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Roofe on fire as QPR’s struggles continue — Report
Monday, 11th Dec 2017 09:33 by Clive Whittingham

Kemar Roofe scored a hat trick for Leeds as QPR slipped to another defeat at Loftus Road on Saturday — now six without a win for the beleaguered R’s once again.

Dispiriting, demoralising, depressing.

Another defeat, a fifth in sixth matches and twenty eighth from Ian Holloway’s 54 game second spell, has Queens Park Rangers descending the Championship table so fast they’re starting to whistle through the air. A game at Birmingham City next week, where Rangers last won away from home 17 games ago back in February, has the look of a relegation six-pointer. It is a matter of mere weeks since Rangers beat the top two in the league to move within four points of the play offs.

It is strength-sapping and soul-destroying, something you could clearly see on the faces and in the body language of the players when Leeds’ Kemar Roofe rose to head a soft opener down at the School End after an hour of Saturday’s match with the Yorkshire side. A running jump on stationary defenders, a keeper stuck on his line for a cross no more than five yards out, it felt like an easy goal to score and a soft one to concede. Heads dropped immediately and within two minutes, after a string of dangerous Leeds corners, it was 2-0 — same player, similar distance, with his right foot this time.

QPR had been ok before that. In the game and playing some reasonable stuff. Conor Washington had one shot blocked, another volley wide, and was then annoyingly in an offside position interrupting a move that ended with Massimo Luongo zinging one into the top corner. Matt Smith, starting up front alongside the former Peterborough man, headed over a Jake Bidwell cross against the team he used to play for. The move of the match, from back to front, through a string of first time passes, ended with Luke Freeman toeing over Pawel Wszolek’s intelligent cut back.

But Leeds’ keeper Felix Wiedwald hadn’t had a serious shot to save by the time his team surged into a quick-fire two goal lead — criminal, given how accident prone the German stopper is and how little it takes to beat him as we’d find out in injury time. And they could have been in front early when Nedum Onuoha, rushed back from a hamstring injury and playing basically on one leg, made a mess of a pass pack and Alex Smithies had his clearance charged down. Smithies later palmed a dangerous cross behind and Rangers were then fortunate not to be reduced to ten men in the first half of a game for the second time in a week when Josh Scowen hacked into Roofe tight to the touchline. Referee Chris Kavanagh, kindly, opted for a yellow, and afforded the same benefit of the doubt to Giles Phillips when he went in late on Luongo moments later.

In the end it was Leeds’ extra quality and talent at the top end of the pitch that won the day. Once the basic and easily marked Caleb Ekuban had gone off injured — more of a blow to QPR than his own team — and Roofe had moved into the lone striker role things began to click for them. Saiz, a summer signing from Spain, was the wonderfully effective best player on the pitch behind him and would have scored before half time but for a terrific recovery tackle from the wrong side of his man by Jake Bidwell. Leeds deserved their win, a sixth on the road already this season compared to QPR’s zero.

Which brings us back to exactly what QPR can do about all of this. Even the £3m it cost Leeds to bring Roofe in from Oxford is probably beyond Rangers’ means these days — and Leeds fans had been writing the former West Brom academy graduate off as their own version of Conor Washington prior to Saturday. Holloway said afterwards he’d “hardly seen him” despite the three goals — quite what relevance that had to anything I’m not sure. How you add the sort of quality of Saiz within QPR’s budget and in the current transfer market is a problem that isn’t going away, regardless of who the manager or director of football is.

Rangers still nearly staged another late rally. They’ve come from two down to draw with Millwall and Brentford at Loftus Road this season and when Wiedwald inexplicably allowed Pawel Wszolek’s hopeful long punt to bounce up and over him in the final minute of normal time the deficit was halved — the first goal awarded using the new goalline technology at Loftus Road. Wszolek’s reasonable return to the side and form a positive on a bleak day.

Soon substitute Idrissa Sylla was in with a clear sight of goal and another remarkable comeback looked on but the keeper redeemed himself with a fine save one on one. When Massimo Luongo got his choice wrong in the next attack Saiz broke and Roofe was able to complete his hat trick on the counter with Smithies and Bidwell’s efforts to prevent him looking tired, and Matt Smith’s brave length of the field charge back to try and get a tackle in all for nothing.

