Same time next year then – Report
Monday, 11th Jan 2016 01:17 by Clive Whittingham
QPR’s annual, limp FA Cup surrender and ongoing failure to ever beat Nottingham Forest at The City Ground collided in ball-aching circumstances in the East Midlands on Saturday.
It was an afternoon of records crying out to be broken. QPR haven’t won an FA Cup match without the aid of a replay, nor been beyond the fourth round, since 1997. They hadn’t won at Nottingham Forest in 30 attempts – 18 defeats and 12 draws. They hadn’t won under new manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in six matches – four draws, two defeats.
Sadly, this was simply more kindling for the fire. Another one to throw on the pile. QPR still haven’t won an FA Cup match without the aid of a replay, nor been beyond the fourth round, since 1997. In addition to that, they now haven’t scored a single goal in the FA Cup for three years, losing three times to nil. They now haven’t won in 31 visits to Nottingham Forest, and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is still waiting to taste victory seven games into his reign. Already – sadly, mindlessly, predictably – there are calls for him to be sacked across the increasingly toxic online forums. Like sacking managers has been working at all for Queens Park Rangers.
It’s difficult to pin-point the most annoying thing about this latest setback.
Possibly it’s the clear knowledge we’ll rarely have a better chance to arrest those dire records. A win at the City Ground, in particular, would lift a huge historical monkey from the shoulders of QPR and yet Rangers surrendered that chance against a team that left out key men like Nelson Oliveira and David Vaughan, had one shot on goal in the match and didn’t seem that bothered about trying to win the game either.
Hasselbaink selected veteran Clint Hill at left back, and in the early exchanges the logic behind that thinking seemed clear. Twice, most notably after 14 minutes, Forest swung over deep crosses from their left wing searching for talented lanky teen Oliver Burke piling in from the right flank with a header. Despite ceding significant inches to his rookie oppo, Hill climbed high and used all his experience to head dangerous situations clear. It suggested clear homework and clever selection.
A first ever start for youth team goalkeeper Joe Lumley in the senior team less that, more a product of an increasingly complicated goalkeeping situation. Rangers have been remorselessly selecting Robert Green as their number one, despite the presence of a better long-term option in reserve in Alex Smithies, and despite Green’s increasing propensity to surrender points by passing the ball into his own net in often amateurish circumstances. Now, it transpires, that five more starts for Green triggers a contract renewal the club can ill-afford amidst the looming gloom of Financial Fair Play, but on the day Smithies was meant to assume the role for the rest of the season he was left at home with a sore elbow. Having waited so long, personally, I’d have had to have my arm hanging off by a nerve ending not to play here. If it is a serious injury, QPR have apparently worked themselves into a situation where they can’t pick their first or second choice keeper, leaving them to start a teenager each week or spend yet more money on a loan player. Excuse me a moment while I crack me head repeatedly against this solid wall.
In the end, Lumley had one single shot to save. Hill may have been better than Burke in the air, but the Forest academy graduate was superior to most other players on the pitch in every other department. Midway through the first half, in a counter attack, Burke executed a superb first touch on a dropping ball tight to the touchline in front of the dugouts and then used the time that bought him to accelerate away from the chasing defenders with ease. Eventually he unloaded a cross shot to the back post, taking Lumley out of the game completely, and allowing spikey forward Jamie Ward to tap in the easiest goal of his career from half a yard out.
Ward is pugnacious, talented, and difficult to play against – a player I’d have liked at QPR several times in recent years. But he hadn’t scored in 22 appearances since moving on a free from Derby in the summer until this one rolled into his path. The R’s have always been charitable in such situations.
But other than that Forest offered little. They are, by their own admission, a team that likes to sit deep, conceding possession and field position in order to counter attack, even when they have their strongest team out. Here, with a team almost as scratchy as QPR’s, they barely even did that. By the time the game drifted round to the the final 10 minutes they were resorting to punting the ball away into the unoccupied channels either side of the QPR defence, kicking for field position and playing for time like the worst Rugby Union team you've ever seen.
Grant Hall, fresh from a deserved contract renewal during the week, was booked by referee Oliver Langford for a firm foul on Ward, after a quarter of an hour. Lumley set up his wall well - despite some absolute Nesbit right behind the kid in the away end screaming “it’s too far right Green you fucking West Ham cunt” at him throughout the process - and Jamie Ward’s shot subsequently smacked straight into the defensive line.
Lumley didn’t have a single thing to do apart from that. His kicks were well executed, and twice the distance of Green’s, bar one nervous early hack that barely got out of his area and he was lucky to get away with. Early in the second half Ward drew him from his line and chipped a shot onto the bar but he’d long since been flagged offside. But that was pretty much it. Forest offered next to nothing, and yet seemed to win fairly comfortably.
