Green’s latest meltdown costs QPR dearly - report
Sunday, 13th Sep 2015 15:46 by Clive Whittingham
The latest in a string of errors by goalkeeper Rob Green during 2015 cost QPR a dire Saturday lunchtime game with Nottingham Forest.
Not one for the goalkeepers. Or the QPR fans. Or the neutrals.
Sky’s typically inconsiderate decision to move QPR’s long trek up to Middlesbrough to the convenient Friday night slot so loved by the die-hard travelling away fans initially seemed to have sparked the spirit of protest in Chris Ramsey’s team against Nottingham Forest on Saturday. By way of vengeance, they served the broadcaster the most deathly dull first half of football that has been played for quite some time.
They did it by taking everything they’ve done well this season and completely disregarding it. The quick counter attacks, the powerful running of Matt Phillips, the neat interplay between Tjaronn Chery and Massimo Luongo, the big numbers committed to the attack – all gone. In their stead, a painfully ineffective long ball game with one punt down the field following the next with monotonous regularity.
Forest fielded Matt Mills at centre back – a player uncomfortable with the ball and without it, who doesn’t like players running at him, past him or around him. Other than feigning injury and screaming at match officials, all Matt Mills ever has been able to do reasonably well is head long balls away down the field. Here, with only an isolated and visibly frustrated Charlie Austin for company, he needn’t have changed out of his club suit. Ball punted long, Mills wins header, Forest have ball back. Over and over and over again. It became weird. Why were QPR playing like this?
Scheduled to clip BT’s growing audience for its Saturday lunchtime Premier League fare, only the mentally ill would have stuck with this to the end if they weren’t afflicted with a passion for either team. Insurance seminars, sales conferences, visits from Jehovah’s Witnesses, calls from political phone banks, Brendan Rodgers press conferences, Jose Mourinho’s war of words – they had nothing on this. I made three notes in the first 30 minutes – an injury, a yellow card, and something about the planes being silhouetted against a warm September sun. I wanted to peel my face off and throw it onto the pitch, one so I wouldn’t have to watch the game anymore, and two to see if I could still actually feel pain.
Debutant centre half Gabrielle Angella beat me too it. One of the few players to make a bright start to the game, he suffered a horrific cut to the head after nine minutes and although he tried to play on, the bleeding couldn’t be stemmed and he was replaced by Grant Hall. Angella angrily protested to referee Keith Hill that an elbow had been used illegally against him, and the physical evidence was certainly strong, but the officials were unmoved.
Hill did, however, rush quickly onto the scene and issue a yellow card to James Perch for the best tackle of the game on 20 minutes. Crunching into Ryan Mendes, Perch took the ball cleanly and roused the crowd from their slumber. It was exactly what the game needed to spark into life and it was clamped down on and punished immediately. Less of that sort of thing please, back in your box.
Perch quickly reverted to type, sucked out into no man’s land and spun by young Tyler Walker who subsequently had time and space to get a shot away from 20 yards but missed the target – the full back’s lack of form since joining QPR is a growing concern. Still, after half an hour, we’d at least seen our first shot on the goal, and when Rangers failed to track Eric Lichaj’s run from right back he had a clear sight of goal but shot straight at Green. Charlie Austin, meanwhile, launched an ambitious left footed volley well wide but he spent much of the first half in heated dialogue with his own bench.
Austin’s angry pointing and shouting towards the touchline wasn’t the only oddity about this game. The early kick offs often have a lethargy about them but this was something else. QPR paired Karl Henry with another debutant Daniel Tozser as the two deep lying midfielders but they were too one-paced and one-dimensional. Tozser sprayed some nice passes around at times but looked leggy while Henry had his worst game of the season. Between them there was no drive, pace, thrust or tempo. It made the whole team laboured as a result. Massimo Luongo, after circumnavigating the globe on international duty last week, worked tirelessly but his combination with Chery wasn’t there. Matt Phillips was completely anonymous. On three separate occasions Paul Konchesky had time and space to bring a ball down and pass it to a team mate, but panicked and simply headed it ten yards down the field to a Forest player – zero composure, zero communication. This was every bit as bad as the second half at Charlton on the opening day and Rangers' worst performances this season continue to come when Ale Faurlin isn’t part of the midfield. Ruled out with a knee knock here, the problems caused by his absence is a a conundrum Chris Ramsey is yet to solve.
