It’s been a turbulent few weeks for Queens Park Rangers, with three away games, one striker leaving, one striker arriving and a vital performance and result in South Yorkshire all happening since my last post. An FA Cup tie at Nottingham Forest was followed by consecutive trips to Blackburn Rovers and Rotherham United as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink continued his search for his first win as QPR manager. Amongst all this, the fans’ worst fears were made a reality a couple of hours before kick off at the New York Stadium, as Charlie Austin completed a £4m move to Premier League outfit Southampton, leaving QPR desperately short of attacking options. This article will focus on reviewing those three away games, the departure of the R’s top scorer, the arrival of his ‘replacement’, the signing of a goalkeeper and previewing the Saturday lunchtime game against Kenny Jackett’s Wolverhampton Wanderers.
FA Cup Blues
QPR have a had a dismal FA Cup record in previous years, failing to win a tie without needing a replay for 19 years, and with a visit to the City Ground (where they have never won) on the horizon, QPR fans weren’t exactly brimming with optimism. QPR made several changes and with Alex Smithies and Rob Green both missing due to injury and illness, Joe Lumley made his first ever start for the club in goal. Ben Gladwin made his first appearance since returning from his loan spell at Swindon Town, while Michael Doughty, Jamie Mackie, Daniel Tozser, Gabriele Angella and Massimo Luongo all featured. The first half in the East Midlands was desperately bereft of chances, until 24 minutes in when Jamie Ward put the hosts in front. In truth, QPR never really looked like getting back into the game, but went close through an Angella header and Chery crossed after great work from Luongo, but the cross evaded his team mates. Forest held out for the win in front of a sparsely populated crowd to set up a home tie with Premier League Watford.
It was another winless trip to the City Ground in the FA Cup…
Long Trip to East Lancashire
QPR had not beaten Blackburn Rovers since October 1999 ahead of kick off at Ewood Park. A travelling away support of just over 300 had made the long, Tuesday night journey to Blackburn hoping to end the drought and pick up a first win under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in the process. Joe Lumley retained his place between the sticks as QPR reverted to a more familiar starting eleven, with Sebastian Polter heading the attack. The away side were on top for large periods of the game against Paul Lambert’s charges, and deservedly took the lead when ex-Rovers winger Junior Hoilett cross evaded everyone, including Blackburn custodian Jason Steele, and Leroy Fer put the ball into an empty net. Rovers came close to equalising before half time when Matt Phillips cleared the ball off the line after a goalmouth scramble. The Hoops went in search for the all important second goal after half time as Fer came close to tapping in his second when Hoilett’s cross missed everyone. Lumley dealt with plenty of high balls into his area superbly to keep the hosts at bay, and they went close as Konchesky’s last ditch challenge denied Rhodes. Conceding late goals have been a problem in the Championship in recent weeks, and it happened again when a long throw caused confusion in the QPR box, and Hope Akpan headed in to snatch a point for Blackburn.
Leroy Fer’s goal was just not enough…
New York, New York
QPR made it three away games in a week when they travelled to South Yorkshire to play Rotherham United for the first time at their AESSEAL New York Stadium. Hasselbaink made two changes as he attempted to win his first game as QPR manager at the ninth attempt. Alex Smithies went in goal in place of Lumley, and Luongo replaced Faurlin as the Argentine fell ill. The first half, in truth, was as poor as it gets as far as QPR were concerned, with the Millers enjoying the lions share of possesion and several corners in the opening ten minutes. Matt Derbyshire forced Smithies into action within three minutes, and he had to save again to stop Karl Henry from scoring an own goal. United had won four out of their last five and were inches away from going ahead when the energetic Green hit the inside of the post and excellent defending from Nedum Onuoha denied Derbyshire from the rebound. The half time whistle was greeted by some boos from the 1,200 plus QPR fans in Yorkshire, but whatever was said by Hasselbaink certainly worked as QPR hit Rotherham twice in two second half minutes. Junior Hoilett beat several challenges before somehow slotting past ex-Ranger Lee Camp to undeservedly put the Hoops ahead. If Rotherham felt hard-done-by then, they would have felt even more so just two minutes later, when a poor backpass from Green allowed Phillips to pounce, cutting inside before firing past Camp to put QPR two goals up. Sustained pressure from the hosts followed, but they failed to really test Smithies in the QPR goal. Fer went agonisingly close to making it three, when he cut inside before shooting just wide of Camp’s far post, as Rotherham continued to press down the other end. Both goalscorers came off for Tjaronn Chery and Jamie Mackie respectively four minutes from the end, and the former helped set up the goal that sealed all three points as his pass found the impressive Fer, who’s cross was turned in by Polter to send the travelling fans home happy. A first win for Hasselbaink. 3-0 to the Super Hoops.
