|Norwich City 4 v 0 Queens Park Rangers|
Sunday, 7th May 2017 Kick-off 12:00
QPR slump to four goal defeat to end a dire season - Report
Monday, 8th May 2017 19:57 by Clive Whittingham
A dreadful end to a dreadful season - QPR surrendered to a 4-0 loss at Norwich on Sunday morning to bring the curtain down on a terrible 2016/17 campaign.
Maybe it was the cheap train and match tickets that did it, or the addicts fearing a three month wait before the next fix, but the thick end of 2,000 Queens Park Rangers fans decided to get up at the crack of dawn on Sunday and head deep into East Anglia to support their team in a match that meant nothing to anybody.
Their reward was another firm volley delivered direct to the testicles. A final heavy defeat in a season of 23 league losses (relegated Blackburn lost 19), four more goals conceded taking the total to 66 (Blackburn and Wigan both went down conceding fewer), and an eighteenth defeat since Ian Holloway returned to the club 31 league and cup games ago.
Holloway said afterwards it was “one game too much” for his beleaguered team. But QPR have lost seven of their last eight.
Norwich City have done this to better teams than Rangers this season. Despite finishing eighth, well outside the play-off picture, the Canaries have scored 55 times at home which is more than anybody else in the division and three better than QPR have managed home and away. Their overall total of 85 scored is the joint best in the league with champions Newcastle. Reading, who could yet win promotion themselves, shipped seven here, Coventry six in the cup and Brentford and Forest went for five apiece.
Any hope that last weekend’s pressure-relieving home win against Forest which secured QPR’s status in the Championship would have relaxed the players and given them a chance to start playing a bit of football again, two months since their last decent performance, were swiftly quashed. Norwich could conceivably have been three nil up inside the first four minutes with wiry youngster Josh Murphy leading a fast start with one firm shot Alex Smithies did well to save, another form long range off the top of the bar, and an assist for lone striker Nelson Oliveira whose shot drew a miraculous goal line clearance from Joel Lynch.
The hosts would eventually declare on four, each easier and more defensively shambolic than the last. Wes Hoolahan and Alex Pritchard made particularly effective use of the stately home-sized gap QPR decided to leave between the lines of their defence and midfield. The former opened the scoring with a shot that deflected en route giving Smithies no chance on 22 minutes, and then completed the scoring in injury time at the end of the game by sweeping the ball into an empty net after the defence had completely crumpled in front of him. Pritchard was afforded two attempts at a volley in the penalty area on the hour – the second went in, underneath Smithies who should have done better. Murphy got the goal his performance deserved five from time – again, the keeper could have done better.
To be fair, Smithies made good saves from Murphy after 24 minutes, Hoolahan after 65 minutes and Murphy again in the 82nd. Dijks headed a first half corner wide, Lynch almost deflected a Pritchard shot into his own net before half time, substitute Cameron Jerome ran clean through on the goal and then hilariously (typically) thrashed an amateurish effort miles wide. Norwich had nearly 60% of the possession, registered a mammoth 24 shots on the goal to QPR’s eight, struck nine of those on target to QPR’s two and found the net four times. People have spent the evening at Sweatbox Soho and not been bummed as much as this.
Ian Holloway said afterwards QPR would just have to shrug it off. After being told to take the recent comfortable defeat at near neighbours Brentford on the chin you could forgive the long-suffering faithful for feeling a little punch drunk. Remarkably, a sizeable portion of the travelling faithful stayed to the end to applaud those players brave enough to come across at the final whistle. Unlike Chris Ramsey and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink before him, Holloway cannot say the church isn’t giving him every chance.
You can make allowances for bits and pieces in these circumstances – long hard season, nothing at stake, few injuries, away to a good side that has scored plenty on their own patch, few Norwich favourites keen to sign off on a high note ahead of the end of long and successful spells with the club… it never really looked like an away win for the Pools Panel to consider did it? But some resistance wouldn’t have gone amiss would it? Some professional pride? I don’t know. I’m not sure QPR would even have got close to taking anything from this game if they’d been allowed to arm themselves, so pathetically half-arsed, limp-wristed and unprofessional was this complete hailstorm of faeces.
