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Second half rally papers first half cracks – report
Thursday, 17th Sep 2015 23:23 by Clive Whittingham

QPR turned in a second poor performance at Loftus Road in four days on Wednesday night, leaving them to salvage a draw with winless Blackburn Rovers.

In a league where Brighton win every week, Rotherham lose every match, and everybody else in between leathers seven shades out of each other for an almost entirely equal split of points, QPR are fitting right in.

Three wins, two draws and two defeats from seven matches is an entirely fair reflection of their wildly inconsistent start to 2015/16. Not only are QPR fans struggling to work out whether this squad of players and coaching staff are any good, they’re not even sure which incarnation of them is going to turn up from one game to the next.

Those who arrived at a sodden Loftus Road on Wednesday night for the visit of Blackburn hoping desperately it wouldn’t be the feckless, aimless, long-ball-punting bunch who’d contrived to blow a winning position against Nottingham Forest at the weekend got their wish, though not in the way they’d have wanted. This lot were even worse.

An early head injury to one-time QPR transfer target Tommy Spurr, suffered defending the first corner of the game inside the opening 30 seconds, delayed the game for the thick end of six minutes but rather than knock the visitors out of their stride the enforced change and concerns about their friend’s health seemed to galvanise Rovers. Without a win all season, but determined not to repeat the mistake they’d made across the borough on Sunday morning when they allowed Fulham to run all over them for the first hour before finally kicking into life with 30 minutes left only to find the game over, they took the game to Rangers from the off and completely dominated it.

They opened the scoring after 13 minutes which, given the injury to Spurr, was actually more like the fifth. Craig Conway was fouled by Matt Phillips wide on the Rovers left. Whether there was enough in the challenge to warrant him tucking his legs behind his back and leaping into the air while letting out an ear splitting scream became a moot point as he stood up immediately and delivered a free kick to the far post where centre back Shane Duffy climbed well above Alex Smithies, making his first league start in goal for the R’s in place of the suspended Robert Green, and headed down into the unguarded net.

The television replays, taken from the Ellerslie Road side of the ground, don’t show Duffy’s arm across Smithies’ collarbone, and you’d get a free kick for it seven or eight times out of ten but, as were to find out, referee Darren Deadman was in an eccentric mood and the goal stood. Overall it was poor defending and goalkeeping, just because it would usually be given as a foul doesn’t mean it should be or was. Smithies was booked for protesting his case.

The response from the home side was non-existent. Smithies nervously parried a long range shot from Conway a minute later and the rebound was bundled out for a corner. A goal mouth scramble ensued when giant Blackburn eight Fode Koita wasn’t flagged offside when he should have been – assistant referee on the Ellerslie Road side Carl Fitch started poorly and fell away from there – and Rangers just about managed to get the ball behind in the ensuing melee. Within four minutes Daniel Tozser had given the ball away in midfield, Jordan Rhodes had turned inside the heavily bandaged Gabrielle Angella and Nedum Onouha was required to charge back and save a second goal with a firm tackle.

None of this stirred any signs of life from Chris Ramsey’s team, and the natives were growing increasingly restless as Blackburn flooded forward scenting greater reward. Perch tackled Rhodes in the area after a poor first touch let the striker down when left in space once more. Angella poked the ball over his own bar when Conway got free down the left and crossed again. It was one way traffic and Smithies had to redeem his early error with the save of the match in seven minutes of first half injury time, flinging himself left to make a fabulous point blank stop when his old Huddersfield team mate Rhodes thought he’d scored and was already half celebrating. Thankfully Smithies, who’d stuck to safety first punches after the early error which met with unhelpful vocal criticism from the Loft End, grew into the game from that point on had a decent second half with plenty of tempo-lifting throws and dangerous kicks down the field the likes of which Robert Green has only read about in books.

Threats at the other end had been minimal. Tjaronn Chery’s 40 yard free kick which went bouncing off towards Acton summed it all up. At times it seemed as though Massimo Luongo was playing as a conventional striker, further ahead of Charlie Austin in a front two set up. He received precious little of the ball as a result. Chery and Phillips were more conventional wingers, coming in field looking for scraps and finding nothing. The whole thing was broken, and it was built on a fractured central midfield.

