QPR still winless but offer hope for Hughes

QPR 1 Everton 1

QPR still winless but offer hope for Hughes

By taking a point off Everton and coming quite close to all three, Mark Hughes has avoided the situation that seemed so perfectly set up for Harry Redknapp.

When the former Tottenham boss took over at White Hart Lane, it was after the North London side had drawn two of their first eight games of the 2007-08 season. A defeat here would not just have seen QPR repeat that record but might well have been the final trigger for Hughes to lose his job and Redknapp to again step in.

QPR didn’t just avoid that; they also put in a high-energy performance that promises much better for the rest of the campaign. Going at Everton from the off, and even taking the lead within two minutes after a deflected strike from the excellent Junior Hoilett, they might well have won the game with a late bombardment.

To be fair to Hughes, though, performances haven’t really been the issue for QPR. Other than the opening game and a 2-1 home defeat to West Ham United, they’ve competed well in the rest of their eight matches.

The one big problem, however, has been the kind of errors and gaps born from a general lack of cohesion in a quickly rebuilt squad. Here, Hughes was left to lament that again as Sylvain Distin was left unmarked to fortuitously head in the equaliser via Julio Cesar. It was marked down as an own goal.

“We’re pleased with the level of performance,” Hughes said, “although we’ve let ourselves down at a set-play. You shouldn’t allow a powerful centre-half a free header from six yards so we’ll look at that. But, again, that little detail has cost us. In the end, we’ve gone up against one of the better sides in the Premier League and given them a match.”

In truth, though, this wasn’t quite Everton at their best as they lacked the presence of Marouane Fellaini in the middle. That made for an unusually open game with the ball pinging from end to end quite quickly.

As well as a lot of surging counter-attacks, however, the game also had a fair amount of controversy.

The build-up was dominated by the decision of a number of players, including Anton Ferdinand, to refuse to wear Kick It Out t-shirts and the match itself saw a lot of anger about the calls of referee Jon Moss.

Both sides had penalty appeals turned away before Steven Pieenar was harshly sent off for a second yellow card.

Moyes described it as an “incredible” decision while Hughes simply said the referee didn’t have “one of his better performances”.

That altered the pattern of the last half-hour as Everton re-organised and sat tighter. With Hoilett leading the charge, QPR bombarded their box. Thanks largely to the saves of Tim Howard, though, Everton held firm. One stop from a magnificent Hoilett curling effort was particularly memorable.

If not quite on top form, the point keeps Everton in fourth while the resolve shown readies them well for next week’s Merseyside derby.

QPR: Cesar; Bosingwa, Mbia, Nelsen (Ferdinand 83), Traore (Onuoha 72); Diakite, Park, Granero; Hoilett, Taarabt, Zamora (Cisse 70).

EVERTON: Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Neville, Osman, Pienaar, Mirallas; Jelavic (Heitinga 83), Anichebe (Naismith 53)

Referee: Jon Moss.

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