TEN-man Queens Park Rangers surrendered a one-goal advantage, slipping to defeat against an organised Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Rangers were riding the crest of a wave and duly dispatched their opener when Bobby Zamora became the second debutante in as many games to open his account.
The game turned on its head when Djibril Cissé reacted angrily to a poorly-timed lunge by defender Roger Johnson – his subsequent reaction earned him an early bath.
While Rangers defended manfully throughout the first period, a tactical gambit to throw on a third centre forward truly paid dividends for the visiting side.
Joey Barton’s misplaced pass allowed Matthew Jarvis to round off a flowing Wolves move, while substitute Kevin Doyle turned the game on its head with a well-taken second.
Adel Taarabt threatened to banish the malaise with a succession of sublime skills and subsequent strikes – but it yielded little for the weary hosts.
Mark Hughes made two changes from the side that drew away at Aston Villa. Rob Hulse and Jamie Mackie dropping out at the expense of Adel Taarabt – returning from the African Cuo of Nations and debutante Bobby Zamora.
Paddy Kenny started behind an unchanged back four of Luke Young, Nedum Onouha, Anton Ferdinand and Taye Taiwo. Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joey Barton, Shaun Derry and Taarabt started in midfield with Djibril Cissé partnered by the aforementioned Zamora.
Wolves started with Wayne Hennessey behind his defence of Richard Stearman, Roger Johnson, Sebastien Bassong and Stephen Ward. The midfield consisted of Kevin Foley, Emmanuel Frimpong and Jamie O’Hara with Dave Edwards and Matthew Jarvis playing off line forward Steven Fletcher.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v WOLVES
This match had all the hallmarks of a relegation six-pointer – Rangers appeared rejuvenated despite their surrender of a two goal lead at Aston Villa. Djibril Cissé epitomised a new found vigour and desire among the set-up at Loftus Road.
This was in start contrast to Wolverhampton Wanderers, a club that is backed by a vociferous and vocal crowd. Chairman Steve Morgan launching into a tirade against his own players following another in a succession of defeats for his side.
It made alarming suggestions as to the viability and future of Mick McCarthy as the long-term option for a side that is seeing its Premier League status slip through its grasp. Their pre-match huddle would carry more poignance and meaning than usual.
It was the hosts that started the stronger, as they did at Villa Park and served to display how much the home side have missed the creative endeavour of Adel Taarabt – the Moroccan returning from the African Cup of Nations to light up the early showing.
The midfielder was involved as Taye Taiwo found Cissé and the Frenchman cut inside before driving an effort straight at Wayne Hennessey. The Welsh international stopper grateful to receive an effort that didn’t befit the fine build up play.
His strike partner was in on the act moments later – this time Shaun Derry fed the fleet-footed debutante Bobby Zamora. The deadline-day capture strode unchallenged before sending a rasping left-footed drive goal-bound – it was well-fielded once more by Hennessey.
Taarabt and Cissé were once again at the heart of the hosts’ attacking threat – linking up to lightening effect and taking full advantage of an indecisive Wolves back four. Taarabt was the recipient of a give-and-go before placing just wide of the upright.
Wolves by comparison were struggling to get a foot-hold on the encounter – only the sprightly Jamie O’Hara was providing some respite for the visitors, carving out opportunities to break with some neat passing play.
Steven Fletcher lead the line on his own, supported either side by Edwards and Jarvis – but nevertheless it was the Scotsman that provided a speculative drive wide of the upright to round off a solitary early warning from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Moments later however QPR grabbed a deserved advantage – and once again it was a new boy on the scoresheet. Taiwo and Taarabt linked up before Wright-Phillips flicked back for BOBBY ZAMORA to prod through a beleaguered Hennessey from point-blank range.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-0 WOLVES
It served to epitomise Rangers’ early dominance as Wolves were looking shell-shocked and evidently forlorn given their perilous plight in the Premier League – Rangers by comparison were hoping this goal would help push them on to a highly-sought three points.
Emmanuel Frimpong was providing the basis of the engine room for Wolves – that was until he went in late on Joey Barton. The on-loan Arsenal man crumpled to the floor after his attempted challenge and was subsequently replaced by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.
This prompted a formation shift as Ebanks-Blake would support the isolated Fletcher in the front-line. Fletcher then went close with a free-kick – powering a left footed drive over the wall and inches wide of the upright.
Just short of ten minutes before the break controversy ensued. Cissé had made a fool of Roger Johnson seconds previously before the defender hacked down the Frenchman with considerable malice in the subsequent move.
Cissé – a sufferer of two broken legs in his career – took evident exception to the over-zealous challenge and flew to his feet to confront Johnson. He raised his hands to the defender grasping his neck allowing the referee to act accordingly.
Johnson – who evidently started the incident – picked up a yellow card, while Cissé’s naive reaction earned him an early bath. Disappointing all round as Rangers went down to ten men moments before the break.
Evidently Wolves were now in a better position to dissect the home rearguard – but Rangers were coping admirably with the level of threat that the visitors provided. Fletcher could consider himself fortunate not to receive more than a yellow for a late challenge on Wright-Phillips.
The Scotsman flew into the tackle – in an attempt to win the ball in fairness to the forward – but it was met with the predictable furore of the home crowd, baying for blood after the dismissal of their key marksman.
Only a Jarvis effort on the stroke of half time provided respite from the monotony of the latter stages of the first period, as QPR went into the break to re-group and re-assess the lead that they had but also contemplate their numerical disadvantage.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-0 WOLVES
Mick McCarthy was evidently a desperate man – a goal down against your relegation rivals, who in turn were down to ten men. Under pressure given his chairman’s interjection in post-match proceedings against Liverpool he made a solitary change.
Kevin Doyle joined Fletcher and Ebanks-Blake in attack as the visitors would now go for the throat. He replaced Richard Stearman as Foley dropped in at right-back for the fellow-Premier League strugglers.
It paid immediate dividends with Wolves drawing the scores level. Joey Barton’s grave error giving the ball away in a key area helped Foley pick out a long-range pass for MATTHEW JARVIS.
The attacking wide-man – an England international – was afforded the time to cut inside on the left and curl home for an instant response from the break. Rangers were caught cold while Barton was left to contemplate another punished misplaced pass.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-1 WOLVES
Wolves were the side with the impetus, driving forward at every opportunity and belying their status as a side bereft of confidence and drifting into football’s second tier. Fletcher crashed a header back off the bar from a Foley cross to further highlight this troubling point.
A barrage of efforts ensued from the visiting side, with Anton Ferdinand at his best to hack at from the baying Ebanks-Blake following the aforementioned Fletcher prodding goal-bound, before Kenny parried away a venomous Doyle effort.
A perplexing change from Mark Hughes saw Shaun Derry replaced by Armand Traoré, the full-back returning from the Cup of Nations to line up in an unusual central midfield berth alongside the evidently struggling Barton.
Luke Young was rather worryingly withdrawn in the same instance, walked aided down the tunnel and being replaced by Fitz Hall. Hall slotted in at centre back with Onouha moving over to a familiar right-back berth.
The numerical advantage was now telling and the only respite for QPR fans was an expert free-kick from Adel Taarabt, drifting inches wide of Hennessey’s upright. It mattered little as Wolves edged in front with 20 minutes remaining.
It was cunning in its simplicity – a hopeful high ball from O’Hara found Ebanks-Blake, whose flick fell kindly for KEVIN DOYLE – the forward was able to touch, turn and power beyond a forlorn Kenny to hand Wolves a deserved lead.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-2 WOLVES
Hughes responded by withdrawing Zamora – evidently flagging after leading the line on his own since Cissé’s departure. Rob Hulse replaced him in a bid to get a foot-hold on an encounter that was rapidly running away from them.
Another pot shot by Doyle helped breathe life into the beleaguered hosts with Rangers suddenly springing into life. Traoré sent a powerful drive into the midriff of the second half spectator Hennessey.
Taarabt then took the game by the scruff of the neck, lurching forward from midfield before dazzling the Wolves back line with a stunning array of skills before sending a powerful drive goal-bound – Hennessey equal to the Moroccan’s effort tipping it away.
A carbon copy moments later as more tantalising skill from the talented midfielder forced another smart save from the Welsh international stopper. Barton and Wright-Phillips also tried their luck from distance as Rangers sensed a way back into the clash.
Taarabt once again was the talisman in the latter stages sending another dipping drive crashing onto the roof of the net. Wolves attempted to shut the door by sending on Nenad Milijas at the expense of the busy O’Hara.
Speculative stuff was attempted at the end with Fitz Hall attempting an audacious flick, while Anton Ferdinand scuffed a clearer effort wide of the mark to rather draw a line under a disappointing second period from a home perspective.
Mr Clattenberg brought down the curtain on a second period that could be defining in terms of Premier League status. Wolves the rightful victors after a positive second period but QPR could point to naivety and individual errors as the basis for this latest disappointment.
FULL TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-2 WOLVES
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Paddy Kenny, Shaun Derry (Armand Traore 65), Adel Taarabt, Joey Barton, Luke Young (Fitz Hall 65), Djibril Cisse (Sent Off 34), Shaun Wright-Phillips, Taye Taiwo, Anton Ferdinand, Nedum Onuoha, Bobby Zamora (Rob Hulse 74).
Wayne Hennessey, Dave Edwards, Richard Stearman (Kevin Doyle 46), Steven Fletcher, Stephen Ward, Roger Johnson, Emmanuel Frimpong (Sylvan Ebanks-Blake 25), Matthew Jarvis, Sebastien Bassong, Jamie O’Hara (Nenad Milijas 87), Kevin Foley