Queen’s Park Rangers played their second first-team friendly in what incredibly was the second Saturday in July. Both sides turned out at London Road in the most punishing of British conditions with shade temperatures topping 30 degrees.
(Before kick off)
And like the game at Exeter in the previous midweek, it was largely uninspiring fare on offer from the away team. Whilst some players came looking ready to put in a shift, such as Andy Johnson, Nedum Onuoha and new boy Danny Simpson at right-back, Rangers were hindered in the first-half by the same midfield frailties which plagued the club last term.
Nothing much has changed. Park as ever looked incredibly lightweight and failed to develop any sort of rapport with his midfield colleagues. Stephane Mbia appeared as if he didn’t want to be there and failed to display any sort of meaningful effort, other than rolling around ridiculously after a couple of innocuous challenges. Jermaine Jenas didn’t look too bad anchoring the midfield whilst Shaun Wright-Phillips reprised his ‘little boy lost on the touchline’ act from last season.
The first-half was instantly forgettable, with the also newly-relegated Peterborough side playing neat and tidy football and perhaps having the best chances. The challenge of the conditions was underlined by the frequent appearance of water bottles whenever possible at breaks of play. The heat was also underscored by the catering for the away fans, running out of cold drinks at half-time.
The second-half was subject to the usual phenomenon of radical changes in line-up. However, Rangers fans’ spirit was lifted by the appearance of Alejandro Faurlin for 45 minutes, after his bright cameo in the South-West in the week. He was particularly instrumental in injecting some pace and guile into the R’s attack, and to be fair, was ably assisted by Granero when the Spaniard came on a few minutes later.
(Faurlin makes a welcome return to the hoops)
I’m not suggesting Faurlin is the answer to all of Rangers’ problems, but looking at the languid displays from other individuals in the team it is obvious that he cares, is up for it, and is keen to impress his manager. This was emphasised by the Argentinian having the R’s best two chances of the game; a shot and a free kick which both went just wide.
(Granero’s last few appearances?)
The game looked to be heading towards a bore-all draw when Peterborough took the spoils in the dying moments following an Emile Sinclair goal from what looked like an error from Luke Young. Young has been without competitive football for so long that it was pleasing merely to see him on the field.
The fixture certainly won’t linger long in the memory. The negatives outweighed the positives sadly as it amply demonstrated the work that still needs to be done to shake off the poison of last season and make this a team which has half a chance of competing in the second tier. Reinforcements are needed in all areas. We are short of strikers. Johnson was as lively as Bobby Zamora was languid. The former Everton and Crystal Palace man cannot do it all on his own.
In defence, the acquisition of Richard Dunne will be very helpful, but questions remain especially around the left-back position. Korean Yun Suk-Young has failed to impress in his two friendly outings and looks as though the pace and physicality of the English game will prove too much.
It is in midfield though where the biggest conundrums lie. Hopefully Mbia will be moved on and it is likely that Granero will soon follow through the exit door. It is rumoured that Jenas is in demand. Whilst Faurlin was the bright spark of the afternoon, there is no way we can build a credible Championship midfield around him, Park and Shaun Wright-Phillips. And we haven’t even touched upon the subject of misfit Adel Taarabt.
There is clearly much to do, personnel to recruit and move on, and many issues to be settled in the next three weeks leading up to August 3.
A postscript to the match was a rather unsavoury incident at half-time when an R’s fan was ejected from the ground for verbally abusing Jamie Mackie and Shaun Derry while they were warming up. It looked as though the effects of large amounts of alcohol and sun exposure had taken their toll on this ‘gentleman’. In many ways to start swinging his arms in the direction of Mackie and especially Derry, was a foolish thing to do. Luckily the stewards were able to intervene quickly – although all highly regrettable.
Team: Green, Simpson (Young), Traore (Suk-Young), Hill (Ferdinand),Onuoha, Jenas (Granero), Park (Hoilett), Wright-Phillips (Derry), Mbia (Faurlin),Johnson (Mackie), Zamora
Sub Not Used: Murphy
Attendance: 2,500 (including 500-700 R’s fans)
(Photographs provided by Sandra Sayce and are used with permission)