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More bite, and three home points at last as QPR slay City - Report
Thursday, 20th Oct 2016 21:01 by Andy Hillman

QPR secured their first win at Loftus Road since the opening day of the season with a much improved performance against Bristol City on Tuesday evening. Andy Hillman was there for LFW.

Idrissa Sylla’s third goal for the club, sliding home an exceptional pin-point cross from Massimo Luongo with 15 minutes to play gave the R’s a deserved three points.

In truth the winning margin could and should have been higher, as QPR rained down 21 shots on Frankie Fielding in the Bristol City goal, and were positive in attack throughout. The result now leaves QPR unbeaten in five in the league – the joint second longest run along with Newcastle, and only behind Brighton and Hove Albion.

The team news, filtering through an hour before kick-off, brought a mixed reaction. On the one hand, restoring Massimo Luongo to the middle of the park at the expense of Karl Henry was a welcome and positive sight, however dropping both the wingers who combined for our goal against Reading on Saturday, and apparently crowbarring Jordan Cousins at right wing instead brought ire to the masses. This was short lived when it transpired that QPR were actually playing a 433, with Bristol City graciously adopting the pantomime villain role of 4231 instead. For City, goal machine Tammy Abraham, a doubt with illness before the game and markedly below par against Cardiff over the weekend, started up front. QPR’s playoff final Saint/Martyr Gary O’Neil captained the visitors.

QPR came out of the traps fast and took the game to City. Luongo immediately took possession of the ball in the opening 30 seconds and ran at the Bristol back line, beating three men before having a shot blocked on the edge of the area. Talk before the game surrounded the extraordinary statistic that Luongo’s 44 tackles is not only a league high, but was also a clear 26 (!) more than any other QPR player despite his infrequent selection, but here he was showing the other side to his game as well – driving forward with the ball at his feet, linking the midfield with the attack.

The play fell into a fairly consistent pattern – QPR, with the midfield three were enjoying more of the possession than City, but were unable to fashion clear cut chances in the final third – the final ball just didn’t seem to be there. Defensively, The Robins for their part were looking to absorb pressure, and then hit QPR on the break via their giant talismanic frontman.

To this end, QPR were helping Lee Johnson’s side out no end by playing an outrageously high back line, and Abraham and Co managed to get in behind on numerous occasions – Caulker coming out on top and making a number of last ditch blocks when one on one in a foot race towards goal.

There was method to this madness however; as it became apparent that Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had a very clear and obvious plan with how to deal with the Abraham goal threat. Onouha, back in his preferred centre back spot, and turning in his best performance in recent memory, was man marking the Chelsea loanee and never more than two yards from him at all times. Caulker was deployed as the more mobile cover, sweeping up the runners from midfield. As a tactic it was executed to perfection, with Abraham almost totally marked out of the game, his only effort of note in the entire game was a shot flashed wide of Smithies in goal just before half time when he managed to escape Onouha’s shackles for a brief moment.

Rangers’ dominance and new attacking impetus continued throughout the first half. Sylla should have done better with a header from a Chery corner, and Luongo was through on goal before being denied following an excellent challenge by Adam Matthews in the Bristol City Box. This was a far cry from the negativity and sideways passing that we had seen recently in the Reading game. It’s unfair to single out Karl Henry as the sole cause of the midfield malaise, but the additional energy provided by Luongo, whom dovetailed perfectly with Borysiuk in particular in midfield, was a breath of fresh air.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for QPR, as Lynch was substituted on the half hour, holding his hamstring after trying to keep pace with O’Dowda down the QPR left. This enforced sub brought Nico Hamalainen on at left back for his second league game. Nico was raw, as you’d expect a 19 year old making his second league appearance for the club to be, made a few mistakes whilst defending his position and got a thorough going over by Bristol’s outstanding player on the night, Lee Tomlin, who was deliberately moved to his side of the pitch following the sub, but the youngster didn’t hide, didn’t let his head drop, and contributed massively going forward supporting Connor Washington down the left. It was also fantastic to see the senior professionals such as Smithies and Caulker actively managing their junior on the pitch, and further forward Washington in particular putting in a tremendous shift supporting him defensively. It’s the sort of thing we should have been doing years ago to be honest, but absolutely better late than never.

QPR maintained the pressure towards halftime, but were unable to fashion anything more than half chances. Borysiuk hit a 30 yard thunderbolt that looked in all the way until it took a deflection – he’ll bury one of those soon – but QPR were still missing that bit of guile in the final third to unlock the Bristol City defence. In a markedly improved team performance, Chery was notable by being off colour on the right wing. Plenty of lovely touches as always, but his set piece delivery was poor, and he wasn’t able to influence the game as much as you’d expect from a player of his class.

QPR’s second enforced change happened towards the start of the second half, when Cousins went down injured, also clutching his hamstring. Whilst not as effective as either Luongo or Borysiuk in the middle of the park here, his athleticism is nevertheless vital to way the team was playing, and there were groans amongst the QPR faithful when Henry was expected to come on. Instead, Hasselbaink sent on Gladwin for his first appearance since August, a much more positive change.

Gladwin was involved almost immediately, receiving the ball on the edge of the area, before being caught in two minds whether to cross or shoot, in the end doing neither and tamely passing the ball back to Fielding in goal instead, whilst on the other flank, great work by Luongo teed up Washington to crash a deflected effort onto the bar, that had Fielding beaten all ends up. Washington is really beginning to grow into the QPR shirt since his move to the left wing, turning in an excellent performance both offensively and defensively here.

