QPR strike late again to make two on the spin - Report
Wednesday, 4th Jan 2017 19:16 by Clive Whittingham
QPR made it two wins from two games in three days after losing their previous six by snatching another late Pawel Wszolek winner against Ipswich at Loftus Road on Monday.
From six defeats in a row to two wins in a weekend, that old saying about the darkest hour coming just before the dawn rarely rang truer than at Loftus Road on Bank Holiday Monday.
That nightmare run of results through December began with a 3-0 loss at Ipswich Town. An odd match, where Rangers were much the better of two poor sides for the first hour but nevertheless lost by three and could have gone down by five, sparked an alarming spell which has moved new manager Ian Holloway away from his "rubbing off on them a bit" brief of working with what he has to the current situation where half the first team is heading to the exit door.
Ironically, in true Championship style, Rangers won this quickfire return fixture between the sides against the run of play, having not played nearly as well as they did in the first 60 minutes at Portman Road. When Pawel Wszolek showed a deftness of touch mostly lacking from this run-of-the-mill second tier match, and a cool head to round visiting keeper Bialkowski and slide in the winner seven minutes from time his team had actually been rather holding on for a point.
Things had started well. Fresh from a surprise, desperately needed, victory at Wolves on Saturday Rangers came into this game 48 hours later in better mood than most had anticipated.
Jamie Mackie set the tempo early on and, although Alex Smithies had to save awkwardly at his near post from David McGoldrick, Rangers were just about the better of the two sides early on without really creating too much.
I'd rather earn a living wiping Jeremy Clarkson's arse for him than watch one more short corner again as long as I live but QPR suddenly seem to love turning down a free chance to deliver a ball to the heart of the opposition penalty area to a group of their best headers and wasted three wide set pieces with ridiculous routines which stemmed momentum somewhat.
But they took the lead out of the blue after half an hour from, of all things, a throw in. As usual, Perch planted his chuck straight onto the head of an opposition player, but this time Luke Chambers kindly headed it back into his own six yard box where Idrissa Sylla fairly lashed a first time volley into the roof of the net from close range. Six goals in seven starts and ten sub appearances for the Guinea international – thank God they didn't qualify for this month's African Cup of Comedy Goalkeeping.
But things unravelled somewhat after that. Sylla was forced from the field injured seven minutes after scoring with a neck injury – with a neck that long the geezer probably gets whiplash just by going out in a strong wind – and with Seb Polter still absent Holloway was forced into sending Conor Washington and Jamie Mackie into game but fruitless battle up front together. Tireless midgets in the land of the giants, but midgets all the same, QPR quicky found it difficult to make the ball stick up field.
Holloway's team selection at Molineux seemed to be made with one eye on this game, although the news that Tjaron Chery, Seb Polter, Karl Henry and Sandro are all to be shipped out this month put a slightly different complexion on things. Nevertheless, going in against a Town side that had an extra day of rest after their win against Bristol City, with just about the same team again seemed like quite the roll of the dice. Jamie Mackie has had nine months on the sidelines and was being asked to play two games in three days while Jordan Cousins and Joel Lynch have struggled to manage one game a week since joining the club in the summer. With the Sylla substitution already spent, a difficult second half stretched out ahead.
In the end the R's lasted just three minutes. Tom Lawrence, who'd spent most of the first meeting in Suffolk falling over and kicking the ball out of play before being treated to a goal, scored another in altogether more impressive circumstances – drawing a right boot back from 25 yards and unloading an absolute howitzer into the top corner off the inside of Smithies' post. Keeper wouldn't have got near it with a butterfly net.
Sensing a moment for a rare highlight in a dire season, Mick McCarthy's side set sail in search of more. Within two minutes of equalising they were in again, Brett Pitman (rocking the look of a man who sleeps at the railway station) seemed to have all he time the liked to pick his spot after being played clean through on goal before the excellent Grant Hall swept in from stage right and executed the perfect goal-saving sliding tackle just as he was about to shoot. Later the scruff pot headed wide at the back post after McGoldrick had turned Borysiuk too easily from a throw in and crossed dangerously – Pitman, I think, had been flagged offside, which is just as well for him as this was an absolute sitter. Later Town's leggy left back Myles Kenlock nutmegged James Perch and drew another save from Smithies that the keeper didn't seem to know a lot about.
But Rangers, and Hall, and Ian Holloway, weren't done yet. Borysiuk, tiring more than he should as one of the non-starters at Wolves, was withdrawn for Nedum Onuoha, and Grant Hall was pushed into midfield. Onuoha, the latest scapegoat in W12, started strongly, with a powerful header beating McGoldrick to the ball. Hall, meanwhile, won back control of the midfield and stemmed a rising tide. Suddenly Rangers could play further up the pitch again. Mackie came back into the game, and Ipswich started to fade. Their own attempt to drag back control, sending on Jonathan Douglas, had the opposite effect. Given that Andre Dozzell had apparently played so well last time out, and Ipswich were on top in the game, it seemed unduly negative to send on Douglas and leave the youngster as an unused sub.
A great ball from QPR's own protege Ryan Manning, who looked naïve at times but athletic, confident and with an eye for a good pass before being withdrawn for Nasser El Khayati, gave Washington a sight of goal from a narrow angle but Bialkowski was equal to the shot. Cousins sent a nice cross right through the danger zone without a touch being applied.
There were still chances at the other end – Lawrence dancing past Perch and cutting the ball back to McGoldrick who shot over chief among them – but the game seemed to be petering out to a 1-1 draw both sides would probably have been reasonably pleased with.
But, as at Wolves, there was a little bit left in Wszolek's tank for the final few minutes. The Molineux winner had been scored through sheer determination and pig-headedness, this one had an extra bit of class about it as he brought down Onuoha's long ball forward and finished calmly to bring the house down. The Pole isn't particularly aggressive or assertive in games, but he's got a notable extra little bit of class about him which appears in flashes – an immaculate first touch here, and lethal cross with no back lift there. Twice in three days he's turned one point into three.
Lynch in the heart of the defence, and Mackie just about everywhere else, were key to remaining strong in what was left of the arm wrestle. QPR go into what always has been and always will be a needlessly chaotic January transfer window with the breathing space afforded by a couple of fortunate wins against limited opposition. From tiny acorns and all that.
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