And then there were the pass backs. All the pass backs. One after another, lazily played back to Rob Green rather than forward in search of greater reward. This would perhaps make sense if Rob Green can kick, or QPR had a centre forward winning his headers against the opposition defenders, but neither of those things were true. It was essentially like passing the ball straight back to Forest as one lame kick after another floated gently to an opposition player, or out for a throw in. It was the one pass QPR completed more than any other, back to their own goalkeeper, and their obsession with it would haunt them later in the game, as it almost did in the first half in what should have served as a warning to the dopy custodian. Whatever happened to Chris Ramsey’s “play on the front foot” mantra which he’s trotted out, and mostly abided by, since taking charge?
Forest were livelier and sharper while offering zero goal threat. Henri Lansbury and David Vaughan were the outstanding midfielders on view, but there was little going on ahead of them. Convoluted movements from the Lennie Lawrence play book designed to free Mills at the back post from attacking free kicks and corners persistently came to nothing due to the lousy standard of the delivery. Chris O’Grady seemed too preoccupied with the rough and tumble of the game’s physical side to actually get on the end of a ball and have an attempt at goal.
Chery’s turn in the area and blocked shot after good approach work from Luongo, and then a header wide from the Australian international after the R’s had finally put a good move together and Tozser had freed Phillips to cross, gave hope of better to come in the second half. Those hopes would have been extinguished had Lansbury’s searing 25 yarder nestled into the top corner instead of flying fractionally wide straight after the restart, and Hall was lucky to escape a booking for body-checking Mendes on the corner of the area as he threatened to work space for a shot, but QPR did indeed start to play a little bit after that.
Tozser’s ability to pick out a classy ball with his left foot worked Perch in round the back for a free header at goal from the corner of the six yard box which he made an embarrassing mess of. Nedum Onuoha, up from the back, cracked a first time shot wide after meeting a low corner flush on the volley. Chery and Luongo were closer together now, more in support of Austin, obviously trying to inject some urgency into affairs. It was better.
There was, nevertheless, a debt of gratitude owed to visiting goalkeeper Dorus De Vries, who has unhappy memories of this ground and Adel Taarabt from his time with Swansea, over the manner of the opening goal. Charlie Austin’s shot after the hour was firmly struck, and dipped in front of the goal, but no keeper worth his salt should have allowed it to squirm through him and in. Five goals this season for Austin now.
For all the toil and drudgery of the first half, it looked and felt like QPR would now go onto win the game. Forest had been better with the ball, but seemed to lack the belief that they could score goals and take something from the game – when Jamie Ward got clear of Perch in the penalty area and the QPR man lost his footing he hesitated and allowed Perch to toe it out off his shins for a goal kick while laid on the floor. Having sent Dutch midfielder Kyle Ebecilio on for former R Michael Mancienne after 52 minutes, visiting boss Dougie Freedman then removed him after 69 to send on new loaning signing Castro Oliveira. It felt like they were scratching around for ideas having been the better team for long periods.
But QPR were to come bearing gifts. There was just 18 minutes left for play when Onuoha first allowed a ball down the left touchline to bounce when he could have dealt with it in the air, and then sent the latest in a long line of overly-casual, lazy pass backs to Green – this one airborne and bouncing. Green dallied and panicked and pisballed about with it just long enough for O’Grady to take it from him and hit the deck under the resulting challenge. The poor quality of the goalkeeper’s play was compounded by his stupid professional foul costing his team not only an equaliser but a player for the remainder of the game – O’Grady had actually toed the ball a fair distance past Green so had he let him get on with it the very worst that would have happened was a goal, and it might not even have been that.
Green is neither as good as his fans say he is, nor is he as bad as his critics make out. What is certain though is that since the turn of the year he's cost us goals against Spurs and Hull by coming for crosses he was never getting anywhere near (two points), Charlton and Arsenal by being beaten softly at his near post (one point) and Chelsea and Forest with his lousy kicking/distribution (four points). That's a goal a month once you take the summer out of the equation. You cannot have your goalkeeper costing you a goal a month, particularly when you're paying so much money to have him there.
This all plunged Alex Smithies into a difficult league debut for the club – first facing a rasping penalty from Lansbury that nearly lifted the net off the back of the posts as it flew in, and then having to play for the final quarter of an hour with all those opening night nerves, behind a side that had been lacklustre with 11 men and seemed to completely give up with ten.
The decision to remove Luongo to get the keeper on was probably premeditated – Luongo has been to Australia and Tajikistan and back this week, a journey of some 18,000 miles for two football games in four days, so was always likely to be removed early. But in doing so Ramsey removed the team’s most energetic, effective player. For all the miles, he didn’t look any more jaded than Toszer, any less effective than Chery or Phillips, and he was a million times better than Karl Henry who was presumably left on to protect the back four but did nothing of the sort in a dire performance. A third substitution went unused until four minutes from time when Ben Gladwin came on, when the team looked to be crying out for fresh legs and Michael Doughty’s energy could have made a difference.
Easy to sit at the back and throw bottles, play the Monday morning quarterback and pretend that I’ve got all the answers when I don’t know the first thing about it, but I’ve thought Ramsey has been a little slow and dithering with his substitutions previously this season and he was again here in my opinion.
Smithies is going to take a while to settle. Huddersfield born, Huddersfield fan, been at Huddersfield since he was eight, never played for anybody but Huddersfield, now suddenly moving to London, just after his wife has had a baby, playing for a former Premier League club with big expectations… He’s been put into one cup game with the youth team and then slung on in a poor performance to face a penalty and 20 minutes with 10 men. He looked bloody terrified here, hesitating to come and collect a bouncing through ball that was obviously his causing terror in the defence and allowing Ryan Mendes to shoot fractionally wide.
Forest smelt blood, and sure enough a second goal arrived soon after the first. Oliviera, fresh from the bench, made the most of first Phillips and Henry standing and watching a ball go past them in midfield, then Konchesky flying out of position to win a header that he missed, and finally Grant Hall – who’d actually played quite well – allowing himself to be turned. Still, Smithies will be disappointed he let the Portuguese’s weak shot squirm through him and in.
Later he did make a save, albeit a nervy one, as Forest flooded forward in search of a third. Rangers had gone by this stage. The home team wouldn’t have scored if they were still playing now and the remaining time dragged by with referee Hill suddenly being needlessly picky about the placing of free kicks and throw ins, and making sure every he had the correct name, address and national insurance numbers in his notebook for the carding of first Lansbury for kicking the ball away and then O’Grady for his persistent fouling.
A generous six minutes of added time at the end of the game should have offered hope of a late rally, but QPR didn’t manage a shot in anger and it merely served as further punishment for the 15,424 poor bastards who had to sit through this absolute dirge.
QPR: Green 3; Perch 5, Onuoha 6, Angella 7 (Hall 32, 6), Konchesky 5; Tozser 6 (Gladwin 86, -), Henry 4; Chery 5, Luongo 6 (Smithies 73, 4), Phillips 5; Austin 5
Subs not used: Hill, Emmanuel-Thomas, Doughty, Hoilett
Goals: Austin 65 (unassisted)
Red Cards: Green 71 (Idiocy)
Bookings: Perch 20 (“foul”)
Forest: De Vries 4; Lichaj 6, Mills 6, Wilson 6, Pinillos 6; Mancienne 5 (Ebecilio 52 4 (Oliveira 69, 7)) Vaughan 7, Lansbury 7, Mendes 6; Walker 6 (Ward 45, 6), O’Grady 5
Subs not used: Blackstock, Hobbs, Evtimov, Burke
Goals: Lansbury 73 (penalty won O’Grady), Oliveira 81 (assisted Mendes)
Bookings: Lansbury 87 (kicking ball away), O’Grady 90 (repetitive fouling)
QPR Star Man – Massimo Luongo 6 Angella started well but went off injured after half an hour. Luongo the only real source of energy and drive after that, removed prematurely even allowing for his travels this week.
Referee – Keith Hill (Hertfordshire) 6 One big decision in a tepid game and he got that right. Thought he got a bit picky near the end, doing Forest’s time wasting for them not that they really needed to be wasting time given QPR’s lack of threat. Generous to let Hall off without a yellow at the start of the second half, and Lansbury on 71 for a bad foul on Chery. The Perch booking is a joke, but that’s more a problem with the rules and the way the sport has developed than the referee himself.
Attendance – 15, 424 (1,800 Forest approx) My sympathies to you all.
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