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New boss, but a similar story for QPR in Preston stalemate - Report
Sunday, 8th Nov 2015 15:44 by Clive Whittingham

QPR fans braving the West London rain hoping to see Neil Warnock roll back the clocks at Loftus Road were left disappointed by a drab goalless draw with Preston North End.

For a while at least, it felt like Warnock had never been away. A Friday spent talking about muck, nettles, headers and tackles fed into a Saturday afternoon watching a QPR team with their 2010/11 promotion-winning manager in the technical area and Ale Faurlin pulling the strings in midfield.

Warnock had seen enough in the four games he’s watched from the director’s box since he came in to “advise” Chris Ramsey, prior to the head coach’s sacking on Wednesday, to make changes to shape and personnel. The formation was a more basic 4-4-2, with Leroy Fer starting off Charlie Austin in attack. The much-maligned Karl Henry got a start at right back with James Perch suspended and Junior Hoilett was also recalled wide left. But it was Faurlin’s inclusion from the start, and the way Rangers placed him at the fulcrum of everything that was the most notable difference to begin with.

Warnock rates the Argentinean as one of the best players he’s ever worked with and in the opening half an hour he was charged with trying to pick a way through a Preston defence that hadn’t conceded a goal for five games prior to arriving in W12. A good deal of what he tried didn’t quite come off, there were some very near misses with clever passes along the way, but the style of play was attractive, the tempo was a good deal higher than it has been, the passing was quicker and more purposeful and QPR looked much the better of the two teams in the initial stages. Even Hoilett, who has fallen in a hole so deep over the past couple of years you wonder if he’ll ever be able to extricate himself from it, impressed in the early stages, forming an unlikely effective attacking partnership with Paul Konchesky who had one of his better games at left back.

But for all of that, chances and shots on goal were not so much few and far between as non-existent. Charlie Austin finished the move of the half with a powerful 20 yarder over the bar from a difficult angle after 34 minutes and Hoilett was also too high with a shot from a similar position a moment later when Fer nodded the ball into his path. Earlier Sandro, gracing the QPR fans with his presence for only the twenty first time in his 18 months with the club so far, had performed an outrageous double drag back to work space for his own speculator from long range but missed the target.

But that was it.

Preston, it turns out, haven’t kept five straight clean sheets, including at league leaders Brighton, by accident. Their defence was tight and well-drilled, led by hulking Australian Bailey Wright who was allowed to leave three cheap, late shots on Charlie Austin in the first ten minutes without comeback from referee Rob Lewis and dominated in the air and on the ground for the rest of the game. Lewis was, in many ways, the perfect referee for the Preston game plan, failing totally to clamp down on flagrant time-wasting throughout the second half and actually breaking the game up and slowing it down more with his pernickety, pedantic, nit-picking style of officiating.

But it would be the sourest of grapes on our part to mumble and grumble about Preston approaching the game in a negative manner, hoping to secure the 0-0 they got right from the first whistle, or the performance of the referee. The visitors are newly promoted from League One, have a good portion of their miniscule budget tied up in striker Jermaine Beckford who has been injured all season, and are struggling to get Joe Garner to fire as he did last season – no goals in 15 appearances so far after 27 in 43 last term. Of course they’re going to play to their strengths, and play to them they did – very effectively indeed.

And while it was utterly ball acheing to see just four minutes added on to the end of a match which had seemed to spend hours halted for one long, drawn-out substitution or injury after another, I’m not sure QPR would have scored if they were still playing now, so it was rather academic.

As time wore on, Neil Warnock started to find what Chris Ramsey had found in a number of cases. Faurlin was used sparingly by the previous manager, and that looked daft after 30 minutes here, but after 60 you could start to see why. Warnock knows, Ramsey knew, Harry Redknapp knew and Mark Hughes knew that for all the comings and goings at Loftus Road, and for all Faurlin’s faults defensively, he’s still the only player Rangers have who can receive the ball, while marked, on the half turn and produce an incisive ball forwards. Everybody else, an English-trait, receives it square on and tends to pass back or sideways.