More fans had stayed to see it than you’d expect, stung by missing the Brentford recovery and Holloway’s subsequent lambast perhaps, but the atmosphere all afternoon was odd — almost completely silent for almost the entire match. The biggest cheer of the afternoon came when it was announced the drinks service had been suspended prior to half time in the away end and the overall feel of the place was of a forlorn, cold, fed up group of the club’s die-hard support sitting quietly and waiting for the inevitable.

The question is exactly how this is going to get any better any time soon. To listen to some you’d think the answer was obvious, the solution clear, and the results will be immediate when it happens — sack Ian Holloway, replace him with a presumably better manager who wants to come to QPR with no money to spend for some reason, and everything will be rosy in the garden again. I just don’t see it. I don’t see it because I don’t think anybody any good would want to come here, I don’t think our record suggests we’d find them and appoint them even if they did, and I don’t think a lot of the problems afflicting Ian Holloway — budget, FFP, injuries, cost of strikers — would change very much for whoever else we might get to have a go.

However, as during the run of defeats in April, which eventually stretched to seven from eight, some of the things Holloway is doing are infuriating. The lack of width, the lack of crosses, with seven wingers in the squad and two strikers that thrive on good service from wide areas, is grinding my gears down to a fine powder. To introduce Bright Samuel here in the manner we did — first through an already crowded middle, and then as some sort of makeshift left back — was as unfair on him as David Wheeler’s recent start as a lone striker at Derby was on the other new arrival. Both Wheeler and Samuel are being given precious little opportunity to perform, selected completely at random after weeks of inaction, often for very short periods of time, almost always out of position.

I still haven’t quite got over Kazenga LuaLua being lambasted in the press on Sunday, picked from the bench on Monday and then sent back to Brighton on Tuesday, like some sort of footballing version of Craig David’s Seven Days. I really like the look of Ilias Chair, he came out of this game with great credit for a tenacious and positive display of technical play and hard work, but to solve the problem of your three best players all being ball-playing central midfielders by throwing a fourth ball-playing central midfielder into the mix, crowding the middle of the park to the point of complete gridlock, again seems bizarre to me. Get it wide, get to the byline, get some crosses in — it’s one of the few things we do have the players for.

While I do think we’d benefit from a bit of simplification and consistency in the team selection I also think it’s like everything else that gets suggested. A change of formation, the selection of wingers, a more astute and tactically aware assistant for Holloway, less maniacal team selections, a different manager altogether — everybody talks about all of these things like we’re just one quick fix away, like we’re a great team waiting to happen. Some of it would help in my opinion, but this is a team and club with problems that will not be solved overnight. A year ago we were talking about Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink being too defensive, not playing wide players, picking Karl Henry too much, and if only somebody came and “let them off the leash a bit” we’d be off and away. Result — another midseason change of manager, another change of tack, another big long run of defeats.

For me the answer lies next summer when a host of players, including the biggest earners, are out of contract. That could bring an end to our own period of austerity, create wiggle room in the transfer market, get the wage bill to where it needs to be, and we can give next season a go with our final parachute payment. We’ve just got to crawl through what was always going to be a horribly tough season and get there still a Championship club.

Whether we’ll manage that or not is starting to look increasingly doubtful, but anybody looking for a quick fix or massive improvement this season, with the cards dealt as they are, is going to end up disappointed.

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QPR: Smithies 6; Wszolek 6, Onuoha 6, Robinson 6, Bidwell 6 (Sylla 71, 5); Scowen 6 (Hall 78, 6), Freeman 6, Luongo 6, Chair 6 (Osayi-Samuel 64, 5); Washington 5, Smith 6

Subs not used: Cousins, Manning, Lumley, Wheeler

Goals: Wszolek 89 (unassisted)

Bookings: Scowen 20 (foul), Luongo 55 (foul)

Leeds: Weidwald 5; Ayling 6, Jansson 7, Cooper 7, Beradi 6; Vieira 7 (Pennington 80, -), Phillips 7; Alioski 7 (O’Kane 70, 6), Saiz 8, Roofe 8; Ekuban 5 (Cibicki 38, 6)

Subs not used: Lonergan, Borthwick-Jackson, Anita, Shaughnessy

Goals: Roofe 63 (assisted Alioski), 64 (assisted Cibicki), 90+4 (assisted Saiz)

Bookings: Phillips 29 (foul), Vieira 56 (foul), Alioski 60 (dissent)

QPR Star Man — Jack Robinson 6 Precious few candidates for this, O thought Robinson played and defended pretty well and is one of the few bright spots from the season so far so, meh, give it to him.

