Scowen haunts former club - Report
Sunday, 4th Feb 2018 21:36 by Clive Whittingham
Josh Scowen scored his first ever QPR goal in fine style against the club he left last summer, sealing a 1-0 win for Rangers against Barnsley on Saturday.
A win’s a win, and rarely has that tired old footballing cliché been more appropriate than for Queens Park Rangers’ success against Barnsley on Saturday.
Rangers, seventeenth and on the back of two comfortable defeats without scoring, against Barnsley, twentieth and with just one win from their last 15 games in all comps, didn’t exactly leap off the coupon before kick off as a must see. While some games blossom from quiet beginnings and become unexpected cliffhangers, others live up to their billing. There are games that don’t live long in the memory, and then there’s this, which the few in attendance will struggle to recollect by the end of the weekend. Only Josh Scowen’s wonderful winner and Ryan Manning’s attempt to kill a man to death were worthy of note. There was little to commend this to the dwindling paying public other than the result.
The only certainties in life are death, taxes, QPR never winning at Nottingham Forest and always beating Barnsley at home. They’d won ten in a row and 21 of the previous 24 meetings between the sides in W12, drawing the other three. When Rangers need a win, Barnsley at Loftus Road is usually a pretty safe place to look for it.
In 1998/99, having won just two of the first 14 games of the season, and on a run of five successive defeats scoring just twice, returning QPR hero Gerry Francis asked the groundsman to try and waterlog the pitch with the sprinkler system to try and get a Tuesday night match with the Tykes postponed to later in the season when an injury crisis might have eased. It failed, forcing Francis to start a young Richard Langley for the first time – he scored on his full home debut, QPR won 2-1, won the next three, won six of the next ten, and survived. A scrappy 1-0 win in this fixture in early 2003, with the sudden arrival in Loftus Road folklore of Gino Padula, was a key part of Ian Holloway’s recovery from a 12-game winless streak through the autumn that included an FA Cup exit to Vauxhall Motors – Richard Pacquette scored after 11 minutes.
The need wasn’t so dire on Saturday - despite the regular proclamations from Holloway’s critics on message boards and social media that “League One beckons” come May, Rangers haven’t been closer to the relegation zone than six points and four places all season. But that comfort zone isn’t all that reassuring when this team is so prone to heading off on six match losing streaks – three in the last 12 and a bit months – and after a 3-0 home shellacking by Middlesbrough and an abject defeat to ten man Bristol City a result to nudge Rangers closer to the magic 52 point survival mark, and nine points clear of Barnsley in the process, felt relatively important.
The goal that sealed it was worthy of winning any match. Three minutes after half time Josh Scowen made the most of too much time and too much space 25 yards out from goal to get the ball out of his feet and whip a clean strike round goalkeeper Nick Townsend (making his first start of the season) and into the far bottom corner. Nice to see Scowen get some reward for his hours of thankless toil at the base of a poor side’s engine room, nice to get a still all-too-rare goal from central midfield (something we still desperately need to improve), nice to see a goal of such high quality in such a drab game, and nice for the old player scoring against his former club and player scoring his first goal in 53 appearances to go for us for a change rather than against us. But it was the one shining moment of quality in a game that, particularly in the first half, bordered on being fucking abysmal and even that was celebrated in quite a muted and odd manner because the crowd was still trying to fathom how Matt Smith being dragged to the floor by the throat by everybody’s favourite backseat referee Matt Mills wasn't worthy of a penalty seconds before.
The win was secured despite playing the last 20 minutes of the game with ten men.
Poor Ryan Manning. The young Irishman has endured a terribly frustrating 2017/18 after a breakout season the year before, with first team chances horribly restricted by the form of the Scowemango combination in midfield. Jordan Cousins had been given the nod with the Luongo part of that trio ruled out injured and ill but as he tired and fresh legs were required Manning was an obvious choice from the bench for the final third of the game. Sadly, a propensity to play ourselves into trouble from our own over-complicated dead ball situations reared its head for the umpteenth time on the day as three desperate and out of control passes from a goal kick eventually ended up with Manning arriving hours late with a horror tackle on Barnsley debutant Mills over by the dugout. Referee Tony Harrington had absolutely no choice but to immediately brandish a red card and Manning was off after just four minutes on the pitch – a cameo Samba Diakite would have been proud of.
Fishing for positives in a festering turd of a game, QPR’s new look defence performed well with its backs to the wall with that numerical disadvantage. Jake Bidwell had been rested and Alex Baptiste dropped after the Bristol City defeat with Jack Robinson moved to left wing back and Joel Lynch recalled in the centre along with James Perch who hadn’t featured since dislocating a knee in September. A risk, given Perch’s lack of game time, Robinson’s form as one of the three centre backs, and Lynch’s ‘welcome, can I take your coat?’ approach to protecting his own penalty box. But it brought just a fifth clean sheet of the season – still the league’s lowest total – and Lynch in particular was integral to that. When Barnsley sub Roddy McScotsman held the ball up deep in the area and then laid it back to George Moncur, son of the host of John Concurs (classic message board reference), an equaliser seemed certain as the visitors’ outstanding player let fly but Lynch thrust out a leg and diverted the ball over the bar.
In actual fact, Ian Holloway’s team could have extended their lead despite having one player fewer. Robinson’s quick thinking and prodigious throw in had Conor Washington clean through on goal with just a couple of minutes left but, typical of his form and lack of confidence, he delayed the shot just long enough for Townsend to spring from his line and save. Then Pawel Wszolek, recalled at right wing back, and Bright Osayi-Samuel, sent on for the injured Smith late on, broke two v one but made a hash of a chance they never once looked like capitalising on.
It was at least watchable by the point, which is more than you could say for a turgid first half spent mostly waiting for referee Harrington to check whether the ball was placed precisely right for corners to be taken. Moncur hit a low shot that Smithies saved comfortably, giant Kieffer Moore did the same after ten minutes fresh from his move from Ipswich in January, and Gardner volleyed over from 15 yards. Adam Hammill drew a great clearance from Nedum Onuoha with one cross, and a splendid one-handed save up in the top corner from Smithies with a dipping volley. Harrington’s decision to book Jordan Cousins for the first foul of the game, then let a series of other poor tackles from both teams slide with just a word on the run, only darkened the mood among what looked like the lowest attendance at this ground for a Saturday league game in many a long year – the announced crowd in excess of 12,000 about as believable as a ‘Sky sources’ story on deadline day. Andy Yiadom, a summer transfer target for Rangers, smacked Jack Robinson with no comeback in one particularly inconsistent moment of refereeing before Gary Gardner was deservedly booked to huge applause for interrupting a counter attack. QPR had one blocked shot from Cousins amongst a twenty second minute goalmouth scramble to show for their ‘efforts’. It was, in all honesty, like watching paint dry. And not very good paint at that.
The goal arrived soon after half time to snap the tedium, and the win was very welcome, but Rangers were horribly laboured throughout. Manning for Cousins didn’t work out, but at the time Smith, Perch, Washington and Cousins all looked like they were hanging and could be replaced. Smithies saved a backheel from Bradshaw – muscly boy, gloves and a short sleeved shirt – and Perch’s stumble at a crucial moment as Hammill accelerated past him looked for one horrible moment like leading to a penalty but he just about managed to keep out of trouble. In the end it felt like we rather bumbled through to victory for no other reason than we always somehow beat Barnsley at home.
The league table, and historic points total, says that QPR probably only need four more wins from the final three and a bit months of Championship action to survive which, along with greatly reducing the size of the squad and wage bill, was the target for the season. To read the constant stream of online bile – LFW’s Twitter notifications on days like this come from a string of people who claim to be QPR fans but apparently absolutely delight in their underperformance and poor results to fuel their ‘the sky is falling’ routine – you’d think we were adrift at the bottom of the league. With Bolton, Sunderland, Birmingham, Norwich and Sheff Wed all due in Shepherd’s Bush before May Rangers should (should, touch wood) survive with plenty to spare despite the appalling results away from home.
But when you start to look further ahead and aspire to better for our club next season and beyond, performances like this are almost as depressing as defeats. Apart from the goal, the result, a return to form for Josh Scowen after a difficult Christmas, and a rare commanding performance from Joel Lynch, the only thing this game had going for it was the lack of stoppage time added to it. Ian Holloway dropped ‘exhilarating’ into his post-match comments – not since ‘journalism’ was used to describe the midweek televised felating of the President of the United States has a word been quite so out of place in context.
QPR: Smithies 7; Perch 6, Onuoha 6, Lynch 7; Wszolek 6, Robinson 6; Scowen 7, Freeman 6, Cousins 6 (Manning 67, -); Washington 5 (Bidwell 90, -), Smith 5 (Osayi-Samuel 79, 5)
Subs not used: Ingram, Baptiste, Eze, Oteh
Goals: Scowen 48 (unassisted), Robinson 90+4 (foul)
Red Card: Manning 71 (killing a man to death)
Bookings: Cousins 5 (foul)
Barnsley: Townsend 6; Yiadom 6, Mills 6, Lindsay 6, Pinillos 6 (Mahoney 80, 6); Gardner 6, Williams 6, Hammill 6 (Hedges 68, 5); Moncur 7; Bradshaw 6, Moore 6 (McBurnie 68, 5)
Subs not used: Davies, Mallan, Pearson, Thiam
Bookings: Gardner 31 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Josh Scowen 7 Shades it from Lynch because of the goal. After a great start to his QPR career he’s dropped off a little over Christmas but the chance to go up against his former club really seemed to spark a return to form.
Referee – Tony Harrington (Cleveland) 5 Very decent in his recent appointments with us but a bit of a pain here. Absolutely no arguments with the Manning red card but his decision to issue a ridiculously harsh yellow card to Jordan Cousins so early placed him behind the eight ball for the rest of the half, and he was forced to let several players off with identical offences or risk turning a run-of-the-mill Championship game into an absolute card fest. There was no need to put himself under that pressure. Rangers haven’t had a penalty since the opening day of the season and Matt Smith has been particularly hard done to in that regard – having seen Matt Mills respond to getting the wrong side of his man by yanking him to the floor by the throat just before Scowen’s goal I’m now resigned to us never getting a spot kick ever again.
Attendance – 12, 413 (500 Barnsley approx) And if you believe that…
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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