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Draw kings improve enough to hold Wednesday — Report
Wednesday, 24th Feb 2016 17:49 by Clive Whittingham

After two poor performances, Queens Park Rangers looked much more organised and composed in securing a fourteenth draw of the season at high-flying Sheffield Wednesday last night.

You have to start to wonder what set of circumstances would have to be in place for Queens Park Rangers not to draw. Receiving permission to field 13 players, armed with medieval weaponry of their choice perhaps? Or punished for one of those “not a finer details person” administration errors the club has been so prone to over the years by being forced to play with only eight players — blindfolded.

Probably still end 1-1, almost certainly after keeping a clean sheet in the first half (this was the twenty first time Rangers had kept the opponents scoreless in the first 45 minutes in their last 22 league games) and quite likely having taken the lead in the second (these were the twenty second and third points the R’s have surrendered from a winning position this season).

Two away games in four days: one against the bottom-placed team, which has won only four games all season and was at the time of the game essentially bankrupt and at death’s door; the other at one of the promotion chasers, who’ve lost only once on their own patch all season and scored more home goals than any other Championship side. Rangers regressed just enough to draw the former, and improved sufficiently to do the same in the latter.

Moans and groans and raised eyebrows aplenty among the hardy few who made the journey north as the team selection came through an hour before kick off, but credit to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for not only correcting obvious deficiencies in his team in the past two games, but also successfully nullifying a play-off chasing team that had put four through Brentford last time out on this ground to lift their tally to 33 goals from 16 home matches this season.

Nedum Onuoha at right full back isn’t a recipe that’ll be making any Jamie Oliver book anytime soon, but recalling Gabrielle Angella at centre half added the physicality Rangers have lacked alongside Grant Hall in the middle of defence while moving James Perch to left back proved an unexpected success as he was not only (predictably) a lot better than Paul Konchesky has been there but also (surprisingly) a good deal better than he’s been at right back for us this season.

Daniel Tozser has also been a big problem for Rangers this season. Ale Faurlin, still after all these years, makes the team tick but has been ravaged by injury and cannot be relied upon to play every match. Rangers knew this, and could be forgiven for thinking a Hungarian international who’d played reasonably well in a promoted Watford side last season might not be a bad option to alternate with the Argentinean. Sadly, he’s been awful all season, culminating in a nadir in the Fulham whitewash last week. Similarly, Karl Henry has been the club’s own Buzz Killington for some time. Seeing them both paired together here was as welcomes as a knock on the door from officers working on Operation Yewtree but with Henry holding, Tozser passing the ball incisively, forwards, and Massimo Luongo freed up a little further forward still in a five man set up worked really well with and without the ball. Wednesday’s energetic, lively midfield pairing of Kieran Lee and Barry Bannan found space hard to come by in exactly the same dangerous ‘ten’ position Tom Cairney had reveled in ten days previous, while Ross Wallace’s tendency to cut inside from his wing to shoot only exacerbated that.

Still, let’s not make out like QPR were some sort of rebirth of the Argentinean World Cup winning side of 1978. Hasselbaink has found, as Neil Warnock suspected before him, that to solidify this defence and stop this midfield being completely overrun, you have to sacrifice most, if not all, of your attacking intent. As solid and composed as Rangers looked, they had all the ambition of a weedhead teenager in the first half, barely crossing the halfway line and leaving poor Conor Washington so isolated and alone up front he must have started to take it personally.

Home goalkeeper Kieren Westwood was little more than a ball boy before half time, occasionally retrieving stray punts and returning them to play, but otherwise being paid to watch the match take place downfield. Lee hooked over after 60 seconds when he arrived late in the box to meet a low cross. Wallace lashed over after cutting inside El Khayati — hard working in the first half and very lively in the second on his first start for the club — a minute after that. Giant, lumbering oaf Atdhe Nuhiu toed wide at the back post after a low cross was allowed to roll right through the QPR six yard box with the time just into double figures.

Alex Smithies saved nervously under his cross bar as a ball span out of the night sky on 25 minutes, then produced a better stop down low to his right moments later as Nuhiu sought out the far corner, then bravely sprang from his line to collect a short back header from Perch, taking two boots to the face from Nuhiu in the process.

