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Steady improvements and familiar failings combine in Wolves draw - Report
Sunday, 24th Jan 2016 22:56 by Clive Whittingham

QPR lost points from a leading position yet again on Saturday as Wolves came on strong after half time and salvaged a deserved 1-1 draw after falling behind early.

Some signs of life and improvement, some familiar failings, some more points lost from a winning position – Quuens Park Rangers’ 2015/16 season continues to amble along to a midtable conclusion. By the time it’s over in May, we’ll do well to recall half a dozen of the 46 league matches.

Saturday’s run of the mill 1-1 draw at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers was different from last weekend’s 3-0 success at Rotherham for two main reasons other than location, opposition and final score. In South Yorkshire Rangers had been able to add a second goal to their first when on top, making a victory much easier to see out – they weren’t able to do that at home to Kenny Jackett’s side on Saturday and have now surrendered 21 points this year from games they’ve lead at some point. And on their first visit to the New York Stadium, in what turned out to be the first victory under new manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at the ninth attempt, they came on strong in the second half after a poor first 45, whereas here on their own patch it was the exact opposite.

A platform seemed to have been laid for a home win by an impressive team performance before half time. Rangers picked up where they left off against Neil Redfearn’s side, scoring after two minutes and creating several more chances to add to that before the tea and orange segments were handed round.

German target man Sebastien Polter won a free kick after two minutes as his latest physical confrontation with a Championship centre half – Danny Batth the victim this time – got under way. He converted the chance himself too, rising highest to direct Matt Phillips’ delivery into the bottom corner despite Wolves’ other centre back Ethan Ebanks-Landell pulling him back by the shirt.

Polter is proving a real handful for defences at this level and Matt Phillips can still deliver a ball better than most in the division despite his rank inconsistency and recent aversion to tackling and defending as a potential money-spinning move away from the club beckons in this transfer window. Twice before half time good approach work through midfield by Massimo Luongo gave Phillips a crossing chance from the right – the first just out of Polter’s reach as he flung himself into the goal mouth, the second headed down by the German as he clattered over the top of Batth but Carl Ikeme was equal to the effort.

Phillips tried one himself from 25 yards when David Edwards deliberately palmed the ball away for an obvious free kick – referee Andy Woolmer perhaps generous not to show the visiting player a yellow card for that one – but having cut across the back of the ball Phillips sent his effort wide of Ikeme and his wall, but also wide of the post.

But there had been warning signs that Rangers wouldn’t have this all their own way throughout the match – not only in the first period here, but also in two previous matches this season.

When Brighton and Hove Albion drew 2-2 on this ground in December Robert Green’s shambolic goalkeeping drew much of the attention from their second goal, but it was scored from long range by Rajiv van la Parra, a Dutch winger loaned to the South Coast club by Wolves. Quite why Wolves, in tenth at the start of play, would want to loan him out was difficult to fathom on the evidence of that night, and a total bloody mystery by the end of this one.

He served notice on veteran left back Paul Konchesky after a quarter of an hour, burning him for pace having isolated him in a wide area and delivering a testing cross to the heart of the six yard box where Nedum Onuoha did extremely well to hook it away from danger.

When QPR won 3-2 at Molineux in the first meeting between these sides this season in August they did so despite trailing two nil early, and being largely dominated through the midfield by the leggy pairing of Dave Edwards and Kevin McDonald. Those two were paired here again and despite Rangers’ dominance in the first half, and Massimo Luongo’s eye catching performance going forwards, they were able to completely take over the middle of the park by early in the second stanza, exploiting the Australian’s lack of defensive strength and a tired performance from his partner Karl Henry.

The equaliser, when it came, was extremely fortunate – James Henry’s tame shot deflecting first off Hall and then, just as Alex Smithies had committed to following its path, off Onuoha changing the angle just enough to divert it around the stricken keeper’s outstretched leg and into the back of the unguarded net.

But by the end, Rangers could scarcely complain at being pegged back. With Edwards and McDonald controlling the middle and van La Parra making Konchesky wish he’d retired years ago, the visitors were every bit as good after half time as QPR had been before it.

Edwards headed one good cross over after 55 minutes, then van La Parra saw a shot blocked in the area, seemingly by Grant Hall’s arm for a decent penalty appeal, after James Perch had inexplicably sent a nervous header back into the danger zone. Things calmed for a little while after that but QPR’s first change – bringing on Tjaronn Chery for Henry and moving Leroy Fer back into a more defensive midfield position – opened them up even more through the middle of the park and suddenly it looked like Wolves were playing with 13 men on the field.

The thing quickly descended into a panic. Grant Hall’s fine covering tackle drew applause on 73 minutes but the Hoops couldn’t clear their lines and Smithies had to fling himself to his left and get two strong hands to keep out a powerful effort by Matt Doherty as he drove forwards from left back. Smithies looked altogether more nervous seconds later as he rather patted away a speculative shot from McDonald, only to leap to his feet and make the save of the game from Edwards as he headed down towards the bottom corner when Wolves immediately returned the ball into the penalty box.

Panic off the field as well, where the ridiculous notion that four stewards need to run down the touchline and sit in front of the QPR fans every time there is a throw in or a corner finally came back to bite whichever fool came up with it. Hopefully the slip, fall, and prolonged treatment required for one of them before they were carried away on a stretcher will put paid to this nonsense once and for all. Best wishes to the injured party.

So, QPR grateful to their goalkeeper, the referee, and their centre half pairing for keeping the game tied. Wolves sent on George Saville for Edwards shortly after that flurry of chances, and, with Adam Le Fondre ineffective and mostly offside as their main striker all afternoon anyway, started to look like they were happy with the draw they’d fought back to attain.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, as has been the case in one or two games of late, seemed slow with his own changes by comparison. It was hard to believe, for instance, that Konchesky wouldn’t have benefitted from the presence of Jamie Mackie ahead of him down the left wing for extra defensive muscle and work rate, as Wolves’s best two players van La Parra and Dominic Iorfa – son of… - continued to isolate and dominate him. Ale Faurlin, likewise, would have done a far better job of regaining control of the midfield from Edwards and McDonald than a flagging Luongo and only ever half interested Leroy Fer could do.

When a switch was eventually made, seven minutes from time, the effect of the fresh legs down the left flank was instant. Conor Washington, signed from Peterborough during the week, slotted straight in to the left of Seb Polter and within five minutes had killed a ball dropping out of the sky stone dead, accelerated into dangerous space and cut the ball back perfectly for fellow sub Tjaronn Chery to sweep home from seven yards out unmarked. Somehow, the Dutchman smacked the inside of the post.

It wasn’t entirely one way traffic – Seb Polter could easily have had a second with better connection on a swivelling volley when a corner dropped into his path soon after half time and Matt Phillips had a side-footed volley blocked midway through the second half – but it was certainly QPR’s first half and Wolves’ second and a draw was a fair result. Hasselbaink and his men grateful substitute Saville snatched at an injury time chance when the ball broke to him in the area to preserve that stalemate.

A work in very steady progress then. Positives – Polter, Smithies, Phillips’ deliveries, Luongo with the ball - weighed equally with negatives – Konchesky, Henry, Phillips’ defence, Luongo without the ball. Further small improvements could be made with better use of the bench – particularly Mackie who would have been absolutely perfect to help regain some semblance of physical parity down the QPR left in the second half – but this did rather feel like this QPR team parring the course. The lack of a dominant central midfielder, fit enough to run box to box and control that area of the field for the team, in the style of Shaun Derry, will continue to be keenly felt.

And then we all got in the car and set off for Nottingham Forest.

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

QPR: Smithies 7; Perch 6, Onuoha 7, Hall 7, Konchesky 5; Luongo 6, Henry 5 (Chery 73, 5); Phillips 6, Hoilett 6 (Washington 83, -), Fer 5; Polter 6

Subs not used: Hill, Mackie, Lumly, Faurlin, Angella

Goals: Polter 2 (assisted Phillips)

Wolves: Ikeme 6; Iorfa 7, Batth 6, Ebanks-Landell 6, Doherty 6; Van La Parra 8, McDonald 7, Edwards 7 (Saville 82, -), Henry 6, Coady 6; Le Fondre 5

Subs not used: Goldbourne, McCarey, Rowe, Price, Byrne, Enobakhare

Goals: Henry 48

QPR Star Man – Grant Hall 7 Rarely makes a mistake, or loses a header. A real find. remained composed at the back in the second half despite the central midfield and full backs leaving him and Onuoha exposed.

