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QPR comprehensively beaten by Boro – Report
Sunday, 21st Jan 2018 13:57 by Clive Whittingham

QPR’s improved winter form ground to a shuddering halt at Loftus Road on Saturday with a deserved three nil tonking from Middlesbrough.

And as soon as the form came back, it went away again. Queens Park Rangers, comprehensively outplayed, out fought, out thought and out scored on their own patch by Middlesbrough.

It’s easy to talk about the money Boro have spent this season in comparison to QPR and just shrug your shoulders at the one-sided outcome of a meeting between the sides. They started with £15m Britt Assombalonga up front, former England winger Stewart Downing behind him and £6m former Chelsea man Patrick Bamford joining in from wide. That left strikers Ashley Fletcher (£6.5m), Rudy Gestede (£6m) and Martin Braithwaite (£8m) on the bench. QPR started youth teamer Aramide Oteh up front alongside Conor Washington whose struggles to adapt to this level after moving from Peterborough two years ago are well publicised. On paper, it was like bringing a toothpick to a gun fight – on grass, it looked even more lop-sided than that.

But QPR have won three and drawn one of five home games against the top six this season, including a 2-1 success here against table topping Wolves who’ve spent even more than Boro. Rangers may have made Tony Pulis’ team look like the Argentinean World Cup winners of 1986 but they’re certainly a long way from that. In fact, so far this season, they’ve been a long way short of even being a play-off contender in the Championship – ninth at the start of play, already onto a second manager of the season and with away defeats at Leeds, Forest, Wolves, Bristol City and most recently Millwall under their belts. They were only five places and eight points north of QPR at the start of play, so this shouldn’t have been the lost cause the home team made it look, really from the first whistle if we’re being honest.

Ian Holloway said his team caused Boro “all sorts of problems” in the first 15 minutes, but even that meagre claim bore no relation to the game I was at. There was no tempo from Rangers, no urgency, no bite, no high press, no press of any sort really. That energy - particularly from the midfield three of Luke Freeman, Massimo Luongo and Josh Scowen - which has caused problems for several of the division’s better teams this season was entirely absent. The hooped players stood off their opponents and let them get on with it – an attitude summed up by George Friend’s goal after the half hour which flew into the top corner like a rocket from long range but only after he’d had the time to take three touches of the ball and assess his options with nobody making any attempt to close him down 30 yards from goal.

Such was Boro’s total domination with the ball - and obvious physical superiority and far sounder, simpler tactical plan without it - that it’s easy to conclude that QPR couldn’t really have done much about this. But Rangers just weren’t at it and both the goals they conceded before the break were entirely preventable. Adama Traore had already shot wide and Rangers had survived five minutes of steadily building, incessant pressure from the visitors when the first went in from centre back Daniel Ayala at the back post – the R’s caught out by the old near post flick for far post late arrival at a corner trick that Alan McDonald and Darren Peacock used to execute so often at that end of the ground back in the day. Contrary to Holloway’s opinion that his team had been having the better of things to that point, we’d just finished a conversation in F Block about how it felt like we were already slipping quietly to a defeat when the ball hit the net.

Patrick Bamford had a third disallowed for offside before half time and with ten minutes of the first half still to play Rangers had already been reduced to moving Joel Lynch up front. Now, while it may be a positive to shift a liability out of the defence and into a position he can do less damage, and perhaps Holloway was simply trying to spare young Oteh the ignominy of being subbed before half time, slinging your crap centre half up front out of desperation after little more than half an hour of play is pretty low. Embarrassing in fact. Grant Hall’s absence, even from the bench, after all his injury problems before Christmas, deeply concerning for him, and for those of us staring down the barrel of five more months watching Lynch as that middle centre back – or centre forward, in this case.

Compared to the shape, system and tactics the much-maligned Tony Pulis brought – clearly defined, simple, well drilled, every player knowing his role – this was pretty shambolic. A 30 yarder from Jack Robinson early on that seemed to have Darren Randolph in the Boro goal beaten, and an attempt at a first time volley from Washington chasing another long punt down the field in the final minute of normal time all there was to show for 45 minutes of pretty forlorn, hopeless toil.

Two subs at half time – Oteh, out of his depth, removed for Matt Smith; Bright Osayi-Samuel on instead of Jake Bidwell – only made things worse. The move took Jack Robinson out of the centre back role he’s excelled in this season and left turnstile Lynch in there with Onuoha. That new defence, skewed all over the place, would go on to let substitute Gestede in for a one on one chance which he beat Smithies with only for Robinson to clear from the line, then a completely free header from eight yards which Smithies saved well, and finally Adama Traore into the gaping hole between Lynch and Robinson to slide in a third goal with five minutes left for play. Traore, typically, hadn't scored all for Boro in 49 senior appearances over a year and a half prior to this.

Smith’s arrival did at least worry Boro’s enormous back four into almost conceding a penalty. Referee Oliver Langford is known as a lenient official, and in general we quite like that, but at least one of the two incidents where Smith was knocked to the ground in the six yard box chasing a cross, once with an elbow and the other more blatantly when Ayala had his hands around his neck, looked like they should have been a spot kick. QPR haven’t had a penalty since the opening day of the season against Reading and when Smith was later then penalised himself for much less it became clear he wasn’t about to get one for us here. Langford not the first referee this season who I think has judged the big target man harshly when he’s clearly being fouled in the penalty area. Holloway and Pulis, friends off the pitch, at it like cats and dogs on the touchline after the second incident.

But you can’t play as poorly as QPR did here and go away talking about refereeing decisions. Langford was fine overall, and Rangers weren’t even close to that.

Luongo shot over from miles out, Lynch scuffed a shot at Randolph as the ball bobbled around the area. Osayi-Samuel started well but quickly fell out of the game completely as QPR - as they’d done when in trouble against Millwall - went too long, too narrow, too direct, too early against a back four built to deal with exactly that. The former Blackpool winger was starved of the ball as one long punt after another was pumped up towards Smith, with Ryan Shotton, Ayala and Ben Gibson all more than happy and capable of standing their ground and heading that shit back down the pitch from whence it came.

It was the absolute dictionary definition of a bad day at the office. Second best in every single department and deservedly well beaten by a much better team. Meanwhile, on the other side of Hammersmith Broadway, last week’s 3-1 win at Burton was being put into some perspective by the Brewers’ 6-0 defeat at Craven Cottage.

Oh Rangers, why do we do it to ourselves?

Links >>> Knee Jerks >>> Photo Gallery >>> Ratings and Reports >>> Message Board Match Thread

QPR: Smithies 6; Onuoha 5, Lynch 5, Robinson 5; Furlong 6, Bidwell 5 (Osayi-Samuel 46, 5); Scowen 5 (Eze 70, 6), Freeman 5, Luongo 5; Washington 5, Oteh 5 (Smith 46, 5)

Subs not used: Ingram, Manning, Baptiste, Wszolek

Boro: Randolph 6; Shotton 7, Ayala 7, Gibson 7, Friend 7; Bamford 6 (Clayton 72, 7), Leadbitter 7, Howson 7, Traore 8; Downing 7 (Christie 87, -); Asombalonga 6 (Gestede 69, 7)

Subs not used: Konstantopoulos, Braithwaite, Fletcher, Johnson

Goals: Ayala 24 (assisted Traore), Friend 34 (unassisted), Traore 85 (assisted Gestede)

QPR Star Man – Darnell Furlong 6 Almost not worth handing one out but Furlong did a decent job on speed merchant Traore in the first half causing him to be moved to the opposite wing for the second where he ran amok. And I like Furlong. So there.

Referee – Oliver Langford (West Midlands) 6 Usual calm, unfussy, cardless officiating of the game that we’ve come to expect from him, but I thought at leats one of the fouls on Smith in the second half was worth a penalty and to then penalise him and give a free kick the other way for far less in the third instance was taking the piss a bit.

Attendance 14,182 (2,000 Middlesbrough approx) Bit of defiance from Q Block towards the end which was nice to hear but overall the place was like a morgue in keeping with the performance, the score and the weather. So outplayed had Rangers been that the half time and full time whistles were greeted with nothing very much at all, no booing, no anger, just apathy. The video footage of the Middlesbrough fan pissing in Alex Smithies' water bottle during the second half is disgusting, but did at least result in a scrum scene between stewards and fans in the lower School End which distracted me from the game for a bit.

