|Queens Park Rangers 4 v 0 Swansea City|
Saturday, 13th April 2019 Kick-off 15:00
QPR back from the dead with random Swansea trouncing – Report
Sunday, 14th Apr 2019 22:33 by Clive Whittingham
With one win from 17 league games, no goals in the previous two, home defeats to Bolton and Rotherham under their belts and a bottom three looming in the rear view mirror, Queens Park Rangers… randomly beat Swansea City 4-0 on Saturday.
Well there’s a Queens Park Rangers week for you if ever there was one: lose four nil, draw nil nil and win four nil in the space of seven days. Like three entirely separate groups of players facing totally different sets of circumstances for three completely different clubs. Three performances that bore no relation to each other, somehow cooked up by the same dozen or so footballers inside a week. If you’re trying to craft a narrative for this lot then cease your hopeless toil, it’s like knitting fog.
A week ago at Norwich City, QPR had been three down inside half an hour. Each goal was more of a defensive calamity than the last. The performance bordered on unprofessional, the players looked like they simply didn’t care, and in truth the scoreline could have been twice as harsh. Here, despite just one win from the previous 17 games, despite facing a Swansea team that had won their last three matches and scored nine goals in the process, the R’s somehow and suddenly went three goals up in the first quarter of an hour.
Darnell Furlong had already gone close with one header from a corner in the first minute when he dived full length to power in the opening goal from a Freeman delivery from the opposite flank. Within a minute and a half Swansea defender Mike van der Hoorn had headed a routine Joe Lumley clearance up in the air and his partner Cameron Carter Vickers had made a woefully inadequate attempt to deal with the second ball allowing Tomer Hemed to engineer enough space on the edge of the area for a calm finish into the corner. Ten minutes later Hemed was in at the near post to slam in a close range third from a Josh Scowen cross from the right. It was as surprising as it was brilliant, as breath-taking as it was unexpected, as random as it was beautiful. At the front of F Block, Big Al hadn’t even finished his chips.
Furlong’s goal was his first in the league for the club in his senior career and came 12 years, almost to the day, since his dad Paul scored his last for Rangers at the opposite end of the ground. That one was a last-minute winner against Luton Town to settle a pulsating five goal thriller, keeping John Gregory’s team in the league while pushing the visitors closer to the drop. Swansea are thunderously midtable, and Rangers retained a cushion ahead of the bottom three despite their complete collapse since Christmas, but it was a significant goal in the context of an unravelling season all the same, not to mention a personal milestone. After a trying couple of months at full back, Furlong once again showed here why he’s made for the centre half position next season.
Hemed, meanwhile, typified the transformation in the team. Uninterested, unmotivated, unfit, unmoved and unmoveable for weeks, the Israeli international was starting to try the patience of the congregation with one insipid effort after another in recent times. On loan from the Premier League, with no hope of a permanent stay in W12, he’s looked like he’d rather be anywhere else since returning from a prolonged absence with a hernia problem. Phoning it in just didn’t cover it. And then, miraculously, this performance, conjured from nothing, with no hint that it was ever coming. From a stoned Brett Angell to a possessed Heidar Helguson in one fell swoop, a man who barely looked like he could be bothered to go to the trouble of getting out of bed and dressing himself a week ago was suddenly all over the final third of the pitch here - winning headers, putting in tackles, holding up the ball, finding team mates with lay offs, trying shots on goal, sweating blood for the team, leading the line, terrorising the Swansea defence. One wit in the South Africa Road stand pondered who might have been there to watch him with a potential contract for 2019/20 to offer, but we would never dream of being so cynical. Still, where on earth did this come from? Where on earth did any of this come from?
Everywhere you looked in the QPR team there were those sorts of transformations worthy of Marvel comics. Who was this all action, ruthlessly effective, Jordan Cousins character in the centre of midfield? Where have we been hiding this tenacious Irish left back, Ryan Manning, all season? Why has this Josh Scowen not been seen more? Who is this Bright Osayi-Samuel of which the team sheet speaks, all low socks and brash confidence? What’s going on? We should be told.
