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Hemed stops the rot with debut goal - Report
Sunday, 26th Aug 2018 17:48 by Clive Whittingham

At the fifth time of asking, and with no little amount of terror and trauma along the way, Queens Park Rangers are up and running in 2018/19.

A 1-0 win against Wigan Athletic, scraped together with a controversial goal and a number of near misses at the other end, barely papers over the cracks. But it does allow a club that’s felt like it’s been collectively holding its breath in recent weeks to exhale. One can only hope it allows confidence and freedom to start seeping back into a beleaguered squad of players.

Many, many issues remain, but the club does look to have had a reasonable stab at solving a long standing one at the top end of the pitch. Since Charlie Austin’s contract situation forced the club’s hand in January 2016, QPR have tried Sebastien Polter, Conor Washington, Idrissa Sylla, Matt Smith, Jamie Mackie, David Wheeler, Ebere Eze and Aramide Oteh through the middle as centre forwards, with little consistent success. Newcastle, Aston Villa and others have inflated the market for Championship strikers to the point where even a mediocre one can set you back north of £8m and QPR simply cannot compete. Even the cost of borrowing a promising youngster like Tammy Abraham or Sam Gallagher from the division above has rocketed — dead money, as you’re never likely to be able to keep the player.

But having lost the first four games in increasingly incompetent fashion, the club has bitten the bullet this week and added two strikers to their ranks temporarily. Tomer Hemed, a 31-year-old Israeli target man from Brighton, and Nahki Wells, a 28-year-old from Bermuda via Burnley, have joined on loan for the rest of the season and the difference having players of that standard kicking about in the final third of the pitch was there for all to see on their debuts, despite obvious lack of match practice and fitness.

Hemed looks exactly the kind of experienced, intelligent, broad-shoulderd, back-to-goal striker QPR have been desperately in need of since Heidar Helguson’s time at the club came to an end. He scored the game’s only goal ten minutes before half time, acrobatically hooking in from close range after Luke Freeman’s corner had dropped on the edge of the six-yard-box via a pretty blatant looking push by the recalled Joel Lynch on opposite centre back Chey Dunkley. Referee Steve Martin waved away long, loud complaints from the visitors and awarded the goal.

Wells, meanwhile, has scored three times at Loftus Road already during his Huddersfield days and has a smooth playing style and eye for space that gives clue as to how and why. Twice, once at the start of each half, he got to the byline at the end of a nice move and cut the ball back into a dangerous area — visiting keeper Christian Walton claimed the one in the sixth minute, Luke Freeman met the one right from the kick off at the start of the second and tricked everybody in the ground into thinking he’d scored with a low shot into the side netting. Nice to see us not just launch a kick off into touch.

Wells looked like he might get the goal his performance deserved 20 minutes from time when he went screaming through on goal but play was pulled back for a free kick and a yellow card to Hemed for the tackle that sent his new team mate clear. He curled another shot on goal after a series of corners on 79 but Walton was equal to it. Hemed and Wells were baggage by that stage, and replaced in the final ten minutes by Conor Washington and Matt Smith, but they’d more than done their jobs by then.

There was a new face at the other end of the field as well. Matt Ingram’s personal torment ended with a return to the substitutes bench he’s occupied for most of the last two years. Joe Lumley, called up for a fourth league start of his young career, started with a spectacular camera save off to his left to deny Josh Windass on his full Wigan debut, and finished deep into stoppage time by fighting his way through a crowd scene in front of his goal to plant two fists on a free kick and clear Wigan’s final throw of the dice. The final whistle sounded immediately, and Lumley went tearing off towards the South Africa Road stand celebrating as if he’d scored the winning goal himself.

He’s confident, and loud. You can see it in his step and you can hear him all over the ballpark. Compared to Ingram, who looks like he’s scared of any football coming anywhere in his general direction, it’s night and day. I really feel for Ingram. He’s waited years for this chance, biding his time behind Alex Smithies, and it could scarcely have started worse for him. Replacing a goalkeeper of Smithies’ quality, becoming a first team regular again after two years not playing proper football, playing behind a defence shorn of its best and most senior players over the summer, building trust with his team mates and the supporters, finding his feet at a level he’s never played at before… all of this stuff was going to be difficult enough already. QPR should have been making life as easy and simple as possible for him to give him the best chance of success, instead they decided to completely change the style of play as well and add passing and playmaking responsibilities to his to do list. He’s been hung out to dry by his manager basically, but it was definitely time to take him out of the firing line and credit to McClaren for making the big, tough decision. The difference of having a brash, noisy, confident, dominant goalkeeper back there was nearly as profound as suddenly having Hemed and Wells up front instead of Smith, Sylla and/or Washington. It was the team’s first clean sheet since March, the first time this season that we haven’t shipped a goal through the 35-55 minute pleasure window.

