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QPR defenders the April Fools as Boro continue Sky curse - report
Sunday, 3rd Apr 2016 17:43 by Andy Hillman

QPR's recent upturn in form was dealt a blow by promotion chasing Middlesbrough at Loftus Road on Friday night. Andy Hillman was there for LFW.

Despite QPR’s upturn in performance and results, the Sky TV curse remains strong in this one. The R’s suffered only their fourth home league defeat of the season on Friday – all four of them have been televised.

It was somewhat apt that on April Fool’s day QPR somehow managed to score two absolute worldies, have another legitimate goal chalked off, and yet concede three defensive howlers at the other end to somehow contrive to lose. Rangers are undoubtedly moving in the right direction under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, but it’s somewhat comforting to know that the ‘old faithful’ we’ve become so accustomed to is still lurking there underneath it all.

Dealing with the defence is almost certainly going to be the biggest headscratcher for QPR over the summer, with question marks over at least three of the back four slots at present. Hasselbaink has made no secret of the fact that he likes a strong defensive unit first and foremost, and wants to hang the Chery-shaped baubles on that. Understandably, he was pretty livid at some of the defending on show which overall smacked more of absent-mindedness than an out and out Konchesky-esque horror show. Of the back four that started this game, only Grant Hall should be assured of his place next season, and ironically he turned in his poorest performance in a while.

QPR made two changes for the match, with Clint Hill ruled out with a hamstring injury, and Junior Hoilett having not trained much due to his international exploits with Canada left on the bench. The aforementioned Hall and Phillips came in respectively for the pair. Jack Robinson was a welcome sight on the bench for QPR as he steps up his recovery from long term injury. For Middlesbrough Jordan Rhodes started up top, Aitor Karanka obviously well aware that QPR are the go-to game when you need a player to score after a prolonged drought in front of goal.

Middlesbrough started the more assuredly of the two sides, despite the recent form of both giving the hosts pre-game hope – QPR had won their last three at home to nil, whereas Boro had lost their last three away including set backs against relegation threatened clubs Rotherham and Charlton. Since those away games they have of course kissed and made up with Karanka, and then beaten Hull at home. Perhaps the easiest way to arrest a slide is simply to sack and then rehire the same manager?

The first real chance at either end came after 11 minutes when Albert Adomah crossed from the right and Nedum Onouha headed out from a corner under pressure from Rhodes. Rhodes should possibly have done better, but of more pressing concern was the cross itself. Moving Perch to left back and mercy-killing Konchesky has solved a multitude of problems at left back, but he can’t do it all himself, and with Philips his winger ahead of him support was in short supply. Time and time again in the first half Adomah and Nsue doubled up on Perch down the right flank with little to no help from Phillips. At one point towards the end of the first half as Middlesbrough fashioned yet another chance down their right flank, allowing Adomah to cross relatively unchallenged due to their extra man out there Phillips wasn’t even in the same half of the pitch.
Phillips is no more a left winger than I am, but his dereliction of duty in front of Perch was of a similar scale as when Shaun Wright-Phillips hung Darnell Furlong out to dry against Crystal Palace last season. Adomah, a life-long QPR fan, might as well have been in the QPR shirt that he’s been pictured wearing in KFC on the Uxbridge Road for all the space and time that QPR afforded him in the first half.
If Rhodes should have done better with his first chance, there was no one to blame but QPR, and Grant Hall in particular six minutes later when he scored to give Middlesbrough the lead. Leadbitter sent a fairly routine long ball out of central defence up towards Rhodes, which you’d expect the QPR centre halves to deal with easily based on their form over the last few games. Hall completely mistimed his header, the ball sailed over him, and Rhodes was left one on one with Smithies. Smithies attempted to narrow the angle, obviously mindful that any contact was a certain red card, however Rhodes managed to miss-hit the ball past him, and the ball limped over the line, almost apologetically, wrong footing Hall in the process.

Middlesbrough may have been in a bit of a funk in the last few months, but they are still the best side in the league at defending a lead, having only dropped two points from winning positions all season, compared to QPR’s 23 – the worst in the league along with Fulham. Boro have also kept the most clean-sheets in the league, with 19 already coming into this game. It was apparent therefore, that it would take something special for QPR to get back into the game.

The hosts took the initiative following conceding the opening goal, and after a period of semi-sustained pressure, were rewarded with a fine equaliser ten minutes later. Middlesbrough failed to deal with a Faurlin ball into the box, and it fell to Mackie, back to goal on the edge of the box, who instinctively swivelled and thumped it goalwards with his left foot. The ball crashed down off the bar, and clearly over the line before bouncing back out again. Luckily the far side linesman had kept up with play enough to confirm to the referee, and the goal was eventually given.

