Preston profit from lacklustre QPR – Report
Sunday, 21st Aug 2016 23:49 by Clive Whittingham
QPR suffered a first home defeat of the season on Saturday, going down weakly to a Preston side that hadn’t won a match this campaign before arriving in W12.
One excellent win, one win that could have been a defeat, one defeat that could have been a victory, and one abysmal defeat. Four games into the Championship season, and we’re still no closet to knowing whether QPR’s class of 2016/17 are actually any good.
Sadly the performances are heading in the wrong direction. Saturday’s dismal effort against Preston was a world away from the excellent all round display that saw Leeds thrashed 3-0 on this ground less than a fortnight ago.
The lack of athleticism and drive that dogged the centre of midfield last season was back again with a vengeance, and QPR’s wide men hardly saw any of the ball at all. One long ball after another was punted up to isolated Seb Polter. That wouldn’t have been the smartest idea in good conditions without Bailey Wright playing centre half for the other team, but here in high winds and with the Australian - who was outstanding in a 0-0 draw here last season and stood head and shoulders above everybody else once again - playing in a dinner jacket it made no sense and yielded no fruit. Newcastle paid £5m for Blackburn’s Grant Hanley this summer, they might have been better service looking further down the road at Bailey for half the price.
Rangers still may have got away with a tepid 0-0 draw despite this, had it not been for two of the most basic errors you’ll ever see at this level of the game.
The first came from goalkeeper Alex Smithies, his first real major mistake for the club a year to the day since he joined from Huddersfield. There seemed little danger when a routine cross was floated towards him after 21 minutes but instead of taking what seemed a simple catch he elected to punch and ended up spaffing the ball straight to Paul Gallagher whose mishit shot flew into the net off Jermaine Beckford in the six yards box.
The second was from Karl Henry five minutes after half time, allowing a simple cleared ball to bounce rather than meeting it first time which gave Beckford the chance to nip in and muscle him out of possession before springing a counter attack which ended with Nedum Onuoha turning the ball into his own net as he attempted desperately to beat Callum Robinson to a low cross down at the School End. Robinson, incidentally, might like to try a size or two bigger in shorts next time – little left to the imagination by the present pair.
But Preston - who’d lost all three matches before this one, only scored once and just sold star striker Joe Garner to Rangers – were thoroughly good value for their 2-0 success and could easily have won by more. They built attacks through midfield with pacy purpose, committing men forwards in support of two strikers. They got their key men, particularly the excellent Johnson, into good possession in dangerous areas. It was like watching QPR v Leeds, while Rangers meanwhile decided to recreate the dismal display from the Burton Albion pre-season friendly by way of response.
Smithies’ error, and the high winds, seemed to play on the keeper’s mind and he disintegrated into a sloppy mess of poor decision making and flappy hands. A poor kick from him just before the hour gave Gallagher a chance to try an outrageous 35-yard lobbed volley on the turn and the keeper just about managed to get a hand to the ball and force it over. Just before that, dreadlocked Daniel Johnson, like Wright excellent for the second consecutive visit to this ground, curled a 25 yarder inches wide of the post with Smithies beaten. Robinson shot wide during an advantage played after Preston sub Tommy Spurr had been wildly hacked to the ground on the edge of the box.
There had been early warning signs for Rangers, who looked tired throughout. Onuoha, moved into centre half to replace the suspended Grant Hall after his red card at Barnsley during the week, swooped in with a fine tackle on Beckford after five minutes when Henry conceded possession. Later though the skipper allowed a ball to bounce in a dangerous area giving Gallagher a chance to shoot over the bar.
James Perch may have toed wide from Yeni Ngbakoto’s cross on the quarter hour – an all too rare example of the Frenchman being given the ball to feet in a good area – but he was back to his usual forlorn self at right back and the Caulker and Onuoha partnership didn’t work at all in the centre of the defence. Further forward Jordan Cousins was left every bit as hungry for possession as the other winger Ngbakoto while Henry had a poor game in the central midfield role one would think/hope Cousins will pretty soon be moved into himself.
