QUEENS Park Rangers slumped to an away defeat to rock-bottom Rotherham United – and in truth the odd goal scoreline flattered the appalling visiting side who have some soul searching to do after a third defeat in succession.
Izzy Brown poked home after the Rangers rearguard was carved open with breathtaking ease, while the visitors looked to be totally bamboozled by whatever tactics and instructions being barked out on the touchline by manager Ian Holloway.
In truth Holloway resembled a one man pictionary performer, flapping his hands around with great fervour but in truth little changed on the pitch as Rangers slipped to their third defeat in succession and without question their most damning to date.
It could and should have been more for a side that managed to reach double figures in terms of points this season – the width of the bar and an open goal miss covers merely two of the instances that prevented Rotherham from making this justifiably more embarrassing.
Ian Holloway has a lot of work to do if he is to prevent Rangers from slipping into a very real relegation scrap – because right now, you wouldn’t put money on Rangers avoiding that fate.
The Millers started in a 4-4-2 formation – Lewis Price behind a back four of Darnell Fisher, Richard Wood, Aimen Belaid and Joe Mattock. The midfield quartet consisted of Anthony Forde, Tom Adeyemi, Lee Frecklington and Joe Newell with Izzy Brown partnering Danny Ward in attack.
Three changes for Rangers and Holloway – mostly enforced as Jack Robinson and Seb Polter dropped out with injury, the latter to the bench, while James Perch`s ridiculous red kept him out of this clash and put Nedum Onuoha to right-back.
In came Jake Bidwell, Jordan Cousins and Yeni Ngbakoto as Rangers appeared to line-up in a 4-1-4-1 formation, but truthfully it was anyone’s guess. Alex Smithies started behind a defence of Onuoha, Grant Hall, Joel Lynch and the returning Bidwell.
Sandro sat in front of the back four with Ngbakoto, Cousins, Massimo Luongo and Tjaronn Chery starting across the midfield and Conor Washington the lone front-man.
FISHER – WOOD – BELAID – MATTOCK
FORDE – ADEYEMI – FRECKLINGTON – NEWELL
BROWN – WARD
ONUOHA – HALL – LYNCH – BIDWELL
NGBAKOTO – LUONGO – COUSINS – CHERY
A wet and windy day in South Yorkshire greeted the two sets of teams as they took to the field at the New York Stadium, the tones of Frank Sinatra in the air as they lined up to kick off – a vital game for both teams in order to curb their respective poor runs of form.
The home side – under the stewardship of caretaker boss Paul Warne – were without a win in 15 but looked incredibly comfortable going forward and attacking Rangers back four – both sides defensively looked incredibly nervy in the opening exchange.
Lee Frecklington appeared influential in the heart of midfield and his early sighter was saved by Smithies low to his right. Danny Ward also tried his luck from distance only to find Smithies in useful form once again.
Play soon switched up the other end and after the ball skipped up and away from Darnell Fisher, Conor Washington curled an effort goal-bound, but saw the ball swatted over the bar by Lewis Price. From the resultant corner Joel Lynch`s header was cleared off the line by a committed, if a little disorganised, Millers back-line.
Onuoha then put an effort into the stands with his left foot before a hanging cross from Joe Mattock at the other end saw Ward nod just wide of the right-hand upright. The best chance of the game to date, spurned by the home side.
It was becoming increasingly apparent that Rangers were attempting to retain and pass the ball around, looking for angles to get Conor Washington free – but in truth it gave rise to the ball being moved around with no real impetus and lead to the midfielder getting picked off all too easily.
Spreading the team wide while in possession is always a tactic that poses an element of risk, as Rangers gifted possession all too easily with vast swathes of space available to the home attack – indeed Lynch had to act as last men to step in and clear away all too often after the visiting side were caught pondering the loss of possession.
Ultimately it contributed to their downfall as Rotherham took the lead. Losing possession, Rangers had many men around the ball but not able to put in a challenge of note – Ward fed IZZY BROWN over the top and the forward did the rest – slotting beyond a helpless Smithies.
All Rangers could offer in riposte was Jake Bidwell leaning back and skying a shot into the stands and the delighted Millers supporters, who sensed that their side`s fortunes were changing after a long run of dismal form.
The visitors should have levelled when the lively but under-utilised Conor Washington broke free from Fisher to put it on a plate for Chery – the Dutchman`s effort could be kindly described as tame as it was cleared from the line. A golden and rare opportunity wasted for the visiting side.
Holloway appeared a one man conga on the touchline – waving his hands about, yelling and clapping at even the most bizarre on-pitch decisions. Where problems started to occur is where his side seemed unable to regain the ball from Rotherham by legitimate means and asking players to play out of their normal positions to suit the system.
Bidwell and Onuoha were virtually overlapping full-backs when both are very limited in the attacking third. Onuoha was more often than not faced with two defenders to try and beat, which is a fairly laughable prospect. You can call Nedum many things – one of them is not a winger.
The home side went in, in front. A performance that asked more questions than it answered as Holloway and QPR appeared to have totally overthought tactically and were playing a way they clearly were not comfortable with.
The first half gave plenty of food for thought – the call appeared to be to simplify what the team were trying to do. Rotherham – like Rangers – appeared to be fragile defensively, so getting the ball forward and getting into that defence should have been the aim.
As it stood, Rangers seemed to rely on Chery to do something or anything, while looking to Bidwell and Onuoha in wide areas. The problems started where Luongo and Cousins ran down blind alleys and the aforementioned full backs would try and cross to the sole striker Washington, who was no match for a sizeable central defensive duo.
Chery chanced his arm with a free kick from distance but Price was more than a match for it – again tipping it away from the target in Rangers` opening chance of the second period. Ngbakoto lashed the ball wide from an acute angle in his final action of the game – Rangers adding Seb Polter to the attacking line.
Rotherham were increasingly confident on the ball, and off it they were just as untroubled – pushing Rangers back and forcing them to play their football in ineffective areas. There was nothing doing for the visiting side, who saw their most influential players snuffed out by a resolute Millers screen.
Richard Wood had a couple of chances to double the scoreline and a far post cross saw Smithies in fine form once more – tipping away from close range and preventing a certain second goal.
With Rangers chasing the game and looking for more urgency to their play – only Ian Holloway will know why he chose to introduce Ben Gladwin. A cultured footballer that needs time on the ball, no question – but watching Gladwin at times is like watching someone trying to run through treacle. Not necessarily his fault, but completely out of place in the context of this game.
Sandro was the man withdrawn, a player that never looks likely to play 90 minutes and was ineffective as the screen in front of the back four. All too easily, Rotherham could break Rangers open – and if it felt too open before, it nearly made itself more starkly apparent with 15 minutes remaining.
Ward surged free down the right before putting a low shot just wide of the left-hand upright. Rangers had fallen apart – any semblance of a shape or system was no longer visible as the Millers appeared their own worst enemy in not doubling their lead.
Ward once again could have sealed it when his thunderous shot cannoned back off the bar and Joe Newell clipped the rebound over the bar with a horrific errant shot. Rangers offered nothing going forward as the chances came thick and fast for the leading hosts.
If Jon Taylor had looked for an unmarked Ward in the middle instead of shooting straight at Smithies at the near post, there would have been a deserved second. Pawel Wszolek came on for the ineffective Tjaronn Chery who was anonymous for most of the second half.
Rotherham`s incredible team ethic saw their crowd grow in noise and respond. If you could distill a moment to describe the game it’d have to be the sight of Jordan Cousins with his back to goal and no options, with three players around him and hounding him out of possession – the Millers wanted this first win in 15 and Rangers were unlikely on this evidence to match that desire.
Five minutes of added on time was rather kind to the hosts considering the sheer amount of time-wasting – but of course understandable given the circumstances. In truth, they needn’t have bothered as Rangers created no chances and came away with what they deserved. No points and a ringing in the ears from an extremely displeased travelling support.
Make no mistake; Rangers are in trouble.
ROTHERHAM UNITED: Price, Fisher, Wood, Belaid, Mattock, Forde, Adeyemi (Vaulks 85), Frecklington, Newell (Kelly 90 +3), Ward (Taylor 86), Brown.
Subs not used: Ball, Blackstock, Yates, Bilboe
QUEENS PARK RANGERS: Smithies, Onuoha, Hall, Lynch, Bidwell, Ngbakoto (Polter 59), Sandro (Gladwin 72), Luongo, Cousins, Chery (Wszolek 89), Washington.
Subs not used: Ingram, El-Khayati, Henry, Shodipo.
Referee: Mr J Simpson