Naïve Rangers undone at the death – report
Sunday, 16th Aug 2015 16:47 by Clive Whittingham
QPR blew a two goal lead and surrendered two points in the final minute of Saturday’s home fixture with Cardiff.
QPR, found wanting for fitness at Charlton on day one, were punished for a lack of intelligence by Cardiff City in game two.
Leading 2-1 with seconds remaining, Rangers twice made a mess of chances to hold possession at the far end of the field. First substitute striker Seb Polter took a quick throw in deep in the Cardiff half hunting a third goal, when it would have been more sensible to drop the ball, allow somebody else to take it, and get hold of the ball in open play himself. Then his fellow new-comer from the bench, Jay Emmanuel Thomas, made an even bigger pig’s ear of attempting to hold a free kick by the corner flag, losing the ball immediately and sparking a counter attack to the other end.
Having invited Cardiff to attack them the home team was punished with a smashing last minute equaliser, volleyed into the top corner from 25 yards out by Scott Malone. It was the second time the left sided defender had pulled his team level in the final seconds of a game at that end of the ground having done so for Millwall here two seasons ago.
QPR surrounded referee Simon Hooper and had very good cause to believe there had been a foul on Michael Doughty in the build-up. But they had only themselves to blame - not only had they lacked the brains to hold onto a two goal lead, but they’d missed a gilt edged chance to make it 3-1 second earlier when Emmanuel-Thomas somehow rolled a sitter wide after being played through by Polter.
Manager Chris Ramsey will hope game smarts and match fitness are all he’s got to fix up. If it’s just a lack of quality, from him and/or his players, it’s looking like a long winter ahead. The church is already restless, the team was booed from the field at full time which – much like the increasingly aggressive anti-Ramsey mood online – seems ridiculously harsh just a week into the new campaign with transfer activity still occurring.
The rookie boss could have done with a win here to settle people down. Hold on at 2-1 and people would have come away talking about a captain’s knock from Nedum Onuoha. Make it 3-1 in the last minute through Emmanuel-Thomas and, again, the mood would have been very different. Last minute howitzer’s from 30 yards can fly into the top corner on occasions if your luck’s not in. Said long hard winter is going to be a boring, ballacheing one if every set back is greeted with these mushroom clouds of rage and indignation across websites and social media. When did we become such a toxic bunch?
In an even, end to end encounter of Championship quality, QPR had long spells of dominance and others of nervous panic. Tjaronn Chery was key in the first half. Playing behind Charlie Austin in his favoured ‘number ten’ position the Dutchman looked a class apart at times and will wonder why neither Austin nor Matt Phillips was able to connect with his devilish cross through the six yard box after 38 minutes.
Clint Hill had given QPR the lead by then, heading powerfully home from Phillips’ corner three minutes earlier after Lee Peltier got a back pass all wrong and conceded the set piece needlessly in the first place.
Cardiff certainly weren’t without their chances. Alex Revell looked offside when he ran in on goal after 11 minutes and squared the ball to nobody but wasn’t flagged. Joe Ralls teased Green with a low cross from the other side which Anthony Pilkington failed to connect with. Joe Mason, the visiting team’s outstanding player, shot over after half an hour with time and space to do better.
QPR, as at Charlton, looked strong at centre half and weak at full back with neither James Perch nor Paul Konchesky covering themselves in glory. Konchesky was turned inside and out by Mason straight after half time but the Cardiff man could only toe a weak shot straight at Green having worked the space. I still think Cole Kpekawa might be worth a prolonged run in his spot. Nedum Onuoha swept in with a wonderful recovering tackle as Rangers looked ragged again after 52 minutes.
Withdrawing Chery after 55 minutes seemed premature, whatever his defensive deficiencies. In Ramsey’s defence Michael Doughty played reasonably well at the base of the midfield, looking a lot trimmer and sharper than he ever has before, and Massimo Luongo really stepped up his influence on the game after being moved in behind Austin, but it might have been nice to see Chery simply moved out wide to the left and Ben Gladwin, who struggled to make an impact on his home debut, taken off instead.
Nevertheless, chances came thick and fast for the hosts after the switch as Luongo started to pull strings.
