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Austin’s penalty miss proves crucial in Hammers stalemate – report
Sunday, 26th Apr 2015 23:15 by Clive Whittingham

Charlie Austin missed a penalty for the second time this season as QPR drew their must-win home match against West Ham 0-0 on Saturday.

A season of what-ifs, bookended by two Charlie Austin penalty misses in crucial games. Ultimately though, QPR simply haven’t been good enough.

Manager Chris Ramsey promised a “blood and thunder” London derby with West Ham at Loftus Road on Saturday as the R’s sought a victory to potentially lift them out of the bottom three for the first time since he took over. In the end there wasn’t enough of either. A key game, a wonderful chance for points against an out-of-form side with nothing to play for, was allowed to slip quietly by. Positive results for Leicester and Hull elsewhere only added to the feeling that time is about to be called on QPR’s Premier League status.

Austin’s miss from the spot in the first half proved crucial. A flowing move, easily QPR’s best of the game, worked Matt Phillips into space down the right and when he found Bobby Zamora in the area the hapless James Collins thrust up an arm and diverted the ball away from the danger zone. Even Mike Jones, a referee who carries himself with all the gravitas of the hand towel in the gents toilets of a particularly down-at-heel East End pub, couldn’t miss it and the penalty was duly awarded.

Austin has been magnificent for QPR since arriving from Burnley nearly two years ago, barely missing a beat or a chance in his time with the club and often carrying his team far beyond what their collective ability and efforts should allow with his goals. He’s scored 17 times already this season and without those goals Rangers would have been knocking on the door of Derby County’s lousy single-win Premier League record from a decade ago. But his reaction – hands to face, turning away towards the Ellerslie Road side of the ground in wide-eyed fear – did little to inspire confidence before he took the penalty down at the School End and his shot was so poorly struck and placed that visiting keeper Adrian, who’s saved three of these already this season, actually almost dived past the ball and ended up saving it with his shins. But, he saved it all the same.

The mood around the place dipped as a result and Austin’s performance level dropped almost as much as his head. Later, in the crucial final moments, Nedum Onuoha, picked at right back, received the ball on a successful overlap and laid the perfect low cross through the goalmouth, cutting out the whole West Ham defence and the goalkeeper in one swing of his right boot. Austin would be on hand to tap in 99 times out of 100. On this occasion, he was stuck back in the crowd and the chance went begging. The mental fatigue caused by carrying the hopes and expectations of an entire club on his shoulders looked to be weighing heavily.

The home side may feel aggrieved not to have won anyway. A second half corner, headed straight up in the air by Bobby Zamora at the back post, caused panic in the West Ham penalty area. Steven Caulker, up from the back, seemed to do little more than jump for a header as the ball dropped and it was subsequently bundled into the net from close range by his recalled centre half partner Richard Dunne. Jones was on hand to award West Ham a free kick – Adrian’s act of running up behind Caulker, attempting to jump over the top of the QPR man and subsequently spilling the ball, deemed a foul. A nonsense decision, but one referees blow for every single time. You’ll never see that goal awarded, for reasons known only to the officials and goalkeepers' union.

There were other moments as well. Matt Phillips broke down field in the opening minute and laid the ball into Sandro who tried to catch Adrian out at his near post with a low shot that the keeper toed wide. A full 90 minutes later, in the first minute of time added on at the end of the game, Phillips ran onto a long ball into the West Ham area and unleashed a powerful first time volley from a difficult angle that seemed destined for the top corner until the Spanish goalkeeper flung himself off to his left and made a truly astonishing one-handed save.

Zamora rushed one shot straight after half time, possibly believing he was either offside or under pressure from the West Ham defence when neither was the case, and struck the ball straight at the goalkeeper. Later, when played in behind the Hammers’ back four, he blasted a wild shot over the bar when he had to hit the target. After that he took a deep cross away from Karl Henry who seemed to be better placed for an effort on goal and Sandro subsequently shot over. Henry, who’d hardly endeared himself to a good portion of the QPR faithful with a provocative Twitter outburst in favour of the Conservative Party prior to kick off, could have won back friends and influenced people with a well-struck late volley but Adrian dived to his right and saved once more.

