|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 0 Peterborough United|
Tuesday, 14th August 2018 Kick-off 19:45
QPR make rare cup progress against lacklustre Posh - Report
Wednesday, 15th Aug 2018 18:18 by Clive Whittingham
To the surprise of the few in attendance, QPR produced a quick and clinical victory over League One Peterborough United in the League Cup on Tuesday.
Swift, clinical, professional, victorious. Typical Queens Park Rangers cup football it was not, but in the context of a worrying start to the 2018/19 season the quick kill of Peterborough United at Loftus Road on Tuesday night provided much-needed relief.
There have been elements of misfortune to QPR’s two league defeats so far. A refereeing decision against Sheff Utd somewhere on the scale between debatable and criminal, a piece of goalkeeping in the last minute at Preston between gravity defying and world class. But it is still the first time Rangers have started a season outside the top flight with two losses since 1970. Throw in a summer of senior departures, few new arrivals and a sizeable Financial Fair Play (FFP) fine and the mood online, on air, in print and around Loftus Road has been somewhat darker than would normally be the case this early in the season after two narrow losses to two good teams.
The last thing we needed, in theory, was a confident, free-scoring League One team rocking up at the School of Hard Knocks in the League Cup.
For decades now even the good QPR teams have melted to mush at the mere mention of knockout football, and this is a long way short of being a good QPR team. From abject embarrassments against Vauxhall Motors, Grimsby Town, a bankrupt Swansea City and Stockport County, through a dire cycle of being schooled repeatedly by Northampton and Swindon, to a series of excruciatingly dull losses to Blackburn, Forest, West Brom, Luton Bastard Town and MK Dons, both FA and League Cups tend to bring the Shepherds Bush faithful out in hives. The vast majority can no longer even stomach the idea of attending any more – there were barely 3,000 of them inside an eerily deserted Loftus Road on Tuesday night. Faith has been sapped, patience has been tested, and in the end there’s only so far you can push paying punters before they pay and punt no more.
While it was nice not to see Swindon or Northampton again, Peterborough looked a daunting prospect to a club that specialises in losing to even the dregs of the division below at this time of year. With lower league promotion specialist and takeaway enthusiast Steve Evans in situ there are hopes this might be the year the Posh return to a Championship they were remarkably relegated from in the final minute of the 2012/13 season despite accumulating 53 points. Two wins from two games, six goals scored, last season’s leading scorer Jack Marriott apparently seamlessly replaced with Stevenage’s Matt Godden, and Marcus Maddison still in place despite a wave of Championship interest – this looked like a film we’d seen before. The idea of Godden, Maddison, maverick Grimsby winger Siriki Dembele and club record signing Ivan Toney crawling all over our nervous group of excellent young boys thrilled about as much as being forced to watch Good Morning Britain.
And then, just like that, QPR were 2-0 up – though if a League Cup goal is scored and there’s nobody around to hear it has it actually been scored at all?
Barely a minute on the watch when lovely approach work by young full back Osman Kakay and the recalled Conor Washington resulted in a cross from the latter which was parried into danger from visiting keeper Aaron Chapman and swept into the empty net by Luke Freeman for his first goal of the season.
Washington, in against his former club for a first start of the season, looked bang up for it early on. Not two minutes later he was collecting a ball from Bright Osayi-Samuel and flicking a lovely assist over a square back line for another recalled attacker, Pawel Wszolek, to seize and finish cutely under the keeper. A flock of parakeets swooping in low and fast only furthered the theory that, perhaps, we were asleep. There have been dreams like this before – although Alex Smithies was absent this time.
Peterborough had made changes. Maddison is nowhere to be seen awaiting loan offers with a view to a permanent between now and the end of the month. Godden, apparently, required a rest. League One teams resting players for highly winnable cup ties, another sad indictment of this dreadfully, irreversibly devalued competition. More problematic than the team selection, however, was their shape.
QPR are being all trendy like, with a fashionable pass out from the back style under new head coach Steve McClaren this season. It sees centre backs Toni Leistner and Joel Lynch (Alex Baptiste here) split wide either side of keeper Matt Ingram (Joe Lumley here, this enormous child will devour us all) with Josh Scowen dropping deep to form a diamond through which, in theory, the ball can be worked to draw in opponents before being sprung to wide players and advanced midfielders in more space. Problem is, when teams are wise to it, they mark Scowen, Leistner and Lynch tight and high giving you the choice of suicidal passes around your own penalty box or the keeper having to go a bit longer with more ambitious passes. It’s this latter option which has caused the most problems for the R’s so far, with Matt Ingram really struggling with it.
