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QPR's scoreless, winless run continues with Villa loss — Report
Tuesday, 20th Dec 2016 09:23 by Clive Whittingham

Ian Holloway's nightmare start to his second stint as QPR boss continued at Loftus Road on Sunday as Aston Villa won 1-0.

Queens Park Rangers, who sacked their previous manager while in midtable despite him fulfilling his remit because they were a bit bored, look like they're going to get more excitement than they bargained for in 2017. Nothing quickens the pulse quite like a relegation zone approaching at speed.

This fifth straight defeat - four of them to nil, the last three by the same 1-0 scoreline - leaves the R's three points outside the bottom three with little indication that a relieving win, or even a goal, is coming any time soon. Rangers lost to the league's lowest placed club last week; one of its most in-form teams on Wednesday; and then again to midtable Aston Villa during breakfast on Sunday. At the moment, QPR find a way to lose to everybody.

The showing against Steve Bruce's Villa was better than the display against Steve McClaren's Derby in the week, which in turn was better than the shambles at Rotherham. The wide split new manager Ian Holloway wants to see from goal kicks was in evidence, the desire to see his players try to pass their way through the pitch and be brave on the ball is starting to see some results, there were some positives again.

Holloway was full of praise for his beaten side at full time. It could have been different had the recalled Pawel Wzsolek connected to a good through ball from Grant Hall, again pressed higher up the field into midfield, early in the first half. Later Wzsolek's cross that seemed destined to be headed in by Conor Washington in the six yard box was diverted away from him at the last minute. Washington had a penalty appeal given as a corner instead, referee Geoff Eltringham deeming the Villa man had won the ball.

In the second half Holloway was positive with his changes, introducing Idrissa Sylla at half time and then Mide Shodipo on the hour for Washington and Wzsolek respectively. Shodipo, coming in from the right, nearly scored with his first touch as a snap shot in the area struck a defender and bounced wide when it seemed goal bound. Jamie Mackie made his long awaited return from injury late in the game and set James Perch up for a volley wide, then had an appeal for a penalty of his own dismissed by Eltringham when he seemed to be pushed in the back chasing a long ball.

There were bits and pieces here against a Villa side that, on paper and balance sheet, should have completely overawed what QPR had at their disposal.

But that's really all they were: bits and pieces, and straws to clutch at. Villa may have an expensive strike force, and Jonathan Kodija showed why the new Villa Park board were so keen to pay big money to Bristol City for his services in the summer with a powerful centre forward display brimming with constant menace. They may also be one of the division's form teams since they brought Steve Bruce in as manager — five wins from their previous nine matches. But this is not an infallible side and really, Rangers didn't lay a glove on them in the whole fight.

Holloway talks a lot about his work at Blackpool, where his free flowing fooball side won a shock promotion to the Premier League and accumulated 39 points at that higher level as well. But he took over a successful, settled team there. I wonder if, by trying to get Rangers playing like that straight away, he's trying to run before his team can really walk.

Once more, it was only the desperate efforts of Alex Smithies between the sticks that kept QPR in the game for as long as they were.

After quiet beginnings the visitors burst into the game on the half hour when Wzsolek got the wrong side of Kodija in the area and attempted to recover with a clumsy tackle that led to what looked at the time like an obvious penalty. Spot kick duly awarded but no need for panic as Smithies has saved 18 PKs (c Bob Bradley) in his career so far, including five for QPR while a sixth hit the post. Bananaman made light work of Kodija's needlessly poncey run up, diving left to save with relative ease. Perhaps with the former Huddersfield man keeping goal one defensive technique might be to start deliberately giving penalties away.

Villa turned the screw at the start of the second half and QPR did well to ride out the first 15 minutes of constant pressure without shipping a goal. Again, that was largely down to their keeper. Smithies dived full stretch right in the fifty sixth minute to deny Kodija as the Ivorian bent a ball round him and seemingly into the bottom corner until the gloves miraculously appeared at the last minute. Within 60 seconds Villa had carved Rangers open again and QPR fan Albert Adomah tried his luck with the same shot from the same position with the same result. Much later Villa sub Rudy Gestede ran clear on goal into the area but Smithies denied him one on one.

A theme of this QPR side is not learning from mistakes.

James Perch was extremely fortunate not to be sent off at Ipswich when, on a booking, he lunged in on Tom Lawrence when the Town player was going nowhere. Next match, same position, same situation, on a booking again, he chopped into Wolves' Matt Doherty and was dismissed.

