to move the School End goal back five yards to help Junior with his crossing.

I can't remember being so disparate to get round the boozer after the game.
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JohnMacQPR added 23:09 - Dec 30
As PinnerPaul said (sorry Paul, I've now left Pinner after 21 years there - but I still share your perspective) "we do need to mix it up a bit". That applies top so much of what we are doing. Always do the same thing and teams will have been coached to cope or will learn to do so during the match. Even if Joey's corners and free kicks were consistently brilliant (!!) unless we are scoring from them regularly, somebody else needs to try something different - giving Joey the chance to confuse the opposition defence by getting into them, rather than kicking behind the dead ball.
Equally we need to try some different players - or, at least, one every now and again. Adel is the obvious one .... and if Harry can't motivate Adel to play occasionally (eg in the "shop window" of a live televised match) he should be fining him all of his wages, coz he ain't earning them! How I wish we could see a couple of flashes of Tarabt's skill every so often (it's cold, so let him wear his gloves .... and a hat if necessary) - even if it couldn't change the Palace result away from 0-0 it would still make it worthwhile going to the match.
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pedrosqpr added 10:15 - Dec 31
Firstly of all the passengers of the Air Asia flight are in our thoughts.
I couldn't imagine how Tony Fernandes is feeling , I have met him a couple of times and seems a genuine and nice bloke.
Now the football .league one football but hardly surprising Palace up for the match , local derby and QPR a bit rusty and in need of someone to put there foot on the ball.
Sandro is probably the missing link for me .
as for the booing from my perch close to the rude away fans I thought the boos were for penalty shout for palace. Perhaps in my old age I'm a bit mutton .urrs
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TacticalR added 00:40 - Jan 1
There was a definite Championship feel to the game. At one point I was thinking that Palace look a good Championship side, with pace and power but not much quality (neither side showed much quality). If they went down they'd be in with a shout of going up again. It was a match crying out for a moment of class to break the deadlock, and as we all know, that moment of class never arrived.

Barton. I don't want to go on about him too much, but he just doesn't seem able to introduce any variety into his free kicks and corners. I noticed towards the end that we'd had so many corners without getting anywhere that the crowd stopped singing 'Come on you R's' when we got a corner. Our corners actually played into Palace's hands as they could use them to launch counter-attacks.

Fer. Yes, he didn't play that well and got shoved off the ball a couple of times. If anything it shows what a key man he is for us - if he doesn't play well then the team is not going to do well. Produced the moment of the match with his turn and thunderbolt of a shot in the second half.

Austin and Zamora. Nothing to feed off and snuffed out by the Palace back four.

Hoilett. Looked better on the right than on the left, although made some very heavy touches.

Dunne. Did well considering he had his hands full with Zaha.
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