Bolton hand QPR reality check – full match report
Sunday, 14th Aug 2011 17:21 by Clive Whittingham
QPR’s long awaited return to the Premiership ended in disaster on Saturday as Bolton Wanderers inflicted the R’s heaviest home defeat in almost two years.
Titanic was the Saturday night film on FilmFour. You can all draw your own comparisons. So much bravado, so much spin, so many people so desperate to be optimistic and then the very cold, very hard facts ruthlessly delivered.
I doff my cap to those who have remained positive and optimistic through this most trying of summers. Even today, after a 4-0 home defeat, there is plenty of wreckage for them to cling to because QPR, believe it or not, were the better side for the first half of this game. The passing was at a better level than it was last season, the tempo was good and chances were created with encouraging frequency. QPR will be competitive in games this season – you don’t win the Championship in the manner we did with a crap side.
But for those, like me, who think we will, at best, maybe finish above Blackburn this season and nobody else there was a sad inevitability about what happened in this game. Yes QPR played well and created chances in the first half – but in its own way that was our first problem. You absolutely cannot create and miss three great chances like we did on Saturday. We’ll be lucky to create three chances as good as we had in the first half against Bolton in the next two matches. Every little half sight of goal has to be snapped up with brutal efficiency. Bolton didn’t even create a half chance in the first 45 minutes at Loftus Road and went in 1-0 up. That’s what we’re up against here.
I have said all summer that if Norwich were signing the players we have signed, putting out the laughable statements that we have put out, running around in last season’s third strip covered in gaffer tape, publicly rebuking their manager, setting him a League One transfer budget and so on and so on then we would be laughing at them and saying they’ll be lucky to win five matches. In the second half here all of those pigeons came home to roost.
LFW may have started the season with another lousy score prediction, but we did at least call the starting 11 right. As expected Kieron Dyer lined up at right full back ahead of Bradley Orr with Fitz Hall and Danny Gabbidon a rather shaky looking central defensive pairing and Clint Hill at left back with Paddy Kenny in goal. Further forward Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurlin anchored the midfield with Tommy Smith on the right of an attacking three, Adel Taarabt on the left and DJ Campbell through the middle. Up front Jay Bothroyd made a home debut in the lone striking role.
Bolton have endured a wretched summer injury wise with Lee Chung-Yong and Tyrone Mears breaking legs to join Sean Davis and Stuart Holden on the long term injury list before the season has even begun. They also lost Daniel Sturridge at the end of his loan spell and Johan Elmander who moved to Galatasaray so Owen Coyle has a tough task this season to match the achievements of last where they reached the FA Cup semi final. He started former Burnley man Chris Eagles wide on the right with Premiership stalwart Kevin Davies in attack and Ivan Klasnic just off him. At the back Gary Cahill remained alongside Zat Knight despite a summer of speculation about him moving elsewhere.
The game exploded into life with two key incidents in the first four minutes. QPR, as they had done against Leeds on the final day of last season, had the ball in the net with a matter of seconds on the clock. Taarabt fronted his man down the left and crossed low into the six yard box. Bothroyd controlled the ball and attempted to get a shot away on the turn from six yards out but duffed his effort to DJ Campbell who lashed home from very close range only to find his celebrations cut short by the linesman’s flag.
While still dealing with that disappointment Rangers were then forced onto the back foot as Bulgarian winger Martin Petrov accelerated into the left channel and cut inside into the penalty area. This was the first real test for Kieron Dyer who, while he has certainly played at there previously in his career, wouldn’t count right full back as his strongest position. On this occasion he came out on top, executing a sliding tackle that robbed Petrov of possession and set Rangers away on the attack down the right flank. Sadly, predictably, as his team mates moved clear with the ball Dyer immediately pulled up and after limping around for a minute or so he collapsed to the turf in apparent agony and was carried off on a stretcher with what appeared at the time to be a very serious injury.
News soon started to filter through from downstairs that he may well have broken a bone in his foot. In fact what he’d actually done was bruised it. That’s right, a bruise. Now I’m not saying it didn’t hurt, and I’m not saying he could have played on through it (although I strongly suspect people like Kaspars Gorkss, Peter Ramage and Gareth Ainsworth would have done exactly that) but for goodness sake the way he went off I wouldn’t have been that surprised if somebody had told me he’d broken his leg and yet it’s only a bruise. How low is that man’s pain threshold?
These are the chances Warnock has been forced to take this summer with the budget he has been given to work with. The spin from the club has been admirable – talk of “England international caps”, “something to prove” and so it has gone on but the facts speak for themselves. In four years at West Ham Dyer started just 17 times and came off the bench on another 18 occasions. To repeat the same actions and expect a different result is the definition of insanity and yesterday he lasted four minutes. Bradley Orr came on to replace him.
When the game restarted Bolton settled and launched their first serious attack of the game. Paul Robinson sent a high cross to the back post from the left and Kevin Davies intelligently nodded it down into the six yard box. Paddy Kenny was alert to the danger and nipped off his line to claim the ball cleanly with Klasnic loitering awaiting any fumble or mishandle.
At the other end QPR were desperately unlucky not to take the lead when Jay Bothroyd flicked a ball in behind the Bolton defence, DJ Campbell chased it down to the byline and hooked it back into the area and Bothroyd strode back onto the ball and unloaded a shot that was destined for the top corner before being headed up and over the bar by Cahill who knew little about it.
And QPR continued to not only hold their own but take the game to Bolton. An attractive three pass move ended with Tommy Smith dragging his shot wide of the target. Then the move of the match saw a fine run from Campbell, excellent skill from Taarabt and then finally Campbell again holding the ball on the byline and teeing up Smith who hammered a low cross into the six yard box but Jaaskelainen claimed the ball low and defused the danger.
Bolton’s only real threat came from Petrov who lashed a wild long range shot into the Upper Loft. QPR were passing the ball nicely, pressing Bolton high up the field and restricting them to shots from long range. So far, so good and it seemed that the visitors may be getting frustrated when Kevin Davies, already penalised three times, needlessly hacked down Paddy Kenny as he attempted to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick by the corner flag. Davies was given a final warning by referee Martin Atkinson when he really should have been booked, but Kenny was lucky not to fall victim to a Kelvin Davis v Ray Jones type disaster having journeyed that far from goal and taken a risk that the ball had enough pace to go behind.
Just before the half hour the danger of including Adel Taarabt in our side in the Premier League shone through for the first time. An over elaborate trick when a simple pass was on gave Fabrice Muamba a chance to muscle the Moroccan off the ball and when Alejandro Faurlin then missed a tackle Martin Petrov had acres of space to attack down the left but his cross flashed right across the face of the goal and out. From the resulting goal kick Zat Knight suffered a nasty head injury after a clash with Jay Bothroyd resulting in another lengthy stoppage. I mention this because the added time would be significant later on.
There was a further stoppage shortly after when Tommy Smith was chopped down by Nigel Reo Coker. The former West Ham man was yellow carded for the tackle, and given that he’d already committed numerous fouls and had hacked into Taarabt just half a second before then lunging in on Smith he can have few complaints. Reo Coker looked to me like somebody who was half a yard off the pace, in the first half at least. He’s been playing reserve team football for more than a year at Aston Villa and I thought you could tell, he was a long way short of his team mates in match fitness and sharpness for me.
Rangers continued to look dangerous. Taarabt launched a fine crossfield pass to Bradley Orr on the right who then worked the ball back infield via Derry and Faurlin to Taarabt again but he seemed to be in two minds when receiving the ball on the edge of the area and he launched the ball into the School End with what was neither a cross nor a shot. He was much more certain with his next effort, ten minutes before half time, when Bothroyd flicked on Kenny’s long clearance and he struck a volley straight at Jaaskelainen. And Bothroyd went close himself when Taarabt whipped a corner into the near post but the new QPR striker could only find the side netting with a diving header from a couple of yards out. The fans in South Africa Road thought that one was in.
Petrov, Bolton’s key threat, hit another shot over the bar as half time approached but it seemed as though the score would be deadlocked at the break and QPR could be reasonably happy with their first 45 minutes in the Premier League. Sadly the next five minutes didn’t go quite so well.
I wondered whether QPR’s minds were already in the dressing room when the fourth official signalled five added minutes at the end of the half. The high tempo and pressing that had been a feature of the first half seemed to slacken slightly in that stoppage time and QPR switched off. Bolton took advantage of this and scored a magnificent goal, centre half Gary Cahill curling a fine strike past Kenny and into the top corner from 25 yards out, but nobody had come out of the area to challenge him and it had all come from two Bolton throw ins down the right where Rangers had left themselves outnumbered two on one. You can’t legislate for the quality of Cahill’s finish but QPR had only themselves to blame for him being in that position with that much time in the first place.
That Cahill goal didn’t need to be a disaster. QPR had been the better team in the first half and really the only fault you could pick with them was that in the Premiership you can’t afford to have three or four good chances and fail to score because at the other end this quality of opposition only need one half sniff to find the net.
It was a shame therefore that the lethargy of the stoppage time period continued into and throughout the second half. It was like QPR had given up after falling behind, a big departure from the spirit of last season and a real surprise for a Neil Warnock side. Rangers were never at the races from the moment the second half kicked off and having dominated for long periods of the first half they could have eventually lost by more than four and barely registered a serious effort on goal in the second.
Bolton quickly got a sniff that something was afoot and within a minute of the restart Klasnic had hit a low effort on goal that Kenny did well to save at full stretch. That stirred a response from Derry who first sent a great ball across the field for Smith, who crossed through the empty area, and then launched a thumping, legal tackle on Chris Eagles that got the crowd back into the match.
Eagles was not a popular figure at Loftus Road last season when twice dived in the area trying to win penalties, but he was genuinely in the wars here. No sooner had he picked himself up from Derry’s firm challenge than Clint Hill was scything him down as he skipped down the touchline. Hill’s first offence, but still deemed worthy of a yellow card by Martin Atkinson who’d earlier shown leniency with Davies for a worse challenge on Kenny. I actually think Atkinson booked Hill to justify him stopping the play because if he’d allowed it to continue Reo Coker was away and accelerating into space in the penalty area. Not the finest piece of refereeing we’ll see this season.
There can be no complaints about the next decision that went against Rangers though. Fitz Hall, remarkably not injured by this point, chased Klasnic out of the penalty area towards the corner flag and then just when he had him exactly where he wanted him put in an early entry for the stupidest piece of play of the season award by fouling him and thereby immediately turning a harmless situation into a dangerous one. From the free kick Petrov stuck the ball plum on the head of Davies at the back post and he should have done better than head the ball wide of the post.
There followed two long range efforts on goal from QPR. The first, from Adel Taarabt after a fantastic turn midway through the Bolton half, looked in all the way from where I was sitting but actually flashed just wide of the top corner with Jaaskelainen beaten. The second, from Tommy Smith at the end of a counter attack that had survived three Bolton fouls all of which had been played on through, was miles off target.
There has been much talk on the message board after the game about how awful Danny Gabbidon was but to be honest, to this point, I thought he’d had a pretty decent game. Admittedly Bolton didn’t attack with any great numbers or conviction in the first half but he won plenty in the air and didn’t do too badly in other facets of his game for the first hour of the match. He was twice involved just before the hour mark – first being harshly penalised for a foul on Kevin Davies on the edge of the area which presented Chris Eagles with a chance to smash a free kick into the wall. Then moments later he raced across the edge of the area to execute a superb block on Martin Petrov after he’d left Orr for dead and raced into a shooting position.
Sadly, a minute later, the afternoon was to turn sour for QPR and Gabbidon in particular. It started when Kevin Davies was treated to a free kick wide on the QPR left under the slimmest of contacts from Faurlin. Interesting that on Goals on Sunday Davies, a studio guest, laughed this one off before going on to lambast Joey Barton for play acting in the Newcastle Arsenal game and conning a “fellow professional”. Anyway having been duped Rangers didn’t then have to make it quite so easy for Bolton who tapped the free kick short to Eagles for him to drill it low into a six yard box containing not one single Bolton player. Under no pressure and with the ball flying out for a goal kick Gabbidon inexplicably stretched out and slid the ball into his own net. It was the action of a tired player and typified the lethargy and lack of concentration QPR played with from the forty fourth minute onwards. A shambolic goal.
If the tiredness and lethargy wasn’t enough of a concern, the way QPR seemed to just give up after that second goal certainly was. We’re going to be on the end of some absolute shallackings if we’re going to quit every time we go 2-0 down. It’s so unlike this group of players as well.
It should be noted that by now the atmosphere had taken a turn for the hostile. Flavio Briatore became the target for chants and abuse and after ten minutes of that he turned and fled from the director’s box to a chorus of boos and catcalls from the QPR fans around him. By that stage the score was 4-0.
It’s fully justified of course, people look and see a club brought back from the brink of insolvency and taken to the Premiership in four years and wonder what the problem is but we’re only here because for 18 months of that four years he pissed off and did other things and left a couple of competent people to run the show. Now he’s back and it’s all falling apart again – no coincidence at all. However I must say only starting to abuse him once we’re two nil down just smacks of looking for a scapegoat. Were the ticket prices and his running of the club ok when it was only one nil, but two nilis just far too much? If you’re going to abuse the guy then abuse him, don’t wait until we’re losing because it just looks like you want somebody to take your frustrations out on him. It should also be pointed out that in Flavio’s world Flavio has never been wrong about anything, ever in his whole life. Thankfully it seems he may finally be on his way out of our club because if he wasn’t, then abusing him would see him sack Neil Warnock long before he’d look in the mirror at his own reflection.
Anyway with morale shattered on the pitch, the mood turning ugly in the stands, and the only player Bolton were worried about (Adel Taarabt) withdrawn along with Tommy Smith and replaced by Akos Buzsaky and Heidar Helguson the visitors were able to run amok for the rest of the game.
Three minutes after the second goal and one minute before the substitutions they made it three nil when Klasnic was afforded too much time in the area and his volley deflected into the net off Bradley Orr. Then nine minutes later Klasnic was allowed to run unchallenged along the edge of the penalty area and bide his time waiting for a runner from deep to arrive – Fabrice Muamba took up the invitation and strode onto the resulting through ball to stroke home a fourth goal that you could see coming ten or 11 seconds before it was actually scored.
To Buzsaky’s credit he did at least register a couple of efforts on goal. The first, between the third and fourth Bolton goals, came from a direct free kick won by Derry who had gone charging through the heart of the Bolton defence and been upended resulting in a yellow card for Gary Cahill. Buzsaky only found the base of the wall with that poorly struck shot but went closer in stoppage time when he sought out the ball in a penalty box scramble and unloaded a shot on goal that was blocked away to safety.
Between the two efforts Bolton had gone close to making it five when another poor QPR set piece broke down and the visitors cleared into the Rangers half where Martin Petrov had the freedom of the park to race into. Paddy Kenny made a crazy decision to come charging out of his area to try and reach a ball that was never his and despite the distance and angle Petrov probably should have done better than lob over the empty net from fully 45 yards out. Kenny was rather better placed to save a Gary Cahill header from a corner two minutes from time.
There was time for a final flashpoint. Petrov received the ball tight to the right touchline and clashed with Clint Hill after knocking a pass back to Mark Davies. Hill appeared to leave his foot in and then react to Petrov’s complaints by pushing his head into his chest like a rutting stag. Petrov collapsed to the ground as you would expect and Hill was shown a straight red card which, if it’s for violent conduct as I suspect, rules him out of the next three matches.
Three minutes of stoppage time at the end of the game seemed needlessly cruel. The QPR fans still left at the end of it gave the players a standing ovation as they left the field and rightly so. Whatever happens this season will not be the fault of our squad of players that did so well last season and will freely admit themselves that they need reinforcements to be able to cope with this new level. The fighting lions with toothpicks analogy came to mind several times in the second half.
The whole game to me reminded me of our 6-0 thrashing by Arsenal in the FA Cup ten years back. Initially buoyed by the occasion and the atmosphere QPR flew out of the traps that day and had three goal-bound efforts cleared off the line. Then as the energy levels dipped, the crowd settled down and Rangers retreated back to their normal level Arsenal upped it a gear or two and calmly took us apart. This was by no means that one sided but the pattern was the same.
