#14 – Stopping The Rot

Harry Redknapp was welcomed to Loftus Road on Saturday with warm enthusiasm by the R’s faithful with Harry’s blue and white army ringing around the stadium as Harry selected his second QPR team in our quest for survival.

Harry kept with his solid midfield core of Diakate, Mbia and Granero with Taarabt having a free roll and Mackie playing up front with the surprising inclusion of Shaun Wright-Phillips (to fill in the hole when Taarabt dropped deeper) at the expense of Cisse.

The back four remained unchanged with Bosingwa, Hill Nelson and Traore.

QPR began strongly and all looked promising in a cracking atmosphere until, against the run of play, a snap shot from Villa’s summer signing Holman, beat Green from outside the area to secure his first goal for his club. I doubt Cesar would have been beaten by this innocuous effort had he been playing and Green really should have kept it out considering he got a hand to it. That goes down as another Green clanger in my book and I really can’t see him getting the nod over Cesar. (Why is it whenever we play teams whose strikers are having a goal drought it always ends when they play QPR!) R’s fans feared that, as in previous weeks, Rangers heads would drop, but QPR levelled it up 10 minutes later when good work on the right saw Mackie meet a Diakite cross to head in a marvellous equalizer.

Villa’s young side were competitive and the R’s had to work hard to gain the upper hand. Granero was uncharacteristically careless at times today as some of his passes went wayward, however both teams were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply all afternoon and Harry needs to work hard on ball retention now that the team has started to work harder. Diakite was effective and he along with Mbia was able to get Taarabt into the game to create QPR’s chances. SWP had the R’s best chances in the first half, shooting straight at the keeper in a one-on-one after being picked out by a superb through ball and was unlucky after another through ball in which he hit the upright as he was fouled by a Villa defender and could easily have had a penalty. Mbia suffered a worrying neck injury just before half time after a collision off the ball with Agbonlahor and was stretchered off after prolonged treatment on the pitch, that had many of us fearing the worst. Harry’s preferred replacement was in the shape of the more physical Derry. Granero was sacrificed at the interval for Park as Harry further compensated for the loss of Mbia.

QPR upped the tempo for the second half and enjoyed long spells of possession with a surprisingly harder working Bosingwa having a lot of joy on the right side, but lacking the quality to put effective balls in the area. Traore threatened on the left, but was too easily knocked off the ball. The killer instinct was lacking in the last third and R’s didn’t look as if they understood each other in the danger areas, taking too many touches and needless passes without really threatening in a menacing manner. We did force a number of corners and Park wasted a glorious chance after one of the best moves of the match found him unmarked on the left in the area only for him to shoot at the keeper, when he had time to take a touch and do better.

Villa made a number of negative substitutions opting to play for the point and this coupled with the loss of Diakite on 70 minutes to an ankle injury after a bad Villa tackle saw the pace slow down and the service to Taarabt dry up, effectively ending any real threat we had of getting a winner, as Villa were resilient in defending for a draw. Hill did hit the crossbar from one of our many corners late on, but although we did just about enough to have won the game today, it was never going to happen as is the way with fate when things aren’t going for you and you are at the bottom of the league.

On a positive note this was a strong and hardworking performance and it was pleasing to see the R’s pressing for the ball and forcing Villa to retreat when we were not in possession of the ball, something lacking for most of the season. Mackie lead the line well and again delivered with a goal whilst running his heart out for the cause of QPR and we really should have got the ball to him in the danger areas more often. Had the chances that fell to SWP have fallen to Mackie you can be sure he would have put one of them away. The midfield remained solid despite the enforced changes and back the four were more organised and could consider themselves unfortunate not to have kept a blank sheet.

It’s still too early in Harry’s reign to tell if he has truly stopped the rot, but on the evidence of the last two games and the improvement in the players work rate, the middle and the back, it looks as if he is stopping the rot, plus we have at last managed to avoid defeat in consecutive games for the first time this season. We have certainly got to improve going forward if we are going to get out of this mess and it is vital that we start to pick up some wins in the games up to the new year. In my last blog I mistakenly stated that we had 15 points by Jan 1st 2012, it was in fact 17 points, but we still need to have earned a minimum of 15 points by Jan 1st 2013 to be in with a realistic chance of survival, or more importantly the support of the board in the transfer market in Jan. Harry was keen to emphasise that QPR would need to be within touching distance of the pack come Jan 1st in order to secure funds for the forthcoming transfer window. I hope this is not a subliminal message from Tony and the board that, should this not be the case, they will give up and accept relegation, with half the season to go. Therefore, it is vitally important we do stay in touch with the pack. I was bitterly disappointed that we failed to beat Villa, but on reflection we have reduced the gap to safety by a point this weekend.

It is a difficult time to be an R’s fan at the moment and I like most of you wake up each morning to that sickening feeling when you remember we are still bottom of the Premier League. The task at hand does look daunting and it’s easy to start to believe to doom mongers in the media writing us off. But I look at it this way. Where is it written that the team at the bottom at Christmas has to be relegated? We might not even be by then. There’s still over half a season to go. Surely we can’t repeat this run of bad form for the other half of the season. None of us saw that coming, so why can’t we have a reversal of fortunes? Our form has only got to be 7 points better than our relegation rivals. Put it that way and I think it’s achievable, but it’s got to start now.

So, on to Wigan next Saturday for a difficult, but winnable away fixture, but we are QPR so anything can happen. Could this be the day that we enjoy the delirium of securing 3 points? Take the trip up there to see if we can, I am.

Renewed blind optimism – it’s the QPR way.

Come on you R’s

The Bush Ranger

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