Another long night by the river – autopsy
Saturday, 26th Sep 2015 22:00 by Clive Whittingham
Another London derby, another heavy defeat, another game over before half time, another humiliation for the long suffering QPR fans at Fulham.
On Saturday March 14 this year QPR were beaten 3-1 at Crystal Palace in the Premier League having trailed by three goals at half time. Afterwards, I wrote this…
“Blame Furlong and Yun, blame Phillips and Wright-Phillips, blame Caulker and Onuoha, blame injuries, blame Chris Ramsey, blame who you like really, but consider this… QPR have been in the Premier League for three of the last four seasons. In that time they have played 27 London derbies in league and cup. They’ve lost 18 of those and drawn four. This season they’ve lost seven and drawn one of the games against the other London sides. They’ve conceded 45 goals in those 27 games and scored just 18. On two separate occasions they’ve conceded six goals. This has been under four different managers, with vastly different teams and players. When the going gets a little tougher, the atmosphere gets a little hotter, the intensity increases – QPR cannot live with it.
“There isn’t the quality to match Arsenal and Spurs and there isn’t the attitude, stomach, pragmatism, strength and resolve to match sides like Palace and West Ham. Remember Fulham running riot, remember that Monday night when Sam Allardye bullied Granero and Faurlin with a massive three man midfield? QPR are playing at being a Premier League club and on days like this they’re playing at being a Premier League team, wanting to play with inverse wingers and false nines and young kids and wide open midfields and all of this sort of trendy shit without any sort of foundation or base. It’s naïve and it’s arrogant. Whether Furlong and Yun and Wright-Phillips start or not, whether Ramsey is the manager or somebody else, this will happen again while that attitude persists. It will happen again.”
On Friday September 25 at Craven Cottage it happened again, as it was always likely to. Two London derbies so far this season, QPR are six nil down on aggregate and have been abject in both.
Chris Ramsey will carry the can for the latest disaster and his ever growing band of critics have plenty of material to work with. Fulham aren’t regarded by their own fans as particularly well coached or managed, but they absolutely had Rangers' number here from the first four seconds of the game. It looked like they’d watched every QPR game so far this season and meticulously picked areas they could exploit, QPR meanwhile turned up and played in exactly the same system and style as they have done all season as if there’s no difference between Blackburn, Forest, Charlton or Fulham and Rangers are simply good enough to play as they like against everybody. It looked like we’d never seen Fulham before.
Neither of QPR’s full backs are playing well – Paul Konchesky unsurprisingly, because he’s been poor for several years prior to arriving here, James Perch more puzzlingly because he seemed like a decent signing after two Player of the Year awards at Wigan. Furthermore, the formation QPR play every week exposes them with Matt Phillips and Tjaronn Chery, not noted for their defensive ability anyway, pushed forwards into the attack. Fulham feasted on that, overloading the visiting full backs with two men in every attack and giving them lots of ball. That, in turn, pulled the defence left and right trying to cover, leaving space in the number ten slot for Ross McCormack to run amok. Special mention to Karl Henry, who as defensive central midfielder should be covering that pocket in front of the centre backs – as I said previously, if this is him protecting the defence I’d hate to see him exposing it.
Ramsey, and Rangers, were far too slow to realise and react to that weakness and Fulham’s obvious tactic to target it. When a substitution was finally made, the game was lost and throwing Jamie Mackie on for Tjaronn Chery didn’t change the system and succeeded only in pissing off the departing player, who was no more or less at fault for this than anybody else.
But this propensity to completely collapse in London derby games is not a new phenomenon resulting from Chris Ramsey’s management. QPR change managers far too frequently, and turn over their entire squad every 18 months, but as much as things change this stays the same. Neil Warnock’s QPR lost 6-0 here, Mark Hughes’ QPR lost 6-0 at Chelsea, Harry Redknapp’s QPR lost 4-0 at Spurs and went 3-0 down here before half time, and now Ramsey has this and the Palace debacle on his CV. To be losing these London games so often, and completely blowing out in them with such monotonous regularity, is not a coincidence and given that it’s happening despite the rotation of managers and players it’s not something to lay solely at Chris Ramsey’s door.
Another running theme is the timing of the goals. QPR are out of these matches before they’re in them. On our last three visits to Craven Cottage we’ve conceded goals on 1, 2, 8, 19, 20, 22, 31, 38 and 41 minutes’. At Palace we conceded after 21, 40 and 42. At Chelsea they went in on 1, 13, 19 and 25. At Tottenham they scored on 12, 30 and 37. Six games there, Rangers never anything less than 3-0 down at half time. Games over before they’ve begun.
It’s unprofessional, or arrogant, or naïve, or a combination of the three. On these highly charged occasions it’s important to get into the game, to build a platform. In that first ten minutes you don’t give possession away cheaply, you work the ball around and give everybody a touch, you don’t take risks, you don’t over commit, you get in your shape and settle into the task. Get a shot off early if you can, give the keeper a loosener. Snap into a few tackles, let them know you’re there and they’re in a game. Concede a couple of free kicks, disrupt their rhythm, niggle. Once that foothold is gained, then grow from there into a more expansive game if that’s the plan. Rugby league coaches call it “getting into the arm wrestle”. Simply put, don’t get beaten before you’ve got started.
QPR turn up in these fixtures and seem to think they can just tippy tappy about and do as they please and Fulham, or Palace, or Spurs, or Chelsea are just going to stand there and fucking admire it. QPR kicked off last night. They had the kick off. Free possession, on the centre spot, without an opponent within ten yards of them. They could have done any number of things with that, but a sensible idea might have been to hold onto possession for a few passes, give players an early touch, get Fulham running early. Instead they did what they’ve done with every single kick off they’ve had this season – overloaded the right side, laid it back to one of the deep lying midfielders, and then pumped it high into the air. On almost every occasion so far this season it’s bounced out for a throw in. This time it flew straight onto Richard Stearman’s head. Either way, four seconds in, and free, uncontested possession had been handed straight back.
