|Queens Park Rangers 5 v 1 Rotherham United|
Saturday, 18th March 2017 Kick-off 15:00
QPR march on with easy Rotherham thrashing – Report
Sunday, 19th Mar 2017 15:28 by Clive Whittingham
QPR won at home for the fourth game in a row with a convincing 5-1 victory, sealed by five different goalscorers, against an abject Rotherham United side at Loftus Road on Saturday.
You’ll have to go a long way to find any team, let alone a QPR team, winning a game by such a handsome margin as this while playing so far within themselves.
QPR were beaten 6-0 at Loftus Road by Newcastle back in September, but at least the Magpies looked pretty formidable doing it. Here, in a 5-1 success, Rangers’ biggest win of the season, their first five goal haul since 2014, I’m not even sure QPR were that good. They didn’t need to be. Sporting a goalkeeper (Lewis Price) and centre back (Semi Ajayi and Aimen Belaid) combination that would have disgraced a Sunday league side with their performances, Rotherham were as bad a team as we’ve seen on this ground for many, many years. Had QPR played as well as they did at, say, Birmingham City recently, this would have gone well into double figures. As it was, they got to five in second gear.
It was meant to be like this of course. QPR may only be fifteenth in the league, and have little to play for in the grand scheme of things, but they started the day top of the Championship form table with four wins and a draw at Leeds which should have been a victory in their last six games. From just four home wins all season, Holloway’s team have now won four in a row at Loftus Road and where once there were no goals at all, now they’re being shared around a talented and confident looking squad. They took the lead after five minutes when Idrissa Sylla, in on the left side of the attacking three instead of Conor Washington, hooked a ball in behind a static back four and Matt Smith ran into the clear space and finished comfortably across Price and into the far corner with a first time shot. Shelling peas.
Rotherham arrived bottom of the league, 24 points from safety, on a run of 11 matches without a win, six straight defeats and with 18 defeats and a draw from their 19 away fixtures so far this season. Only results at Blackburn, Forest and Burton Albion stopped them being relegated this weekend and, frankly, this performance deserved an immediate demotion.
They were led, in a fashion, from the front by Danny Ward, a player QPR came close to spending £1.6m on in January before paying less than half that for Matt Smith instead. Ward had battered QPR when Rotherham outplayed the R’s at the New York Stadium before Christmas and won 1-0 – one of only four wins they’ve managed all season. Fast, aggressive, purposeful, dangerous, Ward looked terrific that day and it was easy to see why Rangers were keen to bring him to West London in the transfer window. But Ward only averages a goal every five games across his career and observers of his time at Huddersfield mentioned the words “fat” and “lazy” quite a lot. Here I’d mention the words “fat” and “lazy” myself. An absolute shadow of the Man of the Match we’d seen in December, and quite a big shadow at that. Smith, meanwhile, tormented Rotherham at the other end for 63 minutes before his early withdrawal so he could get to The Pocket Watch in time for the rugby.
But we know what QPR are like in these situations. The 1993/94 disasters home and away to Swindon Town are front and centre of mind on such occasions and there was a worrying symmetry here – QPR lost 1-0 at the County Ground in the first meeting that season just as they did at the New York Stadium this, Swindon only won three other home games all season just as Rotherham have this, and Swindon’s double-completing 3-1 win at Loftus Road was their fifth and final success of a dreadful campaign just as a Rotherham win would have been here if they’d managed it.
When Joe Newell drew a boot back on 13 minutes and unleashed a fire-spitting monster into the bottom corner from fully 30 yards you couldn’t help but wonder whether it was going to be one of those days. A goal of such magnificent quality it brought applause all round the ground, and was quite out of place in a game that was played at a pace and quality of your average testimonial.
One or two vultures might consider Newell, once of Peterborough, a scrap worth picking off the carcass this summer but any hope his wondrous goal might be a vague sign of life were quickly dismissed. Within 60 seconds the impressive Grant Hall had played out from the back and all action Luke Freeman had somehow been allowed to bundle and bumble his way right through the middle of the hapless visiting defence until he was in the back of the net with the ball at his feet. A goal of embarrassing ease, Newell’s strike merely intestinal gas escaping from the corpse.
