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Holloway's army finally clicks at Reading's expense - Report
Friday, 13th Jan 2017 18:14 by Clive Whittingham

QPR secured a third league win in a row, and a second away win in as many road games, with a fine performance and 1-0 victory at high flying Reading on Thursday.

Ian Holloway can be a difficult man to understand. Long rambling sentences that never go anywhere nor get close to answering the question he was asked; random tangents (he still can’t mention Idrissa Sylla without talking about Cilla Black); occasionally bursting into song; never seeming to be very far from crying or erupting into a fit of fury; and all delivered in a Bristolian accent. He is one of football’s, and life’s, genuine eccentrics.

And for a while there it looked like the squad of footballers he’s inherited at Queens Park Rangers didn’t really get what he was on about either. Six straight defeats, wildly fluctuating team selections, a messy formation that could barely be called a formation at all – his was not an auspicious start. Several players previously considered mainstays of the starting eleven have been bombed out, and several more are waiting in the departure lounge. He's spoken about struggling to relate to modern dressing rooms, full of players sitting staring silently at their phones, and one did wonder whether his unique approach to football manager simply wouldn't wash with the footballers the modern sport has created. It was starting to feel like the second coming of Ollie wasn’t such a great idea after all.

Then we went to Reading, and though the weather brought sleet and snow to a ground where a game with Fulham was recently abandoned halfway through because of fog, everything suddenly became a lot clearer. This. This is what he was going on about. Two scrappy victories to stop the rot and restore confidence laid the foundations for QPR’s most complete performance away from home since the Neil Warnock days and a victory on the home patch of the third placed team who came into the game having won eight, drawn three and lost only one on this ground so far this season. If this is what Ian Holloway's new QPR is going to look like then pour that man another drink and let's get on with it.

Checking ourselves slightly for a moment, it could have been very different had a better centre forward than Yann Kermorgant been playing up front for Reading. Great play by Dan Williams, who’d scored against Rangers at Loftus Road in the corresponding fixture, after 69 minutes ended with the perfect cross that the French forward somehow got stuck underneath and headed onto the top of the bar with Alex Smithies stranded and helpless. Four minutes later an even easier chance was spurned, this time Kermorgant diverted his header wide of the post despite having a running jump on two static defenders and having the far corner of the goal at his mercy from six yards out.

Reading are not known as a great scorer of goals this season (Barnsley, Forest, Norwich and Fulham all have more despite residing lower down the table), and nor is their defensive record that crash hot (33 conceded is two more than second bottom Wigan) although 4-1 shellackings at Brentford and Newcastle and a 5-0 loss at Fulham skew that slightly. They were, on the night, the absolute personification of everything dull and boring that continental coaches have brought to the English game – 73% possession but as much attacking threat as the French Navy. Time and time and time again they swanned about with the ball around the edge of their own box, despite QPR obviously being wise to it and in the mood to take it apart, rather than getting the ball down the field and trying to pose a threat. At times they even played their goal kicks backwards.

On the day that Graham ‘hit Les’ Taylor sadly passed away it seemed rather apt for QPR to win this one 1-0, having had only a quarter of the possession but also registered 16 shots to Reading’s nine, and four efforts on target to their one.

I’m not going to get all chest thumpy about this and talk about the good old days of John Beck growing the grass long in the corners of the field and pumping it long to Dion Dublin and Steve Claridge, or the Leeds United title winning side of 1992 preparing for matches by going out for “light ales” on the Thursday before the game, before all these limp wristed liberal foreign types came over here with their pasta and possession based football and took away our fried bread and understanding that you could smash in one horrible tackle from behind as a ‘loosener’ as long as it was early in the game and your first one. No bacon sandwiches in the caliphate Beryl.

But frankly all this 4-2-3-1, deep, tight and narrow stuff can be fucking dull as hell. Football is still about making things happen, and while Reading’s record suggests they’ve done that very successfully this season (only Villa have won here), there was far too much pisballing about from them on Thursday and QPR were wise to it. QPR made things happen.

Garath McCleary had volleyed over during a nervy opening but Rangers soon settled to their task. With the ball Grant Hall stepped into midfield, without it he slid back into the defence between Nedum Onuoha and Joel Lynch, playing with a broken rib. The three of them were excellent, Hall near enough faultless. It worked perfectly.