Despite it never once working since the player arrived at the club, despite it not working for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, despite Ian Holloway himself saying he doesn't think it will work, we're now back to playing Conor Washington as a lone striker. Washington may well not be good enough for this level, but at 5ft 10ins I'd defy anybody to play alone up front against two big centre backs with very little support and next to no service at all. Holloway knows this doesn't work, he's said as much himself, he's said he needs to play off the shoulder of another striker, we saw against Norwich how that could work, and yet here we are again, persisting with this bullshit.

Washington went off at half time, ineffective in the centre and often forced to go looking for the ball in wide areas from where he could look up at an unpopulated penalty area and be forgiven for wondering why he'd bothered. Sylla replaced him, and was a lot better, as he is a genuine target man, but again having brought the ball down there was little by way of support for him. This isn't working through lack of effort on Washington's part, it's not working because it doesn't fucking work.

I'm going to cry the next time we start Washington in this role. Actually cry. For him, and for us.

And then there was Joel Lynch. Wholehearted, strong in the air, all effort and action, and actually pretty decent — except for one absolutely crucial flaw which he got away with on three separate occasions before the only goal of the game but, like Perch against Wolves and QPR with Washington, learnt nothing from.

The old basic of centre half play of staying goal side and inside of the centre forward was abandoned once too often. Lynch's desire to be on the front foot, to get in front of his man and deny him possession before it even arrived, was laudable. But Kodija rolled him once, rolled him twice, rolled him three times and then, critically, rolled him for the fourth and final time in the game with 15 minutes left for play. Now with a clear run on goal, he smacked a powerful low shot to the near post where Smithies, in the sort of form he's in, should probably have saved it. Having hauled his defence out of three disasters of their own making already, the keeper couldn't perform a fourth rescue act. 1-0.

Another running theme, QPR basically gave up once the goal had gone in. Balls were just punted high and long down the field towards Sylla after Kodija had scored. Mackie's effort was industrious, and quite effective, almost forcing that late penalty, but there wasn't a hint of an equaliser.

The final ten minutes were dominated by visiting goalkeeper Mark Bunn reaching new levels of cuntishness — allowing balls returned to him to roll past so he had to go and fetch them again, changing the side of every goal kick, pretending to be injured and basically engaging in clock running the likes of which I haven't seen since Paul Gerrard was keeping goal.

There's an obvious rule change that could help here — goal kicks must be taken from the side the ball goes out, same as corners, so keepers can't do this irritating walk to the opposite side of the six yard box. The rules as they are written should have seen Eltringham take action far, far sooner than a token yellow card for Bunn in injury time. But the most effective solution to this ball ache would have been a shot or two for Bunn to save. Equalise, and he'd have no advantage to protect.

Bunn behaved like an absolute prick, but he didn't have a save to make in the whole game. The easiest clean sheet of his career. In fact, it's getting hard to remember the last serious save made by a visiting keeper at Loftus Road. Eltringham added five minutes to the end of the game, Bunn's antics mean there should have been more, but QPR hadn't had a shot on target in the previous 95 minutes while Villa had tested Smithies seven times so it's a bit rich of them to be arguing the toss over not getting another 60 or 120 seconds.

Still, those of a Hooped persuasion will cling to any bit of wreckage floating past at the moment. Brighton, flying high in the Championship, unbeaten in 14, with eight wins from their last ten games, and only one defeat at home all season, are up next the day after Boxing Day.

Hold me.

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QPR: Smithies 8; Perch 6, Onuoha 5, Lynch 5, Bidwell 5; Hall 6, Luongo 5, Chery 5 (Mackie 78, 6); Wzsolek 5 (Shodipo 62, 6), Washington 5 (Sylla 46, 6), Ngbakoto 5

Subs not used: Sandro, Borysiuk, Ingram, Polter

Bookings: Luongo 81 (foul)

Villa: Bunn 5; Hutton 6, Chester 6, Baker 6, Amavi 7; Adoma 6, Jedinak 7, Gardner 6 (Westwood 89, -), Bacuna 6; McCormack 5 (Agbonlahor 71, 5), Kodija 8 (Gestede 82, -)

Subs not used: Gollini, Elphick, Ayew, Grealish

Goals: Kodija 75 (assisted Hutton)

Bookings: Jedinak 43 (foul), Chester 63 (foul), Bunn 90+3 (time wasting)

The Alex Smithies QPR Star Man Award — Alex Smithies 8 Could probably have done better with the goal, but as is the norm these days the only reason we were still in the game at that point anyway was his performance.

Referee — Geoff Eltringham (Co Durham) 7 Odd one this, I came away thinking he'd got most of the stuff right. Villa's penalty was a penalty at first viewing, Washington's didn't look like one to me albeit from the other end of the ground. Should have clamped down on Bunn's antics a lot sooner, and Mackie did seem to be pushed in the back in that late incident, but that was about it. Lots, including those watching on TV, have said he was terrible and QPR should have had at least one pen.

