The weekend is always that bit nicer when your team play well and that was most certainly the case after QPR’s 2-0 win against play-off pushing Birmingham City.
The difference between QPR’s last game at home, which saw them succumb to a humiliating defeat at the hands of Fulham, to this game was startling.
Off the back of two useful points away on the road, at Bolton and Sheffield Wednesday, the Rs had the sizeable task of taking on Gary Rowett’s ever improving Birmingham City. Talking to friends before the game, the overriding opinion was that a draw wouldn’t be a bad result against a team half a dozen places higher in the table. However, as the game kicked off, it seemed that the Rs were more than a match for the Blues.
Saturday’s game was one of those rare games when every single player had a good game. Rangers took control early on and were stringing passes together. Leading the line in a 4-2-3-1 formation; Sebastian Polter was holding up play and distributing the ball intelligently to the three players behind him. The attacking midfield three of Junior Hoillett, Trajonn Chery and Matt Phillips swapped positions throughout the first-half and linked up well.
Despite being dominant it took Rangers until the 35th minute to break the deadlock. Determined play down the left flank from James Perch saw the utility man cut into the box and lay it back to Chery, who after several touches managed to get his shot away and fire past Blues ‘keeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
Firmly in charge of the game, Rangers smelt blood and made it 2-0 just four minutes later. The hard-working Polter played a great one two with Hoilett, whose through pass on the left was timed perfectly for Polter to latch on to. The German striker then cut in and was tumbled to the ground by Birmingham defender Michael Morrison and a penalty was duly rewarded. Hoilett stepped up to the penalty spot and coolly sent the keeper the wrong way. Perhaps the first-half was simply a bad day at the office for Birmingham, but that would be unfair to QPR, who were great.
As the second-half kicked; off Birmingham raised their game, controlling the ball for several large periods, but by and large Rangers were still comfortable. Other than a low driven free-kick and one goal mouth scramble, Rs keeper Alex Smithies had a relatively quiet day. Hoilett and Phillips, who have been criticised for their defensive duties in the past, put in some important challenges and were good outlets when the Rs looked to break.
Perch, who if memory serves me correctly, hasn’t played left-back for QPR before, had his best game in an Rs shirt. The centre-half pairing of Gabrielle Angella and Grant Hall looked calm and composed and were never really under any danger, Nedum Onouha was also convincing at right-back, something which I never thought I’d see.
Although Rangers had less possession than they did in the first-half, it still seemed like another goal was likely and that it would be Rangers to get it.
Angella had a decent header saved from a corner and Massimo Luongo, whose energy and distribution in the game was a joy to watch at times, also had a shot from the edge of the area well saved by Kuszczak.
Three points, a job well done and a tough call on who was man of the match; I’d go for Perch, just. He played out of position, defended brilliantly, including one moment where he saved Angella from an embarrassing back pass with a last minute tackle on City forward Clayton Donaldson. Perch also got an assist.
The Rs currently lie 11th, 11 points from the play-offs with 12 games to go. In previous seasons; a late play-off push would be on the minds of most fans, however I think the QPR faithful, fans and board alike, might just prefer to see Hasselbaink’s team continue to slowly take shape for next season.