Freeman blasts deserved late leveller - Report
Wednesday, 27th Sep 2017 17:03 by Lee McAlpine
QPR emerged with a deserved point after a very lack lustre Championship game against Barnsley at Oakwell on Tuesday night. Lee McAlpine was there for LFW.
Another Tuesday night game at Barnsley. I’m pretty certain we’ve played the odd Saturday afternoon fixture at Oakwell, but it does seem like the fixture compiler has this away game for us down in semi-permanent marker as one to be played under lights. Not that I’m complaining, as like most people, I enjoy the whole experience of night time matches. (I’ve checked since I wrote this and it’s probably just me, but my last daylight match at Barnsley was our one nil defeat in back 2002).
The lack of suitable train services back to Stockport meant that driving was the only option for this game, and anyway the short walk to the away fans carpark was far more preferable than a grim, dark stroll to the station. The only real issue for me came with the realisation that I’d volunteered to do the LFW write up for the game on a school night. My class will have to put up with an under par teacher (nothing new there I hear some cry!) on the day after this game.
I feel a bit sorry for Barnsley. Since they gave us a footballing lesson here last year, with a team sheet of virtually complete unknowns, their first team line-up has been pillaged by bigger clubs. The likes of Hourihane, Watkins, Mawson, Roberts, Scowen (who’d heard of him) and others have left Oakwell for fees between naff all (luckily for us) and many millions (unlucky Villa). So Barnsley would line up, once again, with hardly a name familiar to anyone but lower league experts. But Paul Heckingbottom is a good coach, and he has regularly sent out teams who have punched well above their status and standing. Last night proved to be an exception as his young side looked nervous and disjointed throughout, but Barnsley are proving to be a good production line for young players and I hope our northern scout has a very close eye on what is happening at Oakwell.
This season I’ve enjoyed watching Rangers far more than in recent years, although I wasn’t at HQ on Saturday. We seem to have togetherness and an all-round positive attitude. We’ve competed in every game, playing delightful football for spells and have unearthed some genuinely good players and more importantly made significant improvements to players already on the books. I’ve also really appreciated our complete lack of live TV appearances. Not only has this stopped the agony of usual on-screen ineptitude but it has hopefully kept the efforts of our midfield off the prospective transfer radar. Much has already been said about our midfield three, but I’m going to add to that anyway. The trio of Scowen, Luongo and Freeman have been having a competition for man of the match in virtually every game so far this season and everything was crossed they would all line-up to start this evening.
Until this campaign I’ve been completely ambivalent about Massimo Luongo, but not anymore. If he continues with his current form, I can see a big money offer seeing our Australian international leave in January. Luke Freeman has reminded me of one of my favourite players, Martin Rowlands, but with even more skill (sorry Rowly!). If Freeman can add greater finishing accuracy, especially from inside the box, then his purchase price from Bristol City will look increasingly ludicrous. As for Josh Scowen, his ability to break up opposition attacks and keep position with simple, skilful play has been a revelation. It’s hardly surprising that the constant demands placed on this trio have led to niggles and injuries. Consequently the absence of any of them has led to a drop off in form and results. Fingers were crossed that all three would be fit and well to face the Tykes. Fortunately they did but as a unit they failed to hit the heights of earlier games.
Two points from a possible nine, including two disappointing home games and a mounting and horrible looking injury list had left confidence slipping amongst the hardy group of R’s fans congregating in the concourse under the stand before the game. Have we ever taken more than a few minibus loads to this ground? Moaning about the form of Washington was particularly evident, but having been at Middledbrough for the last away game and seen what £16m Assombalonga gets you, as well as extortionate fees paid for the likes of goal shy Rhodes and Hogan, then I am perfectly happy to defend the Northern Irishman’s efforts this season. We really are shopping in Home Bargains these days, but at least not in that shops “out of date” or “must go” baskets. We have to accept the failings of our players at times, and I’m happy to do so as long as the effort and attitude is right; which it certainly is at the moment. Following Saturday’s poor showing, Washington only made the bench while Furlong and Yeni were not even on the bench.
For me the QPR line-up was the usual mixture of the bleeding obvious, nice surprises and “Why is he playing?” I’ll let you guess as to which category the team selected fell into. Smithies lined up behind aback four of Bidwell, Baptiste, Caulker and Robinson. The “Kingpin Trio” was back supporting, with Wszolek on the right and a full debut on the left for Osayi-Samuel, with Mackie the sole forward. The bench was Lumley, Sylla, Lynch, Washington, Lua Lua, Manning and Wheeler. As usual the Barnsley line-up was a team of unknowns, apart from Adam Hammill, who has been a good player at this level for years having been developed at Liverpool.
