MARK Hughes is now on the cusp of dismissal after another drab defeat against relegation rivals Southampton.
The home side were booed off in both halves after a cataclysmic defeat that sees Rangers firmly rooted to the foot of the table.
Beleaguered Hughes watched on as his side played without any semblance of organisation or passion and Rickie Lambert stole in past a ponderous defence for the game’s opener.
On the stroke of half time former QPR loanee Jason Puncheon glided through Rangers like a knife through butter before powering beyond Julio Cesar – a disastrous half for the hosts.
The second half began with a glimmer of hope – Jamie Mackie coming from the bench to play terrier in chief and Junior Hoilett looped a header beyond Gazzaniga to halve the arrears.
Rangers’ spirit wilted after 15 minutes as the visitors controlled the fixture – one of many short corners that the hosts didn’t react to and Anton Ferdinand bundled the ball into his own goal.
A farcical performance and result that made Southampton look like Barcelona; Puncheon like Thierry Henry and Queens Park Rangers relegation certainties.
Mark Hughes kept with the same team that were defeated at Stoke City with Kieron Dyer and Fabio da Silva able to rejoin the side in a substitute capacity – a bold decision from a manager who evidently enjoys a tinker with his squad.
Julio Cesar started behind a back four of Jose Bosingwa, Ryan Nelsen, Anton Ferdinand and Armand Traoré. The midfield consisted of Esteban Granero, Alejandro Faurlín, Samba Diakité and Junior Hoilett – Adel Taarabt started behind Djibril Cissé.
Southampton also remained unchanged from the team that drew at home to Swansea City. Paulo Gazzaniga started behind a back four Nathaniel Clyne, Maya Yoshida, Jose Fonte and Luke Shaw. Morgan Schneiderin, Gaston Ramirez and Jack Cork started across the middle with Adam Lallana and Jason Puncheon playing off Rickie Lambert.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v SOUTHAMPTON
A fixture dubbed ‘El Sackico’ by the media saw both managers under pressure for different reasons despite being at the wrong end of the table. Nigel Adkins, fervently backed by his supporters is at the mercy of a chairman with a free-wielding axe.
Meanwhile in W12, Mark Hughes has the full backing of his chairman but not necessarily of his supporters with a groundswell yearning for his departure. Nevertheless both sides found themselves in deep trouble with a genuine six-pointer on show at Loftus Road.
Southampton looked comfortable on the ball in the early stages, playing some neat football with a talented set of players playing the ball around the home team who were struggling themselves in the early offing.
Rangers did find their feet, much owed to the educated feet of Adel Taarabt. The Moroccan once again cut a frustrated figure and attempted to take the game by the scruff of the neck. He looked committed in the tackle in ambitious on the ball.
The first opportunity of note fell to the visitors in a comedy of errors in the back four. Rickie Lambert was afforded the time and space to get onto the ball and tee up Adam Lallana. The talented midfielder executed a fine volley that dipped narrowly over the bar.
That was the warning that failed to be heeded, Jason Puncheon centred from a set piece and Lallana was once again able to ghost through unmarked and get the slightest of touches to an effort that clipped the left hand upright, Cesar left dumbfounded on the turf.
Remember Ricardo Vaz Te? Do you recall Matthew Etherington, Sylvan Distin? This was yet another carbon copy of the incident that sees the man in the middle/far post wriggle free and create a glorious opening for a goal – just what a day at the training ground involves is open to debate.
Taarabt attempted to tantalise but was stifled all too often – he tested Gazzaniga from the edge of the area with a shot which in truth was fielded poorly by Argentinean as he fumbled the ball around the post, a rare glimmer of substance in a dour opening 15 minutes.
Hoilett tested Gazzaniga again, before Southampton turned the screw on a beleaguered home side. The defence was crumbling in the hands of Ryan Nelsen, who was doing his utmost to rally those around him as the rearguard started to crack.
The skipper’s goal-line clearance from a Lallana cut-back rather highlighted his lofty role. He could do little as Southampton took a deserved advantage with the most simplest of goals yielded by more disastrous defending.
That man Lallana put his corner into a sensible area where a variety of pot shots were not defended properly with the ball eventually falling to RICKIE LAMBERT who bravely nodded home on the goal-line.
Disaster for the hosts who once again had a tepid and tentative approach to attacking and were left dramatically short at the back when it mattered most – no desire to get the ball clear and no ideas regarding defensive organisation.
The crowd rather predictably responded with stark criticism of Hughes and the side did not respond from there on in the first half. Ryan Nelsen and Adel Taarabt were playing Southampton on their own – giving rise to the chant ‘Ryan Nelsen, he plays on his own.’
Esteban Granero’s laboured pot-shot at goal resembled the image of taking a knife to a gun fight. It was weak, wayward and rather epitomised the state of affairs at Loftus Road at present. Taarabt worked hard, Hoilett was snuffed out and Saints were firmly on top.
Eventually the tide told as Southampton doubled their lead – Nathaniel Clyne danced his way down the right, and his freedom was more than afforded to fellow player JASON PUNCHEON. The former QPR loanee cut in from the right and rifled a delightful shot beyond Cesar and into the bottom left-hand corner.
The culmination of the worst half of the season – without question. A half devoid of fight, organisation and tactical awareness came to a close as Hughes felt the full force of an angry vociferous set of supporters.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-2 SOUTHAMPTON
It was clear to see that Hughes had torn into his side at half time. Jamie Mackie came on for Alejandro Faurlín and things started to happen. The players decided to bust a lung at the start of the second half and it proved a smarter opening.
Mackie chased and harried, Taarabt proved more influential and the latter’s cross was met by Cissé who placed his effort straight at Gazzaniga. Moments later some Taarabt magic hauled QPR back into the fixture.
A cross from the Moroccan was met by JUNIOR HOILETT and the forward was able to head home unmarked beyond the stranded Gazzaniga, and it was suddenly game on. Southampton with a fragile back four of their own would now surely come under pressure.
The pressure was brief as Puncheon once again was afforded the freedom of the penalty area to rifle a left-footed effort just beyond the left-hand upright – quite why the first half warning wasn’t heeded is beyond comprehension.
Taarabt was selfless in pulling a potential shooting opportunity back for Diakité, who seemed unprepared for the full-back. A mature Taarabt squared, where as Taarabt of years gone by may have rifled goal-bound.
Southampton rode the brief stint of QPR pressure and started to dominate. Puncheon was allowed time and space, despite his ominous intentions, to fire at will. He sent a daisy cutter just wide before seeing an effort whistle past the post moments later.
Half time warnings had evidently dissipated as Saints had the running of the half, Lallana in particular an influential figure along with the rejuvenated Puncheon – a player not deemed worthy of playing at League One and Championship level.
Hughes made a couple of changes, the withdrawal of the poor Jose Bosingwa was greeted with cheers and Fabio da Silva joined the action, while Diakité made way for the combative Shaun Derry.
Taarabt was looking lively once more and was one of only a meagre few deserving of credit. His ball found Cissé who cut inside and powered an effort rather inevitably wide of the right hand upright.
Despite their evident requirement to get something from the encounter, it was Southampton that dominated the possession and chances to rather underline the ineptitudes and shortcomings in the QPR squad at present.
Julio Cesar had to stop a Yoshida effort from close range but could do little about the inevitable clincher. Schneiderlin coasted into the area and pulled the ball back – Anton Ferdinand walked the ball into the net for Southampton to bring down the curtain on a miserable afternoon.
The performance and result were as dire as it appeared and the Saints fans cheered their players and manager to a man. QPR players, all but Mackie and Nelsen, skulked off with their manager without a hint of facing the fans.
Just Manchester United away next week as Mark Hughes had clearly lost his team, and the team had lost the plot. He is walking a tightrope that to my mind has now snapped – a spanking at Old Trafford will do little for anyone’s confidence or be in any way constructive.
Miserable supporters and presumably miserable owners with the silence from the normally Twitter vocal Fernandes is deafening. Talks may be and probably should be afoot for the beleaguered boss and his disastrous set of misfits.
FULL TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-3 SOUTHAMPTON