But, for all those positives, this was a nervous win that relied as much on luck as judgement. Three times hearts were firmly in mouths as Wigan efforts whistled so close to the goal without going in that you started to wonder whether there was a hole in the net. Luongo, off the pace again, gave away a cheap free kick on 21 minutes, one of several Rangers conceded in dangerous positions throughout the afternoon, and Windass whipped the free kick wide of the top corner. Same behaviour on 36 minutes, this time from Toni Leistner, produced the same result with another dangerous Windass free kick whistling right through the goalmouth and narrowly wide.

The first half was a bitty affair. Nathan Byrne and Angel Rangel both saw yellow for bad tackles. Former Orient man Gavin Massey, the scourge of Stoke during the week, was forced off with a hamstring injury. Centre back Cedric Kipre had such a weird afternoon that I thought he might be in the running for the QPR man of the match at one stage — Walton looked like he was ready to kill him for his decision to stick the ball out for a Rangers’ corner under no pressure at all.

The second was, for the large part, a backs to the wall effort from QPR. Wigan have been free-scoring this year, with ten goals netted in their first four league games, and although they ended up drawing a blank here you could see why. Even losing Massey early, they looked threatening in attack, committing big numbers forward and possessing some real ability in the form of Nick Powell. QPR helped them along the way by conceding a succession of stupid free kicks in dangerous areas. One of these, from Bidwell, sparked a scramble in the penalty box once the ball was delivered and was the start of a period of concerted pressure on the QPR goal after the hour — Lumley saved at his near post from Powell, Will Grigg skimmed a header straight at the keeper immediately afterwards then later curled a shot high and wide.

Attempts to run the clock down in the final ten minutes repeatedly descended into anarchic scenes in the School End goal mouth. Quite how Dunkley guided his back post header wide five minutes from time when leading a queue of unmarked players at the far post only he knows. Lumley was celebrating in the back of his net as the ball bounced harmlessly out, but within a minute it was flying around in his six-yard-box again sparking scenes akin to a fire alarm going off in a creche. Steve McClaren was yards on the pitch at one point, begging his team to come out from under their own crossbar. Through the carnage, Joel Lynch had his best game for some time, winning a series of important headers and clearances just when they were needed — including, most crucially, early in the second half when his flick stopped a certain Grigg goal from close range.

McClaren leant against the wall of the tunnel for support in his post match interview. A man who once oversaw a blown European Championships qualifying campaign as England manager described it as “one of the toughest weeks of his career”. In that context, the win really was all that mattered.

And breathe.

Links >>> Knee Jerks >>> Ratings and Reports >>> Message Board Match Thread

QPR: Lumley 7, Rangel 6, Leistner 6, Lynch 7, Bidwell 6; Eze 6 (Wszolek 87, -), Scowen 6, Luongo 5, Freeman 6; Hemed 7 (Washington 80, 6), Wells 7 (Smith 87, -)

Subs not used: Ingram, Cousins, Baptiste, Kakay

Goals: Hemed 35 (assisted Freeman/Lynch)

Bookings: Rangel 27 (foul), Hemed 71 (foul)

Wigan: Walton 6; Byrne 6 (Vaughan 75, 6), Dunkley 6, Kipre 4, Robinson 6; Massey 6 (James 32, 6), Evans 6, Morsy 6, Windass 7 (Roberts 83, -); Powell 7, Grigg 6

Subs not used: Bruce, McManaman, Jones, Connolly

Bookings: Byrne 28 (foul)

QPR Star Man — Tomer Hemed 7 Nudged ahead of Wells and Lynch courtesy of the goal, which was expertly finished. QPR have been at their best in recent years when they’ve had that sort of striker with a back-to-goal game who can bring others into play, and at their worst when they’ve tried to get the likes of Matt Smith and Idrissa Sylla to do it. Even when clearly only fit for an hour of play, he made a big difference.

Referee — Steve Martin (Staffordshire) 6 I like him, I like his hands off refereeing style, I like how he lets the players get away with a bit rather than pernickety whistling for every little bit of contact. But that was a foul by Lynch for the Hemed goal, so he can’t have too high a mark.

Attendance 11,564 (450 Wigan approx) Tolerant, patient atmosphere when it could have been really toxic. Lot of empty seats though aren't there?

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GroveR added 18:15 - Aug 26
Tie Washington to Wells in training like Arsenal used to do with their back four and tell him "run where he runs, when he runs."

windsorloop added 18:24 - Aug 26
Great report as usual Clive. You gave freeman 6. Since he hasn't had his transfer, as you have said, he has been sulking. Also there has been a lack of interest in playing for QPR, except for his contribution of hitting the side netting in this game, I thought he was dreadful

Northernr added 18:31 - Aug 26
Really? I thought he was quite good but faded. He's not a winger. Bristol City tried to force him to be one and it didn't work there either. When everybody was abusing Holloway for picking a back three last season, he was doing it because it got Luongo, Scowen and Freeman in the team in their best positions - none of them have been nearly as good this year as last.

