QPR’s dismal record in the FA Cup continued on Saturday when they yet again made an immediate exit from the competition against lower-division opposition.
The 1-0 defeat at home to League One side MK Dons came despite Ian Holloway picking virtually his strongest team.
And the Rangers manager was keen to stress that this time the cup loss could not put down to fielding a weakened line-up – and that not all the club’s cup woes over the last couple of decades have involved him.
“It ain’t me, is it? It ain’t always me, is it? The last time we won and got through this round I crossed two onto Les Ferdinand’s head.
“You could tell by the team I picked I wanted to win it. This time people can’t point the finger at me and say ‘He changed too many of the team’.”
Holloway gave plenty of possible factors that were to blame. Six in all.
First, there was the absence of Massimo Luongo, who was rested, partly because of his excursions this season while on international duty with Australia.
Youngster Ilias Chair for Luongo was Holloway’s only change to the starting line-up from the league win over Cardiff.
But he argued that Luongo’s huge importance to the team had been underlined.
“I wanted to give Mass a rest. He’s been fantastic and has been around the world God knows how many times.
“I picked an almost identical team and wanted an almost identical performance. Did I get it? No.
“Maybe Mass is really important to us, if you didn’t know it already. I knew it because he’s been absolutely outstanding this season.
“That midfield didn’t really work anything as good as it has.”
The most obvious reason for QPR’s defeat was of course the farcical error which led to MK Dons’ second-half winner.
Rangers midfielder Josh Scowen chased a misplaced pass from team-mate Grant Hall and, by nudging the ball away from the right-hand touchline in order to keep it in play, he inadvertently sent Ousseynou Cisse through on goal to score.
“When the ball goes out to someone like that it’s got to go back in, it really has. We had so many bodies back up there.
“To play it square and then to keep it in when it’s going out, I can’t believe it.
“Do I want to have a go at those players individually? No. I had a go at them as a team.
“Unfortunately that’s cost us. It should have been 0-0, we’d still be in the cup and this would be a result.
“But we passed their forward clean through and he scored. Am I happy? No.”
A lack of intensity
Based on the Cardiff win and what he subsequently saw in training, Holloway had confidence in what he regarded as almost his strongest side. But things did not go according to plan.
“Was that the same effort? Was it the same choices? It didn’t look it. In training everything was buzzing.
“Did you hear me shouting about pressing and closing, pressing and closing in the first half? It shouldn’t be me, it should be them.
“You need an intensity about your play and I didn’t think we had that enough.”
A possible lack of belief
Holloway also suggested that some of his players – Paul Smyth, who scored the winner against Cardiff on his debut, being an example – lacked belief.
“The FA Cup is about believing. Was there enough belief out there in that team to actually do that? Is there enough belief? Has little Smyth got enough belief yet to go and do it twice in a row? But I tell you what, he did brilliantly.”
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Irate at a number of refereeing decisions this season, including Cardiff being awarded a controversial penalty, Holloway was again unhappy.
Rangers certainly had a strong case for a first-half penalty when Smyth was barged over by Cisse.
“I’m getting fed up now. I had to listen to Neil Warnock moan about refereeing decisions against him. Well how many have we had? Their (Cardiff’s) penalty they got against us was garbage – it was never a penalty.
“Matt Smith’s been thrown around there and little Smyth’s got battered.
“I just expect them (officials) to make the right decisions. But I’m sure they’ll look at that and they’ll tell me I’m probably wrong because I’m over-biased and we’re out of the cup again.
“But it’s my team’s fault. We should have managed that part of the game better when it went to Hally.”
Closing the Ellerslie Road stand
As has been club policy when a low attendance is expected, the Ellerslie Road stand was unoccupied for the game.
Interestingly, Holloway not only argued this was a factor in QPR’s turgid performance, he suggested the club could have done more to boost the turnout.
“That didn’t look good when we couldn’t open that side. It don’t help. I don’t think having an empty stand over there helps this atmosphere.
“That ain’t our fans’ fault is it? I don’t blame them, I really don’t, because we haven’t won a cup game in God knows how long.
“There’s all sorts of things you can try and do. You might add this game into your season ticket, so how many more people would we have had?
“There’s loads of things. but I can’t step on other people’s toes. I’ve got to try to do my job and I didn’t do it well enough – we’ve just lost to MK Dons.”