Consistency. That is the main theme of this article, and has been one of the biggest problems for QPR this season. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s charges have only lost four times since the end of November, but they have only won four times since Hasselbaink took over after a 1-0 win at Reading on the 3rd of December. However, judging by the performances over the last two months, it seems as though JFH is starting to figure out not only who his best players are, but which players he will want to get rid of in the summer transfer window. In this article, I will review the performance and results against MK Dons at stadium:mk and Derby County at Loftus Road. I will also preview the huge West London derby against Brentford at Loftus Road.
Disappointment in Milton Keynes
After an impressive 2-0 win over play-off chasing Birmingham City in W12, QPR faced a first ever league trip to a struggling MK Dons side, looking to replicate the performance in the 3-0 defeat of the Dons in October, when current Dons loanee Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Matty Phillips and Junior Hoilett were on the scoresheet. QPR fielded a rotated starting eleven, with in form Phillips, Hoilett and Polter were replaced with winter signings El Khayati and Washington, and the out of form Daniel Toszer. Junior Hoilett was witnessing the birth of his first child, whilst Matty Phillips and Sebastian Polter dropped to the bench. In the first half in Buckinghamshire, chances were at a premium. The only action of note in the first 15 minutes was a yellow card for Jake Forster-Caskey after diving in the QPR box. Conor Washington saw a shot blocked but Nedum Onuoha could not get on the end of it. El Khayati jinked inside and out but was denied low by Martin. Mass Luongo was next to take aim for the Hoops, but it flew just short of the crossbar. Ten minutes from time, James Perch headed a Daniel Toszer corner over, whilst Smithies was off his line to deny James Murphy. In injury time came arguably the main turning point, when QPR player of the month Grant Hall injured his foot, and was replaced by an out of form Paul Konchesky in the second half. This change in the visitors defence certainly made a difference to proceedings as, during the first 3 minutes of the second half, the hosts came dangerously close twice. First, Alex Revell saw his header, from Norwich loanee Josh Murphy’s centre, cleared off the line by Nedum Onuoha. Then, Crystal Palace loanee Johnny Williams saw his effort well palmed away by Smithies. The intense pressure from the Dons was rewarded in the 49th as they took the lead. Veteran captain Dean Lewington found space on the edge of the area before unleashing an excellent strike past Smithies in the QPR goal. Chery then went very close a few minutes later, with a half volley that went just over. QPR didn’t look the same for the rest of the second half, and arguably should’ve been given a penalty in the 75th minute when the ball fell to James Perch in the box. His strike looked destined for the net when goalscorer Lewington threw himself in front of the ball, appearing to handle it in the process. In the 84th minute came the moment that appeared to be important, when MK Dons were awarded a penalty. Konchesky felled Murphy in the box, but the winger saw the spot kick saved by Smithies. QPR never really came close after that, and in the 3rd minute of stoppage time, the Dons were awarded ANOTHER penalty, when Henry brought down Rob Hall, but this time Ben Reeves smashed home to seal victory. MK Dons 2-0 QPR.
QPR had the opportunity to bounce back from the defeat in Milton Keynes within a few days, as they took on promotion chasing Derby County at Loftus Road under the lights. The home side made no less than 5 changes, with Grant Hall and Mass Luongo missing out through injury, while Daniel Toszer, Nasser El Khayati and Conor Washington dropped to the bench. In came Junior Hoilett, Matty Phillips, Seb Polter and Ale Faurlin, while Clint Hill made his first start in over two months. The first 15 minutes was a fairly dull affair in a rainy West London. Craig Bryson awoke Alex Smithies with a stinging drive from 25 yards out that sailed just wide of the post in the only chance of note in the opening stanza. QPR had their first chance 10 minutes in, as Hoilett was fed through by Chery, but his deflected effort was saved by Scott Carson in the County goal. Seb Polter went mightily close with a 25 yarder that sailed past the post, but just a minute later, we saw the first goal of the game. A long throw by Smithies was collected by James Perch, who bombed down the left hand side. His cross was excellently smashed in via a superb volley by an unmarked Tjaronn Chery. The Dutchman almost added a second just a few minutes later, when his long range effort went just wide. QPR were playing some of their best football of the season. It really should’ve been 2-0 just five minutes before the break, when a Junior Hoilett cross fizzed across the face of goal, and Phillips was inches away from turning it in. Derby improved after the break, but never really tested Alex Smithies. Chris Martin bounced an effort straight at the R’s custodian 6 minutes into the second half. With the Rams having plenty of possession, but without any output, Darren Wassall opted to bring on an extra striker in Darren Bent in place of Bryson. The visitors from the East Midlands began to pump the ball in to the box a bit more, but the timeless QPR fans’ favourite Clint Hill threw himself in front of every attempt, even playing through the remaining half hour with a hamstring injury. Tom Ince saw a free kick deflected over, while down the other end, Junior Hoilett should’ve done better as he shot straight at Carson. Jamie Mackie entered the fray in place of Chery, while the Rams brought on another striker in Nick Blackman for Jonny Russell. Chances were few and far between, but QPR settled the contest with a well worked free kick, 5 minutes from time. Phillip whipped it in, and Gabriele Angella stole in at the far post to head QPR into an unassailable 2 goal lead. Derby didn’t really threaten for the rest of the game, as QPR celebrated an impressive win. QPR 2-0 Derby County.
West London Derby Day: Part 4
QPR will be looking to gain revenge on rivals Brentford after a 1-0 defeat at Griffin Park in October, when the two sides meet at Loftus Road tomorrow. A Marco Djuricin effort in the second half in TW8 sealed a first win in 50 years for the Bees over QPR. The sides haven’t met in W12 since 2003, when Tony Thorpe secured a 1-0 win over Brentford. Dean Smith’s Bees side are struggling in the table, dropping to 17th despite not playing in midweek, as their opponents Hull City faced Arsenal in the FA Cup. They’ve just won twice in their last 11 games, but they can take heart from the fact that QPR have not won in 16 London derbies, spanning approximately 2 and a half years. The Hoops will be without Grant Hall for a few weeks, so Clint Hill will be expected to keep his place, keeping an out of form Paul Konchesky out of the starting eleven. Massimo Luongo could return to the lineup from injury, but faces competition from Karl Henry. Brentford are hoping to welcome back Alan McCormack from a two month-long injury, but they may be without Maxime Colin for the rest of the season after suffering a groin injury.
This game could prove an important stepping stone to success for Jimmy Floyd, as the performance against Fulham in February was abject, to say the least, and a win against the Bees would prove that his charges are as motivated for these games as the supporters are. He will be concerned about the fact that his side put in an extremely poor team performance against MK Dons, and such a collectively outstanding performance against Derby, meaning it is near impossible for fans to predict what sort of performance QPR will give against Brentford. Clint Hill put in a man of the match performance against Derby, and showed why he is loved by so many QPR fans, and also, arguably, why he should be in the team in place of Paul Konchesky who, in my opinion, has put in consistently poor performances this term. Hopefully, Karl Henry or Massimo Luongo will keep Daniel Toszer out of the team, as the Hungarian’s performance has had R’s fans questioning his desire, hunger and loyalty to the club. Another decision Hasselbaink must make is whether or not to play Conor Washington, with the youngster yet to have made his mark at the club, but for me, he needs a Bobby Zamora-type player to hold the ball up for him, not unlike the system deployed with Zamora and Austin last season. Washington is still young, however, and has plenty to learn and to offer JFH in the future. I’m a firm believer in the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ analogy, so I would go for this starting eleven in W12: Smithies, Onuoha, Angella, Hill, Perch, Faurlin, Luongo, Phillips, Chery, Hoilett, Polter. The only reason I would play Luongo instead of Henry is that Luongo is more of a playmaker, and can make things happen, whereas Henry is more of a limited defensive midfielder. The link up play between Phillips, Chery, Hoilett and Polter could be crucial on Saturday, as they could exploit the defensive and psychological frailties of the struggling visitors. QPR fans have waited 13 years for a home meeting with Brentford, and they will be hoping that JFH has his soldiers royally fired up for this one. It’s the big one. It’s derby day. It’s QPR v Brentford.