Attendance — 16,285 (3,100 Villa approx) Nice to see the old place full after the last few games, and credit to Villa for bringing a full house at such an anti-social kick off time. There was an incident at the end of the game where Nedum Onuoha confronted/spoke to a supporter who has been giving him pelters for weeks/merely spoke out through frustration depending on who you believe. The old footballers are only human/footballers are paid professionals and supporters should support/supporters pay their money and can say what they like argument will never reach a conclusion. But I do wonder exactly what somebody abusing/criticising/yelling at our own players during the match, from a distance they can clearly hear what's being said, hopes to achieve? What's the end goal here?

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Addinall added 09:56 - Dec 20
I thought the Derby keeper made a reasonable save early on?

2Thomas2Bowles added 09:58 - Dec 20
I honesty don't think that Washington would score many goals at this level no matter what system you play.

Addinall added 10:03 - Dec 20
Re goal kicks your suggestion used to be the law.It was changed when keepers,mainly continentals,deliberately placed it on the wrong side of the goal area in order to waste time.The change clearly has made no difference whatsoever.

Refs need to take early action over this and be consistent at all levels.I won't hold my breath.

Antti_Heinola added 10:10 - Dec 20
Brighton is terrifying. Smashed us there already this year when we had a better team than this. Gulp.

I can't bear to think about the rest, but goal kicks. It's interesting, because the rule used to be it had to be taken from the side it went out - but it changed because it seemed ludicrous when keepers in a rush had to leg it across the 6 yard box, and sometimes they would accidentally take it from the wrong side and the ref would make them take it again, or they'd 'accidentally' place it on the wrong side and the ref would make them move it. It should've been a positive rule change. Maybe all kicks to be taken from the centre of the 6 yard box to split the difference?!

izlingtonhoop added 10:35 - Dec 20
Damn right a running theme.

Once the other team score our lot are done... :(

HastingsRanger added 10:41 - Dec 20
Thanks Clive, can't agree with you more. There are definitely signs of improved playing style but just no bite at all. Once behind, there was only one result. Cannot figure out why pumping a long ball was suddenly going to change it round.

Time wasting was infuriating as it was just cynical professionalism. The Ref should have picked up on it much sooner and how come no Rangers player was in the ear of the ref during this episode? I admit, it would not have got us a goal but at least some open play to watch.

Interestingly, Mackie was very vociferous coming on. It is one thing that is lacking from the team - a voice. New captain?

The team does appear committed and all I can hope is that a Wigan / Burton /Rotherham prop stops what seems inevitable at the moment.

PinnerPaul added 10:48 - Dec 20
Thanks Clive,

Can't agree this was an improvement on Derby though.

Derby far better team than Villa but we actually made Scott Carson work on Weds and defence, much less troubled than on Sunday.

Genuinely puzzled that you thought this was better than Derby?

Thought ref was OK but defo should have added more than 5 mins. There were 4 subs - thats 2 mins, the goal/flare was 2 mins, plus I would have added another 2 for the time wasting.

On top of that there was another stoppage in added time that he only added 30 seconds on for - having said that he blew for F/T as Villa were tkling a corner, so another 30 secs would not have made much difference! Agree with you though, its straw clutching in the extreme as with another hour added on I doubt we would have scored!

Toast_R added 11:23 - Dec 20
A great read as ever but a depressing one.

ngbqpr added 11:27 - Dec 20
For years I've been trying to come up with an expression to sum up one of the things that most annoys me in football - penalty takers with stupid, stuttering run ups. With "needlessly poncey" I think you've nailed it.

Such is the malaise just now, if Rangers went bust tomorrow, I think the only think I'd miss is this site.

mr_qpr added 12:53 - Dec 20
Don't think we would have won but might have got a draw if linesman had done his job. Throw in leading up to the goal had villa player standing with both feet on the pitch.

Marshy added 13:11 - Dec 20
Overall I believe that we are actually improving, but until we play a proper striker from the start we are not going to see a win. We will not even see a draw. I would have expected Ollie to have learned lessons from the Derby defeat, and chosen either Sylla or Polter to start, but possibly by including Chery he thought we might just have something upfront. I think this is currently part of the problem in automatically including Chery, a player who clearly is out of form and who has a confidence crisis. Personally I would drop him for now, and give others a chance. That would include using Shodipo more, as the lad definitely looks as if he has something about him.

It's obviously very depressing attending game after game and coming away with nothing to show for it. That said I am not pacinking because I believe that Ollie will eventually find the right blend, and already the style of play is at least more entertaining than JFH's. I just hope he can get it right sooner rather than later.

BostonRanger added 13:19 - Dec 20
Great report as always Clive, thank you.

