|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 0 Bolton Wanderers|
Saturday, 17th February 2018 Kick-off 15:00
QPR perseverance eventually downs Bolton – Report
Sunday, 18th Feb 2018 23:10 by Andy Hillman
QPR huffed and puffed and finally blew Bolton’s house down in a one sided, but not completely dominant performance. Andy Hillman was there for Loft For Words.
To cast your eye over the final result and associated match stats, you’d be forgiven for assuming that this was as one-sided a performance as you’re likely to see – two goals, a clean sheet, 70% possession, and 22 shots of which eight were on target. But whilst QPR did eventually run out deserved winners, it took a red card for Bolton’s Mark Davis, and Bolton effectively electing to not attack in any meaningful fashion aside from set pieces throughout the game for it to happen.
Like Barnsley and many other games before it, this game will not live long in the memory. Indeed, red card and another encouraging cameo from Paul Smyth aside, there was precious little to write home about. With this win, QPR’s fourth in 2018, moving the R’s 11 points clear of the drop zone, thoughts can begin to (cautiously, not complacently…) move to next season, and Smyth and the other youngsters whom formed the majority of the bench for QPR must be part of that thought process.
Smyth’s half hour cameo gave the fans who are running out of patience with Conor Washington being always one beat too late to everything a real glimpse of what an pacy direct attacker should look like, and rounded out his performance with a fantastic cross for Smith to crash home the second goal in injury time.
That goal sealed the game, however it was a goal from a less likely source that finally broke the Bolton resistance on 72 minutes. Sammy Ameobi’s sole contribution to the game was conceding a foul wide on the left hand side, and then spend a minute refusing to retreat the 10 yards, and generally making an arse of himself. Freeman’s subsequent deep cross was met at the far post by Smith, who headed back across goal to find Joel Lynch under the cross bar to head in from a yard out. Lynch has been (rightfully) much maligned since his transfer from Huddersfield in 2016, but this goal capped another impressive performance for the Welshman who’s come back strongly since his annual Christmas sabbatical.
QPR lined up for the game in what we can assume is the ‘new normal’ – a 352 with Bidwell and Wzsolek the wingbacks with the ‘usual three’ in both defence and midfield. Washington and Smith formed the big man-little man partnership up top. Eze, despite his impressive performance vs Wolves last time out was kept on the bench, alongside Smyth, Bright, Chair and Furlong, with Baptise on baby-sitting duty in the middle. Much-loved Karl Henry started in the middle for Bolton.
Bolton actually fashioned the first real chance of the game after eight minutes – an under-hit corner from Josh Vela was met at the near post by the interestingly named ‘Derik’, which required Smithies to make a full length save to his right to keep out.
From this point forward, QPR took control of the game, fashioning a series of half chances. Robinson’s prodigious long throws were causing mayhem in the Bolton box, Smith the target in chief, having a number of good chances headed straight at Alnwick or over the bar. QPR did actually get the ball in the net on the 20-minute mark, Burke turning in a Smith attempt; however it was correctly flagged for offside.
Bolton seemed relatively happy with soaking up the pressure, offering almost nothing offensively. Tyler Walker, who scored twice for Nottingham Forest against QPR earlier this season cut a fairly ineffective presence up front for Bolton, and with no real support from Ameobi or the Bolton midfield, the QPR defensive trio had a relatively easy afternoon.
But for all QPR’s possession and pressure, it was Bolton again who fashioned the first real chance of the second half. Having already saved well from Derik in the first half, Smithies now had to make a save from the other Bolton centre-half, David Wheater, who beat his man to a far post header from a set piece.
The game changed very little to be honest with the sending off of Mark Little on 54 minutes. At first glance Little’s lunge on Luongo (at least from the Ellerslie Road…) didn’t appear to be too bad, however Scott Duncan wasted no time in pulling out a straight red for the former Bristol City right back. Subsequent replays showed that Little had both his feet off the floor, and chopped Luongo down late – the only thing that saved Luongo was that the lunge went through his legs, and he took Luongo down via his hip.
Bolton were already at this point happy to sit back and defend with two banks of four, and the red card simply meant that their already lightweight presence in the QPR half was further diminished. Holloway waited for 10 long minutes before shuffling his pack to take advantage of the extra man. Bidwell was sacrificed for Smyth, and the Northern Irishman took up a role wide left of Smith, in an attacking triumvirate with Washington.
Washington was having another poor game in truth, and it was no surprise to see him subsequently replaced by Eze with 10 minutes to go. Washington has now started the last six games for QPR, and made 34 appearances in total, for a total of six goals – two of which were scored on the opening day against Reading. This performance summed Washington in a nutshell – full of hard work and running, but always on his heels – he just doesn’t seem to have the anticipation needed, and I’m not sure you can teach it either.
Lynch’s goal when it finally arrived settled the nerves of the QPR fans who were beginning to think that it was going to be one of ‘those’ games at Loftus Road, and Smith’s goal at the death sealed the deal.
After the match Holloway called the performance ‘professional’, and lauded the players for continuing to plug away, but the truth is that Bolton allowed QPR to do practically as they pleased, and aside from launch it long to Smith, there was very little guile from QPR before the introduction of Smyth and Eze.
To totally misquote George Orwell: ‘If there is hope, it lies in the Youth…’
Match Gallery: 20 photos
QPR: Smithies 7; Onuoha 7, Lynch 7, Robinson 6; Wzsolek 6, Bidwell 6 (Smyth 64, 7); Scowen 6, Luongo 6, Freeman 6; Washington 5 (Eze, 82 -), Smith 7
Subs not used: Ingram, Furlong, Baptiste, Chair, Osayi-Samuel
Goals: Lynch 72 (assisted Smith) Smith 90+1 (assisted Smyth)
Bolton: Alnwick, Burke, Wheater, Beevers, Little, Derik (Morais 81), Henry, Vela (Karacan 45) Robinson, Walker (Le Fondre 69), Ameobi
Subs not used: A Taylor, Dervite, Howard, Clough
Bookings: Henry 36 (foul)
Sending Off: Little 54 (serious foul play)
QPR Star Man – Joel Lynch 7 Smith with a goal and an assist, but thought that Lynch’s was the more complete performance. Solid at the back (albeit against meagre opposition) got the vital opener, and was even playing as an auxiliary left winger following the red card. Good to see an upturn in form from him, he now needs to maintain it. Smithies made two vital saves, but giving the MOTM to the keeper in a game of this nature sends completely the wrong message. Smyth’s cameo was encouraging – should be starting over Washington on current form.
Referee: Scott Duncan 6 Got the one big decision correct, but seemed to buy a lot of whatever Bolton were selling in terms of soft free kicks, and poor old Matt Smith still can’t catch a break in the opposition penalty box. Didn’t think he was as bad as some on the message board did though…
Attendance 12,638 (500 Bolton Approx)
The Twitter @andy_hillman, @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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