|Queens Park Rangers 1 v 1 Huddersfield Town|
Saturday, 10th August 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Hall adds end product to QPR's new aesthetics – Report
Sunday, 11th Aug 2019 12:35 by Clive Whittingham
QPR christened the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium with an entertaining game and thoroughly deserved late equaliser from Grant Hall against Huddersfield Town on Saturday.
As much as things change, they stay the same.
Saturday was Queens Park Rangers’ first competitive game at the newly renamed Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium. Change. First comment on the club’s Instagram post unveiling the branding on the South Africa Road: “what a load of bollocks”. The same.
Rangers have shifted a dozen members of last season’s underachieving team out over the summer and brought even more new faces than that into the squad. Few clubs have ever attempted such rapid squad churn in such a short period of time. Change. But for all that, this is still a team that benefits hugely from having Geoff Cameron parked in front of its defence. The same.
There’s a new footballing philosophy and passing style for the Super Hoops this season as Mark Warburton settles into one of football’s hottest seats, and the players already look far more comfortable in their own skin than their predecessors this time last year when we were two defeats from two games with a 7-1 defeat to West Brom just around the corner. Change. But against Huddersfield Town yesterday it looked for so long like a side that lost a club record 11 home league games in 2018/19 was going to accidentally slip to another 1-0 reverse. The same.
Huddersfield had a traumatic time in the Premier League last year, winning only three games all season and scoring just 22 goals in 38 games. A botched summer of recruitment after two seasons of high over achievement left them miles out of their depth and relegated long before the end of the campaign. They didn’t look like a top flight team then, and they don’t act like a team newly relegated from that league now. A conservative approach, with a lot of men behind the ball, and a disciplined shape, smacked of a side keen not to follow their opening weekend loss at home to Derby with another defeat, rather than one with the ambition to win against a QPR team which has proved useful cannon fodder for far less talented sides than Huddersfield in 2019 so far.
QPR initially lacked significant intensity to trouble them unduly. The home side had more of the ball, looked the more accomplished side, but never really felt capable of doing much with it. An early cross from Ebere Eze sparked a panic in the School End penalty area and he was soon teeing up Bright Osayi-Samuel for a shot from a narrow angle tipped over the bar. Jordan Hugill lashed one into the away end with Osayi-Samuel crying out for a pass to his right. Later, when the former Blackpool man did get good ball in good field position, referee Dean Whitestone had a penalty appeal to contend with and rightly decided the Town defender had taken the ball for a corner.
All fine and well, except that Huddersfield were doing far more with far less. Across the 90 minutes they had 37% of the possession, and six shots to QPR’s 17, but in the first half at least they carried the greater threat. Adama Diakhaby was yellow carded for diving in the penalty box as early as the second minute and it wasn’t too much longer before Rangers were caught nonsing about on the edge of their own area leaving Joe Lumley to save one on one with Karlan Grant and Cameron to block the rebound from Juninho Bacuna (it means no worries, for the rest of your days). An offside flag prevented Grant having a second stab there but just after the quarter hour there was another chance when Diakhaby caught Ryan Manning diving in over by the Ellerslie Road Stand and cut a ball back for Bacuna to strike goalwards but straight at Yoann Barbet. Lumley saved nervously from Pritchard ten before the break when Rangers made a hash of their own free kick, and it needed all of Angel Rangel’s 36 years in the game to pull the Spaniard out of a tackle in first half injury time that would have been a stick on penalty.
Town’s German manager Jan Siewert had seen something he liked. His team emerged for the second half in a noticeably more positive mood, with a formation shift to overload the right side and Elias Kachunga introduced from the bench for Bacuna who’d been lucky not to see red at the end of the first half for a lazy, ugly tackle on Manning as he cleared a ball down the line. Suddenly half the population of Huddersfield was kicking around in the space in front of Barbet, inside Manning and behind Cameron and the influence of Pritchard and Kachunga was keenly felt. It took all of three minutes for this to tell in the form of a goal – Barbet’s hail Mary attempt at salvaging a lost cause after Kachunga had got in behind him led to a penalty and a yellow card. Joe Lumley went the right way, but wasn’t anywhere really close to Karlan Grant’s second goal of the season. Both have come from the spot.
It felt like a game that could easily just slip quietly away from Rangers at that point, but unlike last season there were positive and proactive substitutions to come from the manager. Ilias Chair replaced Josh Scowen, who hadn’t been great. Todd Kane came on for a debut at right back instead of Rangel, and immediately added a pacy and eye-catching attacking threat down that side. Nahki Wells joined the fray with ten to go against his former club instead of Luke Amos, who’d toiled hard with mixed results in midfield. While accepting that Huddersfield were now happy to hold what they had and sit in, it can’t be denied that QPR got incrementally better with each arrival from the bench. Change.
Chair had a shot saved by loaned Liverpool keeper Grabara almost immediately after coming on. Brilliant hold up and lay work from Jordan Hugill won the first of two free kicks belted into the wall by Barbet – we remain without a goal from a direct free kick since Yeni Ngbakoto at Birmingham in February 2017. Eze pulled O’Brien’s pants down midway through the half and after the Huddersfield man had pulled his drawers up and paid to get back in he was booked for hauling the talented youngster back. When he was freed from those shackles, Eze strode onto a gorgeous chop back from Chair but his shot struck a defender before it reached the goal. Those two could be special together. The frustration of a prolonged stoppage in the game for a miniscule tear in the goalkeeper’s shorts, allowed to turn into an impromptu water break by an otherwise pernickety referee, saw Osayi-Samuel cut in from the left and unleash a shot an inch or two wide of the top corner.
