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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…’

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

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

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isawqpratwcity added 03:31 - Feb 19
Thanks for the report, Andy.

Ok, we won, and deserved to win, but then, we should have won. It was Bolton at ours, ffs!

Three plusses: a clean sheet, though it sounds like Bolton hardly deserved a goal; a tasty cross from our current Great White Hope, Smyth; and three points (always welcome!).
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DesertBoot added 09:02 - Feb 19
Good report Andy thankyou. Bolton the worst side I've seen visit Loftus Road this season yet they could have easily taken the lead as we (again) offered very little up front.
Still, it's good we are finding a way to beat sides around us who are worse than us - even if lumping it long to Smith is the plan A.
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simmo added 09:19 - Feb 19
Good work, Hillman
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Phil_i_P_Daddy added 10:11 - Feb 19
Three points and a clean sheet. Excellent, can’t argue with that.
But... for me, Bolton were an embarrassment and offered virtually NO resistance for ninety minutes. Arguably our best team on paper (if only we had one on grass!) matched Bolton for disinterest for the first half and, but for a ‘worldy’ from Smithies, we could have been behind at the break.
It was like watching a testimonial between two teams who were going to play each other in a cup final the next day.
Fair play to Smith, for all his immobility and ‘catchphrase headholding’ after yet another tame header, he did superbly well to get to the ball and head it towards the far post for Lynch to bump into.
And to cap it all, a ball played into the danger area met by an oncoming striker for the second. A Rangers rarity these days.
“Professional” enough I guess (against ten men).
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Marshy added 10:47 - Feb 19
In the end Smith was credited with a goal and an assist, but the number of good chances he wasted was criminal. Charlie Austin would have buried most of those chances, but sadly Smith is very ordinary in comparison. But we have and are creating lots of scoring opportunities, and that is to be commended.
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cornwallmike added 12:01 - Feb 19
Good report - thanks. You hit the nail on the head - twice - on Washington. "being always one beat too late for everything" and "full of hard work and running, but always on his heels - he just doesn't seem to have the anticipation needed." When is Holloway going to see the opportunity to drop Washington and get one of the young kids in his place now we are (relatively) safe ? It took him 80 minutes on Saturday when he should have made the decision before the game.
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xian added 16:15 - Feb 19
I think you are being a bit harsh Andy. First, the game was entertaining, with 22 shots and quite a few good moves. Secondly, while Smith could easily have had a hat-trick in the first half alone, he deserves credit for getting in the right position so often which is what creates those chances. He will still improve - his goal was a corker. Thirdly, given how negatively Bolton played, it was always going to be difficult to break them down. But we did and we won comfortably.
Where I totally agree is that we now need to begin to give starts to the youngsters. Smyth has had one, and surely deserves a place at Sheffield tomorrow ahead of Washington. However, while it would be great to see Eze start, he is a bit more difficult to fit in as he is an attacking midfielder rather than a striker.
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TacticalR added 17:07 - Feb 19
Thanks for your report.

I had a different feeling about the game (i.e. I didn't think we were that dominant). I thought for most of the game we looked like two teams without much up front (like a lot of the teams at the lower end of the division). I think that if Bolton had scored first they might have relaxed and started playing. Bolton were quite successful at stifling us and we looked short of ideas. This really came home after the sending off - we didn't know to use our extra man advantage, and the crowd began to get restless. Once again the key goal didn't come from our attackers, but from a defender on a set piece. However, I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, and at least this season we are beating the teams we should be beating.
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Myke added 21:21 - Feb 19
Thanks Andy. By the sounds of it another mediocre game but won and nothing conceded. In the opening 16 games we scored 18 goals of which the vast majority were scored by Smith/Sylla/Mackie/ Washington. In the last 16 we have scored one less but there is a far greater spread. That is a bit frustrating because if we could have combined the spread with the original 'prolificacy' of the strikers we would have be in a far healthier position. If Holloway can crack that conundrum...
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timcocking added 15:14 - Feb 20
A harsh report.

Ok, not the best performance of all time, but we were pretty reasonable, dominant start to finish, comfortable winners.
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Patrick added 17:49 - Feb 20
I know the big man has taken some stick in previous games, but I have to say Smith MOTM for me in this one - he dominated two big centre halfs all afternoon, how he didn't get at least one pen I don't know, and not his fault we persisted in pumping it long to him for an hour. Once we used the wings (hallelujah) with Freeman/Lynch up one side and Smyth/Eze up the other , he looked more effective and got his reward. Hope the lesson has sunk in with the management!
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