QPR quietly slip to meek defeat at Derby - Report
Wednesday, 22nd Nov 2017 20:15 by Clive Whittingham
QPR suffered a third straight defeat, and made it 16 away matches without a win, with a pretty pathetic display and comfortable 2-0 loss at Derby County on Tuesday.
Three defeats in a row, 16 away games without a victory, injuries mounting – from the optimism that flowed after two wins against the top two in the league just a fortnight ago, Queens Park Rangers now look to be heading into a typically bleak mid-winter.
The latest loss came at Derby County on Tuesday night, Rangers’ fourth successive defeat to nil on a ground where they once went unbeaten in six. A thoroughly dismal encounter in which it took Rangers 89 minutes to register a shot on target was won comfortably by the hosts playing well within themselves. QPR offered all the threat of a collection of soft furnishings, and would still be on nil if the game was still going on now.
That’s not altogether surprising, given the restraints Ian Holloway is working under at a time when half the division is chucking money around like never before and the mounting injury list that is hamstringing his squad. Any team in the league would struggle to cope with its entire first choice defence injured, and Joel Lynch limped out of this one with a foot injury to join Nedum Onuoha, James Perch, Grant Hall, Steven Caulker and Darnell Furlong on the absentee list. Rangers finished with two left backs - Jack Robinson, captaining the team for the first time while playing with a broken hand, and Jake Bidwell – as centre halves. Massimo Luongo, Jordan Cousins and Bright Samuel were also ruled out prior to kick off, and even the most lavishly resourced teams in the league wouldn’t cope well if you took nine first team players away from them all at the same time. Three strikers injured, but still with Albert Adomah, Keinen Davis and Josh Onomah available, was billed as a “crisis” for Steve Bruce’s multi-million pound Aston Villa side at the weekend, for example.
But modern day football fans, and modern day football chairmen, are not patient beings. Sympathy with the hand Holloway has been dealt, knowledge of the restraints he’s working under and the length of the injury list, quickly evaporates after three defeats in a row and the thirst for more change takes over. The fact the injuries and finances would still be the same for a new manager, the fact that QPR change the manager frequently and never get much better, and the fact many of the managers fans are starting to mention as possible replacements wouldn’t come near the job with a shitty stick matters not – three defeats in a row equals pitch forks and flaming torches. Tony Pulis wouldn’t come here to work in the Championship with no money to spend, wouldn’t do any better than Holloway with this group of players is he did and would bore us all to tears trying – but in the minds of some he’s not only a viable but also a desirable option.
Holloway knows that as well, and was stinging in his criticism of his players at full time, effectively saying they’d rolled over and died after conceding on the stroke of half time again. But he did himself few favours with the odd decision to start neither Matt Smith nor Idrissa Sylla up front, and instead pick poor David Wheeler through the middle as a lone striker. Away from home, against experienced centre backs, in just his third ever start at this level of football after joining from Exeter, that seemed a tall order of the boy. Only giving him Jamie Mackie, a willing runner but hardly a force of creative dynamism, and Yeni Ngbakoto, randomly parachuted in after a period of inaction because that worked so well against Burton Albion, as support was borderline cruel.
Derby are a half decent side, particularly the front three of Andreas Weimann, Matej Vydra and Tom Lawrence who play behind either the ever-expanding Chris Martin or, on this occasion, David Nugent. But the Rams are an ageing side and distinctly one-paced – lowly Reading had run them off the park and won 4-2 here in their last home game. Perhaps the idea behind the QPR front three was to try and do something similar, using Wheeler’s pace and legs as opposed to the brute force of Matt Smith and comedy stylings of Idrissa Sylla. If it was, it didn’t work, despite Richard Keogh’s ongoing fascination with passing the ball straight to QPR players in promising areas. Actually, it looked for much of the first half like Rangers were trying to hang in for a 0-0 against an opponent well below its best and looking distinctly mediocre on the night.
The result was a thunderously boring first half which dragged on for 48 long minutes and one Josh Scowen volley over the bar. Honestly, I’ve had more fun hoovering the stairs than I did watching the first period of this game, and the atmosphere inside Pride Park quickly descended to that of an abandoned morgue as excruciating tedium and foul weather took over.
