Faurlin’s return and Austin’s continued rise inspire QPR at Hull – report
Sunday, 20th Sep 2015 23:37 by Clive Whittingham
Ale Faurlin back in the midfield, Charlie Austin upping it yet another notch, and a very solid performance from QPR at Hull on Saturday flushed away memories of the two dire home games earlier this week.
An overpaid PR agency would tell Chris Ramsey he’s doing this all wrong. Two shambolic home performances in front of all his customers, followed by a solid, organised and, at times, impressive display in front of three men and their dog at Hull on Saturday. Those who went will bring back tales of great improvements; those who’ve already made their minds up and “take to” social media with increasing venom against QPR’s head coach will ignore them and quickly forget this match.
Away wins are the new trend in English football. Years of over-focus on defence and counter attack, to a point where it’s unusual to find a team in this country playing more than one striker in a game, means the set-up of many sides is better suited to away games, where hosts come out and attack you and leave more space in behind to counter attack as a result.
Chris Ramsey’s desire to get balls up to Charlie Austin and fed back and into a supporting cast of the club’s best players is better suited to the road trips where space exists between an opposing defence and midfield, rather than games at Loftus Road where visitors see a former Premier League team and decide to sit deep, compact and crowded in front of their own box and treat every draw as a victory. Since Ramsey took over Rangers have won five, drawn two and lost six away from home but only won two and drawn three of a dozen games on their own patch. The head coach and his players need to find better solutions than they contrived against Forest and Blackburn by the time Bolton visit at the start of October.
But there was more to the improvements at the KC Stadium than simply a change of venue and opposition attitude or style. On Saturday Ale Faurlin’s return to the midfield, allied with Hull City’s re-adoption of the wing back formation that served them so well when they were promoted and survived a season in the Premier League under Steve Bruce, laid the platform for a far more encouraging performance and result.
Rangers had a method, a shape and a pattern to them. The ball was played out from the full backs or classy, calm, composed Gabriele Angella into Faurlin who would quickly set it back and then move to receive a return. Triangle successfully set up, it would then be fed forward again, to either Matt Phillips or Charlie Austin, who could touch it off back to Faurlin once more and so the attack built. Steadily, with purpose. The value of having a player capable and willing to receive balls to feet while under pressure and giving it to team mates either short and simply or quickly over great distances was there for all to see. QPR controlled the ball away from home against one of the division’s better sides for long periods of the game. Karl Henry, so poor recently, much more comfortable here in clear up mode while Faurlin did the passing for him. Just three days on from that first half debacle against Blackburn, Rangers were a completely different team. You would hope this is what Chris Ramsey football looks like, rather than the assault on the senses served up in the previous 180 minutes.
Tempering that, it’s worth saying that QPR were able to play that way because Hull’s three man defence with wing backs conceded space to its left and right. It’s much easier to play into the channels, hold it up and feed it off when there’s no conventional full backs there. But Faurlin’s return to the team was the catalyst to clear, visible improvements here. QPR have won three, drawn three and lost two so far this season. All three wins and one of the draws have come in Faurlin’s four starts. It’s absolutely not a coincidence.
That’s not to pretend QPR were particularly brilliant. They did well to survive a sleepy opening ten minutes when Hull started well. Robert Green, generously restored to starting 11 despite his latest brain fart costing his team the game against Forest a week ago, nervously parried a shot from Sone Aluko inside the opening minute. Then Andy Robertson, Hull’s very impressive Scottish left wing back, toasted James Perch and crossed through the six yard box where Aluko was just out of reach. Perch redeemed himself with a block on Abel Hernandez after he’d made a bit of a fool of Angella but this was as threatening as Hull got all afternoon. Robertson was excellent, Huddlestone clearly a division too low in midfield, but the front two of Hernandez and Aluko weren’t so much hot knife through butter as cold wooden spoon patting against a frozen malt loaf. The home midfield turned backwards and sideways far too often, lacking anything inspirational ahead of them.
Despite a succession of early Hull corners, QPR quickly established a foothold in the game, working the ball calmly and methodically out of their own half with prolonged periods of controlled possession – all in stark contrast to the dire hit and hope nonsense of the previous two home games. Tjaronn Chery had already fired a low warning shot in at Allan McGregor before Charlie Austin gave QPR the lead at the end of a period of sustained possession and pressure.