Rangers, it seemed, had come for a nil nil. A free kick after 26 minutes on the halfway line may have offered the chance to sling some people into the penalty box and thrown one into the mixer — two nervous passes later Wednesday had pressured their visitors out of possession altogether. Strong running and positive play from Washington carried him to the byline on 44 minutes but he can’t well be expected to run round the back of the goal and meet his own dangerous cross to the back post so that chance went begging. A Matt Phillips header straight at Westwood was the only attempt on goal in the first 45 minutes from the London side — and even that would have been disallowed for offside had it gone in.

It looked like a typical QPR in the north evening was unfolding, and that feeling only grew immediately after half time when Grant Hall had one go at tripping Gary Hooper in the penalty area, failed, and Nedum Onuoha swept in to finish the job with an obvious foul for a spot kick. But Hooper, with ten goals in 11 matches prior to kick off, didn’t take the penalty himself and although Nuhiu’s record from 12 yards is apparently decent, his kick was tame and read expertly by Smithies who saved and held the ball down to his left.

After that, the second half was much better. El Khayati and Phillips were moved further forward and infield, turning the 4-5-1 into more of a 4-3-3 when in possession. Washington no longer looked like the friendless boy on the school playground. Wednesday were decent to watch, good on the ball and very sure of their roles in an attacking formation throughout, and now they actually had an opponent that wanted to trade a few punches as well. An entertaining game threatened to break out.

El Khayati, to his credit I suppose, stayed upright in the other penalty area when he tempted a possible trip out of Jack Hunt during a prolonged period of pressure. Then the Dutchman nodded the ball down intelligently for Matt Phillips to volley wide from distance. Phillips’ wayward shooting would become a theme of the second half — at one stage he lashed a fairly presentable effort high into the upper tier housing the away fans — but Tozser was a good deal more accurate from similar range on the hour. Washington seemed caught between chesting the ball down and heading it goalwards when Phillips found him unmarked in front of goal but a poor clearance from Sasso gave Tozser the chance to strike for goal from the edge of the area and he guided the ball into the bottom corner.

Wednesday, panicked somewhat, started conceding free kicks on the edge of their own box, although Tozser could only find the wall with two direct attempts.

A shame then that Wednesday were able to equalise so soon, and so easily: from a simple throw in, Pudil crossed, Nuhiu got a run on the centre backs and planted a free header into the bottom corner from eight yards out. Redemption for the penalty miss, but it would have been almost impossible not to score from there. Home boss Carlos Carvalhal sent on Lucas Joao to bolster the attack and he glanced a header wide immediately, then later cushioned another one straight into Smithies’ hands from close range. Smithies also saved low in the bottom corner as Lee arrived as the spare man at the far post to meet a low cross from Hooper.

Rangers’ problem was not being able to remove a man from that midfield to go for the jugular themselves, no doubt fearing another Fulham-style collapse if they risked only having four across the middle again. Seb Polter came on in attack, and immediately showed his value with a bustling run right into the heart of the Wednesday red zone which ended with a perfect set-up pass for Matt Phillips and, sadly, another wayward shot. But it was Washington, who is crying out for a strike partner, who was withdrawn for the German to maintain the shape. Understandable, probably the right decision, but frustrating all the same and a problem that’s only going to be fixed by adding a more athletic presence to the central midfield area.

The game seemed to be petering out into another stalemate until referee Andy Davies took centre stage. Phillips hung a lazy leg out and was booked, and Ross Wallace followed him — odd considering the two earlier fouls on Washington and Luongo in much more dangerous areas hadn’t drawn cards and Nuhiu absolutely hacked into Onuoha right on half time and again escaped further reprimand. Seemingly cold and fed up, Davies then made his way to the touchline with an ailment so troublesome (or a train home so early) it apparently meant he couldn’t referee the final ten minutes or so of the match. Fourth official Graham Salisbury creaked onto the field looking, and running, like the exhumed remains of Methuselah and, wouldn’t you just know it, was presented with a huge decision to make during five minutes of added time at the end of the game.

Rangers looked stretched to breaking point as Wednesday freed Lee into the Kop End penalty box for a final time, and Grant Hall’s desperate lunge looked like a fool’s mission to rescue the situation. Only the theatrical fall from the Wednesday player, and the distance of Old Father Time from the incident, can have counted in QPR’s favour — it looked like a stick on penalty at the time and the home crowd and bench were as happy as Graeme Souness at Jamie Redknapp’s birthday party when it wasn’t awarded. Carvalhal came onto the field at the final whistle to demand answers. We’d have been fuming too.

