|Queens Park Rangers 1 v 2 Bolton Wanderers|
Saturday, 30th March 2019 Kick-off 15:00
McClaren hanging by a thread after Bolton debacle – Report
Sunday, 31st Mar 2019 14:19 by Clive Whittingham
If you thought Stoke was bad, if you thought Rotherham was bad, if you thought QPR’s disastrous start to 2019 couldn’t get any worse, then how wrong you were.
There comes a moment in the QPR career of all our recent managers where you know time is up. They may last a few more games, a few more weeks, a few more months even, but they know, and we know, that from said moment the clock is running down to the point where the desk tidier and family photos go into the cardboard box.
For Ian Holloway, that was Millwall away last New Year. His behaviour before and after the game, his team’s performance during it, and his attempts to rectify the situation by pumping long balls at the most physical and direct team in the league, was the final straw for the senior management at the club. Holloway would last through until May, picking up some impressive wins along the way, but plans for his replacement had been made months before his departure.
For Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink it was losing 6-0 at home to Newcastle. Rafa Benitez’s team were a cut above the whole division that season, with players that had no business playing in the second tier of English football, and Hasselbaink would last several more weeks and win 2-1 at Fulham after it. But losing 6-0 at home is really quite something, and he was a dead man walking from that point on – not helped by him using subsequent international breaks to tout for lucrative after-dinner speaking arrangements in the Far East in dodgy circumstances not realising he was being taped by a journalist.
For Chris Ramsey, it was a substitution. Just before the hour of a home game with MK Dons, with the score at 0-0, he elected to take off Massimo Luongo and bring on Leroy Fer which, for reasons I can’t quite bring to mind now, had Loftus Road in open revolt to such an extent that opposing boss Karl Robinson walked down the touchline and put an arm around Ramsey in solidarity. That the change worked, and QPR won 3-0, mattered little, the people had spoken and Ramsey was gone a week later after a loss at Brentford.
And now I fear we may have just seen Steve McClaren passing the point of no return. An hour into Saturday’s home game with second-bottom Bolton and QPR, with just one win from their last 14 league games, were already bang in trouble. Losing 1-0 to a team that has already been beaten 23 times this season, had won only one of its last 18 away games, is certain to be relegated to League One come May, and hadn’t been paid their wages on Friday for the third month in a row amidst a protracted financial collapse, Rangers looked absolutely bereft. A mixture of poor players, good players completely spent, and players that couldn’t be arsed, the R’s were behind and deserved to be so.
McClaren attempted to rectify this by summoning Matt Smith from the bench, against the side he’d scored and assisted against in this fixture last season. Nothing unusual in that, Smith has made a remarkable 28 appearances from the bench already this season. Nor, really, in the choice of player to go off. Up went the board, 23 Pawel Wszolek, and off trooped the Pole, all the way from one side of the field to the other. There’s a lot of love among QPR’s home crowd for Pav which, even allowing for an undisputable prodigious work rate, is probably a little over the top for a player who has flattered to deceive of late and frequently goes missing in away matches. That, his swashbuckling run down the right wing a moment before, the situation in this game, the dire run of results since Christmas, McClaren’s struggles to make effective substitutions quickly enough in general, and the manager’s ongoing propensity to bring on strikers from the bench who like to feed on crosses but remove the wingers from wide areas who supply them to do it, formed a toxic combination that brought howls of anguish rolling down from three sides of the ground.
One of two things happened next. McClaren, and those who pilloried Ian Holloway for far less than what’s happened over the last three months and so feel the need to entrench themselves further in their support of him, invite you to believe the fourth official had made a mistake. It wasn’t meant to be Pav going off at all, it was meant to be… let me see here…. ah… yes… 22 Angel Rangel. 22, not 23, of course. Curse John Eustace’s slovenly handwriting. Now, to be fair, that substitution makes more sense. Rangel was playing his first game since tearing his thigh in December so was always likely to be withdrawn early, taking a defender off for an attacker when losing 1-0 at home is reasonable, 22 is very like 23 when scribbled down, and Wszolek can cover at right back as well as attack down that side. But it did seem rather odd that Wszolek was able to walk the full width of the pitch, and an announcement of his withdrawal was made over the public address system, and he was halfway over the line and shaking Smith’s hand, before McClaren, amidst an absolute uproar, started waving his hands in the air and saying there’d been a mistake. It also conveniently ignores that when 2-0 down at Brentford earlier this month, McClaren made exactly that Smith for Wszolek substitution there. In fact, of Smith’s substitute appearances this season, he’s come on for Wszolek on four previous occasions, and has replaced Ebere Eze on a dozen others. McClaren does frequently put Smith on in place of players who could supply him. And McClaren does frequently remove Wszolek to make adjustments to his team midway through the second half – of the Pole’s 28 starts this season he’s been substituted in 15 of them after 45, 77, 81, 71, 76, 45, 71, 76, 62, 77, 73, 86, 69, 74 and 60.
The perception for many was McClaren, who must surely know he’s on shaky ground given the results since Christmas, heard the reaction and shit the bed. A man whose first act as England manager was to get his teeth whitened so he looked better on television playing the PR game once more. If it was that, then his authority is shot, because the players down there will know he changed his mind. If it was a fourth official error, then how about that for timing – football’s Bad Luck Brian struck down by misfortune at the worst possible moment again. “You’ve just got me the sack,” as the late Graham Taylor once said. Either way, the aesthetics were absolutely appalling. A bench of a dozen staff, versus four in the opposite dugout who hadn’t been paid for the month, who faff around making substitutions at the best of times, engaged in farcical scenes with players coming and going and nobody really knowing what was going on. It was, as said in the Crown and Sceptre later on Saturday evening, the day McClaren died. Bye bye, hair island pie. Drove Hemed to the levee, but the levee was dry.