Possibly the biggest irritant is that QPR will rarely have more excuse to focus on the cup. Whatever Tony Fernandes and his fucking Instagram account thinks, this team is no more getting promoted this season that flying to Venus in an old bath tub they found next to a railway line. We should (should), should, please God, have enough to keep us out of relegation trouble. And so, if you’re not going to have a go at winning some cup matches now, then when?
Apparently not now. This was a fine example of merely going through the motions – Rangers seen to be there but not there to be seen. To my immediate right, one supporter slept soundly through the second half. To my left, another read the Debt Capital Markets Update from cover to cover and made notes.
Having been to the Premier League and watched our club spaff all the money it brings on detestable footballers and their repugnant agents for no positive results on the field, while we spend £54 on a ticket to watch us surrender matches against such dominant global forces as Spurs and West Ham as mere bonus games, and not much liked it, the QPR fans aren’t in any great hurry to rush back. Ask most in the Crown and Sceptre on a Saturday night now and they’ll take an FA Cup run, maybe even a Portsmouth or Cardiff-style FA Cup Final at Wembley, above a return to the Premier League any day. Imagine seeing us walk out there for that, singing Abide With Me, potentially qualifying for European competition. Imagine Bobby Zamora’s goal, but in the FA Cup final.
And yet QPR toss it in every season. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink described the onset of cup football this week as “unwelcome”. Unwelcome how? Unwelcome why? Distracting us from our vital seventeenth v sixteenth Tuesday night league trip to Blackburn Rovers? You can make a case for QPR deliberately sacking off cup matches for the last five years, when they’ve been actively embroiled in promotion or relegation battles and have lost key players such as Ale Faurlin and Jamie Mackie to bad injuries in early round games such as these. But Rangers are currently embroiled in nothing other than drudgery. Going nowhere, writing off a season, petering out a campaign from December that’s due to end in May. If not a deliberate attempt at a cup run now then when?
In a way, Hasselbaink’s “experimental” line-up was a blessing. Players who have – harshly, wrongly – been left out in the cold in favour of the big name, big earning superstars who were supposed to be the key to an immediate promotion but have failed abjectly, were suddenly recalled. There were starts in midfield for Massimo Luongo, Ben Gladwin and Michael Doughty while Jamie Mackie returned from injury on the wing and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas started up front.
This produced a mixed bag of performances. Gladwin, fresh from a two month loan spell back at Swindon, looking fitter than the others and was able to drive in field with the ball at feet and seek out passes before being prematurely hooked in favour of Tjaronn Chery after 50 minutes. Quite what we achieved from that, fuck only knows. A substitution only surpassed in annoying pointlessness by using the third and final change, while trailing 1-0 and at least ostensibly needing a goal, to send on James Perch for Clint Hill. Perch was, once again, as he has been all season, dreadful.
Emmanuel Thomas looked disinterested in the entire event, barely even going through the motions. Starting in a lone striker role he’d played quite well earlier in the season, during one first half counter attack he pulled so far wide to the right flank he really should have applied for a permit in the adjacent car park. Two token efforts to close down home keeper Dorus De Vries as he received back passes in the second half apart, he barely even broke sweat. Difficult to know, on this evidence, and his spells with Cardiff and Ipswich, what his overall goal in the sport is other than getting rich and fat.
Mackie worked hard, but looked awfully short of match sharpness. His final balls often duffed. Doughty busied himself while not affecting the game, until the second half when a move to the left wing gave him the chance to whip in a couple of decent crosses which would have posed danger had somebody more engaged than Emmanuel Thomas – dare I say the much maligned Seb Polter – been playing up front. Massimo Luongo, too, seemed to rather drift through the game in a low gear. Daniel Tozser looked better than he has, but in a match played at almost reserve team pace and intensity.
Despite much of this, QPR took over the second half. Tjaronn Chery looked very decent after coming on for Galdwin early in the half. De Vries blocked smartly from Emmanuel-Thomas when he tried his luck from 20 yards, and then produced the save of the match when he flipped himself into the air to divert Gabrielle Angella’s powerful header from Tozser’s corner over the crossbar. De Vries owes us a good show really – he the keeper who has previously flopped over long range shots from Adel Taarabt and Charlie Austin as they’ve flown into the net.
Michael Petrasso impressed after replacing Mackie on the hour, easily his best performance for the first team so far, and off target shots followed from Doughty and others.