The striker’s trademark flying header from Chery’s corner was headed onto the underside of the bar by Robertson on the line but bounced down behind him for an obvious goal which the linesman flagged for immediately. Steve Bruce’s complaints afterwards that the assistant had been “hasty” in giving the correct decision was vintage Alex Ferguson Manchester United bile – doesn’t matter that your team can’t defend a corner properly, or your medical department incorrectly turned away a fantastic striker who now keeps scoring against you, shift blame quickly onto the defenceless person who’s actually got the decision right. “He failed your medical” rang out from the away end.
Austin seems to be relishing proving people wrong and has now scored seven goals in seven games while Newcastle, who spent the thick end of £50m this summer – including £14.5m on alleged striker and red card machine Aleksander Mitrovic – but didn’t think the QPR man was worth £15m, have only managed three among their entire squad so far in the league this season.
Hull responded with three quick corners but despite Curtis Davies’ constant menace they came to nothing. In response, Ale Faurlin was fouled having been at the heart of another well-structured counter attack and Matt Phillips lifted the resulting free kick over the bar from 25 yards.
As well as being better with the ball, it was noticeable how Rangers were keen to stay in a shape that allowed them to stretch the game widthways. Phillips and Chery stayed very wide, allowing more central space for Massimo Luongo and Faurlin to operate in.
But despite all the improvements, and a classy centre half performance from Gabrielle Angella, the R’s still contrived to concede a defensively poor equaliser before half time. Needless foul tight to the touchline, Huddlestone swung over a fine delivery to the back post and Michael Dawson was the one who anticipated the situation, moved first, climbed highest and headed home powerfully. Basic stuff.
The teams exchanged decent chances from set pieces before half time: Alex Bruce left free from a Hull corner but headed over; Angella out-muscled his man at the other end but couldn’t generate enough power to beat McGgregor. Despite that, and the equaliser, and the Kaspars Gorkss-style bandages around his head after last week’s bang against Nottingham Forest, the Italian looked very decent indeed.
QPR started the second half well – moving the ball into the Hull half and cleverly keeping it there and working it. Charlie Austin, in particular, was excellent, showing how much his skillset is developing with a hold up and lay game that simply wasn’t there when he first arrived in W12. Receive, touch, spin off, receive again. He was terrific, his best performance of the season, tireless and effective.
Hull’s wing back system gives opposing full backs a lot of time on the ball when their team has possession. That benefitted James Perch who, after a nervy beginning where Robertson did him twice, grew into the game and gave his best performance in Hoops. It didn’t do so much for Paul Konchesky, whose monotonous possession concession suggested he’d either brought some odd shaped boots or put his regular ones on the wrong feet. A foul five minutes into the second half which he was fortunate not to be booked for thanks to the leniency of referee Oliver Langford rather summed it up.
But Rangers played well overall and perhaps deserved a win. They’d have got it but for an early Miss of The Season contender from Chery on the hour, inexplicably lifting the ball over the bar from four yards out after Phillips stood Robertson up and put a second goal on a plate for the Dutchman with a low delivery to the back post. It seemed harder to miss.
The second half rather petered out from there. Hull’s front two were offering nothing, and it seemed odd that it took until the sixty fifth minute to bring on Arsenal loanee Chuba Akpom who quickly drove to the byline and cut a ball back behind the defence for anybody with half a brain who’d held back in the space for a tap in.
They also introduced Shaun Maloney, one of an ever growing collection of players with a last-minute heartbreaker against QPR on his CV having scored for Wigan deep into injury time in a crucial game at Loftus Road in 2013. Rangers have been particularly prone to such gut-wrenching devastation on the KC Stadium since they first visited here in 2005. Stuart Elliott scored in the eighty fifth and ninetieth minutes in a meeting here in January 2007 to turn QPR’s winning position into a defeat and a year later Michael Turner equalised Dexter Blackstock’s first half goal in stoppage time. Throw in Dame N’Doye’s ninety fourth minute header in this fixture in February and a pattern starts to develop.
Be it the introduction of Maloney and Akpom, the poor performances and results in the two home games this week, or QPR’s historic tendency to explode at the death of games on this ground, their ambition completely dried up in the final ten minutes. Even with Jamie Mackie introduced Rangers went much deeper, much more direct and much more negative in their play. Inviting a Hull side that had offered little going forwards to come and have a free swing created nervy moments as first Karl Henry was required to execute a brilliant covering tackle in his own area as Robertson fed Elmohamady into space, then Angella was lucky to see his instinctive thrust at a late drive from Akpom send the ball spinning wide rather than into the net.
