Depth is an issue for QPR
The Hoops came into the match missing key players in defence, after Armand Traore's controversial red card against Aston Villa and Danny Gabbidon's lingering injury kept both out of the team. With Clint Hill recently loaned to Nottingham Forest and Matthew Connolly also injured, Fitz Hall and Bobby Orr were pressed into service.
Across the back line there were lapses and poor tracking throughout the game, and even usually dependable Luke Young and Anton Ferdinand had moments where it looked like they didn't know who they were covering or where to be. Fitz Hall had another up and down performance - at one point saving a goal with a bicycle kick to clear a nasty rebound away, but more often letting Johnson and Bobby Zamora work around him unobstructed.
Everyone on the pitch was a culprit in this loss, and nothing should be taken away from how well Fulham played. Even if the R's had been on top form, taking a point from this match would've been a steep challenge. Fulham were pacy, knocking crisp passes and using the wings to build up confident and effective attacks. They easily could've scored more goals if not for some moments of luck and a few merciful tackles by QPR. Overall the combination of having back-up players in the lineup, bad defensive performances and an outstanding Fulham attack made for a whipping QPR fans will not soon forget.
As hard as it is to shine a light on anything good after a demolishing like this, Orr fared pretty well in relief. He did some good defensive work and despite being pushed to the periphery with the new signings coming in, worked hard and showed the quality that made him a fixture last season. He blocked a number of shots and marked well against his opponents, but one performance was not enough.
Discipline, discipline, discipline
To me the bigger defensive problem exposed here was the midfielders. In the past few weeks, we've seen excellent performances from Barton, Faurlin and Derry to support the defence, regain possession and generate transition play. Against Fulham, the midfielders didn't drop back enough and when they did they were slow footed and endlessly chasing Fulham's possession game.
This is a team with a good deal of talent and skill, but it needs to put its best out every time or it will be exposed as it was on Sunday. There were too many hopeful passes and long ball attempts rather than the short, steady build up that had been working so well coming into this match. Tommy Smith improved the midfield a bit when he replaced Taarabt at halftime, but could do little to staunch the bleeding and the hammering from Fulham continued. Taarabt is rumoured to have stormed out of the ground after being subbed, but he earned the bench with too many gift wrapped interceptions and easy challenges in the first half.
In the end they failed as a team, from 1 to 11, and it may be a bit premature to write the season off after one (disastrous) match. The lack of discipline throughout the fixture was disturbing however, and taken in context with the late surge by Aston Villa, should trouble QPR fans a bit.
We still can't score, but the Mack is back
Sunday marked yet another match without a QPR goal and the hourglass seems to be running thin for Jay Bothroyd up front. With the caveat that the whole day was a mess for QPR from one end to the other, he did not create many opportunities, either as a target man or holding and setting up his team mates. He needs to start justifying his place in the team, because DJ Campbell has shown in his limited appearances that he can bring pace and finishing to the attack if Bothroyd continues to scuffle.
Bothroyd was replaced in the 72nd minute by Jamie Mackie, who's been out since January with a double leg break. He looked quick in his time and had a decent chance on goal waved away for offside. He provides Neil Warnock with another good option off the bench and his return was the one bright spot for the eight thousand boisterous QPR supporters who made the trip to Craven Cottage.
The worst consequence of this defeat is the hit to QPR's goal differential, which could be a critical factor in determining survival in May. The biggest focus against the league's giants should be on that factor - making sure that getting behind does not lead to this kind of rampant attacking that buries the R's later in the year.
In the end, QPR have to examine what went wrong (hint: everything) and focus on correcting it in training this week. The approach Fulham brought - smart passing, patient set up and a well supported attack - should be a model for how they approach games. QPR have the speed and ability to play that style, but they need the consistency to execute it.
The next match at Blackburn is now a must-win game, both for the mental relief of responding to this hapless performance, and also to secure some points in the table before the onslaught of top tier talent we're about to run into.
Come on U R's!
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