But did QPR do enough? Did they really deserve to win here? Given how poor West Ham have been of late, and were again in this match, and how little they had to play for relative to Rangers, can you really say anything other than “not good enough” at the end of this game and this season?

Ramsey’s tactics have won praise of late, particularly after matches with Aston Villa and Chelsea, but he seemed paralysed by a fear of defeat here rather than imbued with the urgency the situation required. A back four made up entirely of centre halves in readiness for the physical battle West Ham always offer may have been fair enough, but Henry on the left of midfield – necessary against a team as good as Chelsea – seemed a bit belt and braces for this one.

Perhaps the idea was to ensure a solid foothold was gained in the game, that Rangers weren’t out of it before they’d even got into it as happened in another London derby recently against Crystal Palace. Once that was achieved, Leroy Fer could return from injury from the bench and more attacking intent could be shown. That idea and plan has plenty of merit, but sadly the onslaught never came. Rangers got stuck in second gear, unable to find any pace or tempo in their game. A final, third substitution never came. Ramsey, and Rangers, had run out of ideas.

Phillips may have almost won the game spectacularly at the end, but he was mostly played out of the game by the wonderful Aaron Cresswell, who had been sitting at Ipswich Town and available for a couple of million quid for several years while Rangers were busy giving £65,000 a week to Jose Bosingwa and loaning in kids from Manchester United.

Cresswell actually came closer than most to winning the game – whipping a left footed free kick over the wall ten minutes after half time and drawing an excellent save from Robert Green. But that was far from West Ham’s only chance in the game. Gangly 18-year-old centre back Reece Burke, making his senior debut, saw a first half header from one of a succession of corners cleared from the line by Richard Dunne. Before half time Enner Valencia shot wide with options for a pass after shouldering Dunne off the ball far too easily. Dunne made another error in first half injury time giving Kevin Nolan a sight of goal but he struck the ball straight at Green.

Nolan is much-maligned by the West Ham fans, but loved by a manager who has signed him for three different clubs during his career. It was easy to see both points of view here. In open play, Nolan was an absolute liability - leaden footed, one-paced and incapable of passing the ball to a team mate. However, he refereed the game superbly. Never more than ten yards from Jones, and repeatedly allowed to scream in the referee’s face, it was a display of influencing match officials unrivalled by anybody other than Wayne Rooney. Twice West Ham players committed fouls worthy of yellow cards only for Jones’ attention to be distracted by Nolan bellowing at him from half a foot away – no bookings were issued. Three times Nolan himself committed a foul, and twice he was warned about his dissent, but again no yellow. Job done, as they say.

He could easily have been a victorious captain too. Robert Green, who’d spent the first half against his former club looking haunted by his mistake against Chelsea – kicking the ball with even less conviction and accuracy than usual, and remaining rooted to his line when he could have stepped forward to take pressure off defenders – rushed out of his area after half time and slid in on Stewart Downing to deny the winger a run through on goal. Credit where it’s due – fantastic goalkeeping. He should have been given no chance at all nine minutes from time though when Valencia again made a mug of Dunne and placed a sitter on a silver platter for Cheikhou Kouyate eight yards out but the Senegalese midfielder lost his footing and skied the ball over the bar.

Overall though, this was a turgid, tepid encounter that deserved to finish goalless. It was the sort of game that drained your will to live as you watched it. It was like being at work.

QPR’s players, inexplicably, seemed incapable of keeping their feet, slipping and sliding around like they’d taken to the field on roller skates. The logic of soaking the pitch immediately before kick off, and then again at half time, almost as sound as picking an overly-defensive team for a must-win home match. Young Burke managed to boot the ball out over his own cross bar from 18 yards out for a corner at one stage. In the first half Sam Allardyce ran onto the pitch to berate the referee for failing to stop the play for an injury to one of his players – ignoring the fact that West Ham had turned down the chance to kick the ball out themselves and initially played on before losing possession. In three minutes of added time the veteran manager could be seen on the touchline enthusiastically applauding as James Collins boomed a towering clearance into the main stand.

It was that kind of game, and the noise at the final whistle was more the sound of life draining from those unfortunate enough to witness it rather than any pronounced booing or cheering. QPR now require snookers.

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QPR: Green 6; Onuoha 6, Dunne 5, Caulker 6, Hill 6 (Yun 64, 6); Phillips 6, Barton 6, Sandro 6, Henry 6; Austin 5, Zamora 5 (Fer 67, 5)

Subs not used: Kranjcar, McCarthy, Taarabt, Isla, Wright-Phillips

Bookings: Austin 76 (foul)

West Ham: Adrian 8; Jenkinson 6, Collins 5, Burke 6, Cresswell 7; Jarvis 5 (Cole 55, 5), Nolan 4, Kouyate 5, Noble 6, Downing 6; Valencia 6

Subs not used: Carvalho, O’Brien, Amalfitano, Poyet, Jääskeläinen, Oxford

QPR Star Man – Joey Barton 6 By default almost. Tried to inject tempo and urgency, tried to make things happen, always looked forwards with the ball. But overall this was an insipid team display from which there were few stand-out performances.

Referee – Mike Jones (Cheshire) 5 As usual, allowed himself to be dictated to and influenced by players and managers. Zero presence, zero authority.

Attendance 18.036 (1,800 West Ham approx) An atmosphere in keeping with the game – slow to get going, died completely after the penalty miss. There was resignation in the air, an acceptance of the increasingly inevitable.

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daveB added 23:46 - Apr 26
I thought Barton and sandro both have very strong games, Barton deserved more than a 6/10 imo. Hard to disagree with anything else though, so frustrating

Northernr added 23:59 - Apr 26
Ahh the old thing with the ratings :-)

So we start with Adrian, who was clearly the man of the match. But did he deserve a 9 or a 10? Considering Radek Cerny got a 9 that night at Old Trafford, an 8 seems more realistic. The next best player on the pitch was Aaron Cresswell, but was he as good as Adrian? No, so a 7. Did Barton or Sandro play as well as Cresswell? No, so 6s.

Plus did QPR's overall performance really merit anybody getting more than a 6? I don't think so.

bacardiinbrissie added 02:34 - Apr 27
Good report mate , thanks for that.

I think i can hear some fat bird warming up her vocal chords......

francisbowles added 07:38 - Apr 27
Thanks for another accurate and realistic summary.

Others on the forum where questioning why Tarabt wasn't used as the third sub and while there is always the possibility of a 'spark' from Adel I would like to have seen Isla on for Dunne. Ned moved into the centre and Isla offering support to Phillips who found it difficult to beat his man.

parker64 added 07:43 - Apr 27
With Phillips nullified we had no outlet. No pace. Plenty of huff and puff. Really should have given AT a go.

On a sidenote I've a mate who runs an U21 side Rymans Level. Done plenty of coaching before but wanted a go at management. He said he was surpised how difficult it was to make a decision during a game when the pressure was on. Having said that don't think CR is the man to take us forward.

Red_Ranger added 08:20 - Apr 27
QPR need snookers - excellent prose 10/10.

snanker added 08:26 - Apr 27
Ultra frustration worth another 3 pts. on that effort but no favours from up above just normal luck would do but we manage to be out of even that ! Classic sign of a relegated side. I recall Sheffield Wednesday at Loftus Road with T Francis up font for the Owls running us ragged only for their keepers error gifting (I think) Colin Clarke the winner when we played woefully for a 1-0 win. They went down narrowly & I remember how stiff they'd been that day. What goes around.........! So who stays and who goes & is Ollie's garden finally sorted ?

