QPR battle MK and restless natives for spirited victory – report
Monday, 26th Oct 2015 00:04 by Clive Whittingham
QPR were able to overcome a limited MK Dons team, and barracking from their own supporters, and record a comfortable 3-0 win at Loftus Road on Saturday.
In some ways it was apt for the 1975/76 team to have their reunion at Loftus Road on Saturday for the visit of MK Dons.
They know as well as anybody that the QPR fans regularly turn on their own players – the late Mick Leach used to get pelters from this crowd even when Rangers were sweeping all before them and running Liverpool close for the league title.
In no way, other than their profession, are Karl Henry and Mick Leach comparable but 40 years on the abuse Henry took from his own so-called supporters on Saturday was every bit as nasty and counterproductive. By booing when a second-half cross was misjudged and flew straight out for a goal kick, chanting for the referee to send him off when he committed fouls, singing the name of substitutes who could potentially take his place, abusing the head coach when he made a change but left Henry on and then cheering almost as loudly as when the goals went in when he was finally removed deep into the second half, a significant portion of the QPR support surrendered the team’s home advantage.
Everything you’re meant to gain by playing at home was gone. The players looked uncomfortable and unhappy, some visibly standing on the field and shaking their heads at what they were hearing and seeing. They’ll face less hostile crowds than this in most of the away matches this season. There was notable fight back – the detestable “we’re fucking shit” chant was quickly drowned out by others booing and trying a more encouraging “come on you R’s”. But, overall, we showed ourselves up here and could have cost our team the game.
The howls of derision and “you don’t know what you’re doing” that rolled down from the stands when Ramsey removed Massimo Luongo to get Leroy Fer on in his first substitution were manifestly excessive. Karl Robinson, the manager of a franchise loathed by QPR fans and any other everyday football fan in this country, walked down the touchline and put a hand on Chris Ramsey’s shoulder as a gesture of solidarity and support. The QPR staff get more support from the fucking people at MK Dons than we offer them these days.
You hear QPR fans throw a bloody duck fit when the players dare to retreat straight to the dressing room at away games rather than come and applaud the away supporters for travelling, and yet then feel it acceptable to behave like this, making the players’ jobs more difficult, subjecting them to personal abuse, openly mocking them and demoralising them. I wouldn’t be in a hurry to offer any acknowledgement to the supporters at all from now on if I was playing for this team.
Henry’s persistent selection this season, despite poor form, has been irritating, and a paying public has the right to express that frustration. But here the bile ignored two things.
Firstly, Henry starting made sense. Not only because Sandro, despite costing the thick end of £10m in transfer fees and God knows what else besides in agent additions and wages, is physically incapable of playing more than two games in a week – the Championship Manager experts in the stands cite Sandro’s presence as one of the reasons Chris Ramsey should be doing better despite this. But also because MK Dons like to play out from the back through midfield, and need to be combatted by pushing high and applying pressure in their own half. Henry has the engine and defensive game to do that, none of the other QPR midfielders do. Recalling him here suggested Rangers had watched MK Dons and picked a tactic accordingly.
And more importantly - it worked. Until the failed cross on the hour, Henry had actually had his best game of the season, and was one of the better QPR players on the field - admittedly against severely limited opposition struggling to adapt to a higher level. By the time he was taken off, to ironic cheers, Rangers were 2-0 up and had the game won. His own performance waned after the failed cross, and a yellow card for a combination of a foul and kicking the ball away on the hour was mindless, but he’d played well to begin with in spite of the restless natives.
But then there is a section of the QPR support that doesn’t want Karl Henry to play well, or Chris Ramsey to do well. Last week at Birmingham one fan was heard to remark that he hoped QPR didn’t get a late equaliser, as he hates Ramsey and defeat moves him closer to the exit. One message board poster wondered whether it would be better for QPR to lose home matches with Sheff Wed and MK Dons to hasten the departure. Another, after Saturday’s win, said “sorry, the party is postponed” because the win meant Ramsey would stay for another week at least.
There’s not rating a manager, not believing in him, disagreeing with him, wanting him replaced… and then there’s this. We should all want QPR and Chris Ramsey to beat MK Dons, because we’re supposed to be QPR fans. We should want Chris Ramsey to win his next 50 games on the spin, and be here in 20 years and go down as one of the club’s greatest ever managers because then the team we’re supposed to support will have done brilliantly. But some seemingly don’t and are getting increasingly vindictive about it.
There will be no praise, for instance, for the form of Jay Emmanuel Thomas. A player twice bombed out by Championship clubs for laziness and poor attitude, a player scarcely picked by Bristol City in League One last season, picked up for nothing, worked with on the training ground, made to wait and fight for his place in the team, now scoring regularly and putting a real shift in for his team as a lone striker. Chris Ramsey and Les Ferdinand have done that, and yet it’s rarely mentioned.
Here Emmanuel-Thomas won the game with a wonderful individual goal that paved the way for a 3-0 success. Twenty minutes from time he collected a cross with his back to goal 20 yards out, killed it stone dead with an immaculate first touch, lobbed and rounded a defender with a perfect second, and then coolly rolled it home with a smooth third. Fabulous goal.
There were subsequently a couple of nervy moments. Jake Forster-Caskey was agonisingly out of reach of a low cross seconds after Rangers had taken the lead, then Simon Church toed the ball wide from close range at the near post. Robert Green rushed from his line to make a wonderful save to deny Church one on one in the next attack.
