Brentford end 50-year wait as QPR wilt - report
Sunday, 1st Nov 2015 23:49 by Clive Whittingham
Another London derby, another defeat for QPR at Brentford on Friday night leaving their long-suffering supporters a mixture of angry and resigned.
It’s been 50 years since Brentford last beat Queens Park Rangers in a competitive fixture, and yet there was a horrible inevitability about it when it came.
As Griffin Park crackled under its Friday night lights and drifting smoke from celebratory flares, QPR wilted as they so often do in all-London affairs. Securing just five wins from 27 capital derbies across three years in the Premier League is perhaps understandable, on paper, given that London’s Premier League teams – Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea in particular – are all far better equipped than Rangers. But the die-hards among the fan base know QPR have struggled every bit as much with Palace, Fulham and Charlton and have come to loathe these occasions.
Extra intensity usually means Rangers fall in a hole. They’d already lost without scoring in matches with Charlton and Fulham so far this season, the former a worse-looking result with each passing defeat for the League One-bound Addicks, the latter an absolute shellacking.
Such was Brentford’s keenness to finally get one over the local rival that once tried to put their whole club out of business, and has since sporadically picked off their best players for knock-down prices, many feared a repeat of the various recent Craven Cottage massacres. In some ways this was more annoying, because having guarded against that and positioned themselves well to win the game and quieten the noisy neighbours for another few months at least, Chris Ramsey’s team contrived to lose anyway.
QPR had been conceding two goals a game until Clint Hill and Grant Hall were recalled to the middle of the defence a week ago resulting in clean sheets, and four points, against Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons. Chris Ramsey had surrendered his ideal of having a ball-playing centre half carrying possession forwards from deep and starting attacks in favour of old fashioned pragmatism and he’d been rewarded with much greater solidity.
Hill, and particularly Hall, had a superb first half together here. QPR defended deep and narrow, funnelling play in towards their centre halves who lapped the challenge up. No confrontation too physical, no header too high, no tackle missed. Hill lasted only 20 minutes before he was yellow carded after a set to with Alan McCormack – referee Simon Hooper could easily have left it with a word on the run for both players but it showed a bit of backbone and needle that QPR have often been found lacking in these fixtures. Rangers weren’t coming here to roll over, they were coming to stand their ground, and stand it they did.
The home side, in great form after three successive wins, two of them away from home, struggled to break it down. A snap shot on the turn from outside the area by the Bees’ star man so far this season, Alan Judge, was easily claimed by Green. Earlier the accident-prone keeper had needed three nervous attempts to gather a routine shot from Jonathan Swift after Nedum Onuoha’s mistake gave the loan Chelsea player a sight of goal.
But that was it in the first 45 minutes as far as home team threat went and having stifled and frustrated their opponent, and quietened the home crowd, QPR set about taking the lead themselves. Matt Phillips played a one two with Jay Emmanuel Thomas just after the half hour and then shot straight at keeper David Button when he should have done better. Moments later the move of the game had Tjaronn Chery clean through behind the last Brentford man but he snatched at the chance and blazed it wide.
It was Hall’s tackle that set a counter attack in motion ten minutes before the break which ended with Massimo Luongo angling a header against the bar. That one felt slightly flukey, and the Australian would have been lucky to see it dip in, but six minutes later he worked space for himself in the same part of the penalty area and let fly with a more orthodox shot which beat Button all ends up but bounced clean back into play off the inside of the post. Nine times out of ten it hits the post and goes in.
Things started to go awry at half time. What QPR needed at the start of the second half was the same job doing again – concentrate, defend deep and narrow, snap into some tackles, niggle and break up the play, build that platform and then go on and try and win the game later on. They’d done it perfectly in the first half but the attitude in the second seemed to suggest they thought that part of the job was done and didn’t need doing again.
In the crucial first ten minutes of the second half, when Rangers should have been smothering the game with a damp cloth all over again, Brentford could comfortably have scored three times. Lone Brentford striker Marco Djuricin shot powerfully at Green in the first 60 seconds, forcing the keeper to make an instinctive save with two hands above his head. The ball fell to Swift on the edge of the area who beat Green with a curling shot, but angled it a foot too high and missed the top corner.