Not that the bloody substitution made a blind bit of difference anyway. The last time McClaren decided that Grant Hall and Joel Lynch should start together as the centre backs we were 4-0 down before half time at home to Birmingham and with Toni Leistner on the bench again here the defence was absolutely all over the show once more. Hall, shock horror, got injured early in the second half and was replaced by the German but Bolton were still battering us: Magennis missing an open goal on 58 after Sammy Ameobi had caused havoc with a low cross, Buckley hitting the underside of the bar on 66 then Taylor drawing a good save from Joe Lumley with the rebound, and finally scoring a second goal through Connolly from close range after Lumley had parried Ameobi’s shot. The entire starting back four here is out of contract this summer, and the club shouldn’t be in a rush to renew any of them. Only the bottom three and Wigan have a worse goal difference than our -15, only the bottom four and Blackburn have conceded more than our 61.
There was the odd moment in the first half, mainly when Bright Osayi-Samuel had the ball. He had half a shout for a penalty after apparently being tripped right on the edge of the box after two minutes. A scramble off a later corner was turned onto the post by Josh Scowen with the keeper beaten. But Ameobi had already drawn a save from Lumley with a long range speculator by the time Magennis angled a header over the keeper and Buckley converted from close range with a ragged defence appealing in vain for an offside flag that never came.
At one point Joel Lynch dribbled the ball straight into touch. I suppose it made a change from him passing it there.
QPR’s attack, such as it was, was stunted by the latest disgusting excuse for a performance from Tomer Hemed, who could present his chronic lack of movement across 70 pathetic minutes here to Shopmobility and qualify for a free motorised scooter. Time and time and time and time again balls were played forward only to find the Israeli international ambling back from the offside position he’d occupied during the previous attack. Rank bone idleness. The bloke fucking lives offside. McClaren’s faith in players who aren’t going to be here next season and know it is a big part of the reason this season is going south so quickly. I’d say we should only use the players that definitely will be here in 2019/20 for the remaining seven games, but then we’ve loaned most of those out.
What happened after the second goal, full disclosure, I don’t know. I’d left. I couldn’t stand it any more and I could feel myself losing my shit which nobody who pays £535 a season to sit next to me really needs so I took myself back to the Crown and nursed the free beer bottle of Peroni they decided I needed after taking one look at my face as I walked through the door. I know, from the highlights, that Bright Osayi-Samuel, again the only positive among the outfield players, drew a leg save from Remi Matthews and that McClaren’s third sub, Nahki Wells, scored a very nice goal of his own making to halve the deficit with ten minutes to go. Hopefully that will inject a bit of confidence back into his game. Wells’ mark out of ten was decided by committee after the game.
Afterwards McClaren said his team had done enough to win two matches. Exactly which two matches he’s referring to is unclear, given we’ve just had consecutive home games against Rotherham and Bolton who are just about the biggest home bankers you could have on your Championship fixture list this season and lost both of them. While we were embarrassing ourselves here, Rotherham were losing six fucking one at Derby. Another sure sign a manager is on his last legs is when they start coming out with nonsense that’s just demonstrably untrue in their post match interviews. Of the 21 shots on goal he pointed to, only seven were on target and several of those, such as Massimo Luongo’s daisy-cutter in injury time, were token gestures.
Whoever would have thought after that Stoke game that it would actually turn out to be something of a high point? That after the Rotherham debacle, things could get even worse still? That’s why we don’t give ones in the ratings kids, there’s always another few levels of fucking awfulness to dig down through yet.
There were no excuses for this. Bar Geoff Cameron pulling out sick, this was a fully fit squad. The fixture congestion has eased now, this was our first game for two weeks. The Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday sequence is over, all that precious “time on the training ground” McClaren talks about was available to them in spades over the last fortnight. That weird run of games where we suddenly had to play six of the top eight all at once is over, our last three home games have been against twenty third, twenty second and fourteenth and we’ve taken one point.
The only reason QPR aren’t in serious relegation trouble already after one win from 15 games is because the three or four teams at the bottom of the league are so unbelievably awful – though still good enough to beat us. With two away games now at champions-elect Norwich and Millwall at The Den it’s pretty clear the only way we’ll stay out of it is if they continue to be so for another seven games.
This QPR team has completely gone.
QPR: Lumley 6; Rangel 5 (Smith 62, 5), Hall 3 (Leistner 49, 4), Lynch 3, Bidwell 4; Scowen 5, Luongo 5; Wszolek 5, Freeman 5, Osayi-Samuel 6; Hemed 3 (Wells 70, 6)
Subs not used: Ingram, Furlong, Cousins, Eze
Goals: Wells 81 (unassisted)
Bolton: Matthews 6; Olkowski 6, Wheater 6, Beavers 6, Taylor 6; Williams 7, Connolly 7; Ameobi 8 (Donaldson 89, -), Buckley 7 (Noone 80, -), O’Neil 7; Magennis 6
Subs not used: Alnwick, Little, Oztumer, Wilson, Connell
Goals: Buckley 35 (assisted Magennis), Connolly 71 (assisted Ameobi)
Bookings: Connolly 75 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Bright Osayi-Samuel 6 Becoming a bit of a running theme this. The only bright (sorry) spot in a dire performance, causing the opposition problems by running with purpose, getting to the byline, beating his man and delivering into the area.
Referee – Geoff Eltringham (Durham) 8 Continuing his excellent run of performances in QPR games with another calm, unfussy, unobtrusive display.
Souls on board 13,603 (350 Bolton approx.) My God.
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