|Swansea City 3 v 0 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 29th September 2018 Kick-off 15:00
QPR lose third game in a row with poor Swansea showing - Report
Sunday, 30th Sep 2018 18:22 by Clive Whittingham
QPR lost 3-0 at Swansea City on Saturday, their third defeat of the week without scoring a goal or having a meaningful effort on target.
I think I’m just going to begin by referring back to the match preview.
Playing a proper team and giving the game a go at Blackpool on Tuesday was no guarantee of a win, but by throwing the game away in the manner he did Steve McClaren spent credit with the supporters he simply didn’t have. Now, just ten days on from our best performance of the season against Millwall, many are already wanting him sacked or at least considering the alternatives we could try.
Deliberately bailing out of the cups early doesn’t work, as we said on Friday. While other Championship clubs have used the confidence and momentum of a run in that competition to drive a promotion push in the league, QPR tossed it away for little obvious gain. Just as they did last year, Rangers followed up a humiliating cup loss with a poor performance and defeat in South Wales in the league with the supposedly rested players.
By placing the senior players, several of whom are only here on loan, on a pedestal above the other squad members you send out several dangerous messages that are coming home to roost. Firstly, you demoralise and de-motivate the latter group so they’re no longer a viable option for you. Having made one substitution that made us considerably worse on Saturday, McClaren and his cast of thousands on the bench spent until the 87th minute deep in conversation and staring at iPads wondering what they could do next to reverse the tide of a game going away from them. By the time they acted it was three minutes from time, 3-0 to Swansea, and they were putting a centre half on for a centre forward. Smyth and Osayi-Samuel unused subs here, Wszolek given a paltry three minutes at the end of a game that was already over.
Secondly, if you make it clear that however that second string play in the cup games they’ve no chance of playing first team football, then by default you make it clear to the senior players that they don’t have to work that hard or play that well to stay in. Tomer Hemed, great white hope, strolling around here phoning a nonsense performance in; Massimo Luongo, persistently poor all season, selected as captain and anonymous again; Geoff Cameron, another big money big name saviour, absolute baggage in the middle of midfield while Ryan Manning smashes it up for Rotherham against Stoke.
One insipid performance and narrow defeat against a methodical Norwich team need not have been a disaster in a hectic month. But by backing it up with that Blackpool shambles he’s damaged the whole mood around the club again, wrecked confidence and set us off on another losing run. Suddenly we’re three defeats from three without really having a serious shot on the goal in any of them. The die hard supporters, a group of whom didn’t arrive here until half time because of a broken down coach, have been rewarded for going to Blackpool and back and then Swansea in four days with two abysmal performances and results, and no goals scored. Into the bargain, McClaren has also insulted their intelligence by insisting we were the better side against Norwich and unlucky to lose when in reality we were fucking crap and lucky not to lose by more, and then again here trotting out flagrant bollocks about “coming back well, in the second half especially, and having chances to equalise”. I know we live in a world of ‘alternative facts’, where you can just come out and tell a blatant lie about something if the truth doesn’t suit you, but QPR had one shot on target on Saturday, and not a very good one at that. The stuff McClaren is saying bears no relation to the games we’re paying a lot of money to sit through.
All that momentum that we worked so hard to build up after a dire start to the season killed stone dead in one week.
The last time QPR were relegated from this league, in 2000/01, they lost a game in very similar style to this one in mid-October at Grimsby Town. Rangers had made a poor start to that season, with just one win in the first seven league games and a coating by Colchester’s Lomano Tresor Lua Lua in the League Cup. But they rallied somewhat through September with draws against Preston and Gillingham and a win against Premier League relegatees Wimbledon at home. They started well at Blundell Park as well, taking a first half lead through Chris Kiwomya, but capitulated in the second conceding two goals to Steve Livingstone and one to David Nielsen in double quick time. Bradley Allen, playing in that Grimsby team, told friends of ours afterwards he believed QPR were bang in trouble that season from what he’d seen and heard on the pitch and indeed Rangers won none of 13 and one of 17 through the autumn to plunge themselves into a relegation dog fight they were destined not to escape from.
There were striking similarities between that and Saturday for me. Firstly, Rangers started both games quite brightly. They didn’t score, they haven’t scored for three games now, but they looked threatening down the right hand side and a good eighth minute move that set Hemed away into that channel could easily have ended in the first goal when Freeman cut it back for Luongo to drill just wide of the post with the keeper beaten. But, as happened all those years ago, things went south pretty quickly and once they did the attitude, body language and commitment of the QPR players to turning it back around in their favour was lamentable.
No Toni Leistner for this one, injured apparently. Josh Scowen was also away attending the birth of his child, although given his behaviour during the week it’s doubtful whether he’d have been considered anyway. That meant a distinctly League One centre half pairing of Alex Baptiste and Joel Lynch and, with that in mind, McClaren also decided to sit Luongo and Cameron very deep in the midfield, basically right on top of his defence to try and offer protection. Despite this Paul Hart-style two full backs, two centre backs, two other centre backs and a goalkeeper set up, Swansea were able to take the lead after a quarter of an hour with embarrassing ease. Jake Bidwell stood off Roberts wide right, his unchallenged cross was met by unmarked Roddy McScotsman at the back post, and his nod down was volleyed into the net from close range by Courtney Baker-Richardson unattended and free to do as he pleased. It was, almost needless to say, his first ever goal for Swansea.
