Huddersfield happy to pile pressure on QPR – Report
Sunday, 18th Sep 2016 23:01 by Clive Whittingham
Surprise early league leaders Huddersfield Town were far too good for an increasingly beleaguered looking Queens Park Rangers side in West Yorkshire on Saturday.
On paper this looked like the last thing Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink needed at the end of a traumatic week when his reign as Queens Park Rangers manager has been called into serious doubt for the first time.
Away from home against a Huddersfield Town team that operates on a smaller budget, with no parachute payments, a less experienced manager and twice as many summer signings from abroad to bed in, but is nevertheless leading the Championship table playing more attacking, more entertaining, higher tempo football. All the supposed advantages Newcastle United held over Rangers, leading to a humiliating 6-0 win at Loftus Road on Tuesday, were on the other foot. Lose here and serious questions would be asked.
And lose QPR did, far more comfortably than the 2-1 scoreline suggests.
That it was so close owed much to the impact of two QPR substitutes – Ariel Borysiuk, on at half time for Karl Henry who’d looked utterly bereft during the first half, and Idrissa Sylla, who came on to lead the line for the final 15 minutes. Sylla, the only positive from two dire games this week and surely worth more game time than he was afforded here, provided a physical presence in attack, while Borysiuk played ten yards further up field than his predecessor and was at least able to get close to opponents and affect the game.
Sylla scored his first goal for the club with ten minutes left – heading home at the back post after Tjaronn Chery had received his own corner back from a clearance and chipped a brilliant cross deep into the heart of the Huddersfield area. But for a last ditch challenge on Sylla as he threatened to run clear on goal as six minutes of injury time commenced this could have finished 2-2 and Hasselbaink deserves credit for turning an apparently hopeless situation into a salvageable one by working his bench well.
But Huddersfield were far, far, far better than QPR for the first hour and thoroughly deserved their win.
They too play with QPR’s much maligned one up top and three behind him formation, but the two executions of the continental style were like night and day. Town, with Chelsea loanee Casey Palmer, German Elias Kachunga and former Bradford man Nahki Wells particularly impressive, group their attackers together almost as a flat front four at times, rotating the lone striker role between them, flitting around between the lines, poking and probing the space. Their full backs fly forwards to join attacks in a way QPR's simply don't, and they hold the width of their attack and focus on delivering crosses into the box while Rangers narrow to a single point around a crowded penalty area. They looked dangerous every time they came forward and it’s a surprise they only managed two goals.
QPR, meanwhile, spent the first half belting long balls up to Conor Washington. Again. Washington may be rubbish, may be great, may not make the step up, may go onto be a world beater – quite how we’re ever going to find out while only ever utilising him like this, usually in tough away games, beats me entirely. Seb Polter replacing him at half time, and Borysiuk at least moving the centre of the midfield into the same postal code as the forwards, helped, but it was only when Sylla joined the fray and QPR did finally have more than one lone player to occupy the home defence that bits and pieces started to happen for them. By then though there were only 14 minutes left for play.
I’m certainly not one of these people who thinks 4-4-2 is the answer to everything, nor that one up front is necessarily a negative formation if it’s utilised correctly – Neil Warnock’s 2010/11 title winners played with Helguson as a lone striker and Taarabt off him – but Hasselbaink seems very set in certain ways at the moment and is going to have to consider relaxing his approach. Karl Henry doesn’t have to play every match. We don’t have to isolate one striker to the extent we are. We can play a winger on the correct wing every now and again – young Mide Shodipo’s turn this week to keep cutting back onto his favoured foot, delaying and narrowing attacks as he did so, because he was playing on the wrong side of the field.
All of that said, had QPR defended properly, they could have won the game 1-0 – both Huddersfield’s goals were shambolic defensively.
The first came after 14 minutes at the end of a catalogue of fuckwittery at the back. First Tom Smith was allowed to cross from the right with only Shodipo anywhere remotely close to him – and he was a good ten yards away. Left back Jake Bidwell was actually on the corner of the six-yard box as the Huddersfield man was given the freedom of the right wing to sling a dangerous ball over. When that cross eluded everybody and exited the area on the far side, Rajiv van La Parra – who’d given Rangers a torrid time for Brighton and Wolves last season – was able to pick it up, move it out of his feet and then deliver from the left without anybody getting anywhere near him. Nedum Onuoha made a token attempt, but couldn’t stop the cross coming over. Given that Onuoha and Bidwell had both abandoned their full back positions to defend deep and tight and narrow with Grant Hall and Steven Caulker, it’s somewhat alarming that Kasey Palmer was able to walk into the six-yard box completely unmarked and head into the net from close range regardless.
There were other chances too – Wells headed straight at Smithies who saved well from close range but he’d been flagged offside, Palmer inadvertently deflected a panicked defensive clearance towards goal and Smithies dived to his left to stop it turning into an embarrassing goal, Kachunga shot wide of the post.
QPR flickered into life occasionally. Tjaronn Chery, who I’m also not convinced is offering enough away from home to justify his first name on the team sheet status, got into a dust up with Jonathan Hogg midway through the first half which referee Simon Hooper could have let go with a word on the run but elected to book both players for. Massimo Luongo shot wide after 26 minutes, but he was largely anonymous and the comparison between him and his fellow countryman Aaron Moy, who was on the same round the world international trip a fortnight ago but scored a winner at Leeds last week and was completely dominant here, summed up the difference between the sides.
