Hughes keeps faith as QPR's wait for first win drags on
QPR 1 Everton 1
Flick through Queens Park Rangers' match-day programme and you will find, amongst the usual anodyne interviews and archival features, one glaring omission. Namely, the Premier League table.
Hardly surprising, for after missing another opportunity to record their first win of the season against 10-man Everton, they remain bottom of it, shackled yet again by a familiar vulnerability to set-pieces. In their own penalty area, as in the division, their positioning leaves much to be desired.
Mark Hughes remained sanguine. He will be the last man at Loftus Road to start panicking, but the good news is that for now the players appear to be in his corner. The passing was calm and measured, the body language encouraging. This was not the performance of a team propping up the table, but then QPR are by no means the worst team in the league. All that remains is to prove it.
"It's not falling for us at the moment, but we've gone up against most of the top 10 and competed," Hughes said. "There will be a period when results go for us. We showed today that our football is good, but we haven't been able to take that final step. It's frustrating." Once again, they were struck by the curse of the promising half-hour.
Against West Ham United, it came early in the second half. Here, as against Tottenham Hotspur last month, it came at the start. A sparkling opening, illuminated by Junior Hoilett's deflected strike, gave way to a soft equaliser as Steven Pienaar's free-kick was headed towards goal by an unmarked Sylvain Distin. The ball evaded the diving Julio Cesar, kissed the post, ricocheted back off Cesar's leg and into the net.
Even Pienaar's dismissal after an hour failed to tilt the game in QPR's favour, and Everton ultimately held on with a degree of comfort.
David Moyes' side might even have pinched the points on the counter-attack, or if referee Jonathan Moss had spotted Stephane Mbia's foul on Nikica Jelavic in the penalty area. But after the same man had harshly dispatched Pienaar for a second bookable offence, Everton would have taken a point.
"Rubbish," Moyes said of the red-card decision. "He (Moss) had a poor game all day."
"The sending-off actually helped them," Hughes said. "They were able to get two banks of four in and get people behind the ball to block our efforts to open them up."
Unless his own side can match Everton's defensive resolve, the Premier League table will continue to make for painful reading. (© Daily Telegraph, London)