QPR grind out Wigan win – Report
Monday, 29th Aug 2016 00:12 by Lee McAlpine
QPR’s topsy turvey start to the Championship season continued on Saturday with a grimyl fought 1-0 win at newly promoted Wigan. Lee McAlpine was there for LFW.
If James McClean (he of the anti-poppy protests) could use his right foot for a bit more than standing on, who knows where QPR and Wigan Athletic would be. I for one would not have a Phil Parry Radio London commentary of “that” goal as my ring tone, nor would I often been seen sporting one of several “We needed a miracle” Art of Football t shirts, reminding all around me of that unforgettable Wembley moment.
Loftus Road in May 2014, second leg play-off game, Wigan already one goal ahead, deep into the second half, McClean managed to hit the post from a few inches away with a flick from the outside of his only working foot. The very fact that he didn’t casually slide in Wigan’s second goal that night and send the Latics for a Wembley meeting with Derby, must make every school team coach shake their heads in disbelief. With this he changed our lives forever and gave us the day out and countless memories which will always make us smile.
The consequences of such poor basic footballing ability have been far reaching. Harry Redcrapp, some pigeon-hearted players and a number of agents, were able to fleece Tony Fernandes of more of his millions. We had a small number of fun days in the Premier League, but mostly embarrassing failures and disappointments. While Wigan on the other hand, simply fell apart following their defeat at HQ and slumped for a season to the third tier. Who can forget the image of the Wigan manager that evening, Uwe Rosler, furiously slamming a bottle of water into the turf after his one-legged player’s failed effort? Rosler very quickly lost his job at Wigan and after a brief spell at the “lunatic asylum” that is Leeds United, now finds himself in charge at very lowly Fleetwood Town.
But what of one-footed wonder McClean? Well he quickly deserted the sinking Wigan ship for the top flight and anti-footballing West Brom. He still can’t kick a ball with his right foot but did manage to make it to the European Championships this summer with the Republic of Ireland. Such a limited footballer enjoys the football high life while those he let down so badly that night at Loftus Road- most particularly Rosler - are left to pick up the pieces. Unfair yes, but also the very nature of modern football, where the stink of Sky TV has infected the beautiful game with an incurable illness that will tear football apart in the years ahead.
Another northern away game with a small away fan contingent rattling around with enough spare seats for every attendee’s entire family, this feels familiar.
Wigan against QPR is real football - apart from the presence of Sandro on the squad list - two honest teams battling out a distinctly average second tier game in front of a half empty(make that three quarters empty), and mostly grumpy, stadium. The DW is a soulless place and we have played numerous dour games there with very few positive results.
One question on my mind as I was greeted by the multitude of empty seats was would we hear the Will Grigg song and would any QPR fans join in? The Northern Irish fans, in full voice, singing one of my favourite chants of all time was probably a highlight from this summer’s International tournament. Such excitement and media interest about a player from League 1, who didn’t get a single minute on the pitch; what a miserable sod his manager was.
Both teams faced the game in typical Championship form: win some, lose some, score some and concede some. Anyone who bets on games in this league and wins must either be very, very lucky or just pick outcomes out of a hat, because the unpredictability is frankly mind-blowing. Leeds winning at Sheffield Wednesday last week and Preston destroying us, must have busted so many coupons.
Form apart, if I’d put a bet on this game it would have been on a draw and that’s only because I would never back us to lose. A winless streak stretching to six on this ground, the realisation that surely no referee is going to award us any more penalties until the season after next and our complete inability to score from open play, all seemed to add up to another blank in Wigan.
I had a few questions which I hoped would be answered positively:
1) Which QPR team would turn-up? The one that mullered Leeds, the one that capitulated against Preston or something in between? Probably pretty similar to the Barnsley game but Wigan were nowhere near as good.
2) Would Jordan Cousins be allowed to dominate a game from the centre of the park like he did at Loftus Road playing for Charlton last season? In a word- no.
3) Would Alex Smithies return to his dominating best or try again to emulate England’s flappy and indecisive number 12/13/14? Didn’t need to do anything bar one smart save.
4) Would JFH manage the game proactively, making changes to alter the direction of the match rather than just react when it’s too late? In a word – no.
5) Would Conor Washington (who kept Grigg out of the Northern Irish team at the Euros) be given an opportunity to show some potential? Don’t be silly.
It was a pretty much a standard line-up picked by JFH. Hall returned from suspension to replace the mysteriously missing Caulker. Conspiracy theorists amongst us seem to think that this is in view of a move to a premier league club. Although I'm not sure why a higher league would want him. The midfield was as before with Polter playing on his own in a separate postcode.
Midway through the first half I asked a fan next to me what was the difference between today’s game and a non-league one, such was the obvious lack of quality on both sides. Fitness was the only thing that we could come up with. Neither side needed a goalkeeper, the approach play and final ball from both teams was simply abysmal. The only points of interest in the first 45 mins was a disallowed goal for the home side following a free kick incorrectly awarded after a dive for which Bidwell was harshly booked.
Following the goal it seemed like only a matter of time before a second would follow and the points secured. The referee had seen how many penalties we’ve been awarded this season and waved away pretty valid claims after Polter was shoved over by Jake Buxton. The second goal didn’t arrive and as the half progressed the home side came back into the game and we started to back off. Half chances started to arrive for Wigan and from one of these Smithies made a fine save- the only save of the game for both teams. So yet another game where we didn’t test their keeper, bar the goal. Our approach play was often easy on the eye but we simply don’t get enough bodies forward to support the ever hard working Polter.
Nine points and a play-off position is an encouraging start but I’m still struggling with apprehension about what lies ahead. As we all know the Championship is a dog of a division and there are plenty sharp teeth waiting for us. But so far, so OK.
Finally what of the single legged Maclean? Well he will be part of the ultra-defensive, let's get a point West Brom squad that bored the tits off everybody at home to Middlesbrough today. Hopefully he will take a look around the Premier League’s lavish facilities and reflect how his old club have done since his horrific miss at HQ. On yesterday's evidence it will be a very long time before the DW sees the big time again and empty seats and huge seat covering advertising tarpaulins are replaced by real people.
Wigan: Bogdan N/A; Power 6; Morgan 5; Buxton 5; Warnock 6; Garbutt 6 (Davies 81); Gilbey 5 (Gomez 68); Macdonald (Wildschut 54); Powell 6; Jacobs 5; Grigg 5
Subs not used: Flores, Burke, Burn Jääskeläinen
Bookings: Powell 42 (foul), MacDonald 51 (dissent), Jacobs 66 (foul), Morgan 82 (foul)
QPR: Smithies 7; Perch 6; Hall 8, Onuoha 8, Bidwell 7; Henry 6; Luongo 7, Cousins 5, NGkakato 5; Chery 6 (Borysuik 83, -); Polter 6.
Subs not used: Washington, Ingram, El Khayati, Paul, Kakay, Shodipo
Goals: Onuoha 48 (assisted Bidwell)
Bookings: Cousins 13 (foul), Bidwell 38 (foul), Henry 42 (dissent)
QPR Star Man – Nedum Onuoha 8 A toss up between Ned and Grant Hall, who was back to his commanding and composed best here. I'm just going to plump for the captain because of his winning goal but the pair had an excellent game in Caulker's absence.
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