Wednesday, 11 December 2013

# 26 Stuck In First Gear

With Christmas just two weeks away, QPR are still in the leading pack and are joint top of the Championship on points with four games to go before the halfway point in the season.

Following our first defeat of the season at Burnley, the R's averted a negative run by securing a goalless draw a few days later at Wigan, in what was a drab and boring affair not befitting of the excellent R's support after a run of three consecutive away games. That run of away games was Rangers first test of the season. in which we didn't do well as we only picked up two points from the nine available. This was subsequently overturned when the R's reliable home form quickly dispatched Derby to secure three points, albeit not as convincingly as our previous home outing, with plenty of huffing and puffing but no real punch.

The next game was at the home of the fake Hoops in Reading (aka Chelsea Town) and was the early kick off on the Saturday, courtesy of football's masters at Sky. QPR started brightly and could have, and should have been three nil up after ten minutes. But a combination of another opposition keeper having a stormer against us and the usual missed sitters put paid to that, as we faded away and let Reading back into a game that should have been dead and buried. Sure enough the R's found themselves a goal down early in the second half following a Reading throw that should have been QPR's. Barton put away a nice free kick to salvage a point for the R's late on but it was the R's celebration that was all the more pleasing. As the ball nestled into the net Barton raced to the dug out, closely followed by his team mates as they held aloft the hooped shirt of their stricken team mate Ali Faurlin.

Ali, as you all know, was cruelly stricken with another ACL injury against Derby just as he was approaching his best from again, having been one of the very few highlights at Wigan. Injuries have plagued the R's this season and it is fortunate that we do have an abundance of midfielders having once thought we had too many. What is alarming is the number of players we have that have fallen to hamstring strains and niggles and some work needs to be done to reduce these occurrences. In fact the welfare of QPR players past and present should always be considered by the club and I hope they do right by Ali and offer him an extension on his contract. Good luck in your recovery Ali, you will never be alone.

Another unconvincing performance saw the R's overturn Charlton with another home victory and another one nil. The victories and haul of points at home are more than welcome but many an R's fan has acknowledged that it has not been the most entertaining or exciting of seasons to date. For some reason we seem to be obsessed with our possession stats, quite content to tip tap the ball sideways, in our own half, much to the relief of the opposition as they take a chance to take a breather without any hint of a threat on their goal from QPR. Why, with the talent we have in our squad,  are we devoid of any kind of attacking prowess? Why don't we push further up the pitch, use the width in our team and actually get behind opposition defences? Matt Phillips has gone some way to changing this in patches, but the onus seems to be on grinding out narrow victories. All very well as long as stupid mistakes don't lead to opposition goals, as was the case at Doncaster.

Doncaster away was a truly dire display and easily in the top ten of the worst games I've seen in over forty years. The R's travelling support numbered at over 1600 that day and they deserved much better than the tripe served up that was disguised as a football match. An enthusiastic, buoyant and vociferous support that was singing away under the stand before the game was slowly worn down and subdued by what they witnessed as the match progressed, a very bad day at the office that is best forgotten. Fortunately, as with our previous defeat, we only had to wait a few days to put things right as the R's recorded their biggest win to date scoring three for the first time this season. Harry finally started with two strikers with the Andy Johnson tenacious and refreshingly effective. To their credit, Bournemouth played some nice football and were one of the few teams to have the majority of the possession against QPR. They passed the ball well and moved it about in areas that caused the R's concern but are a little naive and are lacking the quality they need to convert their possession football into something that will establish themselves in this league. Could it be that not having so much of the ball forced the R's hand and produced a more effective attacking performance? It would seem that way as we next played host prominent bus parkers Blackburn, who have not lost at QPR since 1993. They conceded an obscene amount of possession to the R's as we served up sterile and uninventive goalless draw. Despite playing with two wide men for most of the game, the R's didn't make many clear cut chances and rarely excited an R's crowd that have been starved of watching any real excitement this season, which in turn has had an adverse effect on the atmosphere at Loftus Road of late.

Having said that, it is a means to an end and Sunday's this season have been infinitely better than last season and winning games is always a heart warmer. What amazes me is that despite the fact that we have not dominated or crushed anyone this season, scored bag loads of goals or more importantly, not got out of first gear, we are still joint top of the league. So you could be forgiven for thinking or even expecting there's better to come. A good indication of whether or not that will happen will become evident after our next four fixtures. They are against Blackpool away, Leicester home, Forest away and the Watford away. Four games against teams from the business end of the table with no games against minnows to fill in the results between theses bigger games. This will be a real indicator of what this team has got and what its made of. This will bring us to the exact hallway mark in the season. Will we still be top? Will we still be up there? Will we have moved up out of first gear and started to dominate? It's a big test and we'll have a better idea in the new year. I'd like to think we will move up a few gears we all know we have, rather than remain static as we did last season.

Yossi Benayon has just joined the R's on a short term deal and although he's 33 I think he could be an effective solution to our attacking issues along with a fully fit Nico Kranjcar. I would play him wide with Phillips on the other flank and seriously consider selling Hoilett to Stoke in January if that fool that used to manage us wants him. I would imagine Harry's transfer activity will be influenced on what he sees in these next four games.

And so to the FA Cup draw and QPR's annual half hearted appearance in this classic but sadly devalued cup completion. This is a major domestic trophy and only one of three trophy's that is possible for us and many others to win. Why do teams treat this wonderful competition with such disdain? (And the League Cup come to think of it?) We have been paired with Everton and a trip to Goodison Park and Harry has declared that we are taking the FA Cup seriously this year. All I can say is remember when he said we'll be making mind blowing signings, nuff said! Either way serious or not serious, this will be a tough one for QPR but you never know. I'd love us to win this cup.

So, four big games coming up, two of which will be live on Sky, Leicester home and Forest away and thank you for the free coach travel to Forest Tony Fernandes. Here hoping the R's can up it a gear or two. Next blog in the new year.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Come on you R's.

The Bush Ranger.


  1. Did you consider the possibility that the team is in top gear already ?
    It is after all a team put together in one summer, and on a small fraction of the budget that Hughes, and after nearly the entire squad from last season was sold or loaned out in the summer.
    Maybe being top of the league is as good as they can manage.

    1. The course of the season will determine whether or not we are in top gear. Let's see what happens in the next 4 games. Do you not think there is more to come from this team?

    2. It is also worth bearing in mind what gears the teams around us can find.Leicester faded rapidly last season for eg. Another factor is the fine lines in the game, the Blackburn game although not a classic we did create 2 gilt edged chances which should have been taken, with little threat to us.We are now a gutsy side, and nearly injury free. Keep it going, other squads will hit fatigue and injury problems, some already are.

    3. I agree with you - The point is I still think we have a lot more in us and we are still up there challenging. The crunch is will we achieve our potential this season.

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