QPR's renewed heart and fight secures Fulham point - Report
Monday, 23rd Jan 2017 16:24 by Lewis Jones
Ian Holloway's revitalised QPR side fought for, won and deserved a point in an entertaining West London derby against Fulham at Loftus Road on Saturday in front of LFW's Lewis Jones.
Ian Holloway’s only previous game as QPR boss in a west London derby against Fulham was 16 years ago – it was just his third game in charge, QPR were bankrupt and heading down, Fulham were monied and ready to start a decade long period in the Premier League.
Times have significantly changed for both the club and Holloway since that day - both have suffered separate highs and lows apart - but 260 games on from that 2-0 defeat in 2001, the manager is trying to instil the same characteristics and ideals into his new squad. It revolves around discipline.
Ahead of that aforementioned defeat against Fulham, a fresh-faced Holloway decided to send home his friend, former teammate and fan favourite Danny Maddix from the match day squad for arriving late to the ground. It couldn’t have been easy decision.
"It sets a bad example to the rest of the lads and if I can get here from Bristol I'm sure he can get here on time,” were his words at the time as he set about a task of reenergising the culture at QPR and removing deadwood where necessary.
His remit at QPR in 2017 has remarkable similarities. Holloway has taken no prisoners in his bid to remove a “comfortable culture” in the halls at Harlington and Loftus Road.
Players that have failed to follow his methods have been booted into touch. The jovial character that we’ve become accustomed to seeing on our TV screens has been replaced by a disciplinarian that has had to get ruthless with some of his squad in order to achieve his desired results. On a couple of occasions I’ve rang him for a chat, his voice was croaky and he could hardly speak.
What’s up, Ollie?
“I’ve been shouting at them, Lew” was his response. ”You haven’t seen me nasty, have you?”
Well, the shouting is paying off.
What we have on our hands here is a fully-committed QPR team with a clear way of playing. They may not pass the ball as efficiently as some of the most talented Rangers teams down the years, but boy can they run. And run with purpose.
Following on from the 1-0 win at Reading – which was the best away performance I’ve seen since the Neil Warnock days - Holloway’s men again produced an energetic display full of spunk that caused Fulham, who are surely on course for a top-six charge on this showing, real problems.
Before that, Jake Bidwell had set the tone inside the first 30 seconds with a thumping tackle on the left-flank, which gave further scope for Massimo Luongo, Jamie Mackie, Manning and Pawel Wszolek to buzz Fulham high up the pitch.
Half-chances fell to Idrissa Sylla and Wszolek but a lack of composure prevented the home side from taking an early lead that their pressing richly deserved.
With the home crowd sensing Fulham could be here for the taking, referee Keith Stroud then happened, as he so often does.
Sone Aluko dribbled into the area and hit the deck under the faintest of tickles from Bidwell.
Despite having a good view of the incident, Stroud looked for assistance from his linesman Mark Pottage, who seized his moment in the spotlight on Sky Sports to wave his flag enthusiastically. The only thing missing was a wink to the camera.
Later in the game when the two benches engaged some touchline fracas – which was triggered by Fulham boss Slaviša Jokanović pushing the medic attending to a facial wound sustained by Grant Hall – the linesman, despite being a full 70 yards away from the action decided to sprint across the pitch to get involved in the debate. Rumours are he had “Hi Mum” painted on his back, but unfortunately they can’t be confirmed.
Back to the action, and Stroud pointed to the spot and gave a thumbs up to his assistant.
Zippy and Bungle would have done a better job.
Thankfully, when a penalty is awarded against QPR the opposition team have as much chance as scoring as they do from a corner. You may as well just roll it back to him, lads. Save yourself the embarrassment.
Smithies knew he was going to save it. Martin knew he was going to save it. And guess what? Smithies saved it.
Martin struck the spot-kick with power and good direction but the QPR stopper flung himself to his right and tipped the ball to safety. Smithies has now saved six of his last 10 penalties faced and a seventh struck the post. It’s simply an outrageous record.
With “there’s only one Alex Smithies” ringing around Loftus Road, QPR continued to harry Fulham at every opportunity. Tom Cairney - a man with a £20million price-tag on his head - rarely found space to perform the quarterback role at the heart of the Fulham midfield with Luongo and Manning snapping at his heels, although he did fire a tasty shot just wide from 25 yards on 22 minutes. Smithies got a touch but Stroud - of course - gave a goal kick.
Four minutes later, QPR were ahead.
Kevin McDonald, mentally scarred from QPR’s aggressive front-line pressing, played a horrendous back pass that was seized upon by Manning.
