Wednesday, 13 March 2013

#22 Thats More Like It

After a not so inspiring February that left despondent R's fans with little hope of survival, QPR have had an excellent start to March, with back to back victories rekindling hopes of survival amongst R's fans alike.

Three thousand plus vociferous QPR fans made the journey to the south coast to support the R's in their do or die fixture against the team who's victory at Loftus Road earlier in the season finally lead to the dismissal of the Harry's predecessor. Thankfully, the R's faithful were rewarded to a rare
Bothroyd grabs the winner at Southampton
victory as the team finally managed to show some effective resilience and took their chances in securing a memorable victory. Harry made significant changes to the side as Taarabt, Townsend, Mackie and Zamora made way for Park, Hoilett, Remy and Bothroyd, in a side that Harry picked to work hard and try and get a result. And work hard they did, with Hoilett, Bosingwa, Park and Bothroyd all having one of their better games for QPR. The defence were solid although stretched for periods as Southampton turned on the pressure but QPR were often threatening on the counter attack and delivered two sucker punches as both our strikers got a goal each. After a lively start by the Saints QPR were quick to settle after taking an early lead but following a rare Cesar mistake, the Saints equalised in first half stoppage time, much to the disappointment of the R's as we contemplated the worst could happen. Southampton continued in their cavalier manner but were still vulnerable to the counter attack. Cesar had to go off after taking a knock but the R's regained the lead with 13 minutes to go and held out for a deserved victory despite the 6 minutes injury time, with Green pulling of a world class save to secure the points. Harry had taken some severe stick from the home supporters, but the magnificent R's support countered these jibes as they hailed Harry on his birthday as he celebrated the victory with them at the final whistle.

The fantastic result at Southampton would mean very little unless we could follow it up with another win as we entertained Sunderland at Loftus Road. The R's faithful were there in their numbers as Loftus Road was sold out again, all the more pleasing as the Mackems only had the top tier of the School End with eager R's fans taking advantage to fill the lower tier.

Townsend's wonder volley against Sunderland
Harry recalled the not fully fit Zamora, plus Townsend and Fabio at the expense of Bothroyd, Granero and Traore, as the team was set out to attack and win the game. QPR stated their intentions from the off with Hoilett coming close to putting the R's up in the opening 5 minutes. However, it was Sunderland that took the lead, against the run of play, as a rare break from the Mackems  down the right eventually went across the R's goal to find a completely unmarked Johnson to hammer across goal for Fletcher to divert in. R's fans were gutted as we thought it wasn't going to be our day again following another poor bit of defending but, the team rallied and continued in the same vein as they proved to be the better team. 10 minutes later Remy got the R's equaliser following good work moving the ball from the back to front with a fortuitous bounce into Remy's path.

Sunderland had their best spell in the opening exchanges of the second half but, the R's supremacy quickly resurfaced. Even more satisfying was the fact that, for the first time a very long time, QPR were playing the kind of football we expect at QPR and it was refreshing to see us attacking with two wingers, with what was almost a front four at times. Townsend was outstanding as his run of good form continued in a hooped shirt. Hoilett, Bosingwa and Park also delivered the kind of performance we expected when we signed them and Mbia had a much better game for the R's, managing to stay on his feet and getting on with his job alongside Park. The absence of Taarabt due to injury and Traore saw the frequency in which we give the ball away greatly reduced and with attacks starting on both flanks we were able to get more men in the opponents box far more than I can remember at any other time this season. More importantly, we looked like we could score, we looked comfortable at the back, in fact we looked like we could win. Following continued pressure, R's fans were rewarded in the 70th minute, when Townsend banged home a spectacular volley into the top corner to send the Loftus Road crowd into raptures. As the clock ticked down both the team and fans began to get edgy but in the 90th minute Jenas alleviated the anxiety by driving home a wonder goal from distance to secure the three points for QPR.

So QPR had secured back to back victories in the premier league for the first time since our return (the last time being in 1995) and our first brace of wins for seventy three games.These were the first goals QPR scored in the league at home this year and the first three goal haul of the season. It was also the first victory by more than one goal in a year and the first time the R's have won from a losing position since beating Liverpool 3-2 last season and that was the start of the run that ultimately lead to our survival.

Jenas srikes home to secure points
We are now in mid March and eighth in the form table for 2013 as we look forward to another do or die game at Aston Villa. Results at the bottom of the table last week went QPR's way and the gap on those above has closed as more teams are dragged in to the relegation fight. Villa earned a rare victory at Reading but I think they are one of the poorer sides at the bottom. QPR have now gathered momentum and the results and performances this month are what is needed if we are to survive. But we are still in a very, very difficult predicament. The back to back victories have given us a chance and with that chance comes hope. Its this hope that really hurts you when things go wrong but, that's typical of supporting QPR. We will go into Villa away knowing the last two victories are meaningless unless we can come away from Villa Park with three points. There is no more room for failure. The players have gained confidence from the last two results and under performing star men are at last starting to deliver performances. This has got to continue if we are to survive. I personally think it will be unlikely but have not given up. Three points at Villa on Saturday and maybe Great Escape 2 could be achievable.
Is Great Escape 2 on?

Either way, stay up or go down, I was glad to see the return to the QPR way and the players start to deliver. Harry has made a difference to QPR, as have our January signings, with three of them being on the score sheet on Saturday. But we will need to deliver whilst we have the momentum and the opportunity with our run of forthcoming fixtures. Many have written QPR off but, against the odds they have began to turn it around, so credit to the staff and players, that more like it!

And that is more like it, as the new hope (that both fuels and hurts QPR supporters) has been boosted, over three thousand R's supporters will be at Villa Park cheering on QPR in their quest for three points. All we ask is that the team does its best, because our best is good enough to win this one.

