The R's begun a difficult run of September fixtures with a visit to champions Manchester City which ended, unsurprisingly, in defeat but in reality showed signs of what we can look forward to as R's fans as the season progresses.
As I took my seat at the Etihad, in the soulless concrete bowl that typifies the model many new stadium designers have adopted, I could not help but think how things used to be before the commercial revolution of the Premier League and legislation enforcing football fans to sit when watching our national game. Gone are the days when you could meet your mates in the pub before the game and bring even more mates with you on the spur of the moment to watch a game. Gone are the days when you could all watch the game together in the ground without prior precision planning. As a result real football fans find themselves isolated and separated from each other which undoubtedly leads to the sterile muted atmosphere that we often get in football stadia nowadays. City proved to be no different, even though the facilities and the views are great, the stadium did not buzz as it should as the home of the champions. A consequence of the tag alongs and born again City fans, but a stark contrast to the corresponding fixture 16 weeks earlier.
The R's began the game with the returning Faurlin, the only player in the starting eleven from our championship winning season. Estaban Granero made his debut and Johnson was preferred in attack to partner Zamora, as Hughes surprisingly elected to line up 4 4 2, rare for an away game.
QPR soon found themselves under pressure and were run ragged for the first 35 minutes, with City taking the lead after just 16 minutes. I don't know whether its Hughes insistence on setting us up so deep, but we keep inviting the opposition on to us and subsequently look very uncomfortable and almost scared whilst under relentless pressure for long periods. The inevitable result is lack of confidence and it was not really until the 35 minute that the R's settled and looked more comfortable when moving forward, although City always looked dangerous.
City began the second half strongly and could easily have gone two up. But QPR, with a new found confidence and the beginnings of self belief started to have more time in the City half and got their reward with an equaliser, Zamora with his second consecutive away goal. This sent the 1600-ish QPR support into delirium, the vast majority of which were located in the upper tier of the away end out of view of the TV cameras, prompting unjustified ridicule on Twitter about our away support. The R's joy was short lived as City regained the lead 2 minutes later, but the R's were not crestfallen and again capitulation was avoided, even though City nicked a third goal in injury time. Up until then we all had the feeling we could nick something out of this game. The supporters felt it and the players felt it.
Despite the result, there were enough encouraging signs in the second half to know QPR will be OK this season. It will take time, but it will come. Things will get better. Granero was excellent as was Faulin on this return to league action. Fabio showed an improvement, Bosingwa looked promising and Nelson proved he can do a good job for QPR this season. Zamora and AJ put in a good shift and Park's second half performance was arguably his best for the R's to date.
Yes it was disappointing to lose and we are in the bottom three again and maybe will will not get many points in September, but I and many fellow R's left the Etihad feeling strangely confident about the future. We learnt something today and we saw the beginning of something today. There is no doubt this is a good squad of players. In time the management and the players will knit together and by the time City come to Loftus Road in January QPR will be a much tougher proposition. We can all feel it, we can all see it, but until then we must all remember.....Slowly slowly catchy monkey.
Onwards and upwards. Come on you R's
Blog to you soon
The Bush Ranger.