Saturday, 13 August 2011

Thrashed at home: a rude awakening for naïve Rangers

QPR were welcomed back to the Premier League as a founding club of world football’s most profitable division with a calamitous 4-0 defeat to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday. Having completed a double over the Trotters during their last season in the top flight, from 1995-1996, hopes were high that the R’s could spring a surprise over Owen Coyle’s charges amidst bafflingly positive assertions concerning Rangers’ survival chances from respected pundits.

It could have been so very different had DJ Campbell’s first ‘goal’ for his new club not been correctly ruled out for off-side after five minutes, but in truth the slow death of the R’s prospects of victory began from here. Shortly after this, Kieron Dyer, described as a ‘gamble’ by Neil Warnock upon his arrival, lived up to his lowly standing amongst R’s fans by being stretchered off the pitch to widespread consternation as to why he was ever considered in the first place.

Indisputably on the front foot throughout the opening 45 minutes, Warnock’s men suffered the desperate misfortune of conceding on the cusp of half-time; Gary Cahill proving his versatility with a scintillating strike into the roof of Paddy Kenny’s net. Cheers and applause echoed around Loftus Road at the interval, yet supporters had no idea what the second period would bring.

They soon found out, however. 67 minutes in and Danny Gabbidon, who had performed admirably on his QPR debut, tragically headed in Chris Eagles’ free-kick, to the immense fortune of the visitors. As if this were not enough, Bolton received their second dose of good luck when Ivan Klasnic’s shot was deflected in by the woeful Bradley Orr.

Fabrice Muamba, for the entirety of the 90 minutes akin to a pantomime villain with his robust approach and tendency to push the spirit – if not the laws of the game – to their limits, then rubbed salt into the wounds with a classy fourth. In truth, Rangers were second best in every department after the break, regrettably resorting to aesthetically-displeasing and ineffective elongations of the Warnock style. This led to Campbell, a clear bright spark with pace to burn who gave the visitors a headache or two during the first half, being bypassed by the midfield. Faurlin and Derry in turn and with unfathomable generosity, proceeded to afford Bolton all the space they could have possibly desired in the middle of the park.

They made full use of this magnificent opportunity, Martin Petrov in particular demonstrating just how short QPR currently are at full-back, with even mediocre Premier League names such as Mark Davies able to run riot against Shaun Derry’s ageing, Championship methods of protecting a back four who appeared only seconds away from the next crisis. To top it all off, and exacerbate Rangers’ defensive woes, Clint Hill was giving his marching orders with seconds to go, leaving the R’s without a left-sided defender for the trip to Everton.

As for the disgraced ownership elite in W12, Briatore’s very public and swift exit following the fourth goal ensured that his lack of concern for the club and rock-bottom approval rating amongst Rangers fans was made clear to the assembled media. Meanwhile, the appalling lack of investment in the playing staff at Loftus Road was being painfully revealed on the pitch by a side who will be unlikely to finish above mid-table. Perhaps the most distressing thought of all, however, will be that with a continued bloody-mindedness pervading the QPR boardroom, with regards to spending money, how many more 4-0 thrashings can Warnock – the man more than any other responsible for the R’s Premier League status – potentially survive?

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