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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.

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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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bosh67 added 11:51 - Feb 26
Bang on report and I can't wait for the £75 commemorative shirt from this game, featuring the afternoon's calamities embroided with loving apathy into the hoops.

Spiritof67 added 11:58 - Feb 26
What can be said about the game that Clive hasn't said in his report already.I find it difficult to understand what goes on in the managers head. Away defeats are met with post match comments, such as that made following the Sheffield United game "we are getting there!" and the post match comments from this debacle are "Everything we talked about, nobody did." So after 20 minutes, get a message out on the pitch to change things, motivate things or give them a good rucking to the players to get them to do the job the MANAGER had planned to do when you were practising during the week.

I have moaned in a number previous comments where i have posted, that playing Wszolek in a right sided wing back position isn't working. The position he is being asked to play is neither winger or defender, spending the majority of the game on the half way line. A position that Cousins has also limited success with. Has Ollie had a fall-out with Furlong a recognised right back? If so, is that why he stayed on the bench!

On paper we have a number of talented players, but its just not working as a team. So who is to blame - players; management, coaches? A number of critics are calling for Ollie's head this season, but who ever came in would have to work with the same group of players. What we don't appear to have, is a system that learns from mistakes and rectifies them, either during the game, or in preparation for the following game.

By the way, I have never seen a crazed raccoon around a bin, so they may have a serious infestation of them at the training ground and maybe the players are being distracted during the coaching sessions from the job they are supposed to do during the 90 minutes!

Marshy added 12:08 - Feb 26
Where was the defence? Where was the midfield? Where was the attack? Oh I forgot, nobody bothered to turn up! This was a disgraceful performance devoid of any ideas, tactics and application. Long ball after long ball, with no chance of anyone getting on the end of it. When we did play it on the ground we constantly gave the ball away by passing to Forest players. We stood off them, with no pressing and giving them far too much room, time & space. We just didn’t attempt to win the ball when they were in possession. 11 players looking as if they were suffering from the after effects of a night out on the lash. So much for the Pride of West London. No pride, no passion and no Rangers. Not pleasant stuff to endure having to sit there in Arctic conditions freezing your b******s off.

We made Forest look as if they were a decent team. In reality they are quite ordinary. Not sure what that makes us. Where do we point the finger. Clearly the players have a lot of explaining to do, but the management have got to hold their hands up. Holloway said before the game that he wanted revenge for the big defeat at the City Ground, and he had done his homework. Well if that was the case, upon examination this was a massive failure of epidemic proportions. Do us a favour Ollie, get your act together, and sort this f*****g mess out!

TacticalR added 20:23 - Feb 26
Thanks for your report.

I won't say too much about the defensive performance, as you have covered that in excruciating detail. Someone should have been on Tomlin and stopped him from roaming around the edge of our area. Even though we got hammered, the game was over at 2-0, as the last couple of away games at Sheffield United and Wolves have been.

Instead I'll mention our problems up front. The problem is not so much Matt Smith (although he needs a lot of chances to score a goal), but rather that when Matt Smith is on we play Matt Smith football. Everything goes up to Smith, and it's just not working.

Myke added 23:17 - Feb 26
Thanks Clive. Where to start? It is difficult to understand how, if the man has 'done his homework' as stated, he can repeat the exact same mistakes over again. This is not just a once off either, he has made bad choices in many games; Milwall, Middlesboro, Bristol City to name just three. I don't want to change manager at this critical juncture - we are not out of the woods by any means, despite how crap the bottom four/five are - but he needs to show proof of knowledge and understanding , not just of the Championship and the opposition, but his own players and systems too. He has played every team at least once since he took over, but there is no evidence he has learned anything about their strengths and how to negate them or their weaknesses and how to exploit them. It's not rocket science with most clubs playing to a fairly limited system, but it seems too complex for Holloway to fathom most of the time

Myke added 23:52 - Feb 26
Smith -despite his low scoring to changes ratio - is actually in very good form. 2 goals and 2 assists in the last 3 games is decent by any standards

snanker added 07:57 - Feb 27
Credit Forest a lesson in finishing against a back pedaling defense all game long. So much space afforded to an opposition I haven't seen it this bad for a long while. We made them look like champions and Tomlin ran riot and rings around our midfield. Smith gets soooo many headers in the box and could score a handful most games but for his off target finishing. I want Ollie to do well like the majority I reckon but I capiche his "logic" less and less. Here comes another flirt in true R's style with Div 1

wrinklyhoop added 08:32 - Feb 27
I had no idea how different this Forest team was in personnel from the November one until reading Clive's report! Apart from anything else it highlights the gulf in tactical nous between Ollie and someone like Karanka.

stneotsbloke added 08:33 - Feb 27
A truly miserable afternoon. The comments made by Clive and the other posts are !00% correct but Snaker sums it up best, Forest were organised, clever and clinical to a level that we can only dream about.

I continue to support Ollie but I'm getting a tad fed up hearing about reducing the costs, promoting the youngsters, work in progress etc. We know and accept that but let's not forget that we have a highly experienced manager and many very well established Championship level players. Is there a problem with coaching nous and methods ?.

We can't defend and can't score goals and still need ten points to be safe, after Saturday's debacle you have to wonder where these points are going to come from. Make no mistake, we're far from safe yet !!.

Angry and frustrated ?. Damn right I am but hey, I've seen it all before in my 51 years and I've just renewed my season ticket for 2018.


windsorloop added 14:20 - Mar 2
I was at the game on Saturday against Notts. Forest. I am afraid Holloway never learns from the strategy he employs in previous games. At the start of the season Smithies played the goal kick to either of the two defenders who played to the mid-fielders, attractive & entertaining. What is now employed is hoof ball to Matt. Smith, this is totally unproductive, but it still seems to be the only options. All corners & free kicks are taken by Freeman, with no variation, but lobbed into a crowded penalty area. It was rather symbolic that Gino Padula was introduced at half time. If I am correct, it was only due to an injury that he was forced to play him, he played brilliantly MOM & Holloway's comment after the game was "I didn't think he was that good of a player" Things have not changed

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