All of which amounts to… another draw. QPR’s fourteenth this season from 33 games played, the most in the Championship along with Leeds. The draw specialists in the drawiest league in Europe. Tony Hart didn’t draw as much in his whole career as QPR do this season. That extra little bit of quality to score a crucial goal at one end, that extra little bit of steel to stop conceding them at the other — Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s 2016/17 to do list isn’t getting any shorter. And if ever a game smacked of more of the same, it’s Birmingham City at home this Saturday.

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

Sheff Wed: Westwood 6; Hunt 6, Lees 7, Sasso 6, Pudil 6; Wallace 7, Lee 7, Bannan 6, McGeady 5 (Jao 62, 6); Hooper 6, Nuhiu 5

Subs not used: Loovens, McGugan, Bennett, Helan, Lopez, Price

Goals: Nuhiu 63 (assisted Pudil)

Bookings: Wallace 72 (foul)

QPR: Smithies 8; Onuoha 5, Hall 6, Angella 7, Perch 6; Phillips 5, Tozser 7, Henry 6, Luongo 6, El Khayati 7 (Mackie 79, 6); Washington 6 (Polter 73, 6)

Subs not used: Chery, Hoilett, Ingram, Petrasso, Diakite

Goals: Tozser 57 (unassisted)

Bookings: Phillips 76 (foul)

QPR Star Man — Alex Smithies 8 Actually a few candidates, which makes a nice change. Daniel Tozser had one of his good days, James Perch looked a lot better at left back than he ever has at right back, Gabrielle Angella added that physicality we’ve missed at centre half, Conor Washington worked tirelessly and Nasser El Khayati was bright and inventive with the ball and hard working defensively without it. But Smithies made a brave save from Nuhiu in the first half, a penalty save from him in the second and several other stops besides, many which were potentially a lot more difficult than he made it look through decent footwork and reading of the game.

Referee — Andy Davies (Hampshire) 6 (Graham Salisbury {Lancashire} 80, 5) Davies did ok, although it seemed odd that Phillips and Wallace were booked for their fouls in reasonably neutral positions while Pudil and Jao escaped censor for deliberate chops on Washington and Luongo respectively, right on the edge of the Wednesday box as dangerous situations developed. The home crowd were unhappy that he let Karl Henry get away with so much, but he rightly awarded them a penalty for Onuoha’s reckless challenge. Obviously the talking point for his late replacement was the final minute penalty appeal from Kieran Lee which looked absolutely blatant at the time, and still does now really although Lee probably convinced the official otherwise by falling so theatrically. Still looks a foul by Hall though, so for the second time this season Rangers have had the rub of the green against Sheff Wed from a referee.

Attendance 19, 233 (300 QPR approx) Looked to be more than that in from where we were sitting, although admittedly there were 7,000 empty seats down our end. Credit the QPR fans who are still travelling all this way on Tuesday nights though, for largely meaningless games. They were at least given a half decent showing from the team this time.

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Hadders added 18:54 - Feb 24
Seeing the highlights, I also reckon we got lucky with that penalty appeal for Wednesday. It`s always been my contention that dodgy decisions probably even out over time - why wouldn`t they? Fans tend to ignore or downplay ones that go in their team`s favour, however, so supporters of every single club seem to feel a grievance and sense of conspiracy- all refs hate us, the swines.

You see more matches than most, NorthernR - have you ever done a tally of decisions for/against over a season?

pedrosqpr added 21:40 - Feb 24
I don't like commenting on matches I haven't attended so I rely on Clive's eyes , refreshing my phone at work an hour before kick off I was pleased that JFH picked a team according to the opposition. In fact looking at his record at Burton this was typical just lacking the fast paced breakaways they could have nicked a couple of goals . I would think that JFH is looking for attacking midfielders that can score goals I heard his post match comments stating that our midfield should be scoring more goals. Birmingham Saturday hmm 1-1

extratimeR added 22:44 - Feb 24
Thanks Clive!

Sounds a big improvement, at last we have made a change at left back, long overdue.
Birmingham have lost the winger who terrorised Konchesky earlier this season, but I bet they were lining up someone similar for Saturday.

Green gone, Konchesky gone, onwards and upwards.

PunteR added 00:13 - Feb 25
Was Konchesky injured or dropped?

