QUEENS Park Rangers were blown away in a desperately poor opening period by neighbours Fulham.
Rangers failed to get into the encounter and were made to pay by free-scoring front duo Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele as they dominated all departments in a one-sided encounter.
Tom Cairney rounded off the rout before the break as the home fans voiced their views against a thoroughly ineffective and turgid display by the home side.
Tjaronn Chery put an element of respectability on the scoreline but it scarcely papered over the cracks of a breathtakingly poor display in the early kick off in W12.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink made two changes from the side that claimed victory over Ipswich Town. Conor Washington dropped to the bench after rolling his ankle in the win, while Ale Faurlín missed out with a groin injury – they were replaced by Jamie Mackie and Daniel Tozser respectively.
Alex Smithies therefore lined up behind a back four of James Perch, Nedum Onuoha, Grant Hall and Paul Konchesky. The midfield quartet comprised of Matt Phillips, Tozser, Massimo Luongo and Junior Hoilett with Mackie partnering Sebastian Polter up top.
Fulham adopted a 3-5-2 formation with Michael Madl making his debut for the Cottagers. He joined Dan Burn and Fernando Amorebieta at the heart defence, with Andy Lonergan between the sticks. Ryan Fredricks and Lasse Vigen Christensen sat in the wing-back berths.
Scott Parker, Tom Cairney and Jamie O’Hara in midfield while Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele linked up in attack.
The way this encounter was being billed one would be forgiven for thinking the pair were bitter rivals going back decades. In truth this is a derby more in convenience of mileage that any real bitter history or track record. Nevertheless the prospects of the sides going forward were quite similar, with Fulham potentially more entrenched in the relegation mire than the hosts.
Rangers carved out the first chance of the game when Jamie Mackie streaked away down the left and his right-footed cross picked out Massimo Luongo – the Australian only able to dolly a tame header into the arms of the experienced Lonergan.
Fulham struck back within moments as Lasse Vigen Christensen dissected the Rangers rearguard, walking through Luongo and James Perch before forcing a smart save from Alex Smithies at his near post. It was his last action of the game however as Luke Garbutt replaced the wing-back, leaving the field with a hamstring complaint.
The initial intent from Rangers to put the visitors on the back foot soon subsided as Fulham took a grip of the fixture. The home side were starved of the ball and looking long into the channels for the majority of their attacking threat – willing chaser Mackie and the sizeable Polter the marksmen.
Smithies needed to be at his best shortly before 20 minutes as Tom Cairney’s defence splitting pass found Jamie O’Hara – his enticing centre was tipped away by the QPR stopper at the feet of McCormack. The aforementioned O’Hara then chanced his arm from distance, only for a tame effort to be collected by Smithies.
Cairney and O’Hara appeared to have the running of the fixture with Rangers chasing shadows for the most part. Hoilett and Phillips were once again anonymous in their respective wide-berths and appeared to be confusingly treading on each other`s toes for sections of the opening period.
A glut of defensive errors eventually led to the opener for the visiting side. It was Cairney and O’Hara once more linking up nicely – it was Cairney who laid a slide-rule pass for ROSS McCORMACK to latch onto. In behind Grant Hall he finished with aplomb from just outside the six-yard box.
There could be zero question that of the two sides, Fulham considered this more of a derby fixture – bodies thrown on the line to stop shots at point-blank range. Rangers meanwhile were lacklustre, snatching at possession and unable to provide any chances of note against a side with only two clean sheets this campaign. Hoilett epitomising this by firing a weak left-footed daisy cutter wide of Lonergan’s upright – much to the delight of the visiting support populating the School End.
It was no surprise therefore that the visitors doubled a deserved lead with the most routine of goals. When a free-kick was only half cleared a second deep cross found MOUSSA DEMBELE fairly incredibly unmarked in the heart of the six-yard box to nod beyond Smithies.
It could be argued that Smithies could have come and claimed, indeed also that Onuoha could have marked more than thin air – but nevertheless no-one could argue that Fulham were the deserved leaders, serving to underline what a poor performance it had been from the home side.
Fulham took advantage once more as QPR once again displayed a breathaking lack of professionalism and concentration in the closing stages. A high and hopeful over the top from Garbutt to McCormack saw him hold the ball up and slide in Dembele – the forward clipped the post with his effort only for Hall and Konchesky to play musical statues at the critical moment, allowing TOM CAIRNEY to slot home with effortless ease.
A chorus of boos greeted the players as they left the field for half time – Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink with everything to do even to salvage pride from a fixture where Rangers had sunk, quickly. Scoreline aside, Rangers playing a two man central midfield against a dominant three-man Fulham without a holding midfielder or a ball-winner was boarderline suicidal, and so it proved.
Hasselbaink has been implored by sections of support to revert to two in attack, but with both starved of service and opting for supposed creativity in the heart of midfield over a stronger holding midfield ultimately helped to secure Rangers’ disastrous half time scoreline.
Hasselbaink responded by throwing on Conor Washington at the expense of Sebastian Polter. The home start came out the blocks flying – no doubt with more than a flea in their ear. Mackie making a lung-busting run only for Hoilett to be hauled down outside the area. Parker managed to find himself two yards from the ball to block a tame effort and Onuoha was booked for his protestations.
The game then started to take on a similar pattern – O’Hara once again determined to get his name on the scoresheet, but a tame effort at Smithies was all the former Tottenham man could muster. With Fulham starting to dominate the pitiful Hoilett was replaced by Nasser El-Khayati less than ten minutes into the half.
O’Hara missed a guilt-edge opportunity as Rangers once again made Fulham look like Barcelona. Neat interplay on the edge of the area allowed the midfielder all the time in the world to pick his spot – he placed wide albeit from an offside position – Fulham firmly dominating proceedings in W12.
Phillips created something of note on the hour mark when his run and weak left-footed drive was easily stopped by the underworked Lonergan, only for Fulham to miss another fine change to make it four – a centre from O’Hara was rather pathetically cleared by Perch into the path of substitute Garbutt, but the Everton loanee fired wide with his weaker right boot.
Perch epitomised the selfishness of some of the Rangers players when he went flying into a challenge of the halfway line with little regard to anyone covering him. It gave Garbutt the freedom of the left-flank to pick out a cross, Dembele then selflessly offloaded to Cairney, who only found Smithies between the sticks. This could have been a cricket score had Fulham not kindly left their shooting boots in the dressing room after a rout of an opening period.
Dan Burn should probably have been given his marking orders shortly after the hour mark when a slack pass from Amorebieta saw Mackie edge the ball past Burn only to be hacked down. Referee Robinson weighed up his options before giving a booking. The distance from goal was probably Burn’s only saving grace. El-Khayati’s deep cross from the left narrowly evaded Perch with the resultant set-piece seeing Perch’s powerful header smartly saved by Lonergan.
Smithies had to be alert when McCormack attempted an audacious effort. Following a break-down from his near post corner, the free-scoring front-man whipped an effort back in under Smithies’ bar, only to be denied by the former Huddersfield man.
Rangers made their final change with Tjaronn Chery coming on for the breathtakingly disappointing Matt Phillips. Scott Parker was also withdrawn with Brighton loanee Rohan Ince coming on in his stead. El-Khayati forced Lonergan into a stop on the 80 minute mark – a fine drive stung the palms of the underworked Lonergan.
Chery then tried his luck from distance – a speculative left-footed shot falling well wide of Lonergan’s right upright. Tom Cairney tried a similarly ambitious effort that reached the upper tier of the School End before Dembele left the field to be replaced by Emerson Hyndman.
Chery then came close to reducing the arrears with minutes remaining when his snap-shot forced Lonergan into a smart save low to his left. Then a little reward for those that stayed through the sinking of the Titanic as TJARONN CHERY latched onto a half cleared corner to curl home inside the six yard box.
Rangers limped out a fixture that was truly beyond their reach in an astoundingly poor opening half as Fulham take away a deserved three point from Loftus Road.
Queens Park Rangers: Smithies, Perch, Onuoha, Hall, Konchesky, Phillips (Chery 76), Tozser, Luongo, Hoilett (El-Khayati 53), Mackie, Polter (Washington 46)
Subs not used: Ingram, Hill, Henry, Petrasso
Fulham: Lonergan, Madl, Burn, Amorebieta, Fredricks, Parker (Ince 74), Cariney, O’Hara, Christensen (Garbutt 6) McCormack, Dembele (Hyndman 84)
Subs not used: Lewis, Richards, Smith, Kacaniklic.
Referee: Mr T Robinson