QPR Go To Hull and Back
QUEENS Park Rangers recorded a creditable draw in what proved to be a drab encounter against Hull City at the KC Stadium.
A game that failed to capture the imagination, Hull sought to stifle as Rangers were not at their creative best, seemingly unable to break through a stern Tigers rearguard.
Despite starting positively, the enigmatic Adel Taarabt turned heads with a bizarre showing of petulance towards the end of the first period.
Following this incident Rangers never truly found their stride and City were able to come out of their shell in the second period.
A share of the spoils for both sides was possibly just given the lack of clear cut opportunities, but a positive point nevertheless as Rangers continue at the top.
Neil Warnock elected to make one change from the victory over Coventry City, the injured Heidar Helguson making way for full debutante Ishmael Miller.
Paddy Kenny started behind a back four of Bradley Orr, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly and Clint Hill - with Alejandro Faurlín and Shaun Derry sitting in the heart of midfield.
Wayne Routledge, Adel Taarabt and Tommy Smith started behind the lone striker Miller, with Danny Shittu and Pascal Chimbonda earning a place on the bench.
Hull started with Brad Guzan behind a back-line of Liam Roseinor, Anthony Gerrard, James Chester and Andy Dawson.
The midfield comprised of Robert Koren, James Chester, Corry Evans and Cameron Stewart with Matty Fryatt and Aaron McLean in attack - Jay Simpson started on the bench for the Tigers.
Kick Off: Hull City v Queens Park Rangers
This was the opportunity that Rangers had anticipated for a few weeks, the precious game in hand finally came to fruition after a customary early FA Cup exit. The bitter chill in the air was a shadow of the weather that coated the country prior to Christmas, causing this fixture to be rearranged.
The KC stadium was in a fairly placid mood as the two teams took to the field, Rangers' support were hardly plentiful by comparison, but were in good spirits nevertheless as QPR and Hull City lined-up for kick off.
The early running predominantly lied with the hosts with their fluid attacking quartet clicking in brief flurries and helped dispel the monotony that accompanies a Nigel Pearson side. A manager keen on organisation and solidity, Pearson's Tigers were flattering to deceive in the opening stages.
Despite mounting pressure in isolation, notably with Aaron McLean looking to bear down on goal on the break, Hull appeared a shadow of side that pulled up trees in the Premier League. That steely organisation has certainly bolstered them defensively however.
Pearson's men were ruthless in the back-line, not giving Ishmael Miller or Wayne Routledge a great deal of space to manoeuvre, while Adel Taarabt was finding the going considerably tougher than against Coventry City last weekend.
Tommy Smith was looking the more prominent of the Rangers attacking line as his fine touch and pass created some space for the aforementioned Taarabt. The Moroccan let the ball roll across his path before unleashing an effort over the left-hand upright.
The two sides continued to battle for supremacy with Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurlín being put under considerable pressure in midfield. The Hull threat came predominantly through the middle with McLean and Matty Fryatt looking to get the ball in behind a laboured back-line.
The R's were still looking positive and gaining a useful territorial advantages mid-way through the first period. Taarabt's corner was spilled by former Aston Villa 'keeper Brad Guzan and defender Kaspars Gorkss conspired to miss from close range, looping his effort over the bar.
A useful cross by Robert Koren created Hull City's first genuine opening of the encounter just short of ten minutes before the break. Manchester United loanee Cameron Stewart lashed a right-footed effort straight at grateful stopper Paddy Kenny, who had been relatively under-worked in the first period.
Then came a bizarre set of exchanges as Taarabt appeared to take exception to an errant pass and lost his temper at fellow Rangers players. Subsequently Routledge was hauled down on the edge of the area and Taarabt was keen to take the set-piece.
He wrestled the ball away from Shaun Derry - much to the amusement of the home crowd - and was given a talking to by referee Mr Hill. The Moroccan's free-kick was as errant as the pass he lambasted previously, and the taunts rained down from the stands.
Taarabt's temper was seemingly stretched to breaking point as he called for boss Neil Warnock to take him off. Warnock had Petter Vaagan Moen waiting ready on the touch-line but was evidnetly keen to get into half-time with the full compliment of starters intact.