Referee — Chris Kavanagh (Manchester) 8 Very decent, nothing major wrong, gave Phillips and particularly Scowen the benefit of the doubt for bad tackles in the first half.

Attendance — 15,506 (2,800 Leeds approx) As said, noticeable how many people stayed to the end when 2-0 down, comparative to Brentford, but Ian Holloway’s praise of the fans for helping the team was transparent. For almost the entire game the whole crowd sat there in a glum silence, waiting for what felt like the inevitable. Bar the cheers for the alcohol withdrawal from the away end this was as quiet as I can ever recall the place.

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ozexile added 10:04 - Dec 11
Good write up. The lack of width is a real problem. I know they're on a different planet but watching Barcelona this morning with players hugging the touchline showed the benefit of wingers. It creates so much more space for your creative players in the middle. The amount of times on saturday we were trying to thread passes through the eye of a needle because it's so congested in there. Come on Ian football isn't that complicated.

ngbqpr added 10:27 - Dec 11
I think the marks say it all - pretty much 6s across the board, suggesting no lack of effort / commitment...but a group of players either not quite good enough / ready for this level, or good enough but losing confidence.

QPRCambs added 10:44 - Dec 11
I accept the general arguments against changing the manager but watching the recent games does raise the question of whether someone else could get more out of this group of players. Certainly the line-ups (formations) don't help Olly's cause and as for the substitutions, well they just seem to be based on the notion of throwing people on, mixing it up and hoping for a break. Not sure I want the drama of change at this point in time but to be fair to the Board, if they see a couple more performances like this I wouldn't blame them for pulling the trigger.

Spiritof67 added 11:45 - Dec 11
Clive, much as I appreciate your view that a host of players may be off loaded as they are out of contract; allowing us to dip our toe in the transfer market next summer, we may not have the luxury of attracting players to the club if we are playing in League 1.

We may not be able to get a quick fix, but as you say chopping and changing the team is not helping the consistency of the team. If we are going to play a traditional big centre forward, as we did on Saturday, then you have to play with a winger who will get to the goal line and cross the ball back to enable players to attack the ball.

The best move of the first half led to the ball being played wide for a cross that could easily have led to a goal. For long periods of the second half, Wszolek was standing in acres of space in front of the Ellerslie Road stand but did not receive the ball as we tried to manufacture openings in a. crowded midfield.

We have a number of gifted individuals but we are not working as a team. What is the answer? Coaching, tactics? There should be a system that is drummed into the players on the training field; so whoever is plays for the first team knows exactly what they are expected to do in a system (Plan A or Plan B) so whether it's Wheeler, Samual or Uncle Tom Cobbly we have some consistency.

I appreciate we have had a number of injuries that has weakened our defence for example, but surely there must be be players from the Under 23 team that should be coached and when the need arises given the opportunity to play in their position in a system learnt on the training field.Look at the record books and see how many players, under the age of 23, played at Wembley in 1967.

So frustrating at the moment!

ivoranidea added 12:35 - Dec 11
We all see games differently, depending not just on knowledge, experience, prejudice etc - but literally where we are sitting. From my seat near the front of Ellerslie, loft side, I was really struck by the complete absence of anybody playing in from of Pavel. He did his best, but his main role was in the back four. I couldn't work out if somebody was meant to be there and wasn't or that leaving that space was some part of a master plan (in which case incredible). When Pavel was able to get forward he did well - putting in crosses, running at his man etc. but there were limits. I don't think a change of manager would help at this stage - and maybe, sitting in the pitch-level dugout he didn't notice;, but hey, we've got a Direcor of Football sitting in the stands, surely he could/should have seen it?

ivoranidea added 12:37 - Dec 11
should read - "in front of Pavel" - damn spellchecker thinks it knows about football!