Here's hoping. Come on you R's.

The Bush Ranger


Friday, 1 March 2013

#21 Do or Die

February is at an end and the closing of the transfer window seems a long time ago, but we have only played three games in that time. As per usual QPR featured in the last day transfer window circus that saw us secure the services of Jermain Jenas, Andre Townsend (loan) and Christopher Samba (a year late) for a new club record of around £12.5million. Added to the earlier acquisitions of Loic Remy, Suk-Young Yun (who?)and Tal Ben Haim it saw The Rangers as the second highest spenders in the transfer window. I never thought I'd ever see the day. Samba is a quality signing, Jenas was once a great player but has hardly been in the spotlight of late, I just hope he can find some good form and stay injury free. Townsend is a handy player and will hopefully do as well as Kyle Walker did at the R's in his stint here on loan. Remy done the business for us in his first game and did as much as he could against Man City but has since been injured. How injured he is depends on which media source you choose to follow, but he has not played for weeks although Harry says he's close to coming back. (Hmmm, we'll see!) In summary this transfer window was pretty much like the last three and I can't help thinking it's still a lot of expensive compromise and players past their peak, with one or two obvious exceptions. Is it good enough to save the R's from doom? Time will tell but I personally don't think they are likely to produce the kind of run we are going to need, but are capable, if they can all find their A game at the same time.

Bunn denies QPR 3 points with penalty save
QPR began the month with another Sky live home game against our perennial bogey team Norwich. This was a game we all knew we should win, to start getting the required run going, as we found ourselves unbeaten in 2013 having conceded just once. True to form, pretty much like most of the season, we drew another blank as we failed to score at home but managed to keep a clean sheet and grab a meagre point. Yet again QPR were restricted to shots from outside the area, predominantly coming from Taarabt but, we are still failing to get significant numbers in the opposition area. Harry handed debuts to the excellent Townsend and Jenas (as sub) and the second half saw the introduction of Zamora, who's presence did manage to hold the ball up and the R's did manage to create some better chances late on culminating with Taarabt having a penalty saved, with Norwich keeper Bunn making further crucial saves, but it was too little too late.

Next up was Swansea away. You would have thought one or two of these players would have a point to prove after the thrashing dealt out on the opening day of the season. Think again, Swansea, the team that went up with us, the team that we used to regularly hammer, went on to easily give us another good hiding, as another pathetic QPR performance resulted in capitulation and the shipping of another four goals. Zamora got one back for us to give us brief hope for a couple of minutes, but all in all, this game did little to raise hope in our quest to turn a run of avoiding defeat in to a run of victories and was a big step backwards leaving us seven points off safety.

Harry then took his underachieving team to Dubai to enjoy a weekend off, courtesy of their disgraceful exit in the cup a few weeks earlier. Modern football never fails to amaze me now days and this is another example of just how detached from reality football is at a time when real football fans are struggling to get by day to day.

So, after a jolly up in the sun, the R's returned to face the daunting task of hosting runaway leaders Manchester United. Only the ultra optimists were thinking of getting anything out of this game, which, naturally, we didn't. However were it not for more inept and lazy defending from the usual suspects in the team, we might have got something. Rafael hit a wander goal that he couldn't do again if he tried another hundred times, whilst Samba had one cleared off the line by the same man. I personally feel Mbia can't do what we need in a QPR midfield and still spends most of the time ending up on the deck. I think he's most effective for us at the back and would replace Traore with him at left back. I have lost patience with Traore and don't think he can concentrate nor put a shift in for 90 minutes. Townsend again worked tirelessly for the R's cause in a Jamie Mackie kind of way and is an example of the effort and attitude required to get a run going.

Townsend - playing well for QPR
Sadly though, QPR are still struggling to get numbers in the box. We don't commit numbers in the box because it takes us too long to win the ball back when we lose it, so most of the team remains withdrawn from the attack for fear of losing the ball and getting caught out. (However against Fulham at home, we defended higher up and won the ball early in their half. Tabs was effective this way and it worked for us, but we have not done it since then.)It also does not help that we have not had enough fit strikers for most of the season. Zamora, (Mr I don't really like football) having just got back from injury, will miss our crucial game at Southampton after picking up an ankle injury against Man U. It looks like Remy is fit to play, but how fit is he? I've no doubt he is quality and in the little time he has played for the R's he has been effective. I still cant understand how we are left in a position where Bothroyd is in the squad of 25 and Cisse and Campbell have gone out on loan. One thing is for sure if Remy is fit or not, we have got to start committing players forward to score goals and even, perish the thought, shoot inside the area!

Sick note - Doesn't really like football.
We now have a run of do or die fixtures coming up. Games that afford us the chance to decide our own destiny. On paper we are good enough to win them. But that will depend on the players that are undoubtedly good enough being bothered. They need to have the guts to do whats needed and take those results. So far they haven't but , this weekend over three and half thousand QPR fans will be going to St Mary's watch these privileged footballers start the recovery we are hoping for. Nothing short of three points will even come close to what we need, but, if they produce another performance like Swansea away, they should be prepared to face however the frustrations of the fans manifests itself. This is a big game for us, a must win game. Since we got back in the Premier we have not done well in these types of games. Quite simply, to stay up, this has got to change.... Now.

I love the R's and it breaks by heart to see us where we are, but the truth is the truth. It's do or die time, so please QPR players, do it for us. At the very least do it for your own personal pride and dignity. Follow the lead of the R's fans that spend their very hard earned cash following QPR up and down the country to watch what is frankly unacceptable and not QPR. We as QPR fans will do our bit as we always do. We will believe right to the end. Above all, we will be QPR and what QPR is and stands for, whatever division we find ourselves in.

Come on you R's

The Bush Ranger