QPR end year on a high with Wolves win - Report
Sunday, 1st Jan 2017 13:22 by Lee McAlpine
QPR snapped a six match losing run with a hard-fought, last gasp 2-1 win at Wolves on New Year's Eve. Lee McAlpine was there for LFW.
“Don't suppose you're going to Wolves mate? Need a report from somewhere”
Well, we were thinking about it, but defeat number six (yet another in front of the Sky cameras) was hardly the inspiring “gee up” needed to visit one of the most unwelcoming football grounds on New Year’s Eve. But Northern’s email tipped me over the edge and plans were hastily made.
To be honest going to games has become so much more of a trauma these days. For too long the football has been negative and predictable, and the mood of the travelling fans has become so nasty and bitter. Long gone was the gallows humour, when were really were shit, but we met up with old mates, had a few beers and a laugh. The stuff on the pitch generally was a let-down but the experience was an enjoyable one. This has been replaced by a strange, unfriendly mob that seem, simply to want to call our own players every name under the sun and look to start rows with anyone nearby who doesn’t agree with their warped, pre-determined c- bomb laden obscenities.
Supporting Rangers has always been an interesting rollercoaster, with some seriously joyous, unforgettable memories as well as the opposite end of the scale. After all we are not Man Utd and we won’t win more than our fair share in this ultra-competitive league. But all that being being said it has been an extremely bumpy ride in recent months. Results have been crap and at times performances even worse. This has been compounded by the ridiculous fixture manoeuvrings caused by Sky. Why on earth are they so fixated on showing our games? They are usually rubbish, one sided affairs with only our opposition showing an understanding of the beautiful game and how it should be played. Surely the cameras want a full blooded, evenly matched encounter, not the predictable submissive bent over performance that Rangers usually produce?
I can’t say I have been particularly surprised by our struggles this season. Early in the campaign we were stealing points at places like Wigan and looking distinctly average. I said at the time we would be in trouble when we played some of the division’s better teams and have been unfortunately proved correct. But what has surprised me has been horrible defeats against the Championship whipping boys Rotherham and capitulations after conceding the first goal in so many other games. I have never wanted a management team to succeed more than Holloway and Bircham and like everyone else I thought the future was rosy after their appointments and the victory over Norwich.
The way everything seems to have unravelled since has come as shock. We seem to be club feeling sorry for its self and waiting for the next bad thing to happen, and that’s exactly what has been occurring. We even managed to get our captain sent off for an offence that nobody even thought was a foul in the last game. To compound this, the FA reject our appeal to overturn the ludicrous decision and while many shook their heads at this, some fans celebrate and bemoan the fact the authorities didn’t increase the one game ban. We were/are a club in trouble on the field and pretty desperate for some positivity on a visit to a reasonably good hunting ground in Wolverhampton.
Now that Holloway’s honeymoon period is over, surely the shortest in football history, we were just a little hopeful for an upturn of fortunes on our way into the Black Country. Wolves are nothing close to looking like a good championship team. They were gift wrapped three points at HQ earlier in December by public enemy number one James Perch, yet still looked second best against ten men and nearly threw away a two goal lead. They concede regularly and easily, a bit like us really, so there was hope that our goal shy team might have a chance not to add to our alarming number of blanks.
Could we hope for a draw to break the sequence of losses? I felt reasonably confident, after all it was a Saturday 15.00 kick-off (don’t mention the New Year’s Eve thing) and there was no sign of Goodman, Rangers hater Hinchcliffe or any other of those shiny, botoxed Sky faces. Things were about to take a turn for the better and yours truly was going to report back with the good news.
Well that was the plan and I managed to pull it off to good effect. If every one of the 500 odd R’s fans in attendance had been given ten chances to guess the team at Molineux, the number of accurate predictions would have been precisely zero. We lined up with Smithies in goal, a sturdy looking back four of Lynch, Bidwell, Hall and Perch. Sandro sat in front of them alongside huge surprise Ryan Manning, with Wzsolek, Ngbakato and returning Mackie providing the ammunition for the isolated Sylla.
The general mood in the away end before kick-off was a little pessimistic but surprisingly good –natured, possibly the smaller travelling numbers helped and the Wolves’ decision to only open the exact number of seats that tickets had been sold for meant we were all squished into one tiny section.
The game was a very slow burner in the first half. Not a great deal actually happened apart from a huge number of misplaced passes, especially by the home side, who kept giving possession back to us by accurately hitting the ball out of play to where the most in-effective ball boys I have ever seen sat on boxes and waited for someone else to retrieve it. We began to join in this game of “back to you” and the game was going precisely nowhere.
The first real opportunity came in the twenty first minute when new boy Manning carelessly gave the ball away on the halfway line and after a couple of neat passes, Enobakhare was clean through on goal. He had to score but thankfully shot too early and Smithies saved well with his legs. The home side then enjoyed a prolonged period of time applying pressure in and around our box, where bodies were thrown in front of shots and toes put in at just the right moment.