Cardiff’s reserve goalkeeper Simon Moore, in for the suspended David Marshall and fresh from an Ademole Bankole against Fulham on day one, did well to adjust his body in mid air and keep out Matt Phillips’ deflected drive. His reward was scant – from the resulting corner Clint Hill punched the ball towards goal with his fist and Charlie Austin nudged it over the line with his forearm. Hooper looked at the incident and awarded the goal.
Russell Slade responded by sending on Kenwyne Jones for Alex Revell and after half an hour of watching the big Trinidadian crawl all over Clint Hill the home faithful could be grateful he hadn’t started the game. The impact was immediate, with Hill losing centre half Sean Morrison at a Cardiff corner leaving him free to score with a diving header.
Later Jones won a header at the back post from a deep cross and caused pandemonium in the QPR area only for a free kick to be awarded to the home side and the Cardiff fans high behind the School End goal had further cause to pick up the pitch forks and flaming torches when Rob Green came for a through ball which was never his and seemed to obviously handle it outside his area. Green patted his chest, but didn’t look like even he believed it. Remarkably, Hooper bought it and waved play on.
A series of chances to put the game to bed came and went. Luongo crossed low to Austin whose shot beat Moore but was turned onto his own post by QPR old boy Matt Connolly back on the line. Austin was a lot better than he had been at Charlton, but Connolly looked nervous on his return to Loftus Road and Rangers didn’t make enough of that. Luongo then won a clever flicked header to put Matt Phillips in on goal but he couldn’t get the ball out of his feet and ended up forcing merely a routine save from Moore.
Polter came on for Austin and introduced himself to Loftus Road by carrying the ball in behind his own back four and then almost giving it away to an onrushing collection of Cardiff players. He rode the tackle, and his luck, and carried the ball away, like an Albino Devon White. Later an ambitious shot from 30 yards out smashed a window in the old BBC Television Centre. But his ball to Emmanuel-Thomas was spot on and should have sealed the game. Rangers rued their profligacy seconds later.
Wolves on Wednesday looks daunting.
QPR: Green 5; Perch 5, Onuoha 7, Hill 6, Konchesky 5; Luongo 7, Henry 5; Phillips 6, Chery 7 (Doughty 55, 6), Gladwin 5 (Emmanuel-Thomas 76, 5); Austin 6 (Polter 68, 6)
Subs not used: Hall, Kpekawa, Faurlin, Lumley
Goals: Hill 33 (assisted Phillips), Austin 56 (assisted Phillips/Hill)
Cardiff: Moore 7; Peltier 5, Connolly 5, Morrison 6, Malone 7; Pilkington 6 (Ameobi 82, -), Dikgacoi 5 (Noone 68, 6), Whittingham 6, Ralls 7; Mason 8, Revell 5 (Jones 59, 7)
Subs not used: Fabio, Doyle, Gunnarsson, Wilson
Goals: Morrison 64 (assisted Whittingham), Malone 90 (assisted Ralls)
QPR Star Man – Massimo Luongo 7 Equally adept at the base of the midfield, and further forward creating chances. Very fine passer of the ball, intelligent player, a creative force. With better finishing he’d have ended the game with as many as three assists. Nedum Onuoha ran him close, but got caught under a through ball right at the end and could have cost us a goal there, while Chery impressed but was taken off prematurely.
Referee – Simon Hooper (Wiltshire) 5 Three poor decisions in the game, two in favour of QPR. The second goal should have been disallowed for handball, Rob Green could have been sampling the early bath water for handling outside his area, and Rangers should have had a free kick in the build up to the Cardiff equaliser. Not a good start to the season for the Premier League’s newest referee who last weekend incorrectly disallowed a Cameron Jerome goal at Norwich v Palace.
Attendance – 14,927 (1,000 Cardiff approx) Traditionally a high-tension fixture, played in front of big crowds with a hot atmosphere, this one wasn’t even helped by the later kick off and extra drinking time. More than three thousand empty seats, Cardiff failing to sell their allocation, a funereal atmosphere for the most part and Rangers were booed off at the end. Two Malaysian owned clubs now struggling to contain rampant apathy among their support bases weary of poor results and dreadful boardroom decisions.
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