The game then ebbed and flowed a little bit. Baker-Richardson missed an absolute sitter from three yards out within two minutes of scoring the first and for a while it looked like it might be another one of those QPR days, two of which have come against this opposition in the recent past with 5-0 and 4-1 defeats to the Swans in 2012/13. Luckily Rangers rallied somewhat, with Nahki Wells at least doing all he could to drag his side back in the game – first getting in behind the home defence with a blinding bit of skill but not getting a free kick out of referee Kevin Friend despite what looked a fairly obvious foul, then teeing up Luke Freeman for a low shot at Erwin Mulder which would turn out to be our only effort on target all afternoon.
But there were many, many troubling signs here, even before half time. This 4-4-2 system, employed entirely to make sure the two loan signings McClaren insisted on making can both play together up front, suits none of his other players. Ebere Eze and Luke Freeman both struggled out of position on the wings, but worse than their roles in the team was their lack of options for a pass. With the other two midfielders too deep and the strikers ahead of them far too static, time after time they’d find themselves surrounded by home players with no out ball, culminating in a terrifying moment before half time when Eze was robbed of possession in his own area and Joe Lumley had to rescue him with a great save at point blank range from Baker-Richardson once more. There was a lot of shoulder shrugging, a lot of outstretched arms, a lot of walking and a lot of going through the motions. There was usually only Wells actually showing for a pass and creating an option for the team. Hemed, whose religious holiday last week saw McClaren stumble across the system we should be playing in against Millwall only to immediately abandon it again, was completely anonymous. I barely even realised he’d played.
The second half began with a blocked shot from McBurnie, one wide of the post from Celina, and one headed wide at the back post by Byers. QPR responded with a shot on the turn hooked over by Wells.
McClaren waited until 20 minutes from time to change things, removing Eze and bringing on Matt Smith to go up front with the two loans in a 4-3-3 set up, and my God if you thought QPR were shapeless and rudderless before then you were in for a long final 20 minutes here. No service, of course, because even the bare semblance of wingers we had started with had now been removed, so Smith and Hemed were left to try and do something with long punts down the field – none of which they won. Victoria Beckham isn’t as narrow as QPR were for the final quarter of this game, while three wingers remained stuck to the bench. It was a depressing watch, and while McClaren immersed himself in what turned out to be a 15-minute conference over what to do next with one of the dozen staff members he had with him on the touchline, Swansea set apart dismantling their visitors and finishing the game off.
The second goal, hammered in by Callum Roberts with a quarter of an hour left, was like a try you see scored in rugby league quite often when one of the teams has got two men in the sin bin – just keep shifting the ball one more to the right and eventually they’ll run out of bodies. QPR, who as far as I’m aware did have a full compliment on the field at the time, did indeed run dry of defenders as Swansea calmly and methodically played the ball in from the left flank, through the area and across to the right channel for Roberts to score without challenge. Seven minutes later it was three with a multi-passing move culminating in McBurnie feeding in substitute Fulton for a finish helped on its way into the net by Alex Baptiste.
It was really nothing more than Swansea, who hadn’t scored for three league games prior to this, warranted. And it was everything QPR deserved and more. Half-arsed, wide open defensively, bereft of confidence and set up in a way that didn’t suit eight of the ten outfield players on the pitch. Some deeply troubling signs here, obviously in terms of performance and result, but also in body language and the way the players carried themselves and refused to help out team mates in trouble – frequently happy to let Freeman, Eze and Wells try to beat three or four men themselves without ever offering them a way out. Joel Lynch stormed straight down the tunnel at full time, was called back by his manager to applaud the fans, and then stood in the technical area like a naughty schoolboy applauding three times in the air before storming off again. You don’t have to be a sports psychologist to look at QPR this week and conclude that all his not well, this is not a happy looking camp at all.
It was a long, long journey home after all of that.
Still, bloody good job the precious senior players and expensive loan signings did get that night off during the week isn’t it? Imagine how bad this would have been if they’d been tired.
Swansea: Mulder 6; Naughton 6, van der Hoorn 7, Rodon 6, Byers 7 (Olsson 84, -); Roberts 7, Carroll 6, Grimes 7, Celina 7 (Fulton 71, 6); Baker-Richardson 7 (Fer 71, 6), McBurnie 7
Subs not used: Nordfeldt, Carter-Vickers, McKay, James
Goals: Baker-Richardson 16 (assisted McBurnie), Roberts 76 (assisted Fulton), Fulton 83 (assisted McBurnie)
QPR: Lumley 5; Rangel 5, Baptiste 4, Lynch 4, Bidwell 4; Eze 4 (Smith 70, 3), Luongo 4, Cameron 3, Freeman 4 (Wszolek 87, -); Wells 5 (Hall 87, -), Hemed 4
Subs not used: Ingram, Osayi-Samuel, Kakay, Smyth
Bookings: Luongo 26 (foul), Bidwell 29 (foul), Wells 76 (foul)
QPR Star Man N/A
Referee – Kevin Friend (Leicestershire) 7 Few harsh calls, bit pedantic at times as often happens when Premier League referees drop down to this level, but fine overall in a match where there was very little to referee owing to the total lack of competition.
Souls on board 18,633 (550 QPR approx.) No repeat of the away end anger we saw post Blackpool, most people just seem quietly resigned to what’s happening. Quite a chunk of the away support didn’t arrive until half time because the official supporters’ bus broke down at Newbury. Great day all round.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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