QUEENS Park Rangers slipped to a disappointing defeat with another lacklustre performance contributing to an inevitable defeat.
Despite being placed well in the SkyBet Championship, their performances have belied their lofty position, something quite evident in a limp, lifeless display at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Rangers were handed a fortuitous advantage when Charlie Austin’s snap-shot was disastrously handled by Ross Turnbull as it trickled into the corner.
This – much like Austin’s wonder-strike against Charlton – served to mark as the exception as the visitors looked flat in front of 1600 travelling supporters.
Doncaster deservedly levelled in a game firmly up for grabs when Theo Robinson’s cross bamboozled everyone and rolled into the corner – Rangers then wilted disastrously.
A deep cross with a minute to go was not fielded with any conviction and Paul Quinn had the freedom of Doncaster to nod home the winner to the delight of the relegation strugglers.
A lesson for Rangers and Harry Redknapp who struggled to register opportunities of note and fairly coasted their way through a winnable fixture in an afternoon of disappointment.
Despite edging past Charlton Athletic last week, Harry Redknapp elected to make no changes to his side. Tom Carroll and Junior Hoilett were able to join up with the bench with Shaun Wright-Phillips dispensed to the abyss once more.
Rob Green started behind a defence of Danny Simpson, Richard Dunne, Clint Hill and Benoit Assou Ekotto. The centre of midfield comprised of Joey Barton and Gary O’Neil with Niko Kranjcar, Jermaine Jenas and Matt Phillips playing off Charlie Austin.
Doncaster started with Ross Turnbull behind a back four of Paul Quinn, Bongani Khumalo, Luke McCullough and Enda Stevens. The midfield quartet consisted of James Coppinger, Richie Wellens, Dean Furman and Mark Duffy with Federico Macheda partnering Theo Robinson.
KICK OFF: DONCASTER ROVERS v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers took to the field at the Keepmoat Stadium looking to improve on a fairly lacklustre performance against Charlton, that saw them limp over the line in a fixture that in truth could have been put to bed by half time.
Rovers were looking to assert their home advantage in the early stages, looking to stamp out the possession football that the visitors have become accustomed to in recent months. Richard Dunne and Clint Hill seeing the majority of the ball in the opening stages.
It was Hill that spurned the first real opportunity of the game on the ten minute mark. Joey Barton’s corner found the defender in the heart of the host’s area, only to see the defender nod handsomely wide of the left-hand upright.
The game was most certainly not an advert for Championship football, Rangers contented to maintain their healthy possession figure, much to the detriment of their attacking endeavour, while Rovers sat men behind the ball in an attempt to soak up any pressure.
It rather made for a tame stalemate where the likes of Dunne and Hill were treated as playmakers and out balls for midfielders that seemingly did not want to take responsibility for taking the ball forward and carving out opportunities.
The main proponent of this was Jermaine Jenas, in an advanced position behind Charlie Austin would ensure that above all else he would find one of his central defenders with every pass, irrespective of his position – a startling lack of ambition or guile.
Mark Duffy’s daisy cutter was all the tempered hosts had to offer in the opening exchange, while Niko Kranjcar rather summed up the occasion by receiving the ball from Danny Simpson and lashing a poorly executed shot into the stands.
Gary O’Neil followed up by lashing the ball high, wide and handsome in what appeared to be a carbon copy of the Charlton fixture. Patient to the point of sleeping, with a stone-dead atmosphere to suit – this game was not a classic.
The goal to separate the sides before the break truly graced the occasion. Kranjcar’s neat touch saw Jenas have his shot blocked. It fell to CHARLIE AUSTIN who got in front of his marker and sent a shot straight at Turnbull – the ‘keeper spilled the effort as it trickled into the bottom right hand corner.
The two sides went into the break, the visitors evidently the happier given the fact they hadn’t left first gear, but improvements were required all round if those three points were to be seen through at the Keepmoat.
HALF TIME: DONCASTER ROVERS 0-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers came out for the second half with a little more vigour and Phillips and Kranjcar had respective shots blocked at point blank range. While Rovers were under pressure they were able to deal with the threat and were level in fortuitous circumstances.
It came from nothing, the ball was sent right and THEO ROBINSON pealed wide right and sent in a low searching cross. Somehow it evaded a forest of legs and nestled into the left-hand corner – extremely unfortunate as Rovers drew level.
While Rangers had vast swathes of possession, their urgency to do something with the ball was virtually non-existent. The ball would be sent wide to Phillips and Kranjcar, they’d stop, turn and search for their respective full-back, then on to playmakers Hill and Dunne to start again.
It was play that while admirable lacked ambition and drive to get into the final third and test the shaky Turnbull – indeed the ‘keeper had very little to do since his first half gaffe that handed the visitors the advantage.
Richie Wellens was his normal, snarling self, putting in a poor late challenge from behind on Barton and feigning injury in an attempt to avoid a booking – he didn’t avoid it however and immediately set about gaining further retribution against the QPR midfielder.
Andy Johnson was thrown on at the expense of O’Neil, who once again failed to complete 90 minutes. His first action was nearly decisive, inches from a low centre that was smothered by a grateful Turnbull.
Austin then latched on to a fine ball from Johnson only to see his shot ably blocked once more. Federico Macheda showed QPR fans that he is still every bit the ordinary player he was in W12 – running down a blind alley before rifling a shot into the stantion.
Kranjcar rounded off his time on the pitch with a frankly poorly-executed effort firing a routine shot from the edge of the area straight into the disappointed travelling support. Junior Hoilett replaced the clearly unfit Croatian – another player seemingly unable to complete 90 minutes.
The spectacle became more entertaining as it wore on as both sides looked for a winner. Hoilett saw his effort blocked and fortunately trickling through to Turnbull while Khumalo nodded over at the other end when well placed.
Hill went close for Rangers as a corner broke down, cheating and looping a left footed lob over the bar before Rovers struck in the final minute of time. A far post Duffy cross found PAUL QUINN who nodded home virtually unchallenged to hand Doncaster the win.
The lack of defensive concentration was breathtaking and served to compound a lacklustre performance. Firmly in first gear, Rangers did not react to being hauled level albeit in fortuitous circumstances and eventually switched off to concede late on.
Looking at the bigger picture, Rangers are still within touching distance at the top but need a markedly improved performance in order to get beyond Leicester and Burnley at the summit and to avoid further defeats of this nature.
FINAL WHISTLE: DONCASTER ROVERS 2-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS