The Superhoops made their first competitive away trip of the new season to the John Smith’s, formerly Galpharm, formerly McAlpine Stadium. Such are the vagaries of the naming value of new modern stadia.
The Independent Rs team were to be found before the game sampling the local ale in the delightfully-named Gasworks Club. Whilst the natives were very friendly, the topic dominating conversation was the getup of the ever sartorially-elegant Finney, more suited to the Australian Outback than West Yorkshire. Only a hat was needed to make the transformation into ‘Crocodile Belfast’ complete.
Huddersfield’s ground is one of the older examples of the post-Taylor report all-seater implementations, it is still arguably one of the most aesthetically attractive with its dramatic sweeping white steel arches.
The conspiracy theorists were once again buzzing as the visiting lineup failed to include Alejandro Faurlin, ruled out with a thigh injury. Esteban Granero was this time promoted to the midfield slot alongside Karl Henry. Other changes from the victory against Sheffield Wednesday included Yun Suk-Young in for the dropped Armand Traore and Charlie Austin starting up front alongside Andy Johnson instead of Bobby Zamora.
(Granero in action)
Rangers dominated the first twenty minutes or so, silencing the boisterous Yorkshire home crowd as the gap in class between the two sides was inititially all too apparent. Granero, Joey Barton and Junior Hoilett all impressed from the off as the Rs took the game to the home side. Rangers found space all over the pitch, and the only way Huddersfield could respond was with some rough stuff. After just six minutes Hoilett was clattered by a clumsy late challenge from Oliver Norwood. Referee Andy Haines saw fit to punish this with a free kick only, when he chose to produce a yellow card to Granero for a fairly innocuous pull on Adam Hamill.
In the meantime Rangers were creating chances through their superiority, notably through Hoilett and the lively Austin. The former Burnley man reprised his impressive substitute performance from the previous Saturday, whilst Johnson continued to snap around the Terriers’ defensive partnership.
But as the half drew on Rangers sat back and the home team began to gain a little more ground. Off target shots from Oscar Gobern and Martin Paterson were the warning that the Hoops failed to heed. On 35 minutes James Vaughan found Hamill on the Rs’ left, who somehow managed to thread a ball past Suk-Young and Granero to find Norwood completely unmarked on the edge of the box. He was readily able to pick out Vaughan once again with his cross and the Town striker made no mistake with his header. For the second Saturday running Rangers found themselves behind to inferior opposition through defensive frailties.
(Norwood in acres of space)
The deficit was not to last for long however. Three minutes later Hoilett picked up the ball and made a darting run into midfield. It ricocheted off a Town player wide right into the path of the advancing Suk-Young. The Korean crossed in and Hoilett stabbed home from short range at the far post. Rangers fans breathed a huge sigh of relief at the half-time break as to have been behind would have been a travesty given the initial quality of the performance.
(Hoilett draws Rangers level)
The second half went on as the first had started, with lots of Rangers possession, a number of Rangers chances and the home team offering very little in response. The growing confidence was underlined on 53 minutes by Hoilett scampering down the Rangers left evading defenders and curling a peach in towards the right of goal. A little more venom was required on the shot, but it still required Huddersfield goalkeeper Alex Smithies to dive at full stretch to make a catch.
Rangers were by now well in control. The Terriers had to dig in very hard defensively to stop the momentum of Rangers from the wings and through the centre. The much maligned Barton held court on the right hand side of the field. I’m personally no fan of his public stream-of-consciousness musings. But like the opening game this was a day when the Liverpudlian let his game do the talking for him. Barton’s work rate was immense and was on show with some high quality passing. Combined with Granero’s endeavour in the middle the Rangers midfield was almost irresistible.
Maybe the jury is still out on new boy Karl Henry. On news of his transfer, Wolves fans were pleased to get him off their wage bill and there were many accompanying comments about the player’s propensity to play square balls. Here was more evidence. Playing more of a Shaun Derry like role, you wouldn’t expect him to be the creative driver in the side. Henry was though sloppy in possession at times and often seemed to be drifting away from play. It’s early days though so it’s harsh to judge him unfairly. In fact the dreaded word of last season, ‘gelling’ crossed my mind thinking about the entire team when too often in the game long balls were pumped up towards Austin. This set of players is more than good enough to keep it on the floor in this division.
The Superhoops best chance to win the game came on 56 minutes when Austin got on the end of a searching Hoilett cross. The header bounced tantalisingly off the crossbar into the path of Barton who was unable to finish with the rebound.
With twenty minutes to go Shaun Wright-Phillips replaced Granero. Barton moved into the middle and the substitute went out wide right. The substitute was soon into the thick of the action, forcing another fine save out Smithies dashing out of goal.
(Austin in the wars)
Further chances fell to Austin, Barton and late substitute Jermaine Jenas. Huddersfield nearly forced a late shock winner when former Crystal Palace man and substitute Sean Scannell went close deep into injury time. But it would have been a travesty. The overall shot count was 17 for QPR versus 6 to Huddersfield and even this stat doesn’t reflect the gulf in class.
We’re not going to win every game. QPR are the proverbial ‘big fish in a small pond’ and most teams in the division are going to see our visit as a chance to have a crack at the big boys. In spite of the arguable ‘points dropped’ there was much to admire here. Rangers are not yet the real deal. With Barton’s inspiration this has the potential to be a title-winning midfield, although questions still remain about the perfect lineup. Also we are a little suspect at the back. This wasn’t Clint Hill’s best ever day, getting beaten a couple of times by players of moderate pace and quality. On the other hand, Nedum Onuoha is looking more the part at centre-back with every appearance. Suk-Young is not the finished article, whilst we wonder whether Danny Simpson is fully match fit.
So we move onto Ipswich at Loftus Road for the next fixture. Mick McCarthy’s Tractor Boys are likely to be a sterner test than the opening two league games.
Team: Green 6, Simpson 6, Hill 6, Suk-Young 6, Onuoha 7, Granero 7, Wright-Phillips 7, Barton 8, Henry 6 (Jenas 6), Hoilett 8, Johnson 7, Austin 7
Substitutes not used: Murphy, Dunne, Ehmer, O’Neil, Zamora
QPR MOM: Barton – Joey, keep your mouth shut and continue playing like this and you have the potential to completely reform your reputation and standing with QPR fans
Huddersfield MOM: Smithies – several good saves in a dogged Terriers performance
Attendance: 13,896 (1,077 QPR fans)
Photos provided by Sandra Sayce and are used with permission