A five-minute spell midway through the second half decided the game. A breakaway down the left by Bristol City following a QPR corner saw Tomlin feed Bobby Reid, who turned the tracking Borysiuk inside out before finding himself one on one with Smithies. Smithies splayed himself as wide as possible, and made an excellent point blank stop from Reid. It was an exceptional save, but the sort of save that we’ve become accustomed to Smithies making. We really shouldn’t take him for granted; he’s an unbelievably good keeper. In an age where Pickford and McCarthy get calls up to the England squad based on nothing other than being English and plying their trade in the Premier League, it’s almost criminal that there’s no wider recognition for Smithies.

Following the save, QPR scored almost immediately. Good work by Perch and Chery on the right dispossessed Abrahams and fed Luongo, who broke towards the by-line and delivered a devastating low whipped cross to put the ball on an absolute plate for Sylla, who slid in between the Bristol City centre backs to slam the ball emphatically into the net. Just rewards for a hard working performance by Sylla, and plaudits rightly given by the QPR players to Luongo, for delivering the ball of the game. Sylla ran over to celebrate with Polter afterwards, which was a nice touch as ostensibly they’re vying for the same spot on the pitch.

The natural reaction to QPR taking the lead is absolute panic, but QPR stuck doggedly to their task of seeing the game out. Bristol City brought on Luke Freeman for Bobby Reid, but neither he nor anyone else from The Robins could fashion any clear cut chances, and QPR saw the game out fairly comfortably for their second home win of the season.

Overall, this was a much improved performance, both individually and collectively, but when your immediate frame of reference was the Reading game, it’s important to not get carried away. The impact of Luongo in the team cannot be overstated however, he was at the centre of everything good, and still making lung bursting runs deep into injury time – he’s probably still running now. He worked in tandem with Borysiuk in particular perfectly. Let’s just hope that the injury to Cousins doesn’t make Hasselbaink change his formation back again.

The square peg in a round hole in this 433 formation is Chery, who just looks a bit out of sorts on the wing. Sylla’s goals against Fulham and here tonight show the value of having a winger getting to the line and putting a ball in – if Sylla is going to be flanked by Washington and Chery, both of whom are ‘selfish’ insomuch as their job is to score instead of assist, and are more inclined to cut in than cross, then Sylla is going to become more peripheral. I’d argue that Wszolek or Shopido for Chery against Wednesday on the weekend would be a smart move, and tell them to do nothing but beat their man and deliver crosses to Sylla, Andy Impey style.

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

QPR: Smithies 7; Perch 6, Onouha 8, Caulker 7, Lynch 6 (Hamalainen 32, 6); Borysiuk 7, Luongo 8; Cousins 5 (Gladwin 53, 5), Chery 6, Washington 7; Sylla 7 (Polter 90, -)
Subs not used: Ingam, Wszolek, Henry, Shopido

Goals: Sylla 75 (assisted Luongo)

Bristol City: Fielding 7; Matthews 6, Flint 6, Magnusson 5, Bryan 6; Brownhill 6 (Wilbraham 58, 6) O’Neil 6, O’Dowda 6 (Pack 58, 6) Reid 6 (Freeman 81, 6) Tomlin 7, Abraham 5.

Subs not used: Smith, O’Donnell, Moore, Paterson

Bookings: Tomlin 60 (Diving)

QPR Star Man – Massimo Luongo 8 The difference with him in and out of the team is night and day. Tough tackling in defence, guile and grace driving forward in attack, and an absolutely glorious assist for Sylla. Along with Smithies, the first names on the team sheet. Can we not get Australia to play their games at Loftus Road like they did in the late 2000’s? notable mentions to Onouha for his man marking job on Abraham, and Smithies for doing what does week in and week out.

Referee – Andy Madley 8 Testament to his refereeing that the first thing I noted was his booking of Tomlin for diving in the 60th minute (Correct). Missed what I thought was an obvious yellow for Magnusson’s blatant shove on Chery late on, but otherwise an excellent and calm performance.

Attendance – 12,552 (1,000 Bristol City Approx) Tuesday night games, as the nights are drawing in and with a bit of a malaise amongst the fan base means that the attendance was always going to be on the low side, but the fan base were vocal, and clearly enjoyed the performance on the pitch. Smithies got a rousing ‘One Alex Smithies’ chant as he fist pumped in the centre circle after the game.

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extratimeR added 01:03 - Oct 21
Cheers Andy

Very accurate match report, good performance against a fair Bristol side.

Onuha did do well against Abrahams who I've seen play a few times and won't be in the Championship long.

Yes Luongo def MOM and partnership with Borysuik works well, what wont work is not providing Sylla with a winger! ( as you mentioned).

18StoneOfHoop added 04:14 - Oct 21
Very good report, Andy.
There's been some excellent Clive subs the past couple of seasons,maybe you're the best.

I thought the first half was pretty dull on the whole,not too much improvement on Ding performance really and LR sounded quiet and player's shouts echoey.
However watching Jose's red morons on Sky in the pub in front of 71,000
silent funereal living dead ManYoo tourists maybe R & Q's efforts ain't that bad.

QPRski added 05:36 - Oct 21
A good read and analysis. In addition to the players performing well individually as well as s team, I am very pleased that JFH was adventurous and got it right with the tactics. Let's hope it is a platform to build on.

FDC added 10:00 - Oct 21
Great report, thanks

francisbowles added 15:58 - Oct 21
Thanks Andy, a good report with all the right conclusions (imho). I would start with Pavel on Saturday and bring on Shodipo when he tires. Left back is going to be a big decision!

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