|Queens Park Rangers 3 v 1 Bristol Rovers|
Tuesday, 28th August 2018 Kick-off 19:45
Osayi-Samuel shines Bright as QPR make cup progress – Report
Wednesday, 29th Aug 2018 11:25 by Clive Whittingham
Another fast start, another cup upset avoided by QPR, with Bright Osayi-Samuel the star in the League Cup second round win against Bristol Rovers at Loftus Road on Tuesday night.
In a competition where Queens Park Rangers have frequently been dragged into a lower league street fight and then beaten with experience by teams from Leagues One and Two, Rangers finally appear to have hit upon a solution – get a great big sucker punch in nice and early and then run away.
A home draw with Peterborough in round one looked absolutely ripe for an ‘upset’. The Posh had won both their opening league games, and have since won five out of five to top League One. QPR, meanwhile, have started appallingly in the league and fallen out of the League Cup to Carlisle, Rochdale, Port Vale, Swindon and others in recent times. But Luke Freeman and Pawel Wszolek both had the ball in the net in the opening five minutes and the tie was effectively done before it had started – Rangers able to hold their opponents at arm’s length through some nervy second half moments, safe on the cushion of a 2-0 lead.
Bristol Rovers have made the opposite start to life in the third tier this season, with one win from their first five, but they were victorious down the road at Fulham in this round of this competition last season and Rangers have certainly fallen to worse sides in similar situations during two decades of cup humiliation. Throw in a team selection even Ian Holloway would have found a bit weird and wonderful – 11 changes to a QPR team for the first time since the war years, Pawel Wszolek picked as a central midfielder, names on the bench to send you scurrying into the darkest corners of the club’s official website looking for clues – and the writing looked to be on the wall.
This looked to be a team selection designed to get us the hell out of this competition and focus on the important business of not ending up with league fixtures against Bristol Rovers next season. Exactly the sort of thrown together rabble that successive QPR managers have deemed acceptable in the knockout games down the years: unfair on the players who’ve never played together in this shape and way before; unfair on the long-suffering supporters who have, almost to a man, abandoned the notion of attending these games altogether. It made you wonder why he’d put such a strong side out against Peterborough just to jack it in at the second hurdle, but then a lot of water has passed under the bridge in the intervening weeks and the club is in a bit of a panic about its start to the Championship season. Holloway did something similar at this stage of last season’s comp and had his arse handed to him by Brentford.
But this game had two important things in common with the Peterborough match – a fast start, and a dismal opposition. Bright Osayi-Samuel had a point to prove after being unceremoniously and rather harshly dropped after the first two games of the season, and he got on the end of a flowing move in minute four to finish powerfully into the corner for 1-0. Less than a quarter of an hour later it was 2-0, Wszolek emerging from his unfamiliar position in the centre of the park next to Jordan Cousins to finish sweetly from the edge of the area – visiting goalkeeper Adam Smith went down in instalments.
With Osayi-Samuel terrorising James Clarke with the full Andy Impey treatment down one flank, Ilias Chair showing the usual mix of cute touches, clever passing and deceptive core strength down the other, and Alex Baptiste doing a nice turn at centre half, more chances soon followed. Conor Washington had a shot well saved by Smith who got up and blocked the rebound from Matt Smith, then later the luckless Rangers striker hit a shot destined for the bottom corner during a scramble sparked by a Chair free kick only for it to strike Big Smith on the line and stay out. Washington cannot buy a goal. Baptiste banterously tried one himself from the edge of the area, sparking a panic at Heathrow Air Traffic Control. Matt Smith came close to converting a low cross from Wszolek on the counter attack.
Bristol Rovers are a club for whom things could get out of hand rather quickly. They lost star man Billy Bodin to Preston in January, and leading marksman Ellis Harrison went to Ipswich in the summer. A lot of goals and quality to lose from a team that was promoted from the Conference to League One in consecutive seasons. An ongoing battle for a new stadium has reached stalemate and land earmarked for a new training ground sits vacant and undeveloped. They’ve lost four and won only one of their opening league games having finished last season with just two wins from the last dozen. Stop me if any of this is starting to sound familiar.
There were some little bits and pieces for them in the first half. A hospital pass to Cousins as Rangers again got caught trying to play out from the back in the eleventh minute drew the first corner, which the recalled Matt Ingram punched away. Stefan Payne curled wide after dispossessing Grant Hall – looking heavy, and rusty, but getting a good hour into him here after a year out. Kyle Bennett, probably their best player, shot straight at the keeper when a good chance presented itself five before half time, then Ingram made a better diving save from the same player in stoppage time.
But really, much like Peterborough before them, they looked of a very poor standard indeed. It wasn’t so long ago (2013) that Swindon Town were coming here as a League One side with a team that included Nathan Byrne, Massimo Luongo, Grant Hall, Ryan Mason, Alex Pritchard and Nile Ranger and completely outclassing and outplaying us in a 2-0 win. It would be a little unfair to draw conclusions based on two cup matches this season but given that Peterborough are screaming away at the top of that league, and that Wigan, Blackburn and Rotherham all got relegated into that division in a complete state a year ago but bounced straight back at the first time of asking no problem – Wigan with 98 points and Blackburn with 96 – you do have to worry about the gap that seems to be opening up between a Championship full of teams with recent Premier League TV money and parachute payments and the division below.