It wasn’t until Conor Washington replaced Henry on the hour and added some much needed support for Polter in attack that QPR even threatened to splutter into life a bit. Even then chances were few and far between. Washington, looking livelier than he has before since arriving from Peterborough in January, forced two quickfire handball penalty appeals which were both rightly waved away by referee Andy Madley. The official may have been more inclined to point to the spot when Polter hit the deck later on – that did look a spot kick to me and is perhaps the first instance of referees noticing that QPR, and Polter in particular, seem to win a lot of penalties at the moment and thinking themselves out of awarding another. Polter hooked another volley straight at Anders Lindegaard in the North End goal, and Washington was unfortunate not to make a better connection after controlling another high punt into the area well with his right foot then attempting to shuffle it past the onrushing Lindegaard in one fluid movement.
But that was it. Still too direct, still too little ball for the wide players. QPR’s attack completely nullified by their own lousy long ball tactics, the form of the Preston defence and Wright in particular, a succession of offsides and a mind blowing insistence on taking every corner awarded short.
Short corners should be a bookable offence in my opinion anyway, and it’s a borderline red when you’re still doing it while chasing a match with time ticking away. A force of complete evil no doubt created by some Brendan Rodgers-type with a degree in cuntishness studies from the University of Ballache, Missouri. A corner is a chance to put a free, unchallenged cross into a penalty area crowded with all your best headers of the ball with no offsides. Why you'd want to use it for anything else is beyond me.
Not since Juan Mata strolled over to the Ellerslie Road side of the ground for Chelsea has any corner taker been met with quite such a vociferous response as Nasser El Khayati, on for Ngbakoto, when he threatened to do it yet again with only five minutes remaining. Go. Away.
A yellow card for Perch in first half stoppage time was deserved, but Beckford being allowed to harangue the referee about the incident without being booked despite the new directive this season only served to increase frustration.
But this was nobody’s fault other than QPR’s. They looked tired and just as it seemed Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s boot camp pre-season was paying dividends, now questions once again abound about whether the players have been flogged too hard. Wednesday night game or not, you shouldn’t be this tired two weeks into the season and Preston have had the same number of matches – albeit with an extra recovery day this week. QPR looked like zombie film extras and a bench made up of four youth teamers, two without any first team experience at all, betrayed the lack of strength in depth in this squad. Needs must? Or a Redknapp-style plea for reinforcements? Either way, quite what team Hasselbaink will turn out for Rochdale on Tuesday ahead of a Bank Holiday weekend trip to Wigan goodness only knows - QPR Creche XI.
I don’t think Rangers would have scored if they were still playing now and although the Jamie Mackie Derby County incident keeps the faithful in their seats longer than they otherwise ordinarily would in such circumstances, a similar comeback never once looked likely here and Preston, much the better team, were able to post their first points of the season with little resistance.
QPR: Smithies 4; Perch 5, Onuoha 5, Caulker 4, Bidwell 5; Henry 4 (Washington 54, 6), Luongo 5; Ngabokto 5 (El Khayati 64, 6), Chery 5, Cousins 5; Polter 5
Subs not used: Ingram, Shodipo, Kakay, Paul, Grego-Cox
Bookings: Perch 45+1 (foul)
Preston: Lindegaard 6; Humphrey 7 (Huntington 87, -), Clarke 7, Wright 8, Cunningham 6; Welsh 6, Gallagher 7 (Browne 74, 6); Johnson 8; Robinson 7, Beckford 6 (Hugill 73, 6)
Subs not used: Makienok, Doyle, Pringle, Maxwell
Goals: Beckford 21 (assisted Gallagher, mistake Smithies), Onuoha own goal (assisted Beckford, mistake Onuoha/Henry)
Bookings: Welsh 58 (foul), Browne 85 (foul)
QPR Star Man – N/A
Referee – Andy Madley (West Yorkshire) 6 Not bad overall, although I felt Polter could have had a penalty and one can only assume that Beckford being allowed to charge towards him screaming in his face after James Perch’s foul at the end of the first half without retribution means we’ve already dropped the brave new attempt to curb dissent.
Attendance – 13,307 (1,000 Preston approx) A tiny crowd exacerbated by foreign summer holiday season sat in almost complete silence as a dreadful game was served up to them. Boos at half time and full time.
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