QPR suffer horrible déjà vu as Forest run riot again - Report
Monday, 26th Feb 2018 09:46 by Clive Whittingham
QPR were thrashed by Nottingham Forest for the second time this season on Saturday afternoon, losing 5-2 at Loftus Road to go with the 4-0 loss at the City Ground in November.
‘Revenge’ was the watchword in the pre-match build up to this one, as Queens Park Rangers eyed a chance to pay back Nottingham Forest for a 4-0 defeat inflicted at the City Ground in November – a result which derailed a promising start to QPR’s season and set the tone for a difficult winter from which Rangers are yet to emerge. Win here, banish that ghost, and with winnable home games to come between now and May a reasonable end to the campaign could possibly still be salvaged.
Well, lol, as the kids say. Far from avenging anything, Rangers actually doubled down on their earlier humiliation, this time shipping five goals on their own patch to a Forest side which sat below them in the table at the start of play, arrived at Loftus Road without a win in six games, and had only scored three times in their previous eight matches. This was an absolutely appalling performance from Ian Holloway’s side, and a richly deserved thrashing. Forest made to look like Arsenal’s Invincibles of 2002, QPR more like the Disney Pixar version.
Modern football’s obsession with interviewing everybody about everything – pre-match, post match, TV, club website, press conference, local papers, quotes, quotes, quotes – inevitably leads to a lot of bland, trite rubbish being said and printed. What really is there left to say about a team that’s basically been sixteenth all the way through a 46 game season? But QPR’s players, management and chairman might want to turn in the “lessons learnt” rhetoric for a while. Rarely has there ever been a more clear example of all the same mistakes being made all over again in a football match as this.
At the City Ground in November Mark Warburton’s Forest played a 4-2-3-1 formation which, as it turned out, was absolutely ideally suited to picking apart QPR’s much maligned wing-back system. The forwards outnumbered the back three and were able to persistently get in down both sides of the QPR defence and cause havoc. The deep lying midfield two crowded out Luke Freeman’s influence and Josh Scowen and Massimo Luongo found themselves swamped. The 2-3 part of the system placed five key players in between the lines of the QPR set up and they revelled in the space they were afforded, scoring four times before declaring.
There’s been a change of manager and an extensive turnover in personnel at Forest since then. In fact, remarkably, only Ben Osborn started here and played in the previous game – and even he has been switched from central midfield to left back. But new boss Aitor Karanka played the same shape, and Ian Holloway did likewise, paving the way for a 90 minute re-run. Different players in red, but exactly the same problems caused for those in Hoops – defence overrun, space between the lines, players getting behind the wing backs and down the side of the back three, Freeman crowded out of the game, Scowen and Luongo overawed. Kieran Dowell was tormenter in chief by the Trent, here it was Lee Tomlin, who looks like a human pork pie but has picked QPR apart for Bristol City on this ground before and did so again here with a masterful performance that included two goals and an assist.
I’m not going to trot out the old definition of insanity thing again but it’s very difficult to sympathise with, empathise with, understand and/or support Ian Holloway after that. Yeh it’s a new-look Forest team, but the shape hasn’t changed and to do exactly the same thing with exactly the same players as he’d done in a game we lost 4-0 and expect it to somehow go better for some reason is 64 carat mental. What were we relying on this time the power of prayer? The formation is designed to get Scowen, Luongo and Freeman in their correct positions altogether, but Scowen and Luongo were our two worst players here for my money – taken into deep water and drowned by Tomlin and co. Twice we’ve done this against Forest this season and twice we’ve had our arse handed to us – Forest, I say again, three goals in eight games, no wins in six, below us in the league, not a particularly good side by any measurement. A side with a left back at centre back and a central midfielder at left back. They’ve scored 41 goals all season – nine of them against Rangers.
Initially the game looked like it was to follow the pattern of several on this ground lately, with QPR grinding their way to a hard-fought three points in an uninspiring contest as the long, slow trudge to safety continues. Scowen volleyed his own flick up towards goal on nine minutes but saw the shot blocked, Matt Smith hit the underside of the bar with a header after Nedum Onuoha directed a Freeman corner back towards him – fans giving the linesman on the Ellerslie Road side pelters for not awarding the goal, we’ve got goal line technology now kids.
Forest, in keeping with Karanka’s miserable reputation at Middlesbrough, started wasting time after a quarter of an hour at 0-0, with giant Romanian goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon running through every trick in the book at goal kicks. They seemed happy with a draw but there had been a couple of warning signs that they’d end up with so much more than that. As early as the eleventh minute they’d caught QPR short-handed between the centre backs and wing backs and Joe Lolley cut a ball back for Lee Tomlin to dribble a poor shot wide. Five minutes later a suicidal throw in right across the face of their own defence had Rangers in trouble again and this time Alex Smithies had to deny Ben Brereton one on one. Four minutes later the same two players were facing off again – this time Smithies saved with his legs. Amber warning light flashing.
Then the flood gates opened. Ten before half time, bit of a dive by Colback over by Ellerslie Road but free kick awarded and Forest suddenly in a rush with the set pieces. One pass and Lolley was away, one more pass and Tomlin was arriving unmarked in the centre of the goal 12 yards out. Not missing from there, 1-0. Much like the botched throw in earlier, QPR had been absolutely opened up by one square pass inside the Forest half which took the wing backs out of the game and left the defenders exposed and outnumbered four v three. Smithies, who’d saved the first one, as angry as I’ve ever seen him.