Derby barely threatened at all, and perhaps the plan was to hang in there until after the hour mark and then maybe go for it with a Smith or Sylla introduction towards the end of the game. But when you do that, when you have as little ambition as QPR did on Tuesday, when you offer so little in attack, you often get what you deserve at the other end – particularly when your whole team can be opened up by one giveaway on the edge of the opposition penalty box followed by one long ball over the top. That happened in the third minute of first half stoppage time when Jake Bidwell and Ngbakoto made a mess of possession high up the field, Huddlestone sprang Weimann and he raced into acres of space and crossed for Vydra to score at the back post – the Czech quicker and more determined to get into the box and reach the cross than the QPR players were to chase after him. An abysmal goal defensively to break a seemingly terminal deadlock. Once again, as on Saturday, three minutes of added time proved to be 60 seconds too many for QPR.
Rangers had already lost Lynch to a foot injury, replaced by Ryan Manning, but were nevertheless preparing to withdraw the wholly ineffective Ngbakoto five minutes after half time to bring on Conor Washington when they conceded a second. Too much time, too much space, not enough bite, not enough closing, nobody putting a foot in, right on the edge of the area – Tom Lawrence showed for Ipswich last season that he’s capable of beating Alex Smithies from long range and did so again. That was the eleventh goal conceded by this defence between minutes 40 and 55 this season (48, 48, 45+1, 50, 55, 41, 43, 44, 45+3, 45+3 and now 53).
Matt Smith was eventually introduced and headed over a Washington flick on from a corner when he perhaps might have done better, but Holloway was right – QPR had given up. It quickly descended into one of those Alex Smithies vs The World evenings where the QPR keeper was left totally unprotected to try and keep the score down as best he could – a good save from a diving David Nugent header who later fired wide after Vydra cut the ball back from the byline, then a one on one duel with the one-cap England international in which Smithies came out on top.
Credit Alex Baptiste for getting back to deny substitute Martin a clear run on goal but Bidwell and Freeman were both carded by Paul Tierney for bad fouls on Derby players piling forward past static opposition. A lone pitch invasion, dressed like something Vicky Pollard shit out, made it from one end of the pitch to the other with stewards in hot pursuit, the most intent anybody had shown heading towards Scott Carson’s goal all night. A tame Freeman shot straight at the keeper after several attempts ballooned over the bar was QPR’s first on target all night and brought ironic cheers from the tiny band of travelling fans still persevering with their team into a ninth month without an away win.
Luongo and Cousins will apparently be back for Monday’s match, where QPR must overcome their problems with TV games, London derbies, and Brentford all at once or risk another lengthy losing run building against exactly the same teams that inflicted six successive defeats on the R’s twice last season. Holloway, a Manager of the Month nominee for October, has his back to the wall at QPR once more.
Derby: Carson 6; Baird 6, Keogh 5, Davies 6, Forsyth 6; Huddlestone 7, Ledley 6; Weimann 7, Vydra 7 (Thorne 78, 6), Lawrence 7 (Thomas 89, -); Nugent 7 (Martin 78, 5)
Subs not used: Russell, Wisdom, Pearce, Mitchell
Goals: Vydra 45+3 (assisted Weimann), Lawrence 53 (unassisted)
Bookings: Huddlestone 26 (foul), Forsyth 37 (foul)
QPR: Smithies 7; Baptiste 5, Lynch 5 (Manning 45, 5), Robinson 6; Wszolek 5, Bidwell 5; Scowen 6, Freeman 5, Mackie 5, Ngbakoto 4 (Washington 54, 5); Wheeler 5 (Smith 64, 5)
Subs not used: Petrasso, Lumley, Chair, Sylla
Bookings: Baptiste 23 (foul), Freeman 59 (foul), Bidwell 64 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Alex Smithies 7 Star man for keeping the score down. Ominous sign that this is starting to happen again.
Referee – Paul Tierney (Lancashire) 6 Pernickety at times, over vital stuff like the positioning of throw ins, and managed to mine five yellow cards from an uncompetitive, fearsomely boring match which took some doing. Not too bad though.
Attendance – 23,296 (383 QPR) Precious little to reward the loyalty of those who are still bothering to follow QPR away from home, 16 games and counting without a win on the road now. The appalling first half contributed to a morgue-like atmosphere overall.
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Pictures – Action Images
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