GloryHunter added 19:09 - Aug 26
In the second half I thought Freeman was looking on the same wavelength as Wells, notably for Wells's cut-back for his shot into the side netting, but on other occasions as well. I hope the new additions will help Freeman raise his game to a new level.

CorbyQPR added 19:50 - Aug 26
Excellent read as usual. I think you’re very generous with the mark and comments about the ref, I thought he was quite poor, even at one stage completely guessing a decision that happened behind his back.

nightwish added 20:28 - Aug 26
The attendance was officially 200 less than the Bristol City game,yeah right.Looked a lot more at this game than last Tuesday, must of been a lot of season ticket holders not turned up for the Bristol City match for those attendance figures to be correct

rkk76 added 22:21 - Aug 26
Much needed result, a win was never going to be pretty. All the best to McClaren and the team but I wonder what Holloway and co could have done with a full summer and the backing to loan two Premier league strikers.

Myke added 22:24 - Aug 26
Thanks for report Clive. Still can't believe that you write a couple of thousand words and some people still focus on your player ratings!I didn't get a chance to read your preview until this game was over so said I would wait for report before commenting

I don't believe we were lied to, I believe panic set in big time after WBA second half Not surprising considering the back-lash on social media. If the response on the LFW forum (not going back there by the way, until the likes of Rsonist and L Block receive lifetime bans) is considered 'moderate' then what they received on Twitter etc must have been horrendous. Faced with that kind of opposition an already unpopular manager comes under immense pressure as does an apparently unpopular (despite being a club legend) DOF. In those circumstances only one of two things can happen: (A) Sack Steve reinstate Holloway (if he'll come back, certainly nobody else would touch it), or (B) abandon kids policy and surrounded yourself with experienced Championship campaigners to hopefully dig you out of the sh*t like Hamed did yesterday.
So where does that leave us long term, or even medium term and how do you justify the appointment of McClaren in the first place? Don't know the answer, but I do believe the change in policy is entirely down to us and our completely OTT reaction to the start of the season. Yes the second halves against WBA and Bristol were completely unacceptable, but the grumbling (and worse) had started long before that. We were probably unfortunate to not take a point from each of our opening 2 games, but despite losing them narrowly the talk was of 'long hard season' and 'relegation a certainty' -after TWO games!!
So now we have won a game but we have lots of new issues to contend with. We have a manager who is not fulfilling the remit we supposedly appointed him for. We have Manning (and probably Smyth) loaned out and BOS and Chair disappeared. We have experienced strikers (Smith/Sylla/Washington) surplus to requirements and talented players like Freeman and Eze being rendered ineffective by being played out of position.
Who's fault is all this - well let's start by taking a long hard look at ourselves. Less SUPPORTers and more fanatics

enfieldargh added 22:52 - Aug 26
Thought Freeman was OK not up to last seasons speed but think he will crank it up now there are attacking options ahead of him.

Luongo sounded like he had fallen out of love with the game after the World Cup and sadly now it looks it.

The well timed jumps for the ball to win headers in the middle of the park has deserted him as well as the cut and thrust movement. Its bubbling away under the surface, just needs game time to get him out from under his shell.

Having a purpose up front in the shape of Hemed & Wells and solid defenders behind them will aleve the pressure on our famed midfield 3. As has been mentioned the loaning out Manning was plain stupid as he is a ready made replacement for Mass who has proved himself to be ust so.

Sadly cousins has had a lot longer albeit injured to pave his way and still not shown anything. Should have loaned out cousins and kept Manning

Wins a win and Clive can put back on the shelf the nails in Shteve's obituary.

timcocking added 02:10 - Aug 27
"Nice to see us not just launch a kick off into touch."

timcocking added 02:12 - Aug 27
The Matt Ingram paragraph spot on.

snanker added 09:21 - Aug 27
Ta Clive a much needed victory & tonic for the troops. Loan strikers with decent professional nouse & attitude made a huge difference even when only partially fit. Hoping this rubs off onto some of the other team members who look a bit stale and timid after initial results. Brum next laughably our only happy away hunting ground of recent seasons ! Now the monkey is off the back and given some decent luck I reckon we can commence a climb up the ladder. Come on u R'ssssssssssss

Marshy added 10:48 - Aug 27
Compared to Washington, Sylla and Smith, Hemed and Wells were different class. They are on a completely different level. Intelligent players that can read the game, pass and move, hold the ball up, and even score. It's been a long time coming, but the thought that we finally have a couple of decent strikers feels me with a lot more optimism. I know it's early days, but I think we may have struck gold with these two. The club should be congratulated on doing some excellent business, under the very difficult restraints we have. Fingers crossed we might also be able to get at least one decent defender in.

rsonist added 16:54 - Aug 27
"(not going back there by the way, until the likes of Rsonist and L Block receive lifetime bans) "

Sorry but er what's this about Myke...?

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