Rangers showed their willingness to win the ball high up the field on nine minutes and Pawel Wszolek, playing to the right of Idrissa Sylla, shot over. Five minutes later the tireless Jamie Mackie, coming in from the left of the attack, won the ball back in similar fashion and nearly released Sylla. Wszolek’s cross on 19 minutes did reach the Guinean target man but he toed it wide on the stretch at the far post when he had time to control the ball. Within seconds Massimo Luongo, so awful against Blackburn but so purposeful and effective here, put a brilliant cross in but Sylla had checked his run to stay onside and couldn’t make up the distance. Within 60 seconds Luongo was skipping and dancing his way through defensive challenges in the area and bashing one right through the goal mouth with nobody on hand to apply a touch.

QPR were playing well. QPR were playing well. They looked like they knew what they were doing. The shape and organisation was better than it’s been for literally years, and there was goal threat there. Actual genuine goal threat.

They opened the scoring on the half hour. I’m not sure a goal scored from a yard has ever won a club’s Goal of the Season award – maybe the Jay Simpson one, also against Reading, from the Magilton era – but this one will go close. Sylla, to begin with, a perfectly weighted ball down the QPR right exposing Jordan Obita the Reading left back. Obita, a very decent little player, had a torrid night against the excellent Wzsolek who was backed up superbly by Darnell Furlong, in for the poorly James Perch and looking right at home at right back. Wszolek drove the ball to the byline then, as he does so often and so well, composed himself and picked out a man in the area rather than just belting it in and hoping for the best – c Junior Hoilett. The man he picked out was young Ryan Manning, starting a third league game in succession, and the first time ball he produced with the outside of his left boot on the run from the edge of the area would have had the Sky Sports commentators bathing in a vat of their own semen had it slid as perfectly as this off the boot of Paul Pogba. Jamie Mackie, onside and unmarked, couldn’t miss. Beautiful, beautiful goal. QPR football of old.

Outrageously there’s been some debate about whether Manning was shooting as he deftly flicked the ball with the outside of his boot from 20 yards. Put your doubts aside. The Irish youngster may not make it, he’s taken long enough to get in the first team and didn’t look that impressive in the Under 23s, but this was deliberate and brilliant. He’s got a pair of balls on him, undaunted by being thrust into Championship action he’s not afraid to try passes and chuck tackles in. He looks a natural. This was a superb assist to set QPR up for a 1-0 win on a night when youth team graduates Manning, Furlong, Michael Doughty and Brandon Comley all featured. Evil Les indeed.

And it should have been more than 1-0. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, just to prove QPR had planned meticulously for this Reading side, they nearly scored an identical goal two minutes later – this time Mackie arrived in the Manning position as Wszolek provided brilliant service once more and a low shot destined for the far corner flicked off a defender and flashed wide. Jamie Mackie was shown a very harsh yellow card by referee Oliver Langford for kicking the ball away but it didn’t interrupt the momentum.

Ali Al Habsi was the under fire home goalkeeper, something of a cult hero in Royal Berkshire and a Player of the Year elect by local accounts but always a keeper you feel will give you a chance. Out he charged seven minutes from half time, dressed as a dildo with about the same brain power, to meet Wszolek as the all action Pole moved through on goal once more. Wszolek rounded and stranded the gloveman, but couldn’t pick out the goal or a team mate from an increasingly narrow angle.

It continued like this through the game. QPR would settle into their shape through periods of Reading possession and restrict the hosts to speculative efforts on goal, then spring into little five minute bursts of life of their own during which they always looked like scoring. A fine header from Nedum Onuoha averted danger right on half time suggesting the second half might be a backs to the wall effort but straight from the restart Furlong piled on down his wing and crossed dangerously through the area, Jake Bidwell volleyed over during his best display for the club so far, and Ryan Manning slammed into a firm, fair, ball and all tackle on halfway. Rangers were here to do business.

Business that really should have been tied up a lot earlier than it was. More powerful wing play from Wszolek finished with another pin point cross could have had Mackie steaming in on goal. Instead Sylla controlled the cross, set himself, and drew a fine save from Al Habsi. Mackie turned on the edge of the area and shot at the keeper. A corner fell to Lynch who volleyed goalwards only for it to strike a home player completely by chance and go wide. There was a great covering tackle from Bidwell to rescue a situation at the other end but there was only one team looking like winning the game at this point and it was the men in the knocked off Huddersfield Giants strip.

Inevitably Rangers sunk deeper as time went on. Sylla looked distinctly unimpressed to be hooked for debutant Kazenga Lua Lua, who looked rusty to say the least, and without the presence up front the ball stopped sticking in the Reading half. Michael Doughty added much needed fresh legs to the midfield but should have come on earlier really as Manning tired after his sterling efforts.