But QPR were destined to keep a second successive clean sheet for the first time this season. Not only that, but they’ve only allowed Sheff Wed and MK Dons to have one shot on target between them across 180 minutes. A week ago Ramsey’s critics said a coach of his supposed standing should be able to tune the defence better than he has done. Now the defence has started to keep clean sheets that’s rarely mentioned and, if it is, it’s put down to Neil Warnock’s influence despite him having rock all to do with it. Grant Hall, a young Ramsey and Ferdinand signing, was very decent again here for the second match running.
As on Tuesday night, and last Saturday, when Ramsey’s substitutions were pilloried it was hard to think of a change he could have made without the crowd reacting negatively. Removing Henry, obviously, but possibly also withdrawing Daniel Tozser. The Hungarian, however, remained on despite getting his own share of barracking for a sixty fifth minute free kick that flew over the bar from ambitious range after referee Scott Duncan had booked Kyle McFadzean for pulling back Emmanuel Thomas. Ramsey’s reward for that faith was a pass of exceptional vision and quality 13 minutes from time which freed Matt Phillips into enough space for him to cut inside and bury a second goal into the far corner. Tozser’s corners, too, were a breath of fresh air and made Rangers look threatening every time they were awarded one.
Phillips had earlier missed a diving header at the near post from a cute cross by Tjaronn Chery. When Ramsey replaced the Dutchman with forgotten-man Junior Hoilett, he was rewarded with a third goal hooked in by the Canadian over his shoulder from a corner. Tozser’s delivery at wide set pieces consistently excellent all day. Not a bad 20 minutes there for a head coach who apparently doesn’t know what he’s doing.
When Ramsey did finally bow to pressure and bring Ale Faurlin on for Henry the reaction was more akin to the exasperation of a crowd seeing their team trail 1-0, rather than lead by two. Faurlin still has that eye for an incisive pass which nobody else at QPR possesses, but he’s slower on the turn than Cravendale milk. Ramsey’s predecessors both used Faurlin remorselessly, straight after his injuries, for whole 90 minutes at a time several times a week, and both of them subsequently lost him to relapses. That hasn’t happened so far this year thanks to the way Ramsey is using him sparingly.
The first half hadn’t flowed quite as freely, and who knows how the game would have ended up had Emmanuel Thomas not unlocked it with his own individual brilliance, but QPR had been dominant throughout. Chery drew a steady save from visiting keeper David Martin after seven minutes; Hall dropped a clever back header into a dangerous area from Phillips’ dangerous thirteenth minute corner; Nedum Onuoha volleyed one set piece wide at the near, then had another ambitious long-ranger blocked away. Paul Konchesky could have hit a thirty third minute shot harder, the weak finish allowed a defender to clear from the line, but soon Emmanuel Thomas was turning smartly and cueing up Henry for a 25 yarder deflected wide. The lone striker then had a shot of his own deflected wide in first half injury time. Hall subsequently planted a firm header over the bar from Chery’s outswinging second half corner.
The domination, the pattern of play, the individual performances and the final score were entirely out of step with the behaviour and noise from the crowd. Any idea that Loftus Road is an asset to QPR as an intimidating, atmospheric old English football ground with a tight pitch and boisterous home support were blown out of the water here. The place was a hindrance to the team which showed togetherness, spirit and all-important extra quality to win despite what they were subjected to. Not strong evidence of a supposed lost dressing room.
The late collapse was too much for a chunk of the sizeable travelling support from Milton Keynes to stand and they embarked on a full scale running battle between themselves, with police and stewards aplenty wading into the upper tier of the School End. “Your support is fucking shit,” sang the home fans.
We need to have a long look in our own mirrors before levelling that particular accusation at MK Dons or anybody else.
QPR: Green 6; Onuoha 6, Hall 7, Hill 6, Konchesky 6; Henry 6 (Faurlin 84, 6), Tozser 7; Phillips 6, Luongo 6 (Fer 57, 6), Chery 6 (Hoilett 80, 6); Emmanuel Thomas 7
Subs not used: Doughty, Perch, Smithies, Polter
Goals: Emmanuel Thomas 70 (assisted Onuoha), Phillips 77 (assisted Tozser), Hoilett 88 (assisted Tozser/Hall)
Bookings: Henry 58 (foul/kicking ball away)
MK Dons: Martin 6; Spence 6, McFadzean 5, Kay 6, Lewington 5; Poyet 6 (Maynard 79, 5), Forster Caskey 6, Hall 5 (Baker 67, 5), Reeves 5 (Carruthers 57, 5), Murphy 6; Chruch 5
Subs not used: Hodson, Potter, Powell, Burns
Bookings: McFadzean 65 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Jay Emmanuel Thomas 7 Another very decent performance, with plenty of hard yards covered and a good work ethic in evidence. Like Bolton, scored a crucial and very skilful goal at just the right time to set the game in QPR’s favour. Looks a far cry from the problem child we thought we’d signed, to Ferdinand and Ramsey’s credit.
Referee – Scott Duncan (Northumberland) 8 Little to referee but kept control well and the two cards were fully justified.
Attendance 15, 567 (1,000 MK Dons approx) An odd day in the stands all round, with the MK Massive kicking off in the second half to a level not seen since Millwall were last here, and the QPR fans seemingly determined to undermine their own team’s chances of winning the game.
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