I bounced between feeling sorry for Rotherham, and certainly for the 150 or so hardy souls still following them down to London for this game, and being angry. They’re out of their depth, they’ve had a dire season, there’s a few factors that have caused it, fair enough. But they’ve given up. A very long eight remaining games, and a difficult League One season, lie ahead if, as it seems, they’re not even going to play for pride. Ward wasn’t the only one who looked overweight to me either – the bright yellow skin tight away number didn’t do a lot for Lee Frecklington’s potential career as a calendar model.
The question really was how bothered QPR could be, how deep they were going to run the sword through, and how many they were going to win by. Rangers knew it as well, and struggled to raise themselves to any kind of level before half time – too slow, too quick to take the lazy option and go long to Smith and Sylla, not nearly threatening enough as a result. Sylla nodded down for Smith to go close in the first 20 seconds of the game but Smithies then had to save at his near post after some confusion with Joel Lynch who, despite having next to no opposition, had a poor game peppered with that same going-the-wrong-side-of-his-man-and-getting-rolled nonsense we’ve seen from him far too much this season. Grant Hall, excellent, bailed him out a few times on Saturday, and slid in on Yates brilliantly in the seventh minute to deny a run on goal. Hall has benefitted from Holloway’s arrival more than anybody else.
A fairly frustrating half finished with Rangers leading 2-1 and Matt Smith having an angry dispute with referee Oliver Langford, in for the advertised Andy Davies, after twice being dumped to the turf by Belaid and requiring treatment to his knee. One might have thought, after Smith had made such a big deal of it, and the referee’s attention had been drawn, and a warning had been issued, that it might have been half an idea for Belaid to lie low at the start of the second half and maybe leave Smith alone for a bit. Instead, within two minutes of the restart, he pulled the big striker to the ground by the head as a long throw from Darnell Furlong flew across the area. A ridiculous piece of play, an obvious penalty, an act of pure stupidity in a centre half display the likes of which we haven’t seen since Gus Caeser was lumbering around these parts trying not to kill anybody. Karl Ready has done more talented beer shits than Belaid, and partnering him with Ajayi who spent the entire afternoon booting the ball straight up in the air was disastrous.
There seemed to be some dispute between Sylla and Yeni Ngbakoto, who’d started the game on the right side of the attack, over who was going to take the penalty. Two French speakers interrupting a British English football match with an argument over a set piece? They probably don’t think we should have nativity plays in our primary schools either Beryl.
Anyway, Sylla eventually handed the ball over with a smile, Price dived out of the way a couple of minutes before it was kicked and Ngbakoto rolled the ball into the open net.
QPR were much better in the second half: they passed the ball more, and with purpose; Ngbakoto started seeing the ball in dangerous areas; Sylla and Smith worked around each other well; Massimo Luongo started controlling the midfield and interacting with Freeman in an exciting fashion as we’d seen a week ago at Leeds. It was just better all round really. Price did manage to just about claw away a lobbed attempt from Ngbakoto soon after the third goal but then somehow allowed a glancing header from Luongo, of all people, to very, very, very slowly bounce past him within easy reach and into the far corner.
That Luongo’s first goal for QPR in 56 starts and seven substitute appearances, a John Jensen situation in reverse, and it brought the house down, with every team mate rushing to mob the Australian down by the corner flag. I’m delighted for him, a very talented player who’s nevertheless flattered to deceive over his 18 months with the club so far but has been improving game by game under Holloway’s guidance to the point at Leeds a week ago where WhoScored.com, which basis its ratings on statistical analysis of passes completed, tackles, interceptions and so on, rated him a never-seen-before 10.00, which basically means everything he attempted across 90 minutes was successful.
With him playing like this, Freeman looking like the signing of this or any other season and Ryan Manning breaking through from the junior ranks Ian Holloway has transformed the QPR midfield into a real engine room for the team – great with and without the ball, horrible to play against, creative, threatening and very strong defensively. Compare it now to the start of December, when somebody spent most of the Sunday on Twitter telling me that actually Sandro had played really well at Rotherham and his performance wasn’t a leaden footed embarrassment to his profession as I’d initially thought, and it’s chalk and cheese. Real cause for optimism for next season now if they can maintain these prodigious levels of work rate.
