QUEENS Park Rangers came up short once more as relegation rivals Bolton Wanderers edged a tight encounter in controversial circumstances.
All the talk will undoubtedly surround a genuinely poor refereeing performance, in which a decision went against both sides before QPR had a certain spot kick denied.
Martin Atkinson was badly let down by his linesman when Clint Hill’s header was a foot over the line, but went unnoticed by a ponderous officiating team – with chances at a minimum this was truly a momentous miss.
Up the other end it was Darren Pratley that opened the scoring, heading home unmarked to shade the opening period. Djibril Cissé levelled matters on his return to the side despite being in an offside position moments after the break.
In the second half QPR threw the proverbial kitchen sink at their counterparts but were dealt the decisive sucker punch when substitute Ivan Klasnic rolled home on the break to help secure three points for the Trotters against the run of play.
There was still time for a handball in the Bolton penalty area and Chris Eagles to scythe down Nedum Onouha for a cast iron spot kick, sadly waved away by an officiating team that will consider themselves lucky to be presiding over top flight football next week.
That being said Queens Park Rangers now have the writing on the wall, with a run of horrific fixtures seeing them dangerously close to slipping back through the trap door at the first attempt – today could prove the decisive factor in Rangers’ fate.
For the first time in a long time QPR had a selection dilemma – Samba Diakité and Djibril Cissé returned to the side from suspension to take the place of Ákos Buzsáky and Adel Taarabt, the latter suffering a hamstring complaint.
Paddy Kenny started behind an unchanged back four of Nedum Onouha, Anton Ferdinand, Clint Hill and Armand Traoré. Three in the middle comprised of Diakité, Joey Barton and Shaun Derry with Shaun Wright-Phillips playing behind Bobby Zamora and Cissé.
Bolton started in a 4-5-1 formation with Adam Bogdán behind a defence of Gretar Steinsson, Tim Ream, David Wheater and Sam Ricketts. Nigel Reo-Coker, Mark Davies and Darren Pratley comprised the midfield with Ryo Miyaichi and Martin Petrov flanking David N’Gog.
KICK OFF: BOLTON WANDERERS v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
This fixture had all the hallmarks of a relegation six-pointer. While many will be saying it is a tad early to be speaking of the prospect of relegation, particularly noting how tight the group of five are at the foot of the table, Rangers’ run-in is notably horrific.
An early kick off at the behest of the Sky cameras, Rangers took with them a respectable following with a view to rallying their side to a much needed three points. A chill was in the air and it was the hosts that reacted better to the blustery conditions in the early offing.
Nedum Onouha was particularly stout at the back, clearing a flurry of early corners for the Trotters, while Ryo Miyaichi was looking particularly enterprising down the right flank, testing the Rangers rearguard with a succession of testing runs.
Samba Diakité and Shaun Derry were looking their combative best in the heart of midfield – the former returning from suspension was not content to curb his tackling tendencies, and distributed well when in possession.
David N’Gog was attempting to use his sizeable frame to test a central defensive pairing of Anton Ferdinand and Clint Hill. His touch and turn saw him fire wide of the upright in the opening opportunity of the encounter.
Bolton were attempting to create their opportunity via a set-piece, the legacy of Sam Alladyce’s prior success at the Reebok Stadium. Ryo Miyaichi’s corner was met by the head of David Wheater only for Bobby Zamora to glance away an effort that was drifting away from the target.
Rangers carved out their first chance of the encounter when Armand Traoré burst down the left before searching for the pace of Djibril Cissé. The Frenchman found Shaun Wright-Phillips whose excellent vision picked out Joey Barton only for the latter to see his shot blocked.
It was excellently worked from the visitors perspective, whose previous tactics comprised purely of knocking the ball to the head of Zamora to try and capitalise on the speedy Cissé’s attributed on the break.
Zamora had Bogdán beaten when his effort came back off the bar before QPR went one step closer just minutes later. Mr Atkinson, so meticulous about the placement of Barton’s corner missed the pivotal moment of the encounter along with his ponderous linesman.
Barton’s eventual set-piece was met by Clint Hill with the ball coming down off the bar and the defender peeling off to celebrate. The conviction of his opinion led those in the dark in the away end to believe there was an issue to be looked at.
Indeed it proved to be the case, the ball was more than a foot over the line and one can only question the disastrous officiating that failed to notice the irrefutable fact that QPR should have been in front.
Darren Pratley was booked for a cynical challenge on the impressive Diakité, before Wright-Phillips popped up on the edge of the area to slam an effort wide of the upright – failing once again to trouble the ‘keeper.
That midfielder Diakité was on hand once more to protect parity on the scoreline when he threw himself at a Pratley effort to see the ball go for a corner. This was followed up by a frankly embarrassing dive by the ineffectual David N’Gog, whose appeals thankfully fell on deaf ears.
With a fistful of Hill’s shirt the former Liverpool front-man managed to engineer himself a free-kick. free-kick was taken short with the ball being worked wide left to Petrov. His deep cross found the unmarked DARREN PRATLEY and the former Fulham man headed home beyond Paddy Kenny.
GOAL: BOLTON WANDERERS 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
It was a bitter blow for the visiting side who had arguably been the better of the two sides after riding an early spell of pressure from the Trotters. Nevertheless the defensive shortcomings of QPR were laid bare as Pratley ghosted through unmarked.
Rangers were in no mood to be defeatists and set about the tasks of getting themselves level in immediate fashion. Cissé’s nonchalant back-heel found Wright-Phillips who placed his right-footed effort into the stands.
The fleet-footed wide-man caused all-round frustration once more as he spurned the latest in a string of presentable chances. Shot after shot continues to go awry for the former Manchester City man who seems bereft of confidence and technique in front of goal.
Zamora and Cissé were looking as though they had played together for years as they linked up to perfection for the latter to lay in Onouha. The full-back surged forward to draw a low save to Bogdán’s left.
Rangers finished the half on the front foot with Bolton content to play out the remaining minutes and take breaks where possible. Epitomised by left sided duo Ricketts and Petrov crumpling in a heap before surging sprightly back onto the field of play.
Few could blame them as they were edging the relegation six-pointer and went into the break halfway to a crucial three points. Mark Hughes men would have to get their injustice off their minds to claim anything from this encounter.
HALF TIME: BOLTON WANDERERS 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers came out with renewed optimism and barely minutes into the half they had their reward – it was karma served up on a plate. Wright-Phillips’ attempted through ball was deflected into the path of DJIBRIL CISSÉ.
The Frenchman looked suspiciously offside as he cut a figure of composure to clip beyond Bogdán and into the net. Interestingly the defenders did not make a great deal of Cissé’s position, but the finish was completed the calibre of cutting edge that has evaded QPR.
GOAL: BOLTON WANDERERS 1-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The pressure and possession lie with the visiting side as they started to dominate the fixture territorially. Bolton were relying on N’Gog to add the thrust to their attacking play, only to be disappointed by a stout Rangers back-line.
Traoré in particular was keeping Miyaichi at bay, the Japanese wide-man getting very little joy out of the QPR full-back who himself was putting in a fine display in the back four – keeping out the previously injured Taye Taiwo.
The goalscorer was nearly in on the act again moments later when he latched onto a Diakité pass before lashing the ball into the grateful arms of Bogán with his weaker left foot. It was progressively getting to be one way traffic however.
Bolton pierced the pressure with full-back Ricketts coming inside from the left to curl an effort wide of the right hand upright. But Rangers were back on the attack with all the intent of a side that were going for three points.
The game was wide open and a flurry of half chances was brought to a conclusion when Joey Barton attempted a bizarre effort that floated over the bar without so much of a whimper, failing to test ‘keeper Bogdán.
Chris Eagles came on for Martin Petrov – whose influence was beginning to wane – while QPR brought on Jamie Mackie, Taye Taiwo and Ákos Buzsáky for Shaun Derry, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Armand Traoré.
The latter change can only be due to an injury sustained. Certainly if it was tactical it was a disastrous move. As mentioned Traoré had been performing impeccably to keep Miyaichi at bay, Taiwo’s lack of mobility was soon exploited.
Diakité (twice) and Mackie saw their efforts blocked away from point blank range in a mad spell of seconds before Bolton and their substitute served up the winning goal – carved from the boot of the aforementioned Miyaichi.
Three minutes remaining as the Japanese wide-man took a ball down from the back before being allowed the freedom to play and give the ball to IVAN KLASNIC. The Croatian international was composure personified to slot under Paddy Kenny and give Bolton a priceless advantage.
GOAL: BOLTON WANDERERS 2-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
It was a bitter pill to swallow for QPR who were looking the better team in an extremely open fixture. Nevertheless they were taught an effort in ruthlessness by a side in the bottom three, making the conceded goal all the more tough to stomach.
There was still time for the referee and his other linesman to take centre stage once more however, in a fraught closing exchange. The ball dropped for Onouha on the edge of the area before Tim Ream handled and Eagles chopped the full back from behind.
With all eyes on both officials all they could do was stare at each other like love at first sight across a crowded room before Atkinson gave a categoric denial of kick he evidently didn’t have a full view of – evidently once again he was mistaken in his judgement.
It would be somewhat churlish to blame all of Rangers ills on poor officiating but nevertheless it was one of the crucial factors as Rangers end the day in the bottom three bemoaning some customary ailments of defensive lapses of striker shortcomings.
FINAL WHISTLE: BOLTON WANDERERS 2-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS