Before yesterday, QPR had not scored more than two goals in a home match this season, yet in taking apart a decent Norwich side at Loftus Road yesterday afternoon and scoring four goals in the process, it was really a wonder why they had not done so before. This was a performance buzzing with movement, skill and creativity and they were richly rewarded for their efforts.
Rangers boss Ian Holloway recalled Massimo Luongo, Matt Smith, Eberechi Eze and Ryan Manning to his starting eleven following Good Friday’s defeat at Reading and, in a strange sense of irony, they all scored a goal. This begs the question as to whether Holloway has the magic touch or did he just get his selection hopelessly wrong for the Reading match ?
Team selections often cause surprise after an international break and that was very much the case for Rangers last Friday. Late returners, allied to injury, prevented Holloway from picking arguably his best team for Reading but against Norwich he had no such issues and was able to select from a position of strength. He continued his investment in youth and it paid handsome dividends once more.
At full back, Darnell Furlong is looking more and more accomplished every time he plays and this extended run in the side is helping his confidence levels; Ryan Manning’s return to more of a right sided attacking role is proving to be a Holloway masterstroke and he has now scored twice, including the final goal yesterday, with perfectly directed headers from left footed crosses from Jake Bidwell; Paul Smyth, whilst only coming on from the bench yesterday, is a little pocket dynamo with bags of energy, skill and pace and as for Eberechi Eze, he just oozes class and quality. Some of his turns and spins were arguably worth the entrance money alone, such is his raw natural talent. His cool and calm finish for Rangers’ third goal epitomised his all round performance.
Eze’s influence is clearly proving to have a positive affect on his team mates as, by the end of the match, the unlikely figures of both Smith and skipper, Nedum Onuoha were both spinning out of tackles with deft turns and shimmies. It is amazing what can be achieved when a team is winning comfortably and confidence levels are high.
Indeed, it was hard to criticise any of the Rangers players yesterday as they all looked comfortable on the ball and tried to play a lot more football than some performances earlier this year when they have appeared a little too reliant upon the long ball to their giant talismanic centre forward, Matt Smith. Having said that, Smith is always a handful and with two assists plus a poacher’s goal yesterday, when he cleverly leapt above the Norwich keeper Angus Gunn to nod in from close range, he yet again underlined his value to his team.
The Rangers midfield three of Josh Scowen, Luke Freeman and Massimo Luongo appear to be back firing on all cylinders again, all looking fresh and hungry for action, none more so than Luongo, who is now beginning to add goals to his game and making him much of a complete all round footballer which befits his undoubted talent. This was no better illustrated than his opening goal for Rangers yesterday when, using this strength, he surged through three Norwich defenders and cleverly shot low across goal into the far corner.
This was a real turning point as Norwich had taken the lead only moments earlier following a slick counter attack at break neck pace which resulted in Rangers’ Manning turning the ball into his own net. Indeed, Norwich had arguably started the game more brightly and their possession football plus attacking probing was very easy on the eye, which made for some very entertaining football.
However, after Norwich had scored, Rangers got the proverbial ‘bit between their teeth’. From then on, and following Luongo’s immediate equaliser, Rangers took control and looked the likely winners. and so it proved.
Both Rangers and Norwich are comfortably mid table and they will both be looking to finish the season on a high, to give them confidence to go on and mount a promotion challenge next season. They will both be looking to keep their best players in order for them to do so and that might prove key.
For Rangers, the emergence of youth is proving to be a real positive and if Holloway and his coaching team can continue to harness it then the future looks bright. At the moment, they are creating good feelings with lots of positive energy and if this can continue, maybe four goal sprees will become more commonplace. For now, Rangers will be enjoying the moment and enjoying the goals.