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stevec added 14:25 - Jan 21
Furlong MOTM? Woeful first half.

He lost his marker on first goal and backed off Friend on the second.

stneotsbloke added 14:29 - Jan 21
An absolutely spot on report.
My first thought when I saw the Middlesborough team warming up was to wonder how the vertically challenged Washington and the inexperienced Oteh were going to get anything out of the big and muscular 'boro defence, this proved correct. Smith never seems great when he starts a game and is a leaden footed lump but maybe this is one game he should have started, if only to bolster our perennially suspect defence from set pieces. Oteh, Bright Samuel and Eze are good prospects but, perhaps understandably, but this was not a game for raw youngsters and they all looked well out of their depth. Their time will come though.
Of course I'll continue to support Olly in what is clearly a long term project but we were totally outplayed in every department. A bad day but not the end of the world.

ShotKneesHoop added 15:00 - Jan 21
This year, if we don't score first and early on, we are buggered. The quietest game I've ever experienced at Lotus Road'. Even the 3,265 that attended the Div 3 game against Oldham in 1964 made more noise than yesterday's crowd.

I was in the West Paddock where there was a communal shrug of the shoulders and the murmur of monastery monks from 15 minutes awards to the end of the game.

The South Africa toilets were the highlight of the game.

Phil_i_P_Daddy added 16:01 - Jan 21
Eze 6 ?!

Unless 'boro switched centre backs on us, we set up to play the ball on the floor through them. And failed dismally. Even if you put it on a plate for Washington you wouldn't put money on him converting.
For me, our midfield, and by that I mean Freeman, only came alive for the first 15-20 mins of the second half.

Brucefan1_ added 16:15 - Jan 21
Well that is depressing and it looks like Ollie reverts back to the long ball when things go wrong early.So much for plan B and like one poster above me when we fall behind he panics and that is no good IMO.
I was hoping for at least a draw here because the games coming up are going to be ugly I sadly predict.Nothing makes life more miserable than QPR on a losing streak .
On a humorous side note I won an auction on EBay for a retro QPR Track Suit top but its about as warm as my tee shirt and I cant even run out and grab the post in it or I will freeze to death .But it looks good

baz_qpr added 16:46 - Jan 21
Agree with Steve I don't see why Furlong scored above anyone else brung nothing to the party going forward, Scowen for me was probably our best player, and I think Clive has been quite kind to Oteh and Washington to score them the same as Scowen, Luongo and Freeman, who never got the ball back or the runs made that they would of expected from their front men

DesertBoot added 17:52 - Jan 21
Christ that was pitiful wasn’t it? Lynch up front was absolutely ridiculous, made us look amateur and Olly clueless - never again please.
Conor found his level again last week but was never, ever going to score yesterday. Move on

Spiritof67 added 21:00 - Jan 21
Totally agree with your match report. We had no drive in the first half, and only came alive at the start of the second half. Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that we play much better when attacking the Loft End. When Smith came on at least he was the same height as some of Boro's defence. The only problem; we contually "lump" the ball forward and although Smith wins a good percentage of headers, there is no one anticipating the flick ons! Basic training ground practice required if we play a long ball game.

Although it's good to see the youngsters getting their chance, with Smith coming on as substitute, maybe the better option would have been to have brought on Wszolek to play wide, get to the goal line, and play the ball back for Smith to attack.