Peterborough either hadn’t watched QPR this season, or had and didn’t care, because they did none of this. Set up in a conventional 4-4-2 they were apparently happy for Toney and Dembele to stand either side of Scowen in conventional nine and ten spots from every goal kick, leaving Leistner, Baptiste and Lumley free to do as they pleased. When they belatedly chased the ball, all manner of space opened up for Scowen and others and QPR were able to flood the Peterborough half with dangerous ball and men in space. This is what QPR’s approach is meant to look like this season, and as long as every Championship team adopts this thick as pigshit approach to dealing with it we’ll be absolutely fine.
Remarkably, Peterborough stuck with it through to half time as well, Evans seemingly too busy sarcastically applauding everything referee Gavin Ward did and said to correct a clear and obvious deficiency in his team. Among the nonsense that took place as a result was Jake Bidwell being allowed to run nearly the full length of the pitch unchallenged before teeing up Wszolek for a blocked shot. Inspired, Leistner decided to do likewise, bundling/bumbling/rampaging his way right down the middle of the pitch looking like a man panicked by suddenly not being able to find his car. Sadly, he turned down a loud invitation from the crowd to finish it off with a shot.
Peterborough had only a failed bicycle kick from Toney – a player who doesn’t punch his weight, constantly giving the impression he’s about to be a decent centre forward without ever getting there - to show for their efforts. They had to change, and they did, with a much more determined high press and switch of tempo at the start of the second half.
The excellent Scowen had curled an early free kick fractionally wide of the top corner after a foul on Freeman on the edge of the area when the first concerted pressure from the visitors began. A nervous goalmouth scramble, during which Leistner appeared to attempt a ludicrous back header to Lumley in the world’s most crowded six-yard-box, set the tone for a difficult ten minute spell. Had Dembele’s fierce volley just before the hour gone in the top corner rather than just wide it would have taken the net off the back of the posts, and probably sparked a full on panic.
McClaren brought on Ebere Eze to replace Bright Osayi-Samuel and Rangers subsequently engaged in ten very effective minutes of game management. Passes were strung together by the dozen, not to go anywhere in particular but to take the sting out of the match. This didn’t go down well with some sections of the home support when potential attacking situations turned into passes all the way back to Lumley, but it was exactly the sort of professional match killing we’ve had done to us by Sheff Utd and Preston in the last week without slipping into the dark arts of injury feigning, time wasting and play acting that they did. Control wrestled back, Scowen smashing through the Peterborough team like a one man wrecking ball, the game was won, and Eze had a free kick flick off the top of the wall that looked like it might have made it three.
There were a couple of late chances for the visitors – Lumley saved well from Dembele with his legs, then substitute Jason Cummings missed a bit of sitter off a wonderful cross from Godden who’d come on from the bench by this point. But the game was won after five minutes and QPR were left to celebrate a first clean sheet of the season, which Leistner and the all-action Kakay, in particular, deserved.
They now go through to that oh-so-rare of things in these parts, a second round draw! (Yes, it has a second round, I was surprised too). That will be held in secret in the back bedroom of the Carabao CEO’s grandmother’s house in Hanoi at 5.28am on Thursday morning, feature three ties for Plymouth Argyle, none at all for Oxford United, and be hailed as a tremendous extension of the “League Cup brand” by the league’s CEO/human wank sock Shaun Harvey.
QPR: Lumley 6; Kakay 7, Leistner 7, Baptiste 6, Bidwell 6; Scowen 8, Cousins 6; Osayi-Samuel 5 (Eze 67, 6), Freeman 6 (Manning 77, 6), Wszolek 7; Washington 6 (Smith 83, -)
Subs not used: Ingram, Hall, Smyth, Sylla
Goals: Freeman 2 (assisted Washington), Wszolek 5 (assisted Washington)
Peterborough: Chapman 5; Naismith 6, Bennett 6, Tafazolli 6, Denton 6; Ward 6 (Cooper 73, 6), Woodyard 6, O’Hara 6, Cooke 5 (Cummings 46, 5); Dembele 7, Toney 4 (Godden 78, 6)
Subs not used: Buckley-Ricketts, Reed, Yorwerth, O’Malley
QPR Star Man – Josh Scowen 8 Absolutely everywhere. Ran his blood to water, popped up all over the pitch, protected the defence, stepped up the physicality to deal with the difficult ten minute spell at the start of the second half, totally dominant. Not so sure running him into the ground for 90 minutes was the best idea – the plan originally was to give Grant Hall some minutes here. Little mention for Osman Kakay, who I think has played very well in the three games so far, and put in a couple of absolute bone crunchers in front of us in the first half, but is now apparently set to be usurped by a 35-year-old, which I find slightly odd.
Referee – Gavin Ward (Surrey) 8 Bit of a problem child for QPR in the dim and distant past but absolutely fine here, despite Evans’ constant commentary to the contrary.
Attendance – 4,021 (600 Peterborough approx) Lonely.
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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