|Queens Park Rangers 0 v 2 Fulham|
Saturday, 9th January 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Strikers misfire as Austin watches on - Report
Sunday, 10th Jan 2021 18:36 by Clive Whittingham
QPR were beaten in the FA Cup third round for a record breaking fiftieth time on Saturday, as Fulham made the most of Rangers' profligacy in front of goal to win the day in extra time.
The FA Cup loves narrative, and the storyline of Queens Park Rangers’ third round tie with near neighbours Fulham was writ large. Watching on from the bowels of the South Africa Road stand, returning local hero Charlie Austin. Out on the field in front of him, the reason why.
QPR missed. They missed headed chances, shooting chances and volleyed chances. They missed from close in, long range, and all four corners of the penalty box. They missed with mitigating circumstances, and they missed ones you thought you’d probably score yourself. Chance after chance, over and over, for the best part of two hours, and in the end they were put out of their misery at the third round stage of this competition for a record breaking fiftieth time. Bat raised to the pavilion, members stand to applaud.
There was barely a minute on the clock when Macauley Bonne headed Little Tom Carroll’s outswinging corner over the bar from six yards amidst a half-arsed marking job from Aleksandar Mitrovic. Vague appeals to referee Simon Hooper for a pull perhaps betrayed his embarrassment at the simplicity of the chance. This would be a developing theme.
Bonne would later be played in behind a reshaped Fulham back three by Lyndon Dykes but was so desperate to manipulate the ball back onto his favoured right foot the opportunity passed him by. When Dykes then cut a ball back intelligently for Bright Osayi-Samuel to strike he hit the ball too close to goalkeeper Marek Rodak.
Things escalated after half time. A rare example of a Todd Kane cross not flying straight at the head of the nearest defender deflected through to Bonne at the far post, with time to do as he pleased, but he butchered a snatched volley over the bar. He then went through on the goalkeeper one on one after a ball from Geoff Cameron, of all people, found its way through to him on a tight angle but Rodak saved strong and decisively at his feet. Rodak also saved fairly brilliantly from Dom Ball after Kane got him in along the byline but the goalkeeper was not required when a long punt out from his opposite number Seny Dieng got Dykes clean through on the goal with the ball sitting up invitingly and no Fulham defender in the picture – he banged a horrible, ugly shot into the Loft End.
Warbs Warburton decided to try tattooed child Charlie Kelman from the bench, see if he could do any better. He could not. Not brave enough at the near post to convert one cross from Bright Osayi-Samuel, not sharp enough to bring a good ball from Dykes under his spell when it looked like he would go through on goal.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic. Joe Bryan’s audacious 50-yard lobbed attempt over Dieng after a quarter hour was inches away from finding the top corner – a beautiful effort from a lovely footballer. Fulham really are blessed in that position, later introducing the muscular Antonee Robinson from the bench who was similarly impressive. When QPR’s structure collapsed completely on itself on the half hour Josh Onomah was allowed to pull a ball out of the sky in 20 square yards of clear space inside the Rangers half and he fed Mitrovic who was then denied by a typical hail Mary challenge from Yoann Barbet. Another one of those, and a goal line clearance, were required on the hour when Ivan Cavaleiro sprung a creaking offside trap and advanced into the area – Mitrovic, again, with the effort that required the Frenchman’s intervention under the crossbar. Bryan, Onomah and others shot wide from range, Mitrovic would have gone clean through on goal at the start of the second half with a better first touch. He looked like he’d rather be anywhere else, and Fulham felt clunky and half interested, but their chances still came and went.
Nor were the strikers the only problem. QPR’s wing backs, once more, struggled. Down the right Todd Kane just looks bereft – an extra time cross that struck Bryan on the temple and knocked him clean off his feet rather summed up his afternoon. Down the left, Bright Osayi-Samuel was given a go as a makeshift option, Warbs Warburton finally conceding that Captain of Glasgow Rangers Lee Wallace and umlaut enthusiast Niko Hämäläinen are as much use between them as Anne Frank’s drum kit. He didn’t do too badly, but there’s not a defensive bone in his body, and we looked open down that side – Ilias Chair, prize from the middle shelf for a lung busting 80 yard sprint back down the pitch to rescue a first half counter attack out of Rodak’s hands. You can rarely fault this team’s effort to be fair to them.
The midfield, too, remains more of a concern than anything else. As against Reading, Bristol City, Brentford and others things started well, with Carroll dictating, showing, getting, giving, moving the ball intelligently, maintaining and recycling possession, passing forwards with purpose. When Carroll plays QPR play, but when he fades, and fade he does, the team go with him. He had, along with Chair, as per usual, been substituted before a period of extra time was forced by the stalemate. Faysal Bettache was given long awaited minutes in his stead and looked keen, calm and confident, but it was noticeable how few options show for the ball from the defence once Carroll and Chair aren’t there any more, and Bettache was one of a couple you could perhaps accuse of being too passive when Bobby Reid worked a one two on the edge of the area with Mitrovic and then whipped an accurate shot into the bottom corner for 1-0.
A second followed soon after, Fulham shifting the ball right, right again and right a third time until QPR simply ran out of bodies and Neeskens Kabano was able to power one home at Dieng’s near post. A second goal for a substitute emphasising the relative strength of Fulham’s bench compared to Rangers’. Five kids were introduced by Warbs Warbuton, and the sum total of their contribution was Hämäläinen showing Kabano the outside route to the byline and inviting him to take it, then pulling him down for an obvious yellow card when he took him up on it. A booking only beaten in its stupidity by Barbet’s crack straight through the back of the same player in a neutral position a moment earlier. The French centre half, to be fair to him, didn’t play too badly otherwise.
It was a long afternoon to sit through for that as the reward.
The problems with this team stretch way beyond simply who’s playing up front. There have been games – Bournemouth, Watford, Bristol City, Brentford and now this one – where the missing of chances has been the biggest issue. You certainly couldn’t argue with the service in this match, Osayi-Samuel, Chair and Carroll in particular but also Cameron and even Kane at one point or another all left justifiably exasperated that good ball into dangerous area was wasted by those ahead of them. But that’s not always been the case this season. Unlike last year, where Jordan Hugill’s glaring misses were a regular punctuation to the campaign, it hasn’t felt like we’re missing a tonne of chances in general, up to but not including this game.
There are still, for me, more pressing problems elsewhere. If QPR try and survive in the Championship this season with these full backs and this midfield they’re going to be playing Rochdale when we’re eventually allowed back in, Charlie Austin or no Charlie Austin. We are seeing a pattern repeat when Rangers play reasonably for the first half, even the first hour, but then fade as Carroll tires and the opposition add options from a better furnished bench to the middle of the park.
But, on this occasion, without a doubt, QPR win the game with a better striker up front.
QPR: Dieng 6; Dickie 6, Cameron 6 (Masterson 90, 6), Barbet 7; Kane 5, Carroll 6 (Thomas 82, 5), Ball 6, Chair 6 (Bettache 82, 6), Osayi-Samuel 6 (Hämäläinen 90, 5); Bonne 4 (Kelman 73, 5), Dykes 5
Subs not used: Willock, Barnes, Adomah
Bookings: Cameron 35 (foul), Barbet 112 (foul), Hämäläinen 115 (foul)
Fulham: Rodak 7; Aina 6, Ream 6, Kongolo 7 (Hector 67, 6); Tete 6 (Odoi 90, 6), Onomah 7, Reed 6 (Kebano 78, 7), Loftus-Cheek 6 (Robinson 90, 7), Bryan 8; Cavaleiro 5 (Reid 67, 7), Mitrovic 5
Subs not used: Adarabioyo, Fabri, Carvalho, Jasper
Goals: Reid 104 (assisted Mitrovic), Kebano 105+2 (assisted Onomah)
QPR Star Man – Yoann Barbet 7 Usual seat of your pants, madcap, out of control nonsense at times, but two big goal-saving tackles and an important goal line clearance cap a decent enough display.
Referee – Simon Hooper (Hampshire) 8 Probably the best player on the pitch. Gave the game every chance, bought none of the attempts to con him by Mitrovic and others. A calm, unobtrusive authority.
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