QPR overall had matched Middlesbrough, and a 1-1 score at half time seemed a fair result, however QPR conspired to throw away all their good work in a poor opening spell at the start of the second period. Boro continued where they left off, working the ball to Adomah and Nsue down their right as frequently as they could, and on 50 minutes Adomah, instead of electing to cross the ball, drove into the penalty box and was upended by Faurlin for an obvious penalty.

Leadbitter took the resulting penalty, but Smithies made a magnificent save, low and to his right to keep it out. His third penalty save out of four faced this season. QPR’s joy was short-lived however as Leadbitter took the resulting corner from the right, and Ramirez’ run lost Angella and from the near post looped a header over Smithies into the far side of the goal.

The goal was undoubtedly harsh on Smithies, and it was a case of déjà vu when it happened in almost identical circumstances five minutes later. Good work from Adomah (who else?) down the right ended with Boro working the ball into George Friend, arriving late and unmarked down the left flank. A fine save from Smithies was essentially for nothing, when from the resulting corner on the left Onouha failed to track Ben Gibson who headed unmarked into the net for 3-1.

Hasselbaink didn’t wait any further to make changes, and immediately brought on Hoilett for the woeful Philips, and shortly after El Khayati for Mackie, who went off injured and was seen immediately after with a massive block of ice wrapped round his foot. Much has been written about Hoilett’s recent upturn in form with his contract expiring, but he offered more to QPR in the first two minutes he was on the pitch than Phillips did in the previous 60.

QPR were showing signs of getting back into the game when the main talking point happened. Chery had previously flashed wide a volley from a lovely Polter knockdown, but on 70 minutes a lofted ball down the right from Henry was chased down, and right on the byline Hoilett centred the ball for Polter to tap in for a birthday goal from six yards. The referee had already blown for a goal kick before Polter had finished, but this was on instruction from a linesman that was nowhere near the play, and absolutely could not have seen that it was over the line and out, which it absolutely wasn’t. A goal incorrectly chalked off, and Hoilett ended up disappearing into the camera pit for his troubles.

QPR saw the perceived injustice to crank up the pressure and the tempo of the game, and began to look like the stronger team in the closing stages Washington, fresh from scoring on international duty for Northern Ireland, was brought on for the largely ineffectual Faurlin, who failed to exert any real positive influence on the proceedings. This meant that Henry ostensibly had to patrol the entirety of the midfield on his own against the impressive Leadbitter and Clayton, but the counter argument could be said that he’d been doing that for the previous 70 minutes anyway.

Despite looking sharper and more urgent in attack, QPR’s rough approximation of defending continued unabated when Angella was caught out in possession by Adomah, who fed Rhodes for clear run on goal. Thankfully, Smithies, not for the first or last time in the game, bailed out the QPR back line. Perch blotted his copy book with a booking for a foul on Adomah shortly afterwards, but this wasn’t entirely unsurprising considering that almost the entirety of Middlesbrough’s attacking play for the 90 minutes came from Adomah running at the horribly over-exposed Perch.

QPR’s increased attacking intent was rewarded with their second goal of the game with five minutes to play. Polter found Chery 25 yards out, who shifted the ball onto his stronger left foot and curled a sumptuous goal past Konstantopoulos at the loft end for his ninth league goal of the season, and fifth successive home game. Chery playing in the ‘ten role’ has been central to the improved QPR form to late, and keeping hold of Chery, and utilising him this way will be vital to QPR’s chances next season.

The fourth official held up five minutes of injury time, and Middlesbrough sensing a comeback, set about wasting them as best they could, with players going down all over the pitch. Three players went down with life threatening injuries in the first two minutes of injury time alone. QPR, aggrieved at this level of gamesmanship, shrugged and refused to give the ball back to the ‘Boro keeper, and this led to a touchline fracas between both sets of coaching staff.

Middlesbrough should have wrapped the game up in the final minute when Nsue exploited the large gaps in the QPR midfield to tee up Forshaw, on for Gaston Ramirez, but Forshaw dragged his shot wide under pressure from Perch and Smithies.