But Middlesbrough were the much better side on the day and deserved the 3 points

Myke added 21:07 - Jan 21
To be fair, Holliway set us up the same as v Burton, nippy forwards against giant centre-backs. Clearly the plan was to keep it on the deck and play through and around these big but not especially mobile defenders. That this didn't work is down to a few factors. As Clive points out, there is a world of difference between Burton and Middlesboro (especially under Pulis) in terms of quality. Clive also pointed that last weeks fare was pretty crap, notwithstanding the 3 goals scored.
The second factor was we seemed not up for it at all. No team in this division ( Newcastle last season INcluded) is significantly better than any other. But if your not bang at it from the get go you will be turned over and quite significantly at that.
Thirdly, as has been alluded to already, Holliway's plan 'B' seems pretty much to hit a long ball to Smith and that really was playing into Boro's hands. He needs to be more tactically astute. You can have a sound game plan, but if it is not working for whatever reason, you need to be able to come up with a suitable alternative. It may not work either but at least it demonstrates to the fans that he has given it some thought beyond 'lump it up to the big man'.
To me this sounds like a game for Sylla; decent physical strength, good hold up play, a bit of movement, all the kind of things that might have caused their defence some problems. I can understand Ian starting with Washington again - he's a confidence player and must have been buzzing after last week - but not as the main/ most experienced striker.
So it seems we are somewhat better than Burton and Birmingham, but somewhat worse than Boro/Forest with a few pleasant results to enjoy v Wolves, Sheff Utd and Cardiff and some dire games v Sunderland, Bolton and Milwall to suffer through. 16th -18th essentially
Finally what's with the obsession over player ratings?Just Clive's personal opinion, the logic behind which he has explained many times in the past.

Northernr added 21:12 - Jan 21
Great post Myke, thanks, nodding along with lots of that.

DonO added 21:15 - Jan 21
A bad day at the office indeed.

I thought it was a great ball in for the corner for their first goal.....inswinging, like a bullet and at a great height (I say this because I see so many poor corner deliveries).

The second was a howitzer which gave our keeper no chance.

And then we're two nil down to a Pulis team.

I think to get anything out of most games the team has to be 'at it' and we weren't.

Luongo was particularly poor and without I'm we lacked any real forward impetus....Freeman can't do it all (although he tries to).

T_Block added 22:02 - Jan 21
Well your report is abit schizophrenic.In my view we lost as a result of the first 20 minutes having no energy and no high press.They had a brilliant corner and world for a second.After that it is difficult against a Pullis team.I was impressed with his management.However we had a good go at 2-0 down -you do not really give Holloway and the team any credit for that.DO NOT LISTEN TO THE WHINERS -THEY KNOW NOTHING.

Northernr added 22:31 - Jan 21

Myke added 22:46 - Jan 21
Sounds like you're a name of two halves Clive

TheChef added 08:12 - Jan 22
I still think Sylla is being criminally underused.

I'm not anti-Holloway, bit his in-game decisions do really frustrate me. Throw Lynch up front in the first half? Tear up the defence at half time thus nullifying the impact of Robinson in a position where he has excelled? Bonkers.

Plenty more games to go, and we were probably due a going over by one of the top ten sides. But as mentioned, we don't help ourselves do we?

PinnerPaul added 12:19 - Jan 22
I know you hate people being picky with the marks but Furlong our MOTM - really????

He was one of our worst players- it was he who lost his man for the 1st goal and he has to take some responsibility for the 2nd as well.

In the 2nd half crowd and team mates were shouting at him to get forward more and his 'long' throws were nothing of the sort and included one foul throw in the first half - common at Under 8s, seen much less at this level!

SimonJames added 14:13 - Jan 22
If your fallback plan is always to punt the long one up to the front, why not just start with Sylla and Smith and see if they can cause some panic amongst the oppo defenders (and maybe even score)?
Washington's goal scoring (and assists) was woeful last year and is no better this season. He shouldn't be starting.
Finally, I really don't think IH knows how to get better performances out of these players.

smegma added 13:02 - Jan 23
Arguing over who was MOTM?? As Clive pointed out, it was hard to pick ANYONE. No matter who he picked, some would disagree, that's the nature of football opinions. If you don't like his opinion, write your own bloody report. As for his report, I thought it was bang on the money. We were poor in every department, we were outplayed, out thought, out fought in every area of the pitch. And our 'tactics' left a lot to be desired. Why oh why is the reaction to going a goal or two behind to just go aimlessly long ??? As for Lynch upfront in the first half , pub football at its best.

TacticalR added 21:18 - Jan 23
Thanks for your report.

In Holloway's defence I thought we played OK until the first goal went in. However, we didn't look like scoring, which has been our problem all this season. It's worth pointing out that Middlesbrough didn't look that creative up front either - their first goal was from a corner, their second Friend's thunderbolt from deep. The match was over the moment that second goal went in.

I am beginning to wonder about Smith. I know he gets all sorts of illegal grief from opposition defenders, but surely he's got to be a bit stronger? He's also got to put away a few more of the chances that come his way.

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