QPR stall in one-way traffic
NEIL Warnock labelled Monday’s game as the biggest mismatch of his career despite watching QPR toss away two points in added time.
Rangers pummelled the visitors for much of the game, but were unable to kill them off and paid for their profligacy when on-loan defender Steven Caulker nodded a 92nd-minute equaliser.
An earlier howler by Clint Hill, who replaced the suspended Matthew Connolly in central defence, had presented Brett Pitman with City’s first goal before Alejandro Faurlin and Adel Taarabt, with a penalty, put the Rs 2-1 up.
“That’s probably as good as we’ve played for a few months – I thought we were absolutely superb,” Warnock reflected. “They hung on with their fingernails and I don’t know how they did it.
“We played some great football but made two schoolboy errors at the back – you can’t disguise the fact that the two goals were an absolute disgrace, at any level.
“Overall I’m frustrated but I’m excited at the same time because I’ve never seen a more one-sided game in my life and that wasn’t down to Bristol, I thought we were just that good.”
Although Warnock was quick to blame his back line, he might also have regretted his own perplexing refusal to make much-needed substitutions that might have settled the contest earlier.
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Rob Hulse endured a difficult afternoon, missing a number of chances, while Adel Taarabt was visibly tiring and Jamie Mackie faded from the game – yet pacy forward pair Patrick Agyemang and Antonio German remained on the bench.
Ironically, it was Hulse who forced the only genuine save of the first half from either goalkeeper, with David James producing an excellent reaction stop to push away the QPR centre-forward’s header.
Taarabt tried his luck from distance with little success, but he could have done better after skipping clear of Lewin Nyatanga in the 24th minute, only to fire straight at James from an optimistic angle.
Tame attempts by Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Brett Pitman were the sum total of City’s efforts in the opening period, but it was they who broke the deadlock five minutes after the restart.
Hill’s careless back-header dropped well short of Paddy Kenny and Pitman nipped in to steer the ball past the stranded keeper – but Rangers response came just three minutes later.
Mackie’s cross overran to the opposite side, but Taarabt retrieved the ball and manoeuvred his way to the line before flicking it back for Faurlin to fire first time through the crowd.
After that it was all QPR, but Khalifa Cisse charged down efforts from Mackie and Tommy Smith, while Hulse turned on Bradley Orr’s cross and speared his finish over the bar.
It seemed salvation had arrived with five minutes remaining, as Marvin Elliott was adjudged to have pulled back Hulse and Taarabt obliged from the penalty spot to spark relief around Loftus Road.
That proved premature, as Kenny dived to claw Campbell-Ryce’s drive around the post and, from the corner, Caulker rose above slack Rangers marking to head into the net.
The Rs might still have snatched the result they deserved, but Smith – who had arguably been their main threat throughout the game – scooped over from close range after Hulse had nodded down Faurlin’s cross.