A brace from on-loan midfielder Ravel Morrison helped Queens Park Rangers to secure a comfortable 2-0 victory over Birmingham City on Saturday. The Rs had failed to win in their previous five games, but a goal either side of half time from the impressive Morrison guaranteed QPR a much needed three points.
QPR were assured from the offset and despite a couple of half chances falling to both sides early on it was a set-piece that broke the deadlock. Morrison excellently curled the ball past the despairing Birmingham goalkeeper on the quarter-hour mark after striker Kevin Doyle had been cynically felled by Paul Robinson.
Armand Traore had an opportunity to double QPR`s lead moments later but sliced a good opportunity wide. Robert Green was called into action on a couple of occasions throughout the first half, but quick reflexes and last ditch defending helped protect QPR`s lead as they went into half-time a goal up.
A poor Birmingham side began the second half stronger as the impressive Emyr Huws forced Green into a smart save from long range. Rangers began to settle, however, and only the linesman`s offside flag prevented Jermaine Jenas from netting his second goal in as many games following an intricate through ball from Morrison.
The second half developed into a game of few chances but Morrison ensured QPR would go home with maximum points as he netted both QPR`s and his second of the game. A weaving run from Jermaine Jenas led to a cut back before Morrison coolly slotted home from just inside the penalty area.
On a weekend where four of the top eight that played failed to win, Harry Redknapp will have been pleased to see his side end their winless run. QPR have six more games to play in March and will need this victory to establish some momentum at such a critical time of the season.
Harry Redknapp named a different side for the 613th time this season as he made two changes from the one that drew 1-1 with Leeds. Joey Barton, returning from a two match absence in order to develop the worst QPR haircut since Marcus Bignot pulled on a Rangers shirt, was thrust in to the centre of midfield. Benoit Assou-Ekotto resumed his role at left-back as the Rs defence was forced into a reshuffle; Clint Hill renewed his partnership with Richard Dunne in the centre of defence as Nedum Onuoha shifted to right back.
Junior Hoilett and the Senegalese Bale, Armand Traore, occupied the wide positions in the QPR midfield with Jermaine Jenas accompanying Barton in the centre of the park. Loanee Ravel Morrison was given a free role located just behind striker Kevin Doyle.
Birmingham manager Lee Clark opted to make four changes from the side that lost 1-0 to Ipswich as on-loan Liverpool winger Jordan Ibe was handed his full debut. Clark selected an attacking 3-4-3 formation with Shane Ferguson, Tom Adeyemi and Chris Burke all reinstated to the Blues starting 11.
KICK OFF: BIRMINGHAM CITY VS QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Beating teams in the lower half of the division hasn`t been the major issue for QPR this season. The performance on show at St Andrews yesterday was no different to that of early season victories over Ipswich, Barnsley and Bolton and recent losses to Derby, Reading and Charlton. An arrogant façade from players who are of the opinion they are too good for this level has led to lax commitment levels and the hope that somebody else will get them out of the mire by producing a piece of brilliance worthy of winning a game.
Such a mentality will get you by when playing teams who turn up with the expectancy of succumbing to ‘big-spending QPR` (see wins over Ipswich, Barnsley, Bolton and recently Birmingham) but only two wins over teams in the top nine tells you all you need to know about the character of this QPR side. QPR would be staring down the barrel of six games without a win and more question marks raised over their quality were it not for the inspired Ravel Morrison and the truly dreadful Birmingham City.
Queens Park Rangers started the game with their obligatory 10 minutes of unhurried possession, quelling any potential pressure from the home side and scuppering the likelihood of a possible lively atmosphere in the process. Robert Green was forced into a comfortable save after Emyr Huws` free-kick was collected with relative ease by the QPR goalkeeper on six minutes and the Rs number 1 was on hand to kick-start the move that led to the games opener. A quick throw out led to Kevin Doyle being cynically hacked by the ageing Paul Robinson at the other end of the pitch.
QPR are usually about as good at direct free-kicks as they are at making sensible transfer decisions and so it was a surprise to see Ravel Morrison step up and curl the subsequent free-kick past the despairing Darren Randolph on 14 minutes. The excellent Morrison patrolled the attacking third like it was on his own in the first-half and his quick feet and inventive threat gave QPR an edge they have been lacking all season. With striker Charlie Austin still out nursing a shoulder injury it looks like Morrison will be the one the QPR players look to for that piece of inspiration.
Birmingham, who have only won twice at home all season, were truly woeful throughout the 90 minutes, allowing QPR to saunter to second-balls, tolerating slide tackles from Junior Hoilett and fielding the lumbering and unforgiveable Nikola Zigic up front. Set pieces looked like their best chance of scoring and a whipped free-kick from Huws had to be clawed away by Robert Green. Up the other end the tireless Kevin Doyle produced a cross that found an unmarked Armand Traore who could only slice his volley just wide.
QPR should have put the game to bed in the first half but their inability to finish teams off led to only a one goal advantage at half-time. Another Morrison chance ghosted past the Birmingham post and the unlucky Clint Hill saw a cannoning header ricochet off the bar at the closing stages of the first period. Chris Burke and Paul Caddis provided some promise for the Blues but failed to really test the QPR goal.
HALF TIME: BIRMINGHAM CITY 0-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Birmingham came out after half-time with renewed vigour as they produced a couple of half-chances. Jordan Ibe failed to get his shot away before Manchester City loanee Huws` low drive was comfortably saved by Green. Rangers managed to hold tight, however, and Jermaine Jenas, taking the mantle of actually influencing a game for the second time in two weeks, was denied another goal as he was flagged offside after more clever work from Morrison.
Assou-Ekotto continued QPR`s tradition of producing shocking deliveries from wide areas as his cross or shot, nobody really knew, failed to find a black and red shirt. The game petered out into a game of huffing and puffing from both sides; Lee Clark seemed to give up all hope when he replaced Zigic with ex-QPR loanee Federico Macheda. Joey Barton`s return to the starting eleven was a welcome return to the Rs, though, as his composed and assured play helped quash any nerves in the second half.
Gary O`Neill was called upon at the expense of Junior Hoilett with 20 minutes to go and it was O`Neill who set Jenas away on a weaving run which saw him cut the ball back to an onrushing Morrison to coolly slot the ball past Randolph. His celebration was that of a player who knew he could produce that expertise every week, his teammates` celebration more of relief than anything. His loan move to the Championship will have scuppered any chance of a World Cup call up; the European Championships in 2016 seem like a dead cert, however.
Birmingham failed to muster even a half chance following Morrison`s double and only a suspected knee injury to Kevin Doyle was anything to take from the last 20 minutes. The striker, whose work rate is comparable to that of favourite Charlie Austin, looks set to miss Tuesday`s game against Brighton. The visitors comfortably saw out the closing stages for a welcome three points and their first victory at St Andrews for 30 years.
March brings fixtures against four teams in in the lower half and two just outside the playoff places for QPR; urgency, commitment and aptitude must improve tenfold should Redknapp`s side wish to pose any sort of threat of promotion. None of those six teams will be anywhere as near as bad as Birmingham and having struggled against teams who have presented any sort of danger to QPR, they must improve greatly.
FINAL WHISTLE: BIRMINGHAM CITY 0-2 QUEENS PARK RANGERS