QPR cash in their referee chips in Wednesday stalemate – report
Wednesday, 21st Oct 2015 20:15 by Clive Whittingham
QPR tightened their leaky defence, at the expense of the attack, and fought out a goalless draw with Sheffield Wednesday at Loftus Road on Tuesday which left the visitors cursing referee Andy Haines.
Well, on a positive note, this shouldn't take too long at all.
Chris Ramsey initially built a team that scored more goals than any other in the Championship, but also shipped them faster than everybody else at the other end, and was roundly derided for it. On Tuesday night against Sheffield Wednesday he fielded a more pragmatic, tighter side with much smaller exploitable gaps between the defence, midfield and attack, sacrificing some of the gung-ho attitude in the process and kept a second clean sheet of the season.
The boos at the end told their own story. It will take a comeback of Paul Furlong proportions for Ramsey to win the majority of the QPR crowd back from here. He can’t do right for doing wrong in the eyes of a restless church.
The majority of the ire this time centered around the second-half removal of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, selected up front alone with a three-man supporting cast and architect of QPR's best – only – attacking moment of the first half when he cut infield and unloaded a speculative shot which Kieran Westwood fumbled into the path of Tjaronn Chery who couldn't convert from two yards out. The Dutchman’s doing quite a number in sitters at the moment.
Emmanuel-Thomas was, however, less effective, less hard-working and less involved than he had been against Bolton and Birmingham in the last two matches. Ramsey said after the weekend game, where he'd been barracked for replacing the burly forward with Sebastien Polter four minutes from time when it perhaps would have made more sense to play them both while chasing a deficit in the dying embers of the game, that Emmanuel-Thomas is carrying a knock. That felt like a manufactured PR line cooked up afterwards when it was clear the supporters weren't happy with the change, but there was plenty to support it here – Emmanuel Thomas lumbered about and offered little.
Oddly, though, Polter didn't even make the bench on Tuesday – a decision which the striker described as a "fucking joke" on his personal Twitter feed, leading inevitably to a fine from the club. That left Ramsey to send on either Leroy Fer or the forgotten man Junior Hoilett in his place and – on paper, if not in practice – field players for a Paul Hart-style 4-6-0 formation. "You don't know what you're doing," inevitably drifted down from the stands. That Fer subsequently won his fair share of flicked headers - one of which cued up Matt Phillips to advance into space 18 yards out with no challenge and time to pick his spot before thrashing wildly, hopelessly over the bar – didn't matter.
The Polter situation rather sums up Ramsey’s standing with the majority of the QPR support now. The German striker is, fairly obviously, struggling to make an impact at QPR. In a recent U21 defeat to Brentford at Loftus Road he was marked out of the game by the visiting teenagers. Some QPR fans have long suspected the former Wolfsburg trainee isn't up to it - in fact back in July on a wet afternoon in Newport a section of the travelling support decided they'd already seen enough to start signing about a "fucking shit German".
By Saturday at Birmingham that had morphed into some seriously unpleasant abuse for Polter from a section of the support in the back left corner of the away end. Given Polter's lack of action, you'd have to be a serial attender at QPR youth and reserve matches and training to have seen him for more than a couple of hours collectively. Nevertheless, the opinion has been formed and, it seems, carries some weight. Chris Ramsey, who sees the player everyday in training, now feels the same – why else would he leave his only fit centre forward out entirely, with Emmanuel-Thomas apparently unfit, forcing his own hand into bringing a midfielder on for a striker with a goal required?
And yet, Ramsey is pilloried for that as well. Abused for bringing Polter on for Emmanuel Thomas on Saturday, he's now copping it for not doing exactly that on Tuesday. Ramsey was an idiot for not realising Polter is a "fucking shit German" when the Championship Manager veterans in the crowd did back in July, and now he's an idiot for agreeing with them.
He's also taking stick for, as usual, failing to fully utilize all three substitutions, but then as Fer's introduction showed there wasn't much he could have done that wouldn't have brought hell's abuse from three sides of Loftus Road. Daniel Tozser could certainly have been removed safely, but had Sandro, Matt Phillips, Massimo Luongo or Tjaronn Chery been taken off for any of the players on the bench the reaction would have been hostile.
It does feel like he can't win now.
That despite Ramsey finally, finally leaving Karl Henry out of the starting 11. This was the second time he's sat out this season, and the second time QPR have kept a clean sheet. It's not a coincidence. Henry, terrifyingly, stripped down to his shorts and warmed up in the second half, hinting that he may have been introduced. To do so would have been tantamount to Ramsey signing his own death warrant.
Ramsey also recalled Clint Hill to the back four, albeit only with James Perch suspended and Gabrielle Angella carrying an injury and only fit for the bench. The difference in having a mean centre half willing to stick his head on the ball was clear – QPR looked far less vulnerable to the set pieces they've been conceding from routinely this season. With ten minutes left for play Hill produced a typically brilliant header to save a certain goal, deep inside his own six-yard box. That experience and physicality has been missed amidst Ramsey's quest for a central defence that can pass the ball out and start attacks.
It could easily have been the bedrock for a hard-fought 1-0 home victory against a team that had been unbeaten in six coming into the fixture. A deep cross in the seventy eighth minute found Chery at the back post whose first time volley would beat most goalkeepers in this league, but was excellently saved by the often-underrated Westwood who'd crabbed across his line expertly and covered the angle.
But it's hard to be too harsh on the opinion or reaction of anybody who paid to get in and see this. Not only was it a desperately dull, seemingly never-ending, game of football, but QPR were lucky not to lose it.
Ramsey has been slow to change things during games throughout his time here, and seems more likely to resign his post than change the formation mid-match. He's hamstrung, as Harry Redknapp was, by an over-supply of 'tens' who want to play in the hole behind the striker, and not enough actual wingers and centre forwards. But Chery and Luongo, two of those tens, were bought on his watch and now often have to play out of position on the flanks. Polter, too, was signed by this management team. Matt Phillips, so improved initially under Ramsey's coaching, was so dreadfully mediocre in this game after a poor performance at Birmingham on Saturday. He smashed a fine effort over the bar from an impossible position just after half time, then later missed a much easier chance by more.
Everybody present knows QPR were far more likely to lose this game than win it. Indeed, only the finishing of Barry Bannan and the refereeing of Andy Haines stood between Sheff Wed and three points.
Twice, once at the end of the first half and once at the end of the second, Bannan accelerated into space in the QPR penalty area, cut inside his man as the defence melted away in front of him, looked up to see the whites of the goalkeeper's eyes and then picked his spot high and wide, over the bar and into the stand. Thank goodness he did, they'd have been looting the shops long into the night if he hadn't.
Haines, meanwhile, gave a performance that, had it all been the other way around, would have had QPR fans recalling the days of Gurnham Singh and Rob Styles.
Nuhui was something of a comedy character on the evening, lumbering around and offering little threat. At one stage he caught the ball cleanly in two hands – a crisp claim the likes of which Robert Green has only read about in books – presumably thinking he'd been pushed only for a free kick to be, rightly, awarded against him. Later, when he was actually fouled by Nedum Onuoha over by the South Africa Road stand, he tried to carry on only to realise a free kick might not be a bad result after all so very, very belatedly collapsed to the ground with nobody around him.
But there was plenty for the visitors to complain about in the forty second minute when Hill was caught flat-footed and lackadaisical in possession by Sougou. The Wednesday man was clean in on goal with only Green ahead of him. Hill, realising his mistake, lunged into a desperate tackle that took none of the ball and sent the Wednesday man sprawling to the ground. It was an obvious foul and red card. Haines looked at his linesman and didn't even award a free kick. Sougou was stretchered off under a blanket in a bad way.
That injury caused a prolonged stoppage. When play did resume, Matt Phillips quickly lunged in on Wednesday's Rhoys Wiggins – late, nowhere near the ball, reckless, another obvious foul and a yellow card. With the Wednesday bench now spilling out onto the pitch in rage, Haines again waved play on. Earlier he’d booked Sandro for a wild lunge which other referees would have judged more harshly.
Once is an accident, twice is careless, a third time? Plenty of conspiracy theorists among the impressively large travelling support making their way back up the M1 last night I suspect because six minutes into the second half Lucas Joã, on for Forestieri at half time, appeared to be clearly tripped from behind as he accelerated into the QPR box. No penalty given.
There's a danger Rangers have used up all their refereeing decision in one evening. How many lives Chris Ramsey has left, remains to be seen.
QPR: Green 6; Onuoha 6, Hall 6, Hill 6, Konchesky 6; Tozser 5, Sandro 6; Phillips 4, Luongo 6, Chery 5; Emmanuel-Thomas 5 (Fer 69, 5)
Subs not used: Doughty, Faurlin, Henry, Hoilett, Smithies, Angella
Bookings: Sandro 8 (foul)
Sheff Wed: Westwood 6; Palmer 6, Loovens 6, Lees 6, Wiggins 6; Sougou 6 (Wallace 42, 6), McGugan 6 (Lee 69, 6), Semedo 6, Bannan 5; Forestieri 5 (Lucas João 45, 7), Nuhiu 4
Subs not used: Wildsmith, Pudil, Sasso, Hutchinson
QPR Star Man – Massimo Luongo 6 Best of a very mediocre bunch, just looks a slight cut above with his touch and passing. I’d have given it to Clint Hill but it doesn’t seem quite right somehow! QPR’s actual Man of the Match was the referee…
Referee – Andy Haines (Tyne and Wear) 3 Obviously from a QPR point of view he was absolutely wonderful, apart from his aversion to carding Nuhiu, but if we were in the Wednesday end I’m sure I’d be ranting on now about bias, incompetence and failing to ensure the safety of the players. Several massive, not particularly difficult, decisions wrong – all in QPR’s favour. Cashed in all our chips for the season in one match I reckon.
Attendance – 15,471 (1,800 Sheff Wed approx) Looked a questionable declaration given the number of empty seats in both lower tiers behind the goal and the end of Ellerslie Road. Topped up by a really impressive following from Sheffield on a Tuesday night. Neither set made much noise mind, although they both tried – bored into submission.
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