|Queens Park Rangers 1 v 2 Fulham|
Tuesday, 30th June 2020 Kick-off 18:30
Fulham profit from familiar QPR failings - Report
Wednesday, 1st Jul 2020 15:47 by Clive Whittingham
Another London derby defeat, another loss against Fulham, as ropey defending and basic goalkeeping errors cost an improved QPR three points despite taking an early lead.
Better but not good enough. Close but still so far away. Improved but still flawed. Queens Park Rangers have now lost all three of their summer lockdown games to completely derail the progress they’d made through the spring. The switch in mood exacerbated by near neighbours Fulham following in Brentford’s footsteps by completing a West London double for the season over Mark Warburton’s men. In seven London derbies this year QPR have four points, and five defeats, with Millwall still to come in W12.
Ostensibly the QPR manager sprung a surprise with his team selection for this one. Pathetic performances, toothless attack and shambolic defence in the defeats to lowly Barnsley and Charlton so far this summer sent Warbs Warburton looking for answers in a 3-5-2 set up with Osman Kakay recalled on the right side of three centre backs for his first start since a 7-1 reverse at West Brom getting on for two years ago. But anybody who’d been at the first meeting between these sides at Craven Cottage in November, where Rangers took an early lead and missed countless chances to extend it while dominating the game only to gift two goals to Scott Parker’s team and lose, would have been familiar with the thinking.
Todd Kane, who seems to me to cop a huge amount of grief online relative to anything he’s actually done wrong since signing last summer, was Rangers’ man of the match at Craven Cottage playing right wing back so no surprise to see him being recalled there, with Ryan Manning always glad of the extra opportunities to go forward from that position down the left.
The similarities didn’t end there either. Aleksander Mitrovic, whose 23 goals have been worth 23 points on their own to Fulham this season, had been unavailable in November and was serving the first of a three match ban here for trying to decapitate Leeds’ Ben White at the weekend. First time around Parker simply started Boobycar Kamara instead and watched as Rangers gift-wrapped two goals for him, but he was also unavailable here leaving Bobby Reid to plough a furrow through the middle supported on either side by Ivan Cavaleiro and Antony Knockaert.
And, wouldn’t you just believe it, just as they’d done in the first meeting, QPR scored immediately through Jordan Hugill converting a cross from one of the wing backs – this time with his head from Manning’s service rather than his boot from Kane’s. A first goal in three games, and Hugill’s third in three appearances against Fulham. The perfect start.
We’d spoken in the match preview about how fitness issues, multiple substitutions, water breaks and lack of tempo in games was destroying second halves as spectacles during this sterile version of the sport we love. QPR had conceded softly and early in both their games so far and barely threatened to comeback and equalise after half time. They haven’t been alone in that. Prior to this round of Championship fixtures, in 50 Premier League and second tier games played behind closed doors so far only three teams (Chelsea at Villa, Brighton v Arsenal, Blackburn v Bristol City) have been able to turn a single goal deficit around to win the game. Half of the Championship games played prior to this week have been won to nil, and 15 of the 25 Premier League games. The first goal, it would seem, is even more crucial than normal.
Hold my beer.
Initially it looked like the lead would be built on. For the first time since the return, QPR were at it. They pushed ridiculously high up the field, hounding Fulham in numbers, pressuring mistakes out the visiting defence in possession, Marek Rodak in the Fulham goal Robert Greened the ball straight into touch. Repeatedly. Kane forced an error from him on four minutes. It was good. Bright Osayi-Samuel looked like Bright Osayi-Samuel again, not that weird apparition that slobbed about in his shirt at Charlton on Saturday, even allowing for a more centralised role alongside Hugill. It was a lot better, and in some ways that made it worse because if we’d only played like this against the much less talented opponents we’ve faced in the last few days we’d have won those games without too much of a problem.
Then mistakes started to creep in. Manning committed himself too high up the field on 11 minutes and Fulham’s own flying full back Cyrus Christie got into space and tested Liam Kelly from distance. Then Geoff Cameron overplayed in central midfield and lost the ball to Bobby Reid who shot over. Fulham pulled QPR over to Todd Kane’s side then switched the play widthways to isolate Ryan Manning and get Christie in again but this time he weirdly chipped over. Dom Ball got done wide, the ball was cut back to Harrison Reed and his shot somehow squirmed onto the inside of the post and out again. Neither Ball, nor a nervous looking Liam Kelly, heeded that warning. Ball immediately gave possession away again, Harry Arter decided to have a dig from 20 yards out and Kelly somehow allowed it to squeeze through his arms and into the net.
A season of goalkeeping woes and howlers, that had already cost us a point at Craven Cottage, had struck again. The reaction of Kelly’s team mates said it all, a mixture of head-in-hands disbelief and, in the case of Geoff Cameron, outright anger. It feels like an odd time for your goalkeeper coach to still be absent.
The water break probably came at a good time. In the aftermath of conceding the equaliser Ryan Manning had been booked for a frustrated high lunge on Arter – who made rather a lot of it – and then been penalised for a foul throw. A foul throw. Fuck me. Fifty press ups.
Rangers settled thereafter and got back to what had worked for them early on. Osayi-Samuel intercepted intelligently on halfway with most of the Fulham players committed the wrong side of the ball – Christie had no choice but to deliberately trip him and take the card. Two minutes later the winger was off again on a trademark jinking, probing run to the byline which Fulham could do nothing about and when he cut the perfect ball back behind a retreating defence into the path of a queue of suitors a second goal seemed certain. Luke Amos nipped in front of Ebere Eze at the meat counter and skied a hopeless shot into the second tier of the School End. Nothing further your honour.
