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.
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…
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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