Sports

Reds once again left to rue series of missed chances

QPR 2, Barnsley 1

(SkyBet Championship)

No matter how many chances a team creates, if the vast majority of them are not taken then it is always going to be a struggle to pick up points.

And that is precisely Barnsley’s problem right now. It was the same old story at Loftus Road on Tuesday night. The Reds carved out sufficient opportunities to have recorded a comfortable victory, but instead suffered their third defeat in the last four matches.

They have forwards who are quick, eager, and hard-working – but they do not appear to have anyone with the aptitude to score goals on a regular basis. Someone like the departed Sam Winnall for example. Maybe he did not ‘put himself about’ as much as his team-mates, but he could be relied upon to put the ball in the back of the net more often than not.

This is not to be taken as criticism of the current crop of strikers at the club, who are doing their best. It is simply a statement of fact. Neither is it a criticism of the Oakwell Club’s transfer of their top scorer to Sheffield Wednesday. It is impossible to hold on to a player when that player is offered four times as much money by another club with far greater financial resources.

But it does highlight the main problem that head coach Paul Heckingbottom has in trying to maintain the surprisingly high standards that the Reds have set for themselves this season.

While he bemoans the fact that his side are giving away too many goals that could have been prevented, it hardly helps that they are so profligate in attack. Concede just one goal and currently that is usually enough to deny Barnsley victory, for only once in the last nine fixtures have they managed to score more than that.

It is a concern. But not as much as it might have been had the newly-promoted Reds not performed so much better than anyone had a right to expect  in the period leading up to the January transfer window.

With 50 points in the bag they should now be safe from any relegation threat and Heckingbottom therefore has the time to find a solution to the problem. He has so far, in his short managerial career, proved adept at doing just that.

QPR, on the other hand, are on an upward path following the return of Ian Holloway as their manager in November. Then they were 17th and seemingly facing a fight to avoid the drop. This victory – their fourth in the last five matches – keeps them moving towards the safety of mid-table.

Yet it was Barnsley who created far more and better chances than the home team, whose two goals from their only attempts on target had more than a hint of good fortune about them.

Said a frustrated Heckingbottom: “In possession we were okay and we created lots of chances, but we didn’t take them, and that’s always going to be a problem. It has to be clinical at one end and ruthless and really tight at the other. They {QPR} had only two shots on target and they’ve scored both. We didn’t take our chances, QPR did. That’s the story of this game.”

The home team took the lead after only seven minutes when a cross from the right seemed to be going nowhere until the ball flicked the heel of QPR’s top scorer Idrissa Sylla and deflected into the far corner of the net.

On the face of it, it was just bad luck for the Reds, but Heckingbottom reflected; “It was too easy. The throw-in has come too easy. The cross has come too easy. Alright, we’ve defended our box well and it’s come off the lad’s standing foot, but we could have stopped it before the ball got into the box.”

Heckingbottom was similarly critical of his team’s defending for an Angus MacDonald own-goal which gave the home team a 2-0 lead just after half-time. “I didn’t even know it was an own-goal,” he said. “ But again it’s dealing with things at source. We were too relaxed out of possession all night and that made us easy to play against.”

In between times the Reds created a series of chances of their own but failed to take any of them.

Josh Scowen, Alex Mowatt and Adam Armstrong saw shots clear the crossbar and Marley Wakins went close three times, being foiled on one occasion by a goalline clearance by Jake Bidwell.

However, it was not all one-way traffic by any means. Goalkeeper Adam Davies was forced into a good save by Yeni Ngbakoto and a header from James Perch struck the bar.

Misfortune dealt another severe blow to the Reds on the resumption when MacDonald, seeking to clear at the near post, instead deflected the cross into his own net.

Still the visitors continued to create chances. Scowen brought a splendid save from QPR goalkeeper Smithies and substitute Adam Hammill went close with a couple of free-kicks. Reward eventually came when MacDonald set Tom Bradshaw (pictured) free and the substitute rounded the stranded Smithies to put his side back in the game.

However, not even five minutes stoppage time was enough for the Reds to find an equaliser. The nearest they came was when Bradshaw unleashed a speculative volley from some way out, but it lacked both power and direction to trouble the goalkeeper, and the Oakwell team were duly made to pay for their profligacy.

QPR: Smithies; Hall, Onuhoa, Manning, Perch (Furlong, 48 mins), Luongo, Freeman, Bidwell, Wszolek (Washington, 70 mins), Ngabakoto (Morrison, 87 mins), Sylla.

Barnsley: Davies; Yiadom, Roberts, MacDonald, Elder, Scowen, James, Mowatt (Bradshaw, 45 mins), Kent (Hammill, 73 mins), Watkins (Hedges, 73 mins), Armstrong.

Bookings: Manning, Perch, Bidwell (QPR); Hammill (Barnsley).

Referee: Tony Harrington.

Attendance: 11,635 (526 Reds).

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