But Faurlin barely has any knees left after three successive ACL injuries in as many seasons affecting him on both sides. Hughes picked him remorselessly after the first one, 90 minutes after 90 minutes, game after game, and eventually he suffered a relapse. It went again as Redknapp tried to make him a key part of his Premier League side a year ago. Ramsey looked after him, perhaps too much, but having played a full game at Derby on Tuesday, he was a spent force after an hour here. Admittedly, Preston spent half time reorganising to close the space he had to operate in the first 45, but he was obviously on the wane. Ramsey’s big problem was finding somebody else to do that job – Daniel Tozser was bought for it but hasn’t performed so far – and Warnock found the same here.

Ramsey has been sacked because QPR believe they have the players, and are spending enough money, to push for promotion this year. The five players who were meant to leave during the summer but didn’t, raising expectations, all started here in the same game for the first time this season. You couldn’t fault Rob Green, Charlie Austin, Leroy Fer or Matt Phillips for effort and application, but then you couldn’t under Ramsey either. Sandro, typically, punched his card in after 50 minutes and limped off ten minutes later to be replaced by Jay Emmanuel Thomas – no doubt some mega-serious big toe complaint or other that will keep him out for another few weeks. I’ve seen scarier, more intimidating ‘beasts’ on Disney films.

As I said after the Derby defeat in midweek, I don’t think Ramsey was holding this team back, because I don’t think there is anything to hold back. This is as good as this QPR team can be. I’ll be surprised if there’s any kind of sustained new manager bounce, because I don’t think they weren’t playing for the previous manager and I don’t think there’s a lot else for them to give. They’re not as good as the board and a lot of people involved with the club think they are. I desperately hope I’m wrong.

That’s why, for all his faults, I didn’t think Chris Ramsey was the problem, and I thought the grief he got in recent weeks was excessive. One can only imagine the reaction he would have got in the ground and online, drawing 0-0 at home to Preston with Karl Henry starting at right full back while two other youngsters who could play that position are out on loan. One single shot on target in 90 minutes and only two substitutes used, Massimo Luongo not brought on to try and craft something. Leroy Fer, as against Sheff Wed, used as a striker while Seb Polter remained benched. This was all the sort of thing Ramsey was getting pelters for.

Rangers could easily have lost the game too. The visitors brought on Will Keane, not fondly remembered in these parts for a limp-wristed loan spell here two seasons ago, and when he initially burned round Henry with a turn of speed we never saw in his QPR days it felt like a book we’d all read before but Henry did well to get back and execute a good sliding tackle on him just as the situation was getting critical.

From a subsequent Preston corner, however, Bailey Wright, up from the back, flicked a header towards goal at the near post only for Green to produce an improbable save, diving full length across his goal from behind the line to claw the ball out to safety as it flew through a crowd in front of him. He’s cost us plenty of goals and points in 2015, but Green saved us one here with one of the best stops of his career.

When Matt Phillips then wasted a chance to put a good ball into the box, lofting a dangerously placed free kick hopelessly high into the hands of loaned Preston keeper Jordan Pickford, the reaction of the crowd was little more than a muffled groan. They’d have been turning over cars and setting them alight across the White City Estate had the same thing happened a fortnight ago.

I’m certainly not saying that we should be abusing Neil Warnock, who did such a wonderful job here last time and has only been in the hot seat for two days and one match, simply because we abused Chris Ramsey after nine frustrating months in the job – quite the opposite. What I am saying is the expectations being placed on this team, and the reaction that has created at matches over the past few weeks, are excessive for the ability of the players. People wanted Ramsey gone and he’s gone, people wanted 4-4-2 and we played it here, people wanted two in attack and here they were – result QPR 0 Preston North End 0. Everybody, particularly the board, needs to readjust their sights with this group of players and stop looking for scapegoats.

