…song as old as rhyme – Report
Sunday, 11th Dec 2016 19:36 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, naturally, lost 1-0 to the league’s bottom side Rotherham United in South Yorkshire on Saturday, a result that leaves the R’s just three points above the drop zone.
A result so obvious we not only tipped it exactly in the preview but teed up the first half of the headline.
For Rotherham United, a second win of the season in this their twentieth game. Just the second clean sheet of the season for a defence that has shipped 45 goals already this year, more than two a game on average and at least a dozen more than any other team in the league. The Millers still ten points from safety despite the victory, and yet despite all this it rarely looked in doubt and should have been by a greater margin. They were, for almost the entire duration of the game, by far the better team with the better players.
For Queens Park Rangers, another total embarrassment to throw on the pile with all the rest: John Jensen, Lloyd Doyley, Swindon Town and so many more besides. If you’re down on your luck, out of your depth, on a seemingly terminal run of awful form, either as a player or a team, then fear not... restore some pride and self-esteem with a nice session on our willing hooped gimp.
More importantly, in the short term at least, it’s a result that leaves the R’s just three points away from the relegation zone going into a Christmas period that’s rarely kind to Rangers, even when they have a good team playing well. Having pissed away three matches against the three most of form teams in the division – three defeats, six goals conceded, one scored – they now face a week of quickfire fixtures against the three teams on the best runs. If Ipswich, Rotherham and Wolves can cut through with this sort of ease – and once more on Saturday it was only Alex Smithies who kept the score down – then who knows what title chasing Brighton, Steve Bruce’s rejuvenated Aston Villa, and a Derby County side on a run of six consecutive victories are going to do. This could go very far south very quickly if Ian Holloway isn’t really, really careful.
The new QPR manager locked his team in the dressing room afterwards for a tear up heard from the pressroom, but publicly at least he was surprisingly upbeat after a dire display and even worse result. He spoke about the positives in the play before the Rotherham goal, and said his team did a lot right.
Fair enough, benefit of the doubt time, Rangers did have their chances early in this game. Three times in the first three minutes, in fact, the visitors could have taken the lead – Lewis Price, between the sticks instead of former R Lee Camp, tipped a shot from Conor Washington over after two, was then grateful to a defender for clearing Joel Lynch’s header off the line at the resulting corner, and finally parried from the recalled Yeni Ngbakoto as he showed good strength to work space in the area and unload a powerful shot on goal.
Three serious attempts on goal in the opening 180 seconds boded well, and Price was in action again on 22 minutes to prevent an own goal, and then again on the half hour with a remarkable leg save from Chery after Washington had cut the ball back from the byline. Score a goal, get in front, against a team with no permanent manager, and no confidence, and obviously lacking quality given what’s happened to them this season… different story.
Instead, the same lousy film we’ve seen a thousand times before.
That sinking feeling you get when you go round a mate’s house for Saturday night drinks and see that they’ve got the fucking X Factor on. The guy in front of you at the tube gate in rush hour who thinks he’s going to swipe out using his mobile phone. The woman in front of you at the checkout who responds to the request for payment for her goods with absolute shock and then decides she’s going to settle the bill with a collection of change from far flung corners of her handbag. The guy who nips in front of you at the cash machine in a howling gale and driving rain and then proceeds to use it to put together his accounts and tax return for the year. Chris Grayling as transport minister. Irritating, entirely avoidable, AIDs of the face that we’ve sat and suffered through ten fucking thousand times before, and we know it’s coming, and we know how it turns out, and yet still it happens, and still we’re there to see it.
Some people throw season tickets onto the pitch for crap like this but at QPR it happens so often we’ve gone through surprise, anger, frustration, sadness and resignation to a sort of detached apathy. Like the mum who gave up her career to have a family and the kids turned out to be shite, lying on the sofa trying to muster enthusiasm for the dreadful drawing they’ve brought home from school for the front of the fridge while glancing over their shoulder and wondering if it’s too early to crack on with the gin. Oh you’ve lost to Rotherham have you? Very good. Seen that trick before though if I’m honest. Useless, useless, insufferable, bank account emptying pricks.
Holloway can talk about positives, and game changing moments, and belief in the process all he likes – he has to, four matches into a second reign and the size of the task starting to loom large ahead of him. But let’s not forget that QPR started this match, against the worst team in the league by some distance, by almost conceding in the first 30 seconds. Danny Ward certainly hasn’t let the Millers’ form dampen his enthusiasm for hard graft and physical competitions, nor his immaculate first touch, positional sense and eye for a shot on goal – he led their line magnificently – and he drew a brilliant save from Alex Smithies inside the first minute of play.
Yes, the goal came from QPR switching off and losing a 50/50 contest in midfield from a throw in, something the new manager has spoken a lot about. Yes, Izzy Brown, another one of those excellent young boys that should be playing some first team football for a parent club higher up the ladder but is hoarded and then loaned into neutral territory by the Chelsea Death Star, did brilliantly to cut through the visiting defence, execute a one two with the returning (and excellent) Lee Frecklington and then slam in the opening goal. But, honestly, the defending was non-existent. Static, square, scared. Brown and Ward, with assistance from Joe Newell and Frecklington, dominated and frightened Rangers all day.
Smithies made a clever save to deny Frecklington from range seven minutes from half time – watching a dipping ball all the way, sorting his feet out, getting a yard or two up the field so it didn’t bounce in front of him, parrying a difficult ball away to safety. Second half he saved well when Brown struck from outside the area and was grateful when veteran centre half Richard Wood headed one corner wide, and then another over from presentable positions.
