|Sunderland 1 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 14th October 2017 Kick-off 15:00
McGeady leaves QPR ruing missed chances – Report
Sunday, 15th Oct 2017 17:59 by Lee McAlpine
QPR are still winless on the road this season, though quite how that’s the case after Saturday’s match against a dreadful Sunderland side has Lee McAlpine struggling to explain.
QPR left the Stadium of Light with only a point, after a combative, but not quite ruthless enough performance, against a bewildering poor Sunderland team.
How we didn’t take all three points, after dominating huge spells of the game, came down to familiar and frustrating reasons. A mixture of poor finishing, crap decision making or just an unlucky run of the ball in their box, meant we had to settle for the draw. But make no bones about it, and take zero notice of the ludicrous BBC match report, Rangers were the better side and deserved more.
The last time I volunteered to write one of these reports it was an evening game on a school night, which meant staring at a computer screen well into the early hours (picture Northern’s avatar!) This time I’ve gone one better, as I’ve written this while on a fifteth birthday weekend in Newcastle; my birthday bash!
It was a bit strange going into this game with the home town fans in such a miserable mood with their team. On every one of my previous visits to the Stadium of Light, QPR have been huge underdogs and usually come away empty handed, as the home side is roared on by a noisy crowd. Not this year. A horrible run of form following a gutless relegation (feel familiar?) and stuck with an overpaid squad that haven’t really looked up for the battle of the second tier, have left both attendances and spirits in a rapid decline on Wearside.
Normally a visiting QPR side would’ve been a perfect fodder to get their season back on track, but we are not watching a typical Rangers side this season and confidence amongst the visiting supporters was certainly evident. This despite a more unproductive run of results recently, which has left us winless in five and only three points from a possible 15.
It seems like months ago that Fulham stole the points from Loftus Rd before the international break (don’t you just hate those?). Most of the first team should’ve been fit and refreshed with only Luongo having to endure his mammoth quest of amassing the greatest number of airmiles in the history of football. Thankfully after appearing for only 20 minutes out of a possible 210, the only injury threat he has been at risk of has been deep vein thrombosis from hours in the air.
Unfortunately Jack Robinson managed to break his hand in training this week; I’m not sure that breaking bricks with punches is a suitable activity for an injury prone player, and something the squad should be doing in between games.
Rangers line up had a very similar and “thumbs up” feel about it. The best goalkeeper in the division, and probably most of the Premier League (anyone fancy a swap deal for Heurelho Gomes? Nah, me neither!), was protected by a trio of Bidwell, Lynch and the surprisingly reliable Baptiste. Manning and Wszolek occupied the wing back roles, with Scowen holding and Freeman and Luongo further forward. Mackie and Sylla were the front two, although the distance between the pair, meant they were more like two ones.
The initial exchanges led to a number of corners for the home side, which were all comfortably dealt with and we soon took charge of the game. The contest seemed to take place solely at the far end with spells of concerted Rangers’ pressure but without leading to any gilt-edge chances. Smithies was eventually called upon and pulled off a smart save after a corner was poorly cleared and McGeady was presented with an excellent opportunity mid-way through the half, when sent clear by Whatmore. Somehow he screwed his effort badly wide, when it looked easier to score.
Oviedo also had a long-range effort which went narrowly wide, but we were never put under any consistent pressure.
That was it for Sunderland as they began to make mistakes and consistently return possession to us. We had to score first. The grumpy home fans by now were expecting it and we didn’t disappoint them. Finally one of our many corners resulted in a goal. Freeman delivered a good ball into the danger area and Sylla headed home past the erratic looking Steele.
We needed to hold on until the break and did so easily. In fact only a mixture of good defending and poor finishing prevented Sylla from doubling our lead. A great cross by Freeman looked certain to be converted but somehow the ball ended up amongst the empty red seats behind the goal, rather than the net. The half time whistle was greeted with general unhappiness from the home sections, well those who were still in their places, as hoards had left for the concourse when we opened the scoring.