Cavaleiro looked threatening for Fulham but QPR finished the half the stronger and would have led but for a brilliant Rodak save when Jordanescence chested a ball down on the edge of the area and sought out the top corner with a volley that I honestly didn’t think he had in him. The loaned West Ham man one of several players to up their contribution and effectiveness markedly from the first two matches here. He did, however, finish the half with a booking for his own cynical haul back as Fulham threatened a counter attack from a stoppage time corner.
What we had on our hands was a proper game of football. Don’t knock it or think that’s damning with faint praise, most of the slop we’ve been served so far, masquerading as the sport we love in the desperate hope we’ll continue to part with Sky subscriptions, has been like being tied to a chair and force viewed back episodes of Miranda. Oooh she’s going to clumsily fall off that fucking chair again, don’t or my sides may physically split and leave me bleeding out all over the living room carpet.
Back and forth we went for the first quarter of an hour, chances at both ends with Harrison Reed snapping through the bits in the middle like a ginger shark. Hugill smashed through the back of Odoi seeking a carbon copy of his first goal from a left wing cross, then Knockaert took advantage of Barbet getting it caught under his foot to test Kelly from outside the area, then Barbet redeemed himself with a great clearance to rescue a big overlap against Ryan Manning and in turn set up a counter in which Eze drew a yellow card from Cairney, then Hector headed straight at Kelly as QPR’s obviously ludicrous defensive set up at corners threatened to haunt them again. Ring the bell, it looked something like football again, and had Kane been able to keep a first time volley down after steaming onto a Manning cross at the back post it might well have usurped the delightfully over-the-top Ashville Aggregates advert as the meagre highlight of this torturous viewing experience.
This frantic pattern continued. Lovely feet from Osayi-Samuel – stand up Bright, everybody look at Bright – got Eze into good space but he was too busy trying to circle back around onto his right foot rather than take on the shot with his left. Straight down to the other end, only Kane’s desperate and brilliant last second intervention stopped Cavaleiro finishing off fine work by Knockaert. Less impressive was the French winger’s horrible hack at Osayi-Samuel with two feet at the midway point of the half. Tactical fouls are part of the game – Cairney, Christie and Hugill had all been booked for exactly that already by referee Gavin Ward – but this was more than just a cynical trip to stop a player running away into a dangerous area, this was a needlessly aggressive, two footed lunge that later saw Bright limp from the field to a position of doubt for Middlesbrough on Sunday. It was a very thick yellow card indeed, had he actually been sent off there couldn’t have been many complaints.
It felt like either team could win the game, but things are going in that horrible direction for QPR now which meant it was inevitable it wouldn’t be them. Amos’ rocks and diamonds evening reached a nadir with a poor pass, the overlap down Manning’s wing was there again, Bright was slow to realise and get across, the defence had regressed too deep and Liam Kelly was suspect again. Christie pinged one straight in from 20 yards out.
There were chances for an equaliser. Sub Aramide Oteh was immediately tripped by Hector on the edge of the penalty box, but Eze lashed the free kick over after Manning had butchered the set-up touch. Those two combined more effectively two from time when a well delivered Eze corner was headed flush onto the bar by the Irish wing back. I thought it had gone in. Cruel, vengeful God.
The effort and application, so sadly lacking against Barnsley and Charlton, was there. The attack was more threatening, with one goal scored and at least one more that really should have been. The formation change worked quite well, with Osman Kakay giving a very creditable performance to the right of the back three. Bright was awake. But it was a defeat all the same, in a London derby again, caused by known defects that have plagued us all year.
Match Gallery: 15 photos
Six games to go.
QPR: Kelly 3; Kakay 7, Cameron 6, Barbet 5; Kane 6 (Shodipo 80, -), Amos 5, Ball 5 (Chair 89, -), Eze 6, Manning 6; Osayi-Samuel 7 (Oteh 80, -), Hugill 7
Subs not used: Lumley, Rangel, Masterson, Bettache, Gubbins, Clarke
Goals: Hugill 1 (assisted Manning)
Bookings: Manning 23 (foul), Hugill 45+2 (foul)
Fulham: Rodak 6; Christie 7, Hector 7, Ream 6, Odoi 6; Cairney 7 (McDonald 90+3, -), Reed 6, Arter 6 (Onomah 70, 6); Cavaleiro 7 (Sessegnon 90+3, -), Reid 6 (Marchand 79, -), Knockaert 6 (Bryan 70, 6)
Subs not used: Bettinelli, Johansen, De La Torre, Jasper
Goals: Arter 21 (unassisted, Christie 75 (unassisted)
Bookings: Christie 32 (foul), Cairney 53 (foul), Knockaert 64 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Bright Osayi-Samuel 7 Only makes that aberration at Charlton on Saturday all the harder to understand. Back to something approaching normality here and would have put a second goal on a plate had Luke Amos not skied it into the stands.
Referee – Gavin Ward (Hampshire) 7 Not an easy game to referee, very competitive with plenty of challenges flying in, played at a decent pace and tempo – all in stark contrast to the dross we’ve mostly been served up by summer lockdown football. He was generous on several occasions with Harrison Reed who took no prisoners, and Knockaert’s horrible challenge on Osayi-Samuel was one of those that lands somewhere between a yellow and a red, but overall he was very decent with all cards and major decisions correct.
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