That lack of ambition can be the only real criticism here. It manifested itself in an attacking free kick in injury time which Rangers, under pointed instruction from Charlie Austin, worked the ball into the corner to run the clock down rather than throw it into the area and push for a winner. It stuck in the craw slightly because Hull hadn’t been great and a game against them shouldn’t be a backs-to-the-wall, cling-on-by-your-finger-nails job. But given Rangers’ propensity to melt down in injury time, in general and on this ground in particular, it was probably a pragmatic, sensible approach and it yielded a point which was the least Rangers deserved.
All that really remains is to take this shape, this width, this organisation, this passing game and this plan into a home fixture. Solving the problem of what on earth you do when you can’t pick Ale Faurlin will go a long way to achieving that.
Hull: McGregor 6; Bruce 6 (Akprom 65, 6), Davies 6, Dawson 7; Robertson 8, Huddlestone 7, Clucas 6, Diame 6 (Elmohamady 76, 6), Odubajo 6; Hernandez 5 Aluko 4 (Maloney 69, 6)
Subs not used: Jakupovic, Taylor, Meyler, Hayden
Goals: Dawson 38 (assisted Huddlestone)
QPR: Green 6; Perch 6, Onuoha 6, Angella 7, Konchesky 5; Faurlin 8, Henry 6; Phillips 6, Luongo 6 (Doughty 87, -), Chery 5 (Mackie 76, 6); Austin 8
Subs not used: Hall, Gladwin, Emmanuel-Thomas, Smithies, Tozser
Goals: Austin 26 (assisted Chery)
QPR Star Man – Charlie Austin 8 A goal, of course, we’ve come to expect that, but so much more here. Work rate, drive and a back-to-goal game that he simply didn’t have when he got here. All that weird body language that people were talking about at the start of the season was gone here as he put a massive shift in here for his team, wrestling with three big Hull centre backs to get the ball down in the opposition half, recycle it back to his midfield and then get into position to receive it again. When the ambition went from Rangers in the final ten minutes, he still had it within him to charge around closing things down and make sure Hull had to pass sideways or backwards rather than launch easy balls forward. His best performance of the season so far.
Referee – Oliver Langford (West Midlands) 9 After Darren Deadman’s histrionics and rank incompetence on Wednesday, what an absolute blessed relief to see a Championship game refereed calmly, sensibly and competently by a referee who’s all about letting the football take place while staying out of the way and treating the players like adults rather than naughty school boys. More of this guy please.
Attendance 16, 651 (700 QPR approx) In a stadium with increasing amounts of empty seats, I’m first of all perplexed by the need to make it all ticket for away fans – two QPR supporters who’d travelled up on a whim in the morning not realising they were required to buy their tickets in advance could be found pleading to be parted with £54 in the box office before kick off and there were banks of empty seats in the away end once we’d got inside. We want to give you our money, here, take it.
Secondly, while happy to turn away cash from the pay on the day brigade, Assem Allam and Hull’s increasingly erratic Stadium Management Company (which continues to allow lucrative boxing bouts to take place at the vastly inferior Hull Kingston Rovers ground on the other side of the city by insisting on upfront payments from the promoters) like to waste of money on the stewards and police required to allow home fans to mass up adjacent to the away end and spend the entire game baiting, inciting and goading the visiting supporters. The need of fully grown men to go into a football game and watch none of the football because they’re so busy picking out people in the away end and gesturing that they’ll be waiting outside for them afterwards is paramount, it seems. How about, move them two blocks away, have half as many stewards and police, save your club some money?
Thirdly, it’s a bit weird following QPR away at the moment isn’t it? Back down to the absolute hard-core, but not the hard-core that sing. Credit to the lads at the back who persistently tried to get it going but my God we’re a quiet lot at the moment. A similar number of Rangers fans brought the bloody house down at Middlesbrough in the promotion season under Warnock, now we all just sort of sit there and watch, like we’re at the golf. Not that I’d criticise people who gave up their Saturday and hard-earned to go to Hull to watch QPR, nor pretend that I did much other than sit quietly and watch and hope either, I’m just saying it feels a bit quiet and forlorn overall.
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