In reflection of our clash with Luton, Liam Gleeson gives his take on a slightly more encouraging result…
After another dismal performance and result against Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend, QPR turned their attention to the trip to Kenilworth Road against relegation threatened Luton Town. Historically, this game is feisty, fast paced and filled with passion and desire, something that the visitors had evidently lacked in abundance since the restart of the campaign.
Rangers had reverted back to the 4-2-3-1 formation (which had seen so much success earlier in the season) after consecutive poor performances with a wing back system. Geoff Cameron was back in his suited defensive midfield position alongside Dom Ball. Ilias Chair was operating in a number 9 position with Luke Amos just behind and BOS & Eze on the wings.
Only ten minutes into the game, Angel Rangel went down injured after stretching awkwardly to make a pass out wide to Ozman Kakay, play continued but the 37 year-old didn’t as he was stretchered off, possibly bringing his 16 year professional playing career to an abrupt end. Just 8 minutes later, a penalty was awarded to the Hatters after Ryan Manning was adjudged to have brought down James Bree. Rangers have now conceded 10 penalties in the Championship, the joint highest in the league. Top goalscorer James Collins sent Joe Lumley the wrong way and converted from 12 yards to add to his healthy tally of 13 league goals. QPR ‘found themselves behind’ once again.
Going into the first drinks break of the game, the visitors, unsurprisingly, were performing well below par leaving fans up and down the country watching on from home, dissatisfied and very much monotonous, once again! Minutes later, Luton almost doubled their lead as Collins found Elliot Lee at the far post whose poked effort whistled past the Rangers goal, signifying the sheer weakness of our defence when we go a goal behind, all over the place.
On the half hour, Rangers had their first few touches (at last) in Luton’s box as Bright had a scuffed shot blocked by the Luton defence. As the game went on, QPR grew into it, starting to keep possession and calving out good positions but not being able to create clear-cut chances. QPR’s temporary striker, Ilias Chair tested his luck from distance but the Croatian International comfortably saved from Rangers first shot on goal 37 minutes into the game, nothing to be happy about.
Half time came at a good time for the Rs as it gave Mark Warburton and his team to regroup and evaluate the first half performance which was mediocre and nothing like what we have shown earlier in the season. Change in performance and attitude was demanded and needed.
2 minutes into the second half, Luton seemed to have doubled their lead, but a push on Rs ‘keeper was deemed illegal and the goal was disallowed, thankfully.
Immediately after this, you could tell that the gaffer had fired the players up as they were showing a lot more passion and desire. Instantly, Yoann Barbet picked out Chair in the channel and the latter fizzed in a wonderful cross, to a Rangersless box, a small improvement. Quickly after this, Manning whipped in a delicious cross to Yoann Barbet, whose powerful, unmarked header was excellently saved by Sluga. At this point, we were looking dangerous going forward, especially from the wings with BOS, Manning and Kakay whipping in great crosses but unable to be finished off.
Just after the hour, Luton’s defence prevailed. Rs number 10 picked the ball inside his own half after brushing past Bree and drove forward then threading a neat ball into the path of Bright Osayi-Samuel who burst past Carter-Vickers with electrifying pace and tremendous close control to the byline where he cut the ball back to Dom Ball who slotted in his first goal for the club and the Rs much deserve equaliser. This was Bright’s 8th assist of the season and this one in particular showed us what he’s so good at. Darting at the defender with his power and pace finding a teammate or going for goal. He now has 14 goal involvements in all competitions this season, a superb return from the 23 year-old winger.
The equaliser sparked the Rs on pushing for a winner which arguably woke Luton up from the realisation that this game is vital in their fight for survival. With former Rs man Kazenga LuaLua brought on for Luton, the pace on a counter was going to be a problem for Rangers to deal with. At the other end, Simon Sluga continued his erratic and eccentric play style which almost led to Rangers taking the lead after a cross from Ozman Kakay was fumbled by the Croatian and almost sneaked in. Along with his bizarre distribution, the former Rijeka goalkeeper has been at fault for many of Luton’s 80 goals conceded this season.
Sluga’s opposite counterpart, Joe Lumley, has made fine performances since his return to the starting lineup and was called upon to deal with a shot from Dan Potts which was expertly saved keeping the score level. QPR had their chances too as Chair had a curving left footed effort well saved by Sluga.
At the end of the day, the result isn’t what we wanted by any stretch of the imagination but the performance was much better, especially in the second half, we controlled possession and used it to our advantage. There was much more desire and passion from the squad which was lacking in our previous encounters.