By Morgan Phillips
Before the match at Loftus Road last Friday, Whites’ boss Slavisa Jokanovic warned his players to maintain their discipline and avoid the unpleasantness of the equivalent fixture last season.
Perhaps the Rangers had been similar primed because the first half was almost tepid. The most controversial moment came when Sheyi Ojo had a clear run on goal and a defender rushing in pursuit attempted to wrest the ball away. Ojo dropped to the ground, but to his surprise referee Peter Bankes ignored the incident completely, and Rangers cleared.
The Sky commentator considered Rangers lucky to avoid a red card because though Ojo was some distance from goal, only the keeper Alan Smithies stood in his path. It is a confusing state of affairs. Pundits – particularly ex-players like Tony Cascarino – are quick to condemn simulation but to praise attackers who ‘feel contact and go down’ in search of an advantage. Mr Bankes was having none of it. Perhaps he reasoned that this local derby would have been spoilt by an early dismissal?
If the decision had been referred to video technology, the red card might have been unavoidable. Perhaps in time the authorities will introduce a sin bin. The player's absence for 10 or 15 minutes would have penalised QPR without ruining the game
Personally, I would have preferred Ojo to keep going and to open his account. He missed other chances as did Johansen, Fonte and Kalas. Rangers were similarly wasteful. In a first half largely free from shots on target the only goal came from the enterprising full back Ryan Fredericks though a Ranger’s deflection robbed him of the full credit.
Ojo squandered another opportunity after the interval but then suffered a nasty fall and dislocated his shoulder. Neeskens Kebano took his place.
With half an hour remaining QPR sent on Matt Smith. Jokanovic, who is well aware of the striker's strengths and weaknesses, delegated Mollo to prevent him scoring against his old club.
When Kebano won the visitors a penalty the kick it was entrusted to Rui Fonte, rather than Johansen or Norwood. The Portuguese must have been watching Fulham videos from last season as his lazy attempt went nowhere near the goal. He soon redeemed himself with a neat pass to Johansen, who scored from the edge of the penalty area.
The TV cameras caught Jokanovic doing an odd mime, presumably ordering his men to hold onto the ball. David Button took him too literally and received a yellow card for time-wasting. For his part Mr Bankes decided that nine extra minutes needed to be played, mainly because of the injury to Ojo.
The decision spurred Rangers – and disconcerted the Fulham fans. Sure enough Matt Smith helped Conor Washington to score. Our ex-striker could then have equalised but headed wide. In the dying moments another QPR effort was scrambled the ball off the line by Kalas and Sessegnon.
Smithies came up for the last corner and was left unmarked. Fortunately was off target. But it was an exciting conclusion and the result leaves Fulham comfortably in mid-table and as they await the return of Tom Cairney after the international break.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
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