Five minutes before half time, with Osayi-Samuel down injured, Swansea considered putting the ball out of play but decided against it after a prolonged period of faffing about. Infuriated, Angel Rangel stormed into the centre of the field and stopped play himself with a wild challenge. The Swansea man on the deck got a spraying, the Swansea player who’d elected not to kick the ball out got both barrels, referee Andy Madley was told exactly what the fuck was what – there’s going to be some trouble here in a minute, because I’m going to start some. Raw passion, red fury, a winner wanting to win against a club he’d adored representing for more than a decade. An impromptu standing ovation from the startled Rangers fans, fist pumps to the crowd in return. I ask again, and again, and again… Where. Has. This. Been?
Four long months we’ve sat through uninspiring sludge. Once we’ve seen our team win in 17 league games. Weeks we’ve been resigned to only staying in this league courtesy of a cataclysmically awful bottom three remaining cataclysmically awful just long enough for the fixtures to run out. And then here, without warning, QPR started channelling Alex Ferguson’s Man Utd team, with a shock and awe start the opposition couldn’t live with, and then a deliberate and cynical approach to removing their best player from any potential comeback by taking it in turns to belt him out of the game. Young Dan James never got a chance to expose a notoriously slow defence with his greyhound speed because every time he got hold of the ball he was deliberately beaten to the floor. First Josh Scowen had a hack, then Rangel (having earlier been let off without a card for one), then Cousins. Systematic fouling the Man Utd critics used to call it, spreading the yellow cards around. When did football’s thickest team get all game smart?
It needs to be said, Swansea were crap. A dangerous cocktail of poor and arrogant. They may have won three in a row, but all were at home, and on the road they’ve lost six and drawn one of their last seven. Not hard to see why. The sort of emperor’s new clothes method to Championship football we see from Brentford (two away wins all season) where lunatic balls are knocked backwards and forwards in lethal areas of the pitch by players not skilled enough to do it as if it’s some sort of superior, higher brow standard of football, and anybody who dares to combat it with anything so rudimentary as a high press or the occasional tackle is to be looked down upon as just not cricket. As said after the Bees were beaten here before Christmas, there’s a big grey area between Tony Pulis football and Pep Guardiola football, and daring to venture into that by sending somebody like Josh Scowen out there to rat around a centre back pisballing about on the edge of his own six yard box doesn’t make you a philistine. Persisting with that holier than thou style when it’s palpably not working, and you’re getting torn a new arse, on the other hand, does make you a fucking idiot. And that’s all you could really describe Swansea as here. Stupid, idiotic, and well beaten. Seventy two percent possession, almost all of it fifteen feet away from their own goal and of a danger to themselves.
They looked like QPR at the height of the Steve McClaren hubris in August, when we lost the first four games of the season including a 7-1 at West Brom while trying to play out from the back through Matt Ingram, Joel Lynch and Toni Leistner. In van der Hoorn we may have found that oh so rare of things, a centre back more of a liability at this level even than Lynch. Carter Vickers, meanwhile, looked like a scaffolder plunged into a job swap for a Channel 4 reality series. Presumably out there somewhere there’s a cultured centre half driving a flat bed truck around and listening to TalkSport. And quite what to say about Kristoffer Nordfeldt, a goalkeeper with a pathological fear of the football, I’m not sure. He made Ingram look like Lev Yashin.
Tony Roberts was the goalkeeping coach here for a while. Anybody who suffered through his decade between the sticks at Loftus Road will recognise the terrifying technique of taking an extra, gratuitous touch on a passback and then waiting until the last possible minute before clearing under pressure from an onrushing striker. Only by pure luck did Hemed and several others not plunder another goal in full Paul Walsh style here as Nordfeldt took that old Ray Wilkins advice about having more time than you think rather too literally. Ten years of following QPR with Roberts in goal has left me with the stomach lining of a 56-year-old air traffic controller and if I had to watch this Swansea team playing like this away from home in the Championship each week I think I’d have tucked into a double helping of bleach a long time ago. Constantly, unrelentingly, terrifying. But, for a fan of the team they were playing, beautifully exhilarating, constantly encouraging, suicidal football.