If what we’ve seen in the last two games against Forest and Blackburn is Karl Henry protecting the defence, I’d hate to see him exposing it. Miles off the pace of the game once more, he lunges dangerously into the few tackles he does get close enough to making, and concedes possession remorselessly with little chipped balls down the middle of the field that offer an open invitation to opposition centre halves to pile right through the back of Austin in attack. Grant Hanley and Duffy have never had it so good as they did in the first half on Wednesday. Daniel Tozser may be a fine player, his performances at Watford certainly suggest so, but after no pre-season at all it felt a bit much to subject him to another 90 minutes here, especially as he too seemed woefully short of the pace of the match. Consequently QPR weren’t able to set any tempo, and Blackburn totally dominated the ball and the middle of the park.

This 45 minutes of football from QPR harked back to the very darkest days of the Flavio Briatore era, when a disparate collection of demoralised rich boys produced a half of football on this ground against Ipswich Town that the manager of the time Mick Hardford described as “inept” and not befitting a professional football club. There wasn’t a single positive. It was a shambles.

But for all that it was only 1-0. Chris Ramsey uses his substitutions slowly and sparingly, if he uses them at all, and while the untrained eye would have perhaps been tempted to get one or both of Ale Faurlin and Michael Doughty on and into the centre of the park as early as the twentieth minute with the shape of the team melting away before our very eyes, the QPR head coach was unmoved throughout the first half and, surprisingly, during half time as well.

Perhaps he’d seen enough in Charlie Austin’s immaculate control, clever work of space and delicate chipped cross that put an equaliser on a plate for Chery in the first half injury ice age to suggest there was more to come – even though Chery headed over from close range.

A quarter of an hour of frank exchanges and 30 seconds more football later, Rangers were level. Starting the half with vim and tempo that had been entirely absent during the first half they worked Charlie Austin into space in the area and although visiting keeper Jason Steele saved the first effort well QPR’s top scorer smashed the rebound in via a defender on the line from an acute angle.

QPR were a different team. Suddenly there was purpose and shape to them. Matt Phillips, embarrassingly anonymous during the first half, got going at his full back; Massimo Luongo dropped deeper and got more involved; the central midfield, while still a problem, stepped up the field and closed the gap between the attack and the defence leading to better football. Twice they crafted decent moves, first through Phillips and Luongo for Chery to shoot wide, then through Austin and Phillips for Luongo to inexplicably try another gratuitous pass in the penalty area when clean through on goal with all the time he needed to finish. Jamie Mackie had emerged from the bench by then, on for Chery, and was the target for the pass. Overall it was better.

But there were a couple of sub plots to what was now a typically fraught and entertaining Championship drama. The first was at the other end where Jordan Rhodes and Fode Koita were seeing less of the ball, but were nevertheless an omnipresent threat. Koita, in particular, showing what can be unearthed on a free transfer when under a transfer embargo and forced to scout properly, crawling all over Onuoha and Angella all night in a fantastic display of point man play. The muscular Frenchman, signed from Caen for nothing in the summer, won a big header in the middle of the park on the hour to leave Rhodes one on one with a leaden footed Onuoha with predictable consequences. The touch, flick over the defender’s head, and finish absolutely sublime, worthy of a greater stage. Two one now. It was something of a relief when Rovers boss Gary Bowyer took Koita off and sent on Nathan Delfouneso near the end – more an act of charity to the beleaguered centre halves than a substitution.

The other was the performance of referee Darren Deadman, and his assistant on the Ellerslie Road side of the ground Carl Fitch.

Now, Darren Deadman always has refereed matches in the manner of a man who detests football so much that he dedicated his life to qualifying and progressing in a part-time profession that allows him to ruin it for people who do enjoy it one match at a time. Even if you give him the benefit of the doubt for the first goal – which I’m inclined to do – there were signs in the first half that he was going to have one of his really special evenings.

Midway through the half Charlie Austin came across to the bench for another pair of boots to cope better with the slippery surface. He didn’t, initially, leave the pitch and started to change his footwear by the touchline but a row ensued with fourth official Iain Williamson who insisted he leave the field to complete the task. New boots on, Austin attempted to return to action only to be grabbed by Williamson in an attempt to stop him doing so and an unseemly scuffle ensued. Having ignored the official, Austin was swiftly yellow carded and told to leave the field and stand on the touchline for the thick end of three minutes while play went on surrounded in an increasingly irate atmosphere.