David Button came charging out of his goal but Manning has the awareness to slip a shot under the advancing goalkeeper to score his first goal in a QPR shirt. He is the embodiment of why giving up on a dream is a fool’s tactic.
QPR looked a team full of control after the goal. Certainly a very different team to the one that would crumble when falling behind in the early stages of the second coming of Holloway. Nedum Onouha should have doubled the lead on 53 minutes but headed over the bar following a well whipped in free-kick by Manning from the left – the boy, four games into his senior career, takes all the set pieces too.
Sylla, who continues to blow hot and cold as the lone front man, was correctly booked by Stroud on 61 minutes for stupidly trying to channel Diego Maradona by punching the ball home after Bidwell delivery. The unorthodox striker was replaced on 68 minutes by Conor Washington.
Even though Sylla frustrates on occasions his importance in supplying a presence through the middle was clear to see when he departed as Washington, once again, proved that the lone striking role just isn’t for him in this current form. He charged around like a headless chicken at times when a cool head was needed to make sure the ball stuck up top.
I wonder if it’s a substitute Holloway regrets as QPR lost their foothold in the game after that.
Fulham levelled on 76 minutes.
Washington’s weak clearance from a half-cleared free-kick dropped to Cairney, who fired a timid effort back into the crowd. It was a strike that would have been meat and drink to Smithies in this kind of form but Martin nonchalantly diverted the ball into the bottom corner from eight yards to give Fulham an equaliser.
The last 14 minute was helter skelter stuff as both teams had chances to nick it.
Mackie nearly forced home from close range after a Washington drive was spilled by Button before a cross to the back post was backheeled into the side netting by Hall.
Ryan Sessegnon then has a great chance from a corner, but could only steer his header at the near post over the bar. With the game ebbing and flowing, a tackle on Manning in injury time sparked a touchline brawl from which Marc Bircham was giving his marching orders as both benches piled in.
There was another flashpoint minutes later when Cairney, sick of being stalked by Manning, reacted by shoving the QPR youngster. Stroud’s decided to book Cairney, Joel Lynch and Martin for their part in the handbags. It was a breath-taking end to a richly entertaining game involving two progressive teams.
Loftus Road rocked like it hasn’t done in a long time, a youth-team product grabbed his first-goal for the club in another all-action performance and there was even room for a touchline ruck, where you got the feeling this squad is a united bunch, willing to fight for each other.
I certainly feel the QPR I fell in love with, is on the comeback.
We’re far from perfect, but we have an identity. We are hungry. We are relatable.
Isn’t this everything we’ve been asking for? More of the same please.
QPR: Smithies 8; Furlong 7, Onuoha 7, Lynch 7, Bidwell 7; Manning 8, Hall 7 (Perch 90, -) Luongo 8; Mackie 7 (Lua-Lua 83, 6), Wszolek 7, Sylla 7 (Washington 68, 5)
Subs not used: Ingram, Doughty, Shodipo, Ngbakoto
Goals: Manning 25 (unassisted)
Bookings: Furlong (foul), Luongo (foul), Manning (foul), Sylla (handball), Lynch (fighting)
Fulham: Button 6; Ream 6, Kalas 7, McDonald 5; Fredericks 5 (Odoi 45, 6), Malone 6; Johansen 6, Cairney 6, Piazon 7 (Sessegnon 77, 6); Aluko 6 (Smith 88,-), Martin 6
Subs not used: Sigurdsson, Parker, Bettinelli, Madl
Goals: Martin 75 (assisted Cairney)
Bookings: Fredericks (dissent), Cairney (pushing), Martin (fighting)
QPR Star Man – Ryan Manning 8 Once again, this was a tough choice as Luongo was equally as important in frustrating the Fulham passing game with some tireless midfield chasing. However, the young Irishman showed his knack for staying cool in the opposition penalty area, much like his assist for Mackie at Reading, with a cool finish. A goal from a central midfielder. Hallelujah.
Referee – Keith Stroud (West Mids) 3 Three QPR appointments this season, 19 yellows, two reds and two opposition penalties. Overall this season he’s booked 144 players and sent 11 off in just 29 games. Puts himself under pressure early in games – here by awarding the ludicrous Fulham penalty for an obvious dive, and showing a very harsh yellow card to Darnell Furlong. That sets the standards of what is a foul and what is a yellow card ridiculously low, and means you end up with another eight booked and a final ten minutes littered with scuffles, fights and touchline rows between frustrated players and managers. He’s been in the game a long time, and it’s probably about time the kit bag went in the cupboard under the stairs for good – a referee in alarming form.
Attendance – 17,025 (3,000 Fulham approx)
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