QPR shake London derby monkey in fine style – report
Sunday, 13th Mar 2016 19:00 by Clive Whittingham
QPR finally got a London derby win at the seventeenth time of asking with a comprehensive 3-0 hammering of near-neighbours Brentford on Saturday.
Back to back wins for the first time in his reign, now just two defeats in a dozen games and another clean sheet for a rapidly-improving defence – Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s tea will be tasting all the sweeter this Sunday morning.
QPR had lost all four London derbies this season prior to Saturday, scoring just once in the process, including a 1-0 loss at Griffin Park against Brentford towards the end of Chris Ramsey’s reign. That extended their winless run against neighbouring capital clubs to 16, but that monkey was unceremoniously dumped from Rangers’ backs and beaten to a bloody pulp in a comprehensive victory against the Bees at Loftus Road on Saturday.
It’s only seven days since a second half surrender at Milton Keynes so wet and limp it made Arsenal look like World Stare Out Champion Sigmund ‘Siggy’ Spatsky, so it’s important not to get too carried away. This remains a work in progress, still prone to moments of complete collapse, and possibly ultimately doomed to failure.
But, now 19 games into Hasselbaink’s reign, obvious signs of progress can be seen. Rangers have won three of the last four games without conceding a goal, and are clocking up the victories at Loftus Road in increasingly confident and comprehensive style. This 3-0 win moved things up another notch from the 2-0 successes against Birmingham and Derby in more ways than simply the scoreboard although, again, worth sounding a note of caution – Brentford are about as poor a team as we’ve seen in Shepherd’s Bush this season.
QPR had shape, game plan, fitness and solidity sadly lacking before Christmas. They were led from the front by Seb Polter, whose overly-physical style snapped referee Fred Graham’s patience and brought him a yellow card before half time but also meant Brentford’s defence was unable to play the ball out from the back as it wished. Forced back, and comprehensively beaten for strength by QPR’s rudimentary centre forward, the Bees’ back four ceded acres of space directly in front of them where Tjaronn Chery and Junior Hoilett, the two outstanding home players on the day, were able to run amok.
Hoilett, in particular, played like a man possessed. He was fouled after six minutes – referee Graham expertly seeing a potential advantage through before bringing play back for the free kick – allowing Ale Faurlin to curl a 25 yard dead ball round the wall but straight at visiting goalkeeper David Button. Then he played Tjaronn Chery into space in the area but his shot straight at the keeper from an impossible angle would have been better as a pass back to Polter awaiting a tap in. A low drive from the edge of the area, comfortably saved by Button, got the Canadian’s eye in before the main event on the half hour.
Collecting the ball just the right side of the halfway line he’ll have been grateful that Alan McCormack’s challenge on him was so half-hearted and uncommitted, but having been able to move into space 30 yards from goal relatively easily there was nothing simple about a spectacular curling finish into the far corner of the net, all the way round Button and back again into the side netting. That’s probably the QPR Goal of the Season tied up right there. Just a week after the first one Mrs Hoilett's vagina may not be keen, but maybe Junior should consider fathering children more often.
Brentford had enjoyed chances of their own to this point. With former Shrewsbury man Ryan Woods their outstanding player in midfield, they profited first from a loose Gabrielle Angella pass only for Sergi Canos to drag his shot wide from the edge of the box, then Ale Faurlin was slow to get across and shut down Alan Judge who cracked one wide from similar range. Later, when Woods fizzed an inch-perfect 50-yard ball out to the left flank, Canos was able to cut inside and smack a 25 yarder into the side netting with the visiting Brentford fans at the other end on their feet believing they’d scored.
Immediately after the goal Woods, who will surely be attracting interest like so many other recently departed Brentford players on this evidence, pinged one off the base of the post from the best part of 35 yards as the visitors looked for an immediate equaliser. But he faded from the game in the second half as Karl Henry’s influence on the midfield grew – the pair clashed immediately after the break when Woods objected to a Henry tackle and both were yellow carded but while the Brentford man didn’t regain his temper or his composure for the rest of the game, Henry calmly turned in his best performance of the season so far.
Overall, Brentford were poor. With pint-sized Alan Judge as a lone striker they lacked any kind of presence to trouble Angella or Clint Hill, once again excellent at centre half despite playing with a hamstring injury. They would try and play out from defence time and time again but with only Woods in the midfield capable of passing the ball creatively, and McCormack the link man between the two banks of four looking behaving and playing like that 40-something year old who only gets in the pub team because he collects the subs and gets his wife to wash the kit, it just didn’t work for them. QPR’s high press, high work rate and physical approach combated the strategy perfectly and with no plan B to speak of, Dean Smith’s team finished the day well-beaten. Polter may not be pretty, or technically brilliant, but he enables QPR to play high up the pitch and provides a presence completely lacking in this Brentford side.
