|Blackburn Rovers 2 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Tuesday, 28th January 2020 Kick-off 19:45
Focused QPR lose “vitally important” Blackburn game – Report
Thursday, 30th Jan 2020 00:36 by Simon Ashby
QPR’s focus on the remainder of the Championship season got off to an inauspicious start after Friday’s cup exit to Sheff Wed, with a 2-1 defeat against Blackburn at Ewood Park. Simon Ashby was there for LFW.
I’ve lived in the North West of England since 1989 and I do like a trip out. So why have I never spent a day or night out in Blackburn other than visiting for a football match? Turton & Entwistle reservoir makes for a lovely walk when the sun’s out. Although at roughly 10 miles away I’m not sure you could call it Blackburn. Ian ‘Lovejoy’ McShane hails from the Blackburn, and you could catch Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp hosting a Back to the 80s party at King George’s Hall if you head back in May. There are The Beatles’ 4,000 holes; although they turned out to be just potholes according to the Daily Mail article that inspired Lennon’s lyrics for ‘A Day In The Life’. So football it is then.
Ewood Park (top five things to do in Blackburn, Trip Advisor) has rarely been a happy hunting ground for Rangers. In fact you have to go back to 1999 to find the last time the Rs faithful partied like it was, well 1999, when the hoops sealed a 0-2 victory courtesy of goals from Stewart Wardley and Kevin Gallen . So it was more in hope than expectation that I set off on a bleak winter’s evening, and sadly it didn’t take long for that hope to be punctured.
With Nahki Wells recalled and presumably with his feet up watching the Villa v Leicester game, waiting for the phone ring, Rangers set up as most would have predicted. Kelly was back between the sticks, with Lee Wallace, Conor Masterson, Grant Hall and Todd Kane making up his back four. Geoff Cameron and Luke Amos sat in the holding space behind the trio of Samuel, Eze and Chair, leaving Hugill to plough a lone furrow up front.
After a rather sedate opening, in which Rangers were content to move the ball crab-like across the back four (more of which later), in the hope of drawing Blackburn on and thus creating space for Bright and Chair to run in to, it was an altogether more direct route that paid dividends for Rovers on ten minutes. Rothwell played a long and rather hopeful ball from just inside his own half which seemed to glance off Grant Hall’s head into the path of Armstrong. A retreating Kane got caught in two minds whether to close down or track the overlapping runner and probably rightly chose the latter. With Hall painfully slow to react, Armstrong took a touch and curled in off the post from 20 yards. He’d scored an almost identical goal against Reading earlier this season, but the dog had obviously eaten the R’s homework. For the record, Kelly had no chance and neither Smithies, Kenny nor Parkes would have saved it either.
Things could have got a whole lot worse within a minute. Trying to prevent a deflected shot from going for a corner, Kelly merely managed to claw the ball into the path of Lewis Travis who tickled it goal bound. If he’d got any more on it the Rs without doubt would have been two down. As it was, Hall had a chance to redeem himself by clearing off the line.
Rangers continued to tempt fate by playing the ball at times perilously across the back four, using Kelly as sweeper come get out clause as a buoyed Rovers pressed. But It looks great when Man City do it, suddenly bursting into life, breaking at pace. Sadly, City we are not, and the outlets provided by our unusually static and predictable midfield, coupled with the speed (or lack of it) with which we moved the ball had the 300 travelling Rs squirming uncomfortably in their seats.
Forced into a cul-de-sac on 22 minutes, Rangers finally went long to Hugill who climbed well to nod down to the on-rushing Chair. Chair drove forward before splitting the chasing defence with a square ball to find Hugill, who took a heavy touch before calmly lifting the ball over Walton in the Blackburn net. Goodnight John boy, we’re back in business (Ask someone over 50).
Suddenly Rangers looked a little more at it, Kane overlapping to put in a cross that Amos snatched at, sending it comfortably over the bar when perhaps he could have done better, nevertheless there were signs of life. Unhappily though, somebody had forgotten to tell Rangers that Pantomime season was over. With a chorus of “He’s behind you” ringing out from the upper tier another set piece goal is conceded, as Lenihan ghosts in unmarked to nod in at the back post from a corner. Will we ever learn!?
For the rest of the half both teams trade powder puff punches with neither side landing a meaningful blow. The closest rangers come, when Kane delivers a low inviting cross on 44 minutes that dissects the Rovers box but evades Chair, and everyone else.