Nobody who works on this site claims to be an expert. We’re QPR fans trying to make ends meet by running a poxy little fan blog. One of the group has coaching badges, and the look of bewilderment on his face as this played out (I’d say unravel, but almost conceding three times in the first three minutes suggests it was never really in a solid state to begin with) told its own story. But really we’ve no more idea than anybody else about any of this. We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, the injury situation, what’s happening in training, what’s going on the players’ private lives and so on. We, along with everybody else, have been perplexed by Pawel Wszolek’s absence from the team but it turns out he’s had a family bereavement - an example of how Holloway and the club can help themselves by communicating with the supporters better. We have never had to coach a professional team, or set one up for a competitive game.
But fuck me have you ever seen anything as downright stupid as QPR’s approach to this match? A wing back system, with only two centre backs, and no deep lying defensive central midfielder – like living in Toxteth and leaving your front door wide open while you go to the shops. With Jack Robinson shoved right up the left wing, and James Perch the same up the right, this very, very, very quickly became Nedum Onuoha, Joel Lynch and Alex Smithies against the entire world.
Without the ball QPR weren’t so much exposed as bent over and lubed up. This was beyond suicidal. This was necking three packs of painkillers with a bottle of bleach, shooting yourself in the face and jumping off a high building into heavy traffic. Rather than employ some special arrangements to temper the influence of City’s outstanding player Pritchard, QPR instead decided to afford him more space in dangerous areas than he’s probably ever had in his entire career. He dictated the first hour without breaking a sweat and was then substituted early so he could put the club suit he needn’t have changed out of in the first place back on. Nobody got within ten yards of him at any point. It quickly descended into a barbaric carve up with Pritchard, Murphy and Hoolahan running an-absolute-mok. What are you doing? What are you actually doing?
Yes, there was a very obvious Grant Hall-sized hole between the defence and the midfield. His presence would have made a hell of a difference, and QPR’s most recent losing run has coincided with his knee injury. But he’s just a decent player, not our Lord and Saviour, and we’ve got to have a better plan than this for when he’s unavailable next season. Why we’ve abandoned the idea of using Perch in there when Hall’s out, despite Perch looking a good deal better there than he ever does at right back (unlucky to be penalised here by Robinson for his first clean tackle in six months mind you), despite Darnell Furlong being a far better bet than him on the right of the defence, I cannot explain.
The protection afforded the defence by the midfield was worse than non-existent. Michael Doughty following in the footsteps of Sean Goss and Michael Petrasso with a sudden, unexpected start here after months of in-action. This will surely be the last rites of Doughty’s QPR career which has lasted eight years as a professional during which time he’s made just six starts. On the ball, some nice passes, but without it he’s simply not quick enough. There’s no engine on him, he can’t get around the pitch. He was hopelessly schooled here. Only Murphy’s decision to execute a fairly flagrant dive in the penalty area over Nedum Onuoha – Robinson didn’t award a penalty but didn’t book him either strangely – stopped a particularly harrowing 50 yard slog down the field in vain pursuit of the Norwich man ending with Doughty and the ball in the back of the net. He will get a decent club at his level in League One, where he’s impressed before at Swindon, and knowing our luck get sold for £4m in 18 months’ time, but he doesn’t look a Championship player at all and his time is surely up here now sadly. If you can bear to watch the highlights again, look at him for the first goal – five yards behind the play, blowing.
Ryan Manning was picked alongside him and had his worst game for the club – his pass completion percentage can’t have made it out of single figures. That compounded an approach to possession that was nearly as pathetically moronic as the plan without it. At each goal kick Rangers would line up with Onuoha and Lynch on the edge of the area, with Doughty or Manning dropping down from the midfield to form a three, and the full backs pushed right up, ready for some sort of total football short ball out from Smithies. It took Norwich about 38 seconds to twig what was going on and start pressing the life out of it. Several near scrapes with disaster later QPR were, incredibly, passing the ball out from goal kicks to tightly marked centre backs on the edge of the area who had no choice but to return it straight to Smithies so he could whack it away down the field anyway, just as he would have done with a normal goal kick only now under more pressure. I mean, are we for fucking real here or what?
