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Bi-annual Fulham thrashing exposes familiar failings – report
Sunday, 14th Feb 2016 16:49 by Clive Whittingham

Fulham, once again, ran the rounds of the kitchen through Queens Park Rangers on Saturday lunchtime, exposing key issues Rangers must address before next season.

Change the players, change the manager, change the CEO, change the DOF, change the transfer policy… the one thing QPR can’t alter is their aversion to playing against neighbours Fulham.

On paper, Saturday’s meeting at Loftus Road looked like a reasonable opportunity for Rangers to arrest a run of just one win from nine meetings against the side from the other side of Hammersmith Broadway. Unbeaten in five, with three clean sheets in that time, and on the back of arguably the best all-round performance of the season against Ipswich a week ago, things seemed to be looking up in Shepherd’s Bush. Fulham, meanwhile, have been flatlining, down in nineteenth in the league with one win from 16 matches prior to this one.

But on three occasions in the last five matches between these sides QPR have found themselves 3-0 down at half time, and history repeated itself here. “Queens Park Rangers, it’s happening again,” rang out from the away end as Ross McCormack, Moussa Dembele and Tom Cairney scored before the break – in truth it could have been twice as bad.

Part of this comes down to that unquantifiable stuff that football people prattle on about – heart, character, confidence, mental strength. That extra little bit of intensity and atmosphere that comes with playing a London derby has proved too much for QPR under all of their recent managers, whoever has been on the field. They have now lost all four of their games against other London opponents this season, extending a winless run in derby games to 16 – 13 defeats and three draws.

This is, in the weird West London food chain, a bigger game for Fulham than it is for QPR, and can’t you just tell? Once the euphoria has died down among the visitors they might start to wonder why they’ve watched their team struggle to win games at all for three years, dropping out of the Premier League and down to the bottom of the Championship in the process, while consistently playing this well whenever QPR arrive on the scene. For now though, the question marks are all hanging over Hooped heads. That pride, that leadership, that determination, all so sadly lacking here, and at Brentford, and at Fulham back in September, and at Charlton, and against Spurs and Arsenal and Palace, has to be found from somewhere.

But this wasn’t all about the Terry Butcher and Stuart Pearce-type stuff, there was plenty for Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher to get their teeth into here as well.

As we saw at Craven Cottage, despite being having a poor season Fulham do have strengths in areas where QPR are particularly weak – namely advanced central midfield and the wings.

QPR have won 35% of their games with Ale Faurlin in the team this season, and only 18% of those without him, so the absence of the Argentinean through injury here was always likely to cause problems. But even with him, Rangers have lacked a muscular presence in front of the defence, or a player capable of doing the hard yards box to box all season. I was surprised the R’s let Diagouraga move from Brentford to Leeds so cheaply without any interest. On Saturday they replaced Faurlin with Daniel Tozser, who’s had a dreadful season at Loftus Road since joining on loan from Watford and quickly wiped away memories of a decent cameo against Ipswich a week ago with an abject display here.

Fulham, meanwhile, play three men through the middle to QPR’s two. Scott Parker sits and holds, allowing Jamie O’Hara and most importantly Tom Cairney to bomb on ahead. That leaves Rangers outnumbered whenever the teams meet and when a player as good as Cairney – probably Fulham’s best player other than Ross McCormack – is the spare man in space there are always likely to be issues.

Time and time again Fulham were able to move into acres of space between Rangers’ midfield and back fours, playing between the lines of a square 4-4-2 formation, with Cairney given the freedom of the park. Alex Smithies had to save well from Jamie O’Hara at the end of one swift move through the centre of the park and Fulham had sprung McCormack and Dembele in behind Nedum Onuoha and Grant Hall three times already before McCormack calmly raced onto a through ball and finished powerfully, precisely into the far corner of the net – only uncertain, ponderous flagging from the linesman on the Ellerslie Road side had saved the R’s on the previous occasions.

Things weren’t much better on the wings, where QPR have struggled all season, and particularly in the two games against Fulham. A lethal combination of two poor full backs playing poorly, with two bone idle wingers in front of them, is ready made for a team that likes to get its full backs overlapping and double up two on one in wide areas down both sides.

It looked like a blow to the visitors when Lasse Christensen was forced off injured after just six minutes – the Dane had already advanced through the wide open spaces of QPR’s right channel into the penalty area to draw a near post save from Smithies in the third minute. But in the end it actually proved to be a blessing. On came Everton loanee Luke Garbutt, and with Matt Phillips turning in a defensive display that he should be personally ashamed and embarrassed by he was able to do pretty much as he liked.