One feared for QPR and the game as a spectacle from there. If Forest had been clock running at 0-0, God alone knows what they’d be like now they’d actually taken the lead. In actual fact, probably realising they had much the better of a limited opponent, Karanka’s team came out for the second half and cut loose. Rangers had drawn a save from Pantilimon through Luongo in the first minute of the half, but committing men forward to that merely left space behind for Forest to make hay in once more. Tomlin had time to pick his spot from 25 yards and he decided on the top left hand corner of Alex Smithies’ net.
When the going gets tough, Joel Lynch usually gets going, and sure enough with the big centre back rolling around on the edge of the area Joe Lolley was able to ghost into the wide open spaces of the QPR penalty box and volley in a third within four minutes. Lynch was replaced by Ebere Eze as QPR tried to pursue a three nil deficit, but any good gambler knows you don’t go chasing your losses and an eventual switch to a back two did nothing to stem the tide of Forest attacks. Conor Washington later came on for Jake Bidwell to even less positive effect.
There was a brief rally from the home team. Smith headed a good cross from Wszolek wide when he should have scored, and then did likewise with another header that referee Bond generously decided had been deflected. From that corner, Massimo Luongo bundled in from close range to make it 3-1. Had Eze then scored when he should have done after Pantilimon fumbled a corner straight to him there might have been a game on, and the keeper once again started his time wasting antics as a result – finally booked by Bond with 20 minutes left.
But QPR’s fecklessness was perhaps best summed up by Jack Robinson not taking his long throws in the first half when Pantilimon had the sun in his eyes, only to then start hurling them straight into the hands of the keeper in the second half when he’d moved down to the shade at the School End. We really are thick as pig shit sometimes, and with the fresh legs of Everton loanee Powell introduced instead of tiring Tomlin the away team were about to take the game away from us again.
Smithies will be disappointed with his parry from Dowell’s shot that gave Matty Cash a chance to slide in from an acute angle on 76 minutes for 4-1. Bizarrely QPR then made it 4-2 straight from the kick off as Matt Smith finally found the target with a header from a left wing cross – Freeman this time. Probably could have done without the goal celebration music for that one if I’m honest lads.
Paul Smyth, starting ahead of Washington and a willing worker in a lost cause, thrashed a volley wide after killing a cross with a fine first touch but Rangers really were all over the place and one of those famous comebacks that sides of the past have made their names with here against Newcastle and Port Vale never really looked on the cards. Jack Robinson, running across to take a long throw only to find the ball thrown in to his feet, panicking and striking a shot from ridiculously long range that smacked Matt Smith square in the chest, really rather typified a hapless afternoon of complete nonsense. A festering beer shit of a performance, topped off in injury time by the excellent Ben Brereton curling a 20 yarder round a static Nedum Onuoha and into the far corner for five. Is that the faint strains of the Benny Hill theme tune I can hear?
The 4-0 shellecking at the City Ground took the wind out of QPR’s sails after consecutive wins against the top two teams in the league, and set in motion the latest of three six-match losing runs during Ian Holloway’s second spell in charge. This was every bit as chastening and with games against Villa, Derby and Fulham coming up next could easily have the same effect again. The home match with bottom-placed Sunderland looms large amongst them.
With 39 points already on the board and a nine point gap to the relegation zone QPR, who’ve never been closer than six points to the bottom three all season, should be fine, requiring three or at most four wins from here to be guaranteed of safety. But we know how they collapsed at the end of last season and if there’s one thing we’ve learnt over the last 18 months, and had reinforced again on Saturday, it’s that this QPR team is certainly not adverse to making all the same catastrophic mistakes all over again.
QPR: Smithies 5; Onuoha 4, Robinson 4, Lynch 4 (Eze 53, 5); Wszolek 4, Bidwell 4 (Washington 70, 4); Scowen 3, Luongo 3, Freeman 5; Smith 5, Smyth 5
Subs not used: Ingram, Furlong, Manning, Perch, Osayi-Samuel
Goals: Luongo 68 (assisted Smith), Smith 78 (assisted Freeman)
Bookings: Scowen 84 (foul)
Forest: Pantilimon 6; Darikwa 7, Figueiredo 7, Fox 7, Osborn 8; Watson 8, Colback 7 (Guédioura 90, -); Cash 8, Tomlin 9 (Dowell 69, 8), Lolley 8 (Worrall 85, -); Brereton 8
Subs not used: Mancienne, Bridcutt, Kapino, Vellios,
Goals: Tomlin 37 (assisted Lolley), 47 (unassisted), Lolley 51 (assisted Tomlin), Cash 76, Brereton 90+1 (assisted Cash)
Bookings: Tomlin 35 (foul), Pantilimon 72 (time wasting)
QPR Star Man – N/A
Referee – Darren Bond (Lancashire) 6 Not too bad overall but – and this is a regular complaint – why do experienced, otherwise very good, referees struggle so much to clamp down on time wasting? Pantilimon was trying it on at 0-0 after 15 minutes and really took the piss through the second half. Quite why he felt the need to do that with Forest in such dominant control I’m not sure but Bond let him get away with it for far too long, and then when he did book him he let him carry on doing it afterwards. Even immediately after the yellow card was issued Pantilimon continued the conversation for ages, then wandered back and started messing about with his socks. Book him again, send him off. But nobody does, so they keep doing it.
Attendance – 13,675 (1,709 Forest) And I can’t image any casuals among them will be rushing back any time soon.
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