Queen’s Park Rangers are rather like a used British-made car. Spluttering into life briefly and intermittently, they are a fleeting joy on the odd weekend, but tend to need expensive repairs at regular intervals and often fail to start at all.
Fulham, the opponents on Monday night, can be likened to a BMW from the early 2000’s. They are reliable, efficient, do not break down much and cost very little to keep on the straight and narrow, although they can struggle in the icy cold of W12 in mid-December.
Predictably, pitting the former against the latter at a freezing Craven Cottage yielded a victory for the hosts, that was not always a certainty, despite Fulham being gifted three first-half goals by the calamitous visitors.
After only a few minutes it was clear where the confidence lay. On the rare occasion that possession was not immediately lost, the QPR players nervily passed the ball across the back-four as though it were a bomb that could explode at any moment.
By contrast, Fulham made an electric start and, marshalled by the infuriatingly lazy, but magnificently effective Dimitar Berbatov, effectively put paid to Rangers’ hopes of remaining in the Premier League,
Where the defeat to Aston Villa was largely unfortunate, this the R’s brought on themselves, notably Christopher Samba, whose performance summed up the incompetence and comedy of errors nicely. His Twitter row with fans after the game, where the issue of wages was understandably raised by those that had watched the centre back scythe down Ashkan Dejagah, gift the ball to Berbatov in the box and be out-skilled by Brede Hangeland, was not the major issue.
Such a dismal performance would be unacceptable however much the Congolese, rumoured to be on a ¬£100,000-a-week contract, was being paid. Frankly, it would have embarrassed a pub team defender.
Furthermore, berating players at such a crucial moment in a seminal season for the club is perhaps not the wisest of moves. Confidence was clearly and unsurprisingly low at Craven Cottage, and must be patched up by Sunday.
It will be interesting to see when the rhetoric from Redknapp changes from the gung-ho language of Winston Churchill to the demure, resigned style of Neville Chamberlain. Many rightly fear the visit of Wigan Athletic could be the turning point.
As for “fighting them on the beaches”, for the first 41 minutes it looked as though QPR were expecting a leisurely kickabout on the Copacabana, and shocked to find themselves in the middle of a ferocious West London derby.
Painful though it is to admit, Rangers do not deserve to stay in the top flight, having scored just 28 goals, less than one per game. Even bottom-of-the-table Reading have scored and won more than the R’s this season.
A couple of months ago, QPR could not find the net for love-nor-money, and hit just three goals in eight matches. With nine in five having followed, the opposite is now true, as the Superhoops have shipped eight since the beginning of March.
Thus, the car analogy once more becomes relevant: Redknapp, ever the mechanic, manages to fix the supercharger only for the brakes to fail a short while later. Thank goodness the wheels are yet to come off.
Wigan will present a unique challenge for the R’s, having won two games in a row as their annual spring resurgence gets underway, but a victory for the hosts could reel the Latics into the bottom three.
Unfortunately, in order to stay up, Rangers will have to take all three points from more or less the next seven games and pray that both Wigan and Aston Villa suffer a few setbacks between now and May 19.
Had either the trip to Villa Park or the short hop down to SW6 brought forth a victory, QPR would still have a slim chance. As it is, this clapped-out motor is for the knackers yard, its parts to be sold for scrap in the summer, assuming they are worth anything by then.