The QPR Monday Verdict: Warnock’s positive spin fails to hide his regret
Rangers boss defiant as West Brom become the sixth side this season to avoid defeat at Loftus Road
Even before Shane Long poached a goal that West Bromwich Albion scarcely deserved to deny QPR victory on Saturday, the script already seemed to be written.
It has become a familiar tale for Neil Warnock at Loftus Road this season: QPR take the lead, create a host of chances, miss them all, and leave the back door ajar for hitherto mediocre opponents to sneak an equaliser.
The same wasteful finishing that cost Rangers two points against Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and even Manchester City reared its head again against Roy Hodgson’s side, who became the sixth visiting team to escape west London with at least a point.
True, West Brom’s late strike, taken superbly on the counter-attack, may have been rendered irrelevant had Shaun Wright-Phillips’ splendid first-half volley not been incorrectly ruled out by an offside flag, and true also that QPR probably merited all three points.
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But as significant a moment as Wright-Phillips’ disallowed effort might have been, that one decision did not cost Warnock’s side maximum points, rather it was careless finishing by the winger and the likes of skipper Joey Barton that proved all too costly.
At his post-match press conference Warnock’s stance was one of defiance and optimism in equal measure, the manager suggesting that his side were robbed by the officials.
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“I just don’t know how he’s not seen that it’s onside,” said Warnock as he pointed the finger of blame squarely at the direction of the linesman.
“You’re relying on the officials getting the major decisions right and unfortunately he’s not got it right, and a cracking goal has been wiped out.
“That was probably as good as we’ve played this season; we played some cracking stuff, created some great chances, you almost feel like you’ve lost the game.
“But I thought Joey Barton and [Alejandro] Faurlin were magnificent today. I thought the back lads did their job, we looked to create, Heidar [Helguson] did well and so did the wide lads. I can’t complain because I didn’t see a weakness other than giving a silly goal and not taking our chances.”
Warnock was eager to cast this result in the best possible light, and to a degree, he was probably right to do so, after a game in which his side did everything but score a second goal after Heidar Helguson had rewarded their early dominance with a fine headed opener.
And his assessment of Barton’s performance was an accurate one. Barton has settled into the QPR midfield after an unspectacular beginning, and enjoyed arguably his most impressive display in a Hoops shirt to date as his partnership with Alejandro Faurlin in front of the defence continues to develop.
One way or another, Barton’s move to Rangers from Newcastle has not quite turned out as many predicted. On the field at least, and with the exception of his clash with Wolves’ Karl Henry earlier in the season, the midfielder has avoided serious controversy, and is relishing his role as captain.
Many suggested that Barton’s previous indiscipline rendered his move to Loftus Road a gamble for Warnock, yet as his assists for Helguson’s first-half goal indicated, his displays continue to improve.
Faurlin appeared to take the brunt of Warnock’s displeasure at the final whistle, largely because of the ease of which he allowed James Morrison to motor away from him in the build-up to the equaliser.
“We’ve all got things to learn about the game, and what I said to him [Faurlin] stays between me and him,” insisted Warnock. “But I thought he and Joey were fabulous, they bossed the midfield.”
Had Barton taken a huge chance early in the second half, when he was clear on goal with just Ben Foster to beat only to drift his shot wide, this result would probably have been completely different. In reality, that moment was probably the turning point.
Taken in the context of a season which continues to see QPR sit comfortably clear of the dreaded relegation zone, another step towards the 40-point barrier is not a result to be sniffed at.
However, there also lurks the uncomfortable knowledge that if QPR had turned their territorial dominance into wins at home to sides which were often there for the taking, Warnock’s team could now be approaching a difficult festive period with the European spots in their sights and the drop zone far behind them.
“We’ve come so far. If you look back 12 months ago, I think we’ve moved on more than anybody else in the country really,” said Warnock, before he declared: “One of these days we will score four or five.
But that day is unlikely to come in Saturday’s trip to Liverpool, or for that matter at home to champions Manchester United the next week, or even in the following two games, difficult journeys to a resurgent, free-scoring Arsenal and fellow newcomers Swansea City.
Should QPR emerge empty-handed from those games, missed opportunities such as Saturday’s will appear ever more costly, and no amount of positive spin from the manager will change that.
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