QPR beat Leeds in clash of the asylums – report
Sunday, 29th Nov 2015 19:20 by Clive Whittingham
Charlie Austin stepped off the bench to score the winning goal with his first touch as QPR deservedly shrugged a weak Leeds United aside at Loftus Road on Saturday.
Queens Park Rangers are heavily reliant on Charlie Austin for goals. Leeds United’s class of 2015/16 is a poor team at a farcically run club on the slide. Saturday at Loftus Road wasn’t a day for learning things we didn’t already know, it was an afternoon for Rangers to claim three points to halt an alarming slide down the Championship league table. Despite the narrow final score, they did that with plenty to spare.
Loftus Road was packed to the rafters for the first time this season, with both tiers of the School End allocated to the visiting team for the first time in years, and the November wind and rain whipping through the place necessitating early use of the lights gave this the sense and atmosphere of a real occasion. It felt like an FA Cup Fifth Round tie – if, of course, QPR fans still remember what one of those feels like after 18 years without one.
In actual fact, it was fifteenth v sixteenth in the Championship. QPR, under caretaker management, making no fist at all of making an immediate return to the Premier League after relegation last season. Leeds out of the top flight for 11 years and not looking like going back any time soon under the scandalously farcical ownership of Italian Massimo Cellinio, who’s already onto a second manager of the season and will almost certainly go through a couple more by May.
The action on the pitch, for the first half at least, lived up to the league positions, rather than the support. Neil Warnock, not interested in or being considered for the managerial position at Rangers permanently according to pre-match reports, picked a team without a recognised striker for the second game in succession. Rangers hadn’t scored for four matches before this, and quickly made that four and a half, and even allowing for Jay Emmanuel Thomas being injured, his selections look political against the director of football Les Ferdinand. Warnock has often stated his desire to move into a role between the manager and board at a football club in his semi-retirement, and it’s pointedly the Ferdinand signings, apart from Grant Hall, that are being ignored here. After 45 turgid minutes of football, it was hard to believe Massimo Luongo, as the prime example, wasn’t worth a place.
Still, at least it gave us something to talk about. Well, that and the full debut of diminutive Canadian winger Michael Petrasso. A QPR youth teamer in the QPR first team. What sort of sorcery was this? It was difficult not to stare at the boy like one of the more unusual exhibits in London Zoo’s Reptile House. Like the early cave men seeing fire for the first time.
He acquitted himself very well. Good skill on the half hour set Junior Hoilett up for a crossing opportunity which he wasted – still, two Canadians playing in the same Football League team makes for an interesting quiz question, Millwall 2004 is my bet for the last time it happened. Later Petrasso unloaded a shot from the edge of the area that seemed destined for the top corner until it hit Sandro and deflected away. Decent pace, decent work rate, nice touch of the ball – his inclusion rubbished the myth that QPR don’t have kids at the club worth considering for the senior team, and that the crowd won’t be supportive of them when they are.
Lord knows they had precious little else to respond to. Leeds’ Stuart Dallas spending the best part of three minutes on the floor being treated for a bloodied nose – which couldn’t possibly have been done ten yards away on the otherwise of the touchline, of course – then running back onto the pitch only to be immediately ironed out again by Sandro for another prolonged stoppage rather summed the first 45 minutes up. It was a half of football to drive a vicar to crystal meth.
Ale Faurlin was exemplary in the middle of the midfield, but a seventh minute free kick booted off towards Acton after Hoilett had been felled by Liam Bridcutt – the Sunderland loanee was booked on his debut – wasn’t his finest hour. Nor was Hoilett’s header straight up in the air on the half hour after a good cross from Paul Konchesky – even lesser spotted than QPR youth team players in the first team. Nor was Robert Green inexplicably deciding to come charging 40 yards away from his goal to try, and fail, to intercept a straightforward Leeds punt down the field leaving Chris Wood to stride round him but take too long over the finish to exploit the open goal.
But Hoilett actually played very well here, his best performance for the club for many a long month, and that Wood chance was the only one Leeds created until the very dying embers of the game. Nedum Onuoha tried his luck from 30 yards just before half time, and missed by far less than you’d expect, to merely exaggerate QPR’s desperate need for a focal point in the attack. All that was missing was an actual striker.
After ten uneventful minutes of the second half, that hero came along. A double substitution saw Petrasso and the industrious Yun Suk-Young replaced by Tjaronn Chery and, more importantly, Charlie Austin. The game changed literally immediately. QPR would finish the afternoon with 20 shots on the Leeds goal, and these came with metronomic regularity once Austin entered the fray.
