QPR's in-form firepower downs Swans - Report
Monday, 6th Jan 2020 17:44 by Clive Whittingham
QPR picked up where they left off against Cardiff City on New Year's Day, with a 5-1 FA Cup victory against their bitter rivals Swansea on Sunday afternoon.
It’s going to be like this all the time now, by the way. Queens Park Rangers have merely been playing the long game, lulling the footballing world into thinking they’re crap, for the best part of ten years. Now, with the Championship awash with mediocre sides in varying degrees of financial distress, they’ve decided it’s time to cut loose. Five and six one wins all the way from now on. Get ready to break the glass on that emergency Europa League campaign credit card.
A nice little microcosm of this approach was seen in Sunday’s FA Cup Third Round tie at home to Swansea City. The visitors came into the match sporting ten changes to their starting 11, and with the Jake Bidwell Centre Back phenomena making a return to a ground the locals had hoped it had long since been banished from. Pity poor Brandon Cooper, thrown in for a second start for his boyhood club as the other ‘centre half’ in the equation.
Rangers, meanwhile, had humped Cardiff City 6-1 on New Year’s Day, their biggest win since 1999, and had resisted the urge to make masses of changes to their team for the different competition. No Ebere Eze for the first time this season, Liam Kelly was back in goal, there was a debut at the back for Conor Masterson, and Josh Scowen came in from the cold to the warmth of the first team midfield, but otherwise this was a first-ish team with Bright Osayi-Samuel, Ilias Chair and Marc Pugh playing behind Jordan Hugill in the 4-2-3-1 set up.
But, initially at least, this was no mismatch. One of Swansea’s new faces was Swedish winger Kristoffer Peterson, who hadn’t been seen since December 8 when he was hooked at half time of a 5-1 loss at West Brom. He got Todd Kane going backwards early on, which as the world’s least defensive right back Todd Kane isn’t really a fan of and doesn’t seem to know how to deal with. One aggressive probe and cross was chested away by Geoff Cameron, turning up in the middle of the defence after a shift at right back the previous game, while another ended with a fierce shot that Kelly got some fingers on and helped onto the top of the bar.
Nathan Dyer, removed after 58 minutes to give him half an hour to rummage through the barmaids’ handbags before full time, volleyed over after the hard working Aldo Kalulu hooked a lost cause back into his path, then returned the favour with a low cross from a seemingly offside position which the striker had taken off his toe for another corner. Only Plymouth (50) have lost more Third Round games than QPR (49) and when the R’s fell asleep from a throw in and let Jay Fulton in for a free hit into the side netting it was starting to feel like one of those magical FA Cup days in front of banks of empty seats at Loftus Road.
Like I say though, it’s going to be like this all the time now. Any periods of inaction, incompetence or apparent drops in performance levels are just us lulling our prey into a false sense of security as part of the hunt. After 20 minutes we got Todd Kane going forwards, which as the world’s most attacking right back Todd Kane enjoys a great deal and knows exactly what to do with. His cross to an unmarked Jordan Hugill on the edge of the box set the loaned West Ham striker up for a chest and volley which had the residents of East Acton frantically checking their buildings insurance but this time he executed perfectly, bringing the ball down well before hitting a crisp strike into the bottom corner from 18 yards out. His first goal in nine games. Clever girl.
And that was it. Façade dropped, secret out, yes we are actually absolutely fucking brilliant after all, sorry about that. Ilias Chair, impressing at ten and already unfortunate with an early cross shot from a tight angle that flashed right through the goal mouth, got played in by Marc Pugh immediately after the goal and was inches away from finding the top corner with an ambitious effort. Within four minutes Swansea’s desperation to play out from the back despite delaying so long all the options for doing so had been closed off got Jake Bidwell tracking hopelessly across his own area with the ball at his feet and no obvious destination in sight. Osayi-Samuel the latest raptor to emerge from the trees, desecrate the innocent and unsuspecting victim, and roll a second goal into the bottom corner. Four in seven games now for the blistering winger, and finally a QPR assist for Bidwell. We’ve waited years.