For QPR, whilst a point may have been a fair result on balance, it’s difficult to avoid the fact that they conceded three sloppy goals, all from individual errors, and Smithies got the back four out of jail on a number of occasions. We know that the back four needs surgery in the close-season, and a long term heir to Clint Hill must be top of Hasselbaink’s shopping list. With Phillips sure to finally go in the summer, I’d walk over broken glass to get Adomah to the club – he was linked in January as part of the failed Philips switch to Middlesbrough, however if Philips form continues in it’s fairly downwards trajectory, we may have to offer cash plus Philips to get him…

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

QPR: Smithies 7; Onuoha 5, Angella 5, Hall 5, Perch 7; Faurlin 5 (Washington 79 6), Henry 7; Phillips 5 (Hoilett 62, 6), Chery 7, Mackie 7 (El Khayati 69 6); Polter 6

Subs not used: Ingram, Luongo, Petrasso, Robinson

Goals: Mackie 31 (Unassisted), Chery 86 (assisted Polter)

Bookings: Perch 77 (foul)

Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos 6; Nsue 7, Kalas 6, Gibson 6, Friend 7; Clayton 7, Leadbitter 7, Adomah 8, Ramirez 7 (Forshaw 67, 6), Downing 6 (Ayala 84, 6); Rhodes 6 (Nugent 78, 6)

Subs not used: de Laet, De Pena, de Sart, Agazzi

Goals: Rhodes 18 (Assisted Leadbitter), Ramirez 51 (Assisted Leadbitter), Gibson 57 (Assisted Leadbitter)

QPR Star Man – Alex Smithies 7 saved his third penalty out of four faced, but that also means he’s faced four in his 12 or so games since coming back in goal – one every three games on average! Made a number of saves in the second half to bail out the defence, whom let him down badly. If he’d played all season not only would he probably be our player of the season, we almost certainly would be still in the playoff hunt.

Referee – Simon Hooper (Wiltshire) 7 Got the penalty decision right, but was let down by the linesman for the Polter ‘goal’. Kept his cards in his pocket, let the game flow and was largely anonymous throughout, which is what you want from a referee in general.

Attendance – 16,058 (2,900 Boro approx) Friday night and on Sky, yet the Boro fans occupied both tiers of the school end and made plenty of noise throughout. A couple of ridiculous ‘Jimmy, sort it out…’ chants when we went 3-1 down were mercifully drowned out by the much more positive support coming from Loftus Road these days.

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PinnerPaul added 18:44 - Apr 3
Cheers Andy, pretty much as I saw it and agree with ratings as well.

Not sure if the Polter "goal" would have been as easy a tap in if AR hadn't raised flag, as some Boro DID stop, however the Boro player nearest the ball when cross came in DID take a complete fresh air shot so not sure he saw the flag at all.

Poor 15 mins after h/t cost us obviously and Hall, Angella, Ned and Ale F all had poor games along with Phillips - when half your team is "off" very difficult to get anything.

30yarder added 20:18 - Apr 3
Lot's of positives to be had from the match,certainly things are looking much brighter.
I wonder if we should start El Khayati now that Philips has finally given up the ghost?
As for Adomah, why would he join us now that Middlesborough' look Prem bound?

Marshy added 22:24 - Apr 3
Smithies is very reliable and consistent, and had another excellent game despite us conceding 3 goals. What a diffence compared to Green who became a liability. We really were unlucky not to have come away with a draw, in what was a decent performance despite the failing of our central defence. Excellent goals from Mackie and Chery.

adhoc_qpr added 09:35 - Apr 4
I still largely enjoyed the game despite the face palm inducing start to the second half and final result obviously.

Smithies is brilliant though - i'd always heard he was a solid championship keeper but he's much more than that. If we'd done the sensible thing and played him all season, i wonder if he'd be in the England squad ahead of the pretty average Heaton now?

MancR added 10:56 - Apr 4
Great accurate account of an entertaining game. Would change 2 ratings. Take 2 off Phillips and add those to the ref, who I thought was excellent.

Rangers67 added 12:25 - Apr 4
Referee had a shocker would give him a rating of about 3 just for running around. Phillips along with Green and Toszer should never be allowed to pull on the shirt again.

xian added 12:40 - Apr 4
The key point is that we lack a leader on the pitch. Nedum seems like a very nice and measured bloked, but we need a Hill, or a Derry or indeed a Barton to gee people up and organise the defence when there is risk of a quick corner being taken.
Faurlin actually had a good first half, but faded - but there were v good performances by Poulter and Henry as well as Cherry. Poulter seems to improve game by game

probbo added 13:35 - Apr 4
Thanks for the report. It was frustrating because after Mackie's equaliser we carried a lot of momentum in at half time, then failed to turn up after the break and that's where the game was lost.

I'd return Onuoha to right back and get a McDonald/Hazel/Peacock type central defender to play along side Hall. I'm still not sure why Yun was loaned but I think he could still be our best option at left wing-back.