One attack after another down that side saw Garbutt and Phillips start in the same position only for the Fulham man to run forward as Phillips stood still and let him go. Garbutt was free for a pass every time his team had the ball, Phillips didn’t get close to him once. The look of surprise on the Rangers’ man’s face as he turned around, following the ball, again and again and again only to notice far too late that Garbutt had wandered past him into a lethal area unchecked was amazing. It left Perch outnumbered every single time. Garbutt had a whole electoral ward to himself to pick out a cross for Dembele to head in from close range for the second. Phillips not so much phoning his defence in as sending it by post, second class, due to arrive on Tuesday maybe.

If Garbutt needs his kitchen work surfaces wiping down, or his car cleaning, or his shoes shining, maybe Phillips might like to do that for him on his day off this week as well. Couldn’t have done much more to aid and abet his performance on Saturday. How do you like it Luke? In lots of space with lots of time? Fill your boots boy.

Throw in a shambolic third before half time where McCormack ran into that vacant channel once more, Dembele rolled the ball off the base of the post, and Cairney smacked the rebound into the net past Smithies, and the rout was complete. It could have been worse – Perch and Hall both produced great blocks one after another as the ball bobbled around the area dangerously from a Fulham corner.

In response, Phillips headed straight at Andy Lonergan in the Fulham goal early on after good approach play by the recalled Jamie Mackie, and Junior Hoilett dragged a long range shot wide late in the half. Outnumbered in midfield, out enthused across the pitch, lazy in wide areas, and lacking intensity, Rangers were well beaten yet again.

Hasselbaink probably wished he had eight or nine substitutions available to him at the break but he settled for removing Seb Polter, who’d been completely ineffective and off the pace, for Conor Washington. That seemed slightly odd, as it was another body in the middle of midfield Rangers were really crying out for, and all Washington really added was a different face staring upwards as one hopeless punt down the field after another was headed straight back by Dan Burn.

But there was some sort of rally at the start of the second half as Mackie freed Hoilett on the edge of the box to burst into the area only for Michael Madl to chop him down right on the line. It was the dictionary definition of a yellow card, but referee Tim Robinson didn’t even speak to the offender, and then allowed Scott Parker to stand seven yards away from the kick as it was taken. As QPR - stupidly, moronically - decided to touch the ball rather than just hitting it, Parker was only about a foot away from it when it was finally struck by Phillips and was therefore able to block it away. Shambolic refereeing all round really, and Onuoha was subsequently yellow carded for telling him as much.

It was a curious performance from Robinson on his first ever outing at Loftus Road. Not exactly a difficult game to control, given how totally uncompetitive it was, but he nevertheless made a bit of a pig’s ear of it. Later Jamie O’Hara was carded, either for a foul in back play or something he’d said, or both. When you’re upsetting players from both sides equally to the point where they’re all getting booked for dissent you’ve got to have a look closer to home I think. Hall was later yellow carded for a foul nowhere near as bad as Madl’s, in a more neutral area, while in the first half a seemingly obvious hack on Massimo Luongo as he accelerated into a dangerous area brought no free kick at all.

When, midway through the half, Jamie Mackie caught Fulham pissing around in possession and ran clear on goal only to be chopped down by Dan Burn a red card seemed the only likely outcome. Robinson bottled the big decision and showed a yellow, before then booking O’Hara a short time later, and speaking to Mackie at length about his own dissent – a farcical five minutes at the hands of an official out of his depth.

Hasselbaink brought on Nasser El Khayati for Junior Hoilett and the Dutchman was arguably the pick of a fairly wretched bunch. Later Phillips was finally hooked for Tjaronn Chery, who bundled in late consolation from a corner, but these changes exacerbated problems rather than curing them - the R's now without any width to their attack, or any extra defensive presence in the middle of midfield. I’m sure the church, already understandably restless, would have lost their shit completely had Karl Henry come on for Daniel Tozser, but that would have at least stopped Cairney running riot.

Cairney was at the heart of a move on 56 minutes that picked QPR apart again only for Jamie O’Hara top be flagged offside as he ran clear on goal. Three minutes later the ball broke to Cairney himself in a similar position, but he shot wide when he should have scored. And four minutes later still an absolutely wild, ridiculous, unprofessional attempt at something resembling a tackle from Perch wide on the right left the whole half behind him vacant and McCormack should have done more than shoot straight at Smithies.