As it transpired Hull camped out in the Rangers half in the closing stages and the Moroccan was able to cool off at the other end of the park. The referee blew the half time whistle and he was ushered from the field by Keith Curle in preparation for a make or break half time conversation.
Half Time: Hull City 0-0 Queens Park Rangers
As it transpired Taarabt was able to lead his side out for the second period, while Hull would look to continue the second half as they ended the first - stifling Rangers' creative flow and building attacks of their own.
Despite being under the majority of pressure, Rangers did manage to engineer an attack from the skilful feet of Smith. His work down the left flank saw a cross flash across the target and Bradley Orr could merely glance his chance wide of the right-hand upright.
Chances were proving few and far between with the game being littered by individual errors and further hampered by the officious nature of the match official Mr Hill. In stark contrast to Mr Haywood against Coventry, the simplest set-pieces would eat away at the clock and ultimately stifle the flow.
Former Reading and Sheffield United midfielder James Harper was doing his midfield work with quiet diligence alongside Corry Evans, and he let fly from distance only to see the ball fly high of the left hand upright.
The fixture as a spectacle seemed to be suffering, the slow languid nature of the play certainly wasn't giving value for money, but nevertheless both sides pressed for the goal that would inevitably win the game.
Routledge and Smith were struggling to make an impact and credit must be due to the Hull defensive unit for crowding them out before trying to launch their own counter-attacking presence - that aforementioned organisation once again coming to the fore.
A worrying moment came for Rangers as just short of 20 minutes before the end, Faurlín had to leave the field of play with an injury. Vaagan Moen finally got his appearance, coming from the bench to replace the Argentinean.
Out of the blue Rangers nearly had the advantage and once again it fell to full-back Bradley Orr. Taarabt's free-kick from the left was deep to the far post as Orr ghosted through before planting a powerful effort over the bar.
Harper finally received a booking that perhaps a previous tackle on Clint Hill merited as he scythed down Gorkss in an attempt to set McLean free. Hull meanwhile introduced Nick Barmby and Jamie Devitt in a bid to bolster their attacking options.
It nearly paid dividends as the former Tottenham Hotspur man glanced a header on target from the cross of Andy Dawson. Rangers responded by sending on Rob Hulse, but it never truly created the necessary opportunities they craved.
Hulse appeared off the pace of his fellow players and a succession of testing crosses by Taarabt were barely cast an eye over by the out of form striker, who continues to disappoint in his brief spell at Loftus Road.
Kenny was then forced to pull off a smart save from Devitt before Hogan Ephraim replaced the hard-working Miller. The striker at times found the going tough, but nevertheless proved an effective target-man at times.
Three minutes of stoppage time were put on the clock, and just as they were announced the best chance of the game to date almost came to fruition. Fryatt powered through one-on-one with Kenny, but good pressure from Hill saw him scoop his effort high into the stand behind the goal.
There was last-minute heartbreak the last time QPR visited the KC Stadium, but on this occasion Hull would be denied that late glory. Rangers' second half display was not as effective as a positive first period but nevertheless they earned what could prove to be a useful point against a resilient Hull side.
Final Whistle: Hull City 0-0 Queens Park Rangers
Brad Guzan, Liam Roseinor, Anthony Gerrard, James Chester, Andy Dawson, Robert Koren, Corry Evans, James Harper, Cameron Stewart (Jamie Devitt 73), Matty Fryatt, Aaron McLean (Nick Barmby 65).
Paddy Kenny, Bradley Orr, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly, Clint Hill, Alejandro Faurlín (Petter Vaagan Moen 68), Shaun Derry, Wayne Routledge, Adel Taarabt, Tommy Smith (Rob Hulse 73), Ishmael Miller (Hogan Ephraim 85).
Rangers' man of the day was probably Tommy Smith, the winger showed great application and endeavour and his final ball was of decent quality to accompany.
A pity that his afternoon was prematurely cut short and he could prove to a be a big loss in the upcoming heavy schedule.