Blackburn peg back Chery’s world class strike – Report
Sunday, 11th Sep 2016 15:26 by Clive Whittingham
QPR had to settle for a point against bottom of the table Blackburn Rovers at Loftus Road on Saturday despite Tjaronn Chery’s wonderful opening goal.
Just 13,210 at the School of Science, and with lectures this ponderous it’s not hard to see why some are playing truant.
Games against the league’s bottom feeders at this stage of the season don’t often run according to the script. Partly because it’s the Championship, and predicting results in this nonsense division is like knitting fog, but mainly because we’re only half a dozen games in and league tables are as meaningless as politicians’ promises at this point.
But it’s a reasonably safe bet that Blackburn Rovers will be heavily involved in the shake up at the bottom of this division come May. Disgracefully mismanaged by India’s Venky’s group for the last six years they’ve been stripped of their best players, their money, their hope and their future prospects. Exasperated and helpless, the supporters have responded in the only way left to them – by not turning up. The smallest away following for a Saturday home game at Loftus Road in living memory spaced themselves out across the upper tier of the School End and waved their protest banners.
And on another day, QPR would have beaten what’s left of their team quite comfortably. The R’s took the lead in magnificent fashion on 65 minutes. Conor Washington, on for the presumably injured Seb Polter at half time, was fouled 25 yards out from goal wide on the right and Tjaronn Chery stepped up to show his class from dead ball situations with as good a free kick as you’ll ever see, whipped over the wall and kissed into the net off the underside of the cross bar. Different gravy.
Before that, visiting goalkeeper Jason Steele saved expertly when Nasser El Khayati – given a rare start in place of Yeni Ngabokoto whose father sadly passed away before the game – cleverly turned his man in the penalty area after receiving a terrific through ball from Chery and struck powerfully towards goal. Steele made another smart stop on the other side of his goal in the dying embers in the game as Idrissa Sylla searched for a debut goal from the bench, in behind the tiring Rovers defence and carrying plenty of power in the first time shot but unable to find the net.
El Khayati had another shot blocked by a defender and amidst handball appeals Conor Washington wasn’t able to bundle the loose ball home. Washington also drew a leg save from Steele when he ran clear away from the last defender into the right channel and tried to search out the far corner.
So QPR could easily have won - 2-1, 3-1 - and climbed further into the fledgling play-off picture following an August that brought three wins from five matches, two of them away from home. This performance wasn’t that far away from being good.
But, equally, it wasn’t far away from being absolutely dreadful either, and failure to beat a really poor Rovers side is hardly the ideal start to a relentless September which sees QPR facing the top two in the league in the next two matches, a Premier League team in the cup, Nigel Clough’s spirted Burton Albion away, Birmingham at home and the annual catastrophe at Fulham in the next three weeks.
In actual fact, a point was the very least Blackburn deserved. The set piece delivery of Craig Conway caused havoc all afternoon. QPR left out Steven Caulker and selected Nedum Onuoha at centre half with James Perch at right back and never once looked comfortable under wide dead balls. This terror started after four minutes when they twice failed to clear the first Rovers corner of the game and defender Tommy Hoban, on loan from Watford, tried to improvise a back header into the net having been left unmarked and onside as the defence tried to clear the area. In first half stoppage time Hoban was left free again and his powerful header was just about bundled up and over the bar by Jake Bidwell on the goal line.
The sides traded jabs for the rest of the first half but failed to land a punch between them. Hope Akpan got in behind the home defence after six minutes and slid a great ball right through the goal mouth with nobody there to apply a touch – little wonder, Blackburn started with Danny Graham as a lone striker, or rather some lumbering, hairy oaf who ate the actual Danny Graham and assumed his identity. A shadow of the player who ripped into us for Watford on this ground back in 2010 - a very large, very wide shadow mind.
Mind you, Seb Polter wasn’t much sharper when James Perch got going down the right and crossed low towards the German who failed to connect just before half time. Earlier Polter had set Perch up for a volley over the bar with a smart touch, and chested down for youngster Mo Shodipo – making a second league start of the season - to strike straight at Steele.
When Polter was withdrawn at half time it initially pepped up the attack, as Conor Washington looked a good deal more purposeful and physical than he has on his previous lone striker outings – though it only took ten seconds for QPR to pump a hopeless long ball towards him in the channel and him to concede a free kick trying to field it. But the lack of the German’s height in the penalty box at the other end exacerbated the set piece problem.
Around the hour mark Blackburn completely took over the game, starting with a free kick from a mindless foul by Perch on Marshall for which was rightly yellow carded by referee Keith Stroud. That led to the first of several goal mouth scrambles which Alex Smithies was able to defuse by falling on a loose ball a yard out. Within two minutes Smithies was diving left to parry a long distance volley from Marshall and when the resulting corner was delivered from that, the ball again spent an age bouncing and bobbling around perilously close to the QPR goal with nobody able to apply a killer touch.
Chery’s goal, and a quick flurry of chances after it, didn’t deter Rovers too much. Grant Hall was required to make a fantastic covering tackle on 72 minutes as the ball rolled through the red zone in front of Smithies once more, and then the visitors finally got their equaliser when Sam Gallagher fashioned an angled header over the keeper and into the far corner of the net. Well executed, but Smithies seemed to go after it in instalments.
Could have been worse – Graham’s last act of an insipid personal performance was to completely miss a cross at the near post when left totally unmarked from another corner.