Referee – Andy Woolmer (Northants) 7 I've knocked him down from the original eight because having had a second look (which he doesn't get of course) the Grant Hall handball appeal does look a penalty to me, with a deliberate move of the upper arm towards the ball. But overall I thought he was excellent, right on top of every decision and very decisive with his calls - a far cry from his last shambolic performance here a couple of years back when Bournemouth were in town. Generous not to book Edwards for his deliberate handball in the first half.

Attendance 15, 266 (1,200 Wolves approx) Morgue-like atmosphere, as always for these bloody early kick offs. Credit to the Wolves fans for travelling down in good numbers and singing anti-Sky Sports songs all afternoon. Wish we'd joined in a bit more.

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Pictures: Action Images

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stneotsbloke added 08:55 - Jan 25
To state the bleedin obvious, this was a game of two halves and the final result was deserved for both sides.
The midfield was very poor. Fer, Phillips simply aren't doing anywhere near enough to warrant their places in this team and whilst Hoillet is putting in a lot more effort these days, he also doesn't do anywhere near enough. Their days as R's players are over and for the benefit of them and the Club it's about time they moved on.
Is it only me who thinks that, after a very promising early season, Chery's overall game hasn't really moved on.
Annoying that JFH didn't make substitutions around the hour mark. Mackie would certainly have livened things up.
Konch had a torrid afternoon but I can remember younger and far better defenders (eg. Clement, Gillard, Wilson, Parker) having tough afternoons but, unlike some others, Konch never shirked any responsibility. La Parra was superb and he'll roast far better and younger defenders than Konch - the Toxic Twitterati should take a reality check. I wonder why successive managers don't seem to rate Yun Su Young ?.

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Burnleyhoop added 10:18 - Jan 25
Progress is progress. Delighted with Smithies taking over from Green, and the central pairing is now strong and firmly ensconced. The front two could be an ideal big man little man combo and I feel genuinely excited at the prospect of these two working together. As you say Clive, a mixed bag in midfield, but we need the addition of someone like Lansbury to add steel and dynamism. Good to see Luongo and Chery getting game time. We are now in a much belated period of transition, but one that was clearly needed. All the real work will come in the summer with another clear out and hopefully a good pre-season.
We're not going up or down, but will be more than happy to watch further progress made as we approach the business end. Feel much better about things now than a month ago tbh.
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30yarder added 13:08 - Jan 25
Thought Smithies was MOM. Lot's of positives to be had Smithies, Hall, Polter even Perch played better. There's light appearing at the end of the tunnel.
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Myke added 14:30 - Jan 25
What we seem to be lacking more than anything else and which Clive alluded to, is an energetic, box-to-box midfielder, who can take the game by the scruff of the neck when we need to - is Samba really that bad?
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tsbains64 added 21:01 - Jan 25
Prefer the early kick off, less drunks but agree the atmosphere could be better Was expecting more of afizz under JFH leadership but it is poor at the moment At least with Ramsey we scored goals !!
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QPRski added 05:53 - Jan 26
I agree that our substitutions seemed late. I think it was a missed opportunity.

Almost a great assist from Washington with his first run with the ball. Why wasn't he given a longer run out? He looked keen and dangerous which is great news.
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HastingsRanger added 12:45 - Jan 26
As always a very accurate report, Clive.

I am pleased to have Smithies in goal, with distribution and concentration being far better than Green I am baffled at the left back situation, where Konchesky is out run so much and Yun Suk-Young is not considered.

As already mentioned, there were obvious substitutions to be made for tired legs too

Washington did very well and Chery's ability to fluff great chances in front of goal is worrying.

Phillips and Fer were disappointing again.

All round mediocre mid-table game. Shame, was hoping for more.
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TacticalR added 14:11 - Jan 29
Thanks for your report.

I enjoyed the match more than some, probably because there was a bit more goalmouth incident and attacking play than towards the end of Ramsey's reign. There were a number of positives such as Phillips' assist and Luongo's tenacity, and a great save from Smithies, although it's true we looked way too open in the second half when Chery came on.
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