The hope Rangers would be first out of the blocks in the second half and begin to assert themselves was quick to evaporate. More tentative sideways to and fro designed to draw Rovers out was just too slow to have the desired effect. It was as if Rangers were both mentally and physically wading through treacle. Now I have no wish to return to the hoof and chase of yesteryear but at times it was painful to watch. Rather than forcing Rovers rush in and make mistakes, so slow and predictable the pattern became, it just allowed them to inch their collective press up the pitch sucking the life out of any proposed attack. By the time Rangers did send the ball forward it was more often than not because they were forced to, and then into tight areas, with the likes of Bright receiving the ball with his back to goal and with a close escort.
So it was Blackburn who fashioned the first opening of the second half. Rangers, once again failing to clear their lines from a corner, allowed Tosin Adarabioyo to turn Cameron on the edge of the box and fire in a low shot which Kelly did well to turn round the post.
At the other end of the pitch, the tireless Chair, with little if no help cut a forlorn figure has he tried in vain to implement his own one man press. Frustration was growing and both Amos and Chair were yellow carded. Amos who had lost possession on several occasions (as he did against Leeds) for a miss timed tackle, and Chair for hauling down his man as a last resort to stop Rovers playing out with ease again.
It seemed to be a combination of Rangers pulling their socks up and Rovers happy to settle for what they’d got that finally saw the Rs mount a sustained period of pressure, but in truth, it never felt like we were going to get back into this one.
Amos, who wasn’t having his finest hour, was subbed for Pugh on 66 minutes, who added more huff ‘n’ puff but not the guile that was sorely needed. Chair, who had finally run out of steam was next to go, being replaced on 80 minutes by Shodipo, who immediately took up residence on the right wing.
The added protection of Bright’s pace now gave licence for Wallace to get forward, which he duly did on several occasions only for his crosses to be easily snubbed out by Rovers back line. When a cross finally did beat Rover’s massed ranks, Shodipo could only nod tamely into Walton’s hands, and that was just about that.
At times this season we’ve seen our boys play some wonderful stuff, sadly tonight wasn’t one of them. Instead, we made the simple things look difficult; closing down, picking up runners at corners, retaining possession, and it cost us. In attack, Hugill, although no slouch, doesn’t have the pace or movement of Wells to pose a similar threat in the lone striker role. We will need to get closer to him, or provide him with some help. So, the Rs toiled but lacked spark, and on a cold and wet winter’s night at one of Blackburn’s top rated attractions, probably got what we deserved.
Match Gallery: 20 photos
QPR: Kelly 6; Kane 6, Hall 6, Masterson 7, Wallace 6; Cameron 6, Amos 5 (Pugh, 66, 5); Eze 5, Chair 7, (Shodipo 80, 6), Osayi-Samuel 6; Hugill 6
Subs not used: Lumley, Manning, Rangel, Leistner, Clarke.
Goal: Hugill 22 (assist Chair)
Booked: Chair 57 (mugging), Cameron 58 (foul), Amos 61 (foul)
Blackburn: Walton 6, Nyambe 7, Lenihan 7, Adarabioyo 6, Bell 7; Travis 7, Downing 6 (Johnson 79, -), Holtby 6 (Rankin-Costello 79, -), Rothwell 6 (Bennett 46, 6); Armstrong 7, Gallagher 6
Subs not used: Leutwiler, Williams, Graham, Brereton.
Goals: Armstrong 10 (unassisted), Lenihan 30 (assisted Rothwell)
Booked: Lenihan 74 (foul)
QPR Star Man : Illias Chair 7 No one really covered themselves in glory on a night where Rangers struggled for long periods. That said, Chairs work rate never dropped, covering twice as much ground as any other player in an Rs shirt, he tried to create whenever possible. Masterson comes a close second; his composure on the ball belied the young man’s years as Rovers squeezed the Rangers back line time and time again.
Referee – Darren Bond 7 Even with my footy specs on it’s hard to definitively argue with any of Bond’s decisions without watching the game back, and I’m in no hurry to relive the experience just now. The cards for Amos and Chair were easy to give, in the case of Chair very easy, and he didn’t blow up every two minutes. Bright’s penalty shout was worth a look but he probably got it right so I’m not feeling bitter. However, he did seem easily influenced by the home crowd, and failing to punish Rovers for their shithousery, in particular Walton who took an age to do everything does rankle.
Attendance: 11,505 (292 QPR)
The Twitter @simonashby1
Pictures – Action Images
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