Chery's goal was great but I felt he drifted in and out of this game as far as his role in midfield was concerned. He could become our main 'fulcrum' in midfield but needs to stay involved. I thought we looked a bit light in midfield overall, lacking a bit of pace and in terms of keeping possession.

Philips looked like a man waiting for the transfer window to open. Poor effort all round. And it was a shame Washington only got 10-15 mins. I thought he might have come on a bit sooner, closer to the time their 3rd goal was scored.


isawqpratwcity added 14:44 - Apr 4
Cheers for the report, Andy.

While we were definitely robbed of a point, I don't begrudge Boro the win. They were definitely the better side on the day, and our defence, Smithies aside, was woeful, particularly in the early second half.

Anybody can feel free to shoot me down on this, because I've seen so few games this season (read the reports avidly) but I didn't mind the loss because I thought Boro played better than most of the opposition we've faced this season, as against our usual condition of us making teams that beat us look good because we've been so abjectly bad.

I enjoyed watching Boro, and apart from a few howlers, I enjoyed watching us, too. The big positive for me was some good play from us against a good team unfortunately on very good form.

QPRski added 16:34 - Apr 4
In the first half our defence was not pressed and we looked quite comfortable, (except for the error for conceding the first goal). However, in the second half we were immediately pressed which led to the comedy of errors.

Boro had a very effective half time tactical talk which unfortunately delivered results.

TacticalR added 23:25 - Apr 4
Thanks for your report.

Some really criminal defending from us. We seemed determined to self-destruct and gift Middlesbrough goals, starting with Hall's howler. Nerves got to us, and every corner felt like it could lead to a goal.

Onuoha had a terrible game. Passing to the oppo in midfield and vacating his position time and again to let Friend get free runs on the left. This is something I have previously wondered about Onuoha - for a man who doesn't like going forward where does he get to?

Phillips has been up and down this season. He was played out of position and had a poor game, but does not deserve to be made public enemy number one.

The positives are that we scored two great goals, and could have got a draw if Polter's goal had not been disallowed. However, in my opinion a draw would not have been a fair result as Middlesbrough were undoubtedly the better team.

dixiedean added 23:29 - Apr 4
God help us we don't need a Barton having just got rid of one ! Badly missed " the skipper " namely Hill for his leadership and proper defending. Harsh reality is , when both your CBs turn in 4/10 performances (that's being generous ) as well as your best midfielder (Ale) then you ain't gonna win many games esp against a team of their quality. Phillips really I'd taking the pi55 and he shouldn't be playing with 3 wide men +Washington on the bench. His body language is appalling. We managed to carry him v Brentford but not v Boro with so many others having a bad night. Yes we def need a grizzly CB like a younger Hill or Dunne. I like Aaron Pierre at Wycombe- he reminds me a bit of Big Dan and Gareth rates him highly. We need a true "stopper " in the old vein sand bolx to whether he can pass it or not

pedant added 11:57 - Apr 5
As a Boro supporter I enjoyed the report and the comments.

I saw things slightly differently. It looked to me as if Kalas had seen the linesman's flag. He could easily have cleared Hoilett's cross.

At least one of the 3 injuries in what used to be called injury time was the result of a bad foul. I didn't see what else had been going on between Poulter and Gibson but Poulter appeared to stamp on his opponent. Apparently there was a full and frank exchange of views between the pair at the final whistle. Gibson's injury will probably rule him out of tonight's match.

JFH is one of my heroes so I wish him well at QPR next season. It looks as if you might be looking forward to a bit of a clear out over the summer.

extratimeR added 17:24 - Apr 5
Cheers Andy

Yeah, very accurate, Angella was horror show, Middlesbrough were probably best side we have played at home this season, (shame about the constant diving and cheating), and Adomah controlled game , Friend very good as well, dead right about Phillips.

Henry had very good game, just edged out by Smithies.

dixiedean added 01:53 - Apr 6
Pedant. Always good to hear the oppo's view on here. I'm pretty sure the issue with Polter & Gibson at the end was because Gibson was gesturing to the home fans and Polter pointed to the away end as if to say Go celebrate with your own fans rather than wind ours up.if that was the case then he was spot on IMO. Players celebrating in front of opposing fans is very provocative and is one of my pet hates. I'm sure we do it as well but it's so unnecessary and should be an automatic card IMO. Far worse than taking your shirt off ( although that's also moronic in most cases! )Hope u go up at the expense of Burnley so we're not treated to Barton gloating about how great he is ,the odious tw@t !

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