Nine minutes later a catalogue of errors led to the opening goal. Hall’s slip let Brentford into the area for a weak penalty appeal first and foremost. Then, having scrambled the ball away, Rangers needed Emmanuel Thomas to hold possession on halfway and calm the situation down. Instead he tried some nonsense flick and trick and handed it back to Brentford who sprung it straight back into their left channel. Nedum Onuoha, for reasons known only to himself, stopped and tried to play an offside that was never on, and Alan Judge had the freedom of Griffin Park to whip a low cross into the near post for Djuricin to slam home past Green.
But what cost QPR the game was what happened after that. Even during a slack, almost unprofessional, start to the second half they’d crafted a terrific chance for Matt Phillips to head home unmarked inside the six yard box only for him to plant his effort straight into Button’s hands. Chances would come, the game was far from over. Sadly, Rangers played as if Brentford’s goal was actually the final whistle.
They weren’t helped by Emmanuel Thomas, so impressive and threatening and hardworking over the past month, reverting to lazy, ineffective type. QPR’s lone striker, measuring six foot four and weighing God-only-know’s what, decided he would be best utilised in extreme wide positions. Time and time and time again he had the ball way out on the flank, tight to the touchline, looking ahead to find no options. That’s because you’re meant to be the option Jay, you’re the lone striker, get your arse into the bloody penalty area.
This situation was exacerbated by his instance on taking all the throw ins in the Brentford half under some deluded fantasy that he’s actually Rory Delap and Dave Challinor rolled into one. Even if his throws were very long - which they’re not – there’s nobody around to get on the end of them because that’s the job of the giant, physical centre forward. Until Emmanuel Thomas can find a way to run around and meet these throw-ins himself he should be forbidden from inflicting the nonsense on us any more.
This is the Emmanuel Thomas I thought we’d signed. Such a shame to see him here after a month of changing my mind.
But, in his defence, Charlie Austin had half an hour to make an impact and was unable to do so either. Back from his hamstring injury, QPR’s prized asset was starved of ball and service – perhaps it’s no wonder Emmanuel Thomas drifted out wide looking for possession.
QPR’s midfield is a real problem. They’re not short of numbers, but each player they have to play there has one strength and several big weaknesses. Leroy Fer, away attending the birth of his child (steady Trevor), has a blockbusting shot on him but cannot defend on the evidence of his first year with QPR. Sandro has been a dominant Premier League central midfielder, but is basically a crock and cannot possibly be relied upon as anything other than a bit-part player in a 46-game Championship season. Karl Henry can run about but can’t pass or do anything else really, while Daniel Tozer and Ale Faurlin can pass but can’t run about. Tjaronn Chery and Massimo Luongo, along with Fer, would rather play at ten, but we have no left winger so one of them has to go and do it. Matt Phillips can deliver a nice cross and scores reasonably regularly, but can’t head a ball or defend.
Short of crafting some sort of Frankenstein’s monster with Henry’s engine, Faurlin’s passing and Fer’s shot it’s not a situation that’s going to improve. It’s a real rag tag bunch, and it looked as much here.
Tozser, in particular, had a bloody nightmare. I’m not sure whether his hopeless, aimless, frantic punt into touch midway through the second half when he had time to bring the ball down and turn summed his performance up most, or the ridiculous 35 yard first timer in stoppage time which disappeared off towards Hounslow and represented QPR’s last chance to take anything from the game.
Brentford spent much of the second half time wasting. James Tarkowski checking the pressure of the ball before the goal kicks was something referee Simon Hooper probably should have done more than simply laugh along with, for instance. The lobotomised Uncle Fester look-a-like in the main stand holding onto the ball, baiting the QPR players and, shamelessly, delivering a volley of abuse into Clint Hill’s face as he was helped from the field in the second half injured should have been dealt with by the steward sitting directly in front of him. Hill seemed in a lot of pain, and it looked as though the physio was testing for knee ligament injuries – we await those results with bated breath.
