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Hall off the mark, but QPR held by Reading – Report
Monday, 25th Apr 2016 22:53 by Clive Whittingham

Grant Hall scored his first goal for QPR, but it was only good enough for a point against struggling Reading at Loftus Road on Saturday.

There's a fascinating summer ahead of Queens Park Rangers and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, which will be an interesting change of pace because the actual games leading up to it certainly aren't setting many pulses racing.

This latest draw – the fourth in the last seven games and thirteenth of Hasselbaink's 26 matches in charge – at home to Reading is a game we'll scarcely remember by the end of next week, never mind in years to come. It was a match most notable for the opposition's away kit, which left the whole spectacle only one woman on a trampoline in a white dress away from a giant advert for sanitary towels.

QPR took the lead in the first half. Grant Hall capping a fine debut season with the club with his first goal in Rangers' colours – a towering back post header from a well-flighted Ale Faurlin corner.

There had been other chances too. Early on Ben Gladwin, given a rare start wide right, nipped in at the back post to divert a long throw from Cole Kpekawa, making a full debut at left back, towards goal only for Ali Al Habsi to turn the ball aside with a decent save.

Al Habsi had erred horribly for QPR's last minute winner at the Madejski Stadium before Christmas and seemed on something of a mission to make amends for that here. He saved twice from Seb Polter either side of half time – the first a powerful shot from a tight angle after an intelligent through ball from Tjaronn Chery, the second a back-post header from a Massimo Luongo cross.

He also flung himself to the right to palm away Chery's first half free kick after the Dutchman had been deliberately tripped by Oliver Norwood – a foul for which he was booked. Chery volleyed over with time running out after Polter had pushed down the touchline to good effect and cut the ball back. Then the more farcical side of the German's game came to the fore when he found himself alone in the six yard box, with the goalkeeper stuck to his line, and the ball dropping plum on his head. Perhaps he lost it in the sun, or thought he was going to be clattered by the keeper – either way, he made an absolute mess of a total sitter.

Kpekawa, too, should have scored with a header from a Faurlin corner on the hour.

But Reading equalised almost immediately after falling behind – Deniss Rakels hooking home from eight yards out at the Loft End – and had more than their fair share of a game that produced 38 shots but never shook the feeling of an end-of-season dead rubber.

Rakels had earlier gone mighty close with am ambitious volley from the left channel, and soon after Simon Cox did similar from the opoisite side of the field after being left unmarked from a simple throw in. Nedum Onuoha was on hand with a twelfth minute block and Matt Ingram made a smart save in two minues of first half stoppage time to maintain the deadlock into the break.

Ingram, as happened at Cardiff last week, was preferred to Alex Smithies as Hasselbaink assesses his options, and the former Wycombe man impressed again. His star turn came two minutes after half time when it looked for all the world like Norwood had curled home a 25 yard free kick only for the keeper to track all the way across his goal and make a fabulous save in the top corner.

The Royals had lost four on the spin coming into the game but never really looked like making that five, and were good value for their point.

It's an unusual Championship season this year. Ordinarily one of the most exciting leagues in Europe, it currently has everything settled weeks before the end of the season apart from a three-way log jam at the very summit. The rest of the play-off picture is settled, and three teams have already been relegated. It leaves 21 teams basically marking time, and that's certainly how this one felt.

I had an objection to my use of the terms "dead rubber" and "meaningless games" over the weekend. Because, after all, the ticket prices are the same, and for some reason the QPR fans have turned up in big numbers to pay those entrance fees at Cardiff, Brighton and this home match this week for scant reward entertainment and results wise. The players are also earning the same money they would be if this was a competitive situation, and have none of that performance-inhibiting pressure piling down on their shoulders, so in theory should be playing with a lot more abandon and freedom.

But they are human. There is a psychological element to this – it didn't actually, really matter if we won or lost this game so that frantic desperation to get over the line by fair means or foul just isn't there. There's also a physical one – by next week QPR will have played 49 matches in eight and a bit months and are, like everybody else in this division, probably bloody knackered.

That doesn't sit well though. There is a specific situation at Queens Park Rangers at the moment where some supporters don't like the work Les Ferdinand is doing, or perhaps more pointedly don't agree with some of the departures from the club under his tenure, and can use these mediocre performances as a stick to beat him with. There are others who believe Neil Warnock should be the manager here, and can do likewise to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as his record stretches now to seven wins from 26 matches.