Bolton stepped it up after half time while QPR regressed from the standard they’d initially set for themselves and the result was catastrophic. The worry I have is that the first half performance is probably about the best we can play and we’ll face better sides than Bolton this season. The defence was torn asunder, the midfield completely overrun, and I cannot recall a single serious effort on goal at the Loft End in the second half. Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell linked up well in the first half but in the second Bothroyd seemed to spend far too much time wide on the flanks leaving Campbell to battle Cahill and Knight alone, a fight much better forwards than him receiving much better service than we gave him would have lost.
We’re not good enough. I suspected as much and it was there for all to see. Warnock’s post match interview confirmed he knows it too. Two full backs, one centre half and a quality central midfielder a conservative estimate at what we need.
We now look to our boardroom once again and pray for the moves that are said to be afoot to happen this week. The people in the boardroom at Loftus Road are now the only ones that can halt what looks like an inevitable slide straight back out of this league. Warnock and the players have done and will do all they can but we’re in very serious trouble if things remain as they are now.
A final thought to take away with you, picked up from one of the Saturday morning papers. Last season QPR’s turnover was £14m, the wage bill was £17m. This summer because of the bloody stupid deals we handed out left right and centre our wage bill has already doubled. If those percentage increases don’t reduce the other way after a relegation then we’re fighting for a lot more than just top flight status this season.
QPR: Kenny 6, Dyer - (Orr 7, 5), Gabbidon 5, Hall 5, Hill 5, Derry 6, Faurlin 5, Taarabt 6 (Buzsaky 72, 6), Campbell 5, Smith 5 (Helguson 72, 5), Bothroyd 6
Subs: Murphy, Connolly, Agyemang, Ephraim
Booked: Hill 52 (foul)
Red Cards: Hill 90 (violent conduct)
Bolton: Jasskelainen 6, Steinsson 7, Knight 7, Cahill 8, Robinson 6, Muamba 7, Reo Coker 5 (Pratley 83, -), Eagles 6 (M Davies 81, -), Petrov 8, Klasnic 7 (Blake 86, -), K Davies 8
Subs: Bogdan, Alonso, Gardner, Wheater
Booked: Cahill 76 (foul)
Goals: Cahill 45 (unassisted), Gabbidon 67 (own goal, assisted Eagles), Klasnic 70 (unassisted), Muamba 79 (assisted Klasnic)
QPR Star Man – Jay Bothroyd 6 Looked our biggest threat and led the line well in the first half before disappearing from the game in the second. Tough choice to make and to be honest if the game had finished on 60 I probably would have given it to Gabbidon (I anticipate some stick for that). His collapse in the final third of the game was the most dramatic but he wasn’t alone.
Referee: Martin Atkinson 7 (Yorkshire) One or two things to quibble over – allowing Davies off without a yellow card after he’d committed four fouls and then hacked down Kenny was very generous. To then book Hill for exactly the same type of foul on Eagles when play could have been allowed to continue was inconsistent. Davies went on to con him out of a free kick with an obvious dive in the lead up to the second goal. Other than that, hard to argue with anything else including the Hill red card.
Attendance: 15, 195 (771 away) First Premiership game at Loftus Road since 1996 and the thick end of 3,000 empty seats. As sadly inevitable as the game itself. For such well established and successful businessmen our owners really do make themselves look like absolute tits. Bolton sold barely half their tickets and at £50 a throw who can blame them? I was actually quite pleased for the ones who did shell out that they were treated to such a great result. The QPR fans, I thought, were excellent – very supportive of the players and making it very clear who is at fault for this developing mess. Like I say though, if you’re going to get on Briatore’s back don’t wait until we’re 2-0 down because it detracts from the point being made.
Photo: Action Images
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When Saturday Comes #5 by wessex_exile
“Well, I can tell u my son was stood nearer the back of the Holker Street end and although he couldn't see who was responsible, he was disgusted and was very clear in telling me that the 'N' word was used by someone stood directly behind the goal nearer the front. I'm sick of hearing this, no one but the player being abused heard anything so maybe he was mistaken crap. This shite still exists despite everything that the authorities try to do because unfortunately there are still racists in every, city, town, village and hamlet in this country. [SwearFilter] scum of the earth.”
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