So that was four and although Lynch allowed himself to be turned again and Rotherham sub Carlton Morris sidefooted wide a fifth never felt like it was too far away. Conor Washington, on for Smith, cracked one off the inside of the post having been allowed to cut in field from the left wing not once but twice by defenders who’ve presumably never seen Conor Washington play. Ravel Morrison, who looks like he’s been round to Danny Ward’s mum’s house for dinner a bit too often himself, came on at the same time for Freeman and scuffed the rebound to that one wide.
Morrison was given a good half hour to show what he could do here, but played deeper than I’ve ever seen him before, often just in front of the QPR defence, rather than posing an attacking threat. I wondered if Holloway was testing him out, seeing if he could remain disciplined and do that job in a game where it must have been very tempting to just pile on and look for some personal glory. It was a little odd, and he was quite cautious with the ball at times, but it was better than that bizarre outing he had against Cardiff and I found it a little weird that the occasional pass backwards, retaining possession in a game QPR were winning comfortably, was met with a few groans. “If you’re not very careful here Rangers, you’re only going to win this game 4-1.”
Or, 5-1, as actually turned out to be the case. Onuoha’s long ball had nearly put Sylla in ahead of Price as three minutes of stoppage time was indicated. In that added period a foul on Ngbakoto gave the French winger a chance to whip in the sort of quality free kick from wide that even teams with an actual defence would have struggled to deal with and Onouha bombed in at the back post to slam in a fifth. Onuoha, like Luongo, another decent player unfairly maligned in recent months rewarded for big improvements over the past few weeks with a nice easy goal.
And a nice easy win. Four in a row at home, five wins and a draw from seven games, Rangers now within three points of the five teams immediately above them in the table. More importantly though, so many individual and collective reasons for optimism ahead of 2017/18. Ian Holloway has Queens Park Rangers motoring once more.
QPR: Smithies 6; Furlong 6, Onuoha 6, Lynch 5, Bidwell 6; Luongo 7 (Goss 74, 6), Hall 7, Freeman 7 (Morrison 63, 6); Sylla 6, Ngbakoto 7, Smith 7 (Washington 63, 6)
Subs not used: Mackie, Ingram, Wszolek, Manning
Goals: Smith 5 (assisted Sylla), Freeman 15 (unassisted) Ngbakoto 49 (penalty won Smith), Luongo 57 (assisted Ngbakoto), Onuoha 90+1 (assisted Ngbakoto)
Rotherham: Price 2; Vaulks 5, Ajayi 2, Belaid 2, Purrington 5; Taylor 5 (Forde 65, 5), Adeyemi 5, Frecklington 4, Newell 6; Ward 4 (Smallwood 85, -), Yates 5 (Morris 70, -)
Subs not used: Blackstock, Bray, Warren Bilboe
Goals: Newell 13 (unassisted)
Yellow Cards: Belaid 48 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Yenni Ngbakoto 7 Quite a few candidates, as you’d expect in a 5-1 win. Nearly gave it to Grant Hall to be honest, who got Joel Lynch out of the shit a couple of times, and was one of the few QPR players who had a good first half. But Rangers were much better after half time and although Luongo and Freeman were good I’ve gone for Ngbakoto who scored one and got two assists.
Referee – Oliver Langford (West Midlands) 8 Apart from being a late replacement for Andy Davies, and therefore making a mess of our copy and paste referee profiles next time we have either of them in charge of our game, he was very decent I thought. Not a particularly competitive match clearly but controlled well, just the one card and the penalty decision was correct.
Attendance – 13,383 (150 Rotherham approx) In much the same way as you’ll struggle to see a team win so comfortably while playing so far within themselves, you’ll also rarely find a quieter crowd when their team is winning 3,4 and eventually 5-1. The widespread applause for Rotherham’s goal, even though it was an excellent strike, kind of highlighted the mood round the place that this wasn’t going to be one of those stereotypical QPR disasters. The pocket of travelling support high in the School End deserve better than this. You can be the worst team in the league, you can have all the confidence drained out of you, you can be dead last in the league – shit happens – but to not even try, to not even go through the motions, to have some players not even making the weight… unacceptable. A real shame, Rotherham’s tidy new ground was a pleasure to visit and they’ve seemed like a really friendly club in our recent meetings.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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