Free-scoring QPR mark Stan Bowles day with a win - report
Sunday, 23rd Aug 2015 21:58 by Clive Whittingham
On a day dedicated to the mercurial genius of Stan Bowles, QPR ended a good week with a 4-2 win against Rotherham at Loftus Road.
Queens Park Rangers never made things easy on themselves, even in Stan Bowles’ day. The club’s greatest ever team was denied the league title it deserved in 1975/76 by an Easter defeat at Norwich and a March draw at relegation-haunted Sheffield United – Liverpool snatched it from them, winning at Wolves nearly a fortnight after the end of the regular campaign.
On Saturday the club came together off the pitch to pay tribute to Bowles and raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society following his recent diagnosis. On the field, in true Stanley style, they beat Rotherham United once, and then beat them again just for good measure.
The Millers have the division’s smallest budget and lowest average attendance. They staved off relegation last season, despite having three points deducted for fielding an ineligible player, but they’re the favourites to make the drop this time as they continue to scratch around trying to put a competitive squad together.
They had one point from three matches prior to kick off here and would have been forgiven for feeling daunted by playing a former Premier League team with Charlie Austin and Matt Phillips still present leading the attack. But manager Steve Evans, whose choice of a dark suit to cover his substantial mass seemed bold on a scorching hot day in Shepherd’s Bush, hasn’t made his reputation, or achieved consecutive promotions with Rotherham, by rolling over or fawning for anyone.
Austin setting Phillips away down the right inside the first ten seconds, forcing a corner which Grant Hall headed over, suggested the R’s were well in the mood but actually, initially, it seemed they had fallen into the “it’s only Rotherham” trap.
The play was slow and laboured, in stark contrast to Wednesday night’s thrilling win at Wolves. Had QPR attacked here as they did at Molineux they could have achieved any score they liked, but instead it was always another needless touch, always an extra unnecessary pass. Everything moved so slowly it allowed the visitors to get back into defensive shape on the rare occasions they’d been pulled out of it. Charlie Austin, stung by unprofessional comments about the state of his knee from pornographer and part time surgeon David Sullivan during the week, seemed to be determined to prove his point by smacking one in from 25 yards out, but his numerous attempts to achieve that in the first half suited Rotherham.
Paul Konchesky needed to be alert and get back at Jonson Clarke Harris in the tenth minute after Rotherham knocked a cleared corner back into the danger area while the crowd were busy acclaiming Bowles with a standing ovation – how typically QPR would it have been to concede a goal while that was going on? Two minutes later Emmanuel Ledesma, who once scored a hat trick on this ground so good (against mighty Carlisle) the club made a special commemorative t-shirt about it, got in at the back post from another corner but poked the ball straight at Green.
Scenting blood in the water, Rotherham pressed again and should have scored just before the half hour when James Perch misjudged Joe Newell’s ball down the line, allowing Clarke-Harris to run in behind him and put the first goal on a plate for Matt Derbyshire in the six yard box. Derbyshire, who scored twice for Nottingham Forest on his last visit to this ground, somehow failed to find the target. Perch continues to disappoint.
A flicked header from Hall only needed a touch from Austin to convert it into the first goal when Phillips took a free kick from wide left but the natives were starting to shift uncomfortably in their seats.
They were settled by an opening goal of fabulous quality just before half time. Tjaronn Chery started the move in his own half, winning the ball back and setting a fluid move in motion that included a fine pass to the right from Ale Faurlin, and sprint down the line and low cross from Perch, and clever touch off from Austin and a finish into the far corner of the net from the Dutchman. Chery’s first for the club, a fillip for Perch, a blessed relief and an indication of just how attractive and effective this QPR attack can be when it clicks.
While Bowles danced in the sprinklers and his mate Don Shanks told the old stories at half time, Chris Ramsey was below decks pointing out what a difference a bit of pace and tempo can make to the attack.
Message received, his team went two goals up three minutes into the second period with Austin’s clever flick setting Luongo away down the right to a cut a ball back for Chery to sweep into an unguarded net. Luongo picking a QPR player out in an empty penalty area made a refreshing change from his predecessors failing to find anyone in a crowded box. He’s some player.
Rotherham complained long and hard to referee Dean Whitestone in the aftermath. The move had begun with a free kick awarded for a nothing foul by Clarke-Harris on Perch in the Rangers half of the field – an incredibly generous decision, one that Rotherham and their walking heart attack on the touchline, with some justification, feel go against them far too often at this level.
