independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Baggies insist in-form Long not for sale

QPR 1

WEST BROM 1

The FA Cup third round comes round each year accompanied by a search for meaning. Anyone looking for it at Loftus Road yesterday would have entered into an existential crisis.

If the game had meaning for anyone, it was for Kieron Dyer. His career has been sabotaged by ailments but in injury-time yesterday, he scored QPR's equaliser. For once, the individual achievement may be more significant than the importance for the team: it was Dyer's first goal since 2007.

Twelve minutes from the end, Shane Long's shot was deflected in to give West Brom a glimpse of victory they seemed unenthusiastic about achieving for much of the game.

Long had been linked with a move to Newcastle last week but West Brom's assistant head coach Kevin Keen insisted the Irish international remained part of the club's plans.

"He's not a player we want to lose. He's certainly a player we don't want to sell and he's not in our plans to sell," Keen said last night.

The press conferences were full of regret for the dwindling popularity of the Cup.

QPR's win at Chelsea last Wednesday caused more of a surprise than, say, Brighton beating Newcastle yesterday, which demonstrates the problem the FA Cup now has.

An attendance of just under 9,000 at yesterday's game – the lowest home crowd for QPR after their Capital One Cup game against Walsall in August – demonstrated the reality of the FA Cup for many supporters. Those who turned up will have regretted it. "You seem teams going half-hearted at the Cup for some reason, people want to see Premier League football and maybe the sales were more exciting for them," Redknapp said afterwards.

Redknapp wanted to use the competition to look at players on the periphery of the squad but he also hoped that winning in any competition would help his side.

"I didn't want to get beat, it's important we didn't get beat and it's important we stop getting beat. The draw today following the win at Chelsea was important."

Redknapp admitted he didn't see Dyer's goal coming but also acknowledged that he will have other problems apart from getting players in this month.

Ryan Nelsen has been tempted by a chance to work as a coach in MLS and Redknapp doesn't want to lose him. "He's one of the best pros I've ever met in my life," Redknapp said when he revealed that Nelsen may leave the club this month.

QPR need him for the fight against relegation and the Cup is secondary to that. Redknapp's side had started with a greater appetite but that soon disappeared.

The first half was tedious; the second a little better. Redknapp wanted to look at strikers and he established that neither DJ Campbell nor Jay Bothroyd can save QPR, even if he had kind words for them afterwards.

Nedum Onuoha was only called onto the bench following the late withdrawal of Shaun Wright-Phillips and then he was sent on when Nelsen felt a muscle strain. When George Thorne's shot was blocked and came to Long, his finish was deflected in off Onuoha.

QPR seemed resigned to defeat. "I couldn't really see a goal coming, we're a little bit short," Redknapp said, " but we kept working."

In injury-time, Dyer, completing only his second game this season, latched onto a long ball and finished with a class none of the QPR strikers could match. Redknapp could again preach the importance of not losing and get on with the real business of January: getting some players in. "We need to have a little go in the transfer window," Redknapp said and you know he really wants to have a little go.

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