Turns out, buried deep within the rules, is a line about leaving the field for any equipment changes, and not being allowed back on until the ball is dead, unlike “injured” players who are waved back on at the drop of a hat. Darren Deadman loves the letter of the law more than Rick Waller loves chocolate cake and so despite it making absolutely no sense whatsoever to not allow a swift change of boots while the play was at the other end and get on with it, everything was applied absolutely correctly and pedantically.

It completely lacked common sense, game management, people skills, feel for the game or brains, but it was to be the only thing Deadman got right all evening. He and Fitch presided over a second half – which they turned up late for - so farcical it actually drilled all the way through incompetent, scandalous and unprofessional and emerged from the other side into hilarious.

As well as booking Austin for his footwear incident, and Smithies for querying the first goal, he also showed a yellow to Danny Guthrie for a nothing tackle, wide on the left touchline, 60 yards from the goal, that at first he didn’t actually seem as if he was going to give as a foul. Five minutes later, when Grant Hanley cynically, deliberately (professionally) interrupted a counter attack with a foul in the centre circle, Deadman emerged onto the scene making ‘calm down’ gestures and let him away with a warning. At the end of the half James Perch arrived just in time to divert a dangerous low cross behind his own goal with Blackburn players hunting a second goal. Deadman awarded a goal kick.

Things only went downhill once the game actually became competitive after half time. Shortly after equalising QPR worked Karl Henry into space in the area and he struck a goalbound effort to try and make it 2-1. Olsson, Spurr’s replacement, in desperation, flung himself at the shot with both arms stretched high above his head and successfully palmed the ball aside. A fabulous save. Deadman, behind the play, appallingly positioned, looked for help from Fitch who flagged for a corner.

The intricacies of the footwear rules, and who’s allowed to change what boots where, may be Deadman’s specialist subject on Mastermind, but the handball rules seem a bit blurry. Later, under pressure from Jamie Mackie, Adam Henley lost his footing, realised he was in trouble, and caught the ball in two hands three yards prior to sliding over the dead-ball line.

You’d have forgiven the players for thinking we’d switched sports, and gathering behind the posts to wait for the conversion attempt. Deadman, again poorly positioned, again looked across to Fitch – right on the other side of the field – decided a corner was appropriate. He then stood and, with an authority only a person with a chronic lack of self-awareness could muster, explained carefully to Jamie Mackie that what he, and everybody else, though they’d seen wasn’t actually the case at all.

Later Mackie dribbled the ball down the opposite touchline only for the flag to be raised for a throw in. Balls crossing white lines, like hand ball, also not a strong suit it seems. On an increasingly hostile side of the ground, Fitch had gone to pieces completely now. It was as if somebody had been roped in off the street and given the job. “I don’t really know a lot about football.” “Doesn’t matter, stand over there and wave this thing.” “When?” “Well, whenever you like really.” Either that or he’d engaged in a sort of assistant referee limbo dance where he was experimenting with just how low he could go.

The celebrations that followed Nedum Onuoha’s equaliser – a powerful back post header from a deep corner 11 minutes from time – were all the more raucous as a result. A subsequent free kick awarded against Onuoha for a foul on the Blackburn keeper raised wry smiles.

But it wasn’t Deadman’s fault QPR were poor here, nor that they’ve only picked up one point from six home games. Despite the improvements in the second half, it seemed odd that Rangers finished a game they’d been second best in for so long with two unused substitutions – particularly with the centre of the midfield in apparent need of emergency surgery from the first minute to the last.

Trying to make sense of QPR or the Championship at the moment is like knitting fog. Rangers, like everybody else at this level, are going to win games they should lose and vice versa. But there are two distinct patterns emerging that, on the evidence of the last two home matches, are far from a coincidence.

QPR have conceded two goals in every league game they’ve played so far this season bar one – away at Huddersfield, which is the only match so far where Michael Doughty replaced Karl Henry in midfield from the start. Rangers have won three times out of seven games in the league – the three matches Ale Faurlin has started in central midfield.

The team selection at Hull on Saturday could well be more interesting than the match.