But really, there was no need. QPR are the division’s top scorers, but they didn’t look like equalising here. A quote from Gary Neville came to my mind as I watched the minutes quickly drain away from an encounter Brentford were in complete control of from the moment they scored. He said Alex Ferguson would demand and expect that his team would “unleash hell” against any side who dared or happened to take the lead against them. It was hard enough to get a goal in front against them under the Ferguson reign, but if you did you knew you were for it for however long remained in the game. Increase the tempo and keep increasing it, increase the shots on goal and keep increasing them, increase the number of men flying forward and keep increasing it. Increase everything until they just can’t stand it anymore and buckle. Intimidated referees adding on excessive stoppage time wasn’t the only reason for all those last-second goals, United just kept dialling it up until their opponents snapped – even if that meant increasing intensity from minute 95 to minute 96.
Where was anything resembling that here? QPR went the other way.
Chris Ramsey has a plan and sticks to it. That has worked for him at times, after all QPR are joint best in the league for points recovered from losing positions (seven). At Wolves earlier this season, at 2-0 down, it would have been easy to assume the plan wasn’t working and change it, but having stuck to it Ramsey saw his team roar back and win 3-2. At Huddersfield he made no substitutions at all, despite Rangers apparently crying out for a chance, and won 1-0 with a late goal. But here the whole game slipped away meekly. It was done after one hour and one goal.
Junior Hoilett came on Massimo Luongo and added nothing. Charlie Austin likewise, having replaced the equally ineffective Tjaronn Chery. Two holding midfielders remained in place to the bitter end, despite Tozser in particular having a poor game and Brentford surrendering their attacking intent long before the end – Alan Judge’s removal ten minutes from time should have been the final call to arms and seen anybody in hoops who could still walk committed to the attack.
In the end all Rangers tried was more Emmanuel Thomas long throws. One after the other, each one a bigger ball-acheing failure than the last.
QPR had a good plan, and an effective game plan, that worked well all the way through the first half and should have seen them go in at the break in front. They got sloppy at the start of the second half and conceded a goal which disrupted that plan. Shit happens, you have to have another plan to deal with it. What on earth that was, if indeed it existed at all, wasn’t apparent here. The game felt like it was over from the moment the goal went in and we should probably be grateful Brentford went into an all-out ‘hold what we have’ mode thereafter otherwise they’d probably have scored more.
A third London derby of the season, a third defeat to nil, a second long old walk across the field from the dug outs to the tunnel in front of an increasingly disgruntled away support for Chris Ramsey. His players need to do more for him, but in situations like the last half hour here he needs to do more for them.
Brentford: Button 6; Yennaris 6, Dean 7, Tarkowski 6, Bidwell 6; McCormack 6 (Vibe 82, -), Diagouraga 7; Woods 6, Swift 6, Judge 7 (Kerschbaumer 77, 6); Djuricin 7 (Hoffman 90, -)
Subs not used: Bonham, O’Connell, Gogia, Canos
Goals: Djuricin 56 (assisted Judge)
Bookings: McCormack 20 (ungentlemanly), Djuricin 86 (time wasting)
QPR: Green 6; Onuoha 5, Hall 7, Hill 6 (Perch 76, 6), Konchesky 5; Henry 6, Tozser 5; Phillips 5, Luongo 6 (Hoilett 67, 5), Chery 5 (Austin 63, 5), Emmanuel Thomas 4
Subs not used: Doughty, Faurlin, Smithies, Polter
Booked: Hill 20 (ungentlemanly), Tozser 24 (foul), Phillips 80 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Grant Hall 7 While much of the recent defensive improvement has been attributed to Clint Hill’s recall, with some justification, bringing Grant Hall back in has also made a big difference. Excellent here, composed, physical and decent in the air. Didn’t deserve to lose.
Referee – Simon Hooper (Wiltshere) 7 Not a lot to referee, which says a lot for how meek QPR are on these derby occasions. Over the top to book Hill and McCormack for their early clash, and failed miserably to clamp down on the time wasting that went on in the second half from the home players and fans, but otherwise not bad at all.
Attendance 12,037 (1,800 QPR) By all accounts the bottom tier terrace was in very good, supportive voice – weirdly the sound doesn’t carry to the upper tier at all. Mostly a quiet resignation among those in the seats, although there seemed to be a weird mood in the middle block where people seemed absolutely desperate for things to go wrong so they could leap to their feet and abuse the QPR players and manager. Some even booed at half time when QPR had been the better side and were unlucky not to be in front.
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