Taking it one game at a time

There was a palpable feeling of relief at full time on Saturday after Queens Park Rangers held firm to secure a 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday and start the season on a positive note.

Bright start | Queens Park Rangers overcame their recent opening day glitches, but a long, difficult season still awaits. (Image | Facebook)
Bright start | Queens Park Rangers, thanks to Nedum Onuoha, pictured, overcame their recent opening day glitches, but a long, tough season awaits. (Image | Facebook)

It was due to a number of factors, most notably the resilience the Rs showed not to throw away their slender advantage late on, but also the feeling that things are changing for the better.

Last week, prior to the signing of sharp-shooter Charlie Austin, 24, I bemoaned the lacklustre and uninspiring pre-season and predicted a campaign of woe, suffering and struggling.

One result does nothing, either to vindicate this perhaps-slightly-too-negative view, or disprove it, but the manner of the performance, especially after going behind, was particularly pleasing.

Take Junior Hoilett, for example. He could not have disappointed more after signing from Blackburn Rovers off the back of an impressive season and few would have argued with him being shipped out.

On Saturday, however, the 23-year-old winger put in an electric display, running at the Wednesday defence and midfield with the sort of verve he appeared to have lost, or mislaid, all of last year.

His shooting leaves rather a lot to be desired, unfortunately, and it was a combination of superb saves from Chris Kirkland and wastefulness by Hoilett that preventing him getting on the scoresheet.

Nonetheless, the unexpected transformation from disinterested, disenchanted bystander to flying down the flanks and visibly enjoying being in a QPR shirt was remarkable and long overdue.

Bookmakers and pundits have, almost unanimously, tipped Rangers to make an immediate return to the Premier League, which I still believe to be extremely unlikely for a host of reasons.

For a start, the Rs are hardly defensively sound, as Owls striker Atdhe Nuhiu proved, when he waltzed through the hosts’ defence and fired past goalkeeper Rob Green to silence Loftus Road.

Some were quick to criticise Danny Simpson, signed on a free transfer from Newcastle United, for his rather average debut, but more concerning is the continued presence of Armand Traoré at left back.

Another summer arrival, Karl Henry, was severely underwhelming in central midfield and, despite his reputation as an enforcer, has some way to go to convince the Rangers faithful of his merits.

Bobby Zamora, in a similar vein, apparently failed to win a header until 60 minutes in, and hardly interfered with play throughout his time on the pitch in a mediocre, disinterested display.

Furthermore, had it not been for a couple of questionable decisions not to award the visitors two penalties, QPR could easily have drawn or lost this match. Indeed, they could have without these.

Perhaps the biggest positive of all was the return of Andy Johnson, ruled out for the whole of the previous campaign, and his first goal in 21 months, which could not have been more richly deserved.

His cruciate ligament injury last September, in a game against Chelsea where the 32-year-old was showing his worth and commitment, was in hindsight a devastating blow to the Superhoops’ hopes.

Yet this weekend it seemed as though Johnson, who scored 74 goals in 140 games for Crystal Palace, had been given a new lease of life, as he chased every loose ball for 90 minutes without stopping.

Even Joey Barton, after swearing that he would not be playing for QPR in the Championship, did so with aplomb, aided by a very generous reception from the home crowd as his name was read out.

Rangers are far from perfect and, with more arrivals and departures likely over the coming weeks, liable to look drastically different heading into September, but they survived the opening-day test.

Plus, given that the Rs shipped five goals against Swansea City last season and capitulated to a 4-0 defeat by Bolton Wanderers the year before, it was nice to get the proverbial monkey off our backs.

Have your say | Tweet the author | @chriskking

Originally published on QPRnet on Monday August 5 2013.


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