Floodgates open, horses bolting everywhere, Swansea got caught with their pants down again straight away. Once more their idealistic/suicidal pisballing about set up Chair to feed Osayi-Samuel who squared up the Jake Bidwell costume that remained on the field after the second goal, widened the angle, and drew a save from Kristoffer Nordfeldt at his near post. Hugill bought a generous foul from Father of the Bride star Steve Martin on the edge of the area and Chair beat the wall but not the keeper with the free kick. When he did get the delivery spot on four minutes later, Hugill ignored the rudimentary wrestling techniques of the visiting defenders to stretch out at the back post and divert in a third. In a minute of added on time Osayi-Samuel escaped once more and a super move ended with Chair having a shot saved on another acute angle.
9/1 at lunch on day two, Wales’ status as a test playing nation being called into serious question.
Swansea started the season with seven wins and a draw from their first eight games to set the early pace in the Championship, but have won only six of 21 since and Sloth from the Goonies has had his methods, tactics and style of play questioned by an increasingly aggy home support in recent weeks. If it is any consolation to them, they looked marginally better than their hapless South Wales rivals had here a few days prior. Kalulu, who hasn’t scored in six appearances this season, toiled hard for no reward in a lone striker role, making intelligent runs that almost always ended without a team mate passing him the ball when they should have done to his obvious frustration – Little Tom Carroll every bit as lightweight and ineffective as a ball playing midfielder as we remembered. That meant a decent work out for our debutant centre half Conor Masterson, who looked strong in the air and far more comfortable with the ball on the ground than our first choice centre backs have at times this year. He’s tipped for a January loan, and given how we’ve used that technique to bring Darnell Furlong, Joe Lumley, Ebere Eze and Ilias Chair on we’ll bow down to the club’s wish for him to play 20 games somewhere else between now and May rather than five or six here for us, but he looked very promising on this evidence and our defence is a key area requiring strengthening.
The Swans sent one through the six yard box at the start of the half to set a few hearts fluttering, and then Kalulu hit a speculator wide. They made three changes before the hour, bringing on George Byers, Borja Baston who once cost them £15m, and Bersant Celina who you may remember from such School End rip-snorters as a 25 yard thunderbastard for Ipswich Town on one of the rare occasions Mick McCarthy released the young Kosovan into the wild. Their impact was immediate, with Celina catching Cameron trying to do a bit too much and finding Byers who rolled one past Kelly from the edge of the box to score with virtually his first touch.
Anything but a replay lads, don’t you bloody well dare.
I was quite surprised to see Osayi-Samuel come out for the second half, and stay on as long as he did. He’d been feeling his calf from early in the game, and did so again after the restart, but his presence was enough to keep QPR comfortably on top and the visitors at arm’s length. He got round the back on 50 minutes and cut a cross back which was cleared, then turned on the edge of the area and shot just wide of the top corner on the hour. There was then a huge shout for a penalty as Osayi-Samuel drew a tackle in the area and hit the deck, but Three Amigos mainstay Martin deemed that while the Swansea player hadn’t won the ball (goal kick awarded) he hadn’t fouled the man either. Bold call, as was an almost immediate decision to wave away an even more blatant foul on Pugh in the box on the other side of the goal. A short corner routine reached Josh Scowen on the edge of the area and Bidwell made a brave block to deny him.
No refereeing doubts about Jay Fulton’s horrible tackle on the superb Ilias Chair as he streaked away on 63 minutes mind – an immediate yellow, and frankly he was fairly lucky that was all it was. There’s deliberately, professionally tripping a player to stop him running away from you, and there’s trying to snap a kid’s leg, and this was somewhere on the borderline of the two. The free kick just eluded both Hugill and Lee Wallace at the back post.