Nedum Onuoha was fortunate one undercooked back header found its way safely to Smithies – seconds later Caulker was testing his keeper with a wild airborne back pass of his own. When Mark Hudson was booked for fouling Shodipo on the stroke of half time, Rangers overhit the free kick. As a spectator with a vested interest, it was a draining experience.
Things weren’t initially a lot better after half time. QPR survived a big handball appeal against Steven Caulker in their own area, and Kachunga had a goal disallowed for offiside on the hour after Palmer had threaded a ball through to him.
The second goal, when it did come, was a result of many of the same failings of the first. Smith, as head had done in the first half, had already sent over one dangerous cross having been left completely unchallenged by Bidwell a few moments before and when the QPR left back was once more slow to confront his man Smith picked out Kachunga at the back post for a looping header over Smithies and into the net. Soft as grease.
One would have thought Johnjo Shelvey had taught us all we needed to know about standing off opponents during the week but apparently not. Where exactly is this high press, high tempo game the QPR management has spoken so much about, and released several players who they didn’t feel fit in with it?
Low on confidence, tired, out of form, just plain not very good – whatever it is, QPR could at least make themselves more difficult to score against than this. Four of Newcastle’s half dozen during the week were defensive howlers and the sheer lack of effort and desire to get out to a winger and stop the cross coming in was the undoing of Rangers here.
The introduction of Sylla livened things up, Onuoha had a similar effort to his Wigan goal blocked away by the crowd, but they’d left it too late to put up resistance and Huddersfield weren’t as troubled as the scoreline suggests. Frustration started to manifest itself in yellow cards – Polter for a series of fouls, Borysiuk for deliberately interrupting a counter attack with a cynical shirt pull, Sylla very harshly for trying to retrieve the ball from Huddersfield sub Dean Whitehead who received no punishment for his obvious attempt to waste time.
In looking for angles or somebody to blame we can read too deeply into things. QPR have been well beaten twice this week by two better sides, and there’s perhaps not a lot more to it than that, nor does it necessarily have to be somebody’s fault.
But on the pitch, allowing crosses to come in from wide areas, conceding goals from set pieces, as has happened in the last two games, is players simply not doing their jobs correctly.
In the dug out, it feels rather like Hasselbaink is painting himself into a corner. He seems to believe we have to start with Karl Henry, and Tjaronn Chery has to start at ten, in every single game, regardless of circumstance or opposition. Now Henry isn’t as bad as people say – though he’s been woeful this week – and Chery is obviously our best technical player – though, again, probably not as wonderful as everybody makes out. But by putting them on the team sheet in permanent marker it’s forcing us to play the same formation, forcing us to field only one striker, forcing players like Cousins to be used as wingers because there’s no room in the middle of midfield, forcing players like Borysiuk to stay on the bench, forcing us to play wingers on the wrong wing, just to crow bar everybody in.
It was only when Rangers went to 4-4-1-1 here, with Sylla up top and Polter in support, and Borysiuk in midfield, that they looked anything like.
We all, relatively, know nothing of football tactics and formations. Nor do we know who’s playing well in training, who’s carrying a knock, who’s had flu this week, who’s playing with injections and so on. But I do know that if Hasselbaink is going to stick this rigidly to this system and style he’s in increasing danger of dying wondering at QPR.
Huddersfield: Ward 6; Smith 7, Hudson 6, Schindler 6, Lowe 6; Mooy 8, Hogg 6; van La Parra 7, Palmer 8 (Whitehead 86, -), Kachunga 8 (Bunn 81, -); Wells 7 (Hefele 90+1, -)
Subs not used: Scannell, Coleman, Cranie, Payne
Goals: Palmer 14 (assisted van La Parra), Kachunga 62 (assisted Smith)
Bookings: Hogg 21 (unsporting), Hudson 44 (foul)
QPR: Smithies 6; Onuoha 4, Caulker 5, Hall 5, Bidwell 4; Henry 4 (Borysiuk 46, 6), Luongo 4; Cousins 5, Chery 5, Shodipo 5 (Sylla 73, 7); Washington 4 (Polter 46, 6)
Subs not used: Lynch, Ingram, Wszolek, El Khayati
Goals: Sylla 76 (assisted Chery)
Bookings: Chery 21 (unsporting), Polter 87 (repetitive fouling), Borysiuk 90+1 (foul), Sylla 90+3 (Unsporting)
QPR Star Man – Idrissa Sylla 7 Made a huge difference when he came on, providing a presence and goal threat up front that didn’t exist when Washington was up front by himself and support that Polter badly needed for the previous 30 minutes. Why not on sooner?
Referee – Simon Hooper (Wiltshire) 6 Decent, if a little fussy. The booking for Sylla in injury time for trying to get the ball off Dean Whitehead and stop him running off downfield with it to waste time was a joke, particularly as Whitehead escaped punishment.
Attendance – 20,595 (800 QPR approx) Fairly raucous home crowd, as you’d expect. Fairly quiet away end, likewise.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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