Huddersfield sent on Quaner, only for him to immediately pick up a yellow card for a deliberate foul on the flying Kane. When the former Hull full back did get away again a moment later a delicious cross was attacked at the near post by Chair but he couldn’t force it home. Kane certainly looked the part going forwards, something QPR haven’t done effectively from full back since a young Kyle Walker was rampaging around these parts, and it did, by this point, at least feel like it might be coming. Trouble was, with nine minutes left you couldn’t help but fear QPR would be left to rue only showing sufficient intensity when really it was too late.
We needn’t have worried. Ryan Manning’s cheeky scamp routine, falling on the ball and selling the idea of a free kick to the match officials, gave him the chance to sling a left footed ball in from wide. Three men went too soon at the near post and were offside, but Grant Hall had hung back enough to avoid the flag but not so much that he couldn’t plant a splendid header back over the keeper and into the net for the equaliser. QPR scoring late goals rather than conceding them – a change you can hook to my veins.
Now committed to the attack, Rangers had to be slightly careful not to leave themselves too short at the back. Ebere Eze caught the eye with a tremendous track back, tackle and play out from deep in his own penalty area just when QPR needed him. Laaaaaaaaaazy bastard.
Rangers were rewarded for their persistence, for their positive substitutions made early enough for the players to have an impact, and for finally discovering what can happen when you let your full backs cross the halfway line and join the attacks. They’d been good to watch anyway, but they allied that with a goal threat just in the nick of time. That last half hour, with Manning bombing on from left back, Kane doing the same down the right, Chair lively at ten, Eze slick alongside him, Hugill leading the line powerfully and Cameron minding the shop further back was lovely stuff, and promised much for the rest of the season as they collectively get up to speed and play more together.
A deserved point from an entertaining game on an emotionally charged day. The sort of performance that has me looking forward to coming back, rather than loathing myself for bothering in the first place.
Change. Glorious change.
QPR: Lumley 6; Rangel 6 (Kane 71, 7), Hall 7, Barbet 7, Manning 6; Cameron 7, Amos 5 (Wells 82, -); Eze 6, Scowen 5 (Chair 55, 7), Osayi-Samuel 6; Hugill 6
Subs not used: Pugh, Ball, Kelly, Leistner
Goals: Hall 82 (assisted Manning)
Yellow cards: Barbet 48 (foul, penalty concession), Osayi-Samuel 90+2 (foul)
Huddersfield: Grabara 6; Hadergjonaj 6, Elphick 6, Schindler 7, Kongolo 6; Bacuna 5 (Kachunga 45, 6), Hogg 6, O’Brien 6, Diakhaby 6 (Quaner 76, 5), Pritchard 6 (Stankovitch 90+5); Grant 7
Subs not used: Bockhorn, Koroma, Brown, Schofield
Goals: Grant 48 (penalty, won Kachunga)
Yellow cards: Diakhaby 2 (diving), Bacuna 43 (foul), O’Brien 69 (foul), Quaner 79 (foul), Grant 90+2 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Geoff Cameron 7 Classy presence at the base of the midfield, freeing others to go forward and hunt for goals. Hardly put a foot wrong and was most people’s man of the match in the Crown afterwards, while many were disappointed with a slightly nervous showing from Amos alongside him. Maybe worth just balancing that up slightly by pointing out that Cameron’s job is a very simple and basic one, while Amos is having to cover huge amounts of ground and get through a tonne of work in his role.
Referee – Dean Whitestone (Northants) 6 Big decisions were right, and there were four of them to make – Diakhaby’s dive in the area after two minutes, the challenge on Osayi-Samuel in the other area which Rangers wanted a penalty for, the penalty that was awarded, and the yellow rather than red for Bacuna for the Manning foul. Not easy to call all four correct at normal speed in a pressure situation. Plenty of niggle on the minor stuff though. Went from being one of those officious, by-the-book, absolutely-every-bit-of-physical-contact-is-a-free-kick officials one minute, to letting Geoff Cameron away with a couple of fouls in quick succession that were certainly worth a card when taken cumulatively. Veered between jobsworth and relaxed best mate of the players, often in the same incident – such as the nonsense stoppage of the game for a tiny rip in the goalkeeper’s shorts, followed by a prolonged drinks break in the sun. Despite that, and the goals, and the delay for the penalty, and the full set of substitutions, and an infuriating stoppage so Kachunga could be treated despite him being off the pitch, only five minutes added. How about instead of force feeding technology we don’t need into our sport to check if Raheem Sterling’s arm pit is offside, we make a useful change and take the clock off the referee on the field?
Attendance – 14,377 (1,500 Huddersfield approx.) A very warm reception for the team at full time despite them not quite getting over the line for the win, showing how tolerant and forgiving the Loftus Road crowd will be to a QPR team that tries its best, plays attractive football and attacks to win the game. I know the name change isn’t for everybody, and I’ve been backwards and forwards on it in my own mind since I heard about it at the turn of the year, but seeing it in the flesh, seeing what it means to the Prince family, seeing the coverage one of the most important charities in this city at the moment has already got from it in the national media… I think you’ve got to be a pretty cold-hearted misery to carry on bleating about it. If you are, well that’s your prerogative, but I’ll let you into a little secret – nobody’s going to stop you still calling it Loftus Road if you want to.
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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