QPR's second half rally comes up just short - Report
Monday, 12th Feb 2018 00:50 by Lee McAlpine
Having beaten Wolves at Loftus Road before Christmas, QPR gave the league leaders another fright at Molineux on Saturday in front of Lee McAlpine for LFW.
If ever there was a bonus game, this was it; an away match in Wolverhampton against the continuing, high-flying leaders of the division.
The mega-spending Wolves seem to be on a relentless drive to the Premier League with a squad of silky-smooth, free scoring European imports as well as a healthy splattering of solid steel. The home side couldn’t have wished for a more enticing entrée to be served up for their delectation, than a QPR side that seems to have lost all of its early season “va va voom” and now is on a relatively safe course for premature thoughts of a summer holiday. As our hosts today seem certain for the big time, lower table mediocrity is beckoning for us and many will feel that was a pretty predictable (and deserved) outcome for most of the season.
But we are QPR and this kind of fixture is normally one you can approach with a little more ease. We expected a tonking. Everyone expected a comfortable home win, probably most of our squad and management held out little hope today. So we could relax pre-match and enjoy the beer without the fluttering nerves of going to a game where we really ought to have a chance and probably were relying on capturing some points from. This was definitely not one of those games. There was even talk of a little less hostile reception from the Black Country fans. Over the years they’ve been known to chuck allsorts (but never liquorice sweets) on the visiting fans below them, as well as the contents of their own mouths. Surely they would be in a far better mood today?
Even though virtually every one of the travelling contingent held slim hopes of any joy today, I was clinging to some fragile threads of hope. Molineux has been a really lucky ground for me having only seen Rangers’ victories there. OK not exactly double figured in numbers but four wins and no losses is a damn fine effort for a tough away venue. I also wrote the LFW report for last season’s fortuitous and rather nail-biting victory, which was ultra-significant as defeat would’ve meant an ugly sixth consecutive loss. A game most memorable for the inclusion and great performance, on debut, for the lesser-spotted (this campaign anyway) Ryan Manning.
A far more enjoyable visit was the 3-0 thrashing Warnock’s newly promoted side dished out back in 2012. That was a joyous occasion in the sun with the home fans ironically welcoming their first shot on target in the closing minutes, such was our complete domination that day. Even Barton and SWP had good games, with a special memory of the Wolves’ fans ire at Barton when he signalled the score to them having been dumped on the turf.
So a lucky ground for us- and me- and close to zero expectations amongst the contingent from London, maybe just maybe something miraculous could happen. Well, yes, no maybe but eventually no, as my unbeaten run was brought to a rather unlucky halt.
This was a completely bonkers game of football, you just had to be there to see it unfold, and now from our new away (phlegm free) position, high-up to the right behind the goal. This new location is almost Newcastle away, but not quite amongst the seagulls, and the crowding together makes it possible to generate some good vocal support, which was forthcoming throughout the game.
Any score was possible. QPR could easily have found themselves in front early, then could’ve been 4 down at half time and as for the second period, well if the Gods had been smiling on us we would have walked away with my Molineux winning streak intact. But as we climbed down the mountain of stairs after the game, the mood was most definitely upbeat. I cannot recall feeling so happy after a defeat since the Aguero moment in 2013 (but that now rankles) such was the pride I felt after the performance today. Our second half pulverisation of the mighty Wolves turned the home crowd into a bunch of silent, nervous wrecks, and anyone who saw the whole match and didn’t say QPR deserved a share of the points is kidding no-one.
Well for the first 10 minutes only one team looked like scoring. Through good passing an approach play two very presentable chances came to Washington. The first he made himself, cutting inside the defender but shooting straight at Ruddy from the edge of the box. The second after a neat pass from Freeman sent him away down the left channel but his effort was blocked by a combination of defender and keeper. Scowen also had a good opportunity but his weak shot was also comfortably saved.