They complained about a foul from Nedum Onuoha in the build up to the second, played through by the excellent Chery and finished firmly by tireless Seb Polter, but in truth it was the sort of firm and fair challenge Fred Graham had allowed to go all afternoon, making for a much better spectacle than overly-officiated games. Only Junior Hoilett could feel hard done to by the referee, harshly booked for a nothing tackle straight after half time, but coming immediately after the Henry and Woods fracas that felt like intelligent game and man management from the official.
The intensity, so lacking in QPR’s game on these all-London occasions before, was all coming from the hosts and the second goal was merely a product of that. Polter deserved to be on the scoresheet, and revelled in the whole experience. So awkward with the ball, the German is nevertheless vital to the way Hasselbaink wants this group of players to go about their work.
Woods waning, game now over, Brentford quickly shipped a third when they once more conceded possession in their own half and were quickly swamped by onrushing blue and white shirts. This time Ale Faurlin played a cute ball through for Chery who finished crisply into the corner before the goalkeeper was set. Now eight goals in 19 starts for the Dutchman, making hay in the space created by the battering ram in front of him, his form at ‘ten’ is a real cause for optimism heading into 2016/17.
There were scares to come – Faurlin clearing one almost off the line after a corner resulted in a scramble, then Alex Smithies flinging himself up to his left to make the save of the game when substitute Konstantin Kerschbaumer hit a beautiful first time shot from well outside the area. On a day when The Daily Mail called accident-prone and now thankfully absent Robert Green “clearly still the best goalkeeper at the club” – the journalist no doubt speaking from the experience of attending the majority of QPR matches this season I’m sure – this one-handed flick over the bar to preserve a sixth clean sheet in 11 outings re-affirmed Smithies growing influence on the team and ascension in form. Green isn’t even the second-best goalkeeper at QPR these days.
Junior Hoilett hit a poor shot into the side netting when well-placed to get the second goal his performance deserved, and there was a late yellow card for substitute Massimo Luongo for a poor tackle, but the game drifted to happy conclusion in the spring sunshine. QPR, in reality, have very little to play for this season, but performances and work rate and improving rather than tailing off into an early summer holiday. This was typified by Hill at one end, playing 180 minutes this week on an injury that would see most players sit out for a month, Henry in the middle who thoroughly deserved his standing ovation from a previously hostile crowd when he was substituted, and Polter up front who is fiercely effective when he’s in this mood. With Smithies in goal that’s quite a spine, and it’s allowing the likes of Chery, Hoilett and Perch – though, sadly, not the rather half-arsed Matt Phillips – to really start finding some consistent form for the first time this season. The players came together on the field at the end to celebrate as if these three points meant much more.
And then we all went back to the pub for buckets of Italian lager and an early evening Chelsea defeat on the TV. Things might, finally, be looking up.
QPR: Smithies 6; Onuoha 7, Angella 6, Hill 7, Perch 7; Faurlin 6, Henry 8 (El Khayati 82, -); Phillips 6, Chery 8 (Luongo 74, 6), Hoilett 8; Polter 8 (Mackie 85, -)
Subs not used: Washington, Tozser, Ingram, Kpekawa
Goals: Hoilett 38 (unassisted), Polter 66 (assisted Chery), Chery 71 (assisted Faurlin)
Bookings: Polter 45 (repetitive fouling), Henry 48 (foul), Hoilett 49 (foul), Luongo 90+1 (foul)
Brentford: Button 5; Yennaris 5, Dean 5, Barbet 5, Bidwell 5; McCormack 4; Canos 6 (Vibe 64, 5) McEachran 5 (Kerschbaumer 76, 5), Woods 7, Swift 5 (Saunders 76, 5), Judge 6
Subs not used: Djuricin, Bonham, O’Connell, Clarke
Bookings: Canos 32 (foul), Woods 48 (retaltiation)
QPR Star Man – Junior Hoilett 8 A persistent threat before his wonderful first goal, he upped it another notch immediately after that with the confidence it gave him and Brentford weren’t able to cope with him or Tjaronn Chery behind Seb Polter.
Referee – Fred Graham (Essex) 8 Brentford have complained about a foul in the lead up to the second goal but it looked like a firm, fair tackle to me. No doubt you’d usually get a free kick for it, but this referee seemed keen to give the game every chance and let plenty go and the spectacle was much the better for it. Coped with the flair up between mason and Henry calmly without the need for a rash red card, and although the yellow card for Hoilett immediately after that seemed very harsh it was effective game and man management to stop tempers boiling over. One of the better ones we’ve had this season.
Attendance – 17,894 (3,100 Brentford approx) A standing ovation for Karl Henry. Things changing for the better on and off the field.
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Pictures – Action Images
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