Corners came and went for Wolves but the delivery was either poor or the short-corner routine was rubbish (have we seen that before?) and we protected our clean sheet to good effect. Wolves could then have scored from cross from the left but Dicko completely messed up his header from eight yards out. Our only opportunity in this half came late on when Sylla brilliantly controlled a high cross with his chest only to fluff his shot weakly wide.
The second half began with the home side on the front foot but there were no really scary moments. The biggest shock to all in the ground was when we took the lead. A great piece of wing play by Wszolek (he actually ran at his full back and beat him) followed by an accurate cross which was thumped home by the tireless Sylla. A proper goal and the mood amongst us changed from reasonably relaxed to shocked joy.
I stupidly looked at the time on the scoreboard behind us and didn’t like what I saw. There was no way we could hold out for that long, but you never know?! Actually, yes you do, Wolves equalised through David Edwards shortly after from another well worked piece of wing play and the home crowd came alive expecting a winner for them.
We would’ve all taken a point at this stage just to break the losing run but despite pretty constant pressure from the home side we grabbed the winner late on, and what a strange goal it was. In fact celebrations amongst the away came in waves because lots of us hadn’t exactly seen or realised the ball had gone in. Mackie fought for possession on the edge of their box and surged into the area, it bounced to Wszolek who poked it home.
Now I turned to the scoreboard timer and was far happier. Surely we couldn’t lose from here? The losing run was over. There were a couple of alarms in added time which were sorted by good defensive work from Hall and Perch. Thankfully Perch (who had a really solid game) was taken off throw-in duties before the end as he looked like he could’ve been the first player in the history of the game to receive two yellow cards for taking too long to throw the ball into play. The home fans were going mental and the away ones were becoming anxious every time we had a throw in on the right-hand side. The final whistle brought obvious joy and relief and small mob of travelling fans who had stuck with the team throughout the game could enjoy a celebration with the players.
The overriding feeling walking away from the ground surrounded by grumbling Black Country folk, was that of smug relief. Relief that the losing run was now over and the press could fixate on something else rather adding another number. Relief that the league table now looks less frightening and the team can move on to the next game with more confidence than dread.
Ryan Manning’s performance was certainly encouraging, I really liked his composure on the ball and his positioning but we shouldn’t expect too much. He reminded me of Michael Doughty, nothing extravagant but what he did he did well. At the end of the game when the players and staff celebrated the victory in front of us, Manning was pushed forward a couple of times to be singled out for cheers. Hopefully he will get more opportunities and become an important part of the squad.
This bunch of players are certainly a close-knit group and the victory meant a lot to them. They are fighting for the shirt and probably deserved this change of fortune yesterday. I don’t agree with Ollie that this was a “smash n grab” result, for long periods of the game the possession stats would have been quite even and while Wolves had lots of shots most of the saves Smithies had to make were pretty routine. I certainly don’t agree with the Signal FM Wolves man who after the game, who claimed the play-offs are a possibility for them, he is deluded. As I said earlier Wolves are a very ordinary team managed by an even more ordinary manager. They have spent a fortune, swapped managers twice this year and languish deservedly in the lower reaches of the Championship, just above us.
I am really pleased for Holloway, the home fans spent most of their efforts telling him that he was going to receive his P45 on Sunday and comparing him to another Sky pundit in rather unglowing terms. As you would’ve expected he reacted jovially to this harsh banter but he must have been feeling the pressure. Our boss certainly had the last laugh yesterday and the home fans were silenced and heading for the exits straight after we scored the second.
For us we move on and the New Year can start with a much more positive feel. The message boards should be a happier place and I might even watch our recorded highlights on that horrible Channel 5 programme. Our patched-up team did us proud at one of our happier hunting grounds, I’m just thankful yesterday’s game was at Molineux and not St James’ Park.
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Subs not used: Saville, Hause, Iorfa, Burgoyne, Ronan
Goals: Edwards 61 (assisted Costa)
Booking: Price (foul)
QPR:Smithies 7; Perch 7, Hall 8, Lynch 6, Bidwell 6; Sandro 6 (Borysiuk 68, 6), Manning 7; Wzsolek 7, Mackie 7, Ngbakoto 4 (Washington 78, 6); Sylla 8
Subs not used: Ingram, Shodipo, Hamalianen, El Khayati, Eze
Goals: Sylla 53 (assisted Wszolek), Wszolek 87 (assisted Mackie)
Bookings: Manning (foul), Bidwell (foul), Perch (time wasting)
QPR Star Man - Grant Hall 8 Just pipped Sylla, for a really solid and often goal saving performance. Has been criticised recently but needed to be at his best here, and was.
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire) 7 Considering I’ve always hated this official I thought he had a reasonable game. No huge decisions to make but he let the match flow. Can’t argue with any of the bookings apart from the one awarded by the Wolves fans for Perch’s slow throw ins.
Attendance 21,132 (500 QPR approx)
The Twitter @LeeMcAlpine1
Pictures – Action Images
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