QUEENS Park Rangers claimed their first win at Craven Cottage since January 1980 as Fulham missed two open goals and two spot-kicks.
Cheered on by a travelling contingent of 3000, Rangers took the game to the Cottagers and came out with just rewards, despite the home set getting a lot of help from referee Lee Mason.
Alex Smithies was the hero of the first half – saving top-scorer Tom Cairney`s spot-kick – before Conor Washington guided home his first league goal for QPR via the aid of a deflection.
Once QPR target Tim Ream levelled things up barely a minute after the break when he saw an effort beyond Smithies, before the visitors made a couple of changes and laid siege to the Fulham goal.
Tjaronn Chery sent in a defence splitting cross for substitute Idrissa Sylla to power home from close range. Step forward Lee Mason – a referee that once handed Ashley Young a penalty and Shaun Derry a red card for a dive while miles offside. He handed Fulham a last gasp spot-kick, once which Sone Aluko crashed against the post.
Just rewards for a QPR side that fought valiantly throughout as Fulham really only have themselves to blame for their profligacy.
Fulham started with David Button behind the back four of Denis Odoi, Tim Ream, Ragnar Sigurdsson and Scott Malone. Veteran Scott Parker played in the middle next to Ryan Tunnicliffe with Sone Aluko, Tom Cairney and Lucas Piazon playing in behind Chris Martin.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink made two changes from the side that drew with Burton Albion during the week. Jake Bidwell (shoulder) and Ariel Borysiuk missed out with Joel Lynch and Seb Polter coming in for the visitors.
Alex Smithies started behind a defence of Nedum Onuoha, Grant Hall, Steven Caulker and Lynch – Massimo Luongo and Karl Henry once again linked up in midfield with Pawel Wszolek, Tjaronn Chery and Conor Washington playing in behind Polter
ODOI – REAM – SIGURDSSON – MALONE
PARKER – TUNNICLIFFE
ALUKO – CAIRNEY – PIAZON
ONUOHA – HALL – CAULKER – LYNCH
LUONGO – HENRY
WSZOLEK – CHERY – WASHIGTON
This is hardly a hunting ground for Queens Park Rangers but nevertheless a welcome distraction for manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink after his name appeared in the papers in the recent days.
His side, sporting their changed Blue Hoops for the first time this season, started brightly. Pawel Wszolek continued his good start to life in QPR colours with a cross from the right finding Conor Washington – his header however was straight at David Button.
The game was still finding its feet when Lee Mason found a penalty to give – home players and home crowd motionless as Ragnar Sigurdsson hit the deck in the area. The referee decided he’d seen what no-one else had, and awarded the spot-kick.
What Fulham may not have known is that Alex Smithies saved a glut of penalties last season, and even in the face of Cottagers top-scorer Tom Cairney, he wasn’t fazed. He saved low to his right to thwart the former Hull City man and retain parity in this fixture.
Tjaronn Chery seemed in the mood – firing two successive efforts on the move, both fielded comfortably by ‘keeper Button. Up the other end and Scott Malone – who has scored two last minute wonder-goals at Loftus Road in recent times – linked up with Cairney only to prod straight at Smithies from close range.
Rangers then took the lead in this end to end affair. A deep cross from the left found Wszolek on the far post, he squared to CONOR WASHINGTON to caress home Button via the aid of a deflection. Finally a league goal for the Rangers marksman, who will now hope to carry this form onwards.
Denis Odoi should have levelled when he latched onto a Lucas Piazon set-piece, he dollied a header of the bar when well-placed. The biggest miss was yet to come however as only Chris Martin will know how he did not level for the home side.
Scott Parker`s through ball evaded Steven Caulker only to set Piazon one on one with Smithies. The ball was rolled aside to Martin who got his footwork horribly wrong and placed wide with his right foot much to the delight of the buoyant travelling many.
Aluko`s pace caught out the QPR back four as he raced away towards the Rangers goal. He was held up by a lack of support but managed to cut inside a curl a shot wide of the left hand upright – Fulham were knocking on the door.
Scott Parker was next to place his shot just wide with Cairney following up with a similar effort. Rangers doing well to restrict their hosts to pot shots from distance but would have to be on their game to keep a clean sheet in this one.
Rangers had started the game well as a whole and after scoring had a dogged determination to retain their advantage. That went awry just seconds after the break, with many still in the concourse as the Whites hit their leveller.
Piazon once again sent in a corner that was only half-cleared, he knocked back to Parker whose wayward cross threatened to catch out Smithies. The keeper could only palm away as far as TIM REAM who struck home for the Cottagers.
A real test now for Rangers who found themselves level with barely two minutes on the clock in the second half. You’d be forgiven for not noticing such was the tepid nature of the celebration in Craven Cottage, nevertheless they were the ones dictating the play in the early stanza of the second period.
Nedum Onuoha manfully cleared over his own bar when Malone crossed, before Tunnicliffe teed himself up beautifully only to place wide of Smithies` post. Chris Martin was then surprisingly taken off and replaced by Matt Smith ten minutes into the second half. If it wasn`t aerial before, it was certainly going to be now.
Parker was the next to display Fulham`s profligacy when he received a fine knock-down from Aluko – his shot beat Smithies but not Caulker, who crucially intervened on the line. Rangers withdrew Seb Polter with Idrissa Sylla returning to the Rangers side and it coincided with a bit of an upturn.
The Guinean`s turn and shot on the edge of the six-yard box was easily fielded by Button but augured well, not least for the fine work down the left by Conor Washington – clearly buoyed by his earlier goal.
Rangers started to get a bit more of the ball – not least with the tireless Massimo Luongo starting to make a real impression at the heart of midfield. When they brought on youth product Olamide Shodipo in place of the tiring Wszolek, Rangers started to his their straps.
The lively Shodipo was linking up well with Chery and Luongo as Rangers most certainly were looking to win the game as opposed to sitting back – Hasselbaink shrugging off that ‘negative` tag some have labelled him with.
Cairney was withdrawn for Neeskens Kebano for the home side and his first action was to glance a useful Malone cross wide of the mark with no-one around him – a gilt-edged chance spurned. Rangers meanwhile saw Luongo burst forward and fire a dipping shot just over Button`s cross bar.
Rangers threw on another young player in Niko Hamalainen and his left-footed cross which Button dropped – Shodipo burst on to the loose ball and looked to be clearly brought down from behind. Referee Mason had a decision to make and duly made the wrong one – not quite as keen to give a spot kick on this occasion as he was in the first half.
He did however give a minor foul on Shodipo outside the area – Ream didn’t appear to be in trouble until he inexplicably mouthed off to the official, rather forcing Mr Mason`s arm and seeing himself go into the book. The resulting free-kick saw the deep Chery cross find Onuoha, only for the makeshift full back to nod wide.
Moments later they did take the lead once more – in sensational fashion. Sloppy defensive play from the home side saw a clearance reach the Rangers midfield. It was worked wide to Chery, who fired in a sensational cross for IDRISSA SYLLA to send a diving header home in front of the delirious travelling support.
Referee Mason again managed to find something – five minutes of added on time. A gift for the home side who started to apply some pressure. Smithies forced to tip over another Ream effort while another gift allowed Jozabed a free-kick opportunity, the set-piece clipping the bar on its way over.
If he was generous before he was practically Father Christmas deep into injury time – Jozabed went down like a sniper had hit him under a high boot from Nedum Onuoha. Once again, zero hesitation from the official, something not afforded to the visitors for their earlier good shout for a spot-kick.
It seemed academic as Sone Aluko stepped forward, handed on a plate to him. He clearly did not read the script as he passed the ball back off the right hand upright after sending Smithies the wrong way. The full time whistle instantly blew and the away end erupted.
A game of entertainment for the right and wrong reasons, but nevertheless a hard-fought win for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and QPR – Rangers` first at Craven Cottage since January 1980 – while Fulham will look to their two open goals and two penalties as the main reason for their downfall on a strange afternoon`s football.
FULHAM: Button; Odoi, Ream, Sigurdsson, Malone; Parker (Jozabed 78), Tunnicliffe; Aluko, Cairney (Kebano 71), Piazon; Martin (Smith 56)
Subs not used: Bettinelli, Madl, Sessegnon, Adeniran.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS: Smithies; Onuoha, Hall, Caulker, Lynch (Hamalianen 81); Henry, Luongo; Wszolek (Shodipo 63), Chery, Washington; Polter (Sylla 58).
Subs not used: Ingram, Kakay, Sandro, El-Khayati.
Referee: Mr L Mason