|Ipswich Town 0 v 2 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 20th October 2018 Kick-off 15:00
QPR turn Portman Road into big pink paradise – Report
Sunday, 21st Oct 2018 20:11 by Clive Whittingham
Queens Park Rangers equalled their total number of away wins for last season within two and a half months of the new one with a disturbingly easy 2-0 victory against Ipswich Town at Portman Road on Saturday.
Dominant in all areas of the field, and for every minute of the match, QPR missed a plethora of chances to win more convincingly still, while recording a fifth shutout of the league season already compared to just seven in the whole of last. Only that profligacy in front of goal, and the eye-poppingly abysmal standard of the opposition, served as any kind of wispy cloud to this big, thick, shiny silver lining.
Rangers’ season may already have been up and down more times than Abi Titmuss’ French knickers, but one rare consistency through the madness has been the team’s sharpness coming back from international breaks. Steve McClaren’s side continued their recovery from a frightening August with consecutive wins against Bolton and Millwall after the first enforced break, and won with consummate ease here after the second. That either speaks to Steve McClaren’s coaching ability when he does actually get some time with his team on the training ground, or his inability to get his message across effectively during the hustle and bustle of a Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday Championship week, but it’s a trend that’s more than welcome to continue on Tuesday night against Sheff Wed and next month when we return from another fortnight off with trips to Stoke and Rotherham.
Here they bossed an away game from first to last in a manner not seen since Neil Warnock was in charge. Bar one routine save off to his left from a Grant Ward free header in the second half, young keeper Joe Lumley was able to enhance his personal stats with another nil in his column relatively untroubled. Although one difficult claim under pressure late in the second half brought warm applause and reassurance that his stature is growing with each passing game, the only thing cleaner than his sheet here was his kit which certainly won’t need washing before Tuesday. Six clean sheets in ten for Rangers this season, nine in 17 for Blackpool last, eight in 19 for Bristol Rovers the season before – the boy is statistical porn, but he had so little to do he really should have paid to get in with the rest of us.
McClaren stuck with the 4-2-3-1 formation that suits him and his players best, but made changes in the attacking third. Pawel Wszolek was finally rewarded for fine substitute appearances against Reading and Derby with a start wide right of the three - with Eze at ten and Freeman wide left - and looked bloody good to me again. His work rate up and down the flank, hassling of opponents in possession, and returning quality to his final ball mean we’re a much better team with him in it when he’s used correctly. The notion that Jordan Cousins should be ahead of him over there seems, thankfully, to have been ditched. He must fight it out with Geoff Cameron, Mass Luongo and Josh Scowen for the deeper lying positions, although the American and Australian didn’t look in the mood to relinquish those roles lightly here – both turning in their best performances of the season. Up front, Tomer Hemed’s greater physical presence and hold up game was preferred to Nahki Wells’ channel running for an away game and the Israeli international was also very effective for an hour before tiring. Although, to be honest, with Toto Nsiala at centre back for the hosts looking like he could be confused for hours by somebody waving a shiny piece of paper around, I reckon Rangers could have picked anybody out of the crowd and caused Ipswich problems. He’s got a touch like my shed.
QPR crawled all over Town in the first quarter of an hour and eventually, predictably, deservedly, forced their way into an inevitable lead. Hemed had already headed one corner over, and Wszolek drawn a save from home keeper Dean Gerken at a narrow angle after a bad back header, when Luke Freeman’s inswinging corner into a crowded six-yard box was inexplicably palmed into his own net by the goalkeeper. Few, if any, appeals for a foul by Eze who’d simply stood his ground – referee Geoff Eltringham didn’t strike me as a man who’d stand for such obvious nonsense even if there had been. Paul Hurst’s decision to cut the popular Polish keeper Bartosz Białkowski in favour of Gerken fast changing from a bold move into a coffin nail.
Later there was an opportunity for Wszolek to shoot after good approach work from Eze but he tried to be too cute and the chance went begging. Hemed also had a shot blocked. Trevor Chalobah and Gwion Edwards looked like the only Ipswich players who’d played the sport before, and when the former crossed ten minutes before half time Ward spaffed a weak effort wide. But their attacking ‘threat’, such as it was, seemed to consist mainly of punting overhit passes in behind the QPR defence for Toni Leistner and Joel Lynch to shepherd out for goal kicks. With those two shaven headed bruisers dominating Sears and Dozzell to the point of humiliation, and Cameron showing exactly why McClaren likes him so much in front of the back four, it very quickly started to remind me of a game we won here back in 2005 with goals from Paul Furlong and Danny Shittu and the likes of Georges Santos, Lee Cook, Marc Bircham, Martin Rowlands and Kevin Gallen in the team. With the ball, vastly superior, constantly threatening; without it, big, physical, nasty bastards. That problem of being far too easy to play against away from home last season, which appeared initially to have bled into this, looks on this evidence like it’s gone some way towards being remedied.
