A clinical second half finish by David Nugent was enough to give champions-to-be Leicester City maximum points in a evenly matched game with the R’s. Poor finishing from the away team meant Harry Redknapp’s men left the King Power Stadium empty handed on a day when yet again the team selection baffled the travelling fans.
Just a few hundred yards away from Leicester’s ground is a Mecca Bingo Hall. It could be argued that this is where Redknapp used the same method of randomly picking numbers out of a bag to select a starting eleven. Seven changes were made from the side which eventually went goal crazy versus Nottingham Forest.
Among the changes were Aaron Hughes making a first start at centre back, Yun Suk-Young playing on the left wing and Modibo Maiga making a second start alone up front. Karl Henry was recalled in midfield but Little Tom Carroll was left out altogether; possibly either with one eye on his collection of Easter Eggs or most probably because of the amount of loaned players in the squad.
Despite the baffling selections, QPR were arguably the better of the two sides during a first-half which was well contested but played with both teams seemingly with their minds on other things. Kasper Schmeichel was the certainly the busier of the two keepers. He easily saved a speculative drive from Suk-Young; then cautiously palmed over a rising shot from the slightly improved Niko Kranjcar. The Croatian also had another effort following a goal mouth scramble but to no avail.
Leicester meanwhile played neat football but could not beat the QPR offside trap, made somewhat easier for the visitors by the absence of the dangerous Jamie Vardy, who was rested for this match. Hughes looked comfortable alongside Nedum, certainly a lot better there than as a wing back.
Assou-Ekotto was somewhat fortunate to stay on the field for what seemed at first watch an ugly lunge on the impressive City winger Riyad Mahrez. Had the Frenchman not rolled around so theatrically and distracted the ref, the R’s left-back could well have been enjoying an extremely early bath.
For me, QPR’s best player of the half was Karl Henry. He went about his business well with a number of good interceptions and simple passing. It was somewhat of a surprise that his one and only error of the half (and game) almost gifted Leicester the lead. His slip led to Andy King running through on goal and rounding Rob Green, however his shot was cleared well off the line by Onouha.
There was time for one more chance for the R’s. Some more good work by Niko saw him dribble his way into the box and pull the ball back for Maiga who pulled a shot inches wide of the top right hand corner of the goal. A great chance to go into the break one nil up but was not taken. A crucial miss by Maiga and the first of a couple of good chances he had.
There was a change at half time (yet again, how many subs has Harry made at half time this season!) saw the hardworking yet ineffective Benayoun replaced by the forgotten man SWP, who had seemingly returned from injury. Needless to say, the former Chelsea player made little impact on proceedings as he cautiously played his way back into the hustle and bustle of Championship football.
Great chance number two fell to Maiga shortly after the break. Following a good move, the ball fell to him out on the right. With time and space but with a lack of composure, his shot was dragged wide when it seemed a lot easier to hit the target. I immediately had the feeling that this would prove costly given the context of the game at this point. Leicester seemed again to attack the area’s within BAE’s radius as they had done in the first half and this ultimately led to the decisive goal.
Daniel Drinkwater, whose hard work and midfield engine caught the eye, played a neat ball into Nugent. He easily outpaced BAE and finished clinically, slotting the ball hard and across goal low past Green. Great finish and a lesson in how to take your chances in a game where few are presented. The Leicester fans celebrated ecstatically, they knew it was game over and so did we. There was enough time for a late chance by Suk-Young but he didn’t look favourite to lob the advancing Schmeichel.
The only other event in the game saw Assou-Ekotto pick up a second yellow for a lazy tackle, a standard yellow card and a simple choice for the ref. He now misses out the Watford game; some QPR fans probably hoped he’d get a three match ban!
There was some late action for Bobby Zamora as he came on in the latter stages but it was all over by then. Like Ravel Morrison, had he come on with half an hour to play, there was every chance we could have grabbed the points in this game.
I’m not sure what Redknapp wants to gain out of these last few games myself. Certainly not momentum, its like we are trying to make our minds up who we want in the play-offs. More signs of arrogance by the manager maybe, who was the first to head straight down the tunnel without acknowledging the travelling support.
Overall, it was a fairly decent performance by a team which did well to disguise the fact that it was so radically changed from the previous game. Hughes, Niko and Suk-Young all did fairly well as did Henry, who looked so composed for most of the game.
With three games of the regular season to play, I’m no better off in guessing which Rangers will turn up at Loftus Road on Monday to play a Watford side who are in decent form and still in with a shout of the play-offs themselves.
Maybe Harry will surprise us all and finally attempt to pick a team and then play that same team in the next game. The next month though will at least decide where he and indeed this QPR team will be next season.
QPR – Green 6, Simpson 7, Hughes 7, Onuoha 7, Assou-Ekotto 5, Suk-Young 6, O’Neil 5 (Morrison 6), Benayoun 6 (Wright-Phillips 5) Kranjcar 6, HENRY 7*, Maiga 4 (Zamora 6).
Subs Not Used: Murphy, Donaldson, Dunne, Keane.
Attendance: 27,386 (including 829 R’s fans)