• By Ben Kosky

Holloway is desperately short of wingers and goals after 5-2 drubbing by Forest


Shipping five goals against a side who had mustered the same total in their previous 12 league games is always likely to prompt an inquest of some kind.

And much of the discussion among disgruntled QPR fans, in the wake of Saturday’s 5-2 humbling by Nottingham Forest, relates to the 3-5-2 formation favoured by manager Ian Holloway.

Those who recall Holloway’s first spell in charge at Loftus Road may be casting their minds back to the manager’s attempts to fit square pegs into round holes 15 years ago.

Back then, Holloway was rigidly wedded to 4-4-2, but the absence of genuine wingers in his squad meant strikers and central midfielders were regularly shoehorned into wide positions.

Eventually players such as Kevin McLeod, Gareth Ainsworth and Lee Cook were signed and brought the team a balance that enabled them to regain second-tier status.

This time, there are calls for the Rangers boss to switch to 4-4-2, perhaps a 4-3-3 or other variations that might better suit the players at his disposal.

Now, as then, Holloway is desperately short of orthodox wingers. With David Wheeler injured, only Pawel Wsolek fits that classification.

Wsolek would function best on the right-hand side of a 4-4-2, but the absence of a counterpart on the left means he has been pressed into service as a wing-back.

The Poland international’s defensive shortcomings make that a risky strategy. Equally, Jake Bidwell looks more comfortable as a left-back – but it’s hard to see him slotting into a winger’s role.

Holloway is determined to maintain his central midfield trio of Josh Scowen, Massimo Luongo and Luke Freeman, who have formed an effective unit for most of the season.

True, they were well and truly outshone by experienced midfielders such as Ben Watson and Jack Colback as Forest ran riot on Saturday.

But Holloway’s decision to split up his midfield triumvirate and deploy Freeman on the left wing later in the game was far from successful. And it hasn’t worked when the manager has tried it before.

At least Holloway has shunned any thought of following the ridiculous modern trend so beloved of Premier League managers, fielding just one striker.

Few forwards can prosper in that lone role – and Matt Smith doesn’t look like one of them. There are encouraging signs, however, that the lively Paul Smyth can play off his near namesake.

So, with two strikers and three central midfielders on the teamsheet – and a dearth of wingers available to him – Holloway’s options, in terms of formation, are severely restricted.

Tempting though it might be to rip up the blueprint after such a heavy home defeat, Rangers have little alternative but to keep their square pegs in place for now.

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