Thirty seconds later the ball was deep in QPR territory, being shepherded behind for a Fulham corner by Karl Henry, to the bemusement of the Fulham players in attendance, presumably because he believed it was going to be a goal kick for some weird or wonderful reason. It was a piece of play so moronic, so lacking in concentration, that even the linesman standing three yards away struggled to believe what he’d seen and paused for a moment, wondering if he’d missed something, before signalling for a corner. Two Sunday League-standard pieces of play in the first 30 seconds and two more followed in the next 30. First Rob Green, who has been in dreadful form throughout 2015 whatever his happy band of fan club members say or believe, came out for the corner and dropped it under no pressure. Then when Fulham worked the ball wide, Matt Phillips stood off James Husband and allowed him to deliver a beautiful left footed cross that Moussa Dembele could hardly miss from six yards out dead centre of goal. Within a minute of starting the game in possession on halfway, QPR had contrived to concede a goal of pathetically amateur standard.
At this point our group agreed we would leave when it got to 4-0. And it was a ‘when’ rather than an ‘if’. When you’ve followed this club away from home as regularly as we have for the past few years you recognise the signs, even after sixty seconds, and you know what the result will be and you know there’s no stopping it. Sick and tired of being let down, we were back in the Boathouse in Putney before the full time whistle.
One thing Chris Ramsey can’t really be blamed or legislate for is players who were fantastic one week turning into dog chocolate the next. At Hull a week ago, where QPR did stay in shape and did establish themselves in the game and did play well, the three best players in Hoops were Charlie Austin, Ale Faurlin and Gabrielle Angella. Here, the latter two were just about the worst. Faurlin, in particular, had his worst ever game for the club – calmly passing the ball straight to Ben Pringle on the edge of his own area after 20 minutes allowing the former Rotherham man to stroke the ball into the corner of the net.
The only slight hint that things may turn out differently came after a quarter of an hour when Rangers put together their one and only move of the match, working Massimo Luongo free in the penalty box with four crisp, one-touch passes. But the Australian, as he had done against Blackburn, bottled out at the crucial moment and finished weakly into the side netting. That was it by way of response. It was 2-0 soon after, and 3-0 soon after that.
Twice Fulham got Tom Cairney free, one on one with Faurlin, at the back post for deep corners. Twice the Argentinean got involved in dangerous wrestling games with him. Twice referee Kevin Friend could have awarded penalties. Husband was roasting Perch, crossing low after 24 minutes forcing Angella to clear behind inside his six yard box. The Italian, supposed to be our ball playing centre half, distributed the ball here with all the accuracy and finesse of a drunk giraffe. McCormack’s third, crisply finished from Cairney’s pass on the half hour, was embarrassingly easy.
The mood in the away end was ugly by this point, having been so loud and supportive to start with. The travelling thousands were being publicly humiliated by their team yet again, and they didn’t like it one bit. The idea behind the Mackie substitution was grounded in some logic – switch to 4-4-2, drop two traditional wingers back in front of the full backs for some cover and defensive help, introduce a willing runner – but the game had already gone and it only served to anger Chery, and further rile the away supporters who he stormed out in front of. Ramsey was harangued on the long walk across the pitch at half time. His persistence with Perch and Henry in particular a theme of the half time ranting.
It never rains. Mackie was withdrawn injured at half time after just ten minutes of action. Charlie Austin soon followed him with a worrying knock. Chasing the game, Rangers were left with four defenders and six midfielders – somewhere Paul Hart bristled with pride. With Sebastien Polter nursing a hamstring injury, that’s something we might have to get used to ahead of Bolton next week. Leroy Fer’s re-appearance after a long injury absence provided some solace, but it didn’t stem the tide.
The away end went all the way through anger into black humour, and sang to the end. The performance went all the way through inept and embarrassing to catastrophically hideous. The fourth goal, scrambled in from close range by McCormack in farcical circumstances after Angella had hit his own cross bar then hung out a lazy leg to try and divert the rebound away, summed it all up and we were away down the steps before it even hit the net.
QPR have now conceded 17 goals in nine matches, only bottom of the table Bristol City have conceded more.
Absolutely fucking abysmal.
Fulham: Lonergan 6; Fredericks 7 (Voser 77, -), Stearman 7, Ream 6, Husband 8; Cairney 8, Tunnicliffe 6, O’Hara 7 (Christensen 65, -), Pringle 8; McCormack 8; Dembele 7 (Woodrow 76, -)
Subs not used: Lewis, Mattila, Kavanagh, Burn
Goals: Dembele 1 (assisted Husband), Pringle 18 (assisted Faurlin), McCormack 30 (assisted Cairney), 62 (assisted Angella)
QPR: Green 3; Perch 2, Angella 2, Onuoha 2, Konchesky 2; Faurlin 2, Henry 2; Phillips 3, Luongo 3, Chery 3 (Mackie 35, - (Fer 45, 5)); Austin 4 (Tozser 59, 5)
Subs Not Used: Hall, Smithies, Doughty, Gladwin
Bookings: Perch 79 (foul)
QPR Star Man – N/A
Referee – Kevin Friend (Leicestershire) 7 Guessed at bits and pieces, getting some right and some wrong. Little to referee in an uncompetitive game.
Attendance – 19,784 (4,500 QPR approx) The travelling support was a credit to the club. Early leavers, us included, entirely forgiven. Medals for those who stayed and sang to the end. You all deserve so much better than this.
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