The introduction of Mide Shodipo from the bench for a first appearance since the opening day at Stoke was a chance for QPR to kick on and pull into the distance. He almost scored with his first touch – a powerful shot from the edge of the area that Nordfeldt palmed over the bar. From that corner, beautifully delivered by Chair, Hugill’s firm header was saved by the keeper purely because it went straight at him rather than either side. Nordfeldt had a strange afternoon, and had clearly been to the Tony Roberts Dealing With Backpasses half-term soccer school – you’ve got loads of time mate, don’t worry about it, take as long as you need. A slide instead of a jump from Hugill at one point and he’d have been able to tackle in a hat trick goal. Instead he busied himself getting in the way of shots from team mates trying to score – Pugh and Scowen both struck efforts into the big target man in quick succession after another flowing move with Chair at its heart.
No matter, here comes Lee Wallace having a go with his swinger from 20 yards. Four one. Sometimes it’s just your day.
The irrepressible, mesmeric Chair was withdrawn with ten to go, and replaced by youth team prospect Deshane Darling, who looked bright and skilful and keen to run at a retreating full back. Bet Kane hates him in training. There was also a brief cameo for U23 defender Joe Gubbins, who looked absolutely made up despite the limited time on the field. It was all drifting away into a big love in, to be honest, until Scowen used three minutes of stoppage time to pick up a clever chipped pass from Kane (going forwards = happy) on his chest, swivel and seek out the far top corner with a volley from somewhere over by the Goldhawk Road. Relief for him after a tough season on and off the field, one in the eye for his critics, and deserved reward for a very good display at the base of the midfield alongside the similarly excellent Dom Ball.
Five one now, and the crowd bayed for a second successive six inside a week. Darling’s twisting, turning, jinking run past two players on the way to the penalty area nearly provided it. Those five came from ten shots on target, the same number we had against this opponent in August in a 3-1 defeat. 2020, the year of the more clinical Rangers.
What is happening? And why? And, more importantly, who cares? Just hook it to my veins.
What a time to be alive.
QPR: Kelly 6; Kane 6, Cameron 6 (Gubbins 90, -), Masterson 7, Wallace 7; Ball 7, Scowen 7; Osayi-Samuel 8 (Shodipo 69, 6), Chair 8 (Dalling 80, -), Pugh 7; Hugill 7
Subs not used: Hall, Smith, Wells, Barnes
Goals: Hugill 21 (assisted Kane), 45 (assisted Chair), Osayi-Samuel 29 (assisted Bidwell), Wallace 76 (unassisted), Scowen 90+1 (assisted Kane)
Swansea: Nordfeldt 4; Roberts 5, Cooper 5, Bidwell 3, John 5; Carroll 4, Fulton 4; Dyer 4 (Baston 58, 5), McKay 5 (Celina 58, 6), Peterson 6 (Byers 58, 5); Kalulu 6
Subs not used: Dhanda, Mulder, Scully, Naughton, Cabango
Goals: Byers 60 (assisted Celina)
Bookings: Fulton 64 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Ilias Chair 8 Has come back stronger, refreshed, more confident and more effective for that little spell on the bench in December just as he’d started to lag a little bit. Compare that management of a young talent to the flogging of Ebere Eze 12 months ago. Absolutely ran the show here, a dominant display at ten and a real contrast to Swansea’s own small boy Tom Carroll, who was anonymous. Chair may lack height, but he’s strong, not easily bullied off the ball, and now capable of dominating Championship opponents. Few more goals, and some similar performances on the road, targets for early 2020.
Steve Martin (Staffordshire) 6 I thought the challenge on Pugh was a penalty, though perhaps the swan dive put the referee off giving it. Free kick outside the box everyday of the week regardless. Fulton very lucky to only see yellow for his hack at Ilias Chair.
Attendance – 6,712 (900 Swansea approx.) More rich rewards for the rain or shiners.
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