Back in August I was roundly hammered on a Huddersfield fan site for a match report I wrote of the reverse fixture at the John Smith’s stadium. My report went viral and my name was mud in a certain part of Yorkshire. I wrote
“The overall shot count was 17 for QPR versus 6 to Huddersfield and even this stat doesn’t reflect the gulf in class”
One of the more polite comments in response was this:
“In fairness we did not deserve to win but reading this match report shows how misguided you must be – take the blinkers off.”
Well, let’s set the record straight about the return fixture. Huddersfield are a classy side and there was little or no gap in class to be detected down at Loftus Road on this unseasonally warm January afternoon. Mark Robins brought down a team that was ready to pass and move and be adventurous in taking the game to the home side.
The big news in Harry Redknapp’s team selection was the rare adoption of the 4-4-2 formation. In the absence of Joey Barton through injury Andy Johnson started up front with Charlie Austin, who is rapidly and rightfully gaining a talismanic status amongst the QPR faithful. The midfield almost took on a diamond shape. There was an equally rare home start for Karl Henry in front of the back two of Richard Dunne and Clint Hill. Niko Kranjcar played in and advanced position whilst Tom Carroll occupied the left position and Gary O’Neil the right. There was a welcome return to the subs bench for Malian misfit Samba Diakite
It was in fact a joy to see two teams facing each other in relatively traditional formations. Daniel Ward and rumoured-QPR target Nakhi Wells led the Huddersfield line. What became painfully clear quickly was the lack of width in the Rangers attack. Both Carroll and O’Neil kept fairly central. While it was the job of full-backs Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Danny Simpson to provide the width, Huddersfield exploited the space on the flanks.
The away team carved out some superb chances in the first half, and could feel themselves highly unlucky to be not be at least two up at the break. Ward could have scored two within the first four minutes, with both balls supplied by Oliver Norwood, but shot wide on both occasions.
Space for Jonathon Hogg illustrates Rangers’ first half problems
Huddersfield were energetic and daring, whilst Rangers withdrew into a subdued unadventurous performance the like of which was witnessed in the first half at Portman Road the previous Saturday. Krancjar was the key source of impetus whilst Carroll flattered to deceive. The loanee from Spurs clearly has skills to impress, to recycle the ball and get play moving. But too often he was muscled off the ball or made the wrong choice when picking a pass.
The visitors enjoyed a succession of chances as they exposed the lack of pace in the Rangers line-up. Norwood and Wells both had good chances in the first half hour. Some R’s fans were vocal on social media recently that Wells had joined Huddersfield from Bradford, where he has developed a reputation for clinical finishing. His first-half showing was a little lightweight – he looked like the ‘new boy’ finding his feet in a new team at a higher level. Very fast yes, bags of potential certainly. He would indeed have been a terrific signing if Rangers were looking at the slightly longer term. With a little more physical presence and knowledge of the game Wells could become very good indeed. But he’s not what we need right now, which is a younger, more powerful foil for Austin.
Wells impresses in the R’s penalty box
There were a few bright spots in a disappointing first 45. QPR’s best chance of the half came on 33 minutes when Austin’s header was denied by the post. In the ensuing goalmouth scramble Alex Smithies saved from Clint Hill after which Henry’s header hit the crossbar.
Austin’s header comes off the bar
Redknapp shuffled the pack at half time with Matty Phillips taking the place of O’Neil. The former Hammer hadn’t really done anything wrong, but it was clear by the amount of time and space enjoyed by Huddersfield that the system needed changing. Immediately Phillips brought an extra dimension to our play as Rangers found an enhanced cutting edge on the right.
Yet it was a high ball from Kranjcar deftly flicked on by Johnson which set Austin up for the first goal nine minutes into the second period. Austin received the ball to feet in the box and created just enough space in front of the defender to pile drive the ball home. A fantastic finish from a striker bang in form, albeit quiet through lack of service in the first half.
Rangers began to dominate limiting Huddersfield to more opportunistic attacks. Experienced hitman James Vaughan, returning from injury, had already replaced Ward up front who looked to have taken a knock. On 66 minutes former Palace man Sean Scannell replaced the impressive Norwood. Almost immediately afterwards Adam Hammill crossed from the byline – Wells underlined his potential by beating Hill and heading past Rob Green who had no chance.
Unsurprisingly the Terriers were buoyed by the equaliser, but Rangers kept up the pressure with chances from Simpson and Johnson. Assou-Ekotto had been wowing the fans all day with fantastic shows of skill, plus also defending well, which has not always been the case in all of his appearances this season. On 79 minutes he crossed in from the left and Austin once again hung in the air to head home for the winner, to the delight of the massed 15,000 hoops.
Armand Traore came on for the last ten minutes for Johnson as Rangers confidently held on. Traore played on the left wing and further displayed his credentials for that berth as opposed to his more familiar full back role.
Full credit to Huddersfield though who gave us a real scare, particularly in the first half. It was a highly entertaining game and really the only difference between the two teams was the little bit of extra quality up front in the Hoops. If Huddersfield’s finishing had have been better slightly better they could easily have taken points from this fixture.
Sheffield Wednesday’s win in the third round of the FA Cup. plus our regular disappointing performance means that the now annual 4th round weekend QPR players’ golf tournament remains on. Ranger reconvene a week on Tuesday to face Bolton Wanderers. After the Trotters 7-1 drubbing at Reading , no-one knew whether manager and former R Dougie Freedman would still be in charge to face his old club.
Team: Green 6, Simpson 6, Assou-Ekotto 7, Carroll 6, Dunne 7, Hill 6, O’Neil 6 (Phillips 7), Henry 6, Johnson 6 (Traore 7), Austin 7, Kranjcar 7
Substitutes not used: Wright-Phillips, Onuoha, Diakite, Zamora, Murphy
QPR MOM: Austin – Quiet first half outshone by an explosive second with two top-class finishes. Philips a close second with his substitute appearance
Huddersfield MOM: Norwood – excellent performance, notably great final balls, from the 22 year old Northern Ireland international.
Attendance: 17,185 (1,868 Huddersfield fans)
Match images provided by Sandra Sayce. Video courtesy of QPRFC / YouTube