Team: Green, Simpson, Dunne, Hill, Assou-Ekotto, Traore (Wright-Phillips), O’Neil (Barton), Carroll, Jenas, Phillips (Kranjcar), Austin
Subs Not Used: Murphy, Ehmer, Faurlin, Henry
Attendance: 9,108 (including 2,105 R’s fans)
As I sat in the traffic jam of rubberneckers crawling past Stonehenge on the A303 to Yeovil, I couldn’t help making comparisons between the ancient monument and the current QPR team. Certainly those impressive stones have a timeless quality about them, like our central defence on Saturday. Stonehenge also conveys a strong sense of the mystical – and certainly many are seeing great fortune in how we are topping the table after a series of lacklustre displays.
Huish Park was very welcoming and friendly – a typical small lower division ground. But it was a full house and it seemed to bounce with the noise generated from the 7,000 home fans and the 2,000 visitors.
We had to explain to the kids why there were no seats…
Again we went 4-5-1 with Charlie Austin the lone man up top. There were some surprises in the starting line-up with Tom Carroll re-instated and Jermaine Jenas given the nod in midfield. Reformed miscreant Joey Barton was given a seat on the bench whilst Armand Traore made a rare start on the left in front of Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
Rangers made heavy weather of the first-half and again the set up appeared designed to shut out and frustrate the opposition. Yeovil created the better chances, with the impressive Joel Grant forcing a stretching save from Rob Green in the first half. The home team were neat and tidy and played some attractive football as befits a Gary Johnson side.
The R’s looked better in the second-half, although by no means dominant and Green had to make a number of decent saves. On 75 minutes, persistence reaped its reward for Austin, who stayed on his feet following a challenge on the edge of the box only to then be bundled over inside it. The referee pointed to the spot and Austin comfortably beat Wayne Hennessey from the resulting kick in front of a jubilant away terrace.
Gary Johnson threw on strikers James Hayter and Liverpool loanee Michael Ngoo to gain an equaliser. But once again the R’s defence stood firm, marshalled by the fantastic Richard Dunne. If he stays fit I wonder how many more ‘Man of the Match’ accolades will he claim this term ?
So it’s six league clean sheets in a row for Rangers. We still are not playing that well, but it’s hard to knock the current tactics when you look at the table. Middlesbrough next at home.
Perhaps the thing is that the focus after last season is to be solid at the back and just pick up points and therefore with that the habit of winning acts as that extra piece of the jigsaw. I cannot find myself ever thinking of a time when we started a season so well, were top of the league and yet after this amount of games have yet to see us move into gear.
Austin is a class act, his movement, sharpness of mind and control is just great to watch. He needs someone to run off him, be that an attacking midfielder or one other striker, I do not know, but he will be overworked for many games and take a lot of punishment on his own.
I think that Tom Hitchcock can count himself really unlucky not to get a sniff of a place on the pitch at the moment.
Tom Carroll tracks Yeovil striker Andy Williams
Dunne is so far my player of the season, not just for the blocks he puts in, but he’s also a rock and a born leader. That man would make walls move out of the way. He’s also the talker we have missed for years and stands by his fellow players and gees them up all through the game.
Football is not only about using your feet, but it’s also a state of mind and I am guessing that the mind-set is no matter what, win by any means and do not let them pass which is working. Let’s face it, this is so much better than losing week in and week out which we know only too well.
I just hope that the football will get better, but then again a win’s a win.
If not for the autumnal rather than wintry weather, this could have been mistaken for an FA Cup third-round tie as the “have-nots” of Yeovil Town took on the “haves” of Queen’s Park Rangers. But there was no giant-killing, even though QPR could hardly have complained if the side from Somerset had inflicted their first defeat of the season.
Robert Green was QPR’s hero, making a series of excellent saves to maintain his team’s unbeaten record and prevent Yeovil from scoring an overdue first goal at home this season. Thanks to Green, QPR have conceded a miserly two goals this season, and the meanest rear-guard in the league has not been breached for almost 10 hours of playing time.
In contrast, the Yeovil goalkeeper, Wayne Hennessey, had almost nothing to do until he picked the ball out of the net after the 74th-minute penalty converted by Charlie Austin, which kept Rangers at the top of the Championship table and Yeovil in the bottom three.
That Yeovil were the better side was remarkable given their finances. At this level for the first time after earning promotion via the League One play-offs they have a wage bill estimated at around ¬£1m, while QPR paid their players a total of ¬£56m last season and allowed Harry Redknapp to splash out another ¬£6m or so in the summer to enhance an already big-ticket squad. The Yeovil manager, Gary Johnson, admitted before the game that it felt like facing a Premier League team.
QPR’s bench, which included Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Niko Kranjcar, was heavy with international caps, Premier League experience and earning power, Johnson estimating that Barton would be making more than his entire playing staff, along with the supporters and chairman – “our whole canoodle”. But he also promised to give QPR a game, and his team were as good as his word, producing a performance that made the visitors look nowhere near ¬£55m better than their hosts.
True, Matt Phillips showed quality early on in controlling a pass from the stratosphere, but then sliced the ball wide. Yeovil’s shooting was better and Green was sent sprawling to his left to keep out first-half shots from Joel Grant and Liam Davis.
Five minutes into the second-half, he bettered either save with a dive to his left to palm away a shot on the turn from Joe Ralls that was heading for the bottom corner. To show he could save to his right as well, Green did so to defy Andy William’s angled volley.
It was hard to believe that Yeovil had scored only twice since the opening day of the season. But QPR have also struggled in front of goal and, despite a high-priced recruit with a proven record at this level in Austin, they have averaged a goal a game. Redknapp would like another forward on loan, but claims he is “not really” close to managing it.
Austin did little to justify a transfer fee thought to be as high as ¬£4m until he stumbled as Dan Seaborne challenged him and the referee, Gavin Ward, pointed to the spot. It was the softest of penalties, but Austin converted it, to Johnson’s frustration. “All we can do is keep going and hope we can get a bit of lady luck,” he said. “I love Harry to death and I’m sure he would say Yeovil played a good game.”
Charlie Austin successfully appeals for a penalty
He did. “Being underdogs is a great position for Gary’s team to be in,” Redknapp said. “They gave everything, and they were unlucky. They worked hard, it was a struggle for us, but we hung on. They just needed that bit of quality to finish, but that’s how it is when you’re at the bottom.”
Nick Szczepanik – The Observer
Despite some delay in the Stonehenge area, we arrived at the designated pub in good time. We were told that entry was based on one-out, one-in and as there was a queue forming we decided to head to Tesco’s for a beer and a snack.
ESSEXURs texted me the starting line-up and I was surprised to see that Joey Barton was on the bench. I was disappointed that Tom Hitchcock wasn’t included in the list of subs, but pleased that Niko Kranjcar was.
It was back on the terraces and other R’s fans were seated to our left. Richard Dunne was outstanding again and Rob Green pulled off 3 or 4 superb saves.
We were under the cosh for periods of the game, particularly during the 2nd half, but our defence was superb again. I had a very good view of the infringement that led to the awarding of the penalty. Charlie Austin actually did very well to initially power his way through whilst impeded into the box.
We got back to London in record time and whilst en route I was told that that sadly there had been a terrible accident just after the game. My thanks to Jimmy for the lift.
Photos provided by Sandra Sayce and are used with permission