|Portsmouth 1 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 26th January 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Wells' forced equaliser keeps QPR alive in the FA Cup - Report
Sunday, 27th Jan 2019 22:12 by Jordan James Foster
QPR are into Monday’s FA Cup fifth round draw thanks to Nahki Wells’ seventy fifth minute equaliser at Portsmouth on Saturday. Jordan Foster was there for LFW.
Talk prior to kick off on social media made the argument that this was the biggest game in recent years for Rangers and the 3,000 travelling fans were obviously of similar belief as they packed the horrendously underprepared and under-manned Good Companion pub.
Manager Steve McClaren didn’t dare name a weakened side after the backlash from fans after the Blackpool debacle but with Ebere Eze nursing an injury, prolific under-23 striker Aramide Oteh was rewarded for his performance in the last round against Leeds with another start in his place. Irish midfielder Ryan Manning was also given a run out, this time replacing recent public enemy number Jordan Cousins whilst lined up in an orthodox 4-4-2.
The opening 15 minutes were frenzied with a lot of play happening in the middle of the pitch and ball being hoofed up into the air. Joel Lynch headed straight at Portsmouth keeper Craig MacGillivray after being found by Luke Freeman's free-kick, who also fired wide himself within the opening 10 minutes. Just before the half-hour mark youngster Oteh managed to get on the end of Wszolek’s searching cross but somehow manage to mistime his header and ended up scuffing the chance off his shoulder when it looked easier to score.
I recently worked on a project with someone who was at Spurs with Oteh, who admitted he was one of the most feared strikers in the country at the age of 15, claiming he was “almost unplayable” with his pace and power. Here he looked keen to impress with pieces of trickery leaving the Portsmouth defence in the hidden Fratton Park quick-sand as he raced past both Jack Whatmough and Matt Clarke on numerous occasions. It then seemed a little inevitable when minutes later he was emptied by the man-mountain Clarke in a stereotypical let-him-know-you're-there challenge.
Before the game Portsmouth fans had been celebrating the inclusion of attacking midfielder Louis Dennis and on this showing it wasn't hard to see why. He looked head and shoulders above any of his team-mates despite it being just his seventh appearance in the professional game. Manager Kenny Jackett thinks very highly of him and it seems he is keen on trying to protect a talent which at this stage could go either way after spells at Bromley, Hayes and Bedfont. It was Dennis who forced QPR keeper Joe Lumley into his first save of the game a minute before half time, with a looping half-volley which had to be tipped over.
The game had lulled for large sections of the first-half under the treacherous south coast conditions as both teams failed to make any possession or play count for much. Thankfully, a group of young home supporters – who would be best described as potential cast members for a Jeremy Kyle adolescent special – were on hand to provide some off pitch entertainment. Incensed by Darnell Furlong's bizarre need to waste time at 0-0, the baby-faced crew began to churn into life. This was of course until one particular member was picked out by the thousands of travelling R's who brutally dissected every aspect of his life. If there any way that he is possibly reading this, sometimes you just have to pick your battles, take the L and live to fight another day my friend.
Half time couldn't come quick enough and whilst McClaren’ side had created a number of decent half chances the general feeling among the travelling contingent was that Schteve would whip his side into shape and they would come out to show their class in the second half. That didn't happen, in fact the opposite was closer to the truth. The aforementioned Dennis clipped a beautiful pass over Lynch (who not for the first time was caught out ball watching) for Brett Pitman to create the first real opportunity of the second half, but he was unable to finish despite having time to pull the ball out of the air and pick his spot. Replays showed he was offside, but the flag had stayed down and in this ridiculous situation where some FA Cup games have VAR and some don’t, that would have counted had he scored.
The League One side continued to press and Rangers, with Josh Scowen and Manning flailing, were struggling to maintain possession or pick up any second balls. There has been much call for Manning's return to the side since his recall from Rotherham but on yesterday's display he is still a long way from what is needed to be a regular. His passing was wayward and at times he seemed a little too eager to impress, his usual enthusiasm was in plentiful supply but it would be hard to argue against him getting another loan spell depending on the condition of Geoff Cameron and Massimo Luongo in the final half of the season.
Just after the hour mark, the visitors gifted their hosts a goal which should and could have been cut out on numerous occasions.
Former QPR youth scholar Lee Brown started the move and after playing a pass down line to Ronan Curtis, he then followed his pass for the return. Curtis' movement pulled Darnell Furlong out of position and but was unable to find Pitman. The ball found its way to Leistner who had two options. One, launch the ball as far away from his goal as possible or two, launch the ball into the stands in front of him. He ended up doing neither, instead favouring a weak pass to Brown who had continued his marauding run down the left. With Furlong pulled inside and Wszolek still watching play develop, the full-back had time to cross for Lynch to finish emphatically into his own net.
Rangers looked bereft of any ideas and not for the first time in recent weeks looked utterly predictable. Any throw-in was immediately taken long, despite the club not ever possessing a long throw specialist. The actual number of chances created from these must be very low if not completely non-existent. If Lumley decided against going short as he did against Preston, it was a clipped ball to the full-backs and watching sides against Rangers feels as though they are becoming wise to this and other aspects of their play. If you can get men around Freeman you can stop us playing and Portsmouth tried this with Tom Naylor following around the former Arsenal man all afternoon.