The Kermorgant headers came and went, and Nedum Onuoha shrugged off the massively over the top criticism he’s been getting lately to execute the perfect sliding tackle in his area in injury time as Reading threatened to finally break through.

But 1-0 flattered the hosts really. Seventy three percent possession? You can keep it.

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Reading: Al Habsi 5; Gunter 6, Moore 6, Van Den Berg 6, Obita 5; Kelly 6; Beerens 6, Williams 6, Swift 6 (Meite 73, 5), McCleary 6; Kermorgant 4

Subs not used: Cooper, Evans, Samuel, Wieser, Watson, Moore

Bookings: Moore 85 (handball), van den Berg 89 (foul)

QPR: Smithies 6; Furlong 7, Onuoha 7, Lynch 7, Bidwell 7; Manning 7 (Doughty 86, -), Hall 8, Luongo 7; Mackie 7 (Comley 90+2, -), Wszolek 8, Sylla 7 (Lua Lua 73, 6)

Subs not used: Ingram, El Khayati, Shodipo, Ngbakoto

Goals: Mackie 28 (assisted Manning)

Bookings: Mackie 33 (kicking ball away), Wszolek 87 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Pawel Wszolek 8 A really good sign that for once there were several candidates for this – Hall, Manning, Mackie, Wszolek all strong contenders – but the Polish winger was an absolute cut above his opposition all night. Deceptively quick, but the thing I like most about him is the way he looks to pick people out in the area when in good crossing positions, rather than just slinging it in there.

Referee – Oliver Langord (West Mids) 8 A man in prolific card form at the moment, and ridiculously harsh on Mackie with his first half booking, but the other three cards were all justified and overall I thought he was very good.

Attendance – 12,655 (800 QPR approx) Third in the league, eight wins and only one defeat at home all season, and yet all these empty seats. Sky’s Thursday Night Football strikes again. Pack it in.

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Antti_Heinola added 19:14 - Jan 13
Brilliant. Thursday night football must stop though. It's absolute bollox as you suggest.

Laughed out loud at this: QPR were playing well. QPR were playing well. They looked like they knew what they were doing.

2

Cranieboy123 added 19:27 - Jan 13
Thanks Clive.
You must have been looking forward to writing a report like that for a long time.
I thought Furlong was good, a pleasure to see a full back effective in both halves of the pitch. I did think he and Wszolek had a little spell where Reading got behind them but were generally excellent.
Manning definitely meant that ball and it was sublime.
Luongo was excellent too.
The only ones I was not sure about were Sylla and Lua Lua
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barbicanranger added 20:11 - Jan 13
Nice write up, mate

I also thought that chance on the stroke of half time signaled a backs to the wall second half but in many respects we were fearless - maybe the players are beginning to "believe in the process". Reminded me of the way we played away under Warnock. Ollie is slowly restoring some pride and identity.
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HastingsRanger added 21:46 - Jan 13
Thanks Clive.

Apart from the opening day of the season (and Leeds were so poor), this was the strongest win of the season. Whilst only 1-0 at the end, R's were totally deserved victors.

It was great to see the team playing collectively so well, with confidence and purpose. It was actually joined up.

Surprised with the Syllah substitution, which I did not understand and clearly nor did he. Otherwise, Ollie got it right and the team were magnificent. Pleasure to watch.

Forget Saturdays, maybe we should only play on Thursdays!
1

Myke added 21:48 - Jan 13
Great report Clive and great result/performance. The bench was a but of a concern - our 3 unused subs were all wingers , add in our flying Pole, Manning (absolutely delighted for him), Lua Lua,and continued interest in Freeman and its not just "10s" we are overloaded in. Expect to see a couple of those unused subs moved out. Still sorry to have lost Polter but much more positive after this
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romfordranger added 22:05 - Jan 13
In total shock, best performance of the season by far. It's sad when for once we are well organised and creating chances, and everyone treats it like a lottery win. I thought Furlong played well and I hope he gets a run in the side now, and Manning looks a good prospect, most youngsters would have taken a shot in the buildup to the goal, but his pass to Mackie was sublime. Wszolek is a class act and if he keeps in this form is very exciting to watch. If only we could play like this more often. I thought we were doomed after the 6 Defeats in a row, and that Holloway had completely lost the plot. What do I know, perhaps it's a fine line Holloway treads between genius and madness, but I know what side he was treading Thursday night. We really looked the part, let's hope we can make some good additions to the team in the transfer window and keep with the youngters in the side. Pleased I didn't burn my Rangers shirt after the Blackburn debacle now!
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062259 added 22:09 - Jan 13
Let's not get carried away. Yes, a clear step in the right direction, but also just about the only decent performance in the 11 games since Holloway returned. Talk to me when two of the next four or five are equally good.

