Tuesday, 18 December 2012

#16 The one that DIDN'T get away

Queens Park Rangers finally ended the agonising misery that has been the R's fans lot this season, with a convincing victory over local rivals Fulham, as Harry Redknapp's unbeaten start to his tenure was stretched to four games.

The R's started their 17th game of this campaign making two changes to last weeks starting eleven with Onuoha replacing the woeful Bosingwa (who had a torrid second half at Wigan last week) and R's favourite Faurlin coming in at the expense of Derry. Harry kept faith with Wright-Phillips as the team was again built around QPR's mercurial genius that is Adel Taarabt. Taarabt's task was to exploit the space behind front man Cisse and generally terrorise Fulham through the centre. Mackie and SWP were utilised wide, with Faurlin back in his familiar holding role assisted by Mbia, with the latter contributing to our attacking options as Taarabt occupied opposition defenders.

QPR hit the ground running for the second week in a row, quickly taking the initiative and forcing Fulham back, as Cisse and Taarabt both forcing saves from the Fulham keeper. Taarabt was orchestrating most of the R's attacking play as he dominated the hole from the centre circle up to Cisse and for 25 minutes Fulham could not cope as they were forced into making errors. QPR continued to create chances and Mackie uncharacteristically missed a golden chance to put the R's one up with only the keeper to beat, after cleverly capitalising on a Fulham error. Fulham's eventual response was to take the sting out of the game, trying to keep possession deep in their own half in the hope of frustrating QPR and the fans. This had a detrimental effect on the game and the last 20 minutes of the first half became a scrappy affair with silly errors from both sides. The sides went into half time level, with the R's a little aggrieved not to be leading as they had mustered six shots on target and another six off compared to Fulham's no efforts at all.

And they still could't stop him
QPR began the second half much the same as the first, with most of the offencive success happening centrally as the R's continued using Taarabt down the middle, following our unsuccessful   attempts attacking with width in recent weeks. The breakthrough moment came in the 52nd minute, when Taarabt again picked up the ball centrally and headed down the middle at pace, before unleashing a shot that deflected off Hangeland to send Swarzer the wrong way and Loftus Road ignited.

Fulham failed to respond, as QPR continued to control the game and rarely looked threatened as the R's looked capable of keeping a lead for the first time this season until the 68th minute, when the lead was doubled. Taarabt was fed by Mackie, who again went on another central run, keeping the ball as he bundled into a Fulham midfielder. Tab's took the ball further forward as the R's fans stood up in their seats in anticipation, Cisse made a cross run into the area, (Would have been off side if he got the ball) screaming for the ball as he took a defender with him, thus leaving just enough room for Tab's to stroke the ball into the bottom corner with the outside of his boot as the stadium erupted once more.

The Cottagers were again non responsive and on the whole were very negative (which is surprising when you consider they can be quite decent at home) and never looked like scoring until a deflected shot beat Green from outside the area with their first shot on target from open play. Personally, I think Green should have done better with it, as it was far enough out for him to respond. He was also responsible for a rare threat from Fulham when he kicked the ball straight to their forward in the first half. I don't think having Green in goal instills any confidence in the side and he is not an improvement on Kenny, but Cesar is, and I look forward to seeing Cesar back between the sticks asap.

Mackie and Tab's celebrate R's second goal
This unlikely goal in the 87th minute made for a nervy ending, but this was one lead that didn't get away, as we saw out the final minutes for our first victory. The team had worked hard ,the defence were sharper, more focused and committed, as were the midfield. Harry got the team pressing for the ball earlier and higher up the pitch, enabling Taarabt and the like to see much more of the ball and in turn created more chances than we had been creating of late, whilst restricting the opportunities against us. The performance today was in stark contrast to the lack luster shambles when we lost to Southampton and the improvement reaped the rewards it deserved.

We are not there yet, but it's a start.  We will need to have alternative options as Taarabt won't be able to do this every week and the team has to work very hard to accommodate this option. (Hence SWP's inclusion) SWP did work hard today, but again made mistakes and gave the ball away, as did Traore on the occasions we did go forward with any width. Surely the time has come to try a different option at left back. Having said that, Harry did drop our other inadequate full back, replacing him with Onuoha, who he did a better job than Bosingwa has been doing. (He's much better at FB than CH) Mbia had a better game, but I would still prefer to see him in the back four, where he only has to think about what's in front of him, at least until he's had a season to adjust in the premier league. 

QPR earned a deserved three points today, made all the sweeter as it was against our nearest rivals, was a good performance in front of a full house and ended our dismal winless run. Harry has now got the R's on a run of form. Four games undefeated with six Points, two more than his predecessors managed in the other thirteen games. As I have mentioned before, it was vitally important that Harry started picking up points straight away, so that we can have around fifteen or sixteen points come January 1st. We have three games until then, two at home against WBA and Liverpool and one away at Newcastle on Saturday. I don't think five points from nine would be an unrealistic ask. That would put us on fifteen and in with a chance. Confidence is on the up and the team is looking more solid and working for each other, why can't this run of form continue. All I know is, the last few weekends have not been ruined and last weekend was superb... and we're not bottom any more... and we're above Chelsea in the recent form table.

It's never an easy trip up at Newcastle, but if there is a good time to play at St James I'd like to think it is now with the Geordie's having lost six out of the last seven. If we can start in the ascendancy like the last two games and get an early goal, we should have a good chance, however unlikely that may seem. We're into the second half of the big seven games to the transfer window since Harry took over and have picked up half the points available whilst improving game by game. The R's fans confidence is building up again, are we going to do this? Newcastle will be a big indicator. Can we follow up our first victory with our first away victory? There's a good chance.

Come on you R's

The Bush Ranger

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