Marshy added 12:52 - Dec 11
There has been one thing consistent this season, and that's too many players being played out of their natural position. At times this has been forced upon us with the defensive injury list we've had, but there is just too much unnecessary chopping and changing of players and tactics. It's no wonder some of the squad haven't got a clue what they're supposed to be doing. There is always much talk of Ian Holloway, and whether a change of manager would improve things, but I wonder whether we should be turning our attention more to our coaching staff. It's this department where perhaps we could do with a shake up, and bring in fresh blood with new ideas and expertise. After all we have one of the biggest squads in the division, and on paper it doesn't look that bad a group of players. We should certainly be doing a bit better than we are.

The season is not quite at the half way point, so there is still plenty of time to turn this round. Onuoha and Hall have already returned, players out on loan could return, and even with the constraints were under, who knows what the transfer window might bring us. I'm still definitely glass half full.

Myke added 16:15 - Dec 11
Thanks Clive, It's beginning to look like we're in trouble here. How, under current restrictions, do you see us getting out of it? What is so different now than the way we performed against Wolves for example? For me the capitulation v Forest has demoralised us in a way similar to Newcastle last season. All the good work v Wolves and Sheff United was not just undone but put into debit with that performance and we haven't recovered since. What do you feel we need to do between now and May to survive and get these surplus players off-loaded?

Phil_i_P_Daddy added 18:05 - Dec 11
Yet again, I agree with your assessment of where the club is at.
I've got a season ticket this year, but simply didn't have enough confidence in the team to take a day off work and sit in the cold for what I couldn't help but believe would be another poor performance lead defeat.

DonO added 19:41 - Dec 11
Talking to a Leeds fan in The Defectors after the game who remarked that QPR don’t have any pace. We often look ponderous to me, playing far too many ineffectual sideways passes compared to the opposition.

stneotsbloke added 20:14 - Dec 11
I have to agree with much of what has been said before me.
I'm still pro Ollie but he really does seem to be running out of ideas. It's easy, and maybe justified, to criticise Ollie but who does the coaching, maybe that's where the real problem lies.
Of course we've got injury problems at the back but the rest of the (very big) squad has more than enough championship experience to support a makeshift back four. We're relying on soft/lucky goals and two shots on target in a home game is pathetic. We're sinking like a stone. League 1 would be a disaster for the club.
The home crowd are obviously frustrated but, thankfully, still seem to be with Ollie and have not started picking on specific players but much more of the dross we've produced in recent weeks and it will start getting very difficult for Ollie.
Come on Ollie/Birch, sort it out and give us something to cheer.


Myke added 21:57 - Dec 11
DonO that sounds like an old familiar problem that I thought we had addressed by swapping Henry for Scowen and buying Wheeler (who never plays). Id we include Smith then we are going to be one-paced and predictable, although to be fair to the lad if he doesn't get crosses in front of him then he is not being used to his strengths. To me Sylla is the most complete striker we have with Smith as a very effective impact sub when the opposition tires regardless of the score, with say 20 mins to go. I know Mackie and Washington were a very effective duo in our opening games but that seems a long time ago now, I don't see any compulsion to start either of them. Why not try Chair wide on the left and push Freeman further forward and see what happens. Scowen and Luongo , supported by Chair and Wszolek should be capable of combatting most midfields

TacticalR added 23:08 - Dec 11
Thanks for your report.

I agree that:

1. The problems are deep-seated
2. There are no quick fixes, such as getting rid of the manager
3. We need to hang on this division until the end of the season

I also believe that for all our defensive shortcomings in this game the real problem was in attack - we had absolutely nothing to worry the opposition. In both the victories over Wolves and Sheffield we scored first so had something to hang on to, but at the moment if the opposition scores first then we can't get back into the game, because neither Washington or Smith is a goal-scorer.

RonisRs added 09:43 - Dec 12
the best form of defence is attack.
the bottom line, is we cant shoot on target, let alone score goals....

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