I am not going to sit here and say how Steve McClaren should or shouldn't set his team up, I am not naïve enough to think I know more, but in recent games and looking at the way sides set up against us show that are becoming wise to some of our tricks.
Or perhaps it suggests the early season blip, which was catered to by coaching and reinforcements was actually down to the £100k-a-weeks worth of talent brought in. As mentioned on Twitter, Luongo's absence has highlighted his value and his return hyped but Cameron was hiding a multitude of sins for Lynch and Leistner in his role much like Makelele did for Terry and Carvalho in their heyday down the road. Having the option of a player like Tomer Hemed off the bench instead of Matt Smith is like being denied filet mignon in favour of corned beef.
The go-to man in recent weeks has been Smith, who said recently he is beginning to get frustrated by his role at the club and that he is “well aware of his weaknesses” as a footballer. His cameos at Aston Villa, Sheffield Utd and Preston recently have completely left QPR void of any real attacking threat as he shows all the mobility and pace as the stationary HMS Victory. Yet cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Here, in the torrential rain, in the stormy coastal winds, he was perfect. His usual limp, slow paced meander which strikes anger into the watching fans, struck fear into Clarke and Whatmough. Along with fellow substitute Bright Osayi-Samuel, Rangers began to turn the tide of the game. The two Portsmouth centre-halves didn't know how to deal with someone who could actually play their A-Game better than them. The clever balls through the channels, which Rangers just didn't have the personnel for, was swapped for angled long balls from the full-backs. Osayi-Samuel was causing Portsmouth defender Anton Walkes a world of problems with his trickery and guile. BOS can feel unlucky to not have warranted a more prominent role before his introduction, skipped past a number of challenges before firing a cross which Smith was inches from.
As so often this year when a goal looks unlikely you can normally count on Freeman to conjure up something. The Essex-wideboy has one of the best deliveries from set pieces outside the Premier League and was QPR's only real chance of getting something. Another training ground routine (one arm up, ball up, stand on ball etc etc) and another left-footed corner this time resulting in a goal-line melee which was finished by Wells 15 minutes before the end.
The momentum had fully shifted and shortly after restarting play Curtis felt the full force of a rat-boy Josh Scowen special. His reaction to a petty kick out sparked a 22-man brawl which referee Gavin Ward failed to control or really establish what had happened. From the stands it seemed like the Irish winger had kicked out at Scowen which in turn angered the Rangers bench along with Furlong and Lynch. An attempt to save face saw him crumble in a heap as Lynch seemed intent on taking his hatred of the FA Cup/football/life out on one of the home side's men.
Of course a red card here would have been massive for QPR, the game in the position it was, but Ward decided take the easy option to book everyone he could see including members of the coaching teams.
Illias Chair replaced Wells for the final few minutes and impressed again with his awareness and touch, another youngster who seems to be able to do no more is set for a loan move before the window “slams” shut later this week. Speaking to someone that came up against the diminutive midfielder said he was blown away by how good Chair was and admitted he was talk of the opposition dressing room after a recent Under-23 game.
The game petered out with little quality or chances left for either side but QPR had secured their place in Monday night’s draw and avoided the potential banana skin – for now.
We reconvene a week on Tuesday.
Match Gallery: 22 photos
Portsmouth: MacGillivray 5, Walkes 6, Whatmough 6, Clarke 7, Brown 6, Naylor 6, Donohue 6 (Close 80, -), Evans 6, Dennis 7, Curtis 6, Pitman 5
Subs not used: Burgess, Morris, Maloney, May, Bass, Haunstrup.
Goals: Lynch og 63 (assisted Brown)
Booked: Whatmough, Brown 77 (fighting), Curtis 77 (fighting)
QPR: Lumley 5; Furlong 5, Leistner 5, Lynch 5, Bidwell 5; Manning 4, Scowen 6; Freeman 7, Oteh 6 (Samuel 65, 6), Wszolek 5 (Smith 71, 6); Wells 6 (Chair 90, -)
Subs not used: Ingram, Hall, Cousins, Kakay
Booked: Manning 45 (dissent), Lynch 77 (dissent)
Goals: Wells 74 (assisted Freeman)
QPR Star Man – Luke Freeman 7 Once again conjured a set piece to get Rangers out of a hole. QPR’s biggest influence on the game despite Portsmouth’s close man marking of him.
Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey) 4 Made some of the most bizarre decisions which weren't overly influential on the game. Booked Manning for passing the ball back towards a Portsmouth player yet let Clarke off for hammering the ball away on the whistle. Told Oteh to get up after being sandwiched by a number of defenders yet penalized Scowen and Manning for the same challenge less than 30 seconds later. Missed a late over-the-ball tackle on Scowen’s ankle towards the end of the game, failing to even award a free kick.
Attendance: 19,378 ( 2,888 QPR) Despite the weather, a fairly decent atmosphere throughout even with the game not being too inspiring. It would be great if Rangers could have that type of following on the road most weeks and the one upside of the replay will be those that couldn't make it being able to now get tickets.
The Twitter @JordanJFoster
Pictures – Action Images
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