But there's also a general point here about football fans in general and how we have changed as a species.

There was a time, not even that long ago, where there was no such thing as social media, there was no 24 hour rolling news coverage that needed to be filled, and 'crisis' was used only for clubs who'd been in such long losing runs nobody could actually remember the last victory.

In 1990/91 QPR lost nine matches out of ten, and won just one of 14 in the First Division. Don Howe kept his job as manager, brought in Bobby Gould, and made shrewd signings like Darren Peacock, Rufus Brevett and Andy Tillson to retrieve the situation. The run came at a time when there was an extensive injury list, mainly in the centre back position, but there was no panic and Rangers came good again. The following season, Gerry Francis' first, started with one win from the first 12 games, with a 4-1 shellacking at Sheff Wed when Carlton bloody Palmer scored a hat trick, and several surrendered two goal leads thrown in for good measure. Francis was retained, and led Rangers to fifth in the first Premier League the season after.

In 2002/03 Rangers again went a dozen matches without a win – a run that included a 4-0 loss at home to Cardiff, a 3-0 embarrassment at Notts County and the infamous Vauxhall Motors debacle in the space of six days. Ian Holloway was retained as manager, added Lee Cook on loan, and had the team in the play-off final by the end of the season and promoted in fine style the season after.

One can only imagine what the vile world of QPR on Twitter would have looked like that Friday night after Robert Earnshaw had bagged three at Loftus Road, or the week before when Rangers played nine men at Luton for an hour but could only draw 0-0 and nearly lost in injury time. Holloway would have been burned in a wicker man for signing Brett Angell alone, and yet it all came good in the end.

QPR, and modern football clubs in general, are beset with short termism. It's been the single biggest problem at our club for the past half dozen years – trying to take short cuts, putting sticking plasters over massive cracks, throwing good money after bad without ever addressing the problems that meant it never really got us anywhere. I suspect these days Howe, Francis and Holloway would all have been sacked.

There’s nothing really wrong at QPR at the moment. The big earners with their limited effort levels are being steadily moved on – not a quick process in the eras of transfer windows – and the club is getting back towards a sensible budget. The average age of the team is coming down, and the club is once again scouting for players and going about it with a bit of intelligence rather than just buying names. It’s being overseen by a CEO with a fantastic record at clubs of our size, and a genuine QPR club legend who has been as disturbed as the rest of us by what has gone on at Loftus Road during the past five years.

Given the chance to play a few games with little at stake, the manager is showing a willingness to try a few things out – some of which are working, others are not – and give everybody a chance to show him what they can do at first team level. Including, miraculously, a genuine, bona fide academy prospect in Cole Kpekawa. He looked much happier at left back, I thought, than his nervous showing in the middle against Charlton and, apart from a nervous reticence to get himself forward down the line on the overlap, can be very pleased with his day out. Likewise Ben Gladwin, who has impressed me in his last two outings, and Matt Ingram, who looks like a fantastic signing from League Two.

This is all good isn’t it? We're short in key areas - goals from central midfield, pace in the side - but Hasselbaink seems to me to be having a very thorough look at what's available to him and what he needs. I don't understand Conor Washington only getting starts in difficult Tuesday night away games, which he never finishes, and not more game time in matches like this but other than that...

And yet because we only drew, because it’s not very entertaining, message boards and social media fill with criticism for Hasselbaink, Ferdinand and others. Every single result is still being treated as crucially important, every performance analysed and critiqued to death, every team selection queried. I find it odd, and a bit depressing.

Links >>> Knee Jerks >>> Ratings and Reports >>> Message Board Match Thread

QPR: Ingram 7; Perch 6, Onuoha 6, Hall 7, Kpekawa 6; Luongo 6, Faurlin 7; Gladwin 7 (El Khayati 70, 6), Chery 6 (Washington 87, -), Phillips 6 (Petrasso 77, 6); Polter 6

Subs not used: Hill, Lumley, Diakite, Hoilett

Goals: Hall 35 (assisted Faurlin)

Reading: Al Habsi 7; McCleary 6, Ferdinand 6, Cooper 6, Taylor 6 (Gunter 77, 6); Evans 6, Norwood 7, Cox 6, Quinn 6 (Hector 71, 6); Kermorgant 6 (Vydra 81, -); Rakels 7

Subs not used: Bond, Piazon, John, Barrett

Goals: Rakels 41 (assisted Kermorgant)

Bookings: Norwood 24 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Ale Faurlin 7 Strong performance in the heart of the midfield, knocking the ball around and dictating the play. Crowned with an assist. Could do with Luongo being a bit more dynamic and driving on ahead from the position next to him. Impressed with Ben Gladwin too, I almost gave it to him.