So a really bright opening from us, but no reward. I knew what was coming and so did every one of us. With their first attack, Wolves scored and it was a horrible goal to concede. Perch allowed the excellent Cavaleiro to escape his half-hearted, sleepy, ball watching attention and the midfielder swung over a hopeful ball that was bundled in by the chest of N’Diaye.
This was the sign of things to come for Perch and us. Our “defender” was torn apart by every kind of ball: short, long, clever or simple. And from the ensuing mayhem Wolves doubled their lead with a goal of pure simplicity, as Costa tapped in after brilliant work again from Cavaleiro, and could’ve easily added more. Smithies performed a couple of smart saves and a brilliant, last ditch tackle from Onuoha stopped Jota from scoring a third. The only thing Perch did right in that horrible 40 minutes was not get booked and more importantly get himself injured.
This injury, along with the embarrassing ease that Wolves were destroying our back 5/6/7, meant a complete change of direction from Holloway. Instead of replacing Perch with Baptiste, he sent on Eze, who took up a position linking Freeman and Washington. Interesting, but hardly a game changer as the result was by now long gone, or so we thought. As the half ended we were just relieved it was only two nil and not five and all the talk was how many, not at all could we get back in the game.
The second half brought another important change with Smith coming on to replace the hapless Cousins. What have we done to this promising player? Injuries and an obvious lack of confidence have resulted in Cousins being a shadow of the man that had looked so good for Charlton. His only impact in the first half had been to flatten an opponent and receive a caution. Lynch was also shown yellow for a typical Lynch challenge.
The introduction of Smith was an obvious and welcome change. Freeman now had three hooped shirts in front him and Washington had the much needed support of two teammates actually in his postcode.
Not that anyone in the ground, or anywhere else on the planet for that matter, could’ve predicted what would happen in the next 45 minutes. We’d started the first half well and we replicated that in the second but this time we scored. From a corner Lynch brought out a great save from Ruddy, but he could only half clear and the resulting loose ball was brilliantly converted by a Washington overhead kick.
Nice goal, good for Washington’s confidence, but this was probably just like poking a wild animal in a cage. Not one bit of it. Rangers’ took complete control of the ball and were driving forward in wave after wave of attack. We weren’t just lumping it forward to Smith, were playing neat, attractive attacking football and creating good openings. Smith should’ve equalised just after our goal, when he superbly brought the ball down with his chest and volleyed over with just Ruddy to beat from about 12 yards. Ruddy saved well from Scowen and Smith efforts, while another goal bound effort from Eze hit Washington. Molineux was silent, apart from one corner of the ground, as Wolves’ passing fell apart and clearances were becoming more and more desperate. The home team were restricted to break aways, although only a wonderful tackle from Robinson prevented Wolves from extending their lead on one of those.
To illustrate Wolves’ financial superiority over Rangers, midway through the second half they brought on loanee Bennick Afobe. He proved to be a real threat, albeit slightly rusty, and looked certain to score until Lynch’s close attention forced him to shoot wide from a Jota cross. Another Wolves’ breakaway from one of our corners ended when the attacker was stopped by a gut-busting chase from Eze- another promising example of his efforts yesterday.
Rangers continued to press and we weren’t just lumping it forward to Smith, we were playing proper football. Wszolek was seeing plenty of action but his final ball, lack of a trick or real speed, meant we weren’t able to profit where it mattered. Don’t get me wrong, this was a better showing from the Polish winger but he still looks short of confidence and is far more likely to turn back in side rather than drive for the byline or the penalty area. He did very nearly provide an assist for what would’ve been the equaliser, when Eze released him down the right and his centre was accurate but just lacked the pace to reach Washington before a great goal saving tackle from a defender prevented the leveller.
Wolves were clearly rattled and hanging on for the three points and I think this is where the final substitution should’ve been made. The addition of Bright-Samuel in place of Bidwell would’ve made the last ten minutes even more interesting for the Wolves defence. Bidwell is no wing-back, a solid(ish) left back yes but nowhere near able to exploit the wide open spaces of Molineux’s very wide pitch. Apart from the ridiculous starting line-up, Ollie should be congratulated on the changes he made here but removing Bidwell wouldn’t have mattered, losing 3-1 or 2-1, we just could’ve really used some pace and trickery on the left.