It was clear right away that Leeds had no idea what to do with Rangers’ talisman. He joined the game just as the R’s forced a series of corners at the Loft End which was absolutely perfect for him to take advantage of the chaos his arrival created. With both Leeds’ centre halves insisting that they’d been detailed to mark Onuoha and Grant Hall, Austin was completely unattended from the first one but couldn’t get to the ball. He was still unmarked for the second, beautifully delivered by Ale Faurlin, and headed home powerfully with his first touch of the game as a result. A third corner shortly after saw him left totally alone again, with Chris Wood belatedly deciding he’d make some sort of attempt to get near him. A fourth one from the other side gave Austin a chance to flick a near post header goalwards only for Leeds keeper Silvestri to produce a fine reaction save and keep the deficit at one.
The whole thing reflected poorly on Leeds, and their latest temporary manager Steve Evans. The players all had the man they’d been detailed to mark before the game so they were happy, even though the division’s best striker was standing there with nobody near him. No collective responsibility. I’m alright Jack, pull the ladder up. The management on the sideline were unable to alter their side after one double substitution from the opposition. It would take 81 minutes for their one and only shot on target – a tame volley from substitute Lee Erwin that Green was able to fall on in three stages. The away fans celebrated it like they’d scored. Chris Wood, a player who’s torn this league apart in Millwall colours previously, ambled about refusing to punch his weight, like a Championship Connor Wickham.
There was some late pressure – Green was slow from his line to claim a bouncing ball in his six yard box, then another low cross dribbled right through the goal mouth without a touch being applied as four minutes of stoppage time drifted by. But Lewis Cook’s low shot wide was as good as it got. Cook was booked for a bad foul on Chery just before that to add to the youngster’s frustration. He’s one of a number of good little players available to Leeds – Alex Mowatt also looked tidy – but they’re no kind of team, with no kind of management and no kind of chairman.
Evans said afterwards: “We were disappointing in every aspect of the team.
They were just what QPR needed really, to show that things could be worse.
The teams both had similar penalty appeals waved away by referee Peter Bankes either side of half time. Hoilett seemed to have been clearly pushed under a Konchesky cross for the first, Wood likewise for the second, but neither were awarded.
The one way traffic after Austin’s arrival saw Hoilett and Phillips both playing far better on their respective wings than they had through the middle. Phillips cut a ball back for Faurlin to curl a 25 yarder just wide, then Austin did likewise for Chery to force the save of the game from Silvestri although the Dutchman should have scored. Phillips shot wide from long range, Onuoha somehow bundled his way through five challenges on the edge of the Leeds area to create another chance, Hoilett could only head up in the air from another good Phillips cross – it was so much better, not only than the first half but also much of what’s gone before this season. Rangers executed a high press right through until injury time, showing admirable application and work ethic. Leeds looked uncomfortable all second half and could have lost by more, as the increasingly tetchy fans behind the School End goal made only too clear in their chants.
The visitors were so poor it’s important not to get carried away with a 1-0 win Rangers successfully saw through to the end. It was an important result, from a much improved performance, with the likes of Grant Hall, Nedum Onuoha, Sandro, Junior Hoilett and especially Ale Faurlin all on an upward form trajectory. But the whole thing still hung on Austin, without whom this would probably have finished 0-0 again. Some nuggets for a new manager to nibble on, but still a lot of shit to shovel for whoever gets the nod in the next week or so.
QPR: Green 5; Perch 6, Onuoha 7, Hall 7, Konchesky 6; Petrasso 6 (Austin 57, 7), Sandro 7, Faurlin 8, Yun 6 (Chery 57, 7), Hoilett 7 (Henry 89, -), Phillips 6
Subs not used: Luongo, Smithies, Angella, Tozser
Goals: Austin 58 (assisted Faurlin)
Leeds: Silvestri 7; Wootton 5, Belusci 5, Cooper 5, Taylor 5; Mowatt 6 (Botaka 67, 5), Bridcutt 6, Cook 6, dallas 6; Antenucci 5 (Erwin 80, -), Wood 4
Subs not used: Byram, Murphy, Doukara, Adeyemi, Peacock-Farrell
Booked: Bridcutt 6 (foul), Wootton 35 (foul), Cook 82 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Ale Faurlin 8 So wonderful to see him playing like this, right back to his mesmeric best, despite three ACL injuries in the last three seasons. Warnock’s key achievement since retaking control of the team. Conducted the whole thing and delivered several dangerous corners, including the one for the goal. Brilliant.
Referee – Peter Bankes (Merseyside) 7 At the time I thought the Junior Hoilett penalty appeal looked a stick on, but I haven’t seen it back. Thought his time keeping was intriguing – two minutes added to the end of a first half when Dallas had been down for twice that by himself, then four minutes in the second despite a lack of injuries and goals. But overall, pretty decent - kept control nicely, not a lot of cards, good advantage played at times.
Attendance – 18,031 (3,100 Leeds approx) I was personally surprised the idea to start giving the whole School End to the away fans met with such little opposition, but I must say it did feel better to be inside a full Loftus Road and it seemed to add to the atmosphere.
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Pictures – Action Images
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