One thing I couldn't understand was how Ngbakoto stayed on the pitch while Wzsolek, Washington and Chery were taken off. I thought he brought very little to the game and was by far the least hard working out of all the players that were substituted.

Real shame we can't get Cousins and Luongo together in the centre of midfield for a run of games because I believe they could be the driving force behind the team, with two wingers (with perhaps Chery being one of them) and Sylla and Washington upfront.

As for the guy that Chief spoke to after the game, my season ticket is very close to him in the X Block and he is an absolute moron, who we believe is only let out of a straight jacket to come and watch QPR at the weekends. He abused Chief at a home game last year which he reacted to as well. How can abusing players be beneficial to the team in any way?

Why bother with mid-table safety, we always love a relegation battle?

TacticalR added 15:23 - Dec 20
Thanks for your report.

It's all a bit grim isn't it? And a bit absurd if you can't even create a shot on goal. It's not surprising we give up once the opposition scores as it really is game over.

Smithies. It is funny how we've actually come to expect that he will save penalties - I'm getting very relaxed about penalties.

Lynch. Anyone know why was he so far out to the left from goal when he got rolled? Where was Bidwell?

terryb added 15:55 - Dec 20
Thanks Clive,

Another very good report, but like Pinner I can't agree that this was a better performance than against Derby. Far better than Wolves but I thought we were the better side last Wednesday but were very much playing second fiddle on Sunday.

Like you, I would really like to see Washington playing alongside Polter/Sylla. However, like everything else we have tried in the past five years, we bin any formation/strategy the moment it encounters a problem!

davman added 19:57 - Dec 20
The rule change needed is to reduce a half to 35 minutes and stop the clock when the ball goes out. Simple.

romfordranger added 21:32 - Dec 20
I ended my JFH enforced sabbatical away from Loftus Road after a series of boring negative games. Convinced anything would be better than the dismal Dutchman, Holloway has actually achieved the impossible and made it even worse. We never looked like scoring against avilla, and to not even manage a shot on target is pathetic.

DonO added 21:57 - Dec 20
I know Chery has been off form but the other attackers need to contribute more. This has been a problem for some time. The positives are an improved atmosphere (thank God) and a more adventurous style of play. Hopefully we'll get a couple of astute additions in January and the team will improve sooner rather than later. It looks to me like they're all putting a shift in. As for the bloke that abused The Chief.....well, just look at him.

qprdave102 added 06:54 - Dec 21
I still am wondering why JET was sent on loan at the start of the season when we only had 2 strikers who aren't or weren't exactly prolific.

We desperately need something up front, the rest isn't great and does appear at present to be worse than JFL but we're not creating anything unless Chery plays well.

Surely JET is worth bringing back and trying as well as getting a premiership outcast or youngster.

Personally I think Holloway was brought in to keep fans appeased. if you look around us look at these unknown managers who are making a difference.

RonisRs added 08:05 - Dec 21
its all very depressing, if we could score a goal and be on the front foot, perhaps it may change for the better. Perhaps starting with some of the substitutions, maybe the answer.

Burnleyhoop added 17:39 - Dec 21
I thought it was a reasonable performance with clear signs of what Ollie is trying to do. Chery & Luongo worked hard trying to collect the ball from deep but didn't do a lot with it.Wzsolek and Ngbokoto, in truth, failed to get past their defenders and get crosses in, as did Bidwell. Perch had a good game, as did Hall and Sylla when he came on. Washington needs dropping to the U23 side until he finds his shooting boots. If Sylla or Polter don't step up very quickly, we must look to the loan market or we will be in big trouble.

Need to stick with Holloway, as this has turned out to be a very average squad, with potential, that will take time to gel and grow. We won't see the best of them this season, that's for sure.

timcocking added 08:50 - Dec 22
Grant Hall basically said a few weeks back that it'd be interesting to see how we got on trying to play Holloway's attacking passing game malarkey, because we weren't any good at it with this squad.

We're in deep sh!t alright.

Still, life goes on.

Tonto added 15:36 - Dec 22
on the goal kicks, to me the answer is simple - just ban the goalkeeper from walking across the goal with the ball - in other words he takes the kick from the side he receives the ball from the ballboy/crowd/photographer.

Maybe add a time limit - I.e. the ball has to be back in play X seconds from when he gets it.

now I know that the 5 second ball in hand rule is applied VERY liberally, but in principle it could work here?

amusant added 10:23 - Dec 23
'Sacked the previous manager because they were a bit bored' That's our sixth manager (seven if you count the very brief second coming of saint Warnock) in the five and a half years since Tony and his consortium bought the club. You'd probably need a supercomputer to calculate how many players have gone through our books in that time. That's the real problem and sadly there seem to be no signs it's going away.

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