The church was restless long before the end – manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink reacting furiously and gesturing towards the Loft End when boos greeted one of several passes back from the centre of midfield to goalkeeper Smithies. The booing doesn’t help, and there are one or two QPR fans about who seem to take sadistic pleasure in things not working out for the team at the moment -presumably so they can crow about how right they are about Ferdinad/Hasselbaink/Warnock – but it was hard not to be frustrated by this performance which was firmly wedged in second gear throughout.
There were familiar names and themes featuring high on the list of prime suspects afterwards – playing one up front at home, playing two defensive central midfielders at home, playing Karl Henry at all. Henry is far better and more useful than most fans give him credit for and is well suited to certain situations QPR will face this season – whether one of those situations is a home match against a poor team with only one point from its previous five matches is highly debatable. A 30 yard run down the centre of the pitch with the ball right at the end of the game which ended with him tripping over his own feet, falling over and losing possession while once again trying to turn out of the forward motion and look behind him for a pass option rather summed it up. There were more forward passes in the Hull v Wigan rugby league game on Friday night than QPR played out of midfield here. Even accepting Ariel Borysiuk’s injury problems, and Massimo Luongo’s jet lag, Henry’s presence here against a Blackburn side which itself sacrificed an attacker to add an extra defensive midfielder to try and crowd Tjaronn Chery out Preston-style felt like unnecessary overkill.
You have to allow for Ngbakoto’s absence, Sylla not being up to speed having only arrived at the club earlier this week, fellow new signing Pawel Wszolek being suspended and so on. QPR also ended the game with two strikers – Sylla and Washington – and two wingers in search of a winner. But the changes seemed slow to come, with the overly defensive set up, and Nasser El Khayati, persevered with far longer than they really should have been.
But QPR didn’t look a lot better for putting Sylla on and going to two up top – the Guinean’s first two touches were terrifying – even allowing for his late effort which could have won the game. That’s because the key problem here wasn’t personnel, or formation, it was just the complete lack of speed and pace in QPR’s play.
Henry’s touch, look, touch, look, touch, touch, look, shrug, touch, look, touch, touch, touch, look and pass backwards from the centre of midfield contributed to that, as did El Khayati’s budget Andros Townsend routine where he takes far more touches than he needs and always, always, always cuts in field looking to shoot – making him easy to read. But it was a team wide problem. No tempo.
No footballer in the world likes playing against pace, no football team in the world likes it when their opponents are popping the ball around and attacking with speed and purpose. And yet QPR, and the game, ambled along at an arthritic pace.
Referee Keith Stroud didn’t help this – allowing Charlie Mulgrew to piss around on the field for a good minute in the first half while play was stopped so Rovers could prepare a substitute to go on instead of him. Start the game and let them play with ten until he’s ready for goodness sake. He managed to find five yellow cards in a match of only one bad tackle (by James Perch) – Mo Shodipo booked for the tackle of the game in the second half.
But it was up to QPR to try and force some life and speed into proceedings and they hampered their own chances by not doing so. Always another touch, slowing the play down, losing the moment all the time. It’s all very well Hasselbaink remonstrating with the crowd and asking them for more, but the punters and the manager needed more from the players. Shodipo was the best of a mediocre bunch and that was simply because he kept it nice and simple – every time he got the ball he tried to get at his full back and deliver a cross. The quality of the final ball was mixed, but the intent was there and he was more dangerous than the rest of his team mates simply by not over complicating things and doing them quickly. Far too often Rangers played into Rovers’ hands with laboured build up allowing them to get set in their shape with nine men behind the ball.
If QPR can do everything they did on Saturday, but ten times as quick, they’ll cause teams problems. If they crawl along like this, there’s a very long, very boring winter ahead.
QPR: Smithies 6; Perch 6, Onuoha 6, Hall 6, Bidwell 6; Henry 5, Cousins 6; Shodipo 7, Chery 6, El Khayati 5 (Sylla 80, -); Polter 5 (Washington 46, 6)
Subs not used: Borysiuk, Kakay, Ingram, Paul, Caulker
Goals: Chery 65 (free kick, won Washington)
Bookings: Shodipo 50 (foul), Perch 61 (foul)
Blackburn: Steele 7; Lowe 6, Hoban 6, Greer 6, Wiliams 6; Mulgrew 5 (Evans 34, 6); Conway 7, Akpan 6, Marshall 6, Gallagher 6 (Emnes 77, 5); Graham 5 (Samuelsen 83, -)
Subs not used: Feeney, Byrne, Guthrie, Raya
Goals: Gallagher (assisted Evans)
Bookings: Williams 42 (foul), Akpan 47 (kicking ball away), Lowe 65 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Mo Shodipo 7 Gets the ball, gets it out of his feet, gets at his man, tries to get to the byline, tries to deliver a cross. Shodipo’s no rocket scientist, but he was QPR’s most dangerous and effective attacker here simply by not over complicating things.
Referee – Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 6 Just annoying really. Nothing that wrong, although the booking for Shodipo looked a bit of a joke to me. Just a bit picky, further hampering the pace of an already sluggish game.
Attendance – 13, 210 (350 Blackburn approx) I thought despite the poor quality of the game in front of them, and whatever Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink may think, the QPR fans did their best in the second half to get a flat atmosphere and match going. But, overall, the place just felt a bit dead, on and off the pitch. The very best of luck to smattering of Blackburn fans salvaging whatever is left of your club once this disgusting spell of foreign ownership finally draws to an end, whenever that may be.
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