Meantime, I need to lie down and somehow remove the image of that Sky commentators' bath from my mind.
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Northernr added 00:08 - Jan 14
Well we'll do well to take much from Fulham and Newcastle however well we play, both going well, so don't get carried away the other way if we happen to lose both.
1

isawqpratwcity added 01:44 - Jan 14
Lovely report, Clive.

Never mind that I thought JFH shouldn't have been sacked, it didn't matter, he was gone and not coming back. But worse was, despite Holloway's pedigree, he just wasn't performing. Even the Wolves and Ipswich games weren't convincing.

But this was the business. 100%, no question. A plan, performances from every player and confidence. Late in the game, Reading we trying to attack, but couldn't find a way through the 20 metre wide, yellow-flecked, maroon cloud (I hate that strip) blocking their path, and then suddenly we got possession and that cloud exploded forwards like a banger going off in a wet cowpat! Real commitment!

I. Want. More. Of. This.
3

jonno added 07:22 - Jan 14
At last we finally have someone who actually looks up before delivering a ball into the box.
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QPRski added 09:14 - Jan 14
It is great to relive the match in this excellent report.

I am very pleased for Paweł Wszołek that he was singled out as the MOM, but most of all, it is great that we finally played as an organised and very efficient "Team".

As you correctly wrote "QPR football of old". Well done to Ollie and the Lads!
2

snanker added 09:27 - Jan 14
Good work Clive & make no mistake this was down to IH due diligence and an astute game plan with the players capisce & fully Yon board, well executed and a big step in the right direction. Mackie has made a big difference G&D personified as we have come to expect and now we mentally look to be on the front foot. This has been what Holloway has been banging on about but sadly in our 15 second grab 21st century style (wheres my I-phone) patience can be a costly option. This squad will have set backs but ultimately get better because the managers philosophy is passionate but most importantly and that different.& that is what got the result at Madjeski
0

tsbains64 added 10:38 - Jan 14
Not a IH fan but this was a good win against a good football team For once we had more shots than the opposition despite all the possesion Hats off to the fans to travel on a bleak and snowy night They were pretty vocal Agree Thursday Night Football, good idea but does not work unless ticket prices get cut and the home club gets more school kids in
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terryb added 11:20 - Jan 14
In your pre match review I was bemoaning that we had nobody to pass the ball like Faurlin to Routledge for that goal!

And then Ryan Manning arrives! What a pass! What a goal! That is what I regard as a proper football goal.

Thank you Rangers (and Clive/Antti for the reports). COME ON MY TEAM
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RonisRs added 11:46 - Jan 14
this was a great all-round performance. the youngstrs who played were brilliant. cant fault this one. More please................
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GroveR added 17:32 - Jan 14
"would have had the Sky Sports commentators bathing in a vat of their own semen"

Pack it in lads, the winner of the 2017 "John Terry Call a Spade a Spade" award is in.
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extratimeR added 18:43 - Jan 14
Great report Clive

What a night! as good as we have played for as long as I can remember, I cant remember how many interceptions, followed by accurate short passes we made.

Lovely to see Ryan getting stuck in, and yes the Ref was very good, funny how games flow when they take their bloody whistle out of their mouth!

Glad you mentioned Hall Clive, he really is a good player, he understands the game, and provides stability in the centre, (important with young players around him).

Well done the fans who went, (I watched from sofa), great support throughout game, the Fakes fans...........Oh dear!

Cheers Clive!
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timcocking added 21:51 - Jan 14
As much attacking threat as the French navy

lol
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TacticalR added 14:45 - Jan 16
Thanks for your report.

For once it looked like the opposition that was short of ideas and us who knew what we were doing.

That was a thinking man's goal, with passes slicing through the opposition. It's the kind of goal Germany scores, where it doesn't matter if you don't have the best players as long as you make the right passes.

Mackie has made a huge difference and seems to have galvanised the whole side.

'No bacon sandwiches in the caliphate Beryl' - you're sounding a bit like Holloway!
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