Lonergan needed two attempts to gather a drive from El Khayati, and then saved well from Perch as he headed a corner firmly towards goal, but conceded late to Chery. But Smithies was fortunate to fumble a wide shot from McCormack over the bar rather than into the net and ultimately it was fairly miraculous that it was only 3-1 by the end.

At the risk of being happy clappy about it, in the context of this being preparation for next season this might be more use to Hasselbaink than us ambling to a routine draw. That lack of a dominant, athletic presence in the middle of midfield, the poor form of both full backs, the laziness of both wingers in defence – these have been problems all season and will need to be solved before next season. Having a bright, harsh light shone on them in such a high profile game will dispel any idea that they can be papered over.

Hasselbaink said afterwards he was surprised, and hadn’t seen it coming. That shouldn’t have been the case – Fulham beat QPR in the same areas, with the same players, they’d taken them to the cleaners in and with back in September.

An excruciating watch.

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QPR: Smithies 6; Perch 5, Onuoha 4, Hall 5, Konchesky 4; Phillips 3 (Chery 76, 6), Toszer 3, Luongo 5, Hoilett 5 (El Khayati 65, 6); Polter 4 (Washington 46, 5), Mackie 6

Subs not used: Hill, Henry, Ingram, Petrasso

Goals: Chery 89 (assisted Tozser)

Bookings: Onuoha 48 (dissent), Hall 82 (foul)

Fulham: Lonergan 6; Fredericks 7, Madl 6, Burn 8, Christensen – (Garbutt 6, 8); Amorebieta 6, Parker 7 (Ince 78, 6), O’Hara 7, Cairney 8; McCormack 8, Dembele 7 (Hundman 84, -)

Subs not used: Richards, Smith, Kacaniklic, Lewis

Goals: McCormack 35 (assisted Cairney), Dembele 41 (assisted Garbutt), Cairney 45+2 (assisted Dembele)

Bookings: Burn 63 (foul), O’Hara 65 (dissent)

QPR Star Man – N/A

Referee – Tim Robinson (West Sussex) 4 Made rather a pig’s ear of a one-sided, uncompetitive game which doesn’t bode particularly well. One red card challenge from Burn only received a yellow, one yellow card challenge on Hoilett didn’t get a card at all, one foul on Luongo was waved away altogether, two players were booked for dissent when their frustration with the officials all became too much for them… but he was very hot and precise about the placement of throw ins. Not as bad as QPR, but not far off.

Attendance – 17,335 (2,900 Fulham approx) Ordinarily I’d say that the booing and heckling of the QPR players doesn’t help and we should try and support and yadda yadda yadda. Bollocks to that today. This was embarrassing, and continues to be embarrassing, and the people who paid money to get in had every right to say as much. If only some of the QPR players out on the field were so vocal with each other – the silence and resignation among the players after each goal goes in was nearly as alarming as the goals themselves, Onuoha more keen on screaming at the referee than trying to rally the team he’s meant to captain.

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N12Hoop added 17:15 - Feb 14
What concerns me the most about yesterday is that not only did JFH not see it coming but he didn't change anything until it was too late. I'm glad we have him as a manager and that at last we are going for a longer term view, but he looked like a complete novice yesterday with his inability to firm things up when we were getting torn apart and that is worrying.
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isawqpratwcity added 17:27 - Feb 14
Thanks, Clive. I was pleased to see Mackie fully fit for the whole game and chasing anything and everything down. Not fantastically effective but really committed.
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Spiritof67 added 18:01 - Feb 14
Take nothing away from Fulham"s performance who could and should have doubled there goal tally, but when you are faced with such a shambolic performance from QPR, then it's so depressing to witness that 90 minutes of shambles. In the first 15 minutes, we reverted back to our poor corner taking of firing the ball across to the opposite side of the penalty box. We then watched Plan B corner kicks with Phillips standing on the touch line watching a corner kick being taken. No tackling in midfield, but then apart from Henry on the bench who else could have slotted into the midfield, oh yes we have let Doughty go,out on loan.