Rovers did carry some threat at the start of the second half, and perhaps a goal with a large travelling support roaring them on may have changed the complexion of the game. Faint strains of circus music echoed around the empty stands as Hall made an early error and Baptiste had a wild swing at correcting it before Bennett dribbled a shot wide. Michael Kelly did likewise when a one two took Kakay out of the game and played him into space in the area, and then Alex Rodman headed over when well placed at the front of a queue at the back post for a well flighted cross. A worrying theme of QPR’s defending this year is unmarked players lining up at the far post waiting to convert crosses unchecked – Bristol City and West Brom made more than the most of it, Wigan and Bristol Rovers did not but it’s happened too frequently in all four games.
But Rangers always had Osayi-Samuel, who flew past another couple of Rovers defenders and had a very good penalty shout when the run was brought to an end with a clumsy tackle on the byline – referee Charles Breakspear said no to that, and a similar half-hearted appeal from Rovers at the other end soon after.
Rangers brought on Little Smyth from the bench and quickly made it 3-0 when he was involved in another eye-catching move which ended with a sweeping cross from Kakay and a bullet header from a suspiciously offside Big Smith. He could have scored another similar effort from the other side later on when Hamalainen (a little bit too light and nice as it stands) swung over a great cross from the left, but he headed wide.
Rovers sent on defender Tom Broadbent to stiffen their back line – he was in the army before turning professional with the Pirates and looks like he could form 3rd Battalion The Rifles by himself. That signalled an increase in physicality from the visitors, with Washington hauled down deliberately when he looked set to go clear on goal (I think we’re all secretly glad he didn’t) and Samuel reacting angrily to being hacked down and then trodden on by frustrated Ollie Clarke. Football shithousery #356 in the series – Samuel was booked for retaliation and Bennett for getting involved, but Clarke who gave the foul away wasn’t even spoken to. Why is retaliation judged so much harsher than being deliberately kicked up in the air in the first place?
Hall went off after an hour and Charlie Owens came on for a senior debut at centre half – couple of moments where he read the game quite nicely and broke up play with a timely interception. There was a late cameo for attacking midfielder Faysal Bettache as well, signed from Watford a couple of years ago. And a consolation goal for the visitors as Ed Upson bundled in via a heavy deflection off Kakay amidst a goal mouth scramble.
But QPR were through, and deservedly so, with a number of fringe players impressing, Osayi-Samuel chief amongst them. A rare entry into the third round draw awaits us on Thursday where the prospect of a Liverpool, a Tottenham, a Man Utd at home, or a cheeky little ground ticking expedition to Macclesfield will almost certainly be swept away in the excitement of another cup tie against sodding Blackburn Rovers.
QPR: Ingram 6; Kakay 7, Baptiste 7, Hall 6 (Owens 65, 6), Hamalainen 6; Chair 6 (Smyth 60, 6), Cousins 6, Wszolek 6, Osayi-Samuel 8 (Bettache 85, -); Smith 6, Washington 5
Subs not used: Lumley, Oteh, Fox, Felix
Goals: Osayi-Samuel 4 (assisted Washington), Wszolek 18 (unassisted), Smith 64 (assisted Kakay)
Bookings: Osayi-Samuel 83 (retaliation)
Bristol R: Smith 5; J Clarke 4 (Broadbent 57, 6), Lockyer 5, Craig 5, Kelly 5; Matthews 5 (Reilly 67, 5), Upson 5, O Clarke 4, Rodman 5; Bennett 6; Payne 5 (Nichols 67, 5)
Subs not used: Mensah, Bonham, Jakubiak, Russe
Goals: Upson 87
Bookings: Craig 28 (foul), Upson 33 (foul), Bennett 83 (unsporting)
QPR Star Man – Bright Osayi-Samuel 8 Played superbly against Union Berlin in the final friendly of the summer only to then be rather swiftly, and harshly discarded after an hour of action at Preston and a half against Sheff Utd. Several of the talented youngsters who were playing well, and winning games, at the end of last season have gone the same way under Steve McClaren but here Bright gave a real statement of intent that he’s not a bench impact player, nor to be considered for a loan elsewhere. He’s a dangerous first team prospect, with pace, and goals and threat. Andy Impey style, never turns down the opportunity to drive at a man isolated one on one and either get to the byline and cross or get in a shot on goal. Terrified Rovers all night, bar that one at the end where he trod on the ball. You can’t have everything.
Referee – Charles Breakspear (Surrey) 7 No red cards! Given his record (five in five this season, 18 in 47 last) we should probably bake him a cake. Occasionally fussy in a non-competitive game but fine overall bar the late incident with Samuel where he and Bennett were booked for pushing and shoving, but it seemed to me the bloke that caused the whole thing by deliberately tripping Samuel and then treading on him on the floor got off without a caution.
Attendance 5,007 (2,000 Bristol R approx) Magnificent travelling support from Bristol, and although the wind was rather sucked out of their sails by the early goals they were in good voice in the second half. The QPR attendance at these early round cup games is absolutely pathetic, but it’s the club’s attitude, under a whole host of different managers, to the knockout competitions over the last two decades that’s at fault. You can’t blame people for staying away when Rangers have basically deliberately jacked these games in time and time again – and in all honesty, despite the result, that’s what it looked like McClaren was trying to do here with his team selection.
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