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  • Julian Taylor at Loftus Road

Critchley on the brink as Sunderland ease to victory over embattled QPR


Queens Park Rangers 0 Sunderland 3


Julian Taylor at Loftus Road


How much more of this can all concerned with Queens Park Rangers’ wellbeing accept?


A sixth home loss in eight games, amid a cluster of unedifying statistics, does not bode well for the club’s head coach Neil Critchley, a man now dismally - and desperately - on the margins.


Life for a certain generation of QPR supporter has traditionally surfed on both the waves of the unpredictable and dramatic. But the current run of form rivals some of the worst states since the millennium. An Ilias Chair penalty miss. a skittish defence, a lack of midfield orchestration, a shot-shy mentality up front and goals by Sunderland’s Luke O’Nien, plus a double by Jack Clarke all contributed to another taxing, if not unexpected, evening in Shepherds Bush.


Another one of those dire statistics: it is utterly incredulous that, since the departure of former boss Michael Beale to Rangers, the club has endured a dismal run of only one win in 16 outings – on 22 October against Wigan Athletic – and this, after being briefly top of the Championship, too.


Even by the standards of a division where confidence and crisis often appear oddly close together for many of its clubs, the fare on offer in W12 has bordered on high farce. Defeat at home to Millwall preceded the visit of Sunderland, and Critchley badly needed some kind of boost. In a cut-throat division he is, though, a man on borrowed time.


Struggle


QPR’s struggle to score goals was evident again throughout. For all their efforts, they rarely got behind the Black Cats’ rear guard.


It took, however, until the 25th minute for the only decent chance to emerge. For Sunderland, naturally. O’Nien fired a 20 yard shot which R’s keeper Seny Dieng did well to palm away, before denying Abdullah Ba.


Sunderland discovered a degree of verve and, in the 34th minute, they, unsurprisingly went ahead to fuel QPR woes, courtesy of O’Nein’s enthusiasm. With the hosts slow to pick up markers and positions, the midfielder nipped in to scramble the ball over the line when Dieng failed to hold Daniel Ballard’s powerful header from a corner by Alex Pritchard. Sunderland’s breakthrough was merited, while the R’s laboured; suffering from a passive midfield, sorely lacking in aggression.


The boos from the home fans in the 14,471 crowd to greet the half time whistle were only too audible for Critchley, as he hurried in to the dressing room to try and address yet another ominous situation. There was, of course, an encore at the end of the evening from those who could still summon up the effort.


Slumped


QPR, now slumped in 16th place, have been so bereft of direction and confidence and, with the concession of the goal, it made their task even more difficult under a manager quickly losing the trust of fans – if it hasn’t already evaporated. That it took until the 53rd minute of yet another contest ebbing away, when Chair fired a decent shot which was well held by Sunderland keeper Anthony Patterson, helped to explain the R’s lack of drive. This was officially alarming stuff.


The minutes thereafter saw a degree of improvement – negligible as it was – with Sunderland, like so many of QPR’s Championship opponents across the last three months, content to sit on their advantage and focus on a counter attack. Yet even this is to damn the west Londoners with faint praise in front of their long-suffering supporters. The Black Cats simply had more bite, particularly in midfield, where it mattered.


However, a stroke of luck in the shape of a penalty award for QPR appeared in the 65th minute. Was this to prove a turning point?


Sadly, the opportunity passed by, when Patterson turned away Chair’s blast from the spot. How indicative of when things are simply not going for a team, the onlooking Critchley failing to enjoy what should have been not just an equaliser but a moment of respite and, perhaps, renewed faith.

Joe Gelhardt clipped the crossbar as Sunderland surged again to grab what would have been a killer second. They eventually got it with ten minutes to go. QPR, increasingly jaded, allowed Clarke to forage past Rob Dickie on the left side to fire home from an angle. As an extra sweetener for Tony Mowbray's side, Clarke - again - casually sweeping the ball into the roof of the QPR net in the last minute signalled the exits for the home fans. There was little defiance left.

From the Championship summit, to this? It cannot go on.


R's: Dieng, Paal, Dickie, Dunne, Laird, Dozzell (Johansen 80), Field, Iroegbunam (Armstrong 75), Chair, Lowe, Martin
















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