WilloW4 added 00:39 - Feb 25
Onuaha is a average player at best,I'd get rid ASAP ..some R's fans seem to love him.. I think he's Pony.. Don't believe the hype.!

timcocking added 02:05 - Feb 25
'Nedum Onuoha at right full back isn’t a recipe that’ll be making any Jamie Oliver book anytime soon'


timcocking added 02:22 - Feb 25
"It`s always been my contention that dodgy decisions probably even out over time - why wouldn`t they?"

So, Hadders, you reckon all 92 clubs have identical 'luck'? Quite simply, that is impossible. I always wonder why so many people say that, when - just think about it - such a thing is completely and obviously impossible. If you mean all teams have good and bad luck on occasion, why yes. All teams have the same luck? Good Lord. What about the laws of physics?

You reckon a Utd home penalty count of 372 vs 5 (making that up, but it'll be something in that ballpark) is luck? Spearman's rank correlation coefficient suggests otherwise.

timcocking added 02:22 - Feb 25
"It`s always been my contention that dodgy decisions probably even out over time - why wouldn`t they?"

So, Hadders, you reckon all 92 clubs have identical 'luck'? Quite simply, that is impossible. I always wonder why so many people say that, when - just think about it - such a thing is completely and obviously impossible. If you mean all teams have good and bad luck on occasion, why yes. All teams have the same luck? Good Lord. What about the laws of physics?

You reckon a Utd home penalty count of 372 vs 5 (making that up, but it'll be something in that ballpark) is luck? Spearman's rank correlation coefficient suggests otherwise.

isawqpratwcity added 05:18 - Feb 25
Despite the criticism Jimmy's team selection attracted on the match thread, I am heartened by a point that most (including myself) thought was well beyond us. That that team could absorb successfully Wednesday's pressure in the first half to then re-form in a more attacking structure after the break was delightful.

Well done, Jimmy!

Northernr added 08:05 - Feb 25
On the decisions evening themselves out debate, back in 2004/05 Lee Cook got chopped down from behind in the penalty area just as he was about to shoot from about eight yards out in the last minute at Millwall. The referee, one Graham Salisbury, waved away the penalty appeals. So we've had to wait 11 years, but he's leveled that one out for us at least.

Bushman added 08:36 - Feb 25
The chief gives away a lot of penalties!

Top report as ever Cheers

PinnerPaul added 09:17 - Feb 25
Always make me laugh the "even out debate"

How anyone thinks referees at this level , all of whom will have officiated in over 1000 games, get to where they are by being biased?

If they don't even out, Tim, why do you think that is?

Do they all sit down at the start of the season and say 'Right, we're not giving Sheff Weds much this season" or "That Hull City always liked them, OK lads go easy on them"

The alternative is bribery and I've not seen even the most one eyed fan or manager dare to suggest that is happening.

Referees make mistakes, players make mistakes - get over it!

Myke added 09:27 - Feb 25
Hi Clive, you mentioned in your report that in order for the attack not to be completely isolated, while not leaving ourselves exposed through the middle, that JFH probably needs to add a more athletic presence in the middle of the field. Given that Diakite was on the bench, do you think it would have been worth experimenting with him in the second half when we appeared to get on top, to see if that type of box-to-box player is what we need. Obviously it won't be Diakite himself, but with the season now effectively a dress rehearsal for next year, should he not be trying different tactics and options at his disposal , with a view to buying similar (but better) players in the summer to fit into his preferred system? JFK is fortunate enough to be in this non-pressure situation (Ramsey received no such lee-way), so I think he needs to use the time wisely in order that we will hit the ground running in August

BrusselsHoop added 11:20 - Feb 25
Thanks Clive. Loved the "Jamie Oliver" line. First half was poor from both sides but the second half was entertaining and if MP had had his shooting boots on we might have won. Saw Connor Washington in hotel before game studying a booklet entitled "QPR Attacking Plays". I wonder what they are! ;-)

TacticalR added 12:08 - Feb 25
Thanks for your report.

You sound more positive than the radio commentators did about the game.

Non-stop defending is a difficult art and we nearly came to grief when Onuoha lunged in and gave away the penalty. We also hade a problem with crosses - Nuhiu and João both managed to get on the end of fairly ordinary crosses and that's how Wednesday scored.

Very nice technique by Tőzsér for the goal.

A good result for a team that had a very makeshift look about it.

PinnerPaul added 15:22 - Feb 25

My Mum is always complaining about Radio London commentators, she says more often than not they sound fed up!

TBF not many of our games this season have been classics and they would probably be much rather watching a PL or CL game!

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