The continued idea that we could just lump the ball forward to be easily dealt with, every time, by a six foot plus defender was mind boggling. Agree with you Clive, we need a captain who is going to gee up the team when things are going wrong and not just moan to the referee. A lot of work to do behind the scenes to sort this situation out.
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connell10 added 19:31 - Feb 14
We were shite!
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Neil_SI added 20:31 - Feb 14
I certainly agree with the sentiment that it's about identifying these issues with a view to trying to find solutions for them in the future. The current squad doesn't really have the attributes to play the way JFH wants the team to play and even with a couple of lengthy breaks that allowed for mini pre-seasons isn't really going to fix that at this point.

This was the first question mark of JFH's reign so far, because the formation and set up didn't seem to be right to me and he didn't make changes to help the side. But we're going to see these kind of games where half the team is on a different wavelength to the rest.

Here we had Mackie and Poulter trying to press on their own, occasionally with Phillips and Hoilett in advanced positions as well, but practically they were putting themselves out of the match once Fulham turned the ball over and got it into the middle of the pitch. At that point, they had so many two on one scenarios across the park that it made it very difficult for the players behind to really do anything about it.

So what happened? Most likely JFH wanted the whole team to press, but for some reason only some of them did. And then there was a lack of work ethic and desire to get into a compact shape when we didn't win that ball. So there's both a physical and tactical element to this. Once the physical doesn't work for some players, you have to make tactical adjustments to help and we never did that, so JFH has to take some responsibility but at the same time, you look at the players and think to yourself... come on, you should know better.

Still, Fulham showed that through structured play and particular personnel playing to their strengths can yield good performances and results. If we can find some pattern play for various areas of the pitch, then we can make improvements and find ways to play more consistently to our strengths.

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HOOPNO7 added 20:54 - Feb 14
Onouha should never been made captain, he shows no leadership & his communication/motivation skills are non existent. Overall a great report thanks for your time & effort pity the majority of our players can't show the same level of effort/professionalism
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DejR_vu added 21:50 - Feb 14
Not a lot to disagree with there, although I think it's a bit harsh on Mackie to lump him in with the rest. First game back, ran until he dropped, created one or two chances; I'd have had him as MoM.
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TacticalR added 22:57 - Feb 14
Thanks for your report.

We seemed to be completely mesmerised by Fulham. We were totally overrun in midfield and their advanced players were not tracked properly and could pick passes through our defence. Even in the second half when they didn't actually score, they had complete freedom to take shots from the edge of the box.

Though the game was lost in midfield, for the second and third goals I have to lay the blame at Onuoha's door for losing his man.

Agree that the Washington substitution was pointless as it didn't change our formation or situation.

Also agree that the ref made a mess of things, and nearly all his errors went in Fulham's favour.
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FloridaR added 23:51 - Feb 14
Our speed of play in the attacking third was very poor 1st half until late in the game when Fulham had made subs.
Hoillet was dog and JFH using him as a fwd midfielder trying to disrupt Fulhams build up play was a joke second half.
Perch - phillips awful pairing.
Overall. Poor management on sideline & the passion for the situation and level of game was missing.
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Marshy added 00:18 - Feb 15
The only player to come out of the game with any credit was Jamie Mackie. He didn't stop running the whole 90 minutes. He may not be the most skilful player, but he's a true professional.

We should have known from the start that we would be turned over by Fulham as 1. It was a Sky televised match 2. Recent history shows that we always get slaughtered by them 3. Daniel Tosser was in from the start. The man is not a footballer he's a comedian. 4. Washington, El Khayati & Chery should not have been on the bench they should have started the match. 5. We won last week so it would have been too good to be true that we could possibly win two games running.

To Fulham fans QPR are a laughingstock, and to be fair you can't blame them.


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timcocking added 01:55 - Feb 15
Christ. Bloody depressing. Can we never have a feel good factor last more than one game?

The problem is, with the possible exception of Grant Hall and Smithies, have we actually got one good player? I'd replace probably every player in our squad given the chance. All too slow or too lazy or out of form. Not sure what the heck I'd try if I was JFH. I'm guessing he now realizes what a sack of sh!t we are.

And FFP, what a joke. Fcuking killing us. If Sandro had (slim hope) stayed fit, we'd have had at least one decent player in midfield, now he's gone in central mid could we be any worse? 4 slow players to choose from. With 4 slow, unathletic cms, lazy wingers and a crap defence, Seb Poulter up front. What a load of sh!te that is.
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superhoopdownunder added 08:45 - Feb 15
Hi Clive
Love your work albeit a depressing update this week.
Unfortunately Daniel Tozser has a 2 year contract. A poor decision in hindsight.
Cheers
James
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RonisRs added 09:06 - Feb 15
Well all the pre-hype, that lightening does not strike twice........ it was supposed to be a great weekend of watching sport on TV, but did not start off well. QPR seem to have an issue with playing under the TV spotlight.