The second period brought a change for the home side, who replaced the anonymous Vaughan with Grabban. Bidwell had completely dominated Vaughan in his usual Bidwell manner, which left the former Everton striker bleating to the referee and his assistant, about our defender’s rather rough handling. I thought this was Bidwell’s best performance for Rangers as he looked both composed and strong throughout.
We started on the front foot in the second half and had the home side completely on the ropes. Gaps were appearing all over the place and good work by Wszolek presented Mackie with a wonderful opening to make it two nil. Mackie pointed exactly where he wanted the ball, our Pole delivered perfectly but one air kick later and the cross rolled harmlessly away. A frustrating miss but we weren’t worried as a second was surely coming.
Freeman, Wszolek and Luongo all had presentable openings but didn’t really stretch Steele, whose handling had become more assured. The home team’s passing had become even worse and the R’s fans enjoyed joining in with the regular boos that were echoing around the half empty stadium, as pass after pass failed to find a teammate. One particular un-pressurized, side foot effort from O’Shea was particularly funny, as it rolled out of play at least twenty yards from someone in red and white stripes.
This was the point we got it wrong. Regular and happy renditions of “You’re not really very good”, obviously that’s my polite translation, were ringing out from the away fans, as the game seemed to be in our total control. This singing was cut embarrassingly short on the hour mark, as McGeady showed his true ability with a cracking shot that left Smithies helpless. A goal from absolutely nowhere and obviously the mood in the stadium changed, as did the game.
The Sunderland team and their fans, were now up for it as gaps began to appear for them as they went in search of a winner. This was only temporary as Rangers took back control and drove forward in wave after wave of attacks. Washington replaced the isolated and frustrated Mackie, but he too proved to be a peripheral figure and hardly had any impact. Osayi-Samuel came on for Wszolek, who again had not really achieved his high earlier season standards. I would really like to see Wheeler be given a starting place ahead of the Pole as he seems to have lost his confidence in recent games. Osayi-Samuel’s first contribution was to ball watch and not track back and this lead to a half chance for the home side. Someone must have had a word at this stage, as for the rest of the game the youngster took his defensive duties far more seriously.
Late on, two almighty scrambles in the Sunderland box somehow didn’t result in a winner for us along with a couple of half-hearted penalty appeals that would’ve been unbelievably harsh. Another header from Sylla went well wide and the game drifted to a finish.
The overriding feeling in the away end was one of satisfied-disappointment. Satisfaction with a confident and enjoyable to watch display with so many positive. Disappointment that such an under-performing, former big-club were not put to the sword, when they so really should’ve been.
Unfortunately we are not picking up the points our performances are meriting. One disgruntled fan sat near, was particularly venomous with his criticism, claiming we are in a relegation battle. I disagreed and still do. It’s been said so many times what a tough league this is and we just need a bit more cutting edge and we can go on a bit of a run.
Match Gallery: 18 photos
Sunderland: Steele 5; Matthews 5, Jones 5, O’Shea 5, Oviedo 5; Honeyman 5 (Williams 58, 6), Ndong 5, Cattermole 5, McGeady 7; Vaughan 5 (Grabban 45, 5), Watmore 8 (McManaman 79, 6)
Subs not used: Love, Gibson, Ruiter, Gooch
Goals: McGeady 61 (unassisted)
QPR: Smithies 7; Baptiste 7, Lynch 7, Bidwell 7; Luongo 7, Scowen 8, Manning 6, Freeman 7, Wszolek 6 (Osayi-Samuel 76, 5); Mackie 5 (Washington 67, 5), Sylla 7
Subs not used: Lumley, Furlong, Smith, Ngbakoto, Wheeler
Goals: Sylla 37 (assisted Freeman)
QPR Star Man - Josh Scowen 8 I bloody love the way this guy plays the game, does everything simply and effectively. Honourable mentions to Baptiste (again) and Bidwell
Referee – Steve Martin 9 Another fantastic display from a Championship ref. I thought he was virtually faultless, allowing the game to flow and keeping his cards in his pocket. The closest I’ve ever coming to awarding a ten! Cattermole might have been booked for simply being Cattermole, and only adding 1 minute added time at the end of the first half when three would have more appropriate, are my only frivolous complaints.
Attendance 26,066 (QPR 686)
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