Same old problems leave QPR with just a point at Bolton - Report
Sunday, 22nd Oct 2017 15:01 by Simon Ashby
Simon Ashby braved Storm Brian to get up to Bolton on Saturday and tells LFW that the same problems with delivery and finishing in the final third cost QPR once more.
You’d think I’d be a happy Hoop heading to Bolton on Saturday morning. After all, it’s about as local as it gets for me this season. A 20 minute bus ride into Manchester, a quick stroll to Salford Central station, then just 25 minutes to Horwich Parkway; but alas, I am not.
The Macron Stadium has always felt like an utterly soulless ground to me, set in an equally soulless retail park. It’s perfectly ok if you like spending your Saturday mornings mooching round Halfords, Argos and DFS et al, before popping into the Harvester. Not however, the cathedral to the beautiful game Bolton fans may have hoped for.
So, what about the football? Bolton, buoyed by the return of Sammy Ameobi , Josh Vela and claiming their first three points of the season last week against Sheffield Wednesday, were looking to make it back to back wins at this level for the first time in nearly three years (Rangers historically love to end an opponents unwanted record).
The R’s on the other hand still have a lengthy injury list. Nedum Onuoha and James Perch remain weeks away, Grant Hall has suffered yet another set-back, whilst Jack Robinson’s broken hand kept him side-lined. Couple with that our inability to find the back of the net with any regularity, and being winless in six, I have to confess to being a tad apprehensive.
Ian Holloway opted to go with the same starting eleven that faced Sunderland last weekend, in ever worsening conditions at the Macron. His loyalty wasn’t rewarded, as Rangers were slow out of the blocks in a first half that won’t live long in the memory. It was four minutes before we successfully completed a pass and 15 before we mustered our first meaningful attack, which resulted in Josh Scowen firing straight at Ben Alnwick in the Bolton goal. Perhaps it was storm Brain (why is there always a hurricane when we play here?), or the team nutritionist had failed to pack the Weetabix, but Rangers were really lacklustre and deservedly went behind on 26 minutes. Gary Madine rose highest to nod a deep Vela corner back into the danger area, Bidwell gave Pratley the freedom of the six-yard box, and he duly headed home from two yards out.
You hoped that would have been the wake-up call Rangers needed, but if anything we got worse. Disjointed passing, little movement and a lack of ideas seemed the order of the day. Even the ever reliable Smithies managed to kick directly into touch when under no pressure from a back pass, much to the delight of the home support. To Holloway’s credit he acted quickly, making a substitution before half time, but the introduction of Conor Washington for Ryan Manning did little to improve matters; whatever we were suffering from it was catching.
Thankfully Bolton are not bottom of the league without reason, for a better side would surely have put the game to bed before referee James Linington mercifully blew the half time whistle.
With the rain bucketing down and the pitch deteriorating fast, Rangers started the second half the better and though the quality was still lacking, at least the effort we’ve become used to from Holloway’s wards this season was back in evidence.
Pawel Wszolek, who’d saved a second goal in the first half with a fine covering tackle, finally found some space down the right to attack and delivered a decent cross which Jamie Mackie could only nod tamely into Alnwick’s hands. At the other end, Vela fluffed his lines when well placed but Rangers, at last with a foothold in the game were now in the ascendancy.
Matt Smith replaced Mackie shortly after the hour mark as the R’s went in search of an equaliser, but it was Sylla who finally forced Alnwick into a meaningful save. I’m not sure how much he knew about it but the faintest of touches from Freeman’s delivery had the Bolton keeper scrambling to keep the goal bound effort out. Bolton, with the finish line in sight were now sitting deeper and Rangers at last had the game by the scruff of the neck. But for all our neat build up play Rangers’ Achilles heel was plain for all to see; we weren’t creating chances. Time and again a flowing passing move ended with poor decision making or a wasteful delivery in the final third.
The equaliser we craved should have come from the spot after Massimo Luongo was brought down in the box. It looked a penalty all day from the upper tier, but Rangers justified protests were waved away.
The breakthrough finally arrived two minutes later. Sylla once again getting on the end of a Freeman delivery, with his somewhat improvised flick-come-backheel finding the bottom corner.
Bolton were now on the ropes, but try as they might, Rangers couldn’t summon a winner. Bidwell ballooned over with his weaker foot when well placed as the home side clung on. As we went into the final ten minutes the rain finally got the better of the playing surface and standing water started to appear. I have no doubt that if we’d had half an hour still to play the game would have been abandoned. It did little to aid Rangers passing which had now found some rhythm. If I’m honest the closing minutes were something of a lottery as conditions worsened.
Both here and at Sunderland Rangers were the better side but against Bolton they failed to create enough clear cut chances, whilst at Sunderland they missed the openings they did craft. We all know what the answer is, and we can’t afford it.
Bolton: Alnwick 6; Little 6, Wheater 7, Beevers 7, Taylor 6; Pratley 6, Henry 6; Vela 6 (Le Fondre 83, -), Ameobi 5 (Morais 62, 6), Armstrong 5 (Noone 66, 5); Madine 4
Subs not used: Robinson, Cullen, Burke, Howard
Goals: Pratley 22 (assisted Madine/Vela)
QPR: Smithies 6; Baptiste 6, Lynch 5, Bidwell 6; Wszolek 6, Manning 6 (Washington 38, 5); Freeman 7, Luongo 6, Scowen 6; Sylla 7 (Wheeler 85., -), Mackie 5 (Smith 61, 5)
Subs Not Used: Furlong, Cousins, Ngbakoto, Lumley
Goals: Sylla 78 (assisted Freeman)
QPR Star Man - Luke Freeman 7 Never stopped, and got his reward with a fine assist for the Sylla goal.
Referee James Linington (Isle of Wight) 7 Couple of questionable ones, including the Luongo penalty appeal in the second half, but overall a very calm and sensible refereeing display, taking the difficult conditions into account and giving the game and players every chance. All our games this season bar one (which had a Premier League referee) have been officiated like this this season. It can’t possibly continue.
Attendance – 14,243 (883 QPR)
Pictures – Action Images
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