Whitestone later let Karl Henry off without a card for a bad foul on Ledesma but Austin was booked for a wild tackle on Grant Ward. The striker seemed to be in a funny mood. His flick round the corner for Luongo in the run up to the second goal was sublime, but afterwards he turned away from the action and stood still while the attack developed. The foul smacked of frustration, like his long range shots in the first half, but his determination to get a goal did bring a third on the hour as he brought a goal kick out of the air brilliantly on his chest, turned Danny Collins and then finished low under Kelle Roos – the keeper on loan from Derby County should have been able to save it blindfolded.
Chris Ramsey was criticised for making changes too soon against Cardiff a week ago but here, as at Wolves in the week, he seemed slow to act. In the heat, Rangers began to wilt, taking their eye off the ball and allowing Rotherham back in. Austin, who had been on the end of some physical treatment playing as the lone striker, seemed to rather clock out of the game altogether, with a lot of walking around and prolonged discussions with the bench. It all felt slightly odd really.
Ale Faurlin, making his first Loftus Road appearance since a third ACL rupture in as many years, literally fell in a hole – conceding possession and setting a Rotherham attack in motion which ended with Clarke-Harris riding a wild challenge from Hall and curling the ball in from the edge of the box. Earlier he’d headed wide at the near post when it seemed easier to score and minutes later Faurlin lost his footing again and Rotherham attacked once more.
The game seemed to be crying out for Michael Doughty and Mad Seb Polter long before they were both introduced to try and wrest control of the match back from the visitors. Even then Rotherham were able to add a second through their own substitute Tom Thorpe who stole in unmarked at the back post to tap in a corner that had been allowed to fly right through the goal mouth three minutes from time.
A comfortable win and stroll in the sun had been turned into a nervous farce. Suddenly Rangers were watching the clock. Luckily, Polter took the matter in hand and drove into the penalty area in his own unique style, never once looking like he had the ball under control or knew what he was doing, before hitting the deck under pressure from Lee Frecklington. Rangers had been denied a penalty earlier when Austin was apparently tripped after picking up on Luongo’s flick, but Whitestone pointed to the spot this time. Polter seemed keen to take the kick himself – penalty taking being the German national sport after all – but Austin was having none of it and calmly rolled the ball home to win the match all over again.
Rangers are conceding two goals a game, but have scored nine times in three games this week alone. It’s all in stark contrast to the way QPR started their last Championship season, grinding their way through on monotonous, low scoring game after another. Back then, when the defence did start to leak slightly, there wasn’t the attack to rescue it, the team totally reliant on Charlie Austin who injured his shoulder. This time the forwards look a formidable prospect, pending departures of course.
Chris Ramsey said in his programme notes the team will “live and die” by this style of play that commits bodies to attacks but can leave the defence exposed. This week they’re living and entertaining, like the great man himself.
QPR: Green 6; Perch 6, Hall 6, Onuoha 6, Konchesky 6; Faurlin 6 (Doughty 77, 6), Henry 5; Luongo 7 (Polter 82, -), Chery 8 (Kpekawa 90+2, -), Phillips 7; Austin 7
Subs not used: Hill, Emmanuel-Thomas, Hoilett, Smithies
Goals: Chery 42 (assisted Perch/Austin), 50 (assisted Luongo), Austin 63 (unassisted), 90 (penalty – won Polter)
Bookings: Austin 61 (foul)
Rotherham: Roos 4; Buxton 6, Halford 6, Collins 5, Newell 6; Frecklington 6, Smallwood 5 (Thorpe 45, 6), Ward 5 (Maguire 78, 5), Ledesma 5 (White 68, 5); Clarke Harris 6, Derbyshire 5
Subs not used: D Ward, Green, Rawson, Collin
Goals: Clarke Harris 72 (assisted Frecklington), Thorpe 87 (assisted Newell/Collins)
Bookings: Buxton 68 (foul), Maguire 78 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Tjaronn Chery 8 Seemed to be playing more off the left here, as opposed to the number ten position he’s occupied so far, and revelled in the extra space with his first two goals for the club. Forming a really exciting combination with Massimo Luongo which, if Matt Phillips remains one side of it and, who knows, maybe even Charlie Austin ahead of it should be as good as anything in this division.
Referee – Dean Whitestone (Northants) 6 Fairly standard Championship refereeing performance. Rotherham were rightly aggrieved at the very generous free kick awarded to QPR before the second goal, and that Karl Henry escaped a booking for a bad foul in the second half. QPR felt they should have had a penalty for a foul on Austin, but I’m inclined to agree with the referee that the defender played the ball.
Attendance – 15,009 (500 Rotherham approx) A small following from Rotherham, but they were very gracious in their applause for Stan Bowles and will have won many friends in W12, if not points. Some really lovely moments all round on a very well organised day by the club.
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Pictures – Action Images
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