Yes, Holloway can point to a second half free kick from Tjaronn Chery which flew over the wall and then turned left in flight forcing Price to tip over the bar. Again, that goes in, 20 minutes left, Rotherham might panic, salvation could still be sought. But it didn’t go in, and in fact was the only serious effort Rangers had on the home goal in the entire second half. Mostly it was Paul Warne’s side pushing for a second – Ward denied the goal he sorely deserved when a ripsnorter from 12 yards came back into play off the underside of the bar, only Newell will know how he spaffed the rebound over the top from inside the six yard box. Moments later Smithies dived left to spectacularly deny Newell again. Only 1-0 behind they may have been, but QPR looked bereft long before the end and spent the second half circling the drain rather than chasing the game.
We presume Idrissa Sylla was injured, we know Seb Polter was only fit enough to play for half an hour – his introduction on 60 minutes, sadly, made little difference. We know that meant Conor Washington had to play as a lone striker once more, a position he’s ill-suited to by Holloway’s own admission. We know and appreciate the circumstances. We’re not, we don’t like to think, over emotional, clueless, beered up football fans who think one good season on Football Manager or Fifa qualifies us to talk tactics with the professionals.
But, that said, this , and the set up against Wolves, was a mess wasn’t it? New managers coming in mid-season often talk about, and get results from, going “back to basics”. Holloway, at the moment, seems to be deliberately complicating things. A sort of 4-3-3, 4-1-2-2-1 slop, with Ngbakoto and Chery either side of lone striker Washington - neither wingers nor strikers.
The club has good, quick players who can play on both wings – Mide Shodipo, Pawel Wszolek, Yeni Ngbakoto. We have looked at our best this season when a combination of them have been on, stretching the play width-ways, delivering dangerous balls into the box. And yet, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink helped bring them to the club and never picked them. Ian Holloway loved wingers in his first spell here – Ainsworth, Cook, Rowlands, McLeod all played their best football under him from wide – and yet he’s not picking them either.
There must be something we’re not seeing. Holloway is right when he says we’re over-burdened with ‘tens’ and is brave to try and play in a way that gets the creative players into that dangerous position with the ball at his feet. But 1-0 up, with 20 minutes left to play, with an appalling defensive record, and nerves starting to jangle, what did Rotherham not want? QPR stretching the play across the field, getting at them down both flanks, delivering crosses to Polter and others in a crowded area. What did they want? To get the game narrow, to crowd everything out around the 18-yard line. The Rotherham back four barely ventured out of the width of the penalty box for the final half hour of the game – they didn’t have to. QPR funnelled everything into that ten position and half the population of South Yorkshire was waiting there for them to do it.
Holloway, correctly, pointed out that Shodipo had shown defensive naivety when introduced as a sub against Norwich. The young winger hasn’t played a single minute since. I’ve seen a lot more mistakes, a lot more defensive naivety since, from players who remain in the team. I know what Rotherham didn’t want to see in that last 20 minutes – young quick winger getting at them down the wing and cutting the ball back from the byline. I know what QPR served up instead, and how few shots on goal they managed as a result.
No such Shodipo-style criticism for Sandro, who needs to be shown love apparently. This fascination has to end soon or it’s going to cost Holloway his dream job. Once more only physically capable of playing for an hour, the Brazilian was dominated – physically, with the ball, without the ball – by Lee Frecklington for the duration of his time on the pitch. When he did get it, he kept pinging Hollywood passes 50 yards left and right behind the opposition full back – in a team playing with no wingers. Without it, he simply couldn’t keep up with the play. This weird and wonderful system we’re employing is designed to get him in the team as well as the numerous tens in the ten position, and he’s offering absolutely nothing to justify that accommodation.
Width. Width. My fucking kingdom for some width. Nothing sums up the apparent chasm in understanding between the common man in the stand and the “football people” in charge than two successive QPR managers refusing to play with wingers this season.
I, we, obviously don’t know what we’re talking about.
But the results are starting to speak louder than anything.
Rotherham: Price 7; Fisher 6, Wood 6, Belaid 6, Mattock 6; Forde 6, Adeyemi 6 (Vaulks 85, -), Frecklington 8, Newell 7 (Kelly 90+3, -); Ward 8, Brown 8 (Taylor 86, -)
Subs not used: Ball, Blackstock, Yates, Bilboe
Goals: Brown 24 (assisted Ward)
Bookings: Adeyemi 50 (foul), Frecklington 83 (foul), Forde 87 (foul)
QPR: Smithies 7; Onuoha 4, Hall 5, Lynch 5, Bidwell 4; Sandro 4 (Gladwin 72, 5); Luongo 5, Cousins 5; Chery 5 (Wszolek 89, -); Ngbakoto 5 (Polter 59, 5), Washington 5
Subs not used: Ingram, Henry, El Khayati, Shodipo
Bookings: Ngbakoto 45+3 (repetitive fouling), Luongo 48 (foul), Polter 73 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Alex Smithies 7 As against Wolves, keeping the score down against a poor opponent. Not a good sign.
Referee – Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire) 8 Very decent. Not a lot to referee but consistent, calm and not over-fussy. Blessed relief after the last couple of weeks.
Attendance – 8,704 (872 QPR) I do like this ground. Steep stands tight to the pitch make for a good atmosphere, and make it feel like there’s a lot more there than there actually is. QPR fans stuck with the team and deserved better.
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Pictures – Action Images
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