Match report: Southampton step up the pressure on Mark Hughes’s band of no-hoopers

Queens Park Rangers 1 Southampton 3

Loftus Road

If there was any comfort to be had for Mark Hughes, the QPR manager, from yesterday’s damaging home defeat by their closest rivals in the relegation battle, it was that the club’s supporters clearly did not hold him solely responsible for an abject performance.

Chants of “Hughes out” after Southampton’s third goal were followed by “You’re only here for the money,” directed at the expensively-assembled squad who have done very little to justify their wages.

It was hard to disagree with their assessment. An anaemic, bloodless display from QPR allowed a much more purposeful Southampton side to take their first away points of the season and ease any pressure that had been building on their manager, Nigel Adkins.

While Southampton players such as Jack Cork and Adam Lallana, without a Premier League appearance to their names before this season, tried their hearts out, the big names brought in by Hughes seemed to be queuing up to let him down. Only Ryan Nelsen, the captain, and substitutes Sean Derry and Jamie Mackie – already at the club when Hughes arrived – could leave the field with their heads held high. 

“We weren’t aggressive enough,” Hughes said. “We talked all week about the significance of this game. Maybe the anxiety filtered through to them. All the fundamentals you need were sadly lacking and when that happens, you’re going to concede goals. We talked about dictating the game but that didn’t happen. We didn’t put them under anything like the pressure you need to. We’ll be scratching our heads again.”

Now the question is what the QPR hierarchy will do. They say that a manager is truly in danger when the fans stop calling for his head and start calling for the chairman’s, and Tony Fernandes, the QPR owner, escaped vilification. But although he emphasised this week “for the millionth time” that he values stability and would not be sacking Hughes, that resolve will surely be tested.

As a prompt, a banner reading “Harry come and save us,” referring to the former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, who once performed a similar miracle for Portsmouth, was held up.

A miracle, in fact, may be required. QPR remain without a win in 12 attempts, equalling their worst start to a top-flight season, and since they have now failed to beat two other teams in the bottom three in successive home games – although Reading have now escaped the basement – you wonder where a Hoops victory is supposed to come from.

Next Saturday’s trip to Old Trafford does not offer much promise, so the subsequent visit to Sunderland and a home match with Aston Villa, Reading’s replacements, become must-win games – if it makes sense to talk about such a thing for a team that last took three points in April.

They never looked like doing so yesterday as Southampton were straight on to the front foot. Lallana went close with a dipping volley, then Jason Puncheon’s cross from the right eluded Lallana’s diving lunge by a matter of inches, the ball hitting the outside of the post with Julio Cesar grasping at air.

Rangers took 14 minutes to threaten the visitors’ goal, when Adel Taarabt jinked past Nathaniel Clyne and José Fonte only to shoot straight at Paulo Gazzaniga. The young goalkeeper then fumbled Junior Hoilett’s shot but got away with it.

Southampton, though, were soon back on top, and in the 22nd minute QPR failed to clear a corner from the left, Puncheon’s close-range shot was blocked on the goalline by Cesar’s shins and as the ball looped up in the air, Rickie Lambert dived bravely ahead of Samba Diakite to head in.

And it got better for Southampton seconds before the interval. Puncheon found himself in yards of space as he took Clyne’s pass on the corner of the penalty area, turned inside past an excuse of a challenge from Alejandro Faurlin, and hit a low left-foot shot across Cesar and into the far corner.

Rangers had to improve, and halved the deficit four minutes into the restart as Hoilett headed home Taarabt’s cross from the left. But Southampton continued to pass their way forward, and although you half-expected them to produce the sort of defensive blunder that has bedevilled their season, Rangers simply failed to put the ball into threatening areas. Djibril Cissé shot wide after looking in vain for support after 72 minutes, as QPR continued to show very little of the urgency you would expect of a team in their position.

Probably correct in thinking that attack was their best form of defence, Southampton went on taking the game to the home side. Cesar had to be at his best to turn aside Maya Yoshida’s scissors-kick, but he was helpless seven minutes from time as Ferdinand stuck out a leg to divert a low cross from the unmarked Morgan Schneiderlin into his own net.

“It was a good performance again and it culminated in the three points we were after,” Adkins said. “It could have turned around after they scored but there’s a growing confidence and maturity about this young group of players.”

Sack watch

Pre-match Philip Beard, QPR's CEO, wrote in the programme "we must not get carried away whatever the result". "One Nigel Adkins" sung by Saints fans.

22 mins Adkins is frustrated as a chance is wasted.

38 mins First boos for QPR as aimless pass goes through to the Southampton goalkeeper.

45 mins Thoughtful expression on Hughes's face as Jason Puncheon doubles visitors' lead. "Hughes out" from The Loft.

Half-time Boos.

48 mins QPR score. Now Adkins looks pensive.

83 mins Saints score a third: a double fist pump from Adkins. "Hughes out" again and "You're only here for the money".

Full-time Handshakes all round. Crosby hugs Adkins as Hughes goes down the tunnel.

Nick Szczepanik

Queens Park Rangers (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar; Bosingwa (Fabio, 74), Nelsen, Ferdinand, Traore; Diakite (Derry, 71), Faurlin (Mackie, h-t); Granero, Taarabt, Hoilett; Cisse.

Southampton (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw (Fox, 74); Cork, Schneiderlin; Puncheon, Ramirez (S Davis, 62), Lallana; Lambert (Rodriguez, 90).

Referee: Mike Dean

Man of the match: Cork (Southampton)

Match rating: 7/10

Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Sport
Jose Mourinho restrains his assistant manager Rui Faria, Fabio Borini celebrates his winning penalty and Connor Wickham equalises for Sunderland
sportChelsea 1 Sunderland 2: Deafeat is extra bitter as former Chelsea player Fabio Borini scores late penalty to seal victory
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit