MATCH REPORT: QPR 2 Wanderers 1
LUCK seems to be conspiring against Dougie Freedman at present – but there are some who say you make your own in times of trouble.
If Freedman could have picked just one position where he would not want to pick up another injury then left-back would have been it.
So when Tim Ream was clattered in the air by Charlie Austin just 15 seconds after Andy D’Urso had put his whistle to his lips to start the game, he must have wanted to go back to the dressing room to check for cracked mirrors.
Wanderers came to Loftus Road to be compact, and for almost an entire half it worked. But when the time came to chase the game, it was the Scot’s reluctance to deviate from the plan that might just have cost his side a chance of getting into it sooner.
When Ream had to be helped off the pitch by two medical staff, Hayden White was the only defensive option on the bench. As good a prospect as the teenager is, he had never played a senior game, let alone 90 minutes.
But that is the situation the former Sheffield Wednesday trainee found himself in after it became clear that the groggy Ream would play no further part.
White looked edgy, as well you might. But the youngster did nothing wrong in what proved an encouraging response to the early blow.
Darren Pratley had two early sighters – the first created by Mark Davies’ quick-thinking inside the box and blocked superbly by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, the second of his own making and fizzed narrowly wide.
Freedman had called for a solid start and he got it.
He nearly got a lot, lot more when Craig Davies unleashed a right-footed effort from 25 yards that left Rob Green helpless as it crashed off the crossbar.
But the advantage of having an out-and-out winger like Matt Phillips was underlined just before the break when he was given room by Baptiste and his fine cross was headed home with aplomb by Charlie Austin.
Austin looked to be heading off the pitch at one point with a shoulder injury, with Bobby Zamora stripped and ready to replace him. How Freedman must wish he’d have opted for a night off.
Tom Carroll nearly doubled the lead with a scuffed shot that had to be pushed away by a sprawling Andy Lonergan. That would have been harsh on the Whites but had they had the quality of Phillips and Austin on the pitch they would not be in the mess they are.
Within five minutes of the restart it was effectively game over. Matt Mills had conceded a panicky corner in front of goal and when Wanderers could only clear Assou-Ekotto’s effort to the edge of the area, Karl Henry met the ball with a sweet right-footed volley into the bottom corner.
QPR were going for the weak spots but at the other end, Green was pulling off some world class saves to stop it becoming a contest.
The former England man tipped Chung-Yong Lee’s effort over the top and then pushed aside Medo’s pile-driver within a minute of each other.
Lukas Jutkiewicz was put on with 23 minutes left but the travelling fans took exception to the fact it was for another striker, Craig Davies.
The new loan signing from Middlesbrough, confirmed only that afternoon, put himself around for the final 20 minutes but the support around him was starting to flag.
The closest he came to a first goal since August was getting his head to a Chung-Yong corner but his effort deflected wide.
QPR continued to search for a third. Andrew Johnson thought he had won a penalty when he went crashing to the floor after trying to go around Lonergan, but his appeals were waved away by referee D’Urso.
It seemed both sides had settled by the time Jay Spearing lashed in his first goal of the season.
Buoyed, Wanderers poured forward in the final few moments, threatening to expose a QPR defence that had looked shaky in the first half.
Chung-Yong had the best chance to steal a point, smashing a shot over the bar after the ball had bobbled in front of him, You just wonder what might have happened had the shackles come off sooner.