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

QPR: Smithies 6; Perch 6, Onuoha 5, Angella 6, Konchesky 5; Henry 4, Toszer 5; Phillips 6, Chery 5 (Mackie 68, 6), Luongo 6; Austin 7

Subs not used: Hall, Hill, Gladwin, Lumley, Doughty, Faurlin

Goals: Austin 46 (assisted Luongo), Onuoha 79 (assisted Tozser)

Yellow Cards: Smithies 13 (dissent), Austin 27 (dodgy boots)

Blackburn: Steele 6; Henley 5, Duffy 7, Hanley 7, Spurr – (Olsson 8, 5); Marshall 6 (lawrence 89, -), Guthrie 6, Evans 6, Conway 7; Koita 8 (Delfouneso 82, -), Rhodes 7

Subs not used: Kilgallon, O’Sullivan, Akpan, Raya

Goals: Duffy 13 (assisted Conway), Rhodes 60 (assisted Steele/Koita)

Yellow Cards: Henley 40 (foul), Guthrie 51 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Charlie Austin 7 Better body language, fantastic work rate, another goal. The main reason QPR didn’t lose the game.

Referee – Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire) 2 A dreadful referee refereeing dreadfully.

Attendance – 14,007 (400 Blackburn approx) Looked to be fewer than that, with the Phillip Beard Family Stand looking a particularly stupid idea on a soaking wet school night leaving QPR to attack banks of empty seats in the second half. Atmosphere got going a bit after half time as the team rallied and the officiating deteriorated. An angry response to a dreadful, shambolic first half performance was entirely understandable.

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extratimeR added 00:08 - Sep 18
Thanks Clive

Very spot on and very funny!

Deadman must be an early candidate for the Mr Singh/Rob Stiles appalling Ref of the year award.

Where do you start, nailed on penalty? picking the ball up and running off down South Africa Road?

Correct about Karl Ready, big fan last year, but very "leggy" at the moment, yard off the pace, lucky with one tackle, another yard, could have been a red, time for Doubty.

As for the midfield "formation" I have absolutely no idea whatsoever who is supposed to be doing what, or to whom.

steveB66 added 08:06 - Sep 18
Great report and amusing as ever Clive.

I am vociferous but not lent to picking fights with fellow Rangers fans...however, having repeated almost verbatim your comments about Henry and added that my feelings were that Mr Ramsey should be replacing Mr Henry with Mr Faurlin some church mouse of a bloke who for five years I had not even noticed had sat behind me told me shut up and added that he had to listen to my dross every week.

Having witnessed, even by our standards, two of the most frustrating games of the last few years my blood by now doth boil over. I told the bloke what I thought of him and that he ought to show some passion himself.

Some people do just like to sit and watch in silence and some are loud and outspoken. I fit in to the second category but am not a serial moaner. If I am paying fifty quid for two tickets and the bloke out there getting paid twenty five thousand pound a week is not performing I reserve the right to deal out some stick.

All in all the QPR of the last two home games have been painful to watch and need to remember a football match consists of two halves and not just one.

GetMeRangers added 08:11 - Sep 18
I am sure I am not alone, looking to the Ellerslie Road ref when we scored, have expecting a flag for some imaginary reason.
The saving grace of a poor referee and lino was that the crowd had someone to focus their anger at an abysmal first half

Blue_Castello added 08:51 - Sep 18
Great report as usual it has been interesting reading other people's views on the Blackburn first goal because from where we were sitting in R block it looked as if Smithies got both hands on the ball and was fouled, if we were not imagining those details then in anybody's book the goal should have been disallowed.

The last paragraph to me is the most important when summing up the match, the combination of Henry and Toszer is not working even though we improved in the second half, how many games will it take for Ramsey to realise Henry is now a liability and he has a youth team player who could do a better job. Last season Henry looked OK in a few games in the Premiership but his career looks at the Rio Ferdinand stage now, Kenny Jackett got rid of him because of a reason and even Redcrap gave up on him, Barton as a person is without doubt a complete tosser but he was making up for Henry's deficiencies on the pitch without getting any credit.

As you correctly predicted that Ref was a numb nuts of the highest order, what he needed was a linesman who had the cojones to make a decision, it certainly made an interesting atmosphere on our side of the ground

wrinklyhoop added 09:45 - Sep 18
Thanks! Great piece as always Clive. Deadman really is up there with Gurnan Singh and Rob Styles!!

Marshy added 09:54 - Sep 18
Without doubt one of the worst first half delays we have witnessed for a long time. Add that to shambolic refereeing from the officials, it was no wonder that the atmosphere at times turned almost toxic. Deadman strolled around with the arrogance of a man who looked as if he would want to challenge Dr Evil for world domination, if it were not for the fact that he is just a rubbish second rate football league ref. He certainly has the right type of name.

I agree with the view that Faurlin and Doughty should replace Henry and Toszer as this would create more skill, flair and movement to get the ball played forward more quickly. But with potentially Sandro and Fer still to come back, we clearly have lots of options, and what would be wrong with Ramsey experimenting. After all it was his decision to load the squad with so many midfielders, so we may as well use them. However, Mackie has to start if he is fit. Once he came on I felt that things really livened up.

PhilmyRs added 10:06 - Sep 18
Good report and agree with most of it. It was one of the worst first half performances I’ve seen from us. Henry and Toszer don’t look like a pairing to me.

One point I think you got wrong though is the marks. I thought Perch and Konchesky had noticeably better games than Luongo and thought Ned had arguably one of his worst, although the goal redeems him somewhat so a 5 is possibly fair.

My main argument for why they were wrong is how goalkeepers tend to be marked, Green inparticular, although how you’ve marked Smithies goes slightly against what I’m about to argue.

If Green had an ok match, not great, just average, but then dropped a clanger which results in a goal he would receive as a minimum a 5. I thought Luongo was average to poor on Wednesday, (although I accept some thought he was ok), but I don’t think anyone can say the guy played well, hardly anyone did. Then you throw in ‘that chance’, which for me was on par with a goalkeeping error which leads to a goal. 6 therefore seems lenient to me – he didn’t have a great game and missed a sitter. A goalkeeper would rightly be marked down for such a costly error as should outfield players in my opinion.

dixiedean added 16:40 - Sep 18
Deadman lived up ( down ) to expectations, as anyone who's ever seen him referee before will know. He belongs to the Andy Hall, Grant Ward, Trevor Kettle school of contrariness. They revel in the controversy and all the booing turns them on. Anonymity would kill them. The only surprise was he didn't find an excuse to give Chas a 2nd yellow for some spurious offence like not having his laces done up properly. That said, why would you need to change boots when it had been pissing down all day- so what kind of boots would you need for that ? Foul or no foul, Smithies was weak on 1st goal - reminded me of Green v WBA a couple of years ago at the School End. He's not very fashionable as a player but I think Konchesky has been one of the more consistent performers in recent weeks . A bit rude of Rovers to sign Benteke for the day - that was him wearing No 8 wasn't it ? We sure made him look like Benteke. As you said Clive, top marks to their scouts for that, while we spent plenty on Seb who is nowhere near as good, on that showing. Despite his goals , the biggest disappointment for me is Chery - we need to get him in the game more as he's too peripheral. Luongo tired , no surprise after playing Sat and travelling round the world. Unless Chas stays and scores 20+ goals, he's already shaping up to be POTY ( assuming he stays fit ) . Proper footballer. I'm already hearing alarming comments about people wanting Lord Ego back just because our midfield is stuttering. FFS - was our midfield so good when he was in it ?? Yes he ran around a lot and " got stuck in " ( ie 10 yellow cards ) but some people have very short memories and have conveniently forgotten his awful passing , lack of pace and consistently poor dead-ball delivery.

HastingsRanger added 19:24 - Sep 18
Excellent write up. Thanks.

First half was really poor with lots of high balls to our diminutive players. Easily out muscled midfield, does Henry just not play in the championship (he hardly figured the last time).
Should we play a bigger midfielder as the various combinations seem to be brushed off the ball or lose out in the air.

Scary that the last two games so similar against what must be mid-table sides.

Great to see MacKie back though.

TacticalR added 23:17 - Sep 27
Thanks for your report.

We really do seem to have some poor pairings in the team. The chemistry between Angella and Onuoha isn't right, and Tőzsér and Henry were too similar. Tőzsér had a really bad patch when all his passes were going astra

Rhodes made a fool out of Onuoha for his goal, although Onuoha redeemed himself to some degree by getting a goal himself.

Luongo should have taken his chance, but it looks like he's more of an assists man than a goal-scorer.

The ref seemed to be completely detached from the game and annoyed the whole crowd.

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