The frustration grew as the game went on. Nedum Onuoha tried to make something happen by charging down the middle of the field with the ball only to be fouled and have referee Lewis wave play on. Onuoha was booked for dissent as he ran back into position and a free kick was awarded against him. Charlie Austin, too, saw yellow in harsh circumstances after he and Marnick Vermijl both slid in to challenge for a loose ball.

Four minutes of stoppage time brought a fierce volley from Browne that was well blocked, and another frustrating stoppage when Daniel Johnson made out like he was mortally wounded, slightly tarnishing a very tidy display in the centre of the park from the Jamaican.

In the end the final whistle came as a blessed relief.

Links >>> Knee Jerks >>> Photo Gallery >>> Ratings and Reports >>> Message Board Match Thread

QPR: Green 7; Henry 6, Onuoha 6, Hall 7, Konchesky 6; Phillips 5, Faurlin 6, Sandro 5 (Emmanuel-Thomas 64, 5), Hoilett 6 (Chery 74, 5); Fer 6, Austin 6

Subs not used: Luongo, Smithies, Angella, Tozser, Polter

Yellow Cards: Onuoha 69 (dissent), Austin 78 (foul)

Preston: Pickford 6; Vermijl 6, Woods 6, Wright 7, Huntington 6; Reach 6, Browne 6, Gallagher 6, Johnson 7 (Kilkenny 90+4, -), Doyle 5 (Keane 75, 6); Garner 5 (Hugill 88, -)

Subs not used: Davies, Brownhill, May, Kirkland

QPR Star Man – Rob Green 7 Bloody difficult really. Faurlin was tremendous for the first 30 minutes and then faded away. Everybody else was much of a muchness. Green gets it for the second half save, the only real incident in the entire game.

Referee – Rob Lewis (Shropshire) 5 Very frustrating official. Did nothing about the constant time wasting, wasted a load of time himself fussing over the placement of everything, stopped the game several times when there were obvious advantages in progress. Just picky and annoying really, and you could see he was irritating the players.

Attendance – 15, 190 (1,000 Preston approx) Decent sized-following from Preston all in all, but the atmosphere around the place, which started in a much more relaxed and upbeat tone than there has been for several weeks, drained away with the game.

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Myke added 20:22 - Nov 8
Warnock out!

simmo added 20:48 - Nov 8
Grant Hall was MoM - Green loses points for again kicking the ball straight out of touch and holding his finger up to tell us he's having his 'one'. What a bell-end

baz_qpr added 22:16 - Nov 8
We played the same 4-2-3-1 that Warnock played the first time around first to keep us up and then to get us up. the front four were closer together the defence 10 yards higher

Philothesuperhoop added 22:47 - Nov 8
Thanks for the report Clive. Spot on - I can't disagree with any of it.

I wanted Ramsey out as it surely has to be a prerequisite of a manager that he can follow a game and make tactical changes and substitutions as required....Ramsey couldn't do that!

However I agree he could only play what he had available. Remember however that he did choose many of the current squad.

Ali was simply superb at the start...I was thinking it would be a great afternoon, but he was soon shut out of the game and/or ran out of gas. Where did that start from Hoilett come from - he looked useful for 25 minutes!

My only hope for the next few months is that Ali doesn't get injured and gets fitter as he plays.

If I was Sandro I would be embarrassed..... Or maybe the fortune we are paying him dulls that feeling!

The concern is that Boro away on a Friday night is next and I expect us to get nothing out of that thankless trip!

Finally, you seem to have the inside track - does Warnock want the job full time but is playing games...or is he really a stop gap?

timcocking added 01:40 - Nov 9
"That’s why, for all his faults, I didn’t think Chris Ramsey was the problem, and I thought the grief he got in recent weeks was excessive."


HastingsRanger added 08:29 - Nov 9
Unbeaten under the messiah!

Thanks, Clive. Interesting to see if we stay the same or improve at all.

How is Konchesky still being selected ahead of Yun?

DesertBoot added 09:15 - Nov 9
Totally agree had Ramsey still been in charge there would have been booing at the end of the game. Only difference between him and Warnock on Saturday were the substitutions to try and win the game - though I expected Luongo for Faurlin to be one of them.
We really need to start feeding Austin the ball to his feet in decent positions. Frustrated shots and goal and coming back across the halfway line to get the ball clearly show discontent.