The only concern was that it was only 1-0 and Ipswich surely couldn’t be as bad again second half. As it turned out, they got worse still, but Rangers had already futureproofed their afternoon with a second goal in first half injury time. Again a Freeman corner caused the damage, this time falling to Eze whose feet were too quick for Nsiala (to be honest it’s hard to think of a land mammal whose movements wouldn’t be too quick for Nsiala) and he drew a clear and obvious foul in the area for a blatant penalty. Nice of referee Eltringham to check if an advantage would occur first at an end of the ground where one of the best QPR goals of the modern era was disallowed in favour of a spot kick being awarded instead back in 2010, but there were no complaints when he did eventually point to the spot. Hemed never looked like he was going to miss, the half time whistle sounded as the ball hit the net.
You wondered whether Ipswich might rally. A theme of their season so far has been correcting obvious problems with their shape and system midway through games and coming home with a wet sail, but here they actually deteriorated further and ended up coming home with a wet fart. It really should have been 3-0 immediately as they lazily and thoughtlessly chucked a high, bouncing throw in back towards Chambers and the clown school at the heart of their defence and Eze was able to steal it, run through one on one with the keeper, but take too long over his finish and allow Gerken to save. Later he would run through on goal again after great approach work from Luongo and Wszolek and get a much better finish away only for Skuse to rescue his goalkeeper. Not a particularly happy, or effective, day for the QPR ten, but he kept plugging away and almost scored with an audacious 20 yarder over Gerken and off the top of the bar.
Wszolek shot straight at Gerken from range, Hemed finished weakly when well placed to do better at the mid-point of the half. Ipswich’s first corner of the game, on 50 minutes, brought ironic cheers from a long-suffering home crowd. At Bolton, and at home to Millwall, QPR had played well for an hour before retreating into their shells prematurely and unnecessarily. This was the first time they’d produced consistently across 90 minutes – nervous moments and doubts about the outcome numbered zero.
Ipswich were unusually woeful, and oddly decided to try and remedy this by taking their best player, Edwards, off. Ward, who’s caused us problems for Town and Rotherham before, completely anonymous. The worst team we’ve seen this season by a thousand miles. Too many changes all at once, too many players being asked to step up divisions at the same time with too few experienced players around them, not enough players in the key areas of the pitch who are up to the standard of this league, all combined with rock bottom confidence and a wide open tactical set up. They look bang in trouble.
Millwall, Bolton, Birmingham and Reading were all similarly dire to one degree or another so we shouldn’t be getting carried away by a haul of points from a run of fixtures that we said looked kind a month ago and has proved to be so. Tougher tests lie in store in the next three matches against Sheff Wed, Villa and Blackburn. And the concerns about where relying on expensive loan players we won’t be able to afford in 12 months’ time will leave us when that time comes are legitimate.
But then this time last year we were going away to a Bolton side that had only won one of a dozen, and a Sunderland team that was in the middle of becoming a national laughing stock, and won neither. And football is meant to be fun, it is meant to be entertaining, it is meant to be enjoyable. If you can’t set aside your concerns and enjoy a day like this then is this really the life for you? Eze’s glorious 25 yarder not going in was a shame for many reasons, but particularly as the bloke behind me had spent the entire game to that point noisily talking about how “fucking shit” him and Freeman are and yelling at McClaren to take them both off. Some strange people about.
A 2-0 win, on a gloriously sunny October afternoon, in front of a full and noisy away end, in one of the great, proper football grounds of this country… what’s not to like? This was so comprehensive it was almost unsettling. Unsettling and lovely. Mainly lovely.
Match Gallery: 7 photos
Ipswich: Gerken 4; Pennington 5, Nsiala 2, Chambers 4, Donacien 5; Edwards 6 (Lankester 66, 5), Skuse 5, Chalobah 5, Ward 4 (Jackson 66, 5); Dozzell 5, Sears 4
Subs not used: Knudsen, Nolan, Graham, Downes, Bialkowski
QPR: Lumley 6; Rangel 7, Leistner 7, Lynch 7, Bidwell 7; Luongo 7, Cameron 7; Wszolek 7, Eze 6 (Scowen 90, -), Freeman 7; Hemed 7 (Wells 72, 6)
Subs not used: Ingram, Hall, Cousins, Smith, Osayi-Samuel
Goals: Gerken 13 (own goal, assisted Freeman), Hemed 45+2 (penalty, won Eze)
Bookings: Lynch 53 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Geoff Cameron 7 This was an excellent team performance, from which it was hard to pick individuals out. I liked Leistner, and particularly Lynch, but against an ineffective and midget forward line were they tested enough to be the star men? Probably not. I liked Wszolek, and firmly believe we’re a better team with him in it, and I thought Bidwell’s covering of his centre backs in the second half was worthy of note more than his pair of mishit crosses in the first half. But I’ve gone for Cameron, because not only was he good and key to the win but also because it was the first time I actually really got what McClaren likes about him and wants him to do. Eight or nine candidates for this though.
Attendance – 18,345 (1,338 QPR) Looked and sounded like more in the away end to me, great atmosphere up there second half. Portman Road is a lovely stadium, but the support there looks and sounds like it’s been bored into submission. Those that have stuck it out are now being rewarded with performances like this, so little wonder it’s quiet.
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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