Marshy added 08:34 - Apr 27
A season of what if's. As far as West Ham was concerned - what if Charlie would have scored the penalty. What if Dunne's goal wouldn't have been disallowed. Would the win have actually saved us from the drop anyway. The writing has been on the wall all season, and we now have to face the inevitable.

dixiedean added 10:34 - Apr 27
Great report Clive- hits the nail on the head (Sadly ) Presumably Nolan's 4 mark was for his football and not his refereeing, for which he deserved at least a 7 :) Yes, we were unlucky with the disallowed goal , but as you said, weak refs like Jones, Moss, Swarbrick, Pawson to name a few ALWAYS disallow them as it's an easy decision to give. Reading Neil's article last week on Ramsey had me thinking that he could be the man, but we've been found wanting on many occasions and can he really take us forward ? I'm having enough doubts to make me think maybe not, despite all the good things he has brought to the table and the shit squad he inherited from HR. Like francisbowles I was amazed that he didn't bring on Isla for Dunne, even at HT, and move Onuoha inside as he & Caulker together had been half decent as a pairing recently. I thought Dunne was awful - he looked what he is, an immobile defender who is not match-fit after along lay-off, so why we persevered with him is beyond me, when we needed some penetration on the wing, esp with Phillips nullified. ( I agree, Cresswell was a class act, no wonder the Filth are sniffing around him ) Disappointed that Austin let the missed pen get to him as his head visibly dropped and he stopped getting into scoring positions. The tap-in from Ned's cross was symptomatic of that - mentally he'd gone by then , if that's not being too harsh on the guy who has done more than most to keep us up. So winning at Liverpool or Man C is now essential and who can expect that ? More likely we revert to earlier away form and cling on for 70 mins before they score and heads drop. Maybe even a red for Barton if he snaps ( as he nearly did on Sat ). I fear if Dunne plays at Anfield he'll get annihilated by their movement , but would love to be proved wrong. Pity to be missing out on trips to Watford and B'mouth next season, but we'll have Brentford and Fulham but hopefully not Millwall or MK.

wrinklyhoop added 11:47 - Apr 27
Nice report as usual Clive, but 'like being at work'? You must have a pretty dire job :-(

enfieldargh added 13:33 - Apr 27
seem to remember Rob Green getting jumped into by Fortune of WBA(?) down the the school end and a goal being given.

Have watched it several times now ,Caulker was already jumping and whats more jumping from a standing position therefore in an upwards trajectory, Adrian was the one clawing at space.

This Ref and all of his ref mates would never give a goal, although at one time one did

Dando added 15:52 - Apr 27
I keep hearing from Ramsay that we will attack from the off, but im yet to see it! Long ball to Zamora each time we get the ball, and no passing and moving at all. The only time we finally got the ball down and played football, it led to the penalty. Why we dont do this more often rather than lumping it to Zamora, il never understand.

It was obvious we wouldnt win as soon as the lineup was announced. In a must win game, we played x4 center backs, 3 central defensive midfielders and a slow crock up front - against a West Ham team on terrible form, at home! Where exactly was Ramsay expecting the goals to come from?

Our bench had quality throughout, with Isla, Adel, Yun, Fer - all capable of causing West Ham damage, yet we decided to play defensively and play a central midfielder on the left wing.

Ramsay talks a perfect game, but the team selections and decisions again baffle me, and Ive seen no evidence of an improvement on the field in terms of quality - only in hard work

Burnleyhoop added 19:14 - Apr 28
If we can hang on to Fer, Sandro, Philips and Barton during the summer and ditch the dead wood, I'm already looking forward to starting next season in the Championship. Thanks for another season of insightful, detailed and humorous reports, but I just need putting out of my interminable misery.

For the record, I'm in the pro Ramsey camp. He's made some poor decisions, but deserves a fair crack of the whip, especially with Sir Les supporting him.

TacticalR added 22:32 - Apr 28
Thanks for your report.

That was two teams playing Championship football, and lower end of Championship football at that. Kouyaté and Collins were happy to play head tennis with us. We lacked the nous to create chances, and we couldn't take our chances when we they came.

Green. Starting off by slipping all over the place when taking goal kicks, but made some excellent saves. Why is it that he does a lot of the difficult things well and a lot of the simple things badly?

A key battle was between Phillips who has provided all our assists in recent games and Cresswell. Cresswell just would not let Phillips go past on the outside and get his crosses in.

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