BlackCrowe added 10:08 - Nov 9
'This is as good as this QPR team can be'.
Not sure I agree with that. We know Phillips can play a lot better, Fer too. Polter's still a bit of an unknown quantity but Luongo and Chery have potential star quality. Given the right managerial appointment (ho-ho) with a bit of tactical nous and motivation, this team should be top 6 but probably too late for this season.

I saw more purpose and entraining football in the first 30 minutes than i have done all season, but then i've missed a few games.

francisbowles added 11:30 - Nov 9
At one point in the second half Mr Lewis was being fussy trying to get a free kick taken from the 'right place' and ran over to show Ned where to put the ball. The player then just pointed to the linesman who was in line with him and an embarrassed referee ran back and let play continue with the ball in the original and correct position.

pedrosqpr added 13:19 - Nov 9
Have to agree with one of the posts here that this squad can compete at a higher level, not sure we are s good as the top teams Hull, Derby etc but they have had a little longer playing together .
Has anyone noticed how poor the refereeing has been this season ( for and against us )
Can you imagine how good Ale could have been without the dodgy knees ! one pleasing point from Saturday was the clapping in a positive way of Karl Henry .
lastly can't stand the international break especially for friendly's .

dixiedean added 19:17 - Nov 9
Agree with Pedro above, that for once Henry was judged on his performance, which was very solid. Problem is against a team like PNE , you really need full backs who can be an attacking threat , which we didn't have. Not Henry's fault , mind you. After the positive start on the front foot it all faded away along with Ale's energy. Agreed that we needed Luongo's zip, but having lost Glass Man 2 to a broken toenail ( must have left his emery boards at home ) we didn't have many options left. Nice sunset though. And Hoilett just proved what we knew already- he can beat the 1st man, occasionally the 2nd but eventually will run up a blind alley, or fall over, or generally be non -productive. No different to SWP really ie No end product ultimately. Is he any better than Tony Scully ? ! He was also quick and shit. Charlie's gonna get bored with the lack of service soon. He was playing in the hole for first half an hour, which is where Fer needed to be as he was a peripheral figure for most of the game. Was their header not over the line ? Looked it from my seat in Loft Upper.

Marshy added 20:22 - Nov 9
It was a fairly dire and frustrating game, but to be fair there were a few positives. I was pleased for Karl Henry, and we should definitely select him at right back again. Ale was great, and back to his best for part of the first half. I don't think we can really expect that he would be able to maintain that type of form for a whole game, at this stage of his latest recovery. Given his history, and the fact that he's even on the field at all, is in itself a miracle. As for Hoilet he did do well at times and was very lively, but he is a one trick pony and you always know his final ball will be poor.

I personally feel that this squad of players have got more to give if they are managed in the right way. Perhaps we might slowly improve, and start to move up the table a bit. The fact that the defence now looks more solid is an improvement. The key is really to sort out the midfield, as its from here that opportunities will be created for Charlie and JET. Particularly against Preston and generally so far this season, there has been a distinct lack of "oportunities".

Myke added 21:06 - Nov 9
Friendly's Pedro? We've got two massive play-off games against Bosnia this week

SonofNorfolt added 01:37 - Nov 13
So you you took in what Rob told you Clive!

TacticalR added 12:36 - Nov 14
Thanks for your report.

The first half we seemed to be playing with more energy, at least at the beginning. I noticed that Warnock left out the smaller players (Luongo and Chery) in the starting line up.

Second half both teams nullified each other - there was a lot of ball in the air and we looked very short of ideas (as we have often done under Ramsey). As dixiedean mentioned, there was very little service for Austin.

A number of players (Fer, Phillips and Hoilett) kept trying to do too much and got caught on the ball. Hoilett had a better game than usual simply because he did his own thing - which is run toward the goal with the ball - we might as well use him for what he's good at and not expect him to cross or see the overlapping full-back.

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