QPR put in a spirited display despite being on the receiving end of a 3-2 defeat at the hands of recently relegated Middlesbrough.
Although coming away with nothing in terms of points, we take a look at five of the key talking points to arise from the clash at the Riverside
(Lack of) defensive options
It’s very much the hot topic of conversation at Loftus Road at the moment, and rightly so.
The news of Nedum Onuoha tearing his hamstring is a bitter blow, with the skipper being one of QPR’s most consistent performers so far this term.
Onuoha joins the likes of Grant Hall, Joel Lynch and James Perch on the sidelines, with arguably all four of the defenders being dubbed a first team regular.
With no option to recruit cover in the loan marker, it will be up to Ian Holloway and Les Ferdinand to make the most of the limited options at the club’s disposal, potentially calling on youngsters like Niko Hamalainen and Giles Phillips to step up as cover in a typical “throw them in at the deep end” scenario.
Whether the injury to Onuoha will force the club into the free agent market remains to be seen, although it seems unlikely after they failed to agree a deal to re-sign Clint Hill; a decision which may come back to bite the Hoops.
The result may not have been ideal, but one man who will go home secretly delighted is David Wheeler.
The winger was making his first start for the club since joining from Exeter City, and boy did he make an immediate impact, scoring a poacher’s finish inside two minutes.
But he was no one-trick pony, Wheeler was a constant threat on the flank, and more encouragingly he showed no hesitation in bursting into the penalty area as an extra option up top.
Based on this it’s no surprise that he comes with the reputation of a goal-scoring winger.
Of course he’s extremely raw as a talent, and It’s unlikely that he’ll establish himself as a regular starting XI man just yet, but it’s extremely encouraging to see him thrive against one of the Championship big guns.
QPR started the game with a clear game-plan as they set up to frustrate Middlesbrough and utilise target man Matt Smith at every opportunity, however in the 10 minutes before half time it appeared that the hosts had rumbled Ollie’s boys.
So credit to the boss for changing things around.
Holloway didn’t hesitate when he saw this, opting to introduce Pawel Wszolek and Jamie Mackie to add more energy to the Hoops, giving the home team something else to think about and ultimately leading to Mackie’s goal just after the break.
It may have ended in defeat, but Ollie’s bravery to make such a decision early on should be met with praise, as a lot of managers wouldn’t be quite so bold in those circumstances; and would have been punished.
There’s no doubting that the atmosphere at the Riverside played a part in yesterday’s result.
You could argue the impact which the referee has on both the players and on the referee, with a couple of decisions going in favour of the home side; something which Ian Holloway acknowledged in his post-match press conference.
There’s also a noticeable different in QPR’s form away from home, in comparison with at Loftus Road.
The Hoops are without a win on the road since February 18, when they won 4-1 against Birmingham City, making it 11 away fixtures since QPR last tasted victory on the road.
Everyone will be delighted that the club have made Loftus Road a real fortress this season, but after four particularly hard away games in the league so far this season, Ollie and co will be hoping to end that run when they travel to Barnsley at the end of the month.
We’ve already discussed the extent of the defensive injury crisis, but sadly it doesn’t stop there.
In addition the Hoops were without the likes of Jordan Cousins, Josh Scowen and Conor Washington for the clash with Boro, which was a real blow.
Although Scowen and Washington are expected to be back in contention for the game with Burton Albion in W12 next week, it’s crucial that the squad are ready to deputise over the course of the season when these injuries materialise.
Although these were impact injuries to Scowen and Washington, it’s anticipated that the team will pick up more as the season progresses due to the hectic schedule, meaning that Ian Holloway may have to look at rotating his players to avoid over-exertion and further injuries.