The longest pre-season in QPR’s recent history continued on Saturday afternoon, as the Rs drew 1-1 with Reading. Both sides had very little to play for and at times it showed. The result sees the Rs drop down to 13th in the table.
As Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink continues to test and examine players in the squad that haven’t featured regularly for him; a home debut was given to keeper Matt Ingram, whilst young defender Cole Kpekawa also made his full league debut, with midfielder Ben Gladwin featuring again.
On the evidence of the weekend’s game, manager Hasselbaink will hopefully be encouraged by the performance of all three. Ingram couldn’t have done much about the Reading equaliser, which saw the Rs backline far too easily opened up, but he made a couple of smart saves, one from a free-kick from Reading’s Oliver Norwood and the other a header.
In the Rs last home game, Kpekawa came on as an auxiliary centre-half, however this time round, he played in his natural left-back position, and by and large, performed well. Athletic and tall, Kpekawa was committed, put in several crosses from the wing and even had a chance in the second-half to score from a corner. Though still young, given his size, you wonder if Hasselbaink may see him as a potential left-sided centre-half rather than full-back.
Gladwin, who has filled in at several positions over the whole season, started on the right wing and looked happy to take a man on in order to make something happen, which is more than can be said for Matt Phillips. Other than a severe crisis of confidence, the demeanour of Phillips on the pitch for the past few months has been worrying and disappointing. It’s a shame to see a player of evident ability not deliver, but it seems clear that he cannot wait to be out of the door.
With Hasselbaink seemingly keen to embark on a 4-2-3-1 formation, the Rs line was again led by Sebastian Polter. Having watched the striker play for quite some time now, I have my doubts over whether he is the man to lead the line for Rangers next season. Polter’s work-ethic and attitude cannot be faulted. The effort he puts in is startling.
Over the course of the season; his build-up game has also improved, but if QPR want to aim for promotion next season, surely they need to be looking at someone who is more clinical. In the 88th minute of the game, Polter had a golden opportunity to give QPR an undeserved 2-1 lead. The ball slowly came down from the sky, with no one else around and from only five yards out, Polter headed tamely wide.
It was an embarrassing miss. Sure these things happen, as they’re only human and if QPR are looking to finish mid-table again, Polter will do. He’ll score a dozen or so goals and put in maximum effort, but his first touch is clumsy and his ball control is wildly inconsistent. Several times during the game, it felt like Polter almost got in the way of a couple of attacking moves.
The decision to bring on Conor Washington for the last five minutes was again puzzling. Perhaps Hasselbaink doesn’t see Washington as a striker, or doesn’t think he is capable of leading the line in a 4-2-3-1 formation, or quite simply Polter is the better option out of the two for his game plan.
As QPR’s season slowly peters out and boss Hasselbaink continues to try out youth and fringe players, the club needs to look at their aims for next season and decide whether these aims fit with the quality of their players.