That’s not saying QPR weren’t creating chances because they kept on coming. A long straight ball over the top from Robinson was (almost) brilliantly controlled by Washington. The ball just ran away from him fractionally and he was forced to stretch and toe-poke his effort goalbound. This was blocked by Ruddy but it went straight to Eze on the edge of the box, whose shoot was cleared off the line. It was so frustrating behind the goal as these opportunities came and went. Washington cleverly turned and miscued a volley, while another weak Eze effort was almost carried over the line by a now flapping and clumsy Ruddy.
The referee only gave us two minutes of added time to find an equaliser, when do you ever see less than three? But one final chance was created. From another corner the ball broke to Scowen on the edge of the box and he nailed a low drive which fizzed the wrong side of the post. How wide? We couldn’t tell but there would’ve been carnage in the away end if it had been the other side of the upright.
The game ended to the huge relief of those in gold, while we were left with what might have been. Rangers really are a Jekyll and Hyde team this season, I’m lucky to have witnessed some of the better performances. When we on form we really are an attractive, attacking team, with excellent intensity and movement, as opposed to those insipid displays like Bristol City and anyone in the cup. Obviously we need to take chances, it’s been a problem all year and hurt us yesterday. So many of our efforts yesterday were on target and as a result of good play, so I’m not ranting against our forwards, they played well here. Wolves had about £60m worth of talent in their front four, as opposed to our £4m.
This was a really enjoyable game to watch, obviously the send half more so. Rangers more than played their part and the players were seriously disappointed at the end to come away with nothing. Going forwards I hope Holloway continues to be braver with selections and substitutions. The starting line-up reminded me of the days he would play a back four and then Steve Palmer and Matthew Rose in midfield-yuk! We haven’t got the pace or intelligence in our defence (even when we pack it with extra bodies) to keep teams out, so let’s play in their half like we did in the second half today. The introduction of Eze changed the game, suddenly we were able to take control of the ball rather than just chase it about. He was composed and skilful and certainly put a shift in, allowing the likes of Scowen and Wszolek to go forward rather than defend.
Next week, who knows which of our QPR’s will turn up but I really hope it is the one which scared the living daylights out the team which is taking the Championship by storm.
Wolves: Ruddy 5, Bennett 6, Coady 7, Boly 7,Doherty 7, N’Diaye 6, Neves 6,Douglas 7,Costa 7 (Gibbs-White), Jota 7 Cavaleiro 7( Afobe)
Subs not used: Batth, Vicente, Miranda, Vinagre, Norris
Goals: N’Diaye 12 (assisted Cavaleiro), Costa 21 (assisted Cavaleiro)
QPR: Smithies 6, Perch 2 (Eze 7), Onuoha 6, Lynch 6, Robinson 7, Cousins 3 (Smith 6), Robinson 7, Scowen 7, Bidwell 5, Freeman 5, Washington 6
Subs not used: Ingram, Baptiste, Chair, Osayi-Samuel, Oteh
Goals: Washington 51 (assisted Smith)
Bookings: Lynch 40 (foul), Cousins 45+2 (foul), Freeman 61 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Ebere Eze 7 I thought Scowen was very good today(as per) but I’m going to give it to Eze, simply because his introduction changed the game. He has trickery in his game as well as composure and he found the pace of the match when he fed Wszolek down the right. So he might not be a striker but he certainly looked able to play a huge part in an advanced midfield role against the future champions of our league.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham 8 Another good one. He looked a little eager to give easy fouls early on every time a Wolves player started rolling around but he grew into the game, allowing it to flow. In fact he was hardly noticeable for most of the match; always a good sign.
Attendance 30,168 (750 QPR)
The Twitter @leemcalpine1
Pictures – Action Images
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