Mackie was energetic, but ran around aimlessly, as there was no link up play, not many passes strung together. We were pretty poor, and marginally better in the second half, post the subs.

To top it off, Doughty scored 2 goals for Swindon as a loan Ranger...

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stneotsbloke added 09:24 - Feb 15
Nothing to add to the raft of entirely justified anger and frustrations of earlier posts.
Phillips and Toilet are supposed to be senior players but they have one decent game a month and do nowhere near enough to warrant their place in this team. Over the years they've been here they've done very little earn their corn and we simply can't keep hoping that they fulfil their alleged promise, they've let us down too many times.
Perch and Konchesky aren't great but they get zero support from our wingers. Fulham clearly knew this and exploited it, blame Phillips and Toilet not Perch and Konchesky.
Dismal, depressing and bloody annoying. Will I be at the next home game - of course I will !!.
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wotcangowrong added 09:40 - Feb 15
Who scouted Perch? He's just not good enough for me. With the other full back, Konchesky, not fit for purpose either and Tozser and Luongo utterly anonymous, we never stood a chance. JFH has to work with these players so I understand why he didn't hook them, but I'd have moved Onuoha to right back (not ideal, I know), brought Hill on for Perch and put him at centre back. I'd have replaced Tozser with Henry (not great but at least would have offered defensive cover) and replaced Luongo with Khayati. I'd also have gone to 4-5-1 with Mackie dropping back into midfield.
This QPR team still very much a work in progress – long way to go yet!
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steveB66 added 10:48 - Feb 15
With Faurlin absent and Washington dropped to the bench we otherwise played with the same team as last week?

Key players like Onouha and Hoilett who have been much improved of late, did not turn up. Tozser is awful, he looks like has good balance but he adds nothing he is slow and rarely does more than either clip the ball up in the air or go backwards with a short pass.

Philliips cannot defend period. Our full backs allowed balls in behind them all afternoon.

So much to maligne and so little to commend and a great shame as I saw green shoots of recovery against ipswich. This taking one step forward and two steps back is becoming a bore.
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YouRs added 12:59 - Feb 15
Most of our players are league 1 at best. There's no leadership, no enthusiasm, no drive, no ambition.
Toszer - he's got a wand of a left foot don't you know(!!) and Konchesky shpuld be no where near the first team - regardless of who they've got in front of them or around them.
And now we've let Yun go out on loan.
This club is just a constant running joke, season after season, its just really not funny anymore. Bad times.
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qprninja added 20:13 - Feb 15
Simply embarrassing performance in a local derby, Alan McDonald must be turning in his grave. Where was the pride? Fair play to Fulham who were fantastic, I think they may have already been two up when three of their players threw themselves at the ball defending on the edge of their box leaving two of them prone on the deck. Didn't see that from any of ours. It will be interesting to see the reaction after this setback.
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Myke added 00:00 - Feb 17
For the second time this season Fulham have been hammered 3-0 by a very mediocre team a few days after thrashing the daylights out of us. I think that sums up just what a poor state of affairs we are in. We need a right back, presumably Robinson will be the regular left back next season and a really competitive, ball-winning defensive mid-fielder in the Shaun Derry mould who can protect the back four and get either Fraulin or Luongo on the ball. I also presume that El Kayate is Hoilett's long-term replacement so the more game time he gets the better. We also need a right winger or will that be Mackie's role next season? Despite the shambolic performance on Saturday, if we can hold onto Hall , shift the dead-wood and saleable assets (Green, Sandro, Hoilett, Fer, Phillips, Traore, Diakite) and strengthen in the two or three places I mentioned we could be competitive next season
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romfordranger added 22:10 - Feb 17
What a shambles, no local pride, Fulham wanted it so much more than us, completely unacceptable. What was clear is that we don't turn up for London derbies, the team lack a leader and true captain, Hasselbaink often has a weak plan A, and a plan B doesn't exist if plan A isn't working, and substitutions are quite bizarre at times. The fans deserve better but won't get it. It will be much of the same for a while, an inexperienced manager who at times looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights, probably cursing his decision to accept the job in the first place!
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GaxZE added 13:03 - Feb 18
Wish Toszer was on loan.. got that guy for another season yet!
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