Matt Phillips was instrumental in South Yorkshire…
Ahead of kick off in South Yorkshire, QPR were rocked by the news that top scorer Charlie Austin completed a £4m move to Southampton. A move was always likely and with Austin’s contract expiring in the summer, and it looking unlikely that QPR can mount a serious Play Off challenge, the move was deemed best for both parties. Personally, I believe that Austin will do well at Southampton and fits in with the dynamic on the South Coast, however, it may be slightly concerning to him that, with Ronald Koeman saying that he will make no sales after that signing, he will have tough competition in Graziano Pelle, Jay Rodriguez, Juanmi and Shane Long. As for QPR, they will have to move on and build again for the rest of this season and the next and with promotion this season becoming increasingly unlikely, a couple of years in the Championship will highly benefit the club.
Charlie Austin scored 45 goals in 82 games for QPR…
QPR responded to the sale of Charlie Austin by bringing in Peterborough United top scorer, Conor Washington. The ex-Newport County and St Ives man joined for a fee believed to be £2.5m and will wear the number nine shirt left vacant by Austin. For me, this is a transfer that is exciting and shows that this club is finally moving in the right direction. The club has been famous for some calamitous transfer windows in the past where it has signed plenty of ageing, expensive and arguably overrated players that have brought nothing but disharmony to this club. I believe that Washington sees the move as a step up and will grab this opportunity with both hands. Also, QPR announced the signing of Wycombe Wanderers goalkeeper, Matt Ingram for an undisclosed fee last night. The ‘keeper joins on a four and a half year deal and will wear the number twenty nine shirt. This is another signing made by Hasselbaink with the future in mind and the twenty two year old looks to be an exciting prospect, developed in League Two and given his league debut by ex-QPR legend and fans favourite, Gareth Ainsworth in 2013. However, I do believe that this signing may signal the end of Rob Green’s QPR career. He has made several errors this season, the most recent being Hull City’s late winner on New Years Day, and he may be shown the exit door before deadline day, with Crystal Palace reportedly interested.
Conor Washington has been dubbed the next Jamie Vardy, a positive omen?
QPR v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Kenny Jackett’s Wolves side visit Loftus Road today looking to continue their fine form of four wins in five games and their excellent record in W12, having lost just once there in 32 years (Jan 1984). QPR are unlikely to be making too many changes to the side that beat Rotherham 3-0 last week. Conor Washington may make his full home debut in front of the Sky cameras but should start on the bench at the very least. Alex Smithies should retain his place in goal, while Phillips and Hoilett will look to pick up where they left off, despite the former being subject to a £6m bid by Championship rivals Middlesbrough last week. The reverse fixture in August at Molineux provided QPR with their first league win of the season, coming from two goals down to win 3-2. That win represented a second consecutive win in the Black Country, but prior to a 1-0 home win in 2008, QPR had not won in 10 years against Wolves, and with the visitors being without top scorer Benik Afobe after his £10m move to Bournemouth and winger Jordan Graham, QPR will look to make it two wins in two in the Sky Bet Championship for the second time since August.