Team: Green 5, Perch 5, Onuoha 6, Hill 6, Konchesky 6, Luongo 6, Henry 6 (Faurlin 6), Chery 7 (Emmanuel-Thomas 6), Phillips 5, Austin 6 (Polter 6), Mackie 7
Substitutes not used: Hall, Lumley, Doughty, Hoilett
I was going to title this report “Queen’s Park Reality Check” until I spotted that’s what I called my match report from Spurs away. Two seasons running, same message? Hmmmm.
It was a great turnout from the Rangers fans on a sweltering day in South East London. It contrasted with a relatively poor show from the home fans in a half-empty Valley. The official attendance of just shy of 20K was clearly boosted by absent holidaying Addicks season ticket holders.
Spirits were high as were the expectations of many. And the first twenty minutes seemed to vindicate the optimism. Rangers were positive and flowing against a ponderous and uninspired Charlton side.
Particularly impressive in the first period of play was Massimo Luongo who looked to have settled in straight away, energetically seeking the ball and picking out passes to his team mates. Karl Henry picked up his usual role from last season defending the backline. Tjaronn Chery demonstrated a great touch, even if his set pieces were inconsistent.
As the first half wore on, Charlton muscled their way back into the game with a number of physical challenges, with Jamie Mackie out on the left seeming to bear the brunt of the treatment. It seemed to halt Rangers early fluidity.
And the home team’s approach brought them more success towards the end of the half, in spite of a rasping left-foot shot from Chery from a Charlie Austin knockdown. Nick Pope pulled off a diving one-handed save to deny the Dutchman.
Meanwhile Rangers star striker wasn’t having the best of afternoons himself – starved of service as a lone man upfront. At one point in the half he went for a ‘Hollywood effort’ of a strike which went out for a throw on the other side of the pitch.
The second half also started well for Rangers. Mackie was back to his swashbuckling best down the left and straight after the break surged forward to play in Matty Phillips who drew another magnificent save from ‘keeper Pope. In spite of this glorious chance Phillips was also having a difficult afternoon. For a man who seemed rejuvenated last season with the promotion of Chris Ramsey to manager, this seem like a considerable step backwards. Nominally on the right the former Blackpool man time and time again drifted inside leaving James Perch behind him with few options.
Charlton scored with what probably was their first real chance of the game. Tony Watt replaced Karlan Ahearne-Grant at the break, and with virtually his first touch six minutes later scored after Perch was caught out of position. It was a low drive from Watt which Robert Green really should have done better with at his near post, but fair play to the Charlton man for displaying a bit of pace and guile which his forward colleagues had lacked to that point.
I was expecting Ramsey to make a substitution at that point but the Rangers manager was content to let the starting eleven toil away to little effect. With twenty minutes still on the clock Ramsey swapped Alejandro Faurlin for Henry and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas for Chery. Both fair substitutions. Arguably fifteen minutes too late. But still wonderful to see Faurlin back in competitive football once again.
QPR had hardly had time to reorganize when Watt played in Morgan Fox. Perch was once again caught napping and Fox had plenty of time to elegantly pick his spot. Two-nil down and the game effectively over. Many of the away support were not happy.
Rangers tried to pick up the tempo again but the engine clearly wasn’t running on all cylinders. After a great start Luongo became anonymous. Phillips looked very rusty and clearly wasn’t fit. Austin didn’t get much service all afternoon, and proved why playing him as a lone striker isn’t a great option. Sections of the R’s faithful were frustrated to say the least and this disappointment manifested in some boos and jeers when he was substituted for Seb Polter five minutes from time. Personally I think Austin has done enough over the last two seasons, and acted like a gentleman in the face of speculation this summer, not to deserve this sort of treatment. But I understand the disappointment.
The R’s never looked likely on making a dent in the Addicks lead, and so it proved at the final whistle.
Kevin Gallen on the QPR Podcast in the week before the game said that with the disrupted preseason schedule, there was a high chance of the starting eleven being ‘undercooked’. So it proved. The energy levels we displayed ebbed away as the game progressed. This was by no means a great Charlton side who appear to have their own issues. But games aren’t won on paper and Rangers will have to become sharper and more acquainted with each other to become a more convincing unit.
This opening day defeat makes the Tuesday night League Cup game at Yeovil very important. This Rangers team is definitely in need of more minutes – it is a game we must not meekly surrender. A traditional QPR “cup early exit” can only heap more pressure on Ramsey and his Director of Football.
QPR MOM: Mackie – a typical battling display from the returning attacker. Looked like he never went away. Why did we sell him again by the way?
Charlton MOM: Watt – Pedestrian performance from the home team until Watt came on and added some guile. Substitution changed the game.
Attendance: 19,469 (3,126 from QPR)
(Photos taken by Sandra Sayce)