There’s reason to be cheerful at Loftus Road.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year as the Christmas song goes and for the first time, in what feels like an incredibly long time, there’s a feeling a feeling of excitement amongst QPR fans. The new reign of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is barely three games old and yet, there is a sense the club might finally have a picked a good’un.
Hasselbaink has been saying all the right things so far, even if they do sound like something lifted from a fictional Football Manager press conference: ‘They are a club steeped in history and one I have always taken a keen interest in and privately harboured dreams of managing”, he also comes across as a man that means business.
Before I too get carried away, after three games JFH has yet to win in charge of QPR. However, he is also yet to lose. The R’s never seem to experience ‘new manager bounce’. In fact, a new manager is more likely to lose when they take over the reins at Loftus Road. Hasselbaink’s first two games, both at home, were against promotion contenders Burnley and Brighton.
Burnley were predictably well organised and hard to break down, but lacking a cutting edge. If Charlie Austin had been fit enough to last 90 minutes, he would have surely put away one of the chances that fell to QPR in the first half. Unfortunately, he wasn’t and the R’s faded in the second half but still secured a solid point.
However, the game against Brighton really did start to show something that I’ve not seen at QPR in a very long time. Fight, desire, belief and even some decent football. In recent years, if the R’s went 2-0 down to any club, you’d write it off as a loss. But, to team that hadn’t lost in 20 games; it was seemingly done and dusted. But something stirred… If this stirring is the Hasselbaink effect then I’m all for it.
Junior Hoilett, a man who was last seen at Ewood Park has awoken from a slumber and was actually terrorising the opposition rather than his own fans, showing drive, pace and dynamism. I don’t know what Neil Warnock and Jimmy have said to him but he was fantastic and has been in the past few weeks.
After slaying the ghost of Joey Barton’s set pieces, QPR are now a threat from corners too. To the impartial observer this might seem trivial, but Ale Faurlin once again assisted Charlie Austin from a corner to make it 2-2. The famous Loftus Road atmosphere, which for me has been dying on its backside for a few years, was once again electric.
So much happened in this game – Lewis Dunk’s dreadful challenge sending Faurlin into orbit, Faurlin’s emotionally charged and entirely understandable reaction, Charlie Austin scoring two vital goals and showing everyone in this division that he is too good for it, Matt Phillips grazing the post in the 93rd minute of play, to almost turn a fantastic comeback in to an improbable three points. Even writing about it, makes me appreciate why football can be such an unrivalled sporting spectacle.
Jimmy and the players continued their fine work with a trip away to Bristol City. Hoilett was in the action once again, scoring away for the first time in two-and-a-half-years, which seems a lifetime for a footballer, especially one that is considered an attacker. Despite succumbing to a second half City equaliser, courtesy of Aaron Wilbraham, QPR racked up another point and are now 11th, five points behind the final play-off spot. It also means that QPR are now unbeaten in five games.
As Christmas approaches and thoughts turn to the New Year, Jimmy and co must surely be thinking that the play-offs aren’t an impossible resolution.