Rangers threatened once in the first half – Wszolek seeing a shot tipped onto the bar by John Ruddy who was making his farewell Norwich appearance between the sticks. The keeper also saved a free kick from Doughty who’d attempted to deceive him by going round the wrong side of the wall but he didn’t connect with the ball and had the keeper not touched it I’m not convinced it would even have made the goal line.
Matt Smith was completely ineffective up front, including an excruciating 60 seconds spent faffing about with his boot while play went on around him, and he was withdrawn at half time. Things improved marginally, as they tend to do, when Luke Freeman came on and he curled a second half free kick wide of the post after being tripped cynically (again, no card) on the edge of the area, but too often other shooting chances were passed up in favour of more pisballing about. In the end the only real genuine positive was a 25 minute cameo from youth teamer Josh Bowler who roamed around in a completely broken and decimated system and at least looked positive with the ball, driving at Norwich with confidence and purpose and causing them some minor problems.
Rangers couldn’t stand up for falling down. Literally. Manning, Wszolek, Washington and Smithies all losing their footing repeatedly on the turf. We can’t even get our bloody footwear right at the moment. That extraordinary set of results required to send QPR down six weeks ago all happened bar one - our win against a poor Nottingham Forest a week ago. Blackburn and Birmingham both won their final two games of the season. Had it gone the other way, you couldn't have said QPR didn't get what they deserved.
Match Gallery: 16 photos
One can only hope that at the end of a long, difficult season, with morale low, couple of key players missing, away from home, with the job done last week, and the opposition in decent, free-scoring form, that QPR’s players and coaching staff simply gave up and phoned this one in. That’s the least unforgivable scenario. If they were trying to get something out of this game and this was their actual plan to do so then that’s terrifying.
We cannot just slip off into the summer assuming this will all magically get better next season. How will it? Why will it? These are questions for now, not October.
Holloway, originally brought in under a remit of working with what we had and “rubbing off on them a bit” is now talking about needing another two transfer windows to get this right, having already done six in and six out in January – of which only Freeman is playing regularly and well. Smith has faded, albeit while receiving lousy service, while Goss, Lua Lua and Morrison have barely featured at all. And the answer to this is to sign yet another layer of new players this summer?
Whatever their reason for going, the 2,000 deserved and deserve much better than this.
Norwich: Ruddy 6; Pinto 6 (Godfrey 86, -), Martin 6, Klose 6, Dijks 6; Howson 7, Dorrans 7; Hoolahan 7, Pritchard 8 (Maddison 71, 6), Murphy 8; Oliveira 6 (Jerome 61, 5)
Subs not used: Wildschut, Tettey, McGovern, Murphy
Goals: Hoolahan 22 (unassisted), 90+2 (assisted Jerome), Pritchard 60 (assisted Hoolahan), Murphy 85 (unassisted)
QPR: Smithies 5; Perch 5, Onuoha 6, Lynch 6, Robinson 5 (Bowler 69, 7); Luongo 5, Doughty 4, Manning 4; Wszolek 4, Smith 4 (Freeman 45, 6), Washington 5 (Grego-Cox 81, -)
Subs not used: Goss, Ingram, Petrasso, Furlong
QPR Star Man – N/A
Referee – Tim Robinson (West Sussex) 6 Fixation with awarding a free kick to the defensive side at the majority of corners remains. Penalised Perch for the first good tackle he’s made in about six months, with an assistant referee standing three yards away giving nothing. Irritating in a non-competitive game.
Attendance – 27,005 (1,800 QPR approx) That darts music wears a bit thin after a while doesn’t it?
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