The game was held up for an extensive amount of time in the second half for a bad looking injury – by which I mean they took a day and a half to prepare full Hindu funeral equipped with plastic barge to float him off down the Trent ablaze - to Henri Lansbury. An injury so bad – since reported as a sprained ankle – that despite having the ball in an attacking position when the play was stopped, QPR kindly kicked it back to Forest when it finally restarted. As Hogan Ephraim said last time we were at our lowest ebb - there’s no pride, no nastiness, nobody wants to smash nobody, nobody is doing anything.
But for me the biggest problem and irritation about this is still to come. Hasselbaink said afterwards “I wanted to have a look at a few of them and I’m pleased I did” which to me signals, fairly obviously, that he didn’t think much to anything he saw. And nor should he, it was basically rubbish.
But that dispirits me further because I think players like Luongo, Gladwin, Chery, Mackie, Doughty and Petrasso should be playing increasing roles in the first team going forwards this season. They’re younger than the players we’re currently picking in their places, they’re likely to stay at the club a lot longer, they’re likely to be fitter to play more games than the likes of Leroy Fer and Sandro, they’re costing us a lot less, they have greater future sell on value… and are they that much worse? Emmanuel-Thomas did himself no favours, far worse than Polter has been of late, but was this performance really that much worse than the ones recently put in against Hull, Ipswich, Huddersifeld, Reading, Leeds, Preston, Brentford, Derby and others? If Charlie Austin, whom QPR are entirely dependent on, doesn’t play then this is how good we are.
You can’t simply gather up all the youth and second choice players, bundle them up together into some sort of starting 11 where several of them play from the start for the first team for the first time in weeks - many out of position – and expect them to produce a coherent team performance in a match the management publicly declare they don’t care about and see as unwelcome. Or, rather, you can, but you shouldn’t expect it to go particularly well, nor should you pass too many judgements on individuals for their contributions to it, nor should you immediately drop them back down to wherever they were before because they didn’t tear up any trees here.
There are potentially positives to take from Saturday. A team of players the club seems to have already largely given up on, dominated long stretches of a game against a Championship opponent and would have yielded a positive result had Charlie Austin, or even Seb Polter, been selected up front instead of the entirely disinterested Emmanuel-Thomas. But if they’re all simply dropped again, and the status quo of big names and big earners is restored, then not only will results continue to flatline, but this really will have been a complete and utter waste of time.
Forest: De Vries 7; Mancienne 6, Hobbs 6, Wilson 6, Cohen 6 (Lichaj 71, 6); Tesche 5, Gardner 6 (Lansbury 62, - (Jokic 79, -)) Osborn 6, Burke 8; Blackstock 5, Ward 7
Subs Not Used: Mendes, Burke, Walker, Evtimov
Goals: Ward 24 (assisted Burke)
QPR: Lumley 6; Onuoha 5, Hall 6, Angella 6, Hill 6 (Perch 67, 5); Tozser 6; Mackie 5 (Petrasso 61, 6), Luongo 5, Doughty 6, Gladwin 6 (Chery 52, 6); Emmanuel- Thomas 4
Subs Not Used: Polter, Hoilett, Faurlin, Brzozowski
Yellow Cards: Hall 17 (foul), Doughty 43 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Grant Hall 6 Really tough. Who can you give this to? As I say, you can’t expect too much of players slung together in a team that’s never played together before in a match the management public say they don’t welcome taking place. I thought Gladwin was doing well, and then we took him off. I thought Chery did quite well when he came on, but let himself down with awful shots from ridiculous distances, I thought Doughty was steady and Tozser was better and Emmanuel Thomas was awful and half-arsed. In the end I’ve copped out and given it to the season’s big success story, Grant Hall.
Referee – Oliver Langford (West Midlands) 6 One of my preferred referees thanks to his unfussy style and leniency with the cards, but he wasn’t great here. Several harsh decisions against QPR, though none of them crucial. Fitted in quite well with the game really – going through the motions.
Attendance – 14,197 (1,000 QPR approx) A decent turn out really, from both sets of fans, considering the state of both clubs and the contempt they treat this competition with. QPR travelled in creditable numbers, but the whole support seems finally worn out and ground down by devoting themselves to this shambles. I’d say 95% of the away end sat, bored, in complete silence while the remaining 5% ran through a song book of “you’re fucking shit”, “we’re fucking shit”, “sit down if you’re a boring cunt” and “we want our Rangers back” during the time they weren’t starting stand up arguments with themselves or shouting at Robert Green, who wasn’t playing, about setting his wall up incorrectly. It’s a dire, dreadful experience following QPR away at the moment, on and off the pitch.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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