The first half was an unbelievably scrappy affair. The only neat play came from us but that fell apart whenever we got anywhere near the Barnsley box. Poor crosses were the order of the day, neither keeper had a save to make and defences looked in complete control. Well that was apart from one glorious strike from Barnsley midfielder Barnes on the 20 minute mark. Another terrible shot was clumsily cleared by Caulker straight to Barnes who curled a beauty into the top corner leaving Smithies clutching air. The Barnsley crowd were more surprised than we were as they’d posed zero threat up to the goal but they very quickly returned to their slumber, as they game was played out in front of virtual silence. A header later in the half had Smithies scrambling but from our position, this was always drifting wide.
Rangers had been awful in the final third, Mackie was really isolated and easily handled. One up front against a bang ordinary side was a mistake. We needed bodies in the box to support and good delivery of the ball; we had neither. Osayi-Samuel was frustrating on the ball and subsequently replaced at half time, and on the other side Wszolek had one of his regular annoying performances where he loses possession far too easily. Caulker was booked for a cynical but necessary foul after being caught on the wrong side of his man and Luongo was booked for something, but no-one around me had a clue what for. It looked like a non-league game (bar the goal) but at £30 a ticket, a very over-priced one.
Washington replaced Osayi-Samuel at the start of the second half but the game continued in the same pattern. We kept the ball tidily but rarely threatened with Barnsley restricted to counter attacks and one long range strike from Hammill which was smartly saved by Smithies. Bidwell hit a lovely volley after a corner was cleared, we were momentarily excited but it went just over. This was the only thing that happened from our numerous corners. Clive will go mad but I think we should revert to short corners as I can’t see us ever scoring again from a straightforward delivery into the box.
Wszolek was presented with a gilt edge chance as time began to ebb away but his strike from 8 yards out, with the whole goal to aim at, was laughable; but we weren’t smiling. We also had claims for a penalty which didn’t interest the officials. I thought at the time it would‘ve been a harsh award and certainly wouldn’t want given against us for that kind of challenge, but it did fall under “you’ve seen them given” category. We were clutching at straws by this time. Smith came on to replace Caulker and Mackie was then replaced by the infuriating Lua Lua whose only notable contribution was to throw himself flamboyantly, forward to the ground after having his shirt tugged backwards. Think Ashley Young and Shaun Derry and you’ll get the picture. I’m glad the referee waved him away even though it was a foul. Can’t shoot, can’t cross and can’t beat a man- what is he doing taking a spot in our squad? I would pick Wheeler every time ahead of this theatrical, non-entity.
As the game drifted towards defeat, Smith missed two presentable half chances. One, a virtual back pass to the keeper with his left foot from twelves yards, the other a close range header from a Washington flick that went narrowly wide. At this point we’d accepted defeat behind the goal. How could we lose to such a poor side? Well as you will know by now our midfield is quite good and up stepped Luke Freeman to rescue a point. Twenty five yards out, little dummy to wrong foot the defender and smacked a powerful effort straight at the Barnsley keeper. It somehow went in with a bit of swerve and dip. A lovely strike but it should’ve been saved, shame!
Spoils shared and not a Barnsley fan in the ground could’ve any complaints. We were better than them all over the park, bar up front. We controlled the game for long periods but created very little. Both forward lines were ineffective and this game had nil nil written all over it; even after Barnsley scored!
QPR need to be braver on the ball and with our team selections. We should’ve gone for Barnsley’s throat right from the off. This was the poorest side we’ve faced at Oakwell and have chucked away two points, at the same time as rescuing one. A frustrating and annoying evening lit up by two great strikes. I better get to bed or those kids will eat me alive tomorrow ( I mean today!).
Barnsley: Davies; McCarthy, Jackson, Lindsay, Freyers; Williams, Hammill, Moncur (McGeehan 71), Potts (Hedges 80); Barnes (Bradshaw 45), Ugbo
Subs not used: MacDonald, Townsend, Pearson, Thiam
Goals: Barnes 20 (unassisted)
Bookings: Williams 49 (foul)
QPR: Smithies 7; Baptiste 7, Caulker 6 (Smith 74, 5), Robinson 7, Bidwell 7; Luongo 6, Scowen 7, Freeman 7; Wszolek 4, Mackie 5 (Lua Lua 74, 5), Osayi-Samuel 4 (Washington 46, 5)
Subs not used: Lynch, Manning, Lumley, Wheeler
Goals: Freeman 86 (unassisted)
Bookings: Caulker 23 (foul), Luongo 39 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Luke Freeman 7 I know boring but rescued a point and responsible for majority of our positive play. A joy to watch when moving forward with the ball. Honourable mentions to Baptiste and Robinson.
Referee – Geoff Eltringham (Co Durham) 8 This guy has good ratings on LFW and I can see why. Unfussy, good positioning and lets the game flow. Even when he gave decisions against the hosts the home fans seemed to accept his calls- very unusual. Loved the way he treated Lua Lua and happy to accept the non-award of the penalty. A good official, happy to see him in the middle again.
Attendance – 10,920 (335 QPR)
The Twitter @LeeMcAlpine1
Pictures – Action Images
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