Referee – Stuart Attwell (Warwick) 7 A terrifying late replacement for Keith Hill, but nothing really to referee and no cataclysmic brain melts which is all you can really hope for when he’s around.

Attendance – 16,225 (2,000 Reading approx) Remarkable attendances from the QPR fans at all three games this week considering the state of the season and the standards of the games. Not much by way of atmosphere mind.

The Twitter @loftforwords

Pictures – Action Images

Photo: Action Images



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Myke added 23:31 - Apr 25
Thanks Clive, like you I'm a bit bewildered by Washington's lack of game time in games when he has a legitimate chance of breaking his duck. Other than that we are chugging along merrily to a conclusion with just one more hockying from Burnly to endure!
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connell10 added 23:53 - Apr 25
Just when im starting to despair at some of the stuff posted on this board lately you come along and write up another great match report and remind me of why i really like this site!
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Noelmc added 00:43 - Apr 26
Glad you made Ale MOTM Clive. He made some great passes on Saturday and our tempo always feels faster when he plays. I'd like to see him used more sparingly in tough away games when we need more pace in midfield but I always like to see him start games at home. Agree with you on Washington too and really hope he gets a start at home to Bristol City. I'd stick with Polter & Chery for Burnley away though. Thanks again for the match reports. It must be hard to summon up the enthusiasm to produce them at this stage of the season.
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timcocking added 00:59 - Apr 26
Pink and Purple are associated with royalty in Thailand. As the royals are basically gods made manifest on earth to them (Thai royalty, not the team), that odd choice of kit colour is in homage and will be a genuine attempt at generating some good luck for the team. They probably had some powerful monks casting some spells on it for good measure. You'll see lots of pink and purple out here.

I remember when I bought a car out here, first thing I had to do was take it to the temple for the monks to bless it and paint powerful magic protection symbols all over the roof, to make sure we wouldn't crash. Unfortunately it failed, our lass drove straight into a tree.
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Antti_Heinola added 10:21 - Apr 26
Great report Clive, wholeheartedly agree.
I tend to think the Twitter crazies are a very, very tiny minority. The atmosphere at games isn't hostile and I think most people around me are pretty satisfied with JFH's job so far. Totally baffled by most of the anti-Les and anti-JFH stuff. It's like the only yardstick of progress is promotion. It's infantile.
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Marshy added 10:21 - Apr 26
Typical end of season dire match with no real invention. Nothing really worked, but JFH should be given time next season to develop a team. I think he has the potential to become a really good manager. The only highlight for me was after the final whistle when Anton Ferdinand applauded the QPR fans. Fair play to him. Respect. Glad he hasn't forgotten, and still appreciates all the support we gave him.
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simmo added 11:01 - Apr 26
It's the sort of game that if it was mid-season and we needed to win, I think we'd have had the players and desire to easily have gone up another gear and won. As it was we almost did anyway. At present it's the team selection and thoughts ahead to next season that take priority over results, so it was good to see Kpekwa & Gladwin start and Petrasso come on.

I hope we continue to mix up our selections for Burnley and Bristol and see if we can gauge who could do a job next season in some capacity. The Washington point is a good one, he should be playing 90mins of all games from here on in, he needs them and deserves the chance to get that 1st goal before next season.
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Patrick added 18:11 - Apr 26
The voice of reason again, do keep on saying it, most people agree. What annoys me is other websites lifting a few quotes off the anti-social media and headlining it as "what QPR fans think about ....... " (fill in name of player or management). We have shipped out a whole team (not all useless but wildly overpaid for a club like ours) and shipped in virtually a whole new team, ending in mid table. I think we would have settled for that. Some great goals from new signings Chery, Nasser and Polts, top class new centre half and two ace new keepers (that we may struggle to keep if they carry on like this). Centre mid needs reinforcing, but by comparison with this time last year, I feel quite positive about next season. Onwards and upwards!
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