Any fear the Swans may modify their approach after half time was quickly dispelled. One Freeman corner had Nordfeldt flapping and sparking the mother of all goalmouth scrambles. Decades from now, on whatever new social media platform is eating society and destroying democracy, an account called Shit Noughties Football will revel in the 20 seconds of chaos in which Cousins once, Hemed twice and Bright Osayi-Samuel three times all had point blank headers and shots blocked by bodies strewn around on the goal line. Swansea’s reprieve was brief because they made just as big a mess of the resulting Josh Scowen corner from the other side and after Osayi-Samuel had a shot rebound back into play off a defender’s legs, Mass Luongo shinned in a fourth. Later, with the Swansea backline still looking more like Dwight's fire drill than a professional football outfit, Hemed headed one corner wide when it seemed easier to score and then sent a low shot towards goal that deflected up in the air and confused Luke Freeman to such an extent that he was wandering around in the way of Osayi-Samuel preventing a tap in. Cousins volleyed the rebound over.
Swansea had one off the bar, and another from James beaten back by a defender on the line, but they were never in this game. Rangers strangely dominant, led through the centre by an all action Josh Scowen who really is revelling in this more advanced midfield role. He was one of several ingredients present here that have been key to the rare chinks of light that have shone through recently at Millwall and in the last half hour at Hull. Football for Ryan Manning, painfully ignored by Steve McClaren, so good on Wednesday and again here. A balance more in favour of players who definitely will be here next season rather than those that definitely or probably won’t – seven again in this game, not including Freeman, as opposed to four at Norwich. A greater role for players that haven’t played so much football this season and look a lot fresher as a result. And, finally, Darnell Furlong and Toni Leistner selected together in the middle of the defence and showing exactly why that should be our first choice pairing back there from the options we have available currently.
Within a week we’ve gone from demanding John Eustace be drummed out of the club with the bloke that hired him, to asking whether he’s considered throwing his hat into the ring for the job permanently. QPR remains the footballing equivalent of a delinquent, paranoid, schizophrenic chimp. There simply isn’t enough Xanax in the world for this club, or the people afflicted with following it.
As time filtered away in the spring sunshine, substitute Ebere Eze rainbow flicked (behave) one to his fellow late introduction Pawel Wszolek whose shot deflected and lost pace to such an extent that even Nordfeldt couldn’t help but save it.
It was that sort of day.
QPR: Lumley 6; Rangel 8 (Eze 88, -), Leistner 7, Furlong 7, Manning 8; Luongo 7, Cousins 7; Osayi-Samuel 7, Scowen 8, Freeman 7 (Wszolek 69, 7); Hemed 8 (Walker 83, -)
Subs not used: Ingram, Smith, Wells, Lynch
Goals: Furlong 3 (assisted Freeman), Hemed 5 (unassisted), 16 (assisted Scowen), Luongo 54 (assisted Scowen)
Bookings: Scowen 11 (kicking Dan James), Rangel 38 (kicking Dan James), Osayi-Samuel 44 (kicking ball away), Cousins 45+4 (kicking Dan James)
Swansea: Nordfeldt 3; Roberts 5, van der Hoorn 3, Carter Vickers 3, Naughton 4 (Fulton 45, 5); Byers 5 (Rodon 65, 5), Grimes 5; Dyer 5 (Celina 45, 5), James 5, Routledge 5; McBurnie 4
Subs not used: Benda, Asoro, McKay, Baker-Richardson
Bookings: Rodon 85 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Josh Scowen 8 Continuing excellent recent personal form with a performance that led from the front, revelling in a more advanced midfield role by pressing an opponent high up the field where it didn’t want to be pressed and setting the tone for the team. Two or three candidates for this, which made a nice change.
Referee – Andy Madley (West Yorkshire) 7 Put in a bit of a difficult position really by QPR’s treatment of James. Rangers had obviously done their homework, clearly didn’t want him getting up to full speed, and had a very clear and deliberate plan to stop him by surrounding him with players whenever he got the ball and if was still able to get it under control and away they kicked him up in the air. It was blatant, and nasty, but it was a different player doing it each time, and so all the referee could really do was continue to issue yellow cards for it. I’d have been fuming if I’d been on the other side, and the Swansea players regularly made the point that it was a pretty flagrant tactic, but Rangers played the laws of the game as written, if not really the